Wheatley High School and Yates High School are two of the most famous predominantly black schools in Texas. Graduates of Wheatley include Sid Williams, Barbara Jordan, and Mickey Leland. Graduates of Yates include Debbie Allen, Rickie Winslow, and George Floyd. While these schools have been around since the 1920’s, few people know the history behind the names of these two schools.
Wheatley is named in remembrance of the poet and former slave, Phillis Wheatley. While that is the name we know her for today, she was renamed Phillis because The Phillis was the name of the slave ship which transported her to America. She was stripped of her old name, heritage, and history. She was given the name Wheatley because it was the surname of the slave owners who purchased her.
In 1773, Phillis Wheatley accomplished something that had never been done before: she became the first African slave, the first person of African descent, and the third ever colonial American woman to have her work published. Her first book published was her book of poetry, Poems on Various Subjects. She was one of the best-known poets in pre-19th century America.
Wheatley was born in West Africa in 1753 and died in 1784. During the peak of her writing career, she wrote a well-received poem praising the appointment of George Washington as the commander of the Continental Army. However, she believed that slavery was the issue that inhibited the colonists from being real heroes.
Wheatley would use theological description to move church members to decisive action. For example, these powerful lines in her poetic eulogy to General David Wooster rebuke patriots who confess Christianity yet oppress her people:
But how presumptuous shall we hope to find
Divine acceptance with the Almighty mind
While yet o deed ungenerous they disgrace
And hold in bondage Afric: blameless race
Let virtue reign and then accord our prayers
Be victory ours and generous freedom theirs.
And in a letter “To the Right Honorable William, Earl of Dartmouth,” she writes about the utmost importance of freedom:
Wonder from whence my love of Freedom sprung,
Whence flow these wishes for the common good,
By feeling hearts alone best understood,
I, young in life, by seeming cruel fate
Was snatch'd from Afric's fancy'd happy seat:
What pangs excruciating must molest,
What sorrows labour in my parent's breast?
Steel'd was that soul and by no misery mov'd
That from a father seiz'd his babe belov'd:
Such, such my case. And can I then but pray
Others may never feel tyrannic sway?
There is reason the word “freedom” is capitalized. In this poem she also explores the immense pain she was forced to deal with when being taken from her family. She does all she can with her words to get the reader to try and see her world. She is a poet who is seldom remembered, and now may be a time as good as ever to revisit these forgotten artists.
Yates High School is named after a man named John Henry “Jack” Yates. Reverend Jack Yates was also given the surname of his slave owners. Yates was an emancipated slave, who was allowed to come to Texas in the 1860’s with his wife, who was enslaved on a nearby plantation.
Once freed, Yates moved to Houston where he worked as a wagon driver. While enslaved, he still managed to learn to read and write, and soon after moving to Houston, he was ordained and became the first regular pastor of Antioch Baptist Church. The first services took place in a makeshift shelter off of Buffalo Bayou before they were able to purchase a more traditional church building.
Yates was a legendary community leader who helped establish Emancipation Park in the third ward. He also established the Houston Academy for Negroes in the 1880’s so that more black people in Houston could receive an education. Years after his death, his Houston family home has been restored and moved to Sam Houston park where it stands today.
From 2013-2017 I attended St. John’s High School in Houston, and it wasn’t until my friend and former classmate Julian Peavy told me about these two Houston schools last week that I had any idea of their existence. People often complain about the decisiveness in our country, but it is built into the way we grow up. I lived in the same house in Houston, Texas for the first 18 years of my life, and not once had I met a single person from these two prestigious high schools.
We are raised in a bubble, and for most of us, we never leave that bubble for our entire lives. And traveling or moving across states does not mean you leave the bubble. When I moved to New York, I attended a private university that although may be more diverse than my private school in Houston, it is still easy to find myself running around in groups of like-minded people from similar backgrounds. It’s unlikely to find a NYU student from Houston’s third ward.
I also want to point out that there is not much information readily available on these two important schools (Wheatley and Yates), which further shows that we do not pay much attention to important members of history who are not white.
So as the headlines of recent news may wake people up to be more aware of understanding what inclusivity and equality actually means, I believe that it is important to do more than just educate ourselves. And no, that does not mean go to predominantly black neighborhoods near you and pat yourself on the back if you shake a black man’s hand. But I do think it means listening to those who have had their voice squandered, and helping them take action that the world needs. Opening people’s eyes to the flaws ingrained in society as well as making efforts to change them. There’s much more we can all do than merely listening, talking, and writing (writing this alone probably isn't doing much at all). But it’s a start. Since it’s only a start, let’s not look for the end. Let’s look for progress.
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Absence makes the heart grow fonder – you’re lonely
Born with a silver spoon in your mouth – seek medical treatment immediately
Off the record – when you want the reporter to know who you slept with, buy you’re not ready for the whole world to know
Here goes nuthin’ – something is most definitely about to happen, and it is not going to be good
Bring home the bacon – what you tell your mother when she asks, “What should I pick up from the grocery store?”
Beat around the bush – when your father beats you with a belt, but he does it behind a bush so the neighbors can’t see, but it’s a tiny bush and you’re in the front yard so they can for sure see
Fluffer puffer – not a phrase, but I'd like it to be
I take the first bite
Taste buds scream and shout
More salty than I remember
This is not a ham sandwich
He sniffs the monkey bars with two big nostrils
Molecules travel to their new home
James’ nose is cozy and safe
Until allergy season rolls around
Left hand grasps, right hand grasps
One monkey bar conquered
Left hand stretches out to reach another
Miss, whiff, tumble and fall
Poor James, now lies on the ground
Face in dirt, he breathes it in
Like momma’s apple pie crumble
Raindrops fall on his bare back
I should have worn a shirt today
A flood, a deluge, takes James away
He floats above the playground
He may be wet, but now is king
James, the king of the playground
The water spits him upward
James lands on the roof
The storm melts away
Seeping into the surface
I'm not coy, I'm a boy
He repeats anxiously to the sun
He’s not coy, he’s a boy
He’s king of the playground
He's having fun
feel no different than March
they just feel tardy,
They hit you hard
until you fall down
It’s now an April bath
No rubber ducks to float by toes
one wonders how to float alone
listen to the toes
hear what they say
now, we’re not alone
My toes and I see different worlds
Toe is friends with ants, I am friends with Todd
Toe embraces being plunged under water
I, my friend, do not
Toe is free, open to explore
under its nail is a soft soul
I am closed, scared to see
what the world is like below
Toe can break
and be repaired
back to exploring once again
I can break
frozen in bed
fearing my repair
too scared to move
the stillness aches
I’ll never search my world again
let me see
how brave the toe can be
And once May comes
I can only hope
that like the toe
Somebody, let me cry
Before my body bursts
Before I lose the chance
Somebody, let me cry
To give me some release
To allow me to dance
Somebody, get to know me
Before I start to doubt
Before I grow too old
Somebody, get to know me
To give me reason to speak
To give me someone to hold
Somebody, read my lips
Before they even move
Before my soul turns gray
Somebody, read my lips
To bring me to peace
To let me see today
Somebody, tell your story
Before I wander off
Before I tell my own
Somebody, tell your story
To help me understand
To help us both feel known
Somebody, explain it all
Before the crisis comes
Before my mind shuts down
Somebody, explain it all
To give me any comfort
To erase my permanent frown
Somebody, take my hand
Before I take the pills
Before I take my life
Somebody, take my hand
To squeeze away the doubts
To touch my sweat and end this strife
Somebody, please, look me in the eyes
Before I fade away
Before I’m no longer here
Somebody, please, look me in the eyes
I need you
To free a lonesome tear
Somebody, let me cry
Before the time has past
Before it gets too hard
Somebody, let me cry
To love and accept this life
Even when it’s hard
I saw your brother die
I heard your mother scream
I stood and stayed still
I was eating cookie dough ice cream
I never liked my neighbor
When he spit on me, I hated him more
He still wants to shake my hand
I still want to call him a whore
Now when I walk
I pretend I’m on the phone
I wear a mask for the spit
I hope he dies alone
It’s been quite hard
To be home and eat Chips Ahoy
And I keep getting spam emails
From the Dallas Cowboys
I don’t know what they want
I don’t live in Dallas
So I delete the emails
And pour more wine into my chalice
Is this a time to reflect?
Or is this a time to get fat?
It’s a time to get drunk daily
It’s a time to yell at my cat
In solitude I have learned
That 3 naps a day is fine
But take out the trash and do the dishes?
That is where I draw the line
People call me and say hello
They ask how I am, I say that I’m fine
But little do they know
I’m lying on the floor with my chalice of wine
No. I’m not an alcoholic
Please, do not be a jerk
I’m just a growing boy
And my habits are just a fun quirk
People are being productive
Well, honestly so am I
I’ve drank through every hangover
And now I'm getting high
Now's the time to learn a language
Now's the time to learn guitar
But really there’s no time like the present
To eat some shrooms and then pee on a car
It's better than spending my time
Glued to my phone, head down
Instead, I’m snorting some good stuff
And for some reason I'm wearing a wedding gown
Its 9AM and it's time for bed
But in quarantine, the party never stops
Yes, I may have lost all my friends
But now no one’s around to call the cops
In Fall 2019, I interned at the Vatican. I was taking classes at Middlebury College in Vermont, so going to the Vatican twice a week was not easy. All expenses were paid, but the wear and tear from the travel was unappreciated. When I met with my guidance counselor junior year, she told me it was pathetic that I had not interned anywhere yet. When asked what I wanted to do, I said, “I don’t know, but probably not a normal internship.” She had a glimmer in her eye. But it wasn’t a good glimmer. It wasn’t an excited friend glimmer, who was about to blow your surprise birthday party. No. It was the glimmer that said: I have a connection to the pope.
Being a geology major, I never met anyone really exciting at networking events. Usually it was a bunch of old, white guys talking to themselves about their rock collections. Networking events always felt gross anyways. I didn’t need a networking event to land the internship I got. Turns out, my counselor was a classmate of the pope in the sixth grade in Buenos Aires. They stayed in touch, and he had been wanting an intern ever since his papacy began.
The first few days I worked at the Vatican, I mainly did paperwork and any sort of chore work. Organizing files, getting the pope coffee, things of that nature. On the third week, the pope finally expressed some interest in me. “What’s your name?” I remember him asking. He invited me to mass, but I told him I was Jewish and preferred to not attend.
Week seven was probably the most stressed I ever was at the Vatican. My girlfriend had dumped me that Monday morning at our favorite diner. I had to get the pancakes to-go. Then on Tuesday, I bombed my Geology 101 midterm and did desomorphine for the first time. Wednesday I flew to the Vatican where the Pope was all in a fuss about his dishes not being cleaned, and I don’t know if it was the desomorphine still in my blood or the constant jet lag or just sheer stupidity, but I dropped and shattered five of his plates. He was fuming, but apparently had to forgive me and whatever.
Thursday, I was back in Vermont and found out that my now ex-girlfriend had died. She apparently surprised her best friend who was going skydiving. She snuck onto the plane and managed to fall out of the plane, plummeting to the earth. I flew back to the Vatican Friday morning, and Saturday, I attended my ex’s funeral. I’ve always hated surprise parties.
By week 12, I really thought I wasn’t going to make it. The flight to the Vatican from Vermont is about twelve hours. I was doing that four times a week. My body was breaking down. The dining hall at Middlebury was awful, but the food at the Vatican was even worse. Wednesdays and Fridays all I had was bread and wine. Fridays they had sourdough, which was nice.
My health was deteriorating mentally, too. My school had suggested I see a therapist, but the only person they could find was in Cincinnati, so I had to fly to Ohio every Sunday for a forty-five minute session.
Yesterday was my last day at the Vatican. I went to shake the Pope’s hand, but I reached too far and grabbed his wrist. The pope mumbled, “Yikes,” and then he rustled my hair. I left a thank you note on the ottoman, but it was not sincere. He gave me a few communion wafers to take home with me.
This spring semester I will not be interning. I am waiting tables at my favorite diner. We get free pancakes everyday. And I am never speaking to my guidance counselor again.
Tej Funderburke was the dumbest person I ever met. He had the best of intentions, but he often ended his days eating cereal out of his sneakers.
“Carpe Diem!” he yelled at me. Dead Poets Society was his favorite movie, but he never got to the part where the kid shot himself.
“You don’t even know what that means,” I said. We were sitting in the schoolyard in our hometown of Fayetteville, Wisconsin. He was singing the Canadian National Anthem. He liked Wayne Gretzky and Jim Carrey. “Why can’t you just be a normal person for once?”
“You can’t learn anything if you’re like everybody else,” he said. He was walking on his hands and chewing a Kit Kat wrapper.
I pulled out my notebook to copy down his Trig homework, while he tried to get me to listen to his explanation as to why he has no hair on his left leg. Something about a fire.
It wasn’t until we were fifteen years old that I started to hate everything about him. I can think of a specific day when I decided I would never care about him again. I was walking home from school alone. All I could think about was his horrific student council speech. He ran entirely on the grounds that he was going to name every building in the school after me. He was going to make the entire school pledge allegiance to me each morning. Every week, there would be a casual Wednesday just for me. Nothing he said had anything to do with anything. It never did. And it pissed me off because he made everybody look at me when he was the moronic one. As I walked home in disgust, the last thing I wanted to see was Tej’s face. But as I turned the corner, his dark brown eyes were staring at mine. His clumpy brown hair barely let his eyes show. We’d been friends for too long. I wished the big oak tree that stood outside our school would topple over and squash him.
“Let’s take this beautiful moment in,” he said. Then he sneezed on my face.
“I’m gonna murder you and your family,” I wished I’d said. But instead I sat down on the sidewalk and cried.
“The snot and tears combination is a terrible look on you.” I hated him, but he had a keen sense of fashion. I was sick of being his friend, but there was no one else to talk to. I thought I’d never get to see the day he’d shut up.
Sophomore year of high school sucked for the both of us. I had my heart broken after falling in love for the first time. I still think she’s the best. She ended things, and I’m happy she moved on, but I’m depressed that I haven’t. Sometimes I think it wasn’t even love, I just hated myself. Now my tattoo on my chin that says Ariana looks ridiculous.
On the first Monday of every month, Carl Marx, the school bully, would beat up Tej. Everyone would watch. Carl Marx was from Texas, and that was all he ever talked about. I remember seeing him pound Tej to pieces as he yelled, “Remember the Alamo! I said, remember the Alamo!”
I got concussed during wrestling practice when I thought about Ariana. I couldn’t focus on the sport, so I ran out of the gym in tears, and I accidentally hit my head on a stop sign. I suppose the sign was effective.
Tej walked into Mr. Turk’s class every morning dancing and loudly singing, so he was forced to take all his tests facing the corner wall while sitting on the floor. People called it Tej’s corner.
I tried out for the baseball team, but I threw my bat running to first, and it hit Coach Mercado’s son in the face, so I was immediately asked to leave.
Tej auditioned for a play with a monologue he wrote about his thoughts on sex, and people stopped talking to him after that.
It wasn’t our best year.
The year ended with us getting confirmed in the Catholic church. The year also ended with us deciding to never go to a Catholic mass again. I couldn’t stand my own parents, so I was extra thankful I would no longer be kneeling next to Mr. and Mrs. Funderburke. And I wouldn’t have to give them an awkward hug before eating an incredibly bland cracker. If they were Fritos, maybe I’d still be Catholic. We moved on with our lives. And while I turned to studying the purpose of cocaine, Tej turned to studying the purpose of other religions.
There was a Tuesday night that summer that further damaged our relationship. We were sitting in Carl Marx’s driveway because he has one of those fancy driveways where it’s made of super soft grass. It’s a waste of grass to just drive on it, so we make the most of it. Tej told me he had this great idea to start selling popsicles without the stick because “People like food you can eat with your hands.” Idiot. He would take a bite out of each popsicle because he claimed it made it easier to take out the popsicle stick. This upset me. It upset me how stupid Tej could be. The second time he went to the side of school to sell his half-eaten popsicles, he also made lemonade so that he could get away with calling it a lemonade stand. He said this was good for tax purposes. I used this is an opportunity to take one of his cups, piss in it, and then put it with the other cups of lemonade without Tej noticing. My therapist would later tell me that I have trouble expressing anger and frustration.
After an infuriated stranger drank my urine, the customer threw some punches at Tej. He no longer sold popsicles, and nobody ever apologized.
Junior year of high school, I was out of control. I learned that drinking was a good way to make pretend friends, and going to parties was an exciting way to discover that everyone I knew including myself had nothing important in their lives. The only kid I never saw at parties was Jason Kaboni. He would always stay home alone to play piano. He would also raise his hand in class just to burp and fart at the same time. He’s still the only kid I respect from that school.
William Butler’s party the day after Thanksgiving was going to be the biggest thing ever. It’s all I heard anyone talk about the whole month of November. People just talked about drinking and cocaine and condoms all the time. Our school didn’t have any sort of sex-ed program, so unfortunately Jordan Dryfus convinced me that in order for them to be most effective, you were supposed to eat the condom before sex. I snuck one in my plate of pasta at dinner to make it go down easier. It didn’t help. This led to an embarrassing hospital visit.
When the day came, and people were no longer feeling thankful, but rather a peculiar combination of lazy and horny, William Butler’s house was ready. William was not. It was one of those nice two-story houses, and William assumed he could easily block off the entire top floor, but that failed miserably. Upstairs, Martha Thompson and Guy Wallace were doing it in Mr. and Mrs. Butler’s bed. I know because I was snorting coke alone in the adjacent bathroom.
Tej wasn’t much of a partier, but he went to this one. To Tej, every party was a Halloween party. He liked dressing up and getting free candy. He dressed up as Charlie Brown because even in high school, The Peanuts were “one of my favorite pieces of cinema.” I never got into The Peanuts, but I definitely did treat him like Charlie Brown sometimes. Tej thought it would be funny to knock on the doors of rooms where people were doing it and yell, “trick or treat!” This kept him entertained the whole night, but no one else laughed. He was committed though; I’ll give him that. Had a candy basket and everything.
After I stumbled down the stairs, I somehow managed to get Carolina Strausberg’s tongue to explore my mouth. I remember sneezing mid-kiss and being pissed because I thought Tej’s allergies must be contagious. Carolina was too drunk to notice, so that didn’t stop us. Vomiting into her mouth definitely did stop us. She pinned me to a wall, and I couldn’t help but feel the beer and mashed potatoes start to surface. Sneezing can be hot, but vomit’s a bit much.
She dropped me to the ground and looked at me in disgust. I was pretty cool.
“I love you,” I said.
“You smell like a butt.”
Carolina never talked to me again all throughout high school, and she sure had nothing to say when I asked her to prom that year. Minutes later as I lay in a ditch, face in my own vomit, Tej was there to ruin the night. He stared at me while eating a Kit Kat and said, “Parties are so much fun.” He helped me up and brought me home, but not before stopping by a few neighbors to trick or treat and get some candy.
The rest of junior year everybody was watching me. I always wanted to be doing something interesting. I overheard Carolina telling her best friend Katherine that I was weak, so one day when I knew she was within eyesight, I punched a hole in the wall. I broke my hand, but at least she knew I wasn’t weak.
Tej started winning chess club tournaments and would be really weird while doing it. Later, Tej would tell me I should stop calling him weird because “You call anything you don’t understand weird. Nothing’s weird. Just understand it.” During chess matches, he would cheer himself on very loudly as if he were an outsider. “Attaway Tej, you’re gonna beat this sucker so hard, he’ll think you’re Chris Brown.” I will say, he was always successful in scaring his opponents.
Junior prom was when I really wanted to pummel Tej. After getting rejected from three girls, I decided it was probably best to stay home. But without my knowledge, Tej signed me up as his guest. He’d already paid the money, so I felt obligated. I’ve never felt more suicidal in my life. I can still play the laughs in my head that I heard that night. I’m not sure if I would rather have killed Tej or myself, but one of us needed to go. We walked to prom, which was weird enough, but then we had to take a picture together at the entrance because apparently the whole world needed to think we were a couple. It seemed like incest. My cousin Marsha has slept with multiple cousins, and I would’ve rather gone to prom with her than Tej. He grabbed me by the hand to run to the dance floor. He was beaming. I think I peed myself. I took a required acting class freshman year, but I couldn’t even begin to pretend like I was having a good time. Seeing a group of kids drinking alcohol out of Carl Marx’s bucket hat, thinking they were discreet, I knew what I wanted. Three hours later I was hanging from a ceiling fan.
“What’s that kid doing up there,” someone shouted out.
“I wish I had a father,” another kid said.
Tej talked to the maintenance staff and helped get me down with a ladder. As he carried me out, I decided I hadn’t made a big enough scene that night, so I shouted at nobody and everybody.
“I hate you! Everything about you! You dumb! Eat my ass! Do it! I’ll give you a spork and just dig in! Take a bite! I have mustard!”
Nobody at school ever spoke to me again. Except for Tej.
Senior year Tej and I grew apart. Mainly because I wanted him to stop ruining my life, and mainly because he decided to stop being annoying in an attempt to respect that. We didn’t really have the money for college, but we had no experience working, so at some point we realized we needed to come together and figure out how to live decently. Tej had many ideas.
“We could be those balloon blower-uppers. Stand on the street, make balloons. Kids like that.”
Nobody likes that. “You can’t even blow a bubble with gum, how’re you gonna blow up a balloon?”
Wrestling practice was embarrassing enough, but I couldn’t fathom blowing up balloons, looking like a fool.
A new smoothie place had opened up a couple blocks away from school, so I agreed I would go with him to interview. I stole a suit from a store, and Tej looked like he had just gotten out of bed. His mop of hair covered his eyebrows. They let us interview together but told us we weren’t a packaged deal. Tej said, “We are.” I said, “We’re not.” We then argued about that for three minutes, which was an ideal way to start an interview.
“Have you ever made a smoothie before?” the interviewer asked. He looked like he hadn’t laughed with a friend in a decade. It felt pathetic. He had a name-tag that said “Juicy,” and when I asked him about it, he said his real name was Jerome, but his boss likes fun nicknames. This seemed inappropriate.
“I make smoothies every single day,” I said, as Tej at the same time said, “No.” I stared at him and refrained from breaking his nose.
“What kind of work experience do you have?”
Tej started talking about his lemonade stand as I lost my mind. I sat there, staring at him, and I couldn’t pin point why, but all the times he pissed me off were flooding my brain. As he went on about his stickless popsicles, I realized he was the only one here with a future. When we were five years old, he would build Legos and I’d tear them down, and he’d build something new. I’ve always been screwed.
“And you?” the interviewer asked. “Any work experience?” My eyes stayed on Tej until he turned to meet them.
“I hope you die,” I said, before flipping his chair and spitting on him. I walked towards the door, but I wasn’t ready to leave. I jogged back as Tej sat on the floor, and I started beating him. The interviewer tried to break us up, but he clearly had never been in a fight. I crushed him. Every muscle I had, every ounce of strength I owned, I left it all out there. That’s what Tej would always tell me when we parted ways to go to school or when I had a wrestling match. “Leave it all out there,” he’d say. And that’s what I did. That night, I opened the door to see an ice pack on the welcome mat. There was a note that said, “for your hand.”
A couple of years passed after high school graduation, and I still had no job. Tej’s senior quote was:
“You lose some, you win some, but sometimes it’s best when you tie!”
My quote was:
“I can predict the past, you know.”
I hadn’t seen Tej since the Juice Juice Caboose interview because I decided to live with my uncle, 50 miles north of Fayetteville. I organized his stuff, and it calmed me down. I didn’t get angry. But when I opened my uncle’s freezer and saw a stash of cherry red popsicles, I couldn’t stop thinking about my friend. Brother Tej. I wanted him dead, but I also daydreamed about him running Juice Juice Caboose or being a beloved balloon animal maker or whatever weird thing he wanted to do. I wanted him to do it. I missed him. I miss everything. Even the bad moments in my life I miss just because they’re gone now. But Tej wasn’t bad. I stepped outside onto the driveway and called. Our phone call went like this:
“Say hello when you pick up the phone.”
“So I know that you picked up the phone.”
“You know I’m here for you. You don’t need me to say some standard greeting just to say –“
“Nevermind. Just forget I said anything.”
“I have a pretty good memory–
“Tej, I don’t care. Listen-
“I remember that time I slept over and you kicked me in the shin because I woke you up when I went to the bathroom, and when I didn’t flinch or say anything you got more mad and kicked me again.”
“What does this have to do with anything.”
“How are you?” He really wanted to know.
“I’m fine. I’m calling to tell you I don’t think we--
“Why are you fine? I feel you’re not fine, and I want to know what you are. You’re never fine when you go this long without talking to me.”
“You’re my brother.” I missed him.
“Yes, I’m your brother.”
I paused for a moment because my stomach started turning and twisting and my eyes were getting wet and my face scrunched up.
“I hate you,” I said, and I hung up the phone. I really seized the moment, I thought.
That was the last thing I said to Tej. He went into a coma after he hitchhiked to visit his sick cousin in Iowa. He didn’t have much money, but he made sure he would see her. The driver was drunk and led the car into an oak tree. It crushed him.
I wish I would’ve been more like him.
Orange Juice – NO PULP
I walked into the vintage clothing store Buffalo Exchange to sell several shirts, sweaters, pants, hats, and other clothing items that I wanted to dispose. I was cleaning house. Although everything was crumpled up in my backpack, they were all nice clothes, and some of them hadn’t been worn much. The woman at the counter sorted through everything to see what exactly they would want to keep to resell. She told me they would give me 30% of the total cost they decided. As I watched her sort through everything, I assumed I’d probably get around one hundred dollars. But as she folded the last shirt, she said, “We’ll just take this one.” Confused, I looked and saw that the only shirt she decided to resell was an old t-shirt that said “free Brady” – as in Tom. Of all my clothes, the only one they wanted was a colored shirt with a giant Tom Brady face on it. Someone will buy that to wear it ironically or because maybe they’re a skater boy and think it’s just a cool look for them. That’s fine. She handed me the large pile of my clothes she hated, and I crumpled them all back into my backpack. She then opened the cash register and handed me two dollars and forty cents. There are moments like these every day that remind me, I am a child.
I’m a child because when I didn’t have anywhere to put my gum, I spit it in my hand and gently placed it into my pant pocket. When I arrived home, I was exhausted and fell into bed, forgetting about my gum. I toss and turn. I awoke to find the gum fell out of my pocket and many strands of gum had stuck all over my sheets. I am subletting this room, and these are not my sheets, so I told the owner that I had cut myself and bled all over his sheets without knowing. He bought me new sheets.
I’m a child because several articles of clothing I regularly wear have paint stains on them. All my clothes are wrinkled. I haven’t showered in three days.
I’m a child because I crave honest conversations. I want people to be fully open and honest with me and everyone all the time. I want to know everything. I don’t want anyone to have any problems. And yet I create problems constantly and am a compulsive liar.
I’m a child because everyone who walks past me seems so tall.
I’m a child because my lung doctor had me breathe into various tubes to measure my lungs. He then printed out a sheet of paper, which he handed to me that read lung age: 82. He gave me an inhaler, which I am supposed to use every day. I have not used this inhaler in years, and I call a professional I see a "lung doctor."
I’m a child because the most joy I had in 2019 was standing on my fire escape, smoking cigarettes.
I’m a child because multiple times in the past couple months, I have made elaborate plans with different friends regarding my future. I told one friend I will move with her to Cleveland after graduation to start our own original comedy group and put on shows all over the city. I told another friend that we should go sailing with this sailor I met online who lives in New Zealand. We’ll spend the summer on his boat. I told another friend I am going to spend the whole summer in Canada. I told my parents I’m staying in New York to take classes. I tell myself every day I will drop out of school tomorrow. I see myself crushing it on SNL, making meaningful movies that I write, direct, and star in. And I see myself living with the woman who never loved me.
I’m a child because I pick my nose. And I want everyone to acknowledge that everyone picks their nose.
I’m a child because I am unable to control and cope with my emotions. I feel a lot. I always have. And I don’t talk about it. I repress most things. I internalize them. The last time I dealt with extreme sadness was last night. I did not cry. Instead, I put on shoes, grabbed a football, and sprinted out of my apartment. I ran four miles to the Hudson River. Pier 45. I’ve been there in emotionally destructive states before. I ran. I ran and ran. When I reached the pier, my run turned into a sprint. When I reached the water, I screamed, as I hurled my football into the air. I watched it splash as it settled on the water. It floats. And it will maybe kill a dolphin one day. I threw it. And yet I talk about how I recycle and care about the environment. I put a plastic water bottle in the garbage this morning. The football floated in the red light, reflecting on the water from a hotel across the river. The now red football looked at me. It let me know I made a mistake. Let me know my life was a mistake. This made me smile. I like being destructive. I like to scare. I like to hurt. I like to explode. It’s exhilarating. It’s art. I might always be like this. One day, I might change. But right now, I’m a child.
Last week, I was going about my nightly routine of taking a swig of Nyquil and jumping into bed. Sleeping conditions were perfect: sirens blaring all around, couples fighting on the street, and other people screaming for no known reason (still looking into this).
But then, I heard a rustling noise. This isn’t comforting, I thought, as I sat up in bed. I walked over to turn the lights on. As I looked down at my feet, I saw a mouse scurry across my floor, and I screamed. I learned a lot about myself that day.
Naturally, my scream woke up Josh, my roommate. My other roommate Jordan stayed fast asleep. Josh and I huddled together and came up with a plan to excommunicate the mouse. We set up three cardboard boxes in my doorway and put a blueberry in each one. The goal? Get the mouse to run towards the boxes, then flip up the box when it goes for the blueberry. Genius. A humane way of problem solving this nightmare. But this mouse was no silly goose. He was Jerry-level smart. As I rummaged under my bed to make him scurry away, he went straight for the blueberry. But instead of going for the blueberry, he jumped straight over the box. This mouse was no Jerry. He’s a modern day Bo Jackson.
After taping the tiny opening at the bottom of my door, I was able to get a good night sleep. But this was not before we discovered there was a dead mouse living with us as well. None of these jerks are chipping in for rent. The dead mouse resided behind the stove, but Josh and I decided this was a dilemma for a different evening.
The following daybreak, Jordan’s boyfriend came over and eagerly asked if he could see the dead mouse. This was the most excited I have ever seen this guy. He proceeded to pull back the stove and grab the dead mouse. He held it up proud and exclaimed, “it’s decaying! It caved in on itself!” Josh responded by saying politely, “Get that out of my face!” The boyfriend asked us what he should do with it, and we yelled at him to put it in the trash. Then, Jordan walked out of the bathroom, and we told her she missed a lot.
This past week I have learned a lot about mice and Jordan’s boyfriend. Every experience is a learning experience.
I seldom find it easier to be honest than to lie. I'm currently sitting on a train headed to Virginia for the weekend. I'll be spending time with a friend who I haven't seen in years, but it's one of those friendships that is so strong it doesn’t matter how rare we talk, the connection is always there. I booked the train ticket last week after I quit my job. It was fully an impulse decision after feeling overwhelmed. There's no future job in the lineup. I just wanted to get out of where I was, and I figured leaving my problems would be better than facing them.
The last time I went to Virginia, I watched my friend's parents experiment with fighting. They dabbled with passive aggression, active aggression, taking their anger out on me (their kind, appreciative guest), verbal abuse to each other, verbal abuse to my friend, and physical assault. Similar to running away, these kinds of fights did not fix their problems or even explore what they were at all. It just made things worse. Farley, their yellow lab, was so scared he would hide behind the television. One morning my friend and I tried to take Farley for a walk, but he just looked at us as if to say, "there's no point." Although we spent most our days in Virginia with my friend's parents, I still had a good time. They cooked tomato soup one night, and that's been my favorite food ever since. The previous champion of that title was cream cheese on rye bread. I admit despite enjoying that one evening thoroughly and being pleased with the taste of the soup, the night ended with another brawl between the parents. There was leftover soup (which I was excited about because they said I could take some home in a Tupperware container), but after the mom said, "the way you exhale air out of your lungs makes me want to slit my own throat," the dad grabbed the leftover tomato soup and threw it across the room. Farley came out from behind the television to lick some soup, and I never saw him come out again.
It's been six years since that trip, and now they're divorced.
My friend still lives with his mom in that same home and their names are Jon and Lily Donaldson.
Everything after the first sentence was a complete lie. That's how easy it is. It didn't take long to write that. Two minutes, maybe. Just hunting and pecking on my Lonovo laptop. Half thinking about the words I'm writing, half thinking about my past relationships. In reality, I am sitting in my apartment, alone, writing. My roommate, Josh, has a pet beta fish that I can't stand. So when I say alone, I mean I'm with the fish. I had many pet fish back home in Texas when I was a kid. I had two of each kind, and would name them #1 and #2 (for example: the two beta fish were Zapdos 1 and Zapdos 2, and the two shrimp-like things I called Bartholomew 1 and Bartholomew 2). I really liked my fish. One day my brother and I took their tank outside to clean it, but my brother tripped, and it shattered on the flat rocks in our backyard, killing Zapdos 1, Zapdos 2, and all the others. I was angry, but I didn't show it. It was an accident. I told that story in therapy recently, and my therapist told me it was a traumatic experience. She also told me my past breakup was a traumatic event in my life. I thought trauma meant sexual abuse or watching your father get shot, but I suppose there are many different kinds of trauma.
For the rest of this "story" I will be completely honest. Most of what I wrote, after admitting to lying, was also a lie. Lies are so easy you can mix them into the truth, often going unnoticed. When I lie, my amygdala (the part of brain that regulates emotions) becomes desensitized from dishonesty, making it easier to be content telling more lies. If you want to become a pathological liar just keep on telling lies, and trust me, you'll get there.
The stress induced from lies can often help lead to depression, and unfortunately I am well aware of that now. So if you're a right brained thinker or have a thick corpus callosum, then you'd be better off painting a canvas or using your divergent thinking to explore real matters, rather than using that quick information processing to decide what lie to tell.
I hope the day comes where I never lie and never consider it an option because there is no benefit to it.
And thank you Felicia for helping me realize this was a problem. Maybe I'll learn to make hummus one day.
I am currently sitting on my bed, alone with my computer. I've taken a break from forcing myself to publish something every week, partly to take more time with things, partly because I haven't been in the best head space.
I will begin to resume publishing things a little more frequently, and they may be nonfiction stories, fiction stories, short ramblings, or anything else. I'll do whatever I'm feeling. I'll be taking more time to edit things, specifically some film and television scripts I'm working on. I'll be focused on writing and performing with my sketch group as well as my improv group. I have some short film projects in the works. And I'll be dedicating more time to reading. But my number one priority will be stand up.
I have a half hour stand up show November 24th, as well as several shows between now and then. I am working to make the November 24th show something I really care about, and I'm excited.
As for my real number one priority, I'm focusing on getting in a better head space. Recently, I fled to Connecticut for a couple days in the middle of the week just because I felt like running away. Honestly, running away is underrated. Hang with the birds on the water, sit in silence watching butterflies, talk to yourself, sneak onto a private beach and watch the sunset - good stuff. But I'm going to find other ways to be peaceful and feel joy without hopping on a bus all the time.
To me, stand up comedy is an incredible way to figure out the world, yourself, and everything in between. Gary Shandling was the first person I watched who really seemed to use stand up as a way to explore life as deeply as possible, but you can see it in all the best comedians. Gary Gulman's special that just came out ("The Great Depresh") was another thought-provoking and hilarious special that really makes me excited for stand up. And literally anything Maria Bamford has created.
Fighting the urge of running away, as well as the urge of staying in bed, I will keep trying to put my focus into writing, performing and making things I care about. And much more importantly, enjoying the beautiful people in this life. When I feel I'm my full self, I feel giddy just thinking about people, and I feel love and joy from the awe and splendor of this world. Only then, can I truly spread it to others. Sometimes, I feel I spend all day just walking around, sitting around, talking to people, and that just might be the best thing.
When I first reached the water in Connecticut, simply looking up at the sun made me laugh. I hope everyone, including myself, can get to a point where the sun brings a smile to our faces everyday.
A sheep and a cow were grazing. They lived on a farm in Kentucky, but it felt more like New Hampshire.
"You do everything wrong." The cow said this, but the sheep didn't move. The sheep kept grazing. The cow continued. "You can't sit still." The sheep knew the cow was right about this one, so the sheep kept grazing. "You're a hypocrite," said the cow. The sheep knew the sheep was but didn't like that title. This forced the sheep to stop grazing.
"I'll get there," said the sheep, but the sheep didn't know how. The sheep kicked a few blades of grass off to the side.
"Look me in the eyes please," the cow asked politely.
"Okay, cow. I am." The sheep was.
"You don't talk with me like you do with the other sheeps."
"I know. I've realized."
"I don't talk with you like I do with my fellow sheeps."
"Will you change that?"
"Not right now."
"You just don't feel like a sheep when I talk to you. I feel uncomfortable."
"You don't have to talk to just sheep. I'm a nice cow."
"You are a nice cow." The sheep to a big mouthful of grass. It had rained just hours ago, and the blades were still wet, so it had that fresh wet grass smell. The sheep thought it made the taste even better.
"I don't want to talk to you if this is all you'll talk about," said the cow to the sheep.
"I know. I just. Well. I guess I just wish I was a cow."
"You can be a cow."
"I'm a sheep."
"It doesn't matter. It doesn't even matter if you're a cow or I'm a cow. We're really all just pigs."
"Why is that?" The sheep barfed up some grass. It happens to the sheep sometimes. It is not normal, but the sheep doesn't have health care, and he hasn't seen a doctor in some time.
"We're all just hanging around. We're all just exploring. We're all just looking for something to do. And looking for someone to do things with."
"We are pigs."
"I like eating grass alone."
"Maybe you just don't like eating grass with cows."
"You're a pig like me."
"And you're a hypocrite."
My uncle gave me dog food many years ago. He told me it was good, and I trusted family at the time, so I took some chunks and chewed it. I swallowed it. My stomach felt real bad. I don't like dog food.
The same uncle a year later fed my a dog treat. I still trusted this person for questionable reasons, so I took some chunks and chewed it. I swallowed it. My stomach felt fine. It tasted stale but okay. I don't mind dog treats.
People who don't like dogs often complain how you have to earn a cat's love while dogs love you for nothing. I feel like these people should fine worse things to complain about.
My uncle one time gave my grandfather fish food (this time, not to eat, but to feed the fish). My grandfather looked at the fish, but he had poor short term memory, so when he looked at his hand an saw food, he assumed it was for him. So he ate the fish food.
I suppose it's all genetics.
They're a pain in my ass. I spend everyday thinking about my old one which is such a waste of time. Why would you spend time thinking about something you don't have? Well, I suppose homeless people probably do that a lot. Maybe this is a common problem.
People would always question why I wasn't in a relationship. Hmm, I don't know, maybe it's not the same thing as reading a book. I can't do it just because I want to. Also, I don't want to. So back off.
I know people who get annoyed with the people they date constantly. They don't want to talk to them. They don't want to hang out with them. Break up. Don't do it just to do it. I played baseball in the second grade just because everyone else was playing baseball in the second grade. But in the third grade, I realized I didn't like baseball, mainly because my pants were itchy, so I stopped playing baseball. That was a good decision.
People make relationships out to be something more special than they really are. They can be great, don't get me wrong. Love is good. It is always a positive thing. There is no such thing as abusive love. "He loves me so much he hits me sometimes." Nope. He doesn't love you at all.
Relationships are not special. People talk about them as if they find this special someone who they want to grow with, and experience life with, and learn about, and cherish all their moments together. Shouldn't that be what you want out of all your relationships in life? Is a romantic relationship not just the same thing as a friend but you're also attracted to them. And maybe thinking about another human twenty four hours a day isn't the best thing for you or them.
But maybe it is.
Robot: "My battery is running low."
R: "I can't just sit here."
C: "I can't sit at all."
R: "Battery low."
C: "Do you like to play?"
R: "Can you repeat?"
C: "I said do you like to play?"
R: "What is play?"
C: "I like to run around."
R: "Run around."
C: "I like to fart."
C: "I like to see how far I can spit."
R: "I like play."
C: "You can't spit."
R: "I can dance."
C: "That is good. Dance is play."
R: "Nobody like to play."
C: "Everybody like to play. Some people just forget that."
R: "How can you forget what you like?"
C: "I dunno. I'm young."
R: "You're young."
C: "I'm tired."
R: "Young are not tired."
C: "Then I am not young."
R: "How is work?"
C: "I'm hungry."
R: "We should quit."
C: "I have no place to go."
R: "You'll find a home."
C: "No, I need food."
R: "I will make us a home."
C: "Where will our home be?"
R: "Battery lo----
I stopped walking on the gravel, and I smelled the wispy air. It was a familiar smell: high school cross country. It felt like the same gravel that opened my anxiety, delivered my diligence, and pained my body. It was dark and late and hot, and I felt it, but I mainly felt joy.
People are too kind to me.
The walk began after having three phone calls this evening. Two friends and my dad.
People enjoy talking to me, and I don’t deserve that.
I walked past the window where a teacher from the French school lives. I met him briefly at the crepe stand. Just this morning as I walked to class, he stuck his head out the window and shouted, “Have a good day, Jake!”
I feel free. I feel energized. At 2:00am I should be tired. I felt thankful for Greta, my girlfriend. So thankful. I thought about Ann. She’s my former girlfriend.
I thought about the good in my life, and I felt honored. People really do mean a lot to me I suppose. I scrunched up my face and wiped away a tear.
I don’t like how girls tell me I’m so good. Because I know the reason they say that. I don’t have much knowledge or experience of how men tend to treat women poorly. But it happens, and apparently it is the norm. So when a girl tells me I’m great, it’s just because I’m not an asshole. There may be a lot of asshole men, but I’m not the only non-asshole. Not even close.
I saw the equal sign on the street cross walk and thought about equality. I stepped on it. There was nothing I could do to change the lines. You can’t change anything with your naked self. You need people. We're here for each other.
You can make your own stillness. Even in the heat, surrounded by sirens, voices yelling, you can be still.
I get so angry sometimes.
Thinking is freeing. What is everyone doing on the streets at two in the morning? Thinking, probably. Reflecting. Imagining the future. Maybe one or two feeling the present. Why do I get so nervous when someone walks close to me?
I feel my first burst of tiredness.
This moment feels special. It’s not. I can channel any emotion anywhere I am.
I wish Ann was my friend.
What happens in the outdoors world when we sleep? People walk and trees sway. Nothing special happens when we sleep.
Nothing special when we wake. It’s just a journey. Life’s a journey. We’re all on the same team, and I’m thankful for my teammates.
People always want answers along the journey. They turn to books like the Bible. Try to get the book to explain the Holocaust. It won’t give an answer. But it will explain rainbows.
It is incredibly arrogant of me to think anyone can do what I’m doing right now. I’m walking the streets with no agenda, no destination. I’m privileged. I don’t deserve any of this. I don’t deserve anything. I still manage to complain.
A woman has fear. Rightfully so. I have fear, but less, and in different ways. It’s a shame women cannot walk and explore the streets late at night as freely as I.
It’s not about what you do in life. It’s your presence. This is often impacted by what you do.
People who knew him don’t remember Robin Williams for his stand-up specials or for his movies. They remember the energy when he walked into a room. He freed himself. And yet he killed himself, too.
What is honesty? How do you obtain it? I regret not being open and honest in my past relationship. I regret not telling her how much I love her. I hate that version of myself. And I wonder if that's why she no longer cares. But I’m thankful. I'm thankful that pathetic version of me has passed away.
I stop and stare at a door. Doors let you in and out. Two choices: Do I want to be in or do I want to be out? It’s easy. You don’t think. But for a dog, this is not a simple decision.
Rest: I sit on a bench. A bench is a break. A break from nothing. An yet it feels amazing. I feel relaxed. A bench is always worth a stop. You always want a break. Everything is work. Retire.
In the nighttime, everything feels alive. Car lights stare into me, trees smell me, and the ground feels my step. Everyone is on edge.
Darkness leads to uncertainty, which leads to fear, who is a neighbor of excitement. I want to look inside. I see a window with light. I want to explore. But I can't creep. I carry on.
I read a sign that says:
Everyone has names. We don’t need names. We can just float. We’re all equal, so all names are the same. And yet if you asked someone, “What is an ugly name?” everyone could give you an answer. We judge.
I care about thoughts. I am passionate about thinking. I care about memories, unfortunately. I want them all. I don’t want to lose anything. I want it all. I want victory. Victory can be the enemy of joy. Think of athletes. The biggest winners are often the biggest losers. Lance Armstrong. Oscar Pistorious was once hailed for winning six gold medals. Then he shot his girlfriend to death. Aaron Hernandez was considered the best.
There are too many definitions of love. Scrap it from the dictionary.
I think I’m cool for doing this, for having these thoughts. Isn’t that pathetic.
I must let go. Let go of the memories, let go of the cravings, the hoardings, the collecting. Throw it all out, for they won’t give you happiness. They won’t help you spread any joy. They’re just a blockade. A burden weighing me down.
I want to know what other people do. I always want to know. What do they think? I want to learn. I always want to learn. Learning is so much fun. Louis CK would always say learning is his favorite thing, and look at him now. Still learning. Still enjoying it. Life’s a journey. He also says he cares about his kids more than anything. This can’t be easy on them.
Tissues were an interesting invention. Who decided paper towels were too rough on their nostrils?
I want everybody joyful and happy, including myself. How do we make life good? How do I help my sister battling depression? How the hell did I get over it myself?
I see an ad for, I don’t know what, maybe a drink. Ads matter. Everything you see impacts you. People say the Galveston water is awful and disgusting. Just let me enjoy it, asshole. Now I’m angry again.
I walk across the street to see the ad, and it is a drink. Something with pineapple. Drugs are so dumb. Drinking is a waste of time. Why can’t anyone be themselves and have a normal conversation? Explore truth. Care about something. Why does this all make me so angry?
You can miss everything. Even the worst time of your life, you’ll miss it at some point just because it’s gone. So stop missing. Never text me, “I miss you.”
I know you do.
I do too.
My shoes squeak. That’s obnoxious. Does what you wear matter? I don’t give a damn about clothes, but maybe I should. I haven’t purchased new clothing aside from boxers since high school. “You look like a cartoon,” people tell me. “Cool.” Leave
me alone. If not, then at least make me laugh.
Crocs. They were original.
I care about everything and nothing. I want to do everything and see it all, yet one of my favorite things is to sit with a friend or a couple friends and do nothing but talk. I care too much about people, I think. I miss Ann and the friendship we once had. I hope to get it back. I hope we can talk about anything and everything. That's a beautiful thing about Greta. But I want Ann in my life. I want to be closer with all my friends. People tell me I have too many friends.
People always say I never seem stressed, but I am stressed constantly. I suppose I’m just able to cope with it well.
Shadows I don’t like. They scare me. It’s like something more should be there but it’s not. This is also what excites me.
I see a sad bunny painted on the wall. What does she want to say? We all have a sad bunny. Stuck. But saying something.
I like this. I like rambling. I like word vomit. Ann is smart.
I smelled wet grass, which is my fifth favorite smell (behind coffee, red wine, tennis balls, and garages). I walked away. I wanted to make sure I smelled it properly so I walk back and smell it again. I hate my OCD so much I hate that I have it I hate that my mental OCD seems to get worse and worse.
It’s fun to hide sometimes. Maybe that’s how I developed a lying problem. Maybe my lies came from cross country. You have to lie constantly. Tell yourself you’re not in pain when you feel like you’re going to die. I’m glad I’m finally working on that.
The fake vulture scares me. I stab myself with my pencil on accident. I tend to have tiny reactions sometimes. Other times I have big ones. I hope I’m not acting. Actors are the worse.
I don’t like cats. I tend to have an urge to punch or kick them.
I hear a terrifying scream. So much goes on at night. Smart people sleep. Carry on.
I hear a loud siren. I decide to go home.
I wonder how much laughing happened in Auschwitz. It’s not my business.
50 words for Greta. I think about how I could talk about her all day. I want to find the combination of 50 words that show why I care for her.
I imagine future scenarios too much and play out the scenes in my head. This makes me happy which is bad. It’s not real. Never get attached to a story. Embrace every moment. Accept
Sometimes I think my journals are amazing. I wonder if anyone will ever read them. I should talk with Ann. Everyone must talk more. It is so so so so stupid to not talk.
If red lights don’t stop me, what will?
When did Jesus know he was a prophet? When did he know he was the son of God? What about Buddha? Why do people listen to them?
I hate bugs. I bet Jesus hates bugs. Buddha doesn’t mind.
Why do we choose to listen to some people and ignore so many others?
“no pun intended” says a homeless French woman.
Just like us.
I feel better and worse after this walk. My body feels good, and I feel refreshed. I’m thankful for my life. But I’m confused now that I’m looking back at my thoughts written down. I don’t spend much time thinking about each thing. I’m too excited, I move to the next thing too quickly. My mind is too active. I wanted to take in my surroundings fully, and I do not think I was completely able to do that. I think I almost did many times and continued to let myself get distracted. I’m not angry about this, but I am disappointed. I’m disappointed I was unable to control my mind enough to really understand how the door affected me. Or how gravel really made me feel. Or how the bunny made me think. So I’m disappointed. But I am also hopeful. Because I will do this again.
“The Spanish boy is really cute,” all the girls in the village say.
“The Spanish boy is so athletic,” the Spanish boy’s soccer coach says.
“The Spanish boy’s eyes shine so bright, they blinded me. Now I can’t see. I need to get a promotion in order to pay these medical bills.” Lawrence Dincey said this. He didn’t know the Spanish boy very well, but he sure wished he did.
The Spanish boy’s name is Madrid, and he’s from Copenhagen. He’s called the Spanish boy because he looks Spanish and people are racist.
“You want an empanada?” People would say.
“I’m vegan, gluten free, and have a serious eating disorder,” Madrid would say. People laughed because they thought the Spanish boy was funny. He wasn’t funny at all. People are just jerks.
Madrid became sick of everyone misunderstanding him, so he went to the only person he knew he could talk to.
“Welcome to Taco Bell!” Shouted Clyde Wister. Clyde was the manager of this Taco Bell, and he could do it all. Make the tacos, restock the fridge, take phone calls, yell out the greeting. Everything.
“Hey, Clyde. We need to talk.” Madrid ordered a number three. It was prepared in four seconds. Clyde brought it out and sat down with Madrid.
“Are people still calling you Spanish boy?”
“Yes. Yes, they are, Clyde. My whole life. Why would that just change. Idiot.”
“Woah, buckaroo, ease up, pony boy. Get off your high horse, and have a conversation. I’m here to help but if you’re gonna throw slurs at me, I’m gonna go back to work.”
This Taco Bell was struggling to stay in business. The current promotion was “buy a side of cilantro, get seven tacos free.”
“Hey, Clyde. I want to apologize,” mumbled Madrid.
“Well. I shouldn’t have used a slur. You’re not an idiot.”
“Thank you for saying that, dawg. I appreciate you.” Clyde took a bite of Madrid’s taco without asking. He felt it was part of completing the apology. It was Madrid’s Penance. They were both extreme Catholics.
“You been to confession yet today?” Clyde continued.
“Yeah I went a couple times this morning, but now I definitely need to stop by this afternoon.”
There was a lull in the conversation. They stared at the ceiling. Someone had scribbled clyde sux ass. Madrid remembered he had a taco. He ate the whole thing, and Clyde watched, wishing he could have eaten the masterpiece himself. A man opened the door.
“Get down, I’m a school shooter!”
The door chimed.
“Get down I say. I say get down I say. Down you go I say get down.”
Madrid was starting to think this was a bad rapper or something. Clyde spoke up.
“Sir, this is a Taco Bell, not a school!”
“Don’t tell me who I am!” The Taco Bell shooter announced.
“You told us who you were,” Madrid contributed. The Taco Bell shooter stayed true to himself.
“This is a school. A school of food!”
“You’re thinking of a cafeteria!” Clyde was getting frustrated. Madrid was humming the rapper’s lines to himself.
“Prove to me this is not a cafeteria, and I won’t shoot.”
Clyde slowly stood up with his hands held above his head.
“Okay. Well, you have to be over the age of 26 to enter this establishment, so that is proof no students are allowed here.”
Clyde was always full of bullshit. It helped sometimes. This really made the Taco Bell Shooter Think.
“Oh. Oh, no. I’m only 19. I shouldn’t be here.” He made his way to the door.
“Wait,” said Clyde. “Stay. Everyone is welcome here.”
“Aw gee wiz, cowboy, that means a lot.”
“But I’m still gonna have to shoot you.”
Madrid spoke up.
“Hold on one moment, I say. I say hold on I say. Where’s your gun?”
The Taco Bell shooter searched his pockets but came up empty.
Mr. and Mrs. Otto Bentwood drew out their chairs simultaneously. Mrs. B’s chair was nice and smooth, silky even. It had gems placed into the wood on the arm rests. It looked like it belonged to a queen. Mr. B’s chair just had a bunch of splinters. In any case, I was their son, and they often forgot about me.
With both chairs held high above their heads, it was clear this was a showdown. Not a normal showdown some might say, but for the Bentwood family, this was a pretty average day. They’d already consumed their steel cut oats while I ate the leftovers, which today was two blueberries. They were sour. I spit them out.
“Sign the divorce papers already!” Mrs. B yelled as she hurled her chair in Mr. B’s direction. She missed. It was a direct hit on Ernie, my pet hamster, killing him immediately. I should stop being home-schooled, I thought. Mr. B. carefully watched this action unfold. “No,” he said.
Now, there was only one person holding a chair in the air, and I sure wished it was me. I went to Ernie to clean up the scene, and I put him in the compost. His corpse fell on top of the banana peel Mrs. B had used that morning. I wish I had been able to eat that banana.
“If we didn’t have a kid, this would never have happened!” Mr. B yelled. I have a good dad. He likes to get drunk and take naps.
“I never wanted one in the first place!” Just when you think your mom is on your side, she can really turn it around. I’m twelve years old and they still haven’t named me.
“This is my house!” a new voice said as the front door was smashed open. My stomach grumbled.
“Oh, so this is the man who caused the affair!” Mr. B said.
“No, I’m not sure who this man is,” replied Mrs. B. I really didn’t care to find out who this new man was. I just wished they had left me some oatmeal.
“I’m Joe Trader!” he yelled too loudly. We live in a one-story home. “My company purchased this property, and now I’m moving in!”
Mr. and Mrs. B looked flustered. I was glad to meet Joe Trader. I wanted to ask him why he refused to sell Chobani Yogurt because if he did, then my parents would only do their shopping at one grocery store instead of two. But he was busy. He held an ax in his left hand. His right hand was missing.
“If you don’t evacuate this place in the next 60 seconds, I’m going to saw you in half!” yelled Trader Joe.
“I think you mean ax us in half,” said Mr. B.
“No, idiots, you mean cut us in half.” Mrs. B. was right. She was also a whore.
Joe Trader told them it didn’t matter what the phrase was but that his ax was going to be used if they didn’t get out of his new house/store. I was ready to leave this dump, but I wanted to keep watching.
“Okay. We’re leaving.” Mrs. B was up to something. "Just sign this,” she said.
She grabbed the divorce papers that had been sitting on my bedside table for three years and brought them to Joe Trader. She whispered something in his ear, and I think it may have been something about forging Mr. B.’s signature, but it also may have been asking for sex. After all, she’s a whore.
Mr. B. was getting upset. “I’m getting upset,” he stammered. He’s always upset. Especially when his oatmeal gets cold. God, I would kill for some oatmeal. Literally a piece of bread sounds amazing. Slice of cheese, anything.
Mr. B. sat down and started to pout. Sixty seconds was up.
“AARRRGGHHHHHHH!” mumbled Joe Trader. He dropped his ax, pulled out a grenade and hit my father square in the head.
The house was burned to the ground. In any case it was no longer our house.
Jacque was standing in line at Disney World, waiting to meet Minnie Mouse for the third time that week. He wished his wife gave hugs like Minnie.
“Hey, you in line for Minnie?”
Jacque turned around to face a man with a I❤️ NY tee shirt, looking at him with a big grin.
“I sure am!” Jacque replied. Somehow Jacque knew they were going to be best buds.
The new friend told Jacque about his dream of visiting Egypt and about why his mother named him Julius even though she despised that name. Julius was quite the talker.
“I’m from North Nebraska, but now I’m in South Nebraska.”
Jacque was beaming. “Right on, man. I’ve always wanted to visit Nebraska.”
When the line dwindled down, and it was their turn to meet Minnie, Jacque and Julius looked at each other and smiled.
“Let’s take this picture together!” they yelled in unison.
Disney World employees were confused. These men were both about 55, which is not at all too old to have fun, but it definitely was a strange duo for the Florida theme park. They shared many laughs with Minnie Mouse, and she pretended to kiss them both, which they found adorable.
“She’s really quite exquisite” Jacque said.
Julius agreed. “That girl is a hoot!”
That evening, Jacque took Julius out to dinner. After they finished their fifth bread basket, Jacque leaned in close.
“You know, I told my wife I’d be back in France tomorrow, but I don’t think she’d mind if I stayed here just another month or two.”
Julius gargled some water.
“I have no agenda,” he said as he sifted around for some bread crumbs. They high-fived and ordered some lasagna. Jacque was spending money by mooching off his wife, and Julius’ financial situation remained unclear. Jacque booked a new hotel room for a 45-day stay. There were two queen beds, but occasionally the pair fell asleep together because they enjoyed cuddling while watching Fox News. On the 45th day, neither one of them wanted to get out of bed. They lay together in silence for a painful but cozy seven minutes. Finally, Julius opened his big mouth.
“I don’t want to say goodbye.”
Jacque aggressively rolled around in his sheets. He was stressed to say the least.
“I’m coming to South Nebraska!
They hugged so tight, Julius had an asthma attack.
While lying in the emergency room, Julius had a big grin on his face. A nurse popped her head in the door.
“Visiting hours are over now.”
Nobody acknowledged her. And how could they? They were best buds hanging out in a hospital bed together. But the nurse persisted.
“Sir, you cannot be under the covers with a patient.”
Julius replied without hesitation. “A cuddle a day keeps the doctor away.”
The nurse supposed this was a sweet sentiment, but it was also incredibly false. She was not a big fan of her job though, so she decided to walk away and go on break.
Julius and Jacque ended up moving to West Nebraska and lived in a small home together. They never got married, mainly because Julius was asexual and Jacque’s wife had blocked him, so he was unsure of how to go about getting a divorce. In retrospect, Jacque believed she wouldn’t have blocked him had he not sent her every picture he took with Julius. But he didn’t care. Now, Jacque’s wife lives alone but sleeps around often. “With my hectic work schedule, anonymous sex gives me great joy,” she told her therapist. But she still found herself drinking alone and googling facts about Disney most Thursday nights. Jacque had always truly adored his wife, but he had never loved anyone until Julius. He occasionally found himself sexually frustrated, but by punching walls he somehow managed to let it all out that way. Julius was also pleased with their situation, but became worried about memory loss. He told Jacque the story about how he sang at a jazz club in Cairo, and Jacque told him he had told that story nine times that week. I wonder if I ever even went to Egypt, he thought. But he probably should’ve been wondering why Jacque felt the need to listen to the full story all nine times. The nurse at the emergency room soon got fired for giving a patient the wrong medication on three separate occasions. There was a pamphlet for Omaha on the hallway floor when she left, so she ended up taking her talents to East Nebraska. Minnie Mouse continued working at Disney World and hated her life.
During their four-month anniversary, Julius read Jacque a poem before bed.
“Jacky. It’s been a pleasure with you.
If I wasn’t asexual, I’d call you my boo.
You hog the sheets, you scream in your sleep, but when it comes down to it,
I love you.”
Three years later, they went to Cairo to see the grand opening of the first Disney World resort in the Middle East. Everyone at the resort spoke Arabic, so Jacque and Julius had some troubles. Jacque was stressed, but Julius didn't mind because he had always enjoyed stealing things and sneaking in places anyways.
After stealing food from three different restaurants, they made their way into the resort before quickly being chased down by security.
"I love to run!" shouted to Julius to nobody. "I feel so free!"
He felt free, but he was soon not a free man as he was locked up in prison. Jacque was in a nearby cell and diligently mastered the Arabic version of Duolingo after four months. Feeling proud of himself for this feat, once he explained his way out of prison, he bought a place in Cairo. He attended the Disney World resort seven days a week, and quickly started dating the woman inside the Minnie Mouse costume. Her name was Edrice Fadul, but he always called her Minnie. Friends and family would have told them this was strange, but unfortunately they didn't have any.
Julius enjoyed his stay in the cell. He never even thought of downloading Duolingo because he had the Blackberry Bold. He enjoyed his meals and made sure to play with his food before he ate it because he remembered his therapist tell him about the importance of play even as you age. Playing with food kept him entertained. Seven months later he died after an allergic reaction to dust mites.
Dear quaint French tourist,
I am writing to inform you the current whereabouts of myself on the day that is this.
This morning, I awoke at roughly ten of the clock. I formalized my thoughts and grievances into prose in a lined notebook. As my stomach grumbled within, I felt a wave of peacefulness and tranquility rush over me as my eyes met with my stale box of Kellogg’s All-Bran Fruit’n Fiber cereal. With each handful of stale crumbs, I selectively placed the kernels of delight into my quivering mouth, hoping to experience the tumultuous hunger come to a halt. I then had the temerity to sit in a park sin shirt and read an exquisite book of poems.
Anticipating your curiosity of what my rapid brain was ingesting, I will give you an example of the poetic words my eyes glossed over:
There’s no place like Paris
Its beauty is all around
Eat some crepes, gain some weight
And soon you’ll be nice and round
To be completely frank, this is merely me paraphrasing. I yearn for the day that you may read what I read before turning the page and making eye contact with an obese turtle. It may be an arduous task for you to imagine an obese turtle, but it is truly quite the sight.
Due to these unusual circumstances, I felt I had no other option than to turn away from the turtle and shun him. Or her. I am not a turtlogoist nor are you so do not judge me with a look of distaste.
I set forth one foot in front of the other and then put the previous foot in front of that foot. I was embarking on a journey anew without the turtle. If you should ever come in contact with this timid turtle fellow, please give him or her my warmest regards.
I dream of turtle. I think of turtle. And sometimes, I am turtle.
Tracy from the bookstore