Curiosity

    curiosity_sol-177bodrov600

   The control room was quiet again. Monitors upon monitors showed a bouncing ‘NASA’ logo, signifying that all of the terminals had been idle for at least ten minutes. The occasional electronic beep would cry out for attention, but it would not be attended to until the designated operator decided to return.

    Adam sat alone in the multi-million dollar facility, silently judging everyone for not being there with him. Was he just supposed to execute the maneuvers on his own? Every second wasted was thousands of taxpayer dollars being flushed down the drain, and these people acted like they didn’t even care. There were times when it bothered him. When they’d started this journey, everyone had been so excited! So enthusiastic! Now it felt like they just punched in and punched out, and rarely at the correct times.

    There were other times, however, when he embraced the quiet nature of the control room. He would stand up, switch off the main fluorescents, and put the live feed from the rover up on the big screen. He’d sit down at the main terminal, turn off his phone, and explore the foreign world. He wouldn’t ever move the wheels, of course. That would mean the exploration team would have to plan a whole new routine for the day with an entirely new heading and set of directions. No, it was best to leave Curiosity where it was; but no one ever seemed to mind a bit of head turning. A lot less planning involved in that, and no one had called him out on it yet.

    Lit only by the blue glow of screensavers, Adam strutted towards the captain’s chair labeled “Terminal: Bravery”, struggling not to grimace upon reading the words, as they always disrupted the flow of his fantasy. The government had forced them to name every little piece of equipment something inspirational. Originally, it had been a point of pride among NASA scientists, and they’d say things like, “Me? Oh nothing really. I’m just one of the Curiosity pilots working out of ‘Terminal: Bravery’. Yeah, the whole thing would basically fall apart without me.” They put it on their resumes, for god’s sake. Now the names were a joke. They’d all given up on trying to name things what they wanted to name them ages ago. Instead they’d taken to calling random office objects by these uplifting monikers as well, and the coffee pot became Caffeine Dispenser Victory, the copy machine was Xerox Valor, and the unisex toilet was known only as A Better Tomorrow for our Children and our Children’s Children. Or just,  A Better Tomorrow if you were in a hurry. Terminal Bravery still bothered Adam, however. It had been named without a hint of irony.

    One last look over his shoulder to make sure no one was listening, and his adventure began.

    “When we last left Captain Adam Rodgers,” he bellowed, using his best dramatic voice, “He’d made history by communicating with intelligent life! The planet Earth was united in celebration, as the brave captain had negotiated a lasting peace and new age of collaboration with the Martian supreme leader. Ahhhhhh… Ahhhhhh…” He made a raspy noise with how throat to simulate a cheering crowd, and flung his hands into the air after inputting the maneuvers for the rover to follow. It would be a few minutes before the camera actually received the commands and turned, but how could someone be impatient with all of these devoted fans cheering his name?

    “Captain Rodgers!” His voice was now that of a nineteen-forties radio newscaster, “Our boys back on Earth sure do wish they had your bravery, and all the girls wish that you would be their fella! What you’ve done is truly monumental! So tell us, Captain: What’s next for the great Adam Rodgers?”

    “Here’s the thing, Chip;” He’d puffed out his chest, put his hands on his hips, and was now doing his best All-American Hero voice, “I’m just a regular Joe, like the next Tom, Dick, and Harry. I put my pants on one leg at a time, and I always drink my Ovaltine.” He turned towards an imaginary camera and raised an eyebrow. In his head, he was as majestic as a bald eagle. “I want the little boys and girls out there to know that they can be just like their old pal, The Captain. They just gonna eat their vegetables, listen to their parents, and say their prayers at night, just like The Captain does!”

    This was pretty typical of Adam’s lonely evenings. He’d turn the rover’s head ever so slightly, and fill the fifteen minutes of time between action and consequence with his science fiction fantasies. He realized that if the others knew what he did at this terminal, he’d be laughed out of the building, but he couldn’t help himself. He controlled a robot that was millions of miles away on another planet! As far as he was concerned, the fact that he didn’t do more with the rover showed great restraint on his part.

    He continued on this way for some time. Intrepid reporter ‘Skip’ and the Heroic ‘Captain’ exchanging banter for a quarter of an hour. Once it began to get closer to time, however, Adam wound down their conversation. He enjoyed playing hero, but there was something sacred to him about giving the rover his full attention whenever it turned it’s head. It was about to unveil a special piece of a whole other world; and it was just for him. This was his own personal slice of Mars. Every time he’d been left alone and took control, a burst of colorful emotions grabbed him by the scruff of his neck and shook him awake. It was the feeling of being in love with someone, and resting wanting eyes on their bare skin for the first time. Mars was a beautiful woman who hid herself away from hungry stares; but once you were close to her… once you actually ran your fingers across her skin, she changed for you. Her eyes closed, and the silk slid from her shoulder. Mars trusted him to never kiss and tell.

    Eagerly, and nearly unblinking, he gazed upon the Martian landscape that painted the giant projection screen in the color of rust. Any moment, it would turn fourteen degrees to port, Adam would get an erection that he would feel awkward about later, give one final interview for his adoring fans, and then reset everything. No one would know, and even if they did, they’d never rat him out.

    “They should be thanking their lucky stars that I don’t tell-” Adam had begun to speak out loud, when the last word caught in his throat. His heartbeat in his ears drowned out the various computer fans and random beeps that the control room cultivated. Cold sweat broke the surface of his forehead, and he forced his lungs to be still. He was afraid if he moved in any way, the image he was seeing on the screen would disappear. Or worse, that it would remain. His chin quivered and shook. He felt ill.

    There was a man. A regular, human man with his back to the camera. He stood there, motionless on the left side of the screen, wearing clothes that Adam himself would wear, gazing out on the great red desert.

    Adam didn’t know how long he sat there staring at the screen. There was a familiarity that he felt towards the man on Mars, but his mind refused to focus on it. Everything in his brain was alight, and bright, shiny colors had begun to swirl into his line of vision. The lack of oxygen had began to take its toll. The self-imposed suffocation would be what eventually snapped him out of it, though, and when he finally inhaled, it was violent and desperate. His lungs cried out for nourishment, and in letting them indulge, he allowed his eyes to briefly close. Though he managed to open them again almost instantly, it wasn’t fast enough to see the man move.

    He was now in the center of the screen. Adam eyeballed the distance that the man had traveled,  determining it to be roughly twenty meters; All in the blink of an eye.

    Adam was terrified. There was a man on Mars. What was he supposed to do now? What was the procedure here? He turned his attention to Terminal Bravery, and tried to take a screen capture, or begin recording video, but none of the key features of the terminal were responding to his commands. From what he was able to discern, it seemed to him like he could probably still control the movements of the rover, though he dare not. His mind jumped through hoops to try and justify the extraterrestrial stranger he was seeing before him. Perhaps he’d fallen asleep at his desk, and this was all just the stressed out dream of an overworked man. Here he was, so overwhelmed by the gravity of his work, that we was still doing his job in his sleep!

    “That must be it.” He said out loud to himself. “I’m dreaming. I mean, it certainly feels like I’m awake, but I’ve had dreams like this before. I just have an active imagination is all!” Adam forced a smile, but he was in no way comforted by his own words. He knew damn well he hadn’t fallen asleep, and that what he was seeing on the screen was either there, or he was suffering from some kind of mental breakdown. Sweat from his forehead had made its way into one of his eyes, and even though it stung, he kept it open and trained on the screen.The figure hadn’t moved since the last time he’d broken his gaze. The man on Mars seemed to know that Adam was watching.

    “This is fucking insane.” Adam said to an empty room, but almost certain the Man on Mars could hear him. “We’re going to figure this out right now. I’m going to stand up, and I’m going to walk backwards to the door. Once I get to the door, I’m going to push it open, and I’m going to yell for someone. Anyone who’s around. Then I’ll have my answer, won’t I, Mr. Martian?” He’d dressed his voice in a suit of faux confidence, and stood up from Terminal Bravery. He took several deep breaths, but none of them flowed smoothly. What if he had gone crazy? Even worse, What if he hadn’t?

    His first step back towards the door felt like the biggest he’d ever taken. One small step for man. It was a thought he’d normally have found funny, but in this particular instance, he remained stone faced and didn’t let the man on the screen out of his sight for even a moment. Once his left foot had broken free of its own gravity, he placed it behind him, following a moment later with the right. He then froze, scanning the giant monitor for any hint of activity, but the figure remained still. It stared out upon its red kingdom as it had before; stoic and statuesque.

    The next few steps back came slightly more easy to him. He’d expected there to be a higher level of difficulty, but he’d been up and down the various walkways and stairs of the control room so many times that the map he’d made in his head was true. He’d gotten away from the terminal, all the way up the stairs, and almost to the door when he felt his foot catch. He’d gotten careless and hasty and his heel caught the baggy pant leg of his khakis. Before he could react, he was tumbling backwards. White light shot through his vision as the back of his head collided with the heavy door, and his eyes had closed automatically from the shock to his system. As he pulled himself up and rested his back against the door, he found himself utterly terrified to open his eyes again. There was that feeling; the one he couldn’t seem to shake. It can see me. It knows I wasn’t watching because it’s watching everything I do. He decided that he wouldn’t reopen his eyes until someone entered the door behind him… Until he heard it.

    “Adam.”

    He was just in time to see the back foot of the man move off screen. All that was left was the desolate landscape, and the sound of his own name echoing in his ears.

    He no longer believed himself to be crazy. He knew he’d just heard someone speak his name. It sounded as though it had been run through several layers of encoding, and while that had distressed it, the message remained loud and clear. The man on Mars had spoken to him, and addressed him by name. Regardless of the delay, the man knew precisely when to speak to interact with Adam; one specific person on a planet millions of miles away.

    Adam rose to his feet, the back of his head pounding with each beat of his heart. His vision was slightly blurred, but on unsteady feet, he moved away from the door and made his way back towards Terminal Bravery. While he was still unsettled, he’d decided he wouldn’t be much of a scientist if he let this opportunity pass him by. He sat in the chair he’d sat in a thousand times before, punched in his login, and entered the commands needed to turn the unblinking eye of Curiosity off to the left. He was going to find him, and he had a feeling that the man on Mars was going to let him. Having input the commands, it was all about waiting. The space that would normally have been filled with his boisterous fantasy space drama was instead occupied by Adam balancing his phone on a edge of a desk in order to record the big screen. Adam wanted to make absolutely sure that what he had seen was recorded somewhere. This wasn’t going to live and die with him. No ghost on Mars was going to make him look like an idiot.

    He stood up, turning his head away from the screen, confident that his phone was recording, and made his way past the rows and rows of glowing monitors to the door which now bore a dent in the shape of his skull. His vision was still slightly swimming, but he managed to pull the heft of the door towards him, and step into the hallway. The blue and white hall was washed out by the humming fluorescence above; any and all color oppressed by the chemical light. He looked to his left and right, his eyes reaching for anyone that might have been working or even just passing by. He no longer needed their confirmation, but he did recognize the potential benefits of having someone else there to witness what he had been witnessing. If it ended up being a major discovery, he wouldn’t mind someone else’s name on the paper, just as long as their name was after his, and in a smaller font.

    But the hallway showed no signs of life. At this time of night there should at least been a janitor shambling through, pushing a bucket of dirty water and listening to his headphones way too loudly, but instead, there was nothing. Adam’s eyes were tired and dry from a lack of blinking, and there was no sound but the buzz of the lights above his head. He stood there for about five and a half minutes, but the hallway remained completely desolate. They’d all see what he had seen soon enough. For the first time on his career, he didn’t want to be watching when the rover turned its head. It was too much to bear. Either he was going to see something or he wasn’t. He just couldn’t figure which option would be more frightening.

    Stepping into the hall and away from the screen for a moment, he felt lighter. There weren’t dozens of screens silently judging him, and beeping sounds that called and demanded his attention. There was only the electric hum of the lights. The bathroom wasn’t more than twenty feet away, and he hadn’t realized until he glanced the door just how badly he needed to relieve himself. After a quick look in both directions, he ran at the door, and burst through it, like a child running down a dark hallway at bedtime.

    Inside the bathroom, he found precious normalcy. There was nothing strange about the room, which relaxed Adam in a matter of seconds. He needed something to look and feel like it always had. He’d halfway expected there to be a message on the mirror written in blood, saying something to the tune of, “WE KNOW WHAT YOU DID” or “REDRUM”, but mercifully, there was only an exhausted NASA geek in a sterile NASA men’s restroom, which was usually nothing special, but now it felt like being on vacation.  He relieved himself at the urinal, feeling less anxious with each passing moment, and made his way to the sink to wash his hands. As he lathered his palms underneath the warm water, he caught his own eye in the mirror. He looked tired, maybe even a little older. His collar and his armpits were soaked with sweat that had begun to cool, and the air conditioning in the facility was always up high. He felt the goosebumps prickle on his skin.

    “Your name is Adam.” He splashed water into his face, and looked deep into his own eyes in an attempt to ground himself. “You are a researcher at NASA. You had oatmeal for breakfast.” He felt the tension begin to leave his shoulders. He’d gone into this exercise with a fair amount of skepticism, but it was actually kind of working. “Your favorite color is red. Your favorite food is mashed potatoes and gravy.” Another splash of water, and a deep breath. He could do this. He was going to go back, capture the anomaly on film, and then he was going to be famous. He was not crazy. He was Adam, and he was right here right now. “Your mom’s name is… Your mom… She… Her name is…” His eyes widened, and Adam struggled to take his next breath. Why can’t I remember. Why can’t I remember my mother’s name?

    Another splash of water, and a much shakier breath. It’s stress. He thought. I’ve been having a very stressful evening, and this is a totally normal byproduct of that mental strain.

    “Your father is… He’s your father. He raised you. He was a good man who raised you with compassion, and his name is… is… SHIT.” he slammed his hand down next to the sink. Adam had experienced a lot this evening, but this was the most upsetting development by far. He couldn’t remember. Not a single detail. He tried desperately to remember the house he’d grown up in. The color of his bicycle. His first kiss. All the boxes of memories that he tried to open were empty. He couldn’t find his past. Everyone has a past, he was sure of that, but right now he couldn’t seem to find his. Was this the doing of the man from Mars? Had he gotten that far into his head? Had he hijacked Adam’s brain from millions of miles away? He tried to convince himself that this couldn’t be the case, but the impossible had gotten up close and personal this evening, and out of all the voices he’d heard today, his was the least convincing.

    Adam was done. He was going to finish what he’d started, and he was out of here. Back to the real world, and back to his memories. He was going to call his damn mother the second his sneakers hit the parking lot, whatever her name was. He pulled a paper towel from the dispenser, dried his face and took one last look in the mirror. Get it together, Adam. Stay frosty.

    The hallway didn’t provide the same comfort that it had before. It felt lonelier than ever, and the buzz of the ever-present lights seemed to taunt him. Despite all that weighed on him, he was still managing to put one foot in front of the other and make his way back to the control room. Back to Terminal: Bravery. He was going to blow this whole thing wide open. He would be the talk of the scientific community. He’d get all kinds of awards! It was only a matter of time before his name was uttered in the same sentences as Neil Armstrong and John Glenn. He would-

    “Happy Birthday to you…”

    The voice materialized almost violently, despite the calm it carried with it. He froze. What else could he do? This was about more than just the screen. The voice he’d just heard had been the same voice that had called his name from Mars. The same electronic distortion, and the same tone, he was sure of that, only this time it didn’t come from the screen or Mars. It had come from the empty hallway behind him. It had waited for him to look away again, and then it had called to him, just like before.

    “Happy Birthday to you…”

    Closer this time. It couldn’t have been more than twenty feet away. The temperature around him had dropped, and something was coming towards him. Something was making contact, he could feel it. Was this the man he’d seen staring out into the nothing, with his back to the camera? This can’t be real, but I’m not dreaming. I’m not crazy though, am I? Do crazy people think they’re crazy?

    Adam put his back to the door and looked left and right down the hall once again, but was greeted with the same solitude he’d seen before. No one in either direction, so why had it sounded so close? The only explanation is that it was in my head. I moved the rover’s camera, and started recording to try and validate a hallucination. There will be logs of me attempting to access the recording tools. I’m as good as fired!

    He needed to reset the rover to where it was. Maybe he could convince them that the movement had been a glitch, or an error on his part. A forgivable, understandable mistake. It was unethical, but this job was all he had. It’s not like there were many openings for a trans-planetary camera operator. Psychosis can be managed, he thought, There are pills and potions a-plenty that I can just shovel down my throat, and I’ll be right as rain again. He took several steps back, pushing the door open using his back, but his footing was still lacking, and he tumbled down the short flight of stairs to the first landing. He struck the back of his head a second time, and felt a warm liquid running through his curly black hair, making the strands tacky and moistening his shirt. He didn’t reach back to assess the damage.

    “Happy Birthday, dear Adam…” The digital hiss of the stalking voice was right next to his ear this time. Whoever was singing was standing over him; and even though he saw no one, he felt their breath sweep around the hair on his neck; the charged and haunting melody had the scent of iron and atmosphere.

    Without thinking, Adam threw himself at where he thought the song was coming from, but found himself tackling empty space. He landed hard on a computer monitor and tumbled back to the floor. He found it almost impossible to focus his eyes, and his mouth hung slack. He was frantic and horrified. This place. This sacred place where he’d spent years of his life helping to explore a foreign world, had turned on him. It had been corrupted. Adam was without a home now, and this tore at him even more than the man on Mars.    

    “Leave me alone, whoever the fuck you are! Get the fuck away from me!” He grabbed a keyboard from the desk he’d landed next to and swung it violently from side to side, desperate to strike his invisible assailant. “This is my place! I belong here! You don’t belong here!”

    Despite his now substantial visual impairment and the darkness of the command center, he saw it standing just below the screen. The man from Mars stood facing out at the red Martian desert. His clothes were even more familiar, but that wasn’t what had stopped Adam’s breath; it was the bloody spot on the back of the man’s head. Just above where his skull met the base of his neck, a deep crimson wound dripped down the back of the man’s sweater. Even though he was sure he already knew what he’d find, Adam lifted his hand to feel where the damage on his own head was.

    The Man from Mars moved his arm in the same way at the same time.

    Adam lowered his arm, and the man did the same. He lifted his right hand, waving it back and forth and the man from Mars did the same with no delay. He raised both arms high over his head, exposing his midriff, and the man from Mars did as well. He even had a shirt the same length… and color. The Man from Mars had curly black hair as well. How did I stare at him on the screen for that long and not realize?

    The khakis, and the tennis shoes. The watch on his wrist. The slump in his shoulders. He even stood slightly crooked, like he’d gotten a knee injury decades ago playing baseball in high school. Adam dropped his hands down at his sides, and let the keyboard he’d been holding clatter to the floor, but the other Adam didn’t move, leaving his hands up high above his head. Slowly, the man from Mars turned, and Adam saw his face for the very first time. Burned by a distant sun, his eyes and mouth were nothing more than scorched, and empty holes. Adam thought he might have seen a glimmer where the eyes were supposed to be, but it was just wishful thinking. The voids were lined with fissures and cracks, and steady streams of red dust and sand were cascading down onto the sterilized NASA floor. He stood in the same room as Adam, but his voice still sounded like it was being piped through a broken speaker:

    “Happy Birthday to you.”

    Adam screamed and turned to run for the door behind him, his terror completely overtaking him, but when he turned, he found himself staring into the cavernous orbitals of his Martian twin, only inches from his own face. It’s hands shot up from its sides and grabbed Adams head, its jagged, rocky nails digging into his skin. Adam’s mouth opened wide in horror, but before he could even scream, the sand from the creature’s eyes and mouth shot forward and invaded every part of him. He felt the tiny sharp rocks tearing down his throat and boring into his eyes. The dust shredded his tongue, and whatever noises he tried to make devolved into a grotesque gurgle. Soon, Adam’s voice was the sound of a harsh country wind, blowing through the ragged holes in a forgotten scarecrow.

    His eyes were gone, but he could smell it all around him: Sulfur, chalk, and rust. It burned his esophagus, and infiltrated every wound. He fell to his knees on rocky, unfamiliar ground and when he tried to cry out, no sound came. No tears fell down his face, and no blood seeped from the back of his head anymore. All that fell was dust. Though he could see nothing, he felt that someone was looking through him. Peering through the back of his head like a vulgar mask, and viewing the surrounding planet before him; The red graveyard that would be his final home.

    The smile that abruptly tore through his face caused pieces of his lips and cheeks to break away and join the rocks below. He heard them strike the other stones, and eventually settle. He was a part of this world now. With all the effort he could muster, he forced his lungs to drag in the poisoned atmosphere, and her moved it through his ragged flesh to create sound once again. The tune was one only he could hear, but it didn’t matter. From here to eternity, no one else would ever sing it for him.

    Today is my birthday.

 

************************************************

 

    I can already tell by the look on your face that something went wrong again.”

    “I really wish you could figure out why this keeps happening, Carl. It takes forever to reset this thing.”

    Carl sighed, looking over Greg’s shoulder at the monitor. “I know. I thought I had found it last time, but judging by these readings, he was a bit all over the place last night, huh?”

    “I was in here watching it. It was like it didn’t even hear me. It didn’t respond to any commands for over an hour.” Greg took a drink of coffee from his mug. Bitter. It matched his mood. “Erratic movements, instruments raising and lowering by themselves. It was a mess. We might even have a damaged camera on our hands.”

    “Shit.” Carl loosened his tie, and looked at the readings for a few more moments before shaking his head. “We should just go back to manual, shouldn’t we?” He asked. “The A.I. was a good idea in theory, but if it’s going to damage itself, that’s pretty much the end of that, right?” He sat down at the terminal next to Greg, logged in, and started pulling the images that the rover had captured the night before. The two men chit-chatted about their wives, the latest TV show that everyone was watching, that new annoying pop song on the radio, and the weather. Another day at the office.

    “I need a refill.” Greg announced, rising from his desk chair, coffee cup in hand. “You want anything from the break room?”

    “Nah, I’m good.”

    “Are you sure?” asked Greg, “The coffee today is particularly repulsive.”

    “Well,” Carl paused briefly, “You make it sound so appealing, who could say no to that? Just be sure to put it in my special mug. The one with the-”

    “Flowers.” Greg said cutting him off. “I know, I remember. I can’t figure out why you like that hideous thing, but your wish is my command.” Ha laughed and made his way to the door, pushing it part of the way open before stopping briefly and turning back around. “Oh and hey! The rover actually did do something right last night in the middle of all the chaos.”

    “Oh?”

    “Sure did! It’s August 5th, remember?”

    “Oh yeah! Sneaks up on me every year.” Carl reached into his desk and pulled out a slightly worn, cardboard party hat. He made a grand gesture of putting it on his head, and stretched the elastic over his chin to secure it in place. He then pulled out a second one and threw it to Greg, who caught it in his free hand, and put in on over his thinning hair with just as much pomp and circumstance as Carl had used.

    “Do you ever feel bad that it’s out there alone? Singing to itself?”

    “Actually, yeah I do, now that you mention it.” Carl stood up from his chair, and saluted the giant screen in front of him. “Happy birthday, Curiosity. Poor bastard.”

    Greg raised his empty coffee mug, “Happy birthday, little buddy.”

    The two men stood in silence momentarily before Greg left to get more coffee, and Carl went back to reviewing footage. The monitor in the front of the room continued to display an unblinking view of a far off world, seen through the eye of it’s only inhabitant:

    A lonely robot who only knows one song.

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One Of Many Tiny Crimes

Snow Mail

When I was twelve, I was in the school safety patrol. This was a program where sixth grade students would stand by the crosswalks that bordered the elementary school with little yellow flags, and we would help other kids cross the street. We made sure they were safe, we would put up the American flag in the morning, and take it down at the end of the day. We would also get donuts sometimes. That was the real draw of the whole thing; getting those donuts. Also, the local cops would stop by and the newspaper would take your picture in their police cruisers. Things like that.

I did it for the donuts.

We had what could be considered a serious job, which none of the twelve-year-old enlistees took seriously. We were twelve, we liked donuts, and we didn’t know that cops were awful yet, and we still thought they were around to keep us safe. So we got up a little earlier than the rest of the school, and stood at the corners, goofing off the entire time. We were completely unprepared for such a responsibility, but the important takeaway is that, to my memory, no kids were ever hit by cars on our watch. Which we can mostly likely attribute to the stop signs at every intersection, and not our magical safety flags.

It was a commitment that you made, and you were expected to stand by, which was pretty hard-hitting in the Winter, when none of us wanted to be out there, standing on a corner in the cold. We stood watch, our hands freezing, and our breath hanging in the air. No donuts were worth this hardship. We’d all miscalculated, and we would all suffer for it. Our gluttony was ultimately our undoing.

Why am I telling you this? I already told you that no kids ever got hit by cars, and we just basically got up earlier than the other kids, wore sashes, and held little flags to no end, so why bring it up? I have plenty of other memories I could write about, so what significance does this have?

I’m not very consistent about it, but from time to time, I really enjoy writing people letters. There are many, many easier and faster means of communication, but they don’t hold a candle to a handwritten letter. Someone had to go through a whole process to send that letter to you. They bought paper and envelopes! If they’re like me, the have a specific pen they like to use. They had to figure out where and how to get stamps, for god sake. Stamps. It takes longer and it costs money, and every piece of that shows that the person sending it thinks that you’re worth all of that trouble. All that before even writing the letter, which is a whole other process in itself. What are you going to say? Are you responding to questions that they asked you in a prior letter? What’s worth writing down? What is worth saying for the price of a stamp and a pen?

Every time I get something handwritten in the mail, my heart fucking flutters. I feel warm all over, and until I get a letter that’s just like, “Fuck you, Andrew.”, I’ll always feel optimistic in opening that envelope and reading what my far away friend has to say. It’s one of life’s great joys that no one ever considers until they get one. The feel is real. I guarantee if I were to send you a letter, you would get it, possibly start crying, and then start searching google for nearby stationary stores. I know, because it happened to me. A letter is traveled. A letter is wise. It’s seen everything between you, and the person you’re writing to. Letters are a miracle.

By the time I was twelve years old, I had sent several letters in my day. I would write to my great aunt Alice, I’d had penpals that had been set up through school, and I’d written fan mail to Arnold Schwarzenegger (He never wrote back, but Bill Clinton’s cat did, so that’s cool). I knew that getting a letter in the mail was a big deal. I would always read my letters over and over again, and I would keep them in a special drawer in my desk, where they would be safe until the next day, when I would taken them out and read them a thousand more times. When I wrote back, I did so with an absurd amount of care. If I made a spelling mistake, or I ripped the page removing it from a notebook, I would write the entire thing again. Nothing but the best for my letter recipients. I still have those letters that I received to this day. They exist somewhere. I’m not sure where in the house they are, but they are in the house. You get it.

Also, when I was twelve, I didn’t have very good judgement. None of us really do at that age, do we? We’re kind of stupid, but we’re also a lot stronger now, and slightly hormonal. It’s a problematic combination. We seek to do nothing but please; we want those around us to think we’re as cool and fun as they are in their stupid twelve-year old brains. That’s what I was doing. I wanted to be edgy and cool, and I wanted to fit in. So, I put snow in a mailbox.

It was a normal, blue post office mailbox that stood at the same corner that I did. I would go protect children, and the metal blue box was at my back. Just sitting there, minding its own business. The other kids on the other corners came over to my corner to put snow into the mailbox, and I joined them. The opened the blue, metal drawer, put in a few chunks of snow, and closed it up. We were all laughing like it was the funniest thing we’d ever seen. Again, we were stupid, stupid children.

But the moment that whistle blew, signaling us that it was time to make our way inside and get ready for class, the laughing went away, and I was left with what felt like a cannonball in my stomach. This wasn’t throwing snowballs at cars, or something harmless like that. This was something so violating, and so cruel. This was a neighborhood mailbox. It wasn’t filled with bills or advertisements, it was filled with letters! Letters that could have something really important inside, like a confession of love, or someone writing to someone else to tell them about how they’d saved their life. Letters are full of spirit, and that spirit is written in ink. Water destroys the ink and spirit both. How many letters in that box never got where they were supposed to go? Did I irrevocably alter people’s lives through an immature act of shitty vandalism? Maybe! I have no way of ever knowing, and in the case of some of those letters, maybe their senders never did either. I destroyed their words so that I could laugh with the other kids.

I’ve been writing more letters lately, and whenever I place them in a mailbox, I think about my actions that day. Sure, you can try and rewrite a letter if you know that the first was never received, but it’s not going to capture what you felt in that moment. It’s not going to be that same letter. Those words are gone forever. It will never have the same feeling again. I took those feelings away from people, and now I’m constantly afraid that it’ll happen to me.

I never got my picture in the paper. They took our picture in a police car, and when it came time to print, the picture was too dark and you couldn’t see anyone’s face. I got donuts once or twice, but never in the volume that I had imagined in my mind, and I also lost my flag at some point and I got in trouble for it. I think a cop scolded me. I guess what I’m trying to say was that safety patrol was in no way the paradise I had envisioned, and the very nature of the job itself was in fact dark, and not helpful to a growing mind. Though, it would prepare me for how the jobs in my future would crush my spirit, or for the heavily scheduled rigors of prison life. I would graduate from sixth grade, and leave all of that behind. I wouldn’t even think about that time in my life at all if it wasn’t for that mailbox.

I don’t think I’ve ever quite forgiven myself for doing that. It’s stuck with me all these years, and while I don’t remember who the other kids on the corner were, I remember every single one of the actions i took, and words that I uttered very clearly. I know as children, we do stupid, and hurtful things without ever meaning to, or at least not thinking about the consequences, but that doesn’t excuse it in my mind. I hope that all the information that was contained in those drowned letters eventually got where it was going, one way or another. Be it from a follow-up letter, a phone call, or a face-to-face meeting, I hope those words were heard. I’d hate to think that because of me, something wrong was never made right, or that something joyous went uncelebrated, but that’s a responsibility I have to accept.

So if you mailed a letter near the elementary school in Yellow Springs, Ohio in the winter of 1998, and your letter never got where it was going, you have my sincere apologies. I promise to torture myself with the memory of my actions every time I have trouble falling asleep.

 

In writing this article, I wanted to use the power if the internet to see the corner where I stood guard and committed my heinous crime, so I used creepy ol’ google street view to take a quick look. Memory is so funny. Immediately, I was taken back to that moment, and that day. The surrounding houses had the same color paint on them, and the trees look to be either the same size as they were when I was there, or they grew with me. It was everything I remembered it being. It made my guilt feel a little heavier even, just seeing the setting of my anxiety again. But that heaviness was replaced by a very different feeling only moments later as I explored the surrounding area.

 

There is no mailbox on that corner.

That Time My Brother Fell Off The Roof

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My brother falling off the roof was a very preventable event that happened despite our worst efforts. One of those moments in time that stand out in your mind because of how absolutely dumb it was. Now, most of the stupidity can be attributed to me in this particular instance, but honestly, Peter should have stuck to his guns and not gotten up on the roof. He should have just resisted all that pressure that I put on him, so really he’s just as much to blame as I am.

You see, in the 90’s, someone got the idea for a Barbie-esque toy that had a magical tutu, which would spin around really fast, and make the doll fly around the room once you pulled a ripcord on the little flower base that it sat on. It was the pinkest thing in existence, but I didn’t care. I wanted that flying doll. I would never get it, but I wanted you to know that I didn’t discriminate when it came to magical flying toys. I never got the beautiful flying princess doll because the toy company decided that they needed to make a flying toy for boys… no… For men. They were called Dragon Flyz, and instead of having a magical flying tutu, they had little wings with lightning and shit on them. They were like the princess toy, only they were extreme. My brother Peter and I got those instead, and for a time, it was good.

I think it goes without saying, however, that if you buy a child a toy that can fly, you’re just asking for trouble. Their flight path wasn’t contained or controlled in any way. You’d pull the tail of the dragon that they sat on, and these wiley little fuckers would ascend in a chaotic mess of kamikaze energy that ended up allegedly breaking a lot of things around the house. The Dragon Flyz were banished to the outdoors in no time flat. That was fine with us. Peter and I weren’t the most “Outdoorsy” kids in the world, but the Dragon Flyz were warriors of the skies! We’d been doing them a disservice by keeping their power cooped up in the basement room my brother and I used to play in. Outside, they were able to ride the breeze! Soar into the heavens! The warriors were at home in the beautiful blue skies of southwest Ohio, for those were the rough skies where warriors were made.

Peter had a green one and I had a blue one. If they had names, they are long lost to me, and they do not matter. These guys didn’t even have their own cartoon. We liked making them fight in the air, and we would excitedly launch them off of their dragon pedestals, our little eyes filling with adrenaline as they collided in the air above our heads. Technically, in terms of the story established for the Dragon Flyz, I think they were both “good guys”, but it didn’t matter as they clearly had their issues. If I had to guess, I’d say the blue one was mad at the green one for going over on his computer time, so the blue warrior didn’t get the computer as long as he wanted to before both warriors hard to go to bed. Or maybe the blue warrior had changed the channel on the TV while the green warrior was watching something. The warriors had a grand history that ran deep. Whatever the cause, they settled their problems among the clouds. Unfortunately, between the clouds and the ground where their dragon familiars anxiously awaited the return of their masters, there was a lot of shit. Trees with leaves, a basketball hoop with a tangley net (perfect for capturing sky warriors), and last, but certainly not least, the roof.

When the sky warriors found themselves in a predicament that prevented their feet from touching the ground again, they were usually easily recovered. But when the blue warrior crash-landed on the garage roof, there was little that my brother, the green warrior, or I could do to retrieve him. He was lost to us.

We pleaded with our father; begged him to mount a rescue mission for our flying friend, but our hopes were dashed. He wouldn’t get the ladder, and he wouldn’t go up and get the blue warrior. So, on top of the garage he stayed. Staring out from the rain gutter onto a world that had abandoned him.

Days passed and became weeks. The warrior was patient.

Then one day, we could no longer sit idly by. We had to help him, and we had to do it immediately. Our father wasn’t home that day; the lights were out in the basement, and even though his car was there, he’d often go across the street to hang out with the neighbors. We greenlit the plan based on the evidence that we had available at the time. Sure, there was the risk that our father would look out the window of the neighbors house, but what were the odds of that happening? Who just looks out of windows for no reason? It seemed unlikely. Our father didn’t seem the “looking out of windows” type.

We got the ladder form the shed out behind the house, and shortly thereafter, Peter (with only the slightest bit of encouragement from me) was on the garage roof, our lost warrior in hand. Like a mother lion gently carrying her cub in her powerful crushing jaws, Peter was soon back on the ground with my blue dragon warrior. Reunited, and it felt so good.

I mean, it felt good until about fifteen seconds later, when the blue warrior found himself stuck on the roof proper. Before you judge me, I want you to think about the fact that the blue warrior hadn’t flown for weeks. His wings were stiff from his inactivity, and he wasn’t even sure if he still had it in him. What a sight he was, rising into the midday sun like a phoenix rising from the ashes. He’d decided he was going to fly as high as he could, and if you don’t think that’s inspiring, then I don’t think I’ll ever be able to get through to you.

The actual roof was about twice as high as the garage roof, because nothing can ever be simple. This was much more than just a rescue mission now. It was a suicide mission. Whoever went up there after the blue warrior knew that there would be a chance that they’d never come back. That didn’t scare my brother Peter, though; he was riding a high from his first successful rescue mission, and his chest was wriggling with the heart worms of bravery. He was up that ladder in a flash. He greeted the garage roof as one greets an old friend, and he looked to his next challenge: The roof of the house. It would take some doing, but if he was careful he’d be able to shimmy up to where he needed to be.

My feet remained on the ground, and my heart beat heavy in my chest. He was definitely going to fall, and I had to think of a reason that I didn’t stop him from committing this very inadvisable act. Nothing was immediately coming to mind as I watched Peter ascend, so I would probably just have to come up with something on the fly. I was abnormally good at bullshitting for my age. I once made up a story on the spot about a pioneer family for a 5th grade presentation and pretended to read it from a blank piece of paper in front of the whole class, so I wasn’t too concerned about it.

But Peter didn’t fall. He got onto the roof of our house, made his way to the edge, and freed the flying blue warrior once again from his rain gutter prison. I was blown away. That was not something I would have been capable of doing, and he did it with what seemed to be great ease! I was in awe of my brother in that moment. Two years younger, and a great deal braver than me; at least when it came to heights. In that moment, he was the courageous flying battler.

I wasn’t concerned for my brother’s return journey. He’d already climbed upon the treacherous roof twice without so much as a stumble. He’d put one foot in front of the other on that rickety metal ladder, and claimed his place in the clouds among the other Dragon Flyz. Nothing was going to stop him now, as far as I was concerned. Peter, however, wasn’t as optimistic as I was, and once he’d made his way down to the garage roof, he eyed that rickety ladder with hesitation.

“Hold the ladder.” He said.

“I don’t need to hold the ladder. It’s got the little grippy feet. It’s not gonna move.”

“Please hold the ladder, Andrew. I don’t want to fall.”

“Peter, you’re not going to fall!” I replied, frustrated that my little brother wouldn’t trust my impeccable judgement. “Just come down. We’ll play with it further away from the house from now on.”

“Please?” He pleaded.
“Just come down!”

“Okay,” He finally conceded, “But if I fall, it’s your fault.”

I want you to know that there was no reason for me to not hold the ladder. I was right there, I wasn’t busy, and my hands were free. I wasn’t feeling faint or suffering from any kind of ailment that prevented me from putting forth the miniscule amount of effort needed to keep a ladder steady. I was just an asshole who thought he knew everything about ladder physics, and I was willing to bet my brother’s spine on it.

One step down. Everything’s coming up daisies.

Second step down. The ladder moved a little bit, but that’s probably due to Peter’s carelessness and a lack of understanding when it comes to ladder science.

Third st- oh shit, he’s fucking falling.

I know it’s cliche to say things like “time slowed down”, but some cliches are around for a reason. The reason people use that phrase is because when something like that happens, your brain tries to do a whole lot of calculations at once to comprehend the horrible events that you allegedly caused. All that jumbled gray matter in your skull is firing little bursts of electricity so quickly that everything else in the world seems slow by comparison. The legs of the ladder slid along the concrete of our driveway, which caused the top part of the ladder to fall away from where it was leaning. Peter pitched forward, twisting in the air. It felt like forever before the clattering stopped and he was finally on the ground. He’d spun around mid-air, and had landed back-first on the side of the metal ladder.

I’m going to get in SO much trouble for this.

“I told you!” He cried, “I told you needed to hold it and you didn’t!”

I ran to my fallen brother, whose heroic hand still grasped the flying action figure. He was crying and injured. Being the dutiful older brother that I was, I was quick to rush to his side and provide him with mild gaslighting.

“You’re fine! You’re totally fine! You’re okay! You didn’t fall that far!” I said, frantically. He was sobbing. Tears poured from his eyes, and he was clutching his back with his free hand. I pulled up his shirt and saw that the top layer of skin had been scraped away. It was going to be one hell of a bruise. “You’re good, Peter! You’re good!” As far as I could tell with my limited expertise, that wasn’t a lie! He’d hit hard, and he’s be purple soon, but he was alive! Plus, we got the action figure back and Peter hadn’t damaged his brain. It could have been worse, is what I’m trying to say.

Peter eventually stood, wiped the tears from his eyes, and we put the ladder away and went inside. We didn’t much feel like playing with flying action figures anymore. Defeated, we walked down the steps to our basement lair, and sat in silence for a few moments before the giant shadow of our father strolled into the room, blocking out all light, and snatching the breath from our lungs. He’d been there the whole time. He’d just been sitting in the dark in his office, and we hadn’t properly investigated. He could see the exact spot that Peter fell from a window directly in front of him.

We sat rigid, unsure of how to proceed. It seemed in good form to let him speak first, as he almost certainly had more to say, and we were red-handed, fish on a hook, uncomfortable bed in an army hospital caught. We awaited what was sure to be a heavy impact, Peter’s eyes red with the sting of recent misery, and myself, staring at the ground and balling my hands into fists, which was my go-to move. No lies were getting me out of this one.

“You okay?” My Father asked Peter, not al all seeming angry. Peter nodded meekly in response. “You gonna do that again?’

“No.” we both answered in unison. Despite how prepared I had been to lie up until that point, I was very much telling the truth. No more roof adventures for me. If that little blue flying warrior decided to vacation in our gutters again, he was going to find it to be a one way trip. No amount of television featuring characters hanging out on top of their houses was going to change my mind. Feet on the ground for me. I don’t know if Peter ever made a similar pact with himself in his own mind, but I do know that I never saw him on the roof again.

Our Mother’s reaction was similarly blase once she arrived home from work:“Your Dad told me what happened. Are you going to do that again?”

Again, we answered ‘No’, this time with a different tone of voice, because we were both mystified by the fact that there would be no consequences for our antics. My Father had once caught me rollerblading without a helmet, and I’d been grounded for a week, so this was a bit of a departure. But our Mom lifted Peter’s shirt, examined his bruise, gave him a green light to continue living his life, and we were back to business as usual. It almost felt like a hidden camera show. Peter and I went on to watch TV, surf the net, and go to bed, unpunished.

I think back on that day a lot. It’s one of those moments in time that’ll sneak up on you while you’re trying to sleep, and suddenly get really loud in your mind. I make light, but I really should have held the ladder, and there was no reason not to. Peter had done me a favor by going up on the roof and getting my action figure, and all he’d asked in return was that I hold the fucking ladder to make sure he was safe. I know I was a kid, and therefore inherently stupid, but this was a defining moment for me. Now, if for whatever reason your safety is in my hands, I won’t take chances on it. It’s my priority first and foremost. All that had to happen was my brother hitting his spine on a ladder.

Also, I don’t think I ever apologized to Peter for that; not in any genuine fashion, anyway. I’m sorry Peter. You never should have fallen off the garage roof. I hope this retelling is a fun enough read that it makes up for my juvenile irresponsibility.

Happy Birthday, Peter ❤

The One Where I’m Probably an Alcoholic

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I haven’t had a drink in over three weeks. It’s probably the longest I’ve gone without drinking since I was nineteen or twenty, which was a long-ass time ago. It’s never felt like a problem to me before, and it honestly still doesn’t quite feel that way, but sometimes it’s worth changing your habits and seeing how it makes you feel on the other side.

I use alcohol as a coping mechanism. I see it for the crutch that it is, and I know that isn’t healthy. I go to work where I’m a cog in a machine; an uncaring entity that sees me as a number driving profits and can’t be bothered to give me time off or sick days. I don’t find what I do fulfilling, and that’s no secret, but the way I deal with it needs lots of work. I was able to convince myself that what I was doing was okay, because it was so far beyond the clinical definition of ‘binge drinking’, that I couldn’t take it seriously.

It was a few beers every couple of days. Then it was a couple of beers every day. Then it was a few beers and some whiskey every night. Soon it was half a bottle a night, and I would wake up the next day tired and in pain, my head weighing a thousand pounds, and my throat crying out for water. Then I would go to work, speak to entitled jerk-offs on the phone for eight hours, go home and do it all again. I had plenty of things that I wanted to do with that time. Projects I wanted to work on, and writing that I wanted to do, but when you’re trying to drink away a day, those things just seem to fall by the wayside. Any ambition that you had is left on the ground behind you while you’re attempting your chemical ascension. So then I was getting nothing done, and it was making me more depressed. It kept feeding into itself like a drunken ouroboros. It wasn’t a good look.

It’s funny how things change as we get older. I remember being that kid that would get fucked up, and then thought I was interesting sounding when I would talk about how fucked up I had gotten. I used to carry bottle caps in my pocket to “keep score”, and I would make tons of questionable decisions that weren’t good for me or the people around me, but I had an excuse. I was drunk. Eventually I grew out of bragging about how much I would drink, and I would just do it. I wouldn’t necessarily do it any less, I was just more quiet about it. It was just social and fun at first, but then it reached the point where I felt like I needed it, and that’s where it started to be something that concerned me. I still thought I was fine, but I recognized that I should be able to have fun without drinking. I just couldn’t quite pull it off.

So now, I haven’t had a drink for three weeks and some change, and I’m realizing that alcohol has successfully become a part of my identity. It’s how I interact with other people, and it’s what I use to blur a world that feels savage sometimes. It grounded me, and allowed me to float away at the same time. Something that’s light and heavy simultaneously, the way that alcohol is, can tear you apart. If my feet are on the ground, and my head is in the clouds, it means I’m being dismembered one piece at a time. It’s been three weeks, and I’m still trying to find where I am without it, as if I lost my place in a book, and I have to go back over the previous chapters looking for context clues. Three weeks in, and I still don’t quite know myself in this context, but I’m trying my best to figure it out.

I feel better. It’s easier to wake up in the morning, and I have more energy in general, which is a nice feeling that I’m definitely not used to. I’m feeling more motivated to better myself and my situation, and that’s definite change from the old me, who used to being very accepting of a situation to the point where even if it was harmful, he’d still bear it, because it wasn’t worth the effort. The flipside of this coin is that I feel everything a lot deeper since I stopped. Things in the news are hitting me a lot harder than they have been, and while the highs are high, the lows feel much lower than they normally do. I find myself wanting to drink so badly after small indiscretions against me and after large scale nationwide horror. It’s hard.

I think I wrote this to explain where I’ve been. Even if I’m not going downtown, seeing everyone and getting fucked up, I am still usually posting on facebook at the very least. It’s been hard to pull thoughts together. I’m going to drink again. I haven’t quit forever, but I do have a renewed perspective. I don’t plan on letting things get as bad as they got again. Am I an alcoholic? Probably. That sounds like an accurate definition for me. Might it be a good idea to not drink at all anymore? Maybe. If that’s the case, it’s something I’ll have to figure out for myself. I’m optimistic, though. I’m leveling out, and I’m trying to build new skills like baking and painting, and trying to improve my writing, of course.

I’ll leave you with this: I didn’t think what I was doing was destructive or affecting me negatively, but it was. Sometimes it’s hard to see these things about yourself, even when other people comment on it. It was easy enough to brush off, because it was a part of me. It was like people commenting on the gap in my teeth; I don’t plan on doing anything about it, but thanks for your opinion. I finally ended up seeing it for what it was in a brand new bottle of whiskey that was half gone in only a few hours. There was only one person drinking it, and he was trapped inside like a perpetually intoxicated genie. If you feel like doing something important today, maybe just try looking at yourself, and see if there’s anything in your life that’s similar. Something that you do because “it’s just who you are” that might not be good for you. You don’t have to give that thing up, but you may want to experiment, and see what you’re like without it. Maybe that person is worth visiting.

Thank you for reading. Remember that you’re important, and that you deserve the best that you have to offer.

If You Don’t Like It, Help Me Leave

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Calling all racists! Calling all racists! Hear ye! Hear ye! Boy, have I got a deal for you!

As you know, the people that you put in office are fucking up royal, and are probably going to be voted out of office in due time, if they aren’t impeached first. That’s a tough break, y’all. Really. You guys lost the Civil War, and you’re still sore about that, so this can’t feel nice. Sore like when Charlie died on Lost times a thousand. All because you couldn’t own black people anymore. I feel for you. I really do. If I was stupid, I’d probably get mad at stupid stuff too. You’re out here defacing Jewish cemeteries with almost swastikas, vandalizing mosques, and having white power marches with dollar store tiki torches. It’s a cry for help. You’re lashing out. You’re hurting. I. Get. It.

Well, I had this idea, you see. Been cooking it up in my big brown skull for a while now, and I think it’s time I shared my vision with the bigoted, white world. I’ll try not to use big words.

See, you right-wing ding-dongs have a thing that you say to people when they aren’t satisfied with the status quo. We’ll come out and say something controversial like, “We need gun control” or, “Please stop letting cops that kill black people without consequence” or, “Women are also people”. Then you suddenly stand up straight, puff your chest out, and say my favorite thing that you say: “If you don’t like it, you can leave.”

Never you mind that there have been 27 amendments to the constitution, all of which changed it. Forget all that! You think for yourself! You don’t need no constitution to tell you how to defend the constitution! You’re saying, “America don’t change, darkie. Like it or leave”, even though America can change whenever it wants to. That’s what I admire about you yokels: Your tenacity. Your drive to keep everything the same because you’re white, and dammit, that’s all you’ve got going for you. “I am white, I am proud, and I will ride this fire-breathing boner-eagle right into the fucking sun!”

You also developed a remix of the previous statement, which can be used at any time, with any ol’ colored people walking on the street, minding their own business, and not just in reaction to something we say: “Go back to [country you perceive someone to be from].”

I love it! It’s so confusing for us brown people! We’re like, “I was born here!” but by the time we open our mouths in response, you’ve already sped away; presumably because you’re late to a ceremony where you’re being awarded a medal for bravery and hot takes. It hits me, man. It takes me to another place in my head knowing that you don’t want me to be here. You look at me and assume I do drugs, that I’m unemployed, and that if given the opportunity, I would overthrow the government and replace it with something you’d probably hate, and dammit, you’re right! You got me! See, we thought we could be sneaky, but nothing gets past you guys.

Well, I’ve heard your arguments, and I think you’re right. I should leave the country. There, I said it! Are you happy now? Can you sleep better tonight knowing that the mean ol’ negro on the other end of the computer box is packing his bags for Africa? Well, you shouldn’t, because my bags aren’t yet packed. I don’t have the money to invest in your proposed migration! I know, I know! Boo! Boo on me! If only I’d used my unfair advantages to take the place of a white student at a university, then maybe I could pay my way to Kenya using pure bootstraps and elbow grease! I got your hopes up, only to dash them on sexy, black rocks, and I’m sorry. This tragic turn is worse than when they started letting the coloreds play basketball.

But here’s the deal: We can help one another. See, I don’t have the cash to blow this rocket pop stand, and you’re getting thousands and thousands of dollars back from trump’s tax cuts, right? Are you picking up what I’m putting down? You can’t see it, but I’m raising my eyebrows in a suggestive manner.

I’m going to start a GoFundMe to leave the country. I’ll get on a plane as soon as possible. The biggest, sharpest plane I can find, and I will leave the United States for new, exciting lands with other people who speak different languages, and listen to strange music. People who may or may not like me; I mean I’m not for everyone, but I can try! I just need you to donate to the “Go back to your country” fund. You will, in fact, have one less black person voting in the next election, one last black person that you’ll have to follow around a convenience store to make sure they don’t steal, and one less person yelling, “don’t go in there” when you see a horror movie. Who knows, maybe I’d have walked by your car while you were stopped at a red light at some point, and if you pay for me to leave right now, you won’t have to lock your door in that potentially dangerous situation. Can you imagine? There’s a lot more of us, but there could be one less, and that’s nothing to shake a stick at.

Just look at what your one-time donation can get you:

Donate $20: Once I’m out of the country, I’ll send you a postcard from wherever I settle that says, “I’m absolutely miserable! I regret every moment that I spent taking the freedoms that America provided me for granted!”

Donate $50: I will make you a personalized video stating, “[YOUR NAME] was right! I’m a commie cuck who eats farts!” and you can put that on your Facebook wall, so all of your friends will know what a fart-eating commie cuck I am.

Donate $100: I will unlearn three American words of your choosing. Eagle? Gone. Twinkie? Poof! What even is a twinkie?! Spangled? Dead to me. Constitution? More like Consti-nah, son!

Donate $500: Three words: Fresh. Baked. Cookies… Made with my blood. Lots of it. I will be in a weakened state without all that sweet, life-giving blood. You, meanwhile, will gain my strength and become immune to the cursed blade I carry on my hip at all times.

Donate $1,000: I will forget how to love.

This is a once in a lifetime opportunity. It’s one thing to yell at the uppity minorities over Twitter, but a whole other thing to actually act; to do something meaningful. When your friends are talking about someone they’ve harassed on Reddit, you can stand up big and tall, saying “While you dorks were getting blocked and reported, I got rid of one of ’em!” Can you imagine the look on their faces? I will send you a certificate of authenticity that you can whip out like an FBI badge and dispel any and all murmurs that seek to dismiss your claims as folly! I’m a one-stop shop!

So, consider donating. You want your country a certain way, and I want to leave the country a certain way… First class, if at all possible. We both benefit from your financial commitment, and I’m eager to see your comments on my page after I receive what is sure to be a generous donation.

Thank you for reading, and God Bless America

*Offer is only valid for this one-time GoFundMe period. Those donating will have no say in where it is I travel to, but can rest assured it will not be anywhere within the 50 United States as is currently stands. Participants are encouraged to remember that I never said I would leave for forever, and I reserve the right to return to the country at any time, bringing with me any and all skills acquired overseas in order to help dismantle and ultimately obliterate white supremacy. Void where prohibited. Actually, no. Nothing is void until I say it is. You’ve decided when and where things are void long enough, oppressor.

Trayvon Martin, and the Tragedy that is Amerika

Trayvon

art by Michael D’Antuono

Six years ago today, Trayvon Martin was shot dead by George Zimmerman. He was walking back to the home of his father’s fiancée after purchasing Skittles and an Arizona iced tea from a local convenience store. Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer, saw Martin walking through the neighborhood, decided that he was being “suspicious”, and figured that he was going to be a big man, and confront the kid that he considered to be in the wrong neighborhood. He was told by a police dispatcher not to follow or confront Trayvon Martin. Trayvon was on the phone with a friend of his at the time, who reported hearing Zimmerman say, “What are you doing around here?” after Martin asked Zimmerman why he was following him. She then heard Martin say, “Get off, get off!” and a struggle ensued.

Then 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was shot in the chest. He would not survive.

Trayvon Martin’s death shook the country to it’s core, and a new discussion about race began to take place, whether people wanted to have it or not. Through the media’s handling on the situation, several things were made very clear.

First, that black people are all criminals. No matter the circumstances, if someone thinks your black self is out of place or suspicious, then it is okay to gun you down. There would be no consequences. The media would scour your Facebook and other social media profiles, looking for the one picture, the one telling photograph that says to white Amerika, “I am someone to be feared. You’re safer with me gone.” Black people all over this country know which picture will be used if they’re ever killed by the police or a “good guy with a gun”, because we’ve all checked. We all looked to see which one the news would use. If there’s one where we didn’t smile? Where maybe we’re in low light so our skin looks darker? Even if we dress a certain way, CNN or Fox News or whatever will equate our mere existence to “gang culture”. Whatever it takes so that white Amerika will be able to face themselves in their bathroom mirrors after reading about the acquittals of our murderers. “It’s okay.” they think to themselves, “It was only a matter of time before they got us.”

It also brought to light Amerika’s denial of history, which should really have surpassed baseball as our national past time by now. We had a black president, and because we started crying out for our lives louder than before, and showing that this tragedy is nothing new to us, we had our comfortable oppressors start blaming him for the racial divide. Before you cite what I just said as overreaction, please bear in mind that I’ve heard multiple people make this outrageous claim. “Racism was done and gone until that black guy started running things.”

What progress have we made since that fateful day six years ago? People are still executed in the street for non-crimes that certainly don’t carry a death sentence. The media still looks at every single victim with a microscope, searching for any reason they can muster that the black body growing cold on the unforgiving concrete deserved what it got. We have hours of video that has played over and over again on prime time TV of people’s lives coming to an end because some “C” student wanted to play soldier. They never serve time. Most get paid leave. We have businesses that won’t hire us based on our names. Those same businesses have rules against our wearing our hair naturally because in Amerika, it’s unprofessional. We have white supremacists marching in the streets and killing people, and our president refers to them as “good people”. People defend Confederate monuments tooth and nail, despite the fact that Confederate actions should be condemned across the board without question or hesitation. People still argue that slavery was good for black people. We still have all of this.

I wanted to write something today, because for all that’s happened, Trayvon Benjamin Martin is still dead and his killer walks free, thanks to the help of good ol’ Amerikan racism and the NRA. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about those who have been lost to us. Taken from us.

Most of the people I know don’t buy into it, and I appreciate that. I have cultivated such a strong, decent group of people in my life, that I don’t ever have to wonder if they’ll have my back or not. I have removed people that refuse to recognize the stranglehold that white supremacy has on this country, and I’ve been criticized for it. People have said that I can’t expect to change anything if I refuse to engage in a dialogue, but I reached a point where I couldn’t keep justifying the fact that I do not deserve to be shot in the street by a rent-a-cop with a tiny dick. Why do I need to explain this?It’s exhausting. I’m exhausted. Every time someone else dies, I get depressed and I fall into a hole that’s hard to climb out of. It could easily happen to me, and whoever pulled the trigger could easily get away with it.

This post doesn’t really have an ending, because the list of names keeps growing. It will continue to do so until people start taking some responsibility and stop denying what black people have been telling them for decades.

Rest in Power, Trayvon. We actually have come a long way in terms of organizing the community and attempting to hold people accountable. We will move forward in memory of you, and everyone else we’ve lost. We will make them be better, or we will remove them.

Local Man Only Friendly and Outgoing In Case Of Health Emergency

coffee man

HOUSTON, TEXAS – Local DJ Byron Franklin has admitted that the only reason he leaves his house and interacts with people at all is in case he needs to start a GoFundMe for potential health issues.

“I was told growing up that I had a fairly repellent personality.” Franklin told us in an interview conducted at a local Starbucks. “But with the way healthcare is being handled in this country, I can’t afford for people to dislike me.”

Upon moving to Houston from Cincinatti, Ohio in 2016, Bryan found it difficult for someone in his field to get insurance coverage. As is the case throughout most of the country, a 10-year-old skin cancer diagnosis met the criteria for a pre-existing condition, preventing the 27 year-old from receiving the coverage that he could potentially need in the event future sickness or injury.

“I did my research and saw what it would cost for me to be covered, and I was nearly knocked out of my shoes,” Franklin told us, “But what I ended up finding was that professional acting classes would cost me considerable less than any insurance policy. Now, I didn’t have that many friends on Facebook, but I quietly viewed the profiles of people that hadn’t updated their privacy settings and found that crowd sourcing was the new insurance! It just took on a life of it’s own from there.”

Franklin then paid the tuition and began attending acting classes at Houston Community College twice a week. As he learned the nuance and theory of acting, he also learned to mask his distaste for interacting with other people. Before long, he found himself out at bars in Midtown Houston, forcing himself to approach other human beings, and feign interest in their lives.

“At first it was difficult.” Franklin told us, “Talking to anybody who isn’t my own mother usually makes me want to gouge my own eyes out, but after a while, I stopped seeing the people, and I just started seeing dollar signs. It was like in cartoons when the wolf and the pig are shipwrecked, and at first the wolf sees the pig as an annoying, talkative swine, but then later he gets desperate and sees his head turn into a juicy roasted ham. That was basically the transition that I went through.”

Franklin even used the money from his job to decorate his apartment in a way that he thought would lure people into friendship.

“Sure, it ended up being kind of pricey, but at the same time, it was still much cheaper that paying for medical, dental, and vision out of pocket. I call my place ‘The Venus Flytrap’. I got this couch, and it actually transforms into a bed. Can you believe it? For some reason, people love it, so I got two of them.”

Now, with over 500 Facebook friends, and more being added daily, Franklin says he feels that his future is a lot more secure.

“All it took was sitting and taking notes. I just have to say little catch-all phrases like, ‘Pokemon Go was fun at first, but I uninstalled it. It needs to be more like the original game if they want to have it continue to be successful’, or ‘I do love Tim Burton, but he needs to realize there are actors other than Johnny Depp’, or the ever popular, ‘I just can’t believe what’s happening to this country’. Depending on how they respond to that last one, I know how to proceed. It’s like a game! I have all my Facebook friends in different lists, and I post updates that I think they’ll respond to. Sure I have to go out to bars and clubs every now and then, and next month, I’m supposed to be someone’s best man, but it’s a small price to pay if I need dialysis somewhere down the road.”

When asked f he thought this article would disrupt his plan, Franklin responded that no one would read it anyway, and that “print is dead.”