Writing

How I most enjoyably spend my free time.

1 - 6 of 55 [ 1 ] [ 2 ] ... [ 9 ] [ 10 ]
December 27, 2016

i'm gonna skip most of the fancy formatting and hyperlinks this year, so if you want to hear what i hear, just google it my dude. and if your favorite music didn't make the list, i probably didn't like it very much.

best albums 2016

16. fitz and the tantrums - fitz and the tantrums
15. upon a burning body - straight from the barrio
14. krizz kaliko - go
13. swmrs - drive north
12. nothing but thieves - nothing but thieves
11. meshuggah - the violent sleep of reason
10. pet shop boys - super
9. onerepublic - oh my my
8. tove lo - lady wood
7. a$ap ferg - always strive and prosper
6. blink-182 - california
5. lewis del mar - lewis del mar
4. 3oh!3 - night sports
3. after the burial - dig deep

1. (tie) architects - all our gods have abandoned us
1. (tie) letlive. - if i'm the devil...

and

best songs 2016

16. krizz kaliko - orangutan (feat. tech n9ne, rittz, ces cru, jl b. hood & wrekonize)
15. tor miller - carter & cash
14. a$ap ferg - hungry ham (feat. skrillex & crystal caines)
13. nick jonas - bacon (feat. ty dolla $ign)
12. getter - in the cuts
11. kanye west - facts (charlie heat version)
10. the lonely island - i'm so humble (feat. adam levine)
9. declan mckenna - brazil
8. bishop briggs - river
7. 3oh!3 - freak your mind
6. chairlift - ch-ching
5. danny brown - really doe (feat. kendrick lamar, ab-soul & earl sweatshirt)
4. dumbfoundead - harambe
3. kanye west - ultralight beam
2. adele - send my love (to your new lover)

1. the 1975 - love me

i should note that not every record dropped this year was a banger. take these disasters for example:

worst albums 2016

3. pierce the veil - misadventures
2. radiohead - a moon shaped pool

1. death spells - nothing above, nothing below

2016 did spawn some iconic album art...

3. danny brown - atrocity exhibition
2. blink-182 - california

1. letlive. - if i'm the devil...

...but some utterly repulsive album "art" as well.

3. biffy clyro - ellipsis
2. sia - this is acting

1. the struts - everybody wants

as always, i also found it necessary to update last year's list to reflect late bloomers and account for the album's longevity:

15. kill the noise - occult classic
14. oceans ate alaska - lost isles
13. holychild - the shape of brat pop to come
12. d.a. - time machine
11. chvrchΞs - every open eye
10. periphery - juggernaut
9. boots - aquaria
8. skrillex & diplo present jack ü
7. yellow claw - blood for mercy
6. bring me the horizon - that's the spirit
5. a$ap rocky - at.long.last.a$ap
4. joywave - how do you feel now?
3. everything everything - get to heaven
2. born of osiris - soul sphere

1. until the ribbon breaks - a lesson unlearnt

and i would be remiss if i didn't mention what would have easily topped my songs chart last year if i didn't miss the boat:

1. børns - past lives

i also want to take a moment to pay homage to three very special artists we lost this year. i've included a personal favorite cut by each. in no particular order...

david bowie - i'm afraid of americans
prince - kiss
george michael - careless whisper

finally, i'm attaching a run-down of my year in music, as logged by my all-time favorite music app, last.fm. thanks for listening!

April 21, 2016

i am challenging myself to listen to 365 new albums/year (beginning 04/21/16), which is a lot like challenging myself to listen to a new album every single day, but a little more forgiving in the event that i happen to forget. i'll keep track here:

1. prince - 1999 (1982)
2. a$ap ferg - always strive and prosper (2016)
3. pet shop boys - super (2016)
4. interpol - interpol (2010)
5. marilyn manson - antichrist superstar (1996)
6. niki & the dove - everybody's heart is broken now (2016)
7. smashing pumpkins - siamese dream (1993)
8. marilyn manson - mechanical animals (1998)
9. billboard top hits: 1975 (~1975)
10. marilyn manson - the golden age of grotesque (2003)
11. now that's what i call music! (~1998)
12. oasis - (what's the story) morning glory? (1995)
13. stone temple pilots - purple (1994)
14. now that's what i call music!, vol. 57 (~2016)
15. now that's what i call music!. vol. 4 (~2000)
16. michael jackson - thriller (1982)
17. nirvana - bleach (1989)
18. now that's what i call music!, vol. 56 (2015)
19. andy grammer - magazines or novels (2014)
20. the xx - xx (2009)
21. ministry - keΦaΛhΞΘ (1992)
22. arctic monkeys - whatever people say i am, that's what i'm not (2006)
23. van halen - van halen (1978)
24. van halen - van halen ii (1979)
25. van halen - women and children first (1980)
26. van halen - fair warning (1981)
27. van halen - diver down (1982)
28. van halen - 1984 (1984)
29. van halen - 5150 (1986)
30. van halen - ou812 (1988)
31. van halen - for unlawful carnal knowledge (1991)
32. after the burial - dig deep (2016)
33. disturbed - the sickness (2000)
34. pierce the veil - misadventures (2016)
35. 3oh!3 - night sports (2016)
36. erra - drift (2016)
37. slayer - reign in blood (1986)
38. nirvana - nevermind (1991)
39. tim heidecker - in glendale (2016)
40. at the drive-in - relationship of command (2000)
41. radiohead - a moon shaped pool (2016)
42. slipknot - slipknot (1999)
43. slipknot - iowa (2001)
44. bear hands - you'll pay for this (2016)
45. beartooth - aggressive (2016)
46. the kills - ash & ice (2016)
47. judas priest - rocka rolla (1974)
48. judas priest - sad wings of destiny (1976)
49. judas priest - screaming for vengeance (1982)
50. judas priest - painkiller (1990)
51. the ongoing concept - handmade (2015)
52. the lonely island - popstar: never stop never stopping (2016)
53. fall city fall - victus (2013)
54. megadeth - peace sells... but who's buying? (1986)
55. ariana grande - dangerous woman (2016)
56. beck - record club: kick (~2010)
57. meghan trainor - thank you (2016)
58. now that's what i call music!, vol. 55 (~2015)
59. now that's what i call music!, vol. 3 (~1999)
60. now that's what i call music!, vol. 5 (~2000)
61. now that's what i call music!, vol. 54 (~2015)
62. now that's what i call music!, vol. 53 (~2015)
63. modern baseball - holy ghost (2016)
64. issues - headspace (2016)
65. marilyn manson - portrait of an american family (1994)
66. letlive. - if i'm the devil... (2016)
67. nick jonas - last year was complicated (2016)
68. peter bjorn and john - breakin' point (2016)
69. the temper trap - thick as thieves (2016)
70. bassnectar - unlimited (2016)
71. i see stars - treehouse (2016)
72. gojira - magma (2016)
73. judas priest - sin after sin (1977)
74. van halen - balance (1995)
75. judas priest - stained class (1978)
76. judas priest - hell bent for leather (1979)
77. misterwives - our own house (2015)
78. fitz & the tantrums - fitz & the tantrums (2016)
79. marilyn manson - holy wood (in the shadow of the valley of death) (2000)
80. now that's what i call music!, vol. 6 (~2001)
81. now that's what i call music!, vol. 52 (~2014)
82. megadeth - so far, so good... so what! (1988)
83. megadeth - killing is my business... and business is good! (1985)
84. metallica - ride the lightning (1984)
85. the prodigy - the fat of the land (1997)
86. hot hot heat - hot hot heat (2016)
87. guns n' roses - appetite for destruction (1987)
88. ac/dc - for those about to rock we salute you (1981)
89. riff raff - peach panther (2016)
90. broods - conscious (2016)
91. whitechapel - mark of the blade (2016)
92. judas priest - unleashed in the east (1979)
93. george michael - faith (1987)
94. tegan and sara - love you to death (2016)
95. me - even the odd ones out (2013)
96. alanis morissette - jagged little pill (1995)
97. metronomy - summer 08 (2016)
98. onerepublic - dreaming out loud (2007)
99. phil collins - both sides (1993)
100. danny brown - old (2013)
101. phil collins - face value (extra values) (2016)
102. gino vannelli - the best and beyond (2010)
103. genesis - genesis (1983)
104. judas priest - british steel (1980)
105. judas priest - point of entry (1981)
106. borns - dopamine (2015)
107. abc - the lexicon of love (1982)
108. fit for an autopsy - absolute hope absolute hell (2015)
109. slipknot - all hope is gone (2008)
110. periphery - periphery iii: select difficulty (2016)
111. barenaked ladies - stunt (1998)
112. carly simon - film noir (1997)
113. panic! at the disco - death of a bachelor (2016)
114. judas priest - turbo (1986)
115. swmrs - drive north (2016)
116. martika - martika (1988)
117. the drifters/the coasters - the drifters/the coasters (1988)
118. highly suspect - mister asylum (2015)
119. death spells - nothing above, nothing below (2016)
120. united nations - united nations (2008)
121. the struts - everybody wants (2016)
122. white sea - in cold blood (2014)
123. fastball - little white lies (2009)
124. nf - mansion (2015)
125. stevie t - album of epicness (2015)
126. young the giant - home of the strange (2016)
127. placebo - meds (2006)
128. kill the noise - alt classic (2016)
129. bad omens - bad omens (2016)
130. islander - power under control (2016)
131. capsize - a reintroduction: the essence of all that surrounds me (2016)
132. miss may i - deathless (2015)
133. wage war - blueprints (2015)
134. crown the empire - retrograde (2016)
135. meshuggah - obzen (2008)
136. supertramp - breakfast in america (1979)
137. bastille - wild world (complete edition) (2016)
138. hellions - opera oblivia (2016)
139. judas priest - ram it down (1988)
140. grouplove - big mess (2016)
141. glassjaw - worship and tribute (2002)
142. dumbfoundead - old boy jon (2013)
143. hardcore henry (original motion picture soundtrack) (~2016)
144. veil of maya - eclipse (2012)
145. xtc - skylarking (1986)
146. local natives - sunlit youth (2016)
147. architects - lost forever // lost together (2014)
148. usher - hard ii love (2016)
149. paper route - real emotion (2016)
150. goldroom - west of the west (2016)
151. blink-182 - california (2016)
152. breakdown of sanity - perception (2013)
153. monuments - gnosis (2012)
154. radiohead - in rainbows (2007)
155. placebo - placebo (1996)
156. pixies - surfer rosa (1988)
157. the drums - encyclopedia (2014)
158. taking back sunday - tidal wave (2016)
159. faith no more - we care a lot (1985)
160. taking back sunday - tell all your friends (2002)
161. the pierces - thirteen tales of love and revenge (2007)
162. ghostbusters (original motion picture soundtrack) (~2016)
163. hank williams - the complete collection: greatest hits (~2005)
164. blink-182 - blink-182 (2003)
165. meshuggah - the violent sleep of reason (2016)
166. kaiser chiefs - stay together (2016)
167. green day - revolution radio (2016)
168. onerepublic - oh my my (2016)
169. phantogram - three (2016)
170. daya - sit still, look pretty (2016)
171. lewis del mar - lewis del mar (2016)
172. set it off - upside down (2016)
173. taking back sunday - where you want to be (2004)
174. brand new - deja entendu (2003)
175. my chemical romance - rock sound presents... the black parade (2016)
176. music from the motion picture pulp fiction (~1994)
177. suicide squad: the album (~2016)
178. tom petty - full moon fever (1989)
179. taking back sunday - new again (2009)
180. placebo - without you i'm nothing (1998)
181. placebo - black market music (2000)
182. four tops - 20th century masters: the millennium collection: the best of four tops (~1999)
183. megadeth - rust in peace (1990)
184. bruce springsteen - born in the u.s.a. (1984)
185. huey lewis and the news - sports (1983)
186. huey lewis and the news - picture this (1982)
187. howard jones - dream into action (1985)
188. mr. mister - welcome to the real world (1985)
189. night riots - love gloom (2016)
190. korn - the serenity of suffering (2016)
191. saint motel - saintmotelevision (2016)
192. tears for fears - the hurting (1983)
193. dave gahan - paper monsters (2003)
194. yellow claw - blood for mercy (remixes) (2016)
195. excision - virus (2016)
196. upon a burning body - straight from the barrio (2016)
197. gino vannelli - black cars (1985)
198. hall & oates - voices (1980)
199. ty dolla $ign - campaign (2016)
200. stray from the path - subliminal criminals (2015)
201. now that's what i call music!, vol. 60 (~2016)
202. blink-182 - cheshire cat (1995)
203. megadeth - countdown to extinction (1992)
204. tove lo - lady wood (2016)
205. duran duran - duran duran (1983)
206. dumbfoundead - we might die (2016)
207. sleigh bells - jessica rabbit (2016)
208. the griswolds - high times for low lives (2016)
209. ink spots - ink spots (1957)
210. pointer sisters - break out (1983)
211. car bomb - meta (2016)
212. born of osiris - a higher place (2009)
213. born of osiris - the discovery (2011)
214. hall & oates - whole oats (1972)
215. emf - schubert dip (1991)
216. the goo goo dolls - boxes (2016)
217. nik kershaw - radio musicola (1986)
218. david bowie - the rise and fall of ziggy stardust and the spiders from mars (1972)
219. after the burial - wolves within (2013)
220. the weeknd - starboy (2016)
221. dnce - dnce (2016)
222. bruno mars - 24k magic (2016)
223. waterparks - double dare (2016)
224. thursday - waiting (1999)
225. hall & oates - abandoned luncheonette (1973)
226. huey lewis and the news - huey lewis and the news (1980)
227. huey lewis and the news - fore! (1986)
228. huey lewis and the news - small world (1988)
229. huey lewis and the news - hard at play (1991)
230. filter - title of record (1999)
231. filter - the amalgamut (2002)
232. hall & oates - war babies (1974)
233. hall & oates - daryl hall & john oates (1975)
234. huey lewis and the news - four chords & several years ago (1994)
235. guns n' roses - g n' r lies (1988)
236. hall & oates - bigger than both of us (1976)
237. rob zombie - hellbilly deluxe (1998)
238. tarzan: an original walt disney records soundtrack (1999)
239. duran duran - seven and the ragged tiger (1983)
240. hall & oates - beauty on a back street (1977)
241. tech n9ne - the storm (2016)
242. beyoncé - lemonade (2016)
243. hall & oates - along the red ledge (1978)
244. wham! - fantastic (1983)
245. the police - outlandos d'amour (1978)
246. the police reggatta de blanc (1979)
247. hall & oates - x-static (1979)
248. run the jewels - run the jewels 3 (2016)
249. judas priest - jugulator (1997)
250. megadeth - youthanasia (1994)
251. hall & oates - private eyes (1981)
252. charles manson - lie: the love and terror cult (1970)
253. fastball - all the pain money can buy (1998)
254. slipknot - .5: the gray chapter (2014)
255. madonna - like a virgin (1984)
265. madonna - madonna (1983)
266. depeche mode - speak & spell (1981)
267. madonna - true blue (1986)
268. duran duran - notorious (1986)
269. the xx - i see you (2017)
270. colony house - only the lonely (2017)
271. wham! - the final (1986)
272. wham! - music from the edge of heaven (1986)
273. tove lo - queen of the clouds (2014)
274. palisades - palisades (2017)
275. chasing victory - fiends (2007)
276. phil collins - ...but seriously (1989)
277. george michael - listen without prejudice vol. 1 (1990)
278. annie - anniemal (2004)
279. now that's what i call music!, vol. 61 (2017)
280. ra ra riot - need your light (2016)
281. train - a girl, a bottle, a boat (2017)
282. miley cyrus - miley cyrus & her dead petz (2015)
283. jamie xx - in colour (2015)
284. adele - 25 (2015)
285. madonna - like a prayer (1989)
286. white zombie - soul-crusher (1987)
287. white zombie - make them die slowly (1989)
288. the 1950's rock'n'roll music collection - let the good times roll (1983)
289. whitechapel - the somatic defilement (2007)
290. veil of maya - [id] (2010)
291. depeche mode - a broken frame (1982)
292. white zombie - la sexorcisto: devil music volume one (1992)
293. white zombie - astro-creep: 2000 (1995)
294. marilyn manson - eat me, drink me (2007)
295. depeche mode - construction time again (1983)
296. rob zombie - the sinister urge (2001)
297. alunageorge - i remember (2016)
298. ces cru - catastrophic event specialists (2017)
299. wild belle - dreamland (2016)
300. lolo - in loving memory of when i gave a shit (2016)
301. cage the elephant - tell me i'm pretty (2015)
302. marilyn manson - the high end of low (2009)
303. cake - motorcade of generosity (1994)
304. rob zombie - educated horses (2006)
305. rise against - the black market (2014)
306. depeche mode - some great reward (1984)
307. the m machine - glare (2017)
308. blaire alise & the bombshells - my eye (2017)
309. rob zombie - hellbilly deluxe 2 (2010)
310. big sean - i decided. (2017)
311. toto - toto (1978)
312. toto - hydra (1979)
313. rise against - long forgotten songs: b-sides & covers 2000-2013 (2013)
314. madonna - erotica (1992)
315. depeche mode - black celebration (1986)
316. emmure - look at yourself (2017)
317. the offspring - americana (1998)
318. rise against - the unraveling (2001)
319. rise against - revolutions per minute (2003)
320. veil of maya - all things set aside (2006)
321. depeche mode - songs of faith and devotion (1993)
322. toto - turn back (1981)
323. never say die one hundred (2017)
324. depeche mode - spirit (2017)

May 13, 2015


Upon returning to the hotel, I lost it. The room was a mixture of Catherine's scent and the baby's clothing. The baby clothes were stacked a mile high on the dresser, threatening to fall at the drop of a pin. I tugged my wet clothes off, throwing the bulk into my stillborn's clothing. They tumbled down without a sound, making me even more frustrated. I wanted noise, I needed the battle cry of the war Mother Nature had started. I know I was angry, yet I felt nothing. I was empty inside without my Catherine.

Her body was still warm, growing colder by the second while I stood by her sullen body. Our baby was never warm, it was never even a baby. It was just a dark mass of wrinkling skin. The flesh of that baby boy would never fill the clothing my dearest Cat so carefully picked out during her last few days.

She looked beautiful from the very start; she was tired but still so very beautiful. How could they not have saved her? Catherine was in the best of hands and she was so strong. So how could she have died?

I had to escape this room we shared for so many weeks. To flee her luscious sweet scent. I pulled on dry clothes and headed out the door.

I found myself in the hotel bar. I ordered our drink, a cognac. I could have drowned myself in the many drinks I had downed within a half an hour. Taking away the pain of losing Catherine would be so easy if I just drowned.

"Mr. Henry, that's your sixth drink. Would you like a glass of water now?" the barmaid asked.

"Does it look like I need a glass of water? No! Damnit, give me another cognac!" I clashed the glass down with such force that the bottom shattered which caused the entire glass to shatter in my hand. I held my shaking hand up, watching the blood drip in pools on the smooth oak wood bar counter. Glass shards jutted out in awkward positions in the palm of my hand. The crystal was turning a dark red.

The barmaid had left, searching for the barman. "Mr. Henry, I must ask you to return to your room or leave the hotel. You're disturbing the other guests."

"Oh am I? Well you all can go to hell!" I stormed out of the hotel into the rain for the second time that day. I walked in the storm for twenty minutes before I wound up by the river.

I fell onto my knees by the river Catherine and I had once floated on, letting my head fall back feeling the sting of the rain on my face. The pain was welcomed.

My hand was throbbing; blood was being pumped out from around the shards of glass, but this pain was accepted also.

"Catherine," I screamed into the darkness of the night. "We lost our child and I've lost you, my dear." I was becoming overwhelmed with dizziness and nausea.

I toppled, face first, into the cold Switzerland water. The dark water engulfed me, clogging my mouth and nose as I sank to the bottom of the river. My heavy army boots, that I couldn't part with, dragging me down. I could feel my heart beat slow and I knew I was dying. Was this the time to ask for forgiveness from God? On my death bed? Though I'm sure my sweet Cat did not ask for salvation in her time of need. No, it wasn't time to beg for God; it was time to die. I let the current carry me away as I let out the last of the air in my lungs.

҉

A week later my body was shot at by Germans while I floated down the river. They didn't know I was already dead.

catherine barnhart wrote this while under quarantine for the writing bug.

cover art: "under the waves" by eli @kampsin.

interested in seeing /your/ work featured here? see this free call for submissions.

May 10, 2015

/rest in pieces peace of mind./

"that bitch."

the snapchat exists just long enough to pull out one minor detail from its setting. you dont even have a spare moment to focus on her face; the clock is already ticking. this, a topless selfie of debatable legality (given that youre both well underage). this, a topless selfie taken in her personal bathroom – you recognize it instantly by the neon foam letters stuck to the wall spelling "jessica." this, a topless selfie after showers but its the precariously placed second shadow crowding her own that ignites your suspicion.

you vie for a screenshot but her timers set so quickly, you dont know if you got one. you flick to your photos app only to find youve ended up with a snap of the chat menu screen. it doesnt matter though. you know exactly what you saw. a smile that betrayed a sense of self-confidence that is, in this exceptional case, unfounded. a berry blue razor & matching luffa on the edge of the faux-porcelain bathtub. & a sickly second shadow.

"shes cheating on me…"

her house is in another spring bud suburb of town, something like 10 minutes away, but you could make it 7 by applying your customary street-racing techniques, no brakes.

though isnt it entirely possible you were just seeing things? not likely. your very own imogen poots, subtly promiscuous at just 16 would have no trouble finding a willing participant to enact an affair. jessica is absolutely gorgeous & you realized long ago youre not the only person who realizes it.

youre out the front door now, nearly accidentally leaving it ajar & knocking off your mothers 4th of july wreath & you think, "what would she think?" when she got home from work shed probably worry a little at first but something tells you shed be just as upset because "were not paying to cool the whole neighborhood!" she used to always say that, back when you liked to crack your window at night, before you ever taped trash bags up to keep the sunlight out & allow you to sleep in. the morning is for your grandparents & summer is when the fun begins.

in the car you dont take the time to unlock the glove box & get out your stereo plate, so its mostly silent aside from your wheezing mind & the wind leaking in through the window that never shuts all the way. reminds you of last christmas. your mother wrapped up a big box but clearly not big /enough/ for the car you asked for, though thats all you asked for – you made that very clear. so several bargain bin dvds of the fucking pursuit of happiness & mission impossible iii later & youre starting to get very frustrated. you unwrap your last gift with the desperation of growing disappointment & inside is just a brick but taped to the bottom of the brick is a key.

in the garage now & "are you fucking kidding me? i have to drive around in this goddamn denim tuxedo?" your mother levels with you – "its vintage!" jesus. a /smart car/ would be an upgrade from this dumb piece of hipster shit. "25 years old – its technically an antique." wow, so cool. jessicas parents had just thrown out their 25 year-old computer.

"but its all i could afford," your mother says.

god, you hope it doesnt break down now, as you hang a left onto one of her neighborhoods ways you almost hit one of her neighbors dogs, but the woman yanks its leash at the last second, surely cursing you for driving like its 1:30 in the morning & youve had more than a few keystones & a quesadilla for fourth meal again.

you might as well have, youre so amped up. nothing can stop you. the only thing in your way is time & its almost up when you hang another right & see theres no unfamiliar car in her drive.

jessicas bathroom is in the basement & so you creep down the stairs past her mothers shelf of ceramic townhouses – her mother & father still at work at this time. "money all around" by holychild, a song from one of your many mix tapes, hangs in the stagnant air down here.

the white bathroom doors shut, the white bathroom light is on, the white bathroom sink is running.

"j-jessica?" you knock. she swings open the door, clad in matching towels for her shapely body & shapely hair.

"what are you doing here?!" she says but youre at a loss for words. the room is empty except for her. you didnt see a second shadow because there was no second shadow to see.

you finally alight, "i just had to make sure you were alright."

"why wouldnt i be?" she kisses you & youre suddenly in the mood for what youre always in the mood for nowadays. but do you deserve it after convincing yourself shed betrayed you in such a way?

oh, its just so simple, a kiss in a towel. shes pulling your shirt over your head as youre assaying the buttons on your skinny jeans.

you lift her up on to the sink & constantly thank god for the little things you shouldnt yet see – 5 little fingers on each little hand. she doesnt struggle with the clasp on your bra because shes been wearing one just as long, if not longer.

you know exactly how to touch her because you know exactly how you like to be touched, know exactly what it takes to get there.

she slowly shimmies off the towel & you grab one corner of it in each hand while she grabs the other two, then you take a step back. together you fold it like one of the sleeping bags you took up north last month. her parents chauffeured but they didnt keep a close eye on you two; why should they? what kind of mischief can a pair of teenage girls brush up alone in a tent, far away from any boys? certainly not the lesbian porn sleepover scenes all the boys at school naïvely believe actually happen.

it could be just a phase; all the emo girls your age have "girlfriends." they interlock pinkies in the high school hallways & thats about the extent of that.

when youre finished folding the towel, youre pressed tightly against each other now. she tosses her head back into the mirror mounted above the sink, crying out a little bit but shes probably more worried about explaining the crack in the glass to her mother than the pain in her head, she says. your own dyed-fuchsia hair would do better to mask the little trail of blood dredging across her skin, & your vivid fingernail polish to match. her tongue follows the road map dictated by your exposed ribs. you pray super skinny /is/ just a phase. you still have plenty of time to fill out & develop; youre only 16.

shes standing now & you grab her ass & squeeze then scratch maybe too hard but theres no pain, or if there is she doesnt complain.

youre so caught up in everything, you never notice the blinking red dot, though this oversight may stem from the fact that mr. videographer, focusing on you two, has taken great care to tape over that blinking red light. the steam pours over the shower door like a hot spring fogging up the lens, but he just wipes it off & all is well again.

xx

jessica has a way with words her english teachers urge her to channel into writing creatively, but it mostly only comes out in the hallways at school when someone walks by, whispering "lesbian."

"yeah, ill fuck your girlfriend just like the rest of the soccer team has," she says.

"bitch."

"you wish, so you could put a leash on me like you do with candace," she says.

"slut."

"then how come /you/ cant have me?" she says.

a setting in terms of time is unimportant, as these conversations act out in a hundred variations on any given day.

xx

now its the middle of the night & your phones blowing up but you sleep soundly through the misleadingly soft vibrations – dont check them until morning, & by then its much too late. as if you couldve ever broken the cycle anyway.

its out there now. the first of many texts you read is from an unknown number asking if youve seen the video.

what video?

"everyones seen it," they say.

your names are trending on yik yak; all anyones talking about is the video because they can do so anonymously.

you make it to the bathroom but only to the sink. youre crying hard now & your moms outside the bathroom door, heard you running, "honey? are you alright?" because nobodys told her yet.

"yes, just sick," you lie.

you might never be alright again.

at least you dont have to worry about coming out to your mother any longer – the vice principal takes care of that. your mother doesnt say so, but you know shes heartbroken – but not for the right reasons. or at least, not for the reasons you ever imagined shed be.

"mom, im so sorry." shes holding your head as you cry in her arms – "sweetie, these things happen. its gonna be okay." she says it but it doesnt make it that way.

"i want their names – everyone whos shared the video," shes screaming at the detective. "they must be reprimanded. shes just a kid!"

"maam, please. we are going to do everything within our power to find out & punish those responsible, but i should tell you… theyre /all/ just kids. & kids, they share photos & videos, stds, everything, like crazy. if we can even trace it, its likely the only one who will be disciplined is the person who took the video. for trespassing & voyeurism."

"& child pornography," your mother adds as you bury your face in your hands.

the detective asks "do you know who might have wanted to take a video like this?" every kid in the schools name comes to mind, leaving you with nothing at all to say, no one at all to name.

you wont go back to school, not that school. maybe not any school, maybe not ever, because there will always be rumors. "did you hear why she transferred? she filmed a sex tape with her /girl/friend."

the detectives office is so warm, but only speaking in terms of mercury. makes you want to take off your plaid button-up but youre wearing just a halter-top underneath & you can already tell to which side the detective is leaning. the chair is lumpy & doesnt seat comfortably, but thats okay because this scene in the office will last less than 15 minutes. the detective cant even.

he says "look, these things happen, & when they do, youre right – the right thing would be to not share it. to delete it as soon as its been received. but thats not what kids do. im sure you understand."

more than anything, you want to be with the only person who can make this all okay, make it go away. but youve gathered by now her parents confiscated her computer & phone & whatever else, & if you were her parents, wouldnt you do the same?

you just need her opinion on everything/want to know if anythings changed.

so youre messaging her on facebook, dming her on twitter, texting her, calling her cell, her house but nothing produces anything.

her last tweet taunts you: "hot tan & a cool shower. life is good! #blessed." that was yesterday morning.

you just want to talk to her, just want to hear her voice. your mom says you need a backup plan, in case you never hear from her again. you just want to change your name, just want to move away. but this doesnt seem feasible, you just cant comprehend. you were madly in love just yesterday. all those passionate feelings, they dont just go away.

so you try & try again for 3 hours & 6 days. the detective calls your mother every afternoon to update her that thereve been no updates. & on the sixth day, when both jessicas cell & home phone ring out of service & her twitters been deleted & her facebooks been deactivated (youve taken all these measures too – the constant 2am phone calls where girls just chanted "thot" did you in), you convince your mother to accompany you to jessicas house – she agrees you two should speak, but when her father answers the door, he tells you he doesnt want to hear from you again.

"this cant be it!" you shout, your mother trying to calm you down.

"i really think they should see each other," she adds.

"i dont care what you think. my daughter is my property & youve got no say in the matter."

"property?!" you look in the door past her father, & make eye contact with jessica who slips into the shadows & you shout "jess!" but her father slams the door in your face & you lose it completely now, kneeling on their front porch. neighbors watch the spectacle from curtained windows, seemingly unembarrassed.

your mom is rubbing your back, & trying to pull you along, "weve got to go, honey," but you wont budge. you shout "jess" again & her father returns to the door, "leave now, or im going to call the police."

this is truly the end.

xx

your mother may be at some sort of crossroads as she begs you to join her for ice cream. in a way, you feel, shes then rewarding you for your terrible mistake. you know you dont deserve it, but you go just to make her happy.

you dont eat but a few spoonfuls of your snickerdoodle cookie froyo, & thats really the last solid food you have, so some days later, your mothers literally carrying you in her arms to the car, driving you to the hospital where theyll feed you through an iv. this goes on for several weeks, your mother always by your side except when shes running to barnes & noble for another new book, mostly selections from oprahs book club, reading to you until you can muster the strength to hold the book yourself, hold the spoon yourself, stand up yourself. the doctor prescribes another 3 weeks of bedrest at home & a high calorie diet, but you tell your mom you really wont make it that long. you truly wont survive. so she contacts a school district in a neighboring town.

you start at your new school on monday.

eli @kampsin's body of work is available entirely free of charge here.

opening quote from the neighbourhoods "jealou$y (feat. casey veggies & 100s)."

April 11, 2015

/the bittersweet between my teeth,
trying to find the in-betweens,
fall back in love eventually./

the house lights seem much dimmer now than when hed first arrived, but much to elliotts dismay, he could not remember any specific moment when that had changed. he could only say that the house lights seemed much dimmer now than when hed first arrived, there was no doubt in his mind, though he may have subconsciously taken in the social cues of any other night, the patrons having had ample time now to soak in the alcohol, & the dj slowly twisting the volume knob up. eventually there would be nothing left but the light behind the bar, beckoning patrons like a sick beacon, & an array of colored spheres rolling around the walls, ceiling, & floor. it would be hard to make out any single face in the crowd beyond the 6 or so immediate sides to his human hexagon & he would move like a kaleidoscope, mixing them up to get a better sampling of the scene. he was single, & tonight, as was the prescribed responsibility of every night previously, that was to change.

the drink in her hand is bottomless, courtesy of the myriad of men failing to capture any shade of attention which might remain in the shadows of a brain raised during the a.d.d. epidemic. a shirley temple now, which she would promptly down around the time her next potential partner posed themselves. men & women alike recognize an air of innocence surrounding her, intimidating & out of place in this basement of abandoned beliefs. theres some level of monotony in the constant insanity of the club scene, & she yearns for a quiet night without quinta reminding her shell likely never meet someone through netflix. she knows it true but wishes it desperately not. just as one guy introduces himself, it is becoming of the rest of the club to do so as well.

the rooms spinning at a heartening rate - hes circled it several times in some geometric formula which some mathematician might have recognized while looking down on him from a balcony above. nothing can break these motions. he is becoming accustomed to them. he can execute them with the precision of a frogs tongue netting a fly. there is no question. but precision has a spark never lit in his unsolvable love equation, & even if it did, the sprinklers sparkling the ceiling would put it out swiftly.

this is not to say the club is not his scene. he understands it well enough to realize this dj is a good one. so good, in fact, elliott is beginning to wonder if hes not simply standing up there streaming some skrillex or diplo or skrillex /&/ diplo set on youtube – then adding his own visual magic to mimic the mixing process. all this just movement, its becoming so that the things which stand out to elliott are those /not/ moving. like theres this girl at the bar with her face in a glass case housing her twitter followers, hundreds if not thousands forever looking to slide into her dms.

& nothing. there is absolutely nothing interesting in her phone at this hour & she begins to wonder if there ever is, but she wont wonder tomorrow. so she looks up & a pair of eyes catch hers – she can really only make out their whites – tracking her every intimate move. but many eyes have done that many times in the past six months. how had she not found someone yet?

sometimes the colored plastic discs fragmenting the lights hit the man just right & she can make out someone handsome at least. not blistering hot, no flash in the pan - but a heat that might grow on you, steady enough that you hardly even realize youre boiling. some contradictory combination of sweet & edgy that just works, like bacon strips between glazed doughnuts but not at all like that physically. & his dance moves are a sight to see, quirky enough that she wants to join them, if for no other reason than to help him in solidarity.

so with a little sashay of her hips & a bobbing of her head, she finds herself back to back with this man.

shes gone. where has she gone? there are so many dancers in this place & theres been so many nights hes spent just like this. he thinks it might be just as well. he has to think that; theres been plenty of times before when hed felt a connection something like this, not this strong, but… strong enough, & then… nothing. shes left him to collect his thoughts & replace the money in his pocket. "déjà vu" is skipping in his head & to that tune, this drunk nobody cramping his place, stepping on his heels, frustratingly. unless of course, & this is speaking theoretically, it turns out to be the same woman cramping his mental space simultaneously.

"quiet night, charlie," she says to herself, but she has made it this far. back to back, stepping on his heels, charlie was never a good dancer. thats why she stays at the bar, being the little connoisseur of craft beer that she never is. on a whim she turns on her heel, but hers catches his & she goes tumbling on to the sticky concrete.

her knees look as though they took most of the beating. the man seems alright, but he is peering down at her with mystified eyes. he can hardly believe that there beneath his feet lies the very object of his fleeting affection, returned to him again. mindlessly he is helping her up, like he might have picked up a girls textbooks if shed dropped them in the high school hall, if that sort of thing ever actually happened like in the movies. but no; backpacks took away the romance of that cliché.

he grabs her elbow, just as she thinks a gentleman should, but its awkward trying to get up - in part because she knows she could get up on her own & she doesnt particularly like introducing herself as dependent.

"i can get up on my own, thank you very much," she says, her ankle immediately begging to differ. she knows these small pin-prick pinches from having rolled her ankle a time or three in softball. shed quit after that first year; clearly she wasnt for the game. "i knew i shouldnt have worn heels," she says under her breath, but he is close enough to hear.

him: "i was thinking the exact same thing."

her: "that i shouldnt have worn heels?"

him: "no, that /i/ shouldnt have worn heels."

she has to glance down to make sure, he was just kidding.

"oh, a funny guy," she says & he cant help but feel she thinks that actually.

him: "can i buy you a…"

her: "ring? please, we just met."

him: "i was gonna say 'drink,' but…"

her: "ive had plenty already?"

him: "i wasnt gonna say that."

her: "no, but my ankle agrees."

he pulls her arm around him like hed seen the football players do in high school when one of their contingent was injured. usually it took two of them to make the save but this girl was half the size of any player hed ever seen.

she knows shes a handful, quite literally. she just has to sit & remove her shoe, & then… what? hop in her car & drive away? no, not in this state, her inebriation being just one of /two/ major setbacks now.

"we should sit," he says, still trudging along trying to hold up her weight.

the 10 feet to the bar do plenty to convince charlotte she needs elliotts company - as if she really needed any more convincing.

he practically lifts her up by her waist & sits her on the stool, holds her steady while she situates herself.

"so… do you come here often?" elliott says, taking a drink.

"no, i usually do that at home," she says, elliott now choking on his drink.

"jesus, i…"

"im charlotte," she adds, filling the impressed silence.

"if they made a childrens book about you, youd be sharp charlotte."

"i havent heard that one before."

"me neither," he says, not thinking it very clever, but again she picks up his slack.

"& you are?"

"the girls call me early elliott."

"that doesnt sound like a good thing."

him: "or a true thing. explosive elliott."

her: "egocentric elliott."

him: "esoteric elliott."

her: "i dont know what that means."

him: "only a select few people do. i could teach you."

she might look up the word when she gets home, but really, will she even remember it?

she will remember elliott though, charming & /smart/.

"may i take a look at your ankle?" he offers.

"umm… yes?" she concedes, though not because she thinks he may be able to do anything to fix it. more out of curiosity re: what he thinks he may be able to do to fix it.

charlies shoes are too small for her feet & elliott slips off the one with the ease of tying a knot in a rattlesnake. its a very cinderella moment, but instead of putting on a slipper hes taking one off & the pain outweighs the fairy tale aspect.

"its sprained. youll need rice."

"excuse me, but with all due respect, how is rice going to help my ankle?"

"no, r.i.c.e. its an acronym. rest, ice, compress, & elevate."

"that makes a lot more sense than rice."

"but if you like rice, im sure having a bowl of it wouldnt hurt your ankle."

he remembers r.i.c.e. as being a pretty universal first-aid mnemonic. maybe high school health class is paying off. or maybe he couldve just googled it if he ever really needed it.

but no - it has been committed to memory & hopefully impressing to charlotte. hes beginning to think she might be worth impressing.

"what do you want to do?" he asks. he doesnt want to sound like he is trying to take charge of her; he does not want to come off that way.

"my brakes need fluid," she says.

"is that a euphemism?..."

"no. in my car. & im not sure either of us are good to drive. but i might need some assistance getting up to my apartment."

"i have some crutches in my windowless van you can use. youve just gotta come out to the dark alley ive parked in and get them."

"eh, ive never been good with crutches," she says.

"lets share a cab & ill help you inside?" he offers, much more politely.

it takes a couple of tries for elliott to hail a cab. in the backseat, he coaxes charlotte into placing her foot in his lap where he lightly strokes her leg, soft like fine, white sand. she notes how well he does keeping away from the injured ankle & cant help but smile & giggle a little too, kind of tickles. she hasnt been this intimate with a man in a long while. sure, drunk little flings that lasted just until she had to tear the ravenous men away but they had no class, no romance. there was a race to race & most nights thats all she felt like, a finish line to be crossed instead of a destination vacation to visit & dream of time & time again.

but eli seems genuine.

the cab ride could have been so much longer, she wouldnt have minded, but she also supposed their romance didnt have to end as the taxi ride did.

eli gets the door for her & helps her out. she braces herself on the door while he pays the cabbie in what seems to be looser change than she might have been expecting. he does not carry himself like a poor man.

he has to hope she doesnt notice the small bills, but with the anxious eyes shes cast his way since they first met, he knows they will be no other place. "spent it all on drinks," he thinks to say, but that might imply that there were many women before her; he doesnt think she realizes & he thinks it best to keep it that way.

she doesnt mention it as he helps her up the front staircase & into the entryway of the building, toward the one elevator which he can already see bares some sort of warning sign.

"shit," she all but whispers. "the elevator. its been out of service for a month."

"dare i ask what floor you live on?" as if it will make any difference in his decision.

"5th."

"oh boy. alright. okay," hes saying with no clear ending in sight. then suddenly hes resolved with a surety that implies there was never any question in his mind. "hop on," he says.

"what, like on your back? oh no, im… no no."

"do you have a sleeping bag up there? i could just run up & get it & we could camp out here," he says with a tone in his voice that suggests he is only trying to persuade her against that. "come on, its fine."

so she obliges. "youre a champion," she says, laughing as they race up the stairs. "you can slow down," she offers, but he just waves off the idea.

"if i slow down, ill stop. better to just ride this wave of energy all the way out to sea. is it cool if i crash on… do you have a couch?"

"yes, of course," she says as theyre nearing the 5th flight of stairs, as evidenced by the big "5" on the door at the next landing.

"i think im gonna throw up," he says in mock-exhaustion, then starts gagging.

"oh, dont! youll make me throw up. do we need to stop? let me down."

"no no, were almost there!" he says, then "alright, off! off!" playfully, outside the 5th floor door. now hes coughing in such a way she thinks he might be dying. she thinks she might tell him she loves him if this is how elliott will end. but then, all at once, he has collected himself & she determines that he has been joking mostly all of the way. hes breathing a bit heavier, but he certainly isnt dying.

"oh good. youre okay. i dont know any last rites," she says.

"that okay, im a treeist."

"is that like a theist, but w-"

"but with trees, yes."

"i dont know what that means."

"nobody knows what it means but its provocative."

"it gets the people going," she adds.

"did you just quote '… in paris'?" he says, bewildered.

"you mean blades of glory?"

"right."

"can we go inside now?" she asks.

"after you," he says, cordially.

shes digging through her coat pockets now.

her: "oh no."

him: "what no?"

her: "my keys."

him: "where are your keys?"

her: "i dont know."

him: "your keys."

her: "yes, my… i think they might have fallen out in the cab."

him: "oh no."

her: "could you… run down & get them?"

him: "you didnt. i… i didnt get any cab information. id have to call the co-"

"just kidding!" she says, turning the handle & finding it unlocked, which is good because she really has left her keys behind. "welcome to… camp charlotte," she says, hobbling into the modest apartment.

"very nice," he says, having quickly surveyed the apartment. "now, have you got any ice?" he asks, leading charlotte to the couch in the living room from which she motions to the kitchen.

"i assume you know where to look from there?" she says.

in the freezer, elliot finds 0 ice, but instead a frozen can of grape crush. "you know, this will explode," he says, peeking around the corner. he grabs a thin towel from the side of the sink & wraps the soda in it, then places the crush on his crushs ankle.

"so… you come here often?" she says.

"i could probably be persuaded to. its a very nice place youve got here. very…"

"nice, yes."

"i was going to say homey. how much bigger does a girl like you need?"

"i likeem big," she says with an indeterminate inflection which could either imply double entendre or the search for a sugar daddy.

"are those records?" elliott asks, motioning to the plastic tote under the approximately 32 inch tv.

"records? you mean like with music on them? heavens no. its 2015, honey. theyre laserdiscs."

"youre kidding."

"no, im charlotte."

"you better quit."

"or else what?"

"ill have to kiss you."

"you better quit," she says, moving to get up. "i did not bring you here to kiss," she says, wobbling towards the kitchen.

"oh yeah? what did you bring me here for then?"

"to care for me. like a doctor making a house call," she says, disappearing around the corner to the kitchen.

"im not a licensed physician." r.i.c.e. is basic first aid, but he finds it likely shes being sarcastic. while shes away, he checks to make sure the tote is not filled with laserdiscs, & instead finds what appears to be a dirty laundry hamper in her living room under the tv.

charlie returns to the couch, two smudge-less wine glasses in hand.

"but wheres the wine?" observant elliott says, in a tone mocking the disappointment he is very really feeling.

"you seem to have supplied it already," charlotte says, winking at him, hoping hell realize it is another joke. "my… friendly… guest, who carried me all the way up 5 treacherous flights of stairs. our choice beverage this evening," & the only beverage charlotte has in her little apartment currently, "grape crush!"

the can has thawed somewhat whilst resting on her ankle.

"will you do the honors, elliott?"

he pops the top & purple fizz sprays all over charlottes blouse.

"maybe we should have gotten a new can," elliott offering the obvious.

"no no, this is alright. go ahead, pour. pour!"

so he pours it & they drink - one can between the two of them offering just enough time to break the ice & serving as a breath mint of sorts. elliott leans in for a kiss, tentatively at first before being persuaded to fully commit by complementary tongues.

the tips of his fingers find a soft spot on the back of her ear that they smooth, lightly tossing her hair behind it. the space between their bodies shrinks like a glacier in the lustful heat.

her sticky, wet blouse presses against his dry button-up & she pulls away.

"i should change this."

"or you can stay here," he suggests, but shes already gotten up & walked to her bedroom door. leaning against the frame, she turns back, beckoning him with subtle movements to follow her in.

elliotts heart recognizes her cues before his brain does, forcing her to add in mock-annoyance, "well?" she wants him inexplicitly, & so any avenue she can take to effectively avoid the only subject at hand, she will, re: "boy, dont make me say it."

half her room is filled with a bed, adorned with pillows enough for a womens shelter. as she slowly backs into it, she can feel her calves grazing the lace of the bed skirt as he wraps his arms around her & lets her down easy.

she cant help but smile into a kiss she presses into him & he can feel it in the shadows of her face brushing up against his, combining to make the room darker & darker around them. she blows out the lamp on the bedside table & the window above the headboard sheds the spoils of a single streetlight into the room, but its plenty to make out every sensuous curve as she lifts her blouse above her head & tosses it to a far corner of the bed. she knows that she must be very pale - binge-watching netflix has done nothing for her complexion, but he doesnt seem to mind. shes found him in a very agreeable state.

as she works with her hands the buttons from their counterparts on his shirt, her lips are the gateway drug to her body. she is thankful for what little light they have to ease her task, then she pulls the shirt away, exposing his bare, bloodless chest.

she always wore her best bra out, in case something transpired & now she briefly thinks how sad it is that her bra couldve been for any number of men.

in reality, elliott pays no mind to which specific bra shes chosen - he wouldve been happy with any number of them, or none at all. but he appreciates having time to focus on the rest of her now, the reliefs of her skin like snowy flint hills on a bright winter day, the warmth of her body radiating making for an all-around serene scene.

he wonders if his chest is a complete turn-off re: its complete lack of hair, but she seems to be in this same state of mind - that nothing can be wrong because there is so much right.

but her heart is hurting, her breaths threatening to explode out of her chest now & he can tell, asks her, "is everything okay?" of course he can tell that it is not, but wants to see what shell say.

"yes, this is amazing."

"do you want me to stop?"

"no, this is great," she says, strained. somethings on her mind but she just wont tell. so hes lying there on top of her, brushing her bangs out of her face.

"really, what is it?"

"its, just, been a while since…" shes not here with elliott anymore, but instead focuses on the single street light outside, the one shes been with all along. the one she never wanted to leave.

"oh, thats alright. it certainly hasnt shown." he knows what to say but its not making these feelings go away. like if her and elliott go all the way, that settles it & theres no more possibility of backsliding to her old paramour, who might still come back, & what if shes not here to welcome him back in?

"i dont think i can…"

"you want to stop?"

"...keep going. im sorry. is that okay?"

"of course its okay," he says, lying down beside her now.

"are you sure youre not upset with me?"

"now now, i never said that!... but yeah, im sure," he says, trying to usher out the heavy weather that has creeped into the room through the window. they lie there in silence for a bit, but hes still holding her hand.

"should i go?" he asks.

"actually, id really like it if you didnt. can we just stay like this?" she asks, rolling over & pulling him closer so hes wrapped his arms around her, & he whispers in her ear,

"we can stay exactly this way."

eli @kampsin's body of work is available entirely free of charge here.

acute ruine is a cute ruin. this is her first published work.

opening quote from the naked & famous "young blood."

February 18, 2015

/& this is how it starts…/


its about 4 oclock on the dot when her call interrupts me. im camped out in the garage now. the decades-old cement (concrete?) surrounding provides the best reverb in the house. thunder threatens to shake the plastic windows from their settings in the garage door, but im not afraid.

im using the voice memos app to record it all. the timer flashes 4 minutes, 58 seconds when the screen fades to black, before loading the incoming call. i dont mind that i most likely miss documenting the next rumble, the one that unscrews my spine, when i hear a soft squeak from the other end of that invisible line. i dont know what i planned to do with the audio file had i actually gotten it - the shock of the strike wouldve dwindled with each replay. dissipation in repetition, but maybe im more interested in consoling my earnest mouse, my charlie, who only wants to take a walk with me. just like we always do after school. very nearly every afternoon. all the way up to the bridge over the interstate, where we wave to the cars below until were tired of that, & back again.

yesterday we spotted a box turtle at the edge of the highway, the first of the season, preparing to buy the farm & take nothing with it but some of the elder turtles hearts.

last year i saw a dog hit by a car. one moment it was chasing me on my bicycle, & the next it had crossed over without a moment in between for the dog or myself to reflect on what that meant, "crossing over."

its hard to look away, especially from memories.

i havent told charlotte & i wont subject her to that if i can at all help it. in this case - having scaled the rock cliff the bridge juts out of, with the speed & adrenaline of maintaining innocence, in a sense - i /could/ help it. she cheered as i triumphantly held the turtle above my head, at which point it promptly urinated. i was too enthralled by her smile to even be mad. together we chose a place to let it go, back to a simpler time, one uninhibited by societal advances.

charlotte loves days like today, like rainfall showerheads are made to mimic, so itd take a whole lot more than this wholesale shower to keep us apart.

i think were growing attached. the gap between sticky hands is disappearing & soon well bond so tightly, well give up trying to give up.

my house is between hers & the bridge, so i wait for her to "pick me up" which is what we call it, even though were both too young to drive. shes just coming to meet me on foot. were still what seems like a lifetime away from cars of our own, but im sure our mothers would argue otherwise.

i try not to take an egohit from having not provided our umbrella. the rain is blowing, so instead of seeing her, its just a big, red octagon swimming toward me. the bright color should protect us from inattentive drivers while were walking along the side of the road.

theres no sidewalks out here at the edge of the country. were just outside the suburbs, but our nearest neighbours are still near enough.

we live in the periphery.

i think im thankful for the lack of sidewalks - they, & roads too, merely restrict movement to a set path: where city planners thought we would need to go. adventure evaporates in the name of efficiency.

she comes up under the covered porch now. i wrap my arms tightly around her. shes so warm.

we dont have to walk single-file to account for traffic - it would take a rather perfect circumstance for both lanes of the road to be occupied simultaneously. & theres just no protecting from perfect circumstance. charlottes a bittle lit shorter than i, but her arms are about the same length, so in order for us to hold hands we must stand a bit apart from one another, in order to make that connection.

"if you found out for certain there is a heaven & a hell, how would you change your life?" she asks, wasting no time digging her heels in deep.

"id probably join a convent. can you /join/ a convent?"

"elliott, the monk. the monk, e." she laughs, either at the mental image of me in monk robes, or her own joke. i enjoy it either way.

"is that why they call them monkasteries?" i wonder if she knows me well enough to gather that im just joking as well.

"yes," she replies, matter-of-factly.

"yes, a monk." i say. "i think that would make the most sense. the guidelines might be oppressing now, but in the long run i think itd be the best investment i could possibly make."

"do you think the uh… your choices moral implications would be… weakened? by the fact that you /know/ for certain theres a heaven to strive for? like, isnt that part of the achievement? knowing that you cant know for sure, & still choosing to do it anyway?"

she really makes me think, but rescues me from that quest for enlightenment by handing the book over. its filled with something like 1,500 "if" questions. we ask each other, one at a time, & our answers - if were being honest i mean - tend to be much more telling than the standardized lists of favorites. thats why we do it. we want to learn more about each other. we have genuinterest.

i select: "if you had a bust of yourself sculpted, where would you place it?"

"in the garbage," she says, stepping briefly out from beneath our portable roof & smiling when i pull her back as closely as our mismatched arms will allow.

me: "or you could give it to me," i suggest. "but im guessing you find such work vain?"

her: "correct."

me: "but i think the question requests that you breach such mentality temporarily. no one gets busts sculpted now anyway. selfies are the new busts." i feel a twinge of pride for this decree.

her: "are you requesting an alternate answer?"

me: "i am."

her: "fair enough. how about in my parents garden?"

"ah, queen of nature. dont you think thats a little vapid?" i joke, but at this style of prompt contradiction as humor, she scoffs. "okay, but i mean like, what if birds sit on your head?"

"well let them sit!" she says, in the voice of the people. "it is…" she trails with her eyes a car cresting the hill were approaching. like most drivers on periphery streets, which are seemingly emancipated from conventional speed limits, theyre speeding - which i wouldnt necessarily recommend doing coming up on this slope so deep it quotes delillo but yeah.

in seconds the cars passed, but im still the teenager so deep he references delillo. though i /had/ to read him for a class (is probably what id tell you if i wasnt some... intellectual who reads for pleasure. but alas, i am). though i think the honest truth might be even cooler of me, so i kind of wish id just gone with that in the first place.

the honest truth is that ive liked a band called the airborne toxic event ever since i heard their song "sometime around midnight" (as heard on charlies first mix cd). their name originated on the pages of a delillo novel - white noise - which i then read for reference.

"youre going to drive just like that, arent you?" she says.

"probably."

"alright, if you had to name the best speech given at the academy awards-" charlie appears to pick blindly from the open pages, & is handing the little hardcover back to me but i wont take it.

"another," i say. "but dont count that as a skip. ive just never watched them."

"sure," she answers rather loudly to account for the angry shifting of the clouds above us. like they just got comfortable for the feature film & in wanders a late arrival who, of course, wants to sit in the middle of their row.

"if you could name the book from your childhood that had the biggest influence on you, what book would it be?"

"can i think?" i say, smiling. i think i want to write when i get older, but… actually, maybe shed be interested in hearing this. "i think i want to write when i get older, so ill have to think which book had the most influence on that ideal."

"writers dont make a lot of money," she says.

"good ones do," i counter.

"are you a good one?" she quips, dealing a potentially mortal blow.

"well, define /good/," i say, hoping i might entice her to answer a question herself without her "counting that as your question," she says. *sigh* dammit.

"thats fair," i say, but im not sure if she hears me, so i turn toward her just in time to see the sharp reflection of a bolt of lightning ripping through the light blue sky of her eyes as a tree at the intersection a few hundred feet ahead of us splits like a baseball bat in the hands of a weight-trainer. the sight blinds but i dont even have time to look away before its already over.

flashes of excellence are always just that. flashes.

charlie is startled (chartled?), but not scared. "ive never seen that before," she says.

"i /still/ havent," i reply with a laugh while she just smiles calmly.

& i wonder how i could ever begin to explain, without sounding arrogant, that what i saw was simultaneously the same & yet so much /more/ striking reflected in her eyes.

she jogs up to the downed tree, which is very actually still smoking, & says, "im gonna go out on a limb here," while balancing on it like a low-stakes tightrope. i have to jog a bit & reach a bitter to keep the umbrella above her head, all-the-while trying to contain my respect for her pun.

me: "alright, alright, alright…" i start to say to the tune of "hey ya!" but that sounds kinda dumb, so "alright. will my all-time favorite book suffice?"

her: "sure. but i still want to know your favorite childhood book."

me: "it didnt have much influence on me," i lie without even realizing it.

her: "go on."

me: "the big ball of string. that was my favorite. it was about a kid who collected, among other things, string-"

"& then made a big ball out of it," she finishes.

"youve read it?"

"read it? no. but it was easy to infer," she says with a smirk.

"well, it /is/ a childrens book."

"okay, how about your /all-time/ favorite?"

"all-time favorite: love is a mix tape. i believe the tagline was, love & loss, one song at a time."

"sounds about right," she says, & i can tell by the way she says that, playfully, that she finds my answer a little endearing in its predictability.

"i love music. what can i say?"

"that youre a bit of a hopeless romantic."

"im not hopeless anymore," hugging her tight as i lift her down from the log which was a tree mere moments ago.

"so, tell me about it," she says as we take a hard left at the intersection.

"okay. its by a rolling stone columnist."

"who better to write a book on music?"

"/right/? rob sheffield, & he archives all these mix tapes he used to give his wife. boxes upon boxes of them," now left back to him. "each possesses its own record of nostalgia for their time together. its very romantic," i clarify.

she nods.

"my turn," i say, flicking through the little pages until i find one i fancy, thinking all the while, why didnt they just make this book pocket-sized? its so small already.

were almost to the bridge now. you can hear the highway long before you can see it. were steps away from civilization, rationality lies just at the other side of this question.

"if you suddenly found the courage to do one thing you have always been afraid of doing, what would you want it to be?…" i say.

"ohh, provocative," she says.

"i know, thats why i chose it," thinking maybe i shouldnt have. i dont want to make her feel uncomfortable.

shes stopped walking now. were right in the middle of the bridge, looking over the edge & because im carrying the umbrella for both of us, among other reasons, i stop with her.

she turns to me & i to her. i look into her eyes for longer than ive allowed myself up til now. she squeezes my hand, pulling me closer without ever looking away, per se, & closing her eyes.

after a brief moment of hesitation during which i scold myself for hesitating, i lean in too, meeting her kiss…

below us a car horn sounds once, twice as she pulls away, giggling.

a flash of excellence.

maybe its just her mango eos chapstick, or maybe its so much more than that, but ill adore tropical fruit for the rest of my life, mixed drinks reminding me of sea pink lips.

i admire her spontaneity. she admires my naiveté. shes been yearning to give me what i never knew i wanted until i had it already.

i hug her wholeheartedly until she squeaks a bit, & i think maybe it was too tight, but she smiles shyly as we walk a little further out.

"did you plan this?" i ask, slyly. maybe i wasnt even asking /her/.

"how could i have known, youd ask that question?" she says.

i suggest maybe not waving to the commuters like we usually do. its raining pretty heavily now, they really should keep their eyes on the road. charlie agrees.

the walk back is a much shorter one it seems. "if you had to be addicted to one thing, what would it be?" shes asks me.

i might say "heroine," but the wordplay would undoubtedly be lost in invisible conversation.

she says, "you can be honest."

"i dont know," i say, honestly. i wish i had more time to deliberate, i might arrive at the perfect answer. i could say, "you, charlotte." but that might be too far. it might be too soon to admit what i already know to be true. "maybe coffee?" i say, without resolve.

"do you like coffee?" she asks.

"no," i admit.

she lets this one slide, giggling, "your turn."

ill spend the rest of my life trying to make pretty girls giggle. its the most satisfying feeling. i ask, "if you could be the opposite sex for a single day, what would you do?" & im hoping & im praying she wont quote scooby-doo. that would be so… unattractive.

"pee standing up," she wastes no time returning.

"what?"

"yep."

& i have to laugh at the brutal honesty of it & the quickness with which she came to, & then im wondering if she thinks thats the only thing separating us boys from girls.

"i could save so much time, & so much discomfort," she says.

"peeing standing up."

"yep."

"alright," i say, trying not to smile stupidly, but she really got me with this one. like shes been preparing for this question all her life.

"my turn," she says, & i try to hand the book to her, but shes momentarily busy waving to the men already sawing up that fallen log, even though the rains still coming down in steady sporadics. one of the men holds a big red & blue umbrella above the other who chokes the chainsaw, smiling & tipping his hard hat as we briefly scale the temporary mountain.

the air is thick with the humidity of teen romance & when i grab charlies hand to help her back down, our skin sort of clings together - like a thousand tiny nerves connecting individually. she lets go then & i dont blame her.

she says, "thanks for carrying the umbrella." it hadnt occurred to me that there was any other option, but "youre welcome." i smile.

"okay, last one," she says as were entering the final stretch a top the other side of the hill. "if you had to name one personality trait that you have tried the hardest to change in yourself, what would you say?"

"an adjustment," i propose.

"proceed," she affirms the intent.

"the one personality trait i /will try/ to change."

"adjustment granted," she agrees.

"my constant vying for attention," i say.

she nods her head in agreement. it was just a few days ago shed told me she wished id think before i speak. which is fair.

at school i say things i shouldnt. im inclined to snarky remarks & arguably amusing gags. my close friends enjoy them.

just last week, i spent the afternoon in the principals office with drake after we proceeded, for the fourth consecutive day, to address our newspaper teachers assistant incorrectly. things like ms. blubbernugget (mine), ms. shuttlebucket (his), & ms. souffléberget (mine). to the point where im not even sure what her actual name is.

i should stop.

i shouldnt.

its not funny.

it is.

but now i have someone of markedly different taste to impress. she says, "youre just so… calm with me."

shes quickly eclipsed longtime friends in terms of priority & and the amount i value her opinion - unfair to them, i know. but if i were quiet /all/ the time, i mean… it would mean less when im with her.

this flawgic might come back to haunt me, but right now i tell her, "thats how i feel. you make me feel calm." when im with charlie, i dont feel this need to be the center of attention, when its just us. "now dont you understand, im never changing who i am?" goes an imagine dragons song that i like, though i actually dont particularly care for that particular line. but charlie wont know that if/when it appears on one of her mix tapes.

were nearing my driveway, & i dont even considering leaving her to walk herself home.

& on her front porch now, she tells me shes locked out. though im pretty sure she doesnt even fully turn the knob.

i dont mention it & i dont offer my masculine stereotypes to try & budge it either. its the first time ive "had her over," & when she leaves, just before my parents get home from work, the rain has let up. she doesnt ask to take her umbrella with her & i dont offer it - an excuse to see her again soon. though i think were well beyond excuses by now.

our excuse to see each other is to see each other.

i watch out the window, behind the half-curtain as she walks down the driveway & turns away toward her house. when i can no longer see her at the edge, i gaze into the fields across the street at what could either be corn or wheat, depending on the year i guess. but right now the sprouts are only just. it will be many more weeks before i can be sure.

she texts me simply, "home. :)"

lying in bed that night, when her texts have finally ceased, mid-conversation unfortunately & somewhat endearingly, i try to remember our first kiss. as the naked & famous envelop me, the recalls are already beginning to dissolve. memories tend to do that. so well just have to keep making new ones.

i fall asleep to "young blood" on repeat.

opening quote from the 1975s "sex."
"the first of many, ideally" is taken from efflorescence, out now.

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