I'd been having panic attacks when I went out--which is fine, because I stopped going out. I had so many projects to work on, and finally I had the time to deal with them. But she'd been pestering me about it. Oh, she pretended she's concerned, that she wanted to help, but she clearly didn't understand. This was about her, and I was tired of it. After a few days of it seeing her would set me off, then hearing her voice. After that we communicated with emails--and even then I ignored most of hers. I had things to be doing and she was only distracting me.

It was perhaps a week since I'd had any contact with the outside world when she came over unexpectedly. I cowered in the corner, clutching at my work--the work she'd no doubt come to destroy. She touched my hand, and the nauseating scraping of skin on skin nearly made me vomit. Her voice rang like thunder in my ears. She burned like the sun, dazzling my eyes until I could see nothing else.

For what seemed like hours there was nothing but her presence. Then I found myself blinking in the daylight, throngs of people walking by as if it was no big deal. A park of some sort, then. No sign of her, no sign of my work, no idea where I was.

Someone caught my eye and smiled. My heart started to pound, sure the attacks would come back, but nothing came. I smiled back. The world kept spinning.



You were always something unattainable, something perfect, but nevertheless you saw something you liked in me--was it my crooked smile, the way I can turn a phrase? You never said. But you must have known how I admired you, how you took the world around you and fashioned it into something beautiful. You must have, because otherwise why would you have offered to let me in?

And it was beautiful--more than I could have imagined. But it was there, watching you work, that I realized that this was not for me. I could never be a part of it--and it wasn't just a thing you did, it was who you were. It hurt, watching you create something beautiful from someone like me, and I couldn't let that continue. It was wrong for me to become a part of the tapestry of your life.

There was a strange moment right before we parted ways, standing outside your apartment--a moment where I'd meant to kiss you farewell, to let you down gently, to part on good terms. Perhaps you'd remember me fondly, but more likely you wouldn't remember me at all. Not when there was so much else in this world, so much more interesting than me.

That moment was shattered when one of us noticed a man sitting there in his car, just watching us. We stood there awkwardly, waiting for a few words, then you stepped inside, leaving me standing on the street, not quite sure what to make of any of this. I shuffled home. We never spoke again. I didn't want to get in the way.



When we first met, we would go exploring together, climbing rooftops and exploring lost places underground, together, scraping our hands and growing calluses, together. It was ours. We fell in love quickly, as far as these things go, and I started taking a camera on our expeditions, snapping pictures, taking notes, documenting our times together.

The project of documentation started taking up more and more of my time--I wanted this to be perfect for her, so I spent all of my available hours on it. Making sure the pictures are just so, that the words are perfect. I wanted the world to know that these explorations, this thing of ours, were beautiful. And my hands grew soft, the cuts and scrapes healing, as I worked. And she implored me to go out once more, to explore with her, but I said no. And at first she was patient, because this thing was ours, and she would not violate it.

But as the project grew in scope and the weeks wore on, I noticed that she had new scrapes on her hands, new calluses. She would come home covered in dirt from the lost places we once explored together. Eventually I grew angry and confronted her about it. How could she do this? How could she abandon me, abandon these sacred moments we once had?

And she smiled and touched my cheek with a callused hand and told me that it wasn't ours anymore. Then she was gone, exploring lost places without me, and me with nothing but pictures and broken words to remember it.



As I walked home last night a stray firework went off inches from my face, dazzling me with its brilliance and leaving my ears ringing on the way home. The people who had lit it were trying to surround me, and I presume asking if I was all right, but I could hear nothing, and with the afterimage still dancing around on my retina, they looked somehow less than human.

The ringing hadn't stopped when I got home, nor had my eyes cleared. I took a shot of whiskey as a nightcap and slept. In the morning, I found myself in a world of overwhelming sound and color.

I tried to get through work, but it was impossible to focus, especially with people around. People--all these stupid, provincial people, so caught up in themselves they can't even see the world around them--were impossibly beautiful, each in their own way, even people I despised.

At lunch I told my boss I was feeling ill and I went home as quickly as I could, drawing the blinds and plugging my ears, though neither of these things helped. And I lay very still for a very long time, waiting for it to pass.