Are people like snowflakes
or are they more like raindrops?
Individual pieces of art
or identical replicas of nothingness
The beauty is in the eye of the beholder
but no one sees me anyway
so what does it matter
if I'm a snowflake or a raindrop
I'm invisible nonetheless
At their core, they're made of the same thing
but look at the differences
how can they be the same?
Have you noticed that
you never see both together
Snow and rain, never together
opposites, yet they're twins
How horrid is it
to have a part of you
that you'll never truly know?
Uniqueness is not always a good thing
some people would kill
to be a raindrop
rather than a snowflake
I know I would.
In the absence of fire, ice will suffice. Whether you die by melting or freezing makes no difference in the end—cause has no relevance here, all we care about is effect. And the effect must be your demise.
It's policy, you know. People aren't meant to understand the hidden world, you're meant to stay in your superficial bubble living your superficial lives. Your existence is trivial, but you aren't supposed to be aware of that. Live your lies.
Of course, an active mind tends to wander, and wandering is not a crime. Well, not one that we can persecute, anyway. It's not our job to delineate the permissible paths from the forbidden. That's up to the Department of Waywardness and Order.
What department are we? Pardon me, I thought you knew.
We are the Department of Secrecy. It's up to us to maintain the distance between humanity and the hidden world. All your great discoveries, your novel inventions, your groundbreaking progresses—they all come from our vault. Understanding the universe is a puzzle, and we decide when to send you a piece of that puzzle.
Why? Well, humans are our greatest experiment yet, though we admit that your proclivity toward destruction poses a concern about our experiment's durability. You're a truly fascinating lot. You're capable of such harm and devastation, yet simultaneously capable of such compassion and kindness.
What are we measuring? That's forbidden knowledge, I'm afraid. You'll be dead within the hour, but even so I can't let you take that knowledge anywhere, not even to the grave. It remains here, with the Department of Secrecy.
Why must we kill you? Again, it's policy. You know too much. You're a liability to the experiment. Death is the only method by which we can ensure silence, so death is the method we must utilize. Apologies, I can see your life meant a lot to you. I hope you know that you're very lucky. You enjoyed your life, you valued your friends and chose kindness wherever possible. Yet your penchant for asking questions led you astray, led you to question that life, led you to discover too much.
Alright, it's been decided—you will die by ice. Please take solace in the fact that your existence had a net positive effect on the world. We thank you for your cooperation, farewell.
stop for a minute,
let yourself think for a minute
without the sounds without the pressure
let it drown you, drown it,
feel it or kill it or embrace it or just get out of your head
as leaves do, as they sway
let them drift gently to the ground
and mind it
forget it and don't repeat
you're here now, you're nowhere, you're free, you're lost
so lost and so small and so
fell it closer now,
the breath on the back of your neck, the
sighs of the sky above as it watches you hide
disappointment is the color, i think
that you'd hide from everything ,
even your own blood it's too scary are you afraid?
why do you do these things who are you who are you who am i
so yeah let's just breathe a minute
let it sink for a minute
become a pen and a paper instead of a coward for a minute,
ever think about that ?
couldn't you be something couldn't you help someone couldn't you be there
how could i
if i never learned how to leave my own head
it's getting crowded, too many things i think, too many fears, i think
disappointment but i think it's all in myself i think
i guess i'm not just pen and paper
i guess i just need a minute
i guess i'll be back in a minute
and then i'll close my eyes
Is This The Proof Of Your Love?
The darkness closes in
It presses my sides in
WHERE ARE YOU??
I want to scream
Why is there no sound?
No sound crosses my lips
How could this happen?
You can’t find me
Not without my call...
You’re going to walk pass me
Please, no, sense my presence!
I cry with a broken heart
Is this to be my fate?
I harden myself from the pain
Is this to be my end?
I suddenly catch your gaze on me
Why aren’t you helping me?
You haver, but then silence yourself and skulk away
Is this the proof of your love for me...?
“Have you heard about Serafine, then?”
It might have been his tone, a change in its timbre. I am not exactly sure what it was that clued me, but I sensed some subconscious warning before the answer to his question was even voiced. I listened anyway, of course, in hopes that I was wrong.
“She is dead.”
Following in the wake of these chilling words came an eerie hum, as though a switch had been flipped letting loose an unbridled electrical current; a low frequency, sensory drone which seemingly originated from within the very ether itself, as if the sound could not have come from anyplace else but that “other world” where live only the unborn, and the dead. Like a radio my conscious energies dialed into the hum, tuning the force of my being to the frequency of the cosmos, to God, and to eternity, all connected now by a sound and feeling that stilled the blood in my veins as Luc’s words sped through the inner hammers and anvils of my ears, and on into the gelatinous mass that made up my comprehension forming plasmas. My equilibrium faltered next, as the meaning of the words, together with the hum, hit home, yanking from beneath me the rug of every reality that I stood upon. Without my even being aware that life was in actuality only a cheap party game, the music of the world suddenly stopped, leaving no chair left for me, and it was in that pulse stopping moment that I realized, too late, my unseverable tie to Serafine Broussard.
Luc Benoit and I were on our work breaks, squatted against the brick wall out back of The Pony, where we worked, our expressions blank as we watched thin contrails blossom and rise from the ends of harsh, generic cigarettes. Between drags we took turns from a secreted bottle of cheap, peach-flavored brandy. Luc said it almost as an afterthought, that Serafine was dead.
“You must be mistaken, mon ami,” I replied in a thinly stretched voice. “I saw Serafine just last night.”
“Yes? It happened this morning, Paul. She jumped from the rooftop of Le Building Blanca.”
I knew then that it was so, for that was where I’d left her.
Serafine was a friend, although not really, but I did know her... in a sense. It was strange to think on it, that she had been around my life long, always close by, and that lately I had come to know every square inch of Serafine, yet I could tell you nothing about her; not her hopes, her dreams, her favorite food, her favorite color, her middle name. Serafine was that woman that every man knows, but who also no man can know. It could be argued whether Serafine was a good woman or not, and whether beautiful or not, but it could not be argued that she was a woman, more woman than most in many ways, not as much in some others, but a woman who, despite all of that, melded perfectly into any man’s arms, her love offered, if not freely, at least still offered, to any lonely man who would pay her price.
She was from a poor family, like me, her family with only a mother to raise them, mine with only a father. Serafine grew up in the next shack down the highway from ours. As I said before, I have known her my whole life, as one is aware of one’s neighbors without really knowing them. She was the younger sister of Jaimie and Johnny, my bayou friends. We three boys fished together through the days and gigged frogs through the nights, together always as brothers. I did all of that for the love of it, and for them, but also for the chance to be invited to their home, time-to-time, for the chance to catch a glimpse now and then of the sister who looked so seriously at me from steely black eyes like magnets, pulling me in. We rarely spoke, Serafine and I, though she always loomed. When we did speak it was awkward, my words too quick, their pitch unnatural. I knew her mainly from pulse quickening glimpses here and there as she passed me by at school, or church, or the department store downtown, sometimes smiling, but like as not paying me no mind. She was just one of those people who show-out in our lives time-to-time, creating snippets of memories, and secret longings.
I wish I could say that people like her family and mine clawed and scrapped our ways through life, but it was not so. It is truer to say that people like us take the easy-outs. I, for instance, work only when absolutely necessary, which is why I work at The Pony. Management there requires no schedule of me, allowing me to show up at noon on any given day, and to work through to closing for cash money, paid at that day’s end. Such a situation is rarely found, and leaves ample time for the leisurely style of life that I enjoy.
And then there was Serafine, who chose to work in the easiest, surest of ways for a beautiful young woman to work... or not to work, as her job’s description reads to some.
Back inside The Pony I broke two dishes that night, unable to keep my head in my work, as it instead chose to follow Serafine into the abyss.
It began a little over a year ago. Our kind, lazy and poor, were not long for school, prefering to venture forth trusting to our own devices. Serafine, at eighteen, was scarcely more than a child when she left her mother’s shack to live and work in the famous, or infamous, Le Building Blanca. Despite her youth, however, somewhere along the line Serafine must have learned something of advertising, for when she got it in her mind to sell herself, she thought it would be smart to display her wares. She chose Esplanade Avenue to place her live billboard, in the midst of a beautiful, June, weekday afternoon. And why not there? The Esplanade is the busiest, richest, most beautiful background in all of New Orleans for one to display one’s goods, and to promote their sale. Serafine, a simple creole girl, pulled off an advertising feat there that would have made Madison Avenue blush... and in so doing she paraded directly past the The Pony.
I was bussing tables. Commotion echoed from the street that June day as the freaks showed out, happy for a midweek, afternoon diversion. Their bedlam rose even above the eternal clamor inside The Pony. En masse we spilled from the front door to witness it’s cause. Soon both customers and employees were joined in the dance. I stared at the chaotic scene a long while before realizing that it was Serafine leading the impromptu parade, and a Serafine such as I had never before seen. Slowly she came, purposefully, her long black hair billowing behind, the rest of her body draped only in the radiant robe of youth. She came along high, walking upon the balls of her bare feet as if they wore some fine, expensive, high-heeled shoes which the Serafine I knew never could have afforded anyway. Naked she was, her bronze, vernal skin melting like honey-dew under the Louisiana sunshine where it glimmered atop curvaceous hips and thighs which rolled her onward river-like beneath a tapered and taut waist perfect for displaying a matching pair of youthfully cupped breasts like prideful trophies above, their peaks capped enticingly with ripened, silver-dollar, strawberry buttons. Serafine sauntered past as though tranced; slowly, unconcerned with propriety, her long, slender, arms writhing above and around her like snakes from a basket, rising high at times, stretching her body to it’s rubbery lengths for all to see before falling back, so that her hands slid down along hips greased with perspiration, and then slowly back up her torso, and on higher still, touching her parts until the mouths of onlookers watered with eagerness and disbelief. All the while Serafine’s pouty face remained fitted with a statuesque expression at once demure and youthful, yet also knowing, almost spiteful of the cacophony sounding her. The scene created an ache in me, in my loins, an ache that demanded relief, and promised volcanic release as I realized that the one thing for which I had always lusted could suddenly be had.
But Seraphine’s parade had proven remarkably effective. The demand for her goods afterward became such that the price was driven well past the purse strings of any Regular Joe. It took four, seven day weeks at The Pony to save the price, but when the sum was reached I rushed with my savings straightaway to Le Building Blanca.
The first time proved awkward. I was not any old rich man with money to burn, but was a simple boy from the neighborhood, a friend of her brothers. I had sat with Serafine at table when she was a child, and had played with her at kicking cans in the Crescent City moonlight. It takes time to overcome one’s sense of virtue, but with repetition it can be done. Serafine had balked that first time when she saw it was me, but when I showed her the money she had no choice. Without a word she put the lights out, and crawled onto the bed, neither inviting, nor shunning me. I could tell that she didn’t want to, but I wanted to, and so I pushed ahead. She laid soundlessly as I did what I paid to do, but she did take my money when I got up to go. That was my reminder... this was not the adolescent love affair I had always craved. No, this was business. She was to perform a service. I was to pay for that service. No, that first time did not go the way I wanted it to, the way I had fantasized. I could easily have paid less money at Le Building Blanca and been better handled by another, but that did not matter. Going forward I would work harder at The Pony. My virileness had not shown itself well this time, but I would save, and I would be back with more money, and the knowledge born of experience.
The next time had been different, less hurried. This time I had slowly stripped her naked, my eyes taking her in, my heart beating it’s lust through my loins. Her eyes had closed as my hands followed my eyes over every inch of her skin; slipping, gripping, lingering, squeezing. If only for a short while she was finally mine to hold, mine to touch... mine. What was it to me if she was not agreeable to the situation? After all, it was her own bed she had made... what choice had she, but to lie in it?
And so it went, whenever I managed to save enough. Sometimes it was weeks, sometimes months, but always I returned to her. However this last time had been different. This time she led me by the hand to the rooftop patio outside of her penthouse suite where she climbed atop me, our blanket the starry sky. This time it had been she who held me in her hands. This time it was she who writhed, she who purred and moaned, and it was she who sought out and enjoyed the pleasures of my flesh. And it was this time, for the first time, that we kissed... deeply, passionately, and then later, after we talked, tenderly.
Long we talked that time, our cigarettes glowing red through the black of night. We whispered of the past and the future, of life and death, and of the prospects of each.
And then she shocked me when she told me that she loved me... that she always had.
But she was a whore. Whores cannot love, can they? I paid her what I owed and left her there on our rooftop pallet, inwardly proud of my conquest.
And now she is gone, her body no longer there for my whims. I did to her what the profession could not, what Le Building Blanca could not, what those other patrons could not. I had cheapened her. I had pulled her from her penthouse, and dragged her through the dirty dust of The Esplanade.
Who can see inside the mind of a woman... even a whore? The money I paid her has bought me exactly what I deserved, for it has destroyed me as well as her. And so I stand on the rooftop of Le Building Blanca, seeing the dark stain of Serafine’s life on the sidewalk below. Behind me sleeps a beautiful woman, tired from her night‘s work. This woman had gone about her business as though it was business, mechanized, sterile, quick. That is what is left for me now, with Serafine gone, as no other could ever make my desire burn as she had, and then quench it. But Serafine is dead. So what is there to do now but to aim for her stain and leap, adding my own blood to comingle with hers, two dark stains forever trampled under the endlessly sashaying parade along The Esplanade.
and drinking water
as the salt burns my lips.
with a million other things i can do,
i sit here at my computer and eat.
i seem to have accidentally
pulled all of the chocolate chips
out of my nut mix
even though i wasn't
so now i'm
left with salt
still burning my lips
still drinking my water
still procrastinating on
an end that should have come
a long time ago.
The demons have been locked away...
It's too much
Too heavy, too soon
I cannot be with someone
Who stresses me
Mentally and emotionally
Someone who makes me think
Someone that makes me deviate from logic
I just got out of it
That dark dark place
Deep deep deep
In my broken broken darker mind
I just got away from that choking feeling
Worked that huge lump down my throat
Digested it in my stomach
I just got away
From that need to clutch at every part of me
Cut some parts off, drown some in acid
And just take a perpetual time off
I just walked away from that habit I couldn't help
Of crying into the morning
Shedding tears for forgotten reasons
Wishing I could just fade away
And then going to bed
with an empty heart and head
When I should be waking up
shutting my eyes
No plans and no aspirations
As if it's certain that I won't wake up
I just locked my demons in a cage
And I can't let them out
I'm not strong enough
I won't make it
So I'm sorry
I can't be with you.
Pen to the Paper 10
“HAPPY FAT HER’S DAY!” I yelled into the mic, running onto stage. The crowd gasped, and Maya ran onto stage.
“Caleb, we talked about this. Out of context, that joke is just terrible.”
“Fine, fine. I won’t say it.”
“You just did.”
“Alrighty, folks. Maya over here thinks that that joke is bad. Clearly, she doesn’t know what comedy is,” I said with a dumb smirk.
Maya punched me in the eye, and I screamed like a little girl. A screech erupted through the speakers as the microphone hit the ground, followed quickly by me.
Maya picked up the microphone. “Sorry for his dumb behavior. Don’t know what’s gotten into him lately. Y’all know what time it is: Pen to the Paper 10 is out now, folks!”
“Where are you?”
Static noise came from the other end.
I smiled brightly through my teeth “Do come to the market soon, won’t you?”. The static was deafening. “Oh you’re not free?” I said as I frowned. The person next to me checked their watch and looked up at me through the glass.
I frowned more “I really wish you could come. We could have bought marshmallows together!” I started to look for change in my purse as I looked out through the other side of the glass. It was a marvellous lake. “I would have loved to spend time with you by the lake”. The static kept building and building. The orange of the sun fell through the glass onto my face. I giggled “Of course I would spend time with you I’m not going to ditch you!” I heard the change roll inside the slot like a marble and continued talking.
The person looked up once more and appeared impatient. I decided to finally end the call. “Well it’s been nice talking with you but I really wish you would come! I miss you! By-”
“Who are you?”
I stopped. My body froze despite the warm air. Everything seemed to stop.
“Who are you?” The voice repeated. “Stop. You need to stop”
My mouth couldn’t open. Wouldn’t open.
“Who – are – you?”.
I looked outside. The person had left. I was alone. The sun started to set it. It was getting dark.
“You need to stop. I don’t exist. Stop this. Stop”
“I….. I don’t understand” I choked out “Who are you?”
“You know who I am. You’ve always known. You call me every time. You need to stop this.”
“But nobody knows this. Nobody is supposed to know this. You don’t know this. You can’t possibly know this.”
There was mumbling. Or static. Or noise. Or whispering.
“Hello?” I fumbled for change in my pocket and hurriedly put it inside the slot.
“Why are you wasting time with that?” A voice whispered.
I shivered. “I couldn’t hear you”
“You shouldn’t hear me. You’re doing this to yourself. Look at yourself. Look at the phone. Look at where you are”
“Stop! Stop telling me what to do!” I shouted
“I’m – not - real. All of this isn’t real. You’re talking to no one” The voice was scary. I didn’t like this. I pushed the receiver down onto the stand and my hand fell through
I looked up. I wasn’t holding a receiver. I wasn’t holding anything.
I looked at the glass noticing the big “Out of order” Sign. The man. He was supposed to fix this. What am I doing here?
“What am I doing here?”
“What are you doing here?”
I nodded to myself as I stopped talking and closed my eyes to darkness.
I was gone.
The static continued. A voice crackled out of the receiver.
“Your call has ended. Please deposit change.”
Coming back to conversations, loosely related: her upbeat tone into the psychiatric ward's payphone: I need to invest in healthy relationships.
Seeing the Instagram post of her sister-in-law's wedding. I wasn't invited. When the sister-in-law had asked me how I was doing, back when you could meet for a friendly brunch and ha ha mimosas all around, I stared at her engagement ring, smiling like a savage promise and that I would never have that happiness, and told her I was doing, just great, thanks so much for asking. No exclamation point. It's beside the point.
When I had told Stephanie I was going to get better in the hospital, there was some pause on the other end of the line, like a polite grasp at what I could possibly mean. It couldn't be true. It also didn't seem true, just hours later, when she showed up with her fiance, at the psych ward, to see me. I sat in glasses and pajamas, the pity obvious, as it always is and will be, behind their pretending eyes. How are you, she asked. I don't know, I said. There's someone here who thinks God watches us and will ask him to be the second Jesus.
If you're getting confused as to who the fiances and sister-and-laws are in this story, that should be fine. It's great, even. My little regard, at least back before Covid, for engaged and married "young" people was rife. I interchanged all of them in my mind, a little merry-go-round of Perfect People And Their Perfect Relationships. Cause for vomiting. When Stephanie had tried on her wedding dress, I stood in the photos, wearing sneakers and a baggy flannel shirt. I looked chubby.
Shortly after these photos, I stood in my room, having been dumped by - shocker - a guy I really, really liked. I took out a blade. Am I not good enough? Why? Is something wrong with me?
But of course there was, is. Something unfixable, and very, very wrong.
His name was not Jared, but that's what I'll call him. When he told me he was seeing someone else, in a coffee shop that I thought had been just another date, I stared at him for so long that I could see his face fall. I have never before or since seen the realization so slowly cross someone's face, or perhaps it was in slow-motion, that the ending the conversation was not going as planned, and there was no way out but to stumble upon some extremely sorry, bullshit conclusion.
I went to Urgent Care and asked for bandaids. They called the cops, and I sat in a sterile room, with emotions far from that, explaining that work has been overwhelming, you know the feeling? They did, and they told me to take care of myself.
I haven't, before or since.
At the end of the day, I wasn't invited to that wedding posted on Instagram. I will always be the girl, with a greasy face in glasses, being wrong, about everything and everyone. I will forever be estranged from my sister Stephanie, who told me that I am not my disease. However, this is far from true, and always will be. I have not been hospitalized for the last time. I will go again, and again, to the ward of second Jesus'.
While all the girl's of the world try on their wedding dresses, I am in a white hospital gown, a virgin to romance.