On the March

“Alright ladies. Time to go. Get your shit and fall in!”

“A true fuckin’ poet, the Cap’ is.” Grumbled Marla “Dive bar” McTavern.

“What’s that, Dive?” Snapped the bat-eared Captain, who was eager for a conciliatory battle: something to replace the one that never came during the day’s march.

But Dive knew better. She opted to get busy gathering her “shit” in lieu of speaking. Even a simple, “Nuthin’ ma’am,” would be an open invitation for the Captain’s pent up frustration. In fact the entire squad had gone silent in a way that eerily resembled the chilling calm before battle––for that is exactly what this was. The Captain was poised to launch a battery of verbal bombardment at any poor fool that spoke up. And just when the tide had seemed to turn for the better, a poor fool, Bri “6-pack” Jackson, belatedly entered the fray. Read More


The Man Across the Street

The other day I saw a man.

He was walking across the street and a few paces ahead of me, such that his face was shielded from my gaze. I wasn’t sure why, but something about the man attracted my wandering eyes. In voyeur, I viewed him at a distance. Read More

Pulsing Hope

Weeks entrapped in the doldrums of Poseidon’s purgatory had sapped the men of their salt and vigor, leaving them to wander the deck; aimless, emaciated, and sunburned.

Far off in the distance, a single light flickered in the night sky like a lonely pulsar emitting heavenly rays of safe-haven as it spun through a vacant corridor of vacuous space.

The very wood of our vessel seemed to come alive as the bell rang triumphant from the crow’s nest, proclaiming our good fortune in rhythm with the lighthouse pulsar as we came about—hope filling our sails. Read More

Bell Tower Eulogy

The dull, rhythmic thud of a cane sounded throughout the chapel. Worn wood wove around the warped shaft like a mess of braided vines clinging to a tree in the forest. Attached to the crutch was an old woman whose warped spine complimented that of her cane. She hunched over the support staring at her feet as she shuffled down the aisle. Without bending her neck, she looked up under her eyebrows at the cross behind the altar.

Her entire life she had seen that poor man hanging there, clad in nothing more than torn cloth and thorns. Every Sunday she had consumed his body and imbibed his blood, swearing the sincerity of her belief in his divine martyrdom with a resolute, “Amen.” Yet today, that sincerity faltered. Read More

A Black Morning

The beautiful song of a mother robin chirping to her hatchling wafted through the window on a warm spring breeze. The serenity of the scene was suddenly interrupted by the metallic twang of a mechanical marimba ringtone. A hand groggily reached out from under the covers to silence the violently vibrating intrusion. Its back looked like the varicose vein road map of a budding urban metropolis. The hand unfurled an index finger and repeatedly pushed against the smooth screen, blindly searching for the “snooze” button.

“Not today,” thought Celia, Read More

Growing Up

I think we need to talk.

Look, this isn’t easy to say, but it’s best to just come out with it… Read More

The Unbreakable Fortress

It took quite a bit of effort, and more than a few stumbles, but I was finally able to scamper up the tree trunk. I did my best to avoid using the thoroughly rotted ladder made from 2-by-4 planks of wood nailed to the wide trunk. No telling how sturdy—or tetanus-filled—those are, I thought.

On reaching the first landing I gingerly reached out with my left foot and carefully shifted more and more of my weight onto the increasingly warped plywood. Ever since we spent that summer building it in middle school, the fort had always had a haphazard feel to it. Read More

The Roof (updated)

The sound of traffic could faintly be heard from the street below. The mass of cars appeared as nothing more than metal rectangles flowing in orderly lines running left and right. Occasionally, a vehicle would leave the comfort of its lane and join another traffic queue. This would inevitably prompt a chorus of metallic shouts, beginning with staccato outbursts of annoyance and building to a moving rush-hour melody of legato overtones that rivaled Bach’s hymns.

Of course, Edgar had never heard of Bach. Nor could he fathom what was happening on the avenue so far away. The metal matchbox monsters were talking to each other. It was seemingly the same conversation they had every other morning. Edgar could not understand car-speak, but to him it seemed odd that they should shout at each other every day without change. Read More

Escape from Purgatory

“Well picture this. It’s basically, like, a separate plane of existence where everything is formless and meshed into nothingness. This is where our consciousness truly resides, and this world that we live in is nothing more than a creation of these ‘beings’…”

“What, like we are the avatars for some god-like beings?”

“Nah man, you can’t think about it like they’re physical beings at all, they are just… existence in it’s purest form—I guess. So our bodies are nothing more than unconscious animals roaming the Earth. We have the natural drive for sustenance and reproduction, but the intervention of the consciousness allows us to progress further than beasts. Our consciousness works with our bodies in a sort of symbiotic relationship. For example, the stronger a consciousness is within a body, the more likely that person will be able to separate his primitive, or animalistic, thought and action from his consciousness’ guidance, and give himself solely to the realm of the consciousness…”

“Like that fat happy Chinese guy?”

“…You mean the fucking Buddha?”

“Just listen. These formless entities seek to find liberation from our bodies… like I guess in a process like nirvana? It’s all about internal improvement… ‘all betterment begins with the self,’ and stuff… you know what I’m saying, right?”

Damn it! I really had that thought going for a second. It all seemed so clear in the beginning, but I felt myself losing it right around the, “primitive or animalistic” section. And then Mary had to open her mouth, as usual. How the hell does she not know who the Buddha is? Why is she even here? One of the let downs of philosophical thought while stoned, I guess (I can never resist the plea of my inner philosopher), or maybe it was that hand I felt on my thigh?

Normally, I wouldn’t have made a big deal about it; that was just Becca. She was always very free spirited and affectionate, liberally giving out hugs and kisses—among other things. She never meant anything by it, more than friends. However, this time was different. Her hand didn’t fall on my leg, or grab it in a short affectionate gesture. No, this was much more subtle.

I hadn’t even noticed it at first, due to how gentle it was, but she had placed her hand on my knee sometime around the beginning of this Alan Watts-inspired discussion. It was nothing I would normally take note of, but this cunning fox had a plan! She had slowly, walked her hand up my thigh. Let me repeat, she had gently crawled her fingers up my leg, occassionally adding pressure to tempt me into noticing. Picture a centipede, but with a beautifully soft skin tone, fire-red nail polish, tiny wrists, connecting her slender hands to long arms, leading to the most innocently seductive face you’ve ever seen on an arthropod—you know what? A centipede probably isn’t the best metaphor.

I suddenly notice an intense sensation of heat on my cheeks. A moment of panic at the realization that my face looks like a Voltorb right before it uses self-destruct. It’s just Becca being Becca, I think, so I try to play it cool—except I just can’t help but notice she hasn’t moved her hand! It feels like she put it there an hour ago! I calm myself, and slowly turn my head to look at her.

This is it. You’ve got her this time old boy! The commotion in the room vanishes, leaving me alone with her on the couch, and the world seems to slow in anticipation of what I have waited for since the moment we met. I turn to look at her, convinced I will be greeted by puckering lips.

My gaze meets the back of her head. She’s talking to Emily, who’s wrapped up in Mike’s arms. That sorceress! Her mind games rival the riddle of the Sphinx.

“Sounds like we’ve got a regular Ram Dass over here!” blurts out Harold.

I was thinking Alan Watts, I would have retorted, but I can’t tear my conscious from that witch’s fucking hand!

Becca had been my partner for a presentation a couple months ago. We were both taking an intro course on the history of South Asia. Being a history major with no need for credits before graduation, I had taken the course because of general interest. Becca on the other hand, was an English major who desperately needed to fulfill several of the sundry general university requirements, and was utterly out of her element in this class.

If it weren’t for her sitting down next to me on the first day, I would’ve dropped the class the moment I found out about the ridiculous amount of reading. But Becca was irresistible (and I mean that in the most superficial and shallow sense of the word).

Intriguing, I thought to myself, as she took her seat.

Despite the ‘buddy-buddy’, happy picture of college that most delusional people have, lecture is like a giant game of keep away. Everyone looks for those coveted seats in sets of three that leave you totally isolated, like an island among the ocean of chairs. Yet, this girl had chosen the one next to me.

I casually looked around to reassure myself that the room was actually empty. It was! She had a plethora of potential locations to berth her island, yet she chose to join mine. Ours was now the biggest of all the lands in the archipelago of 3340 Mason Hall.

Inspired, I laid down my best line, “Hey, how’s it goin?” Oh yeah, you panty droppin’ motherfucker.

We had a pleasant enough chat before lecture began, and at the end, she said, “I’ll see you next time,” and gently grabbed my wrist (meaning I was definitely in). I decided to play it casual and act aloof by not sitting next to her in the following lecture. In fact, I made sure to show up two minutes late so that she would already be sitting by the time I entered the room. Aloof…

But when I had finally found a seat in the back, I noticed the door open. It was Becca casually strolling in fifteen minutes late. She had out-loofed me! I couldn’t believe what I was seeing as she took her seat next to me and shot me an expression that said, “oops,” in the cutest way possible. She made those pictures of people shaming their dogs on the internet look like nothing.

The relationship remained, ‘in the classroom,’ so to speak, for a couple more lectures. That is, until our first project. She had invited me over to her place to ‘prepare’ for it, and I was sure that we were about to get it on. Our preparation began in the living room with her roommates and some other friends, none of whom I knew. I didn’t mind though. It’s not as if I expected to go straight to her room and find out how thick the walls were. I knew I’d have to work for it, but that’s when I noticed something disheartening.

All of the signals that Becca had been sending me in class—the subtle touch on the shoulder, the radiant smile, the spontaneous hug outside of Hatcher Library—were not signals at all. She was just as affectionate with all of her friends. I felt like a dumb-ass sitting in that room. I should just bail, I thought, but something about Becca was so appealing to me that I couldn’t leave.

She took me to her room to work. Her walls were an ode to the great protagonists of American literary history. She had them all: Salinger, Kerouac, Fitzgerald, Emerson, Thoreau, Whitman. The range was staggering. Every author that I had ever admired had a place on her wall, and it made me that much more infatuated with her. I hated that.

After our work was finished, I grabbed my things and attempted to make an escape from this failed effort to break out of my shell. She had been the first girl I had seriously considered in a long time, and all I wanted to do was get out of there—but at the same time, I wanted to let go of the doorknob, lay my hand on her shoulder, with my palm gentle caressing her neck, pull her close, and passionately kiss her.

“Leaving so soon?”

It was one of Becca’s roommates, wrapped up in her boyfriends arms. Her hands were curled up in front of her mouth for some reason, which made it hard to understand.

“Well, I have a lot of reading to get to,” I made up a bullshit excuse.

“Bullshit!” Yelled out the guy sitting in the chair on the far side of the room. Well played, good sir.

“Why don’t you come in and sit down for a while?” Asked Becca’s roommate, revealing the freshly licked joint in her hands.

I haven’t smoked in a good… couple hours, I thought. “Sure, why not?”

“Do you play Fifa?” Asked the guy sitting in the chair.

I told him I did; he told me his name was Harold, and that I was about to get my “ass whipped.” As the joint began it’s twisted loop around the room, Harold and I began our match. Years of single-player play had prepared me for this bout, yet Harold still proved a tough adversary. The match came down to the final minutes, and aroused the sentiments of the entire room.

Exhaling a healthy sized hit, Mike cheered on Harold as a cumulus escaped through his teeth. Emily, Becca’s wrapped-up roommate, shoved mike’s arm off her shoulder, “Hey, be courteous to the guest. Let’s go James!” She scoffed in a know-it-all voice. In the end, Harold won, but I had gained a new group of friends.

Soon, Becca came back downstairs, immediately snagging a drag on the roach as she flopped into the beanbag chair next to me (shout-out to all my brothers and sisters still rockin’ the beanbag chair, respect). The second game between Harold and I had just begun when I felt her softly grab my forearm, handing me the roach. Despite my distain for roaches, I took a hit. The intense heat and scooby snacks singed the back of my throat.

“I’m glad you’re still here,” she said with a gentle smile, “I was just thinking about you.”

Alright what the fuck? I was seriously confused. Normally, I would consider that to be a form of flirtatious banter, but I had no idea what it was to her. Do I go for it? I had no idea, opting for the neutral reactionary smile, and returned to the task at hand against Harold. However, as much as I tried, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Needless to say, I lost the second match as well—Madrid has no right to have Ronaldo and Bale.

“Well maybe next time?” Asked Harold, trying to get me to play another match. “You’re pretty good.”

“Better than me by a mile.” Remarked Mike.

“Can’t we do something else?” Begged Emily, “Something more stimulating than electronics?”

“What could be more ‘stimulating’ than electricity?”

“You know what I fucking mean, Harold.”

Harold made a face at Emily, and she snickered in retort, while Mike settled everything by suggesting ‘we all go out’ (whatever that meant). Emily and Harold both agreed, and looked at me expectantly. This had probably been the longest I had hung out with any new people in years, and I wasn’t sure how much longer I could go.

“You should come,” chimed in Becca.

Once again I must put on the dunce cap and apologize for falling into another one of her treacherous traps. She wants me to go. “I mean, it sounds like a plan to me,” I mustered up some genuine enthusiasm for Becca.

As we all got up to leave, I noticed she was still lounging on the bag. “Aren’t you coming?”

“Oh no, I have a friend coming over pretty soon.”

Woman, you are fucking killing me. She had done it again.

Surprisingly, our outdoor adventure proved to be a merry venture, in which I bonded well with Harold, Emily, and Mike. Emily had known Becca since high school, and had been her roommate every year of college. She gave me the low down on Becca’s dangerous habit of leading nice guys on, but that she was really a “bad-ass” type girl. Qualifying that it was essential information to know, if I was going to be hanging out with them more.

Mike and Harold had been freshman roommates. Harold was a townie, having grown up in Ann Arbor, while Mike had made the mistake of leaving the warmth of LA for the freezer box that was the Mitten. The way they acted together, it seemed fitting that Harold would be the boyfriend of Becca. I was beginning to wonder if Mike was immune to jealousy until we ran into Harold’s boyfriend, Craig, bar-tending at a local brewery. Craig was kind enough to give us a substantial cross-fade for free before we left.

Over the next couple months, I began seeing Harold, Mike, and Emily more often. But mostly, I saw Becca. I knew what those guys had said, but something about her made me swoon. She was absolutely gorgeous, but she didn’t acknowledge it. I don’t mean that in the way most girls talk about themselves in a negative light, like a disgusting angler fish waiting for prey to feed their insatiable vanity. Becca truly acted as if she was unaware of her beauty, or better yet, unattached to her beauty.

That’s not to say that she didn’t care about looking nice. Let me put it this way, she wouldn’t be caught dead in the yoga pants and tight top that leave nothing to the imagination (or respect) so valued by the gaggles of sorority geese squawking about campus in their Uggs. If her style could be given a label, I would have to say that it is a modern flapper. Even as the weather grew cold, and winter approached, Becca stayed strong with the flowing skirt or dress. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many layers of stockings.

She loved new things, and exploring the city. In the first three months I don’t think we ever did the same thing while we were together. But, of everything that I loved about her, it was her taste in music that I just could not get over. Being a person that takes great care in the music he listens to, her ability to perfectly explain her likes and dislikes of music ranging from Tchaikovsky, to Bob Dylan, to Flying Lotus, kept us talking for hours. She introduced me to Nujabes and the jazz-influenced hip-hop scene in Japan and on the West Coast. I gave her something that no music collection is complete without; Dan Reeder, and good ol’ wholesome folk. Our violently dichotic history of genre exploration gave us the unique possibility to explore the merits of all kinds of music together.

We could spend hours together just talking and listening to music, yet no matter how well things went when we saw each other, nothing changed between us romantically. I tried making hints and subtle moves several times, but she brushed it off as nothing more than friendly play. When we went to concerts, it was always with the rest of the house (not that I particularly minded), and she would usually bring a date (that I particularly minded). As Kerouac said it, “A pain stabbed my heart, as it did every time I saw a girl I loved who was going the opposite direction in this too-big world.”

The type of guy was always the same. Artsy as fuck, and proclaiming his superiority to the masses like a fucking god walking amongst us mere mortals (Maybe I’m a little biased, but seriously, the depth of their psyche was bested by a thimble). These guys came and went, occassionally scoring an ‘overnight pass’ by the end of the show. It fucking killed me, but how could I say anything? Besides, when I didn’t care for that self-pity fest, focusing on Harold, Emily, or Mike was never a bad option.

Harold and I bonded well over soccer. We were both heavily involved in sports as kids, and we were still able to vicariously live out our competitive nature through video games and discussions of current leagues. His boyfriend, Craig, was the polar opposite of an athlete, and was never willing to play, or even learn how to follow sports.

Mike was always down for a quick game, and generally kept up with current sports news, but his main focus was his affair with a wonderful lady named Mary Jane. The amount that Mike could tell you about marijuana growing, processing, cooking, and smoking would dwarf the prowess of any professor in his or her area of expertise. His degree in biochemistry was nothing more than further research into the perfect pot plant. It goes without saying that Mike was a good guy to know.

Emily was always hooking me up with her friends. “If I wasn’t with this oaf, you could have me in a second,” she joked while playfully being angry at Mike (he didn’t find it that funny). I couldn’t tell if she was being serious, or if she just felt bad for me and my situation with Becca. It wouldn’t be surprising if she pitied me. I guess I looked pretty desperate hanging around for a girl that was clearly not in to me. But everyone had truly made me feel like a friend. I was willing to accept defeat with Becca and be her friend, if it meant that I could continue to chill with everyone else.

Then came the night of the Explosions in the Sky concert. They were the first band that Becca and I had ever talked about, and we decided to go a long time beforehand. As usual, everyone was supposed to come, but Mike and Emily bailed last minute, and Harold had forgotten about Craig’s a-cappella concert. So, Becca and I headed over to Royal Oak early in the afternoon, dropped one tab each, and proceeded to adventure the downtown area. By the time the concert began, our trip had entered a perfectly mellow stage.

The music was incredible. The set climaxed with the hit of ‘Your Hand In Mine,’ coordinated with a backdrop of blinding white light. I still think we were taken to a higher place as they sustained that beautiful chord, and we were inundated with—what can only be described as—the light of heaven. I turned to Becca, who was already staring at me. Our eyes locked, and there was nothing that needed to be said. The movement of my hands around her waste felt so natural, our lips locked, and all that was wrong with the world was suddenly set right. The song ended, but our embrace lingered. She grabbed my hand, and whispered in my ear, “I want you,” and I swear I felt my heart melt (which is quite a sensation on LSD). The concert ended that moment for us, and we hurried to get home. I’m not necessarily proud of what we did in the cab on the way back to her place, but how the hell were we expected to wait an hour?

I wish I could say that that night sealed the deal—that the nice guy won. I’d like to say that Becca and I are a couple, and that the girl practically massaging my thigh right now is my girl. I envy the other me of a parallel universe that is so lucky. Instead, she said that it was a mistake. She blamed the drugs on her actions, and even though I protested, she said that I was equally at the will of the acid. “Our friendship is more important,” she had said.

And there it was; I was officially deemed unworthy to be her boyfriend. I mean, I’m not mental. I knew that she had friend-zoned me this whole time, but to actually hear it coming from those perfectly shaped lips was worse than seppuku.

She had at least had the decency to keep her distance from me. I had made it clear that I didn’t except her excuse, and that something emotionally significant had manifested that night. In my mind we had crossed a plain, and there wasn’t any turning back. I hadn’t just gotten my feet wet, I had held her hand as we dove into the deep end. The fact that she was ignoring it infuriated me, and it had apparently upset Emily as well.

“Why do you think we all suddenly became too busy to go to the show?” She said while we lounged in the Diag one afternoon.

“It was all Emily’s idea,” said Mike when he and Harold explained their plan. They had been rooting for me from the beginning. Apparently, Emily had gotten into big fight with Becca about it the next day. Things had remained rough with the group until today.

Today is the first day since the concert in which everything feels like it’s back to normal. Harold and I are playing Fifa, while mike discusses philosophy with the girls. I throw in my two cents taking bits and pieces from Alan Watts and my Buddhist studies at school—all in vain because of the stimulating presence on my upper thigh.

Mike notices her hand, and gives me a heartfelt look saying, “I’m sorry man, but I don’t know how to help ya.”

Not that he needs to. I’ve accepted my place in this group of friends, and I honestly don’t mind it. No matter how much I toy with the idea that she is purposefully trying to grab my attention with those devilish fingers, I know that it’s just Becca being Becca.

“Mike, you only know who Ram Dass is because of that meditation manual I gave you freshman year,” Harold points out, keeping his eyes glued to the screen, “‘The Psychedelic Experience’ right?”

“Yeah man, I’ve read that one too,” adds Emily

“Didn’t Kerouac say something like, ‘we are fallen angels who didn’t want to believe that nothing is nothing and so were born to lose our loved ones and dear friends one by one and finally our own life’?” quips Becca.

Her point makes more and less sense the longer I think about it. I’m not sure Kerouac has a place in this discussion, but I guess in this circle of friends, the Beats always have a place. He also said, “pretty girls make graves,”—as long as we’re on the topic.

Focusing back to the task at hand, I stop Harold’s fast break with a clutch slide tackle from Hummels and follow up with a long through-ball to Reus on the left wing. Slowing down to draw in his defender, I wait for him to make a move. He dives right, I push left. Frantically, Harold calls over Ramos, but he falls for my fake shot, sliding right past Reus. From here it’s a simple finesse kick into the upper right corner, and past Casillas in goal.

“God damn it,” exclaims Harold.

“I told yo,u Lopez was quicker, man.”

“Mike, shut the hell up, you don’t even follow Madrid.”

“He’s right though,” I concurred.

Harold grabs the joint from Mike in defeat, and pulls a massive drag. After a puffy white ghost, he makes several smoke rings and exhausts the rest. I’ve never been able to play with my smoke like Harold and Mike can. They said that it was their greatest achievement from freshman year (that, and their godly skills at Super Smash Bros. on the N64).

Giving the joint back to Mike, Harold turns off the game and heads to his room. He always gets too emotionally attached to the games. I would say he shouldn’t take them too seriously, but how could I rob the room of the entertainment in watching him lose?

“That sounds like a good idea,” Emily says, thinking out loud. I remember the clock going off several minutes ago, which would put us at around 1:15 in the morning. Becca’s hand finally leaves my thigh as she stretches her arms and lets out an extended yawn. She mumbles something about being tired as well.

Being the only person that doesn’t live here (besides Mike, but he has free room and board), I recognize the hints and excuse myself. Mike and Emily say goodnight, and head upstairs to their room while I grab my jacket and gloves. Becca also leaves her seat in another stretching motion, but lingers a bit longer, presumably to let me out. Having bundled up for the frigid and windy night brought by the recent cold front, I head to the door.

“Thanks for the smoke down,” I casually say as my hand touches the doorknob. I don’t even turn to look at her. I can’t. Despite everything that has happened, my feelings haven’t changed. Sure, I can convince myself that being friends is ‘ok’, but there’s no way that I can change my emotions. Logically, my conscious brain understands the problem, and has dealt with it by acknowledging the solution of friendship—but logic holds no sway in the primal realm of emotion.

Every time I touch this doorknob, that same adrenaline rush comes over me like the “fight or flight” reaction your learn about in high school health class. Do I run away, avoiding conflict, and unwillingly accept her oppressive decision, or do I fight for Becca?

“You know what?” I find myself starting uncontrollably. Strengthening my grip on the doorknob, I continue, “I know that you’ve made your decision about us, and I respect that. I don’t want to do something to mess up this group of friends, but I need to tell you something. You’re wrong.

“You didn’t hook up with me after the concert because you were ‘fucked up’, or still tripping. Sure, that night was heavily influenced by acid, but all it did was allow you to see clearly what you wanted. You torture yourself with guy after guy, each no better than the last—and the first wasn’t worth shit—while sitting me on the bench.”

Words are flying out of my mouth faster than I can think, “Becca, you have so much that makes you a strong and independent girl, but you’re constantly seeking these guys that do nothing except put you down and assert themselves as superior to you in every way. There’s a reason that none of those relationships last.”

“Which is?” Becca retorts with a pedantic guile. I release my grip on the door, and take several steps toward the living room to stand in the entry way.

“Because you can’t connect with people like that. They put you into a role of dependency that belittles you, and you fucking hate it. I can see it! It’s like you’re a god-damn glutton for that shit.”

“So leave me to my own mistakes then,” She keeps her voice down, but it wavers and cracks. I can’t tell whether she is seriously accepting what I’ve said, or if she is becoming completely enraged, and I’m about to be slapped.

“Why would you want to date someone like me then? You know it’ll just end in a couple weeks anyways, ruining our friendship, and totally fucking up the harmony of my apartment.”

“Because I’m not like them,” She squints her eyes at me, but cannot retort because she knows it’s true. “Becca, I don’t want you to be dependent on me. I want you to be independent with me. Free to have you’re own opinions and to look at me with a critical eye. I don’t want to change you, I want to grow with you. Not like these misogynist assholes that manipulate and mold you into their twisted disciple.”

She’s crying now. I don’t fully understand why, but I know I’ve gone on long enough. My intention wasn’t to make her cry. Actually, I don’t know what my intention was, it all began so suddenly.

“I’m sorry,” I say, dropping my gaze, and softening my tone, “I didn’t mean to say all of that, I just couldn’t keep it in me. I’ll let myself out.”

You shouldn’t have said anything! My conscience is screaming at me. I am somewhat ashamed of what I just said, and the implications that it will have on our friendship. I have a feeling that I just lost my only real group of friends at this school, but fuck it. Fuck logic. I went through three years of college without a steady group of friends. So what if I end my last year the same way? Becca deserves better than the people she dates, and she deserves to know it too.

My hand is back on the doorknob, but I can’t turn it. Not that it physically won’t turn, but I’m so nervous that I can’t move. The accelerando of my heart has turned into a drumroll, paralyzing me. I exhale trying to calm myself, and it helps enough to at least get the door open.

But I still can’t leave. Something else is stopping me, and this time it’s tangible. I feel Becca’s hand grab my arm, abruptly turning me around. As her lips touch mine, I can’t tell if my heart stops, or if the drumroll has hit a hypersonic tempo. Regardless of which is correct, I am confident I will surely die.

Just as I come to terms with my mortality, I notice a gentle squeeze on my bicep. Becca’s hand slides down my arm and lightly comes to a stop on my wrist as she takes a step back. Our gazes lock, and I watch her black-streaked, royal blue iris dart from my right to left eye, search for something; I know not what. My heart returns from purgatory in a lethargic beat of a bottomless bass, and I thankfully remember to breathe.

“I…” I stumble at a loss for words. She leans into me again, and places a soft kiss on the left side of my lips, like a signature.

The night doesn’t end with Becca and I having sex. She tells me she wants it to be different between us, and I agree. In the morning, the suns rays illuminate her golden hair as it gently moves atop my chest with every breath I take. I try to breathe as shallow as I can to minimize the movement, and let her sleep. Her hair lightly tickles my stomach, making my muscles clench. The slight movement causes her to stir, but only enough to wrap her arm tighter around my torso. And for once I’m sure that this hug means something.

The Lighthouse

Fierce wind whipped the salty ocean water into a frenzy, sending waves crashing against the rocks. The freezing rain that had berated the little island since twilight had ceased, and the moon could be seen hiding among the clouds. All that remained was the wind, sweeping away the remnants of the storm whose thunder groaned with resistance in the distance.

The island, barely the size of a baseball diamond was a jagged landscape of sharp and callous rocks that rose steeply from the ocean. On the high-ground, precariously close to a cliff, stood an old lighthouse. Through the years it had seen many storms such as this. It had been lashed by sleet, scorched by the sun, and worn down by wave after wave from the oceans masses. Yet faithfully and without fail it had shown its light for ships and lost souls to find their way home. It was a sole landmark of solidity in a desolate world of turbulence.

Along with waves, tonight’s storm brought something else to the shores of the little island. A man had washed ashore laying face down among the rocks. He remained deathly still until a wave washed over the open wounds on his back and violently shocked him to consciousness. He coughed and spat, expelling both water and sand. Unable to muster the strength to stand, he lifted his head just enough to look at his surroundings. A dark and dreary cove entered his gaze. He was surrounded on three sides by jagged and wet rocks.

The cove was channelling the oncoming waves. He knew that he should get to higher ground, but he could see no way out—the rocky walls being at least ten feet high. He tried to push himself up onto his hands and knees, but the moment he tensed his muscles, searing pain shot through his back. He felt a rush of blood, as if someone had pulled the plug of a drain in his head. Darkness began to wash over him like another ocean wave.

He fought to stay conscious, but the battle seemed hopeless. Alone, with no idea as to the extent of his injuries, in a foreign and hostile place, the man began to accept his fate. His vision narrowed to a long black tunnel. He could barely make-out the shape of his hand just inches from his face, when suddenly a soft glow illuminated in the distance. It appeared through a previously unseen gap in the rocky wall of the cove. The man tried desperately to focus, but his mind slipped away, and he fell unconscious.

The lighthouse attendant, a wiry old man, descended a crudely carved staircase into the cove. Shifting the lantern from his right to left hand, he reached out and grabbed the unconscious sailor. With a strength that seemed miraculous to the old man’s physique and age, he dragged the injured survivor back up the slippery steps, to the base of the lighthouse. Opening the door against the wailing wind was nearly impossible, but the old man mustered the strength to do it—while never releasing his grip on the sailor.

Setting the unconscious man upon a soft bed of fur blankets on the floor, the old man went into the kitchen. Several spiders scurried away from the light as the man opened the cupboard doors. He grabbed several jars of spices and roots, and crassly mashed the ingredients into the bottom of a tin mug. He then filled the glass with water already boiling from the kettle on the stove. Going back into the main room, the old man lifted the sailors head, and poured the concoction into his mouth. Using his hands, the lighthouse attendant closed the sailor’s jaw, and forced him to swallow the liquid.

Within seconds the sailor’s eyes shot open and he gasped for air. He lashed out and grabbed the old man’s hand, causing the elder to drop the mug.

“Good, good. You still got some strength left in ye.” The old man chuckled.

Perplexed, the sailor released his grip and looked around.

“Where am—What happen—Who are—”

“Slow down, me boy,” The old man interrupted, “Or the darkness’ll come o’er you again.”

The old man stood, rubbed his wrist where the sailor had latched on, and took the glass back to the kitchen. The sailor looked around the room. It was small, barely big enough for a bed and table. A winding staircase in the corner undoubtedly led to the beacon of the lighthouse. The furs he laid on were in front of a small, but warm, hearth. The wind coming down the chimney made a ghoulish howl and stirred the fire. It stoked the flames and made them dance with impish unpredictability. Not wanting to get burned, the sailor grabbed the blankets and moved to a chair at the wooden table in the center of the room.

“So your back’s better then, eh?” Asked the old man, returning from the kitchen.

“My back?” The sailor had failed to notice the pain from the beach. In fact, he didn’t have any pain at all. His only complaint was a general throbbing in his head. His perception was off, and his memory was hazy at best. He commented on this to the old man.

“Here,” replied his savior, handing him another small glass.

“Is this more medicine?”

“Aye, you could say that.” The old man snorted, “Procured at the local apothecary down the lane. ‘Drink up my tattered travelled friend. It seems your quest is at its end. Through treacherous seas your odyssey inevitably ends with me!’”

A queer glint shown in the old man’s eye as he sang. The sailor noted this, but decided to do as he was told. He tilted his head back, and knocked down the full glass of liquid, immediately regretting the decision.

“That’s some right nasty stuff,” He sputtered through bouts of phlegm-filled coughs.

The old man let out a deep and rolling laugh, “Aye, ‘tis me own brew. Finest whiskey on the isle, guaranteed!”

Recovering from the immediate shock of the harsh liquor, the sailor looked down at his empty glass and found himself wanting another. The warmth of the drink had permeated from his stomach like a warm ember. He looked up at the old man, who knew exactly what the sailor was thinking.

“Got a hankerin’, I see.” Said the man as he grabbed the glass. “Think I’ll join ye for this next one.”

Returning from the kitchen, the old man handed the sailor the glass and took a seat opposite him. He set a large jug on the table and filled two glasses.

“Thank you,” said the sailor as he graciously accepted the mug. “What may I call you?”

“Oh I’ve held many titles in my day, but you can call me Lucius.”

“Lucius of the Lighthouse,” pondered the sailor.

“Aye, that’s about it.” Replied Lucius, taking a sip of crisp whiskey.

“Is it just you tending the lamps?”

“Just me on this whole island, me boy.” Lucius responded. “Been here since ‘fore you were born, I reckon.”

“Doesn’t it get lonely?”

The old man took a swig of whiskey as if it were nothing more than water, “Oh, there’re times of want and times o’ plenty in my little kingdom. Poor souls such as yerself ain’t no precious commodity, if you catch my drift. They come to me from time to time, and I help them along—on their way home.”

The two men sat in silence for a moment, staring into their cups as if they were reading tea leaves. But the sailor wasn’t trying to divine his future. Instead, he was caught sifting through the dense fog in his muddled mind, searching for his past. He had no recollection of the events of the night. Waking up in the arms of a strange old man on the floor of a strange old place was the furthest into his past that he could remember. His face grew consternated in thought, and a queer feeling rose from the pit of his stomach.

Who am I? He thought. A definable identity was somehow eluding him. He knew, in his gut, who he was. But it was an emotional understanding. Ephemeral. As soon as he tried to focus and think about his life, all sense of self would vanish. He vaguely understood that someone—somewhere—was missing him. Perhaps a wife? A child? But no matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t remember.

“You ‘ave the look of a man whose been found but ain’t quite done being lost.” Commented Lucius.

“It’s queer. I can’t really explain the feeling.” I can’t really explain anything, thought the man.

He looked up at Lucius who was already gazing back at him. The old man’s face was worn like the wind-whipped and salt-lashed rocks of the island. It seemed as though Lucius wasn’t an inhabitant on the isle, as much as a part of it. He had the same agelessness that the lighthouse carried with it, as if he had been here for centuries. Yet something in his eyes made the sailor feel as though Lucius were still in the prime of life. He was neither too old nor too young. After all, how could a frail old man carry him up to the house in the midst of that storm?

He wondered who the man sitting across from him was. What was the story of Lucius? How did one acquire such a lonely occupation, cut off from the world and civilization?

Why am I thinking about this? wondered the man. He was so desperately at a loss for answers, that his mind was making up questions in distraction.

How did Lucius know to check the cove? The lighthouse hadn’t been visible from where the I washed ashore. Could I see the lighthouse from the ship? Did I swim here on purpose? Why can’t I remember anything?

“You’re having trouble letting go, aren’t ya?”

“Huh,” The sailor had been so absorbed in his thoughts that he had failed to notice the passing silence between the two men.

“Mind’s a bit fuzzy, eh?” Chuckled Lucius.

“Yes. Well, I’m sure this whiskey isn’t helping.” The sailor jested in reply.

But instead of laughing, the cheery demeanor left Lucius’ face. He looked hard and cold at the man and said, “It ain’t the spirits, lad.”

“How do you mean?”

“You’re thinkin’ about your past—I know you are. But what you don’t realize is your past ain’t what you think it is. It doesn’t exist. At least, it doesn’t exist in the form that you’re looking for.”

Feeling unsettled, the man took another large sip of whiskey. He swished it around his mouth like fluoride before swallowing, but it failed to rid the foul taste left by Lucius’ words. He didn’t understand what the old man had said, but somehow it had resonated with truth.

Something wasn’t right in the lighthouse. The sailor felt uneasy. Maybe I’ve had too much whiskey, he thought. But the alcohol hadn’t affected him at all. Despite having drank nearly three tall glasses, his motor-skills were uninhibited, and his mind (albeit clouded from what had happened) was unimpaired.

What, then, is the cause of my amnesia? He wondered. Maybe I was hit in the head when the ship was sinking? That has to be it. Yet he couldn’t think of any details about the wreck, nor could he remember the vessel that he had been aboard. Furthermore, he had no knowledge of maritime life. He didn’t know “starboard” from “port,” or “jib” from… whatever the opposite of a ship’s jib is.

Was I even in a shipwreck? Am I even a sailor? He looked down at his hands in thought. They were smooth and soft—not what he expected of a sea-hardened sailor. How did I get here?

Slowly, what Lucius had said began to take hold. The man looked up at the lighthouse attendant who smiled back at him.

“There we go,” goaded Lucius. “You have to accept it before we can have a meaningful conversation.”

“I’m not alive.” The words left his mouth like a wisp of smoke.

“No, you ain’t.” Lucius confirmed, shaking his head. “But you ain’t dead neither. In fact, I reckon in some ways, your more alive than ever.”

“How can that be? I’m either dead, or alive.” The man was perplexed, “Unless I’m in a coma, and this is some sort of dream.”

He said this after-thought aloud. In the back of his mind he had been hoping this ever since waking up on the shore; this was a dream, and some time he would wake in a hospital bed. His wife would be sleeping next to him with her head resting on his body, holding his hand. The doctor would come in and say something like, ‘Glad to have you back,” and there would be much rejoicing at his recovery. He was hoping this—Lucius, the lighthouse, the storm, the shipwreck—would all just be a strange dream.

“No, you’re not in a coma.” Lucius said, shattering any such hope. The mans heart sank, and he downed the whiskey that remained in his glass. Even without the effect of inebriation, the swift burn of the alcohol was welcome warmth to his cold reality.

“You ain’t got no memory because they weren’t your memories to begin with. You ain’t alive and you ain’t dead because you aren’t who you think you are. Or really, who you were is not who, or what, you really are.”

“You’re not making any sense. None of this makes any sense. What the fuck am I doing here?” The man was growing agitated with Lucius’ folly. “You’re speaking in riddles. If I’m not what I think I am, then what am I?”

“That’s just it. I’m not the one spouting absurdities here, you are. The question, ‘what am I?” is worthless. There is no “you” or “I,” or “me” and “my.” The distinctions and arbitrations of that world break down here. You humans base everything on comparison—and rightly so in most cases—but it causes a lot of problems down the road. This is what you are experiencing; a refusal to accept that what you ‘know’ isn’t true. You have defined yourself as an individual based on the ‘observed’ separation between ‘self’ and ‘not-self,’ but no such distinction exists.”

The man stared blankly at the lighthouse attendant. What had happened to the gentle old man with a soft southern drawl?

“Forgive me, lad, but who do you think you are?” Lucius asked the now deeply confused man.

Caught in the midst of pondering who Lucius was, the man was taken aback. The question seemed both blatantly obvious, yet inexorably inexplicable.

“I’m… me.” His answer seemed laughably childish, yet Lucius didn’t guffaw at the remark. Instead, he pursed his lips and nodded before continuing.

“Precisely, my boy. You are you. A word and nothing more. An artificial moniker that holds no tangible meaning.”

“That’s not true!” the man nearly shouted as he rose to his feet. Rather than taking offense, Lucius leaned back in his chair and sipped his whiskey, allowing the man to proceed.

“I am not just ‘a word’,” He began pacing the room in frantic thought. He was rejecting Lucius’ words so violently that he was going to be sick. “I—I have a name!”

“Oh? And what might that be?”

The man glared at Lucius in consternated rage. The old man knew just as well as the sailor couldn’t remember his name. “I have thoughts—and feelings. Yes! I have conscious thoughts that are special and individual to me, and me alone.”

“So you are the sum of your thoughts? You are your mind?”

“Yes. I’d be no different from a beast without my mind.”

“Then you must surely be your body as well. For the mind connects to the body and is sustained by the body.”

“Yes, I am surely my own body. This is my brain, my thought, my voice, and these are my hands.” He said, raising his palms on display.

Lucius sat in thought for a moment before beginning again, “So you are your thoughts which come from your mind, which is connected to and part of your body, which produces your voice… Is your skin ‘you’?”


“It’s a simple question, lad. Your skin is as much a part of your body as your mind. By your logic, your skin is you. It is connected to you.”

“Yes, I suppose it is.”

“So you are your skin.”

“Well not when you say it like that!”

“Oh, have I misspoken?”

“Well, no. My skin is a part of me. You’re twisting my wo—”

“Words!” Lucius exclaimed almost in unison. Now he was on his feet as well, with his arms raised in exultation. “We have come back to the heart of the matter. All these labels you’re using seem to be doing the opposite of their intended purpose. How can you be so sure that you are of a single identity when the only way in which you can talk of yourself is in parts? Instead, you insist that you—the singular ‘you’—are the sum of many things that aid your existence. You are an individual entity of thought, but that thought only occurs in connection with a myriad of other things: your mind, body, skin. And as you follow those connections outward you realize there is no end. Instead of being the casing that encompasses the body, your skin becomes the tangible connection to your world which influences your thought as much as your body or mind. At what point would the connections switch? Could you not say that your skin is connected to the world?

“You must realize that everything is dependent on everything else to ‘exist’ as humans see it. Where is the line drawn? You need oxygen as much as your body to live, yet you would laugh if I said, ‘you are oxygen.’ As you said, ‘without thought, you would be a beast.’ You define yourself as much by what you are not as by what you really are. ‘Black and white’, ‘in and out’, ‘man and beast’, can only be defined in contrast to each other. One cannot exist without the other to define it. Even Life is dependent on Death. How would we ever know what it means to be alive if we didn’t know what it means to be not-alive?

“You can’t remember your past because it is connected to your body—in the same way your mind was—but you are not only your body. There is no ‘self’ because there can be no ‘other’. Similarly, we define the past and future in contrast to each other, when the only thing that can possibly exist is what’s happening now. There is no past because there is no future. One exists in contrast to the other. Attempting to remember your individual past is like trying to understand the contents of a book from a single word on a random page. It only has significance in connection to the words around it, and is utterly meaningless and malleable  otherwise.”

The man hadn’t noticed himself sit down while Lucius was speaking. Yet, he was back at the table, mindlessly staring at his empty whiskey cup as he lightly traced its contours with his finger. In spite of the depth of what Lucius had said, the man was not really thinking about it. More importantly, one question was dominating his psyche.

“Are you God,” he asked, looking up at Lucius, “or the Devil?”

Lucius smiled. The man desperately tried to read the reaction, but the smile was ambiguous. It had neither the compassion of a god, or the deception of a demon. The man didn’t feel as though he had been religious, but the answer seemed of the utmost importance. It just seemed to fit that, if he were dead, the lighthouse was the end of the tunnel, where purgatory awaited. Maybe this is like an audition? he thought.

“I am neither,” Lucius replied. “You might even say I don’t exist—None of this does—and certainly not God.”

Lucius noticed the mans face contort in rejection more violently than to anything he had already said. He quickly continued, “It’s just as I have been saying. No individual God exists apart from the collective idea of what a god is. Everything is of one nature, and in that you might say that God is everything. Not that God is in us, but God is us, and we are God.”

“So what are you then?”

“I am nothing. I am you. I am here to show you that you must look past a single word of the book. I am here to help you understand the fallacy of the divisions and separations that you are so desperately clinging to. Let go of the ledge and see that you are not dead because Life is still happening. You were a part of Life, just as your body was a part of you. You gave Life experience, as your body gave you the senses. But now you are done. No longer are you a word on the page, devoid of significance and meaning.”

“So, you’re saying I can ‘read’ the whole book now? I can find what my word means within its sentence? I can read and understand the meaning of Life?”

“No, my dear friend. There is no need. You are the book.”

The mans heart was racing. His vision was becoming hazy. He couldn’t make out the edges of his glass on the table; it appeared to be melding with the world around it. He tried to grab it, but his hand went right through. He looked up at Lucius in a panic, but the old man was hardly there. It looked like a Rothko work of abstract expressionism—nothing but colors blending borders with each other.

“Do not have fear. You are only realizing the truth.”

The man wasn’t sure if Lucius had said that, or if he had.

The shapes and lines around him continued to fade. He looked down at his hands only to realize he couldn’t see them. He couldn’t see anything. Yet somehow, he could see everything.

Hello my tattered travelled friend.
It seems your quest is at its end.
Through treacherous seas your odyssey
Inevitably ends with me.

The vigor of youth has left your bones,
Your aching muscles have lost their tone.
For many years you’ve struggled and strained
Through the pain of battles fought in vain.

Hush now my withered weary friend.
The time to resist is at an end.
There is, no more, a need to fight.
Let down your guard, and enter my night.

For years you’ve clung to the ledge of Life
In fear of falling upon my knife,
But now you are free to relax and see
It was only a friend you feared in me.

It’s alright to be timid, my tired friend,
But rest assured, Life will not end.
Listen and hear your final note glisten
In the eternal symphony continuously written.

Indeed, your Earthly tenure is through,
The daily toil won’t begin anew.
So long you’ve pushed that burdensome boulder,
Rest now, my child, on Death’s soft shoulder.

Let us meet this eve as life long friends,
With open arms embrace your end.
I’ve watched over you through day and night
Since birth you’ve been under my guiding light.

So let go the past and be at peace.
Let go your Loved, for theirs won’t cease.
Let go Life’s ledge and take my hand,
You needn’t traverse that trail again.