in front of me

The first time I saw her, she was standing in front of me at a show. I was afraid to go talk to her, compelled though I was--later on, she said she remembered seeing me, too. We were friends for a while, past tense, had an argument, stopped being friends--my fault, her fault, it doesn't matter. Nobody's mad anymore, is what's important. So it comes back to me that our relationship will end just like it started: she's standing in front of me, but I'm too afraid to talk to her.



A bottle of wine (Chardonnay) is roughly sufficient to accomplish a lot of things, most of which involve forgetting something. I was about a bottle into the evening when a friend of mine came by for an unexpected visit. I was, of course, trying to forget something (a bad day) and told him as much (because I was a bottle of wine into the evening) and he shook his head at me and told me I was like any given white trash getting trashed on a twelve-pack of Bud at the end of the day. I shrugged and told him there's a difference, and he, incredulous, asked me what it was.

With wine, I said, it's classy.


go have fun

I went to a party. It was in my honor. There were lots of things I wasn't sure about: whether I deserved it, whether I should pretend I deserved it, whether I should just say hi to everyone and slip away quietly. And there was a girl, I didn't know her but she knew me, who told me I would go have fun and she told me to go have fun, dammit, and pushed me into the crowd, but I didn't want to. I think she knew that. She was hoping I'd cave under pressure, but instead I just sneaked out, because I was afraid of her. She saw me go. Our eyes met; she looked, not hurt, but disappointed. And we both knew I didn't deserve it.


out, out brief candle

Lately I've been haunted by this feeling I've done something wrong. I couldn't put my finger on it--at first I didn't even understand it. I was upset. Not angry or irritable, but I felt as if the world was wrong, as if my life were going the wrong direction and I caught a glimpse of it. Smiles I once thought were friendly seemed mocking now--were they laughing at me? Had I got it wrong all this time?

That feeling came from somewhere, I knew. I knew I'd done something that led to this. But where? And did I do it recently or did I only just now start to feel it? What caused this feeling of dislocation?

I couldn't figure it out. I couldn't figure out why nothing made sense anymore--why even my own smile felt forced, uncertain, forbidden. Then the dread took me. I had been wrong about everything. I'd blinded myself, ever since--yes, that was it. In the end, all of my problems went back, some two years prior, when I made the mistake--not the biggest of my life, but the keystone, the mistake that laid the foundation for a hundred others.

The worst of it was, I couldn't stop myself. I had developed such incredible inertia, that though I knew what was happening I had no control over it, as if it were written in the stars--but I was the one who etched it in there, long ago, not understanding the significance of my words, like some mad oracle who spoke cryptic words that only made sense once the event had come to pass.

I curse the black and midnight hags that ever hailed me king--and damned be him that first cries "Hold, enough!"


the internal inconsistency of dreams

I've started keeping a dream journal. At first the results were sketchy at best but I've finally started remembering them and writing down details and one thing has stuck out to me: my dreams are not, in fact, internally consistent. Just lately I had a dream where I was driving a car (and a modern car, at that). Later on we were loading up our horses and--I remember this clearly--at this point my consciousness revolted and said, "These dreams have no internal consistency! I should be driving a car! We don't use horses anymore!"

My subconscious resisted my consciousness's attempt at guiding the dream back into internal consistency. It decided that this was the ideal time to make the dream genre fiction set in a steampunk world. It has become evident to me that my subconscious is willing to peddle any lie, so long as it doesn't have to admit it's wrong.



I once had a friend tell me I was always smiling. She said it looked like something was wrong if I wasn't. I thought that was odd, because I don't smile very often--and I forgot about it for months and now it's bothering me. Maybe something is wrong. Maybe she saw me for one of those few moments something wasn't wrong.

I've started keeping a log of when I smile. The last time was Sunday, 14 October, 2007, 23:43. I smiled several times that weekend. Nothing since then. Sometimes I try. I'll smile in the mirror--those don't count, of course. It doesn't look right. There's something missing. I can't make it look right when I smile but I know something's wrong when I don't.

Lately I'm starting to wonder if I've ever seen myself when I'm smiling. I'm working on it.


dreams of drowning in paper

Work on Thursday: paycheck.
Trip to the bank Friday, before work: cash, deposit slip (discarded).
Lunch break (fast food), Friday: receipt (discarded), change.
Dinner Friday night: receipt (signed, returned with tip, customer copy discarded), napkin (used, discarded).
A birthday party Saturday night: sticky note (with directions, discarded), scrap of old paper (with phone number, given away).
Breakfast Sunday morning: receipt (signed, returned with tip, customer copy discarded), napkin (with poem, left for the waitress).
Lazy on a Sunday afternoon: notebook paper (trying to recall the same poem), journal (fiction, the same poem).
Returning home from work Monday: junk mail (discarded), bank statements (tossed aside, ultimately discarded), a personal letter (disappointed at return address, read briefly, forgotten).


the impossibility of ignoring dreams

All it took was some whispered advice from someone I never trusted anyway to get me started on the dreams again. I have heard the tired speeches from Shakespeare and I agree, I agree--but I am a man desperate for the beautiful, am I not? Yes, yes, I am nearly certain I am wrong, fueled only by wishful thinking--but if I am right?

I have no plan for that eventuality. So let it happen! A fleeting glance, a tap on the shoulder, a smile, and the hand-off. And then I must plot a course past my dreams.


lying on a hasty exit

She must have just called the cab when we met. She introduced herself, we shook hands, and I stumbled over my introductions--I wasn't nervous so much as I was trying to incorporate what I was carrying into the conversation and it didn't work, she was just confused. I was just about to recover when the cab pulled up. She said that everything was hectic and hurried away, and I watched her and thought to myself, "They certainly are."


caramel and chocolate

I brushed shoulders with an old man in the store. I muttered an apology, but he seemed so sad, so preoccupied; he barely noticed me. When I'd gotten what I came for, I chose the line behind him so I could watch what he'd purchased:

Milk. Eggs. Produce. Ground beef. A bottle of apple juice. A bar of Snicker's.

The missus would never have let him have that last, he said to the girl at the register. I expected a sly wink but he said it with a sigh and a strange sort of smile. It was the smile that comes at the end of a day filled with laughter and conversations with old friends, where the food was perfect and everyone enjoyed themselves and there was enough for seconds and enough time for a long chat over coffee--but now it's getting on in the evening and he wasn't young like he used to be and he was getting tired and the missus had already gone to bed. His smile said: "it's been a wonderful day, but it's time I got some rest."


meditations on a leather-bound journal

I have compiled the entries into the notebook. I hope that whoever you are, whether an old friend or a new visitor, you find this helpful. This was written over the course of December 2006, with the final entry being composed on New Year's Day, 2007.

Part I
Part II
Part III
Part IV
Part V
Part VI
Part VII
Part IX
Part X
Part XI
Part XII
Part XIV



There was a time I would lock myself in my study for hours, poring over scientific tests--desperately looking for the solution to my latest problem, trying to solve all of the world's questions, questing after the theory of everything. I didn't just need answers, I needed them now. Everything I did had a sense of urgency about it. I would write impassioned essays about the results of my experiments. This was important. This mattered.

A few days ago I brought a cup of tea into the study and kept the door open while an old friend of mine sat and chatted with me. I casually looked over the books and wrote some cursory shorthand notes so I could remember later. The next day I compiled a terse summary of my findings. Nothing about why these might be world-shaking. I've long stopped looking for the theory of everything. I'm happy with some questions left unanswered. I was restless; now I'm content.

I'm starting to wonder where the urgency is gone, though I'm not sure I want it back.


and another thing

I was taking the 26 north when I first ran into her. And I do mean 'ran into her.' The bus started moving and I wasn't holding on. I smiled and said I was sorry, and held on to the rail; but it wasn't enough. She started yelling at me. At first she was calling me careless, but she wasn't sure why she was angry--did she think I was just trying to cop a feel, or did she think I was merely clumsy and inconsiderate? But after a few sentences, her ire was no longer directed at me. Weeks, if not months or years, of pent-up frustration were being vented at me. She couldn't hold it in anymore.

I kept smiling at her, even as she started to lose inertia, and the anger faded into a sort of mad desperation. I don't think she was even looking at me. By the time we'd turned onto Latona she'd stopped. It was her stop, apparently. She glared at me one last time, her eyes on the verge of tears. I handed her a slip of paper with my number. "Let me buy you a drink some time."


something wrong

She was hurting and I could tell, but I didn't ask. It's not that I didn't care, but that I never ask 'is something wrong?' I never insist that people tell me their secrets. Anyway, I could tell. Some things you don't need to ask about. So instead, I smiled, I tried to make her laugh. But I couldn't ask, I couldn't find out. Maybe she knew or guessed I wanted her to feel better. I'll never know.



At first the road that led here was poorly maintained, overgrown with weeds, trees encroaching on the side, infested with rocks. You wanted a clear path, so I cleared it out. I cleaned up the rocks, I smoothed out the rough parts of the trail, killed the weeds, cut down encroaching branches. And I lovingly maintained it, making sure that the road stayed in a beautiful condition. But you were never satisfied with the dirt road. You asked for gravel.

So I bought enough gravel to cover our road, and laid it out. Still I would go out to maintain the road when I could, smoothing out the washboards, clearing out large rocks. And there was always more gravel to apply, when the rest had been too packed down, or simply scattered through use. It cost me, but I was glad to keep the road up for you. For a while our gravel road made you happy, but in time you seemed dissatisfied.

I paved it for you. You didn't ask me to, but I knew you would be happiest if our gravel became asphalt. Come winter I would shovel the road, hoping to stave off potholes, to keep the roads from becoming slick. It always did, eventually. And the potholes always came in the spring. It was no matter--I maintained them as I could, filling them with more pavement--there was no problem that couldn't be solved with more time, more resources.

The years went by and the road started to crumble. My back went stiff, my joints wouldn't move. The work got harder and the condition got worse. It was fine for now, but I could see the cracks, the holes, building up, and what could I do about it but hope it wouldn't atrophy? And then you asked me if I remembered our little dirt road.

Yes, I said, I remember it. It was a good little road.


whispered secrets

It had been months since I'd seen her, and I knew this would be our only half hour together for months more. I didn't know what I'd say. Thirty minutes. The length of a mindless television sitcom, if you included the commercials. Not enough for anything substantial.

She was there when I arrived, seated at a table for two. She smiled at me. I waved and sat down, and we talked.

We had thirty minutes. I felt like I should try to inject that time with meaning, with significance--we should get the most out of this little sliver of time. Instead we talked about the weather and the bands we just got into and the movies we were looking forward to. No deep infusions of meaning. No whispered secrets. And I regret only that I spent so much time planning for anything else.


making up stories

It was a few drinks in and, lightweight that I am, the whole of the night was already starting to blur. I met a lot of people, talked to them a little bit. Some part of me always knew I would never remember them. Not really. By morning, when I'd be in a cafe drinking coffee until the headache went away, there would be a some faces--I'd remember a pretty girl with a blue shirt she wore on one shoulder, whose name I never did quite catch, or a guy who talked too much and told stories that I never quite thought were true. I'd remember telling all those stories, and why I only ever tell them when I've been drinking. I'd drink coffee and smile at the waitress and leave her a poem, because--as the morning would so poignantly remind me--I only do things like that for people who are bound to forget me.


everything must go

I'm browsing a thrift store and a broken clock catches my eye. I run a hand along its face, wondering how many family dinners it's seen, ticking away inexorably. How many arguments had happened under its watch? How many emotional breakdowns? How many embraces, how many jokes, how many of those priceless moments? Did it ever remind those who looked at its face that time kept going regardless? Or was it forgotten until the day their father decided to sell it? I could picture them on that day: he is a kind man, reluctant to be rid of this timepiece even though it's broken, even though nobody really paid it much attention even when it worked. It seems like getting rid of it is getting rid of part of his life, however small. But it is broken and he does not have the time nor the energy to fix it anymore. Perhaps some new owner will be able to restore it to function and give it purpose again.

The shopkeeper notices me admiring the clock. It's a great deal, he tells me. Should be easy to fix--he shows me the broken part--I even have one of these you can have, they just wear out sometimes. Easy to replace, and it'll last for years. A genuine antique. It's a real deal.

I tell him I'm not interested and he keeps telling me what a bargain it is. If it was working it'd be worth hundreds, he says. I try to tell him no, that's not what I'm interested in. It's the stories--what's the story behind this clock? He doesn't seem to understand, but I buy it anyway.

I picture the mother worrying when the clock breaks, worrying that giving it to the thrift store isn't the right thing to do, worrying that the kids will be upset--the kids don't talk to them anymore, it seems, and she doesn't notice that it's been since the clock died. She's always worrying. I picture her worrying that the shopkeeper will just discard it, that they could have done something else, that they should make sure he at least sells it.

Now it's on my shelf and I'm picturing the kids talking in the room where the clock used to be. Their mood is somber but they aren't sure why. I install the new part without a problem and hear it tick. Whatever their stories are, the clock keeps going.


true stories

I can't help it. I'm drawn by this feverish and dream-like passion, like every simile which has ever mentioned moths and flames in close proximity together, like every conceit that compares a person to an addiction. It doesn't even feel real--and maybe it isn't. Everything you'd expect from a nightmare is there: dread, compulsion, a sense of the surreal. I should walk away, but I am filled with this sense that if I do, I'll miss something important. I can't explain what I think that could be, other than more lies.


what's in a name?

I never spoke her name for weeks when we first met. It was such a beautiful name and to speak it aloud before I really knew her--it seemed like it would be to invoke it in vain. So I didn't speak it. Not until I was sure it would mean something. I gave her nicknames, so I wouldn't have to defile that beautiful name with my voice. Her name was important.

After weeks, I spoke her name for the first time when pleading with her, hoping to underscore my desperation with that word, that beautiful word. She shook her head and apologized and left, leaving me alone, leaving my invocation useless. I don't think she understood.


a confrontation of fates, shocking conclusion

Dramatis Personae:
Combatant #3.
Shallow Romantic Interest.

Act I, Scene III. A courtyard.
SHALLOW ROMANTIC INTEREST: Combatant #3, I am very sad to hear that your good friend and my poorly developed romantic interest, Combatant #1, has perished.
COMBATANT #3: He has perished to the blade of Combatant #2, but I avenged his death.
SHALLOW ROMANTIC INTEREST: Revenge is so cruel! Surely you have heard the adage: "If you seek revenge, first dig two graves?"
COMBATANT #3: I have but I had forgotten it until this very instant. My life of bloodshed and revenge is over. Come, let us have a poorly developed romantic relationship together, for we are brought close by the bond of mourning we have for our dear friend and only occasionally mentioned romantic interest, respectively.
SHALLOW ROMANTIC INTEREST: Yes, let us have a poorly developed romantic relationship together due to this sacred bond of mourning we have for your dear friend and my plot-significant-but-otherwise-ignored romantic interest, Combatant #1. I shall honor his memory by pretending I was never interested in him in the first place.
COMBATANT #3: Yes, and I shall honor his memory by skipping the stages of mourning and immediately initiating a relationship with his poorly developed romantic interest, claiming to grow close to her due to my sorrow at his death.
SHALLOW ROMANTIC INTEREST: You have a depth of emotion that is truly remarkable.


a confrontation of fates, reprise

This play is dedicated to the person who found this page by googling "curvy dreamers."

Dramatis Personae:
Combatant #2.
Combatant #3.

Act I, Scene II. A road outside of town.
[Enter COMBATANT #3.]
COMBATANT #3: I hope that my dear friend, Combatant #1, returns home from his perilous journey, and that he has not been slain by his sworn nemesis, Combatant #2.
[Enter COMBATANT #2.]
COMBATANT #3: You have the blood of Combatant #1 on your sword! I will avenge my dear friend!
COMBATANT #2: You will die just as easily as he!
[They fight.]
COMBATANT #2: Alas, I am slain! I pray that my soul finds forgiveness for my crimes.
COMBATANT #3: You will not find it from me.
[COMBATANT #2 dies. Exit COMBATANT #3.]


forget about your house of cards

I don't know how long I was been building it. Several decks of cards, hours worth of careful placement, and I had something truly colossal and impressive. So fragile, too--if the floor shook or my hand brushed it wrong the whole thing could collapse. It happened a few times, early on. I had to be careful.

I took a break for a little bit and glanced out the window. Someone was sitting on the park bench across the street, just sitting. She didn't look impatient or anything. It wasn't a particularly nice day, but it wasn't rainy, either--and she was just sitting there. I looked at my cards. If I went out the door would probably knock them over. All my work, gone. Just for an impulse.

I'll clean the cards up later.

meditations on a used book

I bought a used book the other day at a bookstore in Ballard. It was an impulse purchase, mostly. As I read it I noticed it was highlighted in a few places. Not many, not often, not enough to be distracting, but it was there: a blue highlighter on a few of the lines. At first it was solid and smooth, but as the book progressed it became haphazard, as if the reader before me had only cared that there was some marking on each of the lines rather than that the whole line be highlighted.

I wonder why. I wonder what she found so interesting about those lines that she highlighted them, and not the ones that stood out to me.


the bee

I was at a dive on Aurora earlier today, ordered a patty melt. It was kind of mediocre but I wasn't really there because the food's great. The waitress was real skinny, with long, wavy black hair, and a name so pretty the Greeks named a nymph after her. And all day I'd had this song stuck in my head, playing on repeat in my brain. I might have been humming it to myself but I tried not to. I tried to distract myself and focus on something else, anything else.

At first I thought she was coming to refill my water or something but she didn't stop, turned towards the jukebox instead. She put a few coins in, walked away, and a few seconds later the song came on. Then she brought by the water and I smiled at her and she smiled back. And what a smile. What a song. I'll never get sick of it.



Something like two a.m. and I'm standing in the grocery store talking to this girl. I don't know her name but the line is really long and it's the only register open. She just started talking to me, like I might care what she has to say. Turns out she just had a nasty break with her boyfriend (and I assume she's saying this because she's hoping for a one night stand with yours truly, though she's buying a lot of stuff and I'm just getting a bottle of Coke and I don't want to stick around) so she's single now. She's not sad, she's pissed. Talking about destroying his life, burning it down, telling him just what she thinks of him, and I'm thinking yeah, sure, lady.

"What about you? You have a lady friend?" she says when she notices I'm checking out the selection of sugar-free mint gums with taglines like "The Freshmaker" and not paying attention to her anymore. I shrug and say "Not really" because nobody wants to hear "It's complicated" because they think that means you want to explain and I don't really. "Oh," she says, and grabs a pack of gum. "I like this kind."

I'm thinking good for you, lady. I don't get a pack. When I check out I say "See you" even though I know I won't.


cigarettes and cough suppressants

I've been smoking a lot lately. My health has been in steady decline and I'm losing even more weight but I don't really want to stop--I probably could if I wanted to but I don't want to. I don't care. As my immune system is in its steady decline I've contracted a cough--it's been pretty nasty and I think the smoking makes it worse, but it's nothing that a good cough suppressant won't fix.

As I stand in line at the grocery store with a bottle of Nyquil in one hand and a pack of Camels in the other, I think the attendant thinks I'm a bit off.


take the elevator down

I met her on the second floor, going up. She was the only other person on the elevator. It was late and I was really tired. We didn't say much at first. I was barely staying awake or even standing up and she just stood there and looked so damn perfect. I nodded when she got on and she smiled at me and hit the button and we went up.

I thought about what would happen if the elevator broke and we fell and died. She was standing in the other corner, smiling to herself, and without even saying anything I knew I didn't want her to die. I didn't even know her name and I'd probably never see her again. My morbid thoughts drew me to her. The elevator stopped and the doors opened and she smiled at me again and walked out.

"Wait," I said. "I don't even know your name." She told me. And I never saw her again.



I found a pearl the other day, in the river. If I were less prone to introspection I might have merely taken it home, or even left it there. As it was I lay on the bank and admired it and its erratic beauty--it's nothing like the pearls you buy at stores. It looks sharper, more organic, more unique.

It's formed through pain. Through discomfort, through misfortune, a pearl is born. It is layer upon layer of material secreted because of pain--not necessarily to hide it, or to pretend it isn't there. It's a reaction. It's how the oyster deals with pain.

Yes, the result is beautiful--and maybe that's the point. But that's not why it was made. The oyster cares nothing for beauty, but manages it in the end.


existential angst at a fancy dinner

I don't want anyone to mistake me: the food is excellent. I've never tasted a finer wine and the chef is truly a master of his craft. The company is exquisite: I am seated next to an older gentleman who has earned a fortune in real estate, and the beautiful girl who is his daughter. I have never seen a more beautiful dress. Opposite me is a young man (moving on middle-aged) who is living very comfortably on an income generated in the information technology industry. By all rights I ought to be enjoying myself and celebrating that life is good.

I just can't. I keep thinking about "those less fortunate" and remembering the man I once knew who was barely keeping alive on his income. He was truly excited to be living. At this table there is an air of easy confidence, but also of boredom, of complacency. The girl at my left has never known adversity; the older gentleman seems disparaging of those with less money, as though they have somehow failed. The IT professional seems almost not sure what to do with his wealth. He throws it at charity. I think he feels guilty about it.

I know I do.


existential angst after shots

The room's spinning again.

I've had too many shots now and I'm barely even keeping them down. Have to touch something just to stand up and even then it's a near miss. Everything's out of focus and I feel sick. That's a lie. Not everything. I can see my date still if I shut one eye and try real hard. She's laughing. Laughing at me, laughing at herself, laughing at everything. Probably worse off than I am. No, I know she is. Fallen over twice now, keeps saying the same thing over and over, and doesn't she know how drunk she is? The room's spinning and everything's spinning and out of focus.

I just want something solid.

who i'm kidding

I don't remember the situation exactly, but the other day I found myself saying 'ah, who am I kidding?' in the tone of voice we're all familiar with: the 'I'm not putting on a show for anyone, this is me, this is who I am. Everyone would see through the facade if I pretended so I guess I'm just not pretending any more.'

Then I realized, later in the evening, that 'who am I kidding?' has an answer. Not myself, obviously, but nearly everyone else I interact with is deceived by the act. I put on a front and I do it well. I even manage to eventually convince myself that, while I'm not acting the way I would were I alone, this is normal and honest and above all acceptable.

I'm still not so convinced I'm wrong.


we need to get ice cream

There was some local singer playing guitar when we got there. Nobody was paying much attention; he was playing at the wrong bar if he wanted attention. My date excused herself to go to the bathroom, but I know she was probably just doing another line of coke, or something like that. She had that nervous, jittery, emaciated look about her. I ordered us drinks and and sat back and listened. The singer was starting to talk.

He said, "I know you're probably not paying attention. I'm not very good. I don't think I'd be paying attention either--hell, I'm not. These songs aren't real. Sometimes I feel like they make me come up here at gunpoint, you know? 'Entertain us or die.' Or just starve, I guess."

I smiled. Nobody seemed to notice he wasn't singing.

"Sometimes I wish I was at gunpoint. Maybe I'd care then. You know? Maybe we'd all care if we knew we might die." He took a drink of water. "I was driving with a friend of mine the other day, and she looked at me and she said, 'You know what we need? We need to get some ice cream.' I said, 'You're damn right we need to get ice cream.' So we pulled into the nearest Dairy Queen and ordered blizzards. Big ones. I wish--I wish more people got convicted and just bought ice cream or something, you know? I know I never do. That's why I want to be doing this at gunpoint. So maybe I'd do it right."

My date came back and told me she wanted to go do something impulsive. I smiled and told her that was the best idea I'd heard all day.


what are we here for?

Some guests came to my house this morning. I didn't know them, but they seemed certain this was the right house and I always try to be a good host. I let them in, offered drinks, and we chatted for a while.

They seemed like interesting enough people. They were students, all of them intelligent, devoted to their studies and eloquent enough to actually have something interesting to say about them. There were students of philosophy, the arts, language, psychology, and science--and all of them managed to contribute their disparate knowledge seamlessly into our conversation.

Eventually one of them asked the question, "What are we here for?" I felt the question was banal, but these were my guests. I began to answer the question, and noticed that a silence fell over the group. There were a few snickers.

"No, I mean, what are we here for? I don't remember why we're at your house."


the wizard's tower

I've studied psychology for years. I've earned my master's in the field, and am pursuing a doctorate--I know what I'm doing. I've learned how people tick. I've learned how to make them do this, that, or the other.

Lately I've noticed that I'm using my knowledge. Not just in a professional setting, seeing patients, researching, where it's expected and done voluntarily. In my friends, relationships, I've found that I use what I know to manipulate people. I capitalize on guilt, exploit psychological weaknesses--and I try not to do this for myself, mind you. Often it's for their own good, or someone else's. I'm trying to facilitate relationships here. I'm trying to do something good with what I know.

Still, sitting here in my tenth floor apartment, I can't help but feel like a wizard in his tower, and feel the resonance of that archetype. I'm using my powers for evil. It might be good in the end, but I'm using my powers for evil.


that was easy

I want to make it perfectly clear that I do not try. Whatever I do, there is no effort involved. I do not spend time studying on tests, nor hours practicing my writing. I do not do exercises. I do not dwell on what I have read, trying to absorb the words or make sense of what an author has written. And yet I understand; I know what needs to be known without all of this effort.

I want to be amazing. I want to be remarkable. I want them to remember me, to think of me when they think of greatness. And I want to know this, and to smirk, satisfied--I have amazed them all without effort!

And when my friends strive, when they exert effort, practice, dwell, contemplate, I want to breeze past them, or come up just behind, a smug grin on my face, and say, "That was easy."



It's not usual that I'm afraid to talk to someone. I won't talk to people that I think dislike me, but that's just out of a desire to avoid conflict. But for some reason I'm afraid to talk to her. She's quiet, intelligent, and above all intriguing. I'm afraid to talk to her lest I appear dull, or I find out she disapproves of my ways--how she could disapprove! She doesn't seem sanctimonious or arrogant. She just seems, well, pure. She wouldn't want to disapprove because she was judging us, it would be like me disapproving of dirt or something. I don't know.

Does she know she's intriguing? She doesn't seem like it. It's almost like it would ruin it if I told her.


left turn only

I was driving through downtown earlier. I swear the streets there are designed to fuck you up. I was stopped at a stoplight--one of the seemingly endless red lights that I always managed to hit--listening to the radio. Well, I say listening, but really I was paying little attention. It was someone talking about something, as if his words might change something.

I wasn't really sure where I was. I get lost in that labyrinth a lot, no matter how nice the streets are laid out. But I always find my way in the end.

Something was happening up ahead. I couldn't tell what it was, but some kind of commotion--maybe a fight, maybe a reunion. One of those real human moments, the kind you don't hear on the radio or see on tv because they're real, they're spontaneous. Even if they happen every day they're rare because every one of them's different and--I was going to drive forward to see what happened. Then the light changed and I looked up and saw the sign.

Left turn only. I tried to cycle round but it was gone.


follow you around

If our eyes caught once across a crowded room, if we exchanged a few brief words and I never said anything else--I promise it's not because I think you're dull. Come say hi sometime and if you want I'll follow you around.

A girl introduced herself to me the other night, at the house show. I don't remember her name, but it sounded exotic and interesting. She looked exotic and interesting. Something about that smile, her hair, her clothes, said 'Europe' to me. Germanic, probably. We didn't talk much. I actually spent most of the night glancing over at her, and I swear she was looking back most of the time. I'm probably imagining it. I like people that are legitimately foreign and exotic, not just people that pretend like I do.


angry men and dark alleys

I was walking home from the coffee shop this evening--it was after midnight and the joint closed shortly after I'd ordered my drink. I was chatting to my friends about trivial things when I heard the sound of a man shouting up the street. It was not street preacher shouting, but the shouts of a man who is violently angry. We had just turned in that direction, and after a few paces, we saw the man up ahead. He was approaching.

We dodged into an alley to avoid confrontation, and dodged out as soon as we could to avoid getting mugged. I can't help wondering who that man was, why he was angry. What happened to this man, this angry man, that was walking down 45th street late at night?

I almost wish we hadn't avoided him, had at least waited to listen to what he had to say. If he had anything to say.

a new year

I hope you won't take it amiss if I write for a moment about the new year. It is a holiday that is oft-derided--'why are you celebrating it? what's the big deal?'--but a holiday which everyone knows about and generally agrees upon. There is definitely a new year and it is definitely not based in any one religion.

Other holidays in Christendom tend towards the religious and the false piety. Christmas pretends to celebrate the birth of the Christian savior; Thanksgiving is the time where we pretend to be thankful for all the stuff we aren't really thankful for. Easter, all the marginal Christians dust off their old religion and pretend to be pious. These are all holidays where most people are pretending to be something they are not.

The New Year is not religious. It is a time to reflect, to forget, to start afresh. Yes, you could do this any time--but why not devote some time for it? People think symbolically of time all the time. The month of August tends to be terrible for me over the past few years. September is usually a good month. Some years are wonderful years and some years are horrible, and sometimes you just need a different number in your calendar to look at and say 'well, that's all over, let's do something different.'

I realize there is an element of pretending to be someone else at certain New Year's parties. People wear masks, or sometimes costumes, or just dress up. I confess to never having been to such a party, so I'm no expert, but here is the thing about a masquerade or a costume party: people are not actually pretending to be someone else. If I dress up as Kurt Vonnegut, nobody thinks I am actually Kurt Vonnegut. I'm not trying to convince anybody. It's almost a mockery of the other holidays: at best I'm pretending to pretend to be someone else. No lies, no tricks. Just honesty.

Monitoring the New Year, you can try to Start The Year Off Right. Your first kiss of the year, first song, first meal. You can try to make sure things get off to a good start, be sure that new number in the calendar is representing something nice. Is it completely arbitrary? Sure. But what isn't? Humans make up symbols all the time. Doesn't make it meaningless.

Thanks for indulging me. I promise it won't happen often.


wrong letter

She handed me a letter. She told me I should read it, we could talk about it tomorrow. I said sure, whatever she wants, went home, put the letter safely on my desk, along with some of the others I had--some I hadn't read, some I had. She was writing me a lot of letters lately, and sometimes I was too afraid to read them.

Eventually I got around to reading. I selected what I thought was the letter she'd given me earlier--it looked about the same, how was I to know?--and read it. She was angry. I'd hurt her with my words, with my silence, my actions and inactions. She accused me of things I hadn't done, and things I had. I grew angry. I'd already apologized for all that. Surely she knew that? I'd tried to make it up to her. She said it was enough. And she was still angry? She lied to me!

When she called me up to ask if I'd read it I swore and shouted. Told her she was a liar and told her she should tell me when she can't accept my apologies.

She didn't answer for a long while. When I finally said "Well?", in my voice thick with unrighteous anger, she said, softly, "I just wanted to say I love you." This confused me. I looked at the letter.

"'You ungrateful bastard'?" I said, quoting the salutation.

"No, that's not--that's not what it says," she said. Her voice was on the verge of tears. I had nothing more to say. It dawned on me that I'd been reading the wrong letter all along.


meditations on a leather-bound journal, pt. xiv

I attended a New Year's Eve party at a club downtown. I didn't have a date--most of my friends think I'm acting weird, and I wasn't interested in a date anyway. It would just make me think more of her, of the notebook. It was getting to be too much. I needed a diversion. I needed some time to myself.

A girl with a mask on was standing near me when the countdown began. I noticed she seemed to be watching me, not the screen. As the crowd shouted 'happy new year!' she pulled me close and kissed me. I was shocked, to say the least. I know I still looked rough. When she released me I whispered 'Liana?' and took her mask off.

I understand now why she threw the notebook away. Everything has become a lot clearer.

Happy 2007.