To think of death
when earthquakes tremor toward
How long can you lie awake?
To wallow at worn defeat
as clouds depart and azure floods
Where might you run when all else fails?
To think of death
at the precipice of joy-
When will you let this fear settle?
He leaned casually filing his fingernails.
"Just imagine the fulfilment!"
The other stood, poised; ready for battle.
"Think about the long-term consequences."
"You're not promised tomorrow. Enjoy now."
It would be a temporary fix. Don't."
While staring at myself in the mirror,
I listened to the two of them argue.
I lay my head down in hopes of a night of rest. From this infernal war with bipolar.
Feeling the morning sun on my face.
Dreading to open my eyes, knowing
it will be a war. Knowing my day will
be filled with so many urges. Going
from wanting death to the extreme
of wanting to feel the cold steel cutting
into my flesh to release￼ the bipolar.
Just wanting to end this war of both sides
Fighting for victory over my soul.
I know the light is within my soul
Giving me the strength to fight
For victory over bipolar.
Flip a Coin
Grab the knife You don't want to do that
Yes you do. Don't listen to them You will regret it I promise
He has wronged you too much It was an accident. He didn't mean to
That car didn't crash itself did it? He had to swerve to stop from hitting a kid
And you have to pay for that? No Would you rather have had a kid die
Who cares? You broke both of your legs He should not be punished for an accident
What about the thousands in car damage? It's just money. You will regret it
Don't listen to them! It's a tragedy, but he is sorry for hurting you
He doesn't deserve a life Everyone's life is valuable
You can't even walk anymore! It was an accident he saved a kid's life
But remember he ruined yours Think about the jail time
Oh jail smail it's worth it No it's not.
Do it Don't do it
Trust me Trust me
The Last One
“Go ooooon! Eat it!” She nipped me in my neck for good measure to get her point across.
Although her size made the bite feel more like a pinch, it was unexpected enough to make me yelp and bring my hand to the affronted area. I looked down to my right shoulder and gave her the best glare I could muster, but her black eyes simply stared right back - perhaps a bit through me - and her toothy grin showed that she felt no remorse for her mischief.
“I told you to stop biting!”
“I’ll stop biting when you start listening.” In terms of appearance, she was a carbon copy of me - save for her pitch black eyes - reduced to 5 inches in height. (Sometimes she insists she is really 5 and 3/4 inches, so we might as well round up to 6! But she is a mere 5 inches - I should know, I checked while she was sleeping.)
The only other differences between her and the original are her long twists that reach down to her butt. My hair, and by extension her hair, isn’t really that long, but she insists that the weave she’s added gives her the desired “Medusa effect”. Her arms are crossed as she stares me down, and the stiffness of her red leather jacket works to her advantage of making her seem more dangerous than she is. When I realize that her black pants are also leather and her combat boots have actual pikes on them, I roll my eyes at her dramatics, forfeiting a win in our impromptu staring contest in the process. I can tell how happy her victory has made her from the jumping up and down that follows.
I look over to my left shoulder to see why she’s been so quiet.
“And you’re ok with all this?”
She looks up at me with those cream colored eyes, of which always remind me of two miniature oyster pearls. Her white, oversized sweater dress practically drowns her but I know that is just the way she likes it. She also prefers for her natural hair to be out and growing in all directions “as God intended”, as she’s told me on several occasions.
“Of course I’m not okay with it, but I doubt anything I say will stop you. You’ve been listening to her so often.” Her voice sounds like what cotton candy would sound like if it could talk, very sugary sweet and soft, but there has always been a slight echo to it, barely noticeable, no matter what room we’re in, even if we’re outdoors. It reminds me of the echo a whale’s call might make deep underwater, and it is the only thing truly unsettling about her - besides her eyes - which gives her more of a Siren energy rather than that of a Mermaid. (She’s neither of those things, which is obvious from the cloud-like, wing-shaped appendages on her back, but I’m sure you know what I mean.)
I take in her reaction for a few more seconds as I can’t tell if she is truly hurt or trying to manipulate me. Of the two, I prefer when she manipulates me because her outcomes are usually more favorable in the long run, as opposed to Ms. Medusa over there who thinks my goal on earth is to be here for a good time and not a long time.
“I don’t always listen to her-“
“Yes you do!” The outburst is followed by a perfectly timed sniffle, as if she is fighting back tears.
Ah, manipulation then.
“So, you don’t want me to eat the last cookie?”
“I’m not saying that, I quite simply think you should ask your sister first since she is the one who baked them.” When she crosses her arms it’s more like a pouty child and nowhere near as stand-offish as the other.
“But what’s the fun in that?!!” I look back over to my right shoulder to see that her mood has definitely soured from the participation of her rival. “You haven’t been sneaky in days, no, weeks, and the goody-goody act is going to be the death of the both of us!” With that her hand flies to her forehead and she collapses to emphasize her point. If I wasn’t already confident that both of them are not going anywhere, I would have been fearful that she could have fallen off.
“Alright, you both are being ridiculous as always, so I guess I’m going to make a compromise.”
To my left her hands were clasped together in front of her chest and her already wide eyes somehow became wider. To my right there was no reaction to what I had said, instead she remained splayed out on my shoulder with her tail wrapped around her throat and her tongue sticking out, her eyes open but looking nowhere in particular. Her playing dead didn’t surprise me though, because if she was nothing else she was an acteúr.
Hours later, as I laid in my bed and scrolled through my phone my sister knocked on my door.
“I just wanted to say, uh, thanks for leaving me half. I really enjoyed this batch so I was glad to get another taste before they were gone.”
I looked at her, scanning her face for anything other than sincerity. Finding nothing but genuine gratitude I said, “Of course. They were really well made man, excellent job.”
That made her smile. She doesn’t smile at me often so I took a moment to enjoy it before saying, “Now get out!” and throwing a pillow in her direction.
She closed the door right before it could hit her. Shame. But the lack of response from either side let me know that both parties were satisfied with that exchange.
“You should’ve thrown it sooner-“
“She shouldn’t have thrown it at all!”
Or maybe not.
Redemption for the Irredeemable
Manny’s shrill shreak wakes Justin some time around midnight. He rubs the confusion from his eyes and smiles. Manny, it seems, has found the rat.
Justin’s door slams open and the lights flare on to reveal Manny’s hulking form. The stuffed rat dangles from his hand.
“You think this is funny?” Manny roars. Justin tries not to laugh at Manny’s furious expression.
“Something wrong?” he asks.
Manny flings the rat at him. “You know damn well what’s wrong! When the fuck will you grow up, you . . . you juvenile!”
Justin raises an eyebrow, pulling the tangled sheets around himself as he sits up. “Juvenile? That’s the best you’ve got?”
“You know what?” Manny says, crossing his arms. “I’m done with this. I’m done with you and your stupid, childish pranks. It’s not funny anymore. Your lease is up at the end of the month. Start looking for a new place.”
“Wait, what?” Justin sputters. “You can’t do that!” Except, as the only one whose name is officially on the lease, Manny very well can do that.
“Start packing,” Manny says. He slams the door behind him.
Justin sits on his bed, gaping at the door.
Seven years later, Justin pads, catlike, across the marble hall. His breath reverberates hotly against his black face mask. Sweat dampens his skin, and he tells himself it’s this stuffy outfit. It’s not like it’s is his first time. He chokes back a nervous giggle before it can damn him. His hand drifts back to the cool metal that’s tucked, just in case, into his waistband.
A distant footstep disturbs the anxious silence. Justin checks his watch. The guard is right on time. Justin ducks into the shadowed alcove between two obnoxiously ornamental columns. Really, if they want to keep away thieves, they shouldn’t pepper the museum with so many delicious hiding places.
The guard passes close enough to touch, and only years of practice hiding keep Justin from jerking back in surprise. Moonlight illuminates the guard’s face like a spotlight, and though it’s been seven years, Justin knows those soulful brown eyes, that little scar bisecting the upper lip, that proudly crooked nose, those masterfully carved cheekbones. They’ve been haunting him since he met Manny at a terrible party in a tiny dorm room freshman year of college and his heart beat too fast and he blamed it on the Adderall.
Justin squeezes further behind the column and breathes as softly and shallowly as he can without hyperventilating. Manny continues down the hall, sweeping it with his flashlight beam, as oblivious as always.
Justin shakes his thoughts back into place. The guard’s identity has no impact on the plan. However, Justin keeping his shit together does have an impact on the plan.
Manny turns the corner, and Justin creeps to the stairs, keeping close to the shadows and checking perioidically that Manny hasn’t doubled back. Of course, he doesn’t, because that’s not Manny. Once he’s picked a path, he sticks with it.
Justin continues up the stairs, careful to avoid the creaking boards he sounded out while casing the place.
And there she is. The moonlight slanting in through the windows barely reaches her, but Justin doesn’t need light to know it’s her. The elegant, broad brushstrokes coat the canvas distinctively even in the dimness.
Justin checks his watch. Hermia should be here in three . . . two . . . one . . . and there she is, precise as ever. They nod at each other and begin their familiar dance. Disable the alarm. Slip the painting off the wall. Free it from its frame and replace it with a semi-decent imitation. Back on the wall, and she resets the alarm while he rolls the painting and puts it in the bag. Each movement choreagraphed exactly.
Except. As Justin is handing the bag to Hermia, a voice shouts, “Put the bag down and your hands up!” It’s a line that’s been rehearsed in front of a mirror, the kind that helps a man go back to the same dead end job every night, because maybe today will be his chance to play hero.
Justin shoots without thinking, the silenced bang in perfect harmony with Hermia’s. It’s impossible to tell whose shot hits first. Twin circles of red bloom on the guard’s chest, and everything slows down. Justin meets the guard’s eyes, and they’re Manny’s eyes.
Manny stumbles back but somehow he’s getting closer. Justin realizes he’s the one moving as Manny collapses into his arms. Blood dribbles from Manny’s lips and Manny’s eyes aren’t looking anymore and someone is shaking Justin’s shoulder, hissing into his ear, “What are you doing? We need to go! Get your shit together, what the fuck is wrong with you?”
Justin lets Manny’s empty husk slide to the floor and a hand pulls him away. Hermia grabs his face and her black mask fills his vision. She tells him, “I don’t know what’s going on with you, but you’re going to save your freakout for later and we’re going to get the hell out of here. Got it?”
Justin nods. The dance resumes, but it’s stilted. Hermia keeps glancing worridly at Justin, and Justin drifts jerkily through the motions, a marionette manipulated by a clumsy puppeteer. Years of practice and a generous dose of luck somehow see them to their safe house.
The next morning, Justin wakes from a bad dream. Something smells burnt. Maybe Hermia tried cooking again. He stumbles sleepily into the living room, where Hermia is throwing something into the crackling fireplace.
“What’s that smell?” he asks. Hermia starts a little.
“Our clothes,” she says, staring into the flames.
A hint of unease mixes with Justin’s drowsy confusion. “Why are you burning our clothes?”
Hermia turns, her brow wrinkled. “Because there’s blood on them?”
The air rushes out of Justin’s chest. Manny’s prone form flashes before his eyes. Not a nightmare.
“Listen, do you want to talk about what happened? Did he remind you of someone? Or did you just randomly grow a conscience on me?” Hermia asks.
Right. He supposes he owes her an explanation. “He reminded me of this guy I used to know. It obviously wasn’t him ’cause that guy’s been dead a while anyways, but I guess it just reminded me,” he lies. “Sorry about that, promise I won’t freak out like that again.” That promise, at least, he can keep. With Manny dead, there’s no one left.
Hermia crosses her arms and sighs. She doesn’t believe him, but it’s not her place to care. “We’re meeting the buyer next week. I’ve got a few errands to run, and we’ll leave town tonight.”
Justin grins, and if Hermia didn’t know him, she’d think he was okay. “I’ll hold down the fort, sir,” he says.
The door closes quietly behind her as she steals away into the day.
Justin gets up, though he doesn’t remember sitting down. The sharp edges of something freshly broken inside him grate against each other as he walks to the kitchen. The fridge is mostly empty, but the eggs are still good, even if the toast is going green, and there’s a jar of salsa that should work.
He doesn’t feel any less hungry afterward, just nauseous. Maybe the eggs were bad. Or maybe that white bit in the salsa was mould, not an onion. He barely makes it to the toilet before he throws it all up.
Head resting on the cold gray ceramic, Justin realizes that he can’t sell a painting paid for in Manny’s blood. He checks his watch. Hermia might be back any second, but if he runs into her he can just say he was headed to the grocery store. He hates to leave his things but he can’t risk her stopping him.
He leaves his phone under his pillow, and stuffs some cash into his pocket. His leather jacket hangs on a hook by the door. He snags it as he leaves, doing his best impression of a normal guy on a milk run.
Three days later, Justin roams unfamiliar sidewalks, the pain dogging him with every step. He feels a strange urge to confess, to go up to a police officer or maybe a priest or just a random stranger on the street and tell them, “Hey, I killed the only person I ever really loved, and I didn’t even have the guts to stick around and sell the stupid painting he died for.”
But death isn’t an option yet.
There’s not a lot of jobs available to someone with no identity, but Justin chooses the worst one he can find, cleaning the sticky tables and fetid bathrooms of a drinking hole too desperate to be a dive bar. There’s rumors about the guy who owns the bar, but he doesn’t care who Justin is, so Justin doesn’t care who he is, either.
Despite his best intentions, Justin only lasts a year at the bar before he tells Bill, who bought the bar a month ago and has no intention of improving it, “I quit.”
Bill shrugs. “Leave the gloves on the bar when you go.”
The gloves slap the bar stickily. Justin closes the door silently and emerges into the rank alley. He turns left to return to his appartment and stops. He can’t cover this month’s rent, and without a job, there’s nothing keeping him in this dusty old town. The change of clothes and stained mattress aren’t worth going back for.
Justin twirls and heads right instead, a hint of a spring in his step.
The combined bus and train station stands proudly in the town center, heavy cherrywood doors opening to a vaulted ceiling dotted with semi-clean windows that scatter light across the tiled floor. Justin buys a ticket for the next available train, not bothering to check where it’s headed.
Three years and six towns later, Justin watches droplets race down the many-paned window of an old youth center. A streetlamp casts a shaky circle of light on the cracked pavement below. He pretends to consider braving the rain for the leaky shack he calls home, before pulling a worn camping mat and a musty sleeping bag from under his desk. With fall’s driving rains and Justin’s desire to avoid them, the shack has become little more than a paperwork address.
The camping set isn’t comfortable, but between exhaustion and the rhythmic pattering of the rain, Justin falls asleep almost as soon as his head hits the balled up hoodie he’s using as a pillow.
Justin dreams that he and Manny are sailing on a boundless ocean, which is ridiculous because Manny’s scared of sharks and Justin gets seasick, but they’re laughing and picnicking and Manny tosses up a grape and catches in his mouth, eyes sparkling in the balmy sunlight. It’s not until the next day, as he’s is helping a kid decipher fractions, that Justin realizes it’s the first happy dream he’s had about Manny in over four years.
My Little Devil
I have always been the perfect girl
Straight A's, never in trouble, and always helping
But this year was different
My sadness got the best of me
and rather than confiding in someone
I said "fuck it" and threw all my cares out the window
I wanted to sneak out, drink and party like everyone else
Instead I smoked in the school parking lot
But ohhhh when I got caught, my life was over
It was over before it began
I realized that the little devil that hides inside me is not at all scary
maybe even perhaps a little fun
To go out of control can be fun
To be in control is boring because nothing ever changes, so why suffer
That little devil has been my best friend until that night
That dreadful fateful night
I realized one night that I was using this as a coping mechanism
That night was bad it was terrible
The next day I put on my skirt,my pink sweater, lipgloss, and straight hair and decided to never talk to the devil again
But we all mess up