12th st beach September


“It’s going to be alright”

Is what you would say around one in the morning when we were two beers in. You’d smile and we’d be quiet and these were the nights you’d be good. These were the nights you’d relax and set down your sadness for a while. I would take it and go out to the yard to throw it as far as I was able so we could talk about books and musicians and how you ruined your clothes at the laundromat. Slivers of skies and German chamomile hung all around us and I didn’t love you. The wine was gone and so was the twilight and you didn’t love me either. But it was all ok then. Only months later when I realized you never came to my birthday and you never said goodbye did it start to break me. What happened to you? Did the drugs finally get you? What happened to me? Did the cold finally get me? You never would have moved to the coast with me. You never would have taken me anywhere not even to the plains states where they write poetry and take Xanax and binge on their own self pity. To think I wanted to see it for myself! To think I wanted to take a picture with you for that newspaper story about the not-quite-dead. My tongue rebelled at the taste of yours. I always preferred candy to cigarettes but you never understood so instead we drank our herbal liquors till we passed out.

And then it was Thursday again.

That Summertime Sadness


originally published on Thought Catalog

It starts innocently enough: you’re at the office with your headphones in or sitting in the living room with the music on shuffle and that song comes on. You know that song, the one that pulls you back kicking and screaming to another place in another year and you can’t fight it. You’re lifted up and sucked through and dropped down somewhere else, somewhere you walked years ago in the summertime. The streets of neighborhoods that held you like arms in the quiet dark have found you again, and they are relentless.

Once more, black top steaming with visible heat thuds against your shoes, and crumbling buildings rise up around you as you walk. Weeds can barely even make it here. Lungs can barely make it here, and you once you thought you might die from all of it, just wilt completely from the heat and the sweat and the sun. Unforgiving! Suffocation took over in a summer you never thought you’d remember, much less return to.

But here you are thanks to that song and you are seeing the parts you never saw back then. This is synesthesia at its best, but it cuts deep, deep. Back porches were sanctuaries from an August storm and now they splinter in your fingers. Porches with a view of the alley and plastic chairs to take it all in were your home. It was there you first knew. It was there you first thought the words that are part of you like a pulse now. There in the thick air and heavy skies, staring at the backs of buildings, wishing for green, getting gray, you knew. With laptop speakers and cold beer for Hail Marys, you knew.

It was terminal then, but now that you’re back everything is dusted in gold. The sunlight is softer, the cool nights come faster, and cramped apartments open up so you can breathe. Streets that once trapped you now let you roam, but where can you go now that everyone is gone? Years and winters have taken friends away and replaced them with ghosts and strangers and ghosts of strangers, but what good are they? Where is the one you bore the heat with? Where is the one you ordered take-out with? Where is the one who never talked during the good parts of songs?

The heat, more tolerable this time, is emptier. Street signs have no meaning anymore. Cafes are vacant. Two cups of coffee still sit on a rickety table, growing cold. The tiny bars are wastelands, and their sticky dance floors soaked through with last night’s whiskey have no charm left, not even the kind that’s more like pity than charm. Sidewalks and restaurants and waiting for the train—it’s all hollow. Friend, we gave it a purpose. Friend, where are you now?

Back then we said words we thought were important. We wrote down words we thought were important. Back then we did what we could to survive in a summer that wanted to choke us: drinking to forget the heat, sleeping to forget the heat, close but not touching. It was too hot to touch but we found ways to feel without touching, like sheets rustling and dishes clattering and ice cubes in a glass. I didn’t know what we had then, but I know now because it all came bursting through the walls just a minute ago when that song came on.

That summertime sadness, I got it.

On Being Medicated


Previously published on Thought Catalog

You function “like a normal person.” You take a shower, get dressed, eat breakfast, and make it out the door in less than an hour. It used to take you the whole morning. And two to three cups of tea. And a handful of songs that glistened on your ears. If you made it out at all. You used to lose time looking out the window because everything was beautiful, and everything in every season had a hazy glow attached to it. In the summer you’d go out to see what the plants looked like after the heavy sky left drops of rain on the leaves. In the winter the fresh snow would cover everything and fill your mind with soft corners.

But now, none of that. There are only dirty sidewalks and messy gardens and more fucking snow. The world is a place you are forced walk across to get to work/school/home. At work you answer emails and make phone calls and order supplies and tie up loose ends and find solutions to problems. Under fluorescent lights you go to meetings and cross things off your to-do list. Your hair is combed, your tights don’t have runs in them, and your boss praises you. You smile because you have forgotten that this is not you.

No, the You you’ve known all your life would not feel good about completing a purchase order or remembering which folder a document is in. The You before the medication had dreams about doing more than this. It was always Which city am I going to next? And now it’s When is the microwave in the breakroom free? During the day this doesn’t seem like a big deal because you are focused and productive. You see clear goals and paths carved out to get you there. You are medicated, and everything is linear.

But when have you ever been a fan of straight lines? At night you remember how you used to love the twisted ones best. How much time did you spend just wandering, even if it meant not getting where you were supposed to go? You would always find something better, or at the very least you’d see/touch/taste/feel something amazing on the way there. The world was not something you were forced to be in; you wanted to be in it, badly, and wanted it in you. You wanted to put your hands on it and breathe it in. What was that like, again?

It’s too hard to remember because every morning you wake up and swallow a blue capsule that pushes all that out of sight. It gives you tunnel vision, and during the half hour it takes to kick in you can feel the narrowing like waves crashing over you. Soon this part will be over, though. Soon you won’t be reaching out to grab the hand of the person you used to be while the tide pulls her under. You’ll forget her and you’ll forget the way the sun hit the streets just right this morning and how the breeze brushed past you whispering “Follow” as it disappeared around the corner. You’ll be fine, and you won’t dream.

It’s ok because this is what the doctor says is “fine.” This is what your parents and teachers and bosses say is “fine.” But you know this is not fine because fine is having space for your thoughts to breathe. It is thanking the stars or the lord or the Smiths that you are not like the others. It is what you were before you were medicated. It can be yours again, and you know it, and each day it’s harder and harder to hold your breath and go underwater. One day you won’t do it. You’ll just stop, and you’ll live again. You’ll stop, and you’ll see and feel and be in love with the world again. Any minute now.