two zero one six

I always liked writing something for the new year, but this year I'm not sure what to say. It was, by any reasonable metric, a bad year. The resurgence of fascism worldwide, the proliferation of fascist apologia and collaboration among the media, the endless cavalcade of pestilence and death. Combined with the looming threats of global war and climate change, I think all four horsemen are represented right about now. And while I'll be happy to see the back of it, the real thing that made 2016 so terrible is the fact that it wasn't just a bad year. It was a year that threatens to make all the future years bad, too.

So it's hard to talk about optimism for the future. I don't have any. Maybe it won't be as bad as it seems--I sure fucking hope so, but "hope" feels like a fool's game at this juncture. As the line goes that's been circulating: "my idols are dead and my enemies are in power." Worse, the institutions that ought to serve as a check against my enemies are falling all over themselves to collaborate with them. If I've ever started a year feeling quite so alienated and powerless, I can't remember it.

Still, to my friends, comrades, and acquaintances, happy 2017. I hope you can find something good in it. And now, more than ever, it's important to make beautiful things, tell stupid jokes, look out for each other, laugh, smile, love--don't let the bastards get you down. Live well and make them fight for every fucking thing they try to take.

That's all I got. Give 'em hell.


poison the well

They say the water went bad back home, just before the holidays, and I thought of all the times we went out on the lake together, just the two of us in that shitty paddle boat. I thought of watching the sunset, of that time the cat caught a carp in for us. Of foggy Novembers, of icy winter winds, of bright beautiful tulips in the spring and big green apples in August.

Remember that?

It's not like that anymore. All the streets are different now, all our old hangouts are gone, and when they told me the water'd been poisoned, well, hadn't it been poisoned a long time ago? Because I thought of other things too: visiting a restaurant, holding hands like it wasn't important, even though it was. I thought of all the dirty looks, the lectures about how "our kind" are ruining society--and the whispers they thought we couldn't overhear. Of staying up drinking coffee until 3 am and then, as we walked home, all the laughter dying with a single shouted comment from a passing car. Of holding you in my arms as you cried and telling you it's not all bad, it's not all bad.

I'm still not sure if I was wrong to tell you that. Sometimes, when I go back, it's so peaceful, and for a moment I wonder why I left. It never lasts, of course, because memory's a tricky thing.

I've got friends now who don't know what it was like, growing up at home. I tell them stories, of course, and maybe they get some of the picture, but I don't think I tell it right. You always had more of a gift with that sort of thing. I want to tell them: there's beauty there, there's decent folk there. It doesn't make everything okay, it doesn't make me any less of a stranger there, but it's not all bad. If they knew you they'd understand. It can't be all bad if you came out of there.

Sometimes I think about taking them home, but I can't do that now because the water's been poisoned. There's no home left to go back to.


call the storm, reprise

It was, oh, years ago that I wrote a story about a girl named Kelly Hayes summoning a storm, mostly by accident. She was upset, I guess. It probably wasn't a very good reason, because I didn't really understand what a good reason was back then. It was all about broken love and lost romance, people torn apart by cruelty, by indifference, by the boundless distances that yawn between us.

I didn't really know where I was going with that story. I didn't even know if she was supposed to be a villain. But you carry your characters with you forever, and right now, as the rain has just showed up for the first big storm of the season, I'm remembering her: stirring up a storm in her coffee, telling her friends that all she wanted was a storm. I thought it was about an apocalypse, then, but I know better.

I've been waiting for the rain for hours now. I walked out to the bike trail that runs along Lake Washington, settled down under a tree, and waited. Already I'm soaked to the bone and shivering, but that's not enough. I need the wind, howling around my ears. I need to watch the lights of the city blinking out as falling branches knock out the power.

There will always be things we can neither control nor understand. Some of them are as beautiful as they are terrifying.



I keep having these days where everything turns out exactly like it would if it were a story I was writing, back when I was writing stories about whim and adventure, where everything was chance meetings and meaningful looks. Hell, half the time I'm pretty sure I've written the story, like I knew what the future held and I just had to write it all down.

You know?

I just keep walking around with this dumb fucking grin on my face. Sure, the world is shit and there's nothing but bad news out there, but suddenly all those times I wrote about smiling in the rain or some shit feel important, like maybe there's something to it. Even if past me was kind of an idiot. Because yeah, it keeps happening, and yeah, there is always always always something beautiful to be found in this world if you look at it right. Even when it's all shit and you're actually afraid for your actual life.

Sometimes it all works out. Sometimes it goes exactly like you hoped it would in that part of you you started ignoring because it never goes that well. And sometimes you just need to hold on to those fucking moments because life is too fucking short. It's a small miracle we exist at all. So you might as well keep smiling, fight like hell, and don't let the bastards get you down.


to thine own self

I woke up feeling like myself this morning for the first time in . . . well, who can really say? The past month or so, at least, the dreams have been more vivid than the waking world, the memories of which are dull, grey, lifeless things. Not at all like the dreams.

If they even were dreams. I dreamt of life in a tower so high it looked down on the clouds, of gazing on the world below. A life apart, a life above. Everything in the tower gleamed white, and everything we did, we did to better ourselves. We were as powerful as we were wise, and we were so very wise.

I dreamt I marched the streets in a great crowd, my voice one of thousands, demanding progress, demanding justice. Our cause was just, our ranks innumerable. Our upraised fists would shake the very foundations of society and bring the tallest towers to the ground. We were united in purpose, bound together with ties thicker than blood. We were unstoppable.

I dreamt I lived in a great desolate canyon. There the wind sang me to sleep, the owls watched over me by night, and the heat of the sun woke me in the morning. I lived on wild locusts and honey, I knew no company but the rocks and sage. I had come in seek of answers, and found only questions--questions and the perfect serenity of contemplation.

I dreamt I trudged through an unending blizzard, colder than any cold I had ever known. I had neither destination nor purpose, except this: to stop was to die. Sometimes that was motivation enough. Sometimes I kept going only out of habit. At first the memory of warmth kept me going, but soon the cold had swallowed that, too. Warmth became an abstract concept, something for the scholars in their ivory towers to discuss.

The dreams didn't flee upon my waking, as they usually do. They lingered in my mind--or, no, more than lingered. They burned away the mists, shocked me into consciousness. I was sharp, invigorated, alive. And there was a smile on my lips as I shuffled through the dim light of the day, because now, finally, I knew something the world did not.



I went out for late-night coffee and burgers with some friends for the first time in ages the other night, and there's something beautiful about the perfect nothingness that comes with just killing time in a nearly abandoned 24-hour diner. It's something you forget about most of the time: the levity of simply being.

There's something comforting about that, you know?

We walked home through the streets, mostly just taking it all in--the cool spring air, the stillness of the city, the beauty of being silent with people you love. That silence we shared was sacred, and I think we all sensed it.

By the end of the night it was just me and a girl who's been having a rough time of it lately. And we had that shared moment, that "this is the end of the night" where our eyes met, and I almost thought of breaking the silence, of trying to find something to say that could make everything okay, but that something doesn't exist.

So we stood in silence for a moment, then I smiled, gave her a thumbs up, and headed off home. It doesn't make everything better, but it's not nothing, right?

stress fracture

It took six weeks of nonstop "go" before I finally hit a wall and the cracks started showing and people started saying "are you doing all right?" instead of "how's it going?" when they saw me. A thousand little hairline fractures in the facade, a thousand more in the person that mask was supposed to protect.


So tonight I was reading some old journal entries about the last time I burned myself out with the manic obsession to always always always be doing something no matter what it is. Never say no, take no half measures, take no prisoners. That was years ago, and the first impulse is to say "I'm a different person than I was then," but that's not true, is it? The same destructive tendencies are there, right? The same obsession over what it even means to be a person even when I'm barely keeping my head above water.

I went out for coffee and burgers at 3 am yesterday with a good friend and somewhere around the third cup, while I was listlessly picking at my french fries and listening to one of my friends tell a story about some work bullshit I just started crying. And mostly because I didn't even know why I just said "it's allergies, it's fine" and wiped my eyes and stared at my coffee and really, really hoped they weren't just pretending to ignore me.

And look, I know all I need is a good night's sleep and that burning the midnight oil isn't going to fucking help, all right? But I can't stop. I've never been able to stop. That's the thing. I would if I could. And I'm only now realizing that's always been the case.