melancholy

bad feelings club

here they come gnawing

relentless

impervious to threats and kicks to the throat

under stale skies

clouds (finally)

but even they’re dried up

what a mess.

less than zero is?

who fucking knows or cares

smells like maple syrup and shawarma on this side of town

don’t mind.

kind of like it.

miss home though.

amaranth by the pound

or was it teff?

can’t recall

wonder if you’re taking care of the skyline like I asked

probably not

got things of your own I’m sure

saw a picture of some trees you took from below

wasn’t that great of a shot but

maybe you were happy when you took it?

not me though

not even

the power of my own thighs can cheer me tonight

maybe if I pedal hard enough

I will take flight

or

option two (just as good)

my tire will clip a rock and I’ll be thrown from the planet

into the night/onto cement

where all the blood trapped for 20 odd years

will rush to the wound

(an escape!)

and I’ll be left quiet and waiting for someone to notice me

in death as in life

and the local authorities will find my phone with this poem on it

and my grocery list

(cashews, eggs, “good” cheese)

and texts I should have taken care

to delete oh well

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The Bus Stop, flash fiction

Ukrainian Village AugustThe worst is when the air is so light you cannot feel it around you. Nothing is breathing, and you get disoriented and try not to think of death. This happens to me as soon as I step out on the sidewalk. The neighborhood is quiet and fading today even though it is the ripe, middle part of summer when the greenery intrudes upon everything. I walk down the street alongside the promise of rain.

My plan is to go to a café and look for a job, the kind of job I told my sister I already had. Maybe a receptionist or an assistant of some sort. I don’t really know, but I have a hazy outline of what it will be, and that’s what I described to her when she came to visit yesterday. I told her about meetings and offices and working lunches so she would tell the family I am fine. I told her so everyone would know I am fine.

When I am a block from the bus stop I see it pull away. I watch this happen with no reaction, as if there’s a curtain drawn in my mind and I’m shielded from the reality of the world outside. I do not mind waiting, though, because I am in no rush. I have nowhere to be, and the red brick warehouse across the street from the bus stop is symmetrical and nice to look at. From this angle it appears to have no depth and is just a cut-out prop for paper dolls. I am pretty content with this view of the warehouse and of the cars going by, all peopled by little blurs of humanity. I think I just might be alright for a while until a moment later a girl rides by on a purple bike and I realize again how colorless my hair is.

A man joins me at the bus stop, and I immediately get the impression he is not waiting for the bus. Perhaps it is the duffle bag or the gallon of orange Kool-Aid he has with him. We stand there in silence for some time as a line of semi-trucks and work vans speeds past us on the double-lane road. Most people would have put on headphones, but I lost mine a few weeks ago. Besides, the weight of the sky makes up for the quiet. Will the rain start soon? I wonder if the man with the duffel bag is thinking the same thing. I wonder if anyone is thinking the same thing. When the bus finally comes I get on, but the man with the duffel bag stays behind. Perhaps he has not figured anything out about the rain yet.

On the bus I sit next to the window, towards the back, where I have a good view of the interior should I choose to look at it. A woman with a pink umbrella sits with her legs crossed, looking straight ahead. She is dressed too nicely for this bus and for this life, and I cannot bear the sadness of it so I opt instead to look out the window where a car is on fire amidst the weeds and the black top. The rain has just barely started.

That Summertime Sadness

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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.