Sleep


I stand at the counter, pouring cheap coffee into an equally cheap cup.

“Hey, man,”

“Hey,” I say without looking up. I know who it is. That’s how life gets when you work at the same place this long. You don’t even say names anymore. Everyone is “hey” and “so” and “oy”.

I put the coffee back on the warmer. It smells like it’s been there too long already. I’m not drinking it for the taste.

“Shiiit, man,” Brian says, “you look rough.”

“Bad hair day,” I deflect.

“That what you call that?”

“Just tired is all.” And I am. My eyelids are lead curtains. I probably have bags under my eyes. I dunno. I didn’t look too hard this morning.

I take a sip of coffee and let the silence spread its legs. I don’t know Brian like that. We’re associates. We work together. We don’t go out for beers after work.

“So, man,” he says, his body partially leaning. That way that people do when they say, ‘You know I’m not racist, right?’ but they’re clearly about to say something racist, so they need to feel like they’re in the right battle stance for saying something that they shouldn’t.

Anyway…

“You hear about Krista?”

“She sick or something?” I ask. It’s a genuine question even if it lacks genuine concern.

“What? No,” he says, with a look like he’s confused or offended…or both. “I heard she broke up with uh…oh…what’s that guy’s name?”

I know he knows that guys name. That’s what guys do when they want to act like they’re not smitten. They play it down. They do it poorly. I’ve done it, too. Guilty as charged.

“Uh…” I say. I draw it out because I seriously can’t remember. I seriously don’t care.

“Anyway,” he says, seeing that I’m either not taking the bait or just not that kind of fish, “I hear they broke up.”

“She okay?” I ask. It’s a disingenuous question.

“I, uh…” he stammers – this isn’t how he thought this conversation was going to go, “I, uh…yeah, I mean. I guess. I don’t really know. I was just,” he goes over to the coffee maker and pours a cup. Using simple actions as a momentary respite from feeling awkward. “You work with her more than me, and I just…” he pauses and takes a drink. I already know the coffee is shit, but I didn’t care. His face reacts before he realizes he’s done it.

“Hook a brother up, right?” I say for him.

“I mean…you know, if it’s not a big deal,” he says. It’s a dishonest statement. He doesn’t care if it’s a big deal. “I mean,” he says with one hand up, “I’m not saying like, ‘Hey, bro, if you could ask her if she likes me,’ or anything. I mean…you know…we’re not like, passing notes in school ‘Do you like me?’ with a yes and no checkbox.”

“No,” I say, more an answer to the question of whether or not I like him. “No, we’re not,” I say in response to the whole statement. “I’ll see what’s up.”

“Cool, man. Cool.”

He puts his coffee down and leaves.

I have no intention of finding out.

I don’t care.

Work is a cycle of repetition. It’s worse than normal. The minutes grind like hours. It’s 5 pm in my mind four hours before it’s even lunch.

I sit through a meeting about some new policy that they’re implementing. I feel like I’m talking along with them. Meetings all sound the same after a while. This one’s just worse.

When I get home, I do it with a deep breath. With a hand that opens the door slowly.

Three hours later I’m on my bed. I write in my journal like I’ve done for the past year. I tell myself it helps.

I’m not sure it’s helping.

I take a deep breath and close my eyes.

I can’t use a timer. I found out a long time ago that they don’t work…for obvious reasons. So instead, I tap on my wrist. My timing has gotten pretty good.

I slow my breathing.

I wake up in bed, and the sun is that weird shade of orange-red. Like it’s struggling to get up, eyes bloodshot from a night of heavy drinking.

“I feel your pain,” I whisper.

In the kitchen is a note: “I have that thing with Claire later today. We should eat out. You pick.”

I muscle through the motions at work. I chew the nomenclature and drink down routine verbiage of a professional pencil-pusher.

I get off work. Shower. Change. I send a text. “Mondino’s”

“K,” she texts back.

I get there before she does.

She sits down, her eyes on her phone. “Sorry,” she says as she kisses the side of my face. “Claire was just…uh…” she looks up finally as she’s sitting down with a light press of her finger to turn her screen off. “You okay?”

“Yeah,” I lie. “Just tired.”

“Aww,” she says. “You should try valerian root or…oh…” she scrunches her face up like she always does when she’s thinking, “Shit…” she says with a shake of her head, “right on the tip of my tongue.”

“It’s fine,” I say with an honest smile. “It’s not that big of a deal.”

“It’s gonna bother me.”

“I know it will,” I say. I clench my teeth. I hold back a tear.

“You sure you’re okay?”

“Yeah,” I lie. “Just tired. Dull day at work. You know. Like driving on an empty highway all day. It’s sadly draining.”

“You should see about that job at Lochlan and Callister,” she says as she clicks into her phone, “Trish told me that…” she’s scrolling, “…yeah…yeah, they have something going on there. They’ll probably be hiring.”

“Yeah,” I say. “I’ll shoot em my resume in the morning,” I lie.

Dinner is nothing fantastic. It’s only saving grace is the company.

I wake up the next morning and she’s still there sleeping. I kiss her on the cheek before I leave the house. I whisper that I love her. I mean it.

The drive to work is the same as ever.

I’m standing at a counter pouring cheap coffee into an equally cheap cup.

“Hey, man.”

“Hey,” I say, without looking up.

I go through the motions. I give all the same answers.

“Hook a brother up, right?”

“I mean…you know, if it’s not a big deal,” he says. It’s a dishonest statement. He doesn’t care if it’s a big deal. “I mean,” he says with one hand up, “I’m not saying like, ‘Hey, bro, if you could ask her if she likes me,’ or anything. I mean…you know…we’re not like, passing notes in school ‘Do you like me?’ with a yes and no checkbox.”

“No,” I say, more an answer to the question of whether or not I like him. “No, we’re not,” I say in response to the whole statement. “I’ll see what’s up.”

“Cool, man. Cool.”

He puts his coffee down and leaves.

I have no intention of finding out.

I don’t care.

I muscle through the day. I feel like Sysiphus. I idly nod during a presentation. I feel myself reciting the words.

I’m standing my front door and I take a deep breath. I open it slowly.

I listen for something.

Anything.

I walk into the kitchen. The bedroom.

I go into the bathroom last.

She’s there. She’s on the floor. Pills scattered on dry tile.

No note.

No last words.

I clench my teeth and close my eyes.

I go over everything that happened. Everything that didn’t.

I sit down and write it all out in my journal. I don’t even know why. I tell myself it’s helping.

I don’t think it’s helping.

I can’t use a timer. I found out they won’t work…for obvious reasons. I close my eyes and tap slowly on my wrist.

I slow my breathing.

I wake up in bed, and the world is still dark. The sun hasn’t even stirred from its slumber yet. A world of deep indigo and charcoal.

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Happy


I grabbed a tube of makeup
And I painted on a smile
And I asked you
Are you happy yet?
I let it fade a while
And I asked you
Am I happy yet?

I used a tattoo needle
Made it look like I was grinning
And I asked you
Are you happy yet?
Saw the ink was thinning
And I asked you
Am I happy yet?

I grabbed a rusty razor
Cut a mouth that’s always laughing
And I asked you
Are you happy yet?
Saw the scars were lasting
And I asked you
Am I happy yet?

I tried to say goodbye
And hold my tongue, and keep from asking
“If I leave
Will you be happy then?”
Hid the pain I’m masking
And I wondered
“When can I happy, then?”

Still


I loved you like a holiday
Those days, I never celebrate at all
I died the day you called to say
That every minute spent with you was nothing but a stall

I sought you like a summer day
Those days, I never even leave the room
I stayed to watch you run away
But every day before you did, I knew you would, and soon

I held you like a setting sun
Those moments, I have never tried to see
I told myself that letting one
Within would only guarantee they’d slowly die with me

I lost you like a solemn prayer
Those words, I’ve never spoken…never will
I’ve flown away and fallen where
This heart of mine that never heals can be forever still

Hermit


Never shall you see me as a figure with a cape or shield
A hero saving broken shapes and forcing villainy to yield
A symbol on a chest
Deflecting bulllets more than any vest
A liniment…an anodyne…a bandage so the banes of life can heal

Never will you see me as a figure with a golden crown
A symbol pure and unbeholden to the woes that weigh us down
An emperor or king
Or just a leader with a fancy ring
A monarch…or a herald…or a soldier that could ever save the town

Never shall you see me as an emblem of a holy light
A person hopeful and consoling alway om the path of right
An emblem of belief
Or a redeemer of a flock or fief
A paladin… protector…ever watchful of the evil in the night

Never will you see me as the person that you knew before
Beneath the sad conditions you would rather see as walls than doors
A loyalist to fault
Whose fragile heart is sealed within a vault
A hermit…wearing many flaws…but dear, they’re just a different shade than yours.

Obsession


Words as heavy as my head
And spoken low – with somber tone
Beneath my breath – for sins to shed
And give to them another home
By way of what’s to be a sad confession

What I’ve done, or thought to do
Are syllables that march along
A tone and timbre, tempo true
They make a masochistic song
A line of failing pride in a procession

Always moving, as they are
With trails behind of new debris
So even as they travel far
They never see an apogee
Forgetting movement doesn’t mean progression

Left to circle back around
Like children lost, and seeking home
But seeing only strangers found
And fearing one more night alone
As much as yet another dispossession

Words as heavy as my head
And spoken far too frequently
But, in a way, not ever said
Above a tone of secrecy
Or made of simple words without discretion

Fearing how they’ll likely sound
And terrified to hear them said
But since, to them, I’m tightly bound
I pen, for you, a poem instead
But know it comes across as obsession

Blemishes


If my nose were missing
Would you treat me as if I
Were just a snake forever hissing
Just a pest that needs to die?

…Or would you so embrace
The imperfections of my face
And all the flaws I can’t erase
And see instead, the parts that cannot be replaced?

If my hands were mangled
Would you treat me as if I
Were just a monster to be strangled
And discarded like a fly?

…Or would you try to hold
Me knowing well how very cold
It is when empathy is sold
And by our blemishes, our value is controlled?

Hurt


Everybody loves it when you smile
No one ever wants to see you cry
So dry your eyes in secret
Dig a hole of sweet denial
And pretend your world of woe is apple pie

Everybody loves it when you’re pretty
No one wants your ugliness around
So hide your every blemish
Show the world you’re always witty
And conceal your cuts and bruises with a gown

Everybody loves it when you’re laughing
No one ever wants to hear you scream
So paint a perfect smile
One that’s made for photographing
When you tell the world that life is but a dream

Everybody loves it when you’re funny
No one ever wants you to complain
So let them see you chuckle
With a disposition sunny
And inject your breaking world with novacaine

Everybody loves it when you’re lying
No one wants the pain that truth asserts
So keep it all a secret
Like the tears that you’ve been crying
Because no one wants to know how much it hurts