Just Be a Person

Just pick yourself up out of the snow, plowed into a heap, next to the fallen nest in the street, waiting to get erased by a tire. Just wipe the frozen vomit from your shirt, coat halfway off, one shoe gone so when you walk you’ve become a Frankenstein. Just shield your eyes from the haze of the streetlamps, becoming two in your eyes, the sky a pepto pink behind it, buildings as knives to cut it open. Just end up at the back door of the halfway house by some cosmic luck, knocking loud enough so the cool guard can hear but not loud enough for the director to. Just end up with the one showerhead that halfway works, stepping in and out of the icy water till you can’t feel anything. Just tap a handful of sleeping pills into your mouth, the ones you snuck in, body still frozen, and try to figure if the whiskey will interfere. Just go to sleep anyway. Just wake in the morning, amazed, and shake Larry in the next bunk over till he wakes up, tell him it’s visiting hour even though it isn’t cause that’s the only way he’ll get out of bed. Just walk straight into the dining hall and don’t stumble, especially not in front of the director. Just fill out a crossword while your skull pulses into a thousand pieces, your head filled with against the odds stories of your sobriety, finished manuscript, Pulitzer in hand. Just go back to your room and do a hundred pushups, pray to god in the sunlight, dump the sleeping pills down the toilet. Just scream into your pillow, stab it with the blade you snuck in, hide the feathers on Larry’s bed. Just send her texts in between groups, insisting you’re clean, haven’t touched a drop since you got here a month ago, that you’ve got a stack of pages written, that you’ll see her in no time. Just swish mouthwash to get rid of the whiskeystink. Just down the mouthwash and wait for it to burn in your belly, to swim in your head. Just stuff paper towel down your throat, one after the other, till you can’t breathe, and try to hold it there, sliding down the wall, now lying on the floor, eyes on the bathroom’s flickering bulb, listening to yourself choke but it sounding like it’s coming from someone else. Just cough it all up and see spots in your eyes till you get up and clean yourself off. Just dream in scenes of a life you’ve never had, the one you’ve written about, keeping yourself from the edge of the bridge you’ve been eyeing since before you got in this place. Just realize that the only reason you haven’t finished writing is cause you can’t see your life past the story, a big black nothing after THE END. Just tell the director what he wants to hear in groups, bum cigs off Larry, convince the cool guard to hold the door for you while you “go for a walk,” stopping at the liquor store. Just pocket a couple plastic bottles, pants bulging, and head for the door like you’re on a lazy stroll. Just run when the alarm goes off. Just get stopped at the door by the cool guard, one of the bottles falling out, him asking you what in the fuck you think you’re doing. Just tell him you’re joking, only kidding, and throw a bottle in the snow, another against a tree, the rest into the street, bouncing off parked cars, bottlecaps cracking, splattering alcohol. Just walk past him as he shakes his head. Just delete the dealer’s number from your phone, then search all your texts, your call history to find it again. Just give up. Just wake in the night, shivering even though it’s warm in your room, sweating through your sheets, Larry snoring in his bed and a sickle moon letting light in. Just consider holding a pillow over Larry’s face but search through his dresser instead. Just find his mouthwash. Just pop off the cap. Just walk to the bathroom and look in the mirror. Just pour it all down the drain and apologize to Larry while he sleeps. Just pull out your notebook and open it, pages untouched. Just start writing, filling up pages, flipping, not stopping, not letting up. Just let Larry sleep in. Just take a cold shower. Just eat breakfast. Just watch the way the sun fills up the room. Just cry in the bathroom when you have to. Just be a person.


The Depressed Person’s Guide to Love


While society’s warming up to the idea that mental illnesses might be no different from physical ones, legitimacy-wise, understand that grokking this on an intellectual level’s a lot different than actually forging a connection with someone who mulls over the idea of ending their life on the regular.


While you’re swiping right, wonder if you should go off the antidepressants because of the way they kill your libido. Realize you could be alive and impotent or dead with a hard-on. Cringe at the pictures you’ve used, the pathetic, full-of-shit life you could never, with good conscience, share with anyone ever again. Understand: every right swipe is a shovelful of dirt on the grave of your pride.


Keep swiping right anyway.


Go to the gallery showing for the free cake and the pop that’s been left out too long. Stay for the photographer who captures freshly foreclosed homes, newly abandoned factories, places at the interstitial point between habitation and vacancy. Tell her you think her work is “really very good.” Shake your head even as the words come out, like concurrently with what you’re saying. Take her card, but remember: she’s only doing this to be polite. Because she feels sorry for you. Choke on the pop but don’t let her see. Stand off to the side. Pretend to appraise one of her photos on the wall. Sputter silently.


Compose a text saying how great it was to meet. How you’d love it if she’d give you a “shot” and join you for lunch sometime. Delete everything. Start over. Be nonchalant. End the text with an emoticon of a smiling monkey. Realize that’s childish and change it to “hahaha.” Give the hahaha its own sentence and capitalize the H. Go back to the smiling monkey. Leave your phone on the bed, text unsent. Masturbate furiously. But stop, because antidepressants. End the text with a hahaha and a smiling monkey. Hit send.


Throw up in a dumpster outside the restaurant. Worry it might get all over the inevitable workers when it’s emptied. Decide you’re a terrible person for doing this. Consider stopping at the CVS, buying a towel, tossing it in the dumpster for absorption. Be in the middle of counting your change when she arrives. Put the change in her hand. Tell her you don’t know why you did that, that you didn’t mean she was a prostitute or anything like that.


Get Mederma for the scars that train-track stitch marks down your arms. But the kind for kids, because you’re cheap. It goes on purple and smells like a birthday party. Laugh at your stupid, birthday-smelling scars.


Get a match on Tinder. Be smooth for once. Set up a date. Marathon a show the night before, something cerebral so you have no brainspace for overthinking. Sleep for twelve hours. Take out the concealer you bought at Sephora from the purple-lipsticked cashier who wouldn’t stop staring at your train track arms. Get as far as opening the cap before putting it away. Compromise by putting on a nice button-down.


Get pushed against the wall, knocking over a framed photo. Apologize, but keep going when she insists it’s okay. When she moves for the button-down, bat her hands away. Take her shirt off instead. When she says “now you,” take your pants off. Laugh when she laughs. Get serious when she gets serious. Make it casual when you turn off the lights. Tell her you want to see her by touch. Make a note: good line. It’s super effective. Tackle the bed.


When her fingers trace infinity symbols or figure eights down your flank, resist the urge to pee. When her fingers approach the smooth tightness of scar tissue, let them. Listen to the vacuum of sound this surprise has made. Reach over and turn on the light. Be naked. Try not to notice the way her nose wrinkles, how she recovers by turning it into a sniff. Be grateful when her cat walks in, jumps on the bed, sidles between your naked bodies. Let the cat lick your arm with its sandpaper tongue and be grateful, again, for these creatures. Put your clothes on in silence.


Delete all your apps. Your profiles. Your personae. Toss out the Sephora concealer. Consider trashing the button-downs, but don’t be stupid.


Pull the concealer out of the trash.


Put it back in. Take the garbage to the curb.


Be okay with this. Go to a library book sale and cover your arms with a tower of books. Fantasize about dropping them and the mousy bookworm who will help pick them up. Bump into someone during your reverie. Be told to watch where the fuck you’re going. Drop not a single book. Checkout. Sit down and appraise your haul. Consider posting a pic on social media. Don’t. Be told the dude you bumped into was a bit harsh. Look over. See a woman behind her own booktower. See she has The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. Tell yourself not to say “Oscar Wilde” when you gush, but do it anyway. Appreciate the dimples. Appreciate the dimples.


Let her unstack your tower, one at a time. Be naked. Notice her noticing. Try to bring it back to books, and be grateful as she goes along with it. As she smiles a smile to you that says. That says. That says. I know.


The Barclay

While telling stories with my little brother, I began to tell one in a British accent about a mysterious character known only as The Barclay. That story was largely unintelligible. That story was completely improvised. That story is here now for your aural amusement:



NOTE: I wrote the following when I was nine years old. I’ve transcribed it here, errors and all, from my barely legible writing. Enjoy!



I’m an unusual computer. Sometimes I work, sometimes I don’t. I’m always trying my best, but I’m a newcomer, so I mess up occasionally. I feel so sorry for Nick O., because he has to deal with me day after day, because I don’t know the basics of being a good-enough computer. I wish I could do better.

Hey!, don’t shut me down! I’ll do better, I promise! It’s hard to load websites. No! Hi. I’m back on. I just got shutdown for the fourth time today. I wish he would at least give me a chance! Every time I try to do something, I screw up, and the next thing I know, he shuts me down! I wish I could tell him I try as hard as I can.

Why can’t I work? I try and try and try, and just can’t do it. It’s as simple as that. I just give up. It’s Tuesday, and I heard Nick O. saying that he was going to throw me away tomorrow. How am I going to be a better computer in 24 hours? I know I can do it if I try.

Here’s Wednesday, the most extremely important day of my life, the day I could become an adult computer. I either become a better computer today, or never. I am so nervous, that I’d be sweating if I could. I’m too young to be disconnected! Wish me luck!

Mission: Computer, It’s still Wednesday, I don’t know why he’s taking so long, but that’s of course very good for me.

Let’s start on my modem. Just a few minor loading problems. Fixable. Okay, a little wire switching here and there, a little upgrading, and a little deleting of files, and I’ll be ready. Hmmm, this is harder than I thought. OW! It hurts when I clip a wire, but I have to do it. Oh no! Nick’s coming. I have to be quiet. Whhew! That was close! He walked past me and went outside.

“I’m going to bring you to the dump you dumb computer!

Come on, I have to fix my internet connection, but it’s way too slow. I’ve got to figure a way out of this!

“I can’t wait until 1:00, when I’ll take you to the dump!”

Wait! What did he say? 1:00? It’s 12:43 in the afternoon. I only have 17 minutes!

Internet connection is now fixed! Alright! Now it’s the free space. No wonder I’m so slow, all the free space is taken up throughout the Harddrive. 25%. 50%. 75%. 100%. Good! All the space is free! Now for errors. Error number one, not responding. Get into programs, general, there we go, a little wire clipping, done! Alright! That’s two down:

“Ten minutes, and you’re gone! My parents are going to leave at 1:00, and then I’ll throw this hunk of junk away!”

Did he say ten minutes? Oh no! Error number two, won’t run AOL. Initializing Data, Uninstall AOL. 2%. 5%. Full power! I’m going fast now! 75%. 100%. Now to reinstall it, but do some minor changes.

AOL, programs, reinstall, 75%. 100%! screename. There we go. Password, got it! AOL, settings, general, speed. No wonder! The speed’s on 0. There. 100. I’ll check my clock. Good. It’s only 12:52. Eight more long minutes of working.

Error number three, glitches in sound when I play a movie clip. That will be taken care of.

“Six minutes! I wish I could throw him away now!”

Okay. Six minutes. I only have a couple more errors. Three to be exact. Now for the glitches in sound. Where’s my sound card? Oh, here it is. The chip was put in the wrong way. There we go! One error down, two to go:

I’m cut down to three minutes. Next error, video card makes all video clips load slowly. The cord wasn’t plugged in! Two errors down, one to go, oh no! I have one minute left! I can do this!

Final error. Nothing is upgraded. Full power! 100%! AOL’s upgraded! 100%! Documents are upgraded. 100%! Downloads are upgraded! 10 seconds left! Oh no! Microsoft Word won’t upgrade. Wait. Here we go. 25%. 30%. 50%. 75%. 99%! 1 second left! I can do this! 100%! Time’s up! I did it!

“Time’s up! I’ll play around with this computer one more time before I trash it.”

Hey! It’s going into AOL! I can play movie clips! The sound works! Best of all, no errors! I guess I’ll keep you after all.

I did it! I actually became a better computer in 3 days.