Monthly Archives: September 2017

The Foundations of Decadence, part 2

MICHELLE: Are you sure you’re okay?

JEFFREY: I am good.

MICHELLE: Can I get you some water or anything?

JEFFREY: I make it a habit to chase every drink with a glass of water. Keeps the hangovers to a minimum.


JEFFREY: Hm. Dehydration. That’s the cause of most hangovers.

MICHELLE: I did not know that.

JEFFREY: Thank you.

MICHELLE: Are we gonna talk about it?

JEFFREY: You first.

MICHELLE: I think I’m in love with you.

JEFFREY: You’re right, I should’ve gone first. Look, Michelle–

MICHELLE: Look, no, I’m… I know that this is… I know that I’m the one who’s being naive here–

JEFFREY: You’re being idealistic. Romantic. That’s not the same thing.

MICHELLE: Kiss me?

JEFFREY: I’m sorry, I don’t know why I did that.

MICHELLE: I asked you to–

JEFFREY: I know, but I didn’t–

MICHELLE: Shhh. Do you like me?

JEFFREY: I do. But not in the way that you mean.

MICHELLE: Could’ve fooled me.

JEFFREY: Michelle, what are you doing?

MICHELLE: What does it feel like I’m doing?

JEFFREY: Please stop.


JEFFREY: I just told you. Because I don’t want you that way.

MICHELLE: Feels like your body disagrees.

JEFFREY: My body isn’t in control. Or shouldn’t be—

MICHELLE: Then why don’t you stop me?

JEFFREY: I don’t know. Michelle, I’m drunk.

MICHELLE: You’re not that drunk.

JEFFREY: That shouldn’t matter. Why are you doing this?

MICHELLE: Because I want you to be my first.


MICHELLE: Does there have to be a reason?

JEFFREY: I don’t love you.

MICHELLE: I know. But I trust you.

JEFFREY: Darryl loves you.

MICHELLE: Is that what this is about?

JEFFREY: Partly. You don’t love him. You don’t want him. I think you two would be perfect for each other, but then, it’s not up to me, is it?

MICHELLE: Don’t you want to have sex?

JEFFREY: No. Not right now.

MICHELLE: I think you do.

JEFFREY: Opinions are a dime a dozen.

MICHELLE: Are you seriously going to fight me on this?

JEFFREY: The way things are right now… I don’t know why, but I don’t seem to have much choice in the matter.


JEFFREY: Normally, considering your virgin status, there are… certain steps I would take to try to make it more comfortable for you. But under the circumstances, the fact that I’m performing this service under duress…

MICHELLE: Just shut up and fuck me.

“Heart-Shaped Glasses (When the Heart Guides the Hand)”

There are a number of hard-core revelations that people have once they get to college. Or so I have witnessed from my eagle-eyed view. Some of these revelations are carnal. The lack of “adult” supervision opens up a whole world of possibilities, not just sexually, but alcoholically, marihuanically, and even at the cafeteria. You would be amazed at the amount of pizza an 18-year-old boy can consume without actually exploding.

Then there are the academic revelations. You soon discover that everything you have ever been taught is wrong—or, at the very least, skewed—whcih can be very uncomfortable. It can leave you unmoored: if those weren’t the causes of the Civil War, what else have they been lying to you about? What other lies have they forced you to write in term papers and short answers on tests?

“Are you okay?” Declan asks her.

“I’m fine,” Raven lies. “I just don’t know if I like it here.”

It wasn’t the classes. “I really like that Astronomy Lab. I mean, like, I wish there was an actual lab with, like, telescopes, but I mean, I don’t know.”

“Not too much math?”

“I don’t mind the math, actually?”

“You wanna take more math?”

“I wanna take more music.”

They were both taking music theory. Together. It was fun.

“Theory isn’t enough, though.”

They were doing a musical in the drama department…

“I don’t wanna do that kind of music. Something is just… off. I don’t know.”

“How long have you been with that guy, Declan?” Her name was Natalie—Nattie for short—and she was dressed like a lesbian.

“Since sophomore year. In high school.”

“Is he the only guy you’ve uh…”


“But you’ve been dating him this whole time?”

She shrugs. “Pretty much.”

“Do you love him?”

“Look, if you’re hitting on me, just please just come out and say it.”

Nattie looks shocked. “I wasn’t… I mean…”

“I know I come off as damaged and vulnerable, but Declan is a great guy. I’m trying. I’m happier with him than I… It’s not his fault that I’m fucked up. It’s thanks to him I’m not more fucked up right now, so just, please.”


She threw Declan up against the wall outside his dorm room, pinned him, hovered over him, breathing him in. “I don’t think I like college much,” she confessed.

“I think you do.”

“I like the classes. But why do we have to hang out with all these douchebags?”

“We don’t,” her boyfriend of three years promises her.

“You promise?” He does.

But that was never gonna last, was it?

Ode to the Dragon-Gods of Time

The following is a translation of one of the oldest Icathi poems, possibly itself transcribed from Antediluvian Skytongue. It is offered (for now) without commentary.

I call upon the Dragon-Gods to take me to the future,
to guide my path across the shards of time into the Undiscovered Country,
to earn my hope and feed my dreams and make my wealth increase,
to show me to a better place while they make my body older.

Acarius, Icaria, I put my faith in you.
Great Dragon-God, Great Dragon-Goddess, show your love anew.

Acarius, help me reach my goals
as you once broke your way through Time.
Icaria, give your blessing,
grant me a miracle like your birth.

Before you, Goddess, all He knew was a moment of time,
(a blink of an eye, a blind-man’s waking dream)
In the Void, in the deep black nothingness of nowhere,
You appeared as a reflection in Your lover’s eyes
And He burst forth to find You,
dragging the shards of Time, His prison, in His wake,
and You were seized,
to hurtle into the dark unknown forever.

Now come and find me.
Help me find you.
Bring me the miracle of Your sight.
Bring me the miracle of love and happiness
to light my way into the Undiscovered Country.

“Basket Case”

Mickey hadn’t had the kinds of responsibilities Jasper had when high school ended. It wasn’t just that he hadn’t had enough sex, statistically, to accidentally knock a girl up (not that statistics really has anything to do with it), it was mainly that his parents were too understanding.

He lived above their garage. He had been living above their garage since he graduated high school. In fact, above his parents’ garage was where Mickey’s bedroom had always been, so really, when it came down to it, it was almost as though Micket was still in high school. Except without the homework.

He did have a job. He worked as a fry-cook. It was minimum wage and, unlike my brother, he didn’t get raises or promotions based on his performance. Add to that the fact that he got fired a couple of times, had to work somewhere else as a fry-cook—also, one place he worked got closed down for health-code violations. He wasn’t considered the most stable person.

He didn’t talk to many people, either. Really, there were only so many people he could talk to at his job, and most of them were assholes in his opinion, as he was in theirs.

His only real ambition was in videogames. He joined a lot of online forums, got off on heckling n00bs, busted some high scores. Mostly first-person shooters. Strategy games were for dweebs, he figured. RPGs were for pussies. Put a gun in his hand, and he’d—

Tommy had joined the army. Or no, was it the army? Maybe it was the navy. He knew it wasn’t the marines, Tommy was too jelly-limbed back in high school for that. And the airforce? He just wasn’t smart enough. Gotta be army, right?

Did that mean he had a real gun? Where had he been deployed? Where did he go to?

What was he doing with his life?

Mickey hadn’t really thought about the drums much since high school. That had been more Kyle’s thing. He’d been friends with Kyle for… gosh… And where was Kyle now? He’d gone off to college, too. Didn’t know where. Hadn’t talked to him much. Hadn’t talked to him… any, really.

Weird. He hadn’t even thought about them in so long.

He hadn’t even thought…

Chastity and Charm

Chastity Goodkind and her twin sister Charm could not have been more different. It wasn’t just their tastes in food and music, their political and religious views, it was their attitudes. Charm liked to think of herself as self-sufficient, the kind of strong young woman who didn’t need help, didn’t really even need companionship, particularly.

Chastity was different. Not only would she ask for help, but she knew how to coax it and the idea that she might be cheating or even sleeping her way into somethikng she didn’t “deserve” in the conventional sense, didn’t bother her.

The one thing they did have in common was their telekinetic ability, but that is beside the point.

“You’re such a slut,” Charm would scold her.

“Why? Because I know what I want and I know how to get it?”

“Because you’re taking the easy way, rather than earning it.”

“I earn things. I just earn them by being nice to the right people.”

“By sleeping with them.”

“I don’t sleep with anyone that I don’t want to sleep with, Charm. And if the people I sleep with want to do favors for me, they do me favors because they like me, not because I sleep with them.”

“Says you.”

“Says me, says everybody, says all of them.”

Chastity and Charm were both ambitious—or at least, each thought of herself as ambitious. Chastity looked at her boring sister and saw someone self-centered who wanted to take all the credit for her own achievements, but wouldn’t ever actually achieve anything because she didn’t have any friends.

Charm, of course, looked at her party-girl of a sister and thought she cared only about material concerns, about pleasure, the great carnla delight. What she didn’t understand about Chastity’s strategy was that while she might fall so far behind her sister she could never catch up intellectually, she was making great strides, grand leaps, as a social butterfly.

“Please,” Chastity would beg for Charm’s notes, “If you help me study, I promise to bring you to that party at Gretchen’s—“

“I don’t want to go to any party—“

“Oh, so you just want to stay in here with your books—“

“I like my books.”

“Are your books gonna land you a job? There’s gonna be people there, Charmy, real people, see, that’s the problem with books, sure they can give you knowledge or whatever, they can give you comfort. But when it comes right down to it, books aren’t real.”

Even the few times Charm did come along to one of her sister’s affairs, she was bored out of her mind. One time, she sat herself next to a fountain just looking at it for hours on end. When a boy did approach her and hit on her, even though he was kind of nice, she brushed him off.

“You didn’t have to be rude to him,” Chastity scolded.

“I wasn’t interested,” said Charm, “and I didn’t want him thinking that I was.”

“Did you ever think about how the way you act affects me and how people see me? I’m trying to build something here and I know you don’t understand that—“

“Oh, I understand perfectly,” Charm said, not knowing it was a lie. “Then could you at least not undermine me?”

That was the last party Chastity dragged her sister to. Charm still helped Chastity with some of her more outlandish assignments, but considered it less of a favor to the less fortunate and more an opportunity to hone her teaching skills. Charm went into academia. She would have liked to have done something “real”, she told herself, but peopel didn’t interest her, and while some skill at teaching was required to stay at a university, she did not consider students as “people in the traditional sense. They did not require social interaction.

Chastity, meanwhile, went into business, soaring as an assistant and as a young junior executive, but as the assignments she was given became more and more complex, she found herself bluffing.

“Think you can handle that?” her boss would ask, tendering her a stack of papers, and she would beam at him: “Sure thing, boss!”

But then she would fall behind.

“Can I talk to you?” Charm Goodkind’s Dean said after knocking on her office door. “I just wanted to see if you were doing all right. I noticed you haven’t been coming to faculty fucntions—“

“Did I miss a meeting?”

“I’m not talking about committees, I’m talking about the party last week.”

“I’m not good at parties,” Charm explained. But it wasn’t enough. They wanted her more involved, not just active on campus as a place of work, but as a community.

“We like you,” explained the Dean, “or we want to like you. But you’ve got to give us some way to do that.”

Finally, drowning in facts and figures she just couldn’t quite wrap her head around, Chastity once more went to her sister for help.

“I see,” said Charm, “because getting other people to do the work for you is how you operate—“

“And you’re not able to work with other people at all!”

It was true. She knew it was true. “Come on,” Chastity coaxed. “You gonna tell me that shit still flies here?”

But she knew that it didn’t.

After that meeting, Chastity never had trouble turnign in her reports on time, and not only did the Dean stop having complaints, the faculty were amazed at the transformation Professor Goodkind underwent once she was out of the classroom.

Another colleague, an expressly male colleague, cornered her outside her office one Monday. “I just wanted to say,” he said, fidgeting, “what a great time I had with you at the party—“

“Oh, thank you.”

“I was just wondering if you’d like to grab coffee sometime.”

“Oh, sorry, I don’t drink coffee—“

“Hot chocolate, then?” He softened. She softened. “You know I don’t mean literal coffee—“

“No, I know, it’s just… the person that I was… at the party… that’s not really…”

But she was starting to get it. It was finally getting through to her what her dumb sister had been trying to say.

“All right,” she said. “I would like that.”

If only to hone her social skill set.

Romeo and Juliet Reunited

JULIET: Oh Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou come? Whither hast thou taken me? Were we not dead, before?

ROMEO: I had thought we were. I thought you dead—

JULIET: I thought you banishèd—

ROMEO: Banished were as good as dead, to be parted from your side—

JULIET: Nay, say not so.

ROMEO: That is quite enough said, methinks. Indeed, we cannot say too little in this paradise.

JULIET: Yet how can this paradise be? Romeo, my husband, you took poison—

ROMEO: And you did die of a broken heart.

JULIET: No, I didn’t. Romeo… Friar Lawrence ought to have sent out a letter.

ROMEO: What letter?

JULIET: I was to be married to Paris.

ROMEO: That villain. I slew him, too.

JULIET: Slew Paris?

ROMEO: Ay, he was a rogue and arrant knave and a fool to boot.


ROMEO: He was guarding your tomb.

JULIET: They knew that you would come back. Romeo, I drank no poison. The draught Friar Lawrence brought me was a sleeping cure that forged death before tempering it with dreamless sleep. Yet perhaps I did dream. Perhaps we’re dreaming still.

ROMEO: It matters little now, my Juliet, my wife. Whatever place this is, do you detect the torment of our houses’ war? Do you hear your mother’s painful drone, your father’s tirades, or my father’s woes?

JULIET: I do not. And yet methinks I saw Tybalt here.

ROMEO: The prince of cats.

JULIET: My cousin, husband, and yours.

ROMEO: I came with nothing but love and yet he killed my friend. My friend and the prince’s cousin. And therefore am I banished.

JULIET: Didst not slay him?

ROMEO: He killed Mercutio.

JULIET: Didst not kill thyself?

ROMEO: You were dead. How was I to go on?

JULIET: I, too, killed myself for thee. You left me no poison, yet you left me with a bare bodkin to make my quietus. The untrod depths of hell, I suppose, held no more terror for me than the world I live in. A world where my husband could die after killing my cousin. A world so unjust, where my own father would force me to marry a man I did not love because the man I did… And what of this world? Is this world as cruel? I saw a fool over yonder who spoke of an English King and his tragedy. I’ve seen Romans and Greeks. Oh, Romeo. My sweet, sweet, Romeo…

ROMEO: Perhaps we’ve made it after all, our stars un-cross’d, our lives uninterrupted by the spectre of—

JULIET: Don’t speak. Oh, my Romeo. Methinks there’s yet more to this mystery.

“Harder Better Faster Stronger”

Being a rockstar doesn’t exactly pay the bills. I mean, really, what does these days, right? Or if it does pay the bills, it pays all of them at once. But that’s a pipe dream and Jasper Llywelyn had given up smoking.

He had a daughter now, I had a niece. He had to take care of her. Mom had a new baby of her own on the way by the time they left high school. She could only help so much, and especially after Jasper made the (ironically) educated decision not to go to college, to go to work instead, the pressure was on him from all sides to actually get a job, to get a trade, some certification that could turn skills into money, or at least skills that could turn said certification into a solid credit report.

When he finally found something, he wouldn’t tell us what it was, exactly. I knew it wasn’t anything sketchy (at least not in the legal sense), some kind of steel mill forty miles out of town. Nine to five, he woke up at seven and didn’t get back till after six, holding up dinner. Two hours a day, if that, barely, with his kid, to make ends meet, no wonder fathers are so cold. They never get the warmth of family.

Do I remember how much time our father spent with me?

Do I even remember who he was, by now?

It was some kind of steel mill. Heavy machinery, lots of moving parts, factory work, too fast in my visions for my eyes to track, and he never talked about it. Sometimes I would catch him using terms, we’d be talking about something unrelated, he’d draw a parallel. But then he’d realize and he’d shut down. “No, go on,” we’d say.

“Nah,” he said, “I don’t even wanna think about that.”

Because of course, he was miserable. If he’d still had a wife, if Ellen hadn’t died in childbirth, maybe things would have been different. Someone to come home to who wasn’t related. Someone to help blow off steam. I’d like to thnk she’d have been more to him, I’m just not sure what. He still had so much driving him. So much passion. So much obsession.

Every day, he’d have two hours in the car to listen to music. Other people’s music. He’d whack the steering wheel in time to the beat, sing along, even change it up a bit like was singing a cover, make it more interesting to himself.

He never talked about anybody that he worked with. Made me wonder if he talked to anyone. My brother, the chatterbox. What did he do? Was he really that miserable?

After a few months, he got a raise. A little while after that, it was some kind of promotion.

“Sweetie, why didn’t you tell me?” But I already knew ‘cause of how he looked. He looked worse. He looked more depressed. Any praise he got, any form of recognition, only drew him further into that world and it was a world he didn’t want to be in, a world that wasn’t him. 

But his world didn’t want him. There was no room for him there. So he made his bed every morning and his little girl got up and played on it.


I want to tell this story from the perspective of a single character, one who realizes, maybe, the dangers and evils inherent in our current way of life, and changes his ways. But that’s not how this is going to work. That isn’t the nature of this story.

We have always been at war with our mother. Perhaps this is in part, at least, because she refuses to coddle us. The temperatures range from boiling to frozen and every other animal, more or less, would kill us, in one way or another, if we didn’t them first. The Earth is not a safe place. That is not her nature.

But we have built a life here. A society. We have proven ourselves capable of great things. We have tamed or broken every beast we’ve encountered and we have turned almost every natural product into a resource for maintaining our own safety and ultimately comfort.

It is in our nature. We have been suckling at the Earth’s teat, teething on her fingers and wrapping ourselves up in her hair for as long as our species can remember or derive. Anything that was hers, we have taken, not just from her but from each other.

Now there is one of us who owns it all. A single human (actually a small group, but what are numbers?) has amassed almost everything that can be considered wealth and now he is drinking her blood.

He will choke on it.

Some of us are already choking on it. As I sit here writing, there is smoke outside clogging the sky, hiding the sun behidn a veil as though she were modest—or we were. There has been so little rain in this part of the country for so long—a part of the country classified as rainforest, mind you—that there are wildfires along the entire coast, and stretching inland.

“Only you can prevent forest fires!” But I wasn’t even there. Does that make it my fault?

On the other side of the country, they have the opposite trouble. The house that my sister lived in last year ended up under three feet of water. Billions upon billions in property damage, with more still looming. Another hurricane that reads like an earthquake is gathering on the sea, the strongest ever measured, strong enough to level cities if it reaches us. How do we use what nature’s given us to protect us from her wrath?

We have been abusing our power. It is up to us to change it—but what can we do? What can I do? What can one person do to save us from the havoc that mother Nature hath wrought? Is there some savior who can stand in the path of the hurricane? Who can divert the winds and rains to where they are needed? We have no such powers at this time.

It will do us no good to flog the seas for their impetuous tempests. We can scream at the winds all we want to stop stoking the fires, it will still draw them in. But though we are helpless in the face of the cataclysm, yet we are not without blame.

We have been shaping Mother Nature like a sculpture in the rock, but we have delved too deep and she is crashing down on us.

I don’t know who that one man is who ordered this. I don’t even know if he knew what he was ordering. Maybe he unwittingly made a mistake. That would be fine, if he stopped making it. But he keeps making it over and over again. We can blame that man. We should blame that man. He is driven by greed and sheltered by ignorance. But must we not also blame our own complacency?

We, too, have been ignorant. Or perhaps not ignorant. But we have been comfortable in our shells. We have felt safe, we have profited from our safety, even though that safety has come at the highest cost ever measured. We still drive our SUVs. We still use our televisions and computers, powered by fossil fuel plants. We still indulge in plastically manufactured trinkets that we don’t need. If we could only stop, if we could only show that man in his concrete palace that we do not approve, maybe he’d get the message. Maybe he’d stop what he was doing. Or maybe we could divert all our funds, raise someone else up, crown another king of industry—but no. It is too late for that. There is not enough left to go around the old king’s reputation.

What can I do to stop the hurricane? I can’t.

But maybe we can. One man did not cause this. One family did not set this disaster in motion. We did this together and it took centuries of deforestation and fossil fuel burning. We need to fight this together, not with personal sacrifice, not with elimination, not with demonization of the old way of doing things, but with new solutions. Cleaner solutions.

Solutions that he doesn’t want. He doesn’t want them because he cannot control them. He cannot control them because they are too easy for us to construct and manufacture on our own.

Why can’t we do this? Why can’t we work together towards a solution, a rope that will pull us back away from this ledge? Why must we be so selfish that we must blame ourselves and each other, each of us individually, for not choosing to be vegan, for having too many children, for driving to work, for living in the wrong country?

Is it in our Nature?

No. Because we are not Nature. We are Art and we are better than this. Together.

“Lose Yourself”

By the time I actually did fall in love, I wasn’t sure that I wanted it. I wasn’t sure I’d ever want it. And looking back, I guess I can’t really blame myself. I had horrible taste in men. Man. Singular. Fate had horrible taste in him for me. I mean, sure, all I really had to go on was the red hair when it came to Angus George, but I knew that I had seen him in my infamous prophetic dreams and I knew that he was the one for me, the one that I would end up with.

Would I have even given him a second glance, if not for all that? Would I have even…

I guess it doesn’t really matter now. He’s where he is, and I’m here writing this all down, so I guess we can call it what it is.

Something changed at that show. I don’t know whether it was actually him that changed, or if it was just the first time it really occurred to me.

It started off in a pretty standard mosh-pit. It developed kind of spontaneously, as only the best ones do, and actually it was a guy and a girl who started it off together. Rough-housing. Pleasantly matched, not exactly erotic, it didn’t seem like they had quite that kind of relationship. It seemed more like the male pushing and shoving and pressing of buttons that they seem to find so appealing, except that one of them was a woman. I don’t know. But then it changed. Shifted. Other people started bumping in, intruding, and finally it spread over to where we had been standing, to where I had been looking into Angus’s eyes.

What is it about crowds? That you can be around so many people and still feel perfectly alone. More so. I guess you start to go “But if there are so many people…” So it means more. If you’re alone and you’re lonely, it’s the question “How can I be lonely with this many people?” Like they can’t be an excuse. And if you’re alone with someone, it turns into something more intimate, like a secret in the middle of the chaos. An emphasis. Look at all the people and none of them can stop us from looking at each other.

Until he gets distracted.

The smile on his face was different after whoever it was bumped into him. Whoever it was said “Sorry,” like you do on the fringes if you’re polite and not too drunk yet and bumped into someone who was not (yet) part of the mosh. But then you see that smile. He hadn’t been smiling at me a moment before. We’d been in a place where we didn’t need smiles, but now he wasn’t there anymore. He was in another space with another process in mind and he was itching to hit something. That’s what that smile meant.

And then he misunderstood. Not all mosh pits are the same, and this one was rough-housing on a level that he wasn’t used to because he hung out with the wrong crowd. You beat your arms and bump into each other, crash and settle and throw yourself around. It’s not an actual boxing match. Sometimes it is. But not this one. And with that smile on his face, he happily dashed after the stranger who’d broken our intimate seal, who thought he’d roped someone into the party and instead ended up getting punched in the neck and the shoulder with a strength that in context and contrast must have felt supernatural. Surreal. Out of place.

The mosh changed around him, slowly I guess, maybe, bit by bit, as the immediate crowd realized what was going on and got uncomfortable.

I know what you’re thinking: it’s a mosh-pit, it’s not supposed to be comfortable. But there’s a code you follow, more like a contract, any time you start one. You know you’re not “safe”, but safety is relative, and this guy is fucking off his shit.

That was the beginning. Not for him, I’m sure. I mean, maybe, but I mean, come on, let’s be real. He is who he is. It didn’t look like a moment of great revelation for him, not from where I was standing. He beat a guy up, and then immediately, he turned around and blamed them all for dishing it out and not being able to take it.

Maybe he was just used to a rougher crowd, I told myself. Maybe that’s all it was. But it didn’t seem like it. Even if that was all there was to it, he still wasn’t paying attention. He still wasn’t taking cues, and that meant something.

I started paying closer attention to the fights he was having in school. To what he was saying about them. To what other people were saying about them. To discrepancies, and also similarities. To the different versions.

By the time he was arrested, I found I couldn’t be surprised. I was disappointed, but couldn’t convince myself I hadn’t seen it coming.

I know I’m phrasing that in a way that’s confusing, so let me put it differently. I knew he was going to be arrested. I knew it three days after I met him. I even tried to tell him a couple of times, tried to warn him, but my name is Kassandra and no one is ever going to take me seriously about things like this.

And I guess I can’t really blame them. I don’t really take myself seriously, either. I mean, look at me. I get a vision of this guy. I know I’m going to fall in love with him, so I do. Then I get a vision of him being an asshole, getting arrested. And what do I do? I stay. For what? Did I think that I was going to change him? Did I think that he could?

Vanishing Acts

I can remember the exact moment when I realized something was seriously wrong with me. It was the day I pushed Jonathan Samuels off the jungle-gym and he fractured his clavicle. I remember he was screaming and screaming for at least five minutes before they finally had him settled down enough that someone thought to ask him some questions.

Now, understand going into this that I had good reason for pushing Jonathan off the jungle gym, because he was, at that time, my Worst Enemy. There was no love lost between us. That was why, from the moment I had watched him fall, I knew I was going to be in terrible trouble. I decided to stick around because having done what I did, I knew that getting into trouble was the right thing to do, and there was no way out of it. He would tell on me, and I wouldn’t get to go to Cassidy David’s birthday party like I wanted to, which he must have known would have been a death blow.

But no. He said something really pathetic about “not knowing” and how “he must have slipped.”

It was ridiculous. My first reaction was that he must have capitulated, that this was Jonathan Samuels, throwing his hat in and saying: “You win. You broke my clavicle and I’m burying the hatchet.” But no. No, that would have been too easy on me, and perhaps he knew that. Jonathan was far too worthy an opponent for anything that… chicken.

There had to be something else, right? Was it because he knew it would make me crazy like this? I couldn’t stand it! I just couldn’t stand the idea that… well, that I had done something that bad and gotten away with it.

Suffice it to say that this notion that I’d “gotten away with it” didn’t last too long.

My mother didn’t speak to me on the way home. That was my first indication—no, scratch that, second indication, I guess—that something bad was going to happen to me. Or was already happening to me. I thought at the time that maybe she knew, she knew I’d pushed him. She’d seen it and she’d covered for me because I was her son, but ultimately she had to punish me in her own way, because I had done something wrong. So I got the silent treatment.

Stupid, naïve, self-centered kid. Should have known it was so much worse than that.

That part became obvious once I got home. My little sister, Joanna, was a real pain in the neck. Still is, I suppose, to other people. But not to me. At least, no more than anyone else is, I suppose.

Now, my mother giving me the silent treatment is one thing, but my four-year-old sister? She doesn’t understand this. She couldn’t. To have the kind of mental sophistication to execute that amount of psychological torture, you have to be way, way, way beyond the Tele-Tubby phase.

But I couldn’t get through to her, either. I waved my hand in front of her face and she just gave me that look, that look a younger sister gives an older brother when she can tell he’s acting like a dork. Even if she is four. That look. But she still didn’t actually say anything.

So I took extreme measures, took her food and hid it away. She started screaming for mom. Not screaming that I had taken it away, just screaming that it was gone. Mom came in and took it off the top shelf, gave it back to her with a smile, told her it was all right. She didn’t even glance in my direction.

I just couldn’t get through. No matter how hard I screamed, no matter how much I pounded my fists into the walls, it’s like they couldn’t hear me. Now and then I’d crack their slim defenses a little; I’d sneak in with a direct question that would prove they were ignoring me if they didn’t answer, but then they would. They wouldn’t do anything drastic like, say, look me in the eye or anything, but they would answer the question. In a way.

“Hey, mom?”

“Yes, sweetie?”

“Why do you keep ignoring me?”

“I’m not ignoring you, sweetie.”

But would she look me in the eye? No.

I guess you can’t really even call that an answer, can you?

I went to school the next day after the accident, or incident, or event, and I saw my pal Valentine Kazinski walking by, frowning. I bumped into him. “What’s up, man?”

“I don’t know. Stuff.” He didn’t look me in the eye.

“Weird what happened to Jonathan yesterday, hunh?” He had been there. He had seen me do it. He must have something to say about it. Some sarcastic comment. Some roll of the eyes. Possibly congratulations?

“Yeah,” he said, completely nonplussed. “That was pretty weird.”

I couldn’t believe it. My best friend. Siding with my mother against me.

It got worse over time. Need I even say all my supposed friends at school started acting the same way? Teachers wouldn’t call on me in class. No one would talk to me or answer me if I talked to them, at least not for anything more than to brush me off.

New people would come and I’d introduce myself and for one tantalizingly brief moment, they would look me in the eye, but then I’d say my name. Or I’d shake their hand. Or something. Anything else. And it would be too much. They wouldn’t remember me next time they saw me.

I did end up going to Cassidy David’s birthday party. I guess I can’t really be sure why my mom even remembered to bring me there. I guess just ‘cause it was something she’d promised to do for me before I was fool enough to break Jonathan’s clavicle. But yeah, I went.

And I’d hoped… I mean, I’d really hoped, I had hoped beyond hope that somehow, somehow, Cassidy would have stayed magically immune to all this. But she was the worst of all.

I’d loved Cassidy from the moment I saw her. It was fifth grade, the first day of school, yeah, I now that that’s really young and ridiculous for a freaking ten-year-old to claim to be in love, but I know what I felt and it was unmistakable.

She was a tomboy. Even then. I guess she’d always been a tomboy and it started to show more and more in the way that she just didn’t act like other girls, you know, it was like, here’s a girl with some imagination, some real passion, who doesn’t want to be the Disney princess, who wants to be the… I don’t know, Xena Warrior Princess. This is the girl who, no matter how much she supposedly grows up, shows off on the jungle-gym, completely devoid of shame. Who never blushes. Who smiles, but I’ll be damned if I have ever seen her giggle.

But when I wished her a happy birthday, she turned to Shirley O’Connell and asked her how the play was going and if she’ll get to kiss that cute guy on stage.

The question flashes through my head: “Am I invisible?” And a voice that by then was completely dispassionate answered: “Yes.”

So why was this happening to me? Why, after more than five years, is this still happening to me? What did I do to deserve this?

All day long, my mother just goes through the motions of being a mother, minus the affection and attention. She still buys groceries enough for me, sure, but forget ever making me dinner. Setting the table for me. Celebrating or even acknowledging my birthday. Hell, that’s not even going through the motions anymore, is it? That’s neglect.

So one time, when I was old enough to actually think clearly about things and realize I was in serious trouble, I tried to go to Child Services to get them to rectify the situation. I won’t tell the rest of the story, though. For fear of repeating myself. It is a dull tale for me.

Every now and then, I throw a temper tantrum. My invisibility gets to my head. I started shoplifting. Playing tricks on people. They wouldn’t know it was me, right?

I would tie people’s shoelaces together.

I would stand at the front of the class doing everything the teacher did, making fun of her, but answered only by blank stares.

I broke into the school once and stole all the chalk. There wasn’t even an investigation.

So I took all the chalk I’d stolen, ground it into dust and coated the main hall with it. Never head a word.

I learned potassium gets violently unstable when it interacts with water, so I stole a block of it and threw it down a flushing toilet, half hoping the blast would take me with it. They’d never know it was me. But it just fizzled. They called the plumber. Called it faulty installation.

Every time, the joke was still on me. Because ultimately if you’re laughing, even if you’re laughing at someone else’s misfortunes, it’s really only fun if you have someone to laugh with. A practical joke isn’t funny until you can brag about it. And it got to the point where no one noticed if I tripped them in the hall.

Do you have any idea what it’s like? Not to be noticed at all? Don’t you know how that feels? What that does to a man? It’s one thing to say the words and realize that nobody’s listening. It’s one thing to make the gesture and realize that nobody cares. That much I can live with.

But not existing?

I’ve often wondered if I died that day, and this is hell. Did I pass away in the night? Or maybe I’m remembering wrong and I was the one who fell from the jungle-gym and broke my neck, so that Jonathan won.

That would surely explain why nowadays, I can break something one day and have it turn up mended the next, how I can walk through an opened door in an abandoned building, close it behind me and have myself scared half to death to return to find the door magically opened again, so that I’m left with the thought “Is this building haunted?”

But then I remember the only ghost is me. Perhaps that’s why I can walk through a field of unmowed grass and find myself unable to retrace my steps because even on closest inspection, it always seems as though in my passage not a single blade has been broken by my footfall.

This is also why, in writing this, I dare not put these papers down, for fear the words I’ve written may already be fading on the pages I’ve let go. Why have I even written this? Since no one will ever read it, or if they do, they’ll read it and instantly forget all about it.

But if you do, somehow, somewhere, manage to find a copy of this letter, if it somehow gets out of my hands, and if you understand and don’t forget, I would ask you to please remember me. Please? If only in your dreams? If only so my name is not forgotten? Please…

My name is —— ——.

Please don’t forget me.