Hello hello. I am letting you know that I will probably not be publishing new short stories here for the next several months because I will be more focused on some longer projects including:
--Feature Film Mechanical Bulls--i co-wrote it last year, directed it this summer, and now are currently editing it, will submit to festivals and host screenings in NYC TBA 2023 hopefully
--Live Shows--I am always working on stand up--see where I'll be performing next HERE. You can also follow me on Instagram where I'll post short clips from live sets and last minute show updates...and 2022 dates for my other shows will be announced soon on ig
Knowing myself, I will end up not following this and will continue to write new stories and poems here. But in the meantime, follow me on instagram for more immediate updates if you'd like. I hate social media and maybe you do too, but I'm on it for now. I'm working on some other scripts and longer-term projects and such, but you probably don't care about that. Well who knows, idk who you are. And thanks so much for reading and watching my stuff.
“But what if the earth is flat.”
I had never heard this much emotion in her voice our entire relationship.
“It’s not flat, that’s been proven,” I said as if I were adding to the conversation.
“But have you yourself proven it?” she asked. “Anybody can prove anything, but how can you truly know anything for yourself unless you go out and experience it yourself.”
“I mean… there’s birds and stuff.”
The conversation lasted surprisingly long staying on the same subject, which I didn’t think either one of us was all that interested in. We always did this. Argue about things that were already solved. I watched her stare at her plate. She threw two meatballs into her mouth before telling me what she thought about the way I coughed.
"It’s too loud," she said. “Way too loud. And it’s scratchy. When I picture your throat, I picture there being a bunch of bug bites on it.”
“You don’t have to picture my throat if you don’t want to.”
“I don’t want to, but boy do I.”
Whenever she said boy do I, I felt like I was in the 1920's. I think I would have done well back then. Maybe back then I would have had a job and some friends.
“Do you ever think how easily one of us could ruin things,” she said.
“I think I’ll ask for more lemonade.” Her eye contact was so intense I should have brought an extra shirt.
“I’m serious. It would be so easy for me to just dump your lemonade on you, spit on you, and start screaming, "He raped me, he raped me!" It would cause something so different in our relationship. There’s no way we would stay together after that."
“That’s probably true, yeah.”
“And same goes for you. You could push me over right now - right as I’m talking - you could yank my shirt off and grope me here in front of everyone, or punch me, and it wouldn’t even have to be bad intention you could just do it to see what would happen. And then we’d never talk again. Something like that would be irrevocable no matter the intention.”
“Sounds like bad intention to me.”
My lemonade came, which was the highlight of the evening.
“I hate gift cards, she said.”
“Tell me more.”
“People always act like it’s not real money. Like Fran took me out to dinner one night, and I was like - this is so expensive - and she was like it’s fine I have a gift card. It’s like, you can just say you’re rich, that’s okay.”
“How’s Fran ?” I asked.
“I hate how people talk about money. But don’t get me started on mental health.”
The lemonade was sweeter than I remembered. I expect consistency from outdoor cafes, but you don’t get that here.
Sometimes the tables are clean, and sometimes you rest your elbows on the table, and you’ve got sticky elbows the rest of the day.
Joan hadn’t slept much the past week, which made her a little more talkative than normal. I always enjoy being with her, but sometimes I’m not sure how she wants me to respond. And sometimes I wonder if everything she says is serious or if nothing is. Both of those scenarios frighten me. She hates so many things. She hates how people talk about sleep. When I ask her, "how did you sleep" she always says something like, "I slayed a dragon and drowned 3 times so you tell me.”
Once I decided to take my mind off the overly sweet lemonade, I tossed my face back into conversation. Sometimes I felt like a bungling clown talking to her.
“I think it’s great more people talk about mental health.”
“Quality over quantity,” she said. “Everyone says they’re depressed. Having a bad week is not depression. If you can get out of bed, you’re fine.”
“I don’t know if that’s fair,” I said with a sneeze.
“Well I do,” she said, mashing another meatball in her mouth.
“These meatballs remind me of Carlos.”
“Who’s that ?”
“He was a guy in magic school bus I think.”
“Did he like meatballs?”
“I don’t know.”
We sat in that silence for a while with nothing much to ponder.
"Do you think 3 is a magic number" she asked me.
“I don’t believe in magic.”
“Well, I do, so help me out.”
“To another 3 years of magic,” I said while raising my sweet lemonade.
“I don’t particularly like when you’re sarcastic you know. It’s not an affable look for you. I genuinely believe in magic. And I genuinely am excited for the next 3 years. Not just of our relationship but of everything. And you know how I hate the word genuine, so you can be sure I’m really being genuine.”
“I am too.”
“Before this restaurant closes let’s do something insane.” She stared at me hard.
“I am not going to punch you.”
“No not like that. Let’s challenge our relationship.”
“That sounds nice and all, but I think instead of challenge, we should enjoy it.”
“Let’s break up.”
“I love you.”
“I love you too,” she said, but she was looking at my large nose.
“This would be the most challenging thing. If our relationship can survive a breakup, it can survive anything.”
I drank more lemonade even though it was getting worse by the sip.
“How would we break up as a test?”
“We don’t speak or see each other for exactly one year.”
“That’s 52 weeks.”
“That’s a lot of weeks.”
“Exactly. If we love each other that much our love will be that much stronger.”
I put my lemonade on the table…. Well, she would tell me it’s not my lemonade, it’s just a lemonade. If I keep talking like that, soon I’ll start calling her my woman when she’s just a person.
“Do you want to break up?” I asked. “Genuinely?”
“But like for real.”
“It’s the only way.”
“Only way for what?”
“For true love.”
She pointed to me and mouthed, "he raped me," as a joke I guess and then left the café.
I wasn’t really sure what to think. I started wondering about what would happen if she had groped me just now. Would I push her away and never see her again? Would I pretend nothing happened? Would I laugh? Would I cry? Would a demonic part of me rise up and weirdly would I enjoy it? I don’t know.
I felt less despondent, more tired. I loved Joan a lot, a whole lot, but sometimes our conversations felt like when you walk outside then go back inside then walk outside again, and you’re like wait what am I doing.
I lay back in my chair for the first time.
“Another lemonade please”
I cried on the plane
A couple people looked
No one shared a pretzel
When I hear people refer to someone as a "quiet person" I usually want to knock them unconscious. Because after they say that, it's seldom anything positive they have to add. I often hear people complain about people not opening up, or not responding to them in a conventional way, and it feels strange that people have such rigid expectations for these kinds of things. Surprisingly, people still do not understand that every person is different.
It's similar to when people expect a "thank you." If you're expecting a thank you, maybe you don't deserve it.
I was with someone who asked me what I thought about Halloween, and I said, "I don't know."
They were livid.
How could you not have an extreme opinion about Halloween," they may or may not have said. And it became a whole thing about how annoying it is that I don't have opinions on everything. But hey, maybe I don't need an opinion on everything. Maybe nobody does.
I had a relative get pissed off when they did not receive a thank you note for a gift the gave someone. Yes, I'm back to the thank you thing. This is a tangential miniessay. Let's break down this expectation. You give someone a gift because you want this person to have this specific thing. Great. So you give them the gift. And the interaction ends there. But then you create a second interaction by placing dumb expectations. If the receiver of the gift wanted to create a second interaction by saying, "hey thanks for this gift," then fine, great. But if you are going to get angry because a result didn't happen that you wanted, then well maybe you are still five years old.
So this quiet person thing. I see it all the time with several friends. People close to me who are quiet get ridiculed for not weighing in on things, or not opening themselves up in certain situations. Maybe instead of lashing out, people could learn to listen since everyone "opens up" in their own way.
Some people tell me I am a quiet person. Great. But one time I was in a relationship where the person told me that she hated quiet people. So I suppose I'm not always a quiet person. Wow, maybe people can be multiple things.
I cannot fathom how people put these kinds of pressure on people. Yes, this miniessay is just me not understanding things. Here's a tip: if you know somebody who has a really good story to tell, and you're at dinner or some sort of gathering, don't tell them to tell their story. By the time you say that, it's already ruined.
Don't force people to do things. Yes, now this miniessay is an order. People often think they are supportive or fun when they try to make you sing in front of their friends or tell that funny story or whatever it may be. It's not supportive. It's not fun. You're just annoying.
But hey don't listen to me. I'm just a quiet person.
-You're not my best friend, that would be Andrew
-I gave you cat food all of 2009
-You smell better than me, and I am jealous of that
-Our mailman is my uncle, and he's chill
-When I throw the ball, sometimes I wish I was the one fetching
-The reason I adopted you was because you have soft ears
-I have an Instagram for you that I control, and I make you sound like you have a 1st grade education
-You live in a cage
-I saw you eat that sawdust
-I know your licks aren't kisses
-Did you see me do that thing 2 weeks ago or were you asleep?
-I do not have enough money to take care of you
-There's a 50/50 chance I get a new dog when you die
-I laughed at Old Yeller - I don't know why
-I don't love my sister
-I say I rescued you, but I really stole you from outside a KMart
life is hard.
how getting out of bed is harder than you think
The first thing most people do when they wake up is get out of bed. Everybody seems to assume this one is easy, but I’m not sure why anyone would make such a bold assumption. When you wake up you may have thoughts such as “why am I still alive?” or “maybe I was not meant to be alive” or “I’m not even sure I am alive.” After contemplating these thoughts, you may stare at the ceiling for a while. Other thoughts may arise relating to your curiosities, your lovers, your work, your friends, your family, or you may have no thoughts at all. You may become a completely thoughtless blob whose eyes glaze listlessly at the ceiling.
In order to make this easier on yourself, some people recommend dedicating your life to consistent daily meditations. Others say consistent therapy sessions each week. Some say journaling. Some say exercising. Some say improved foods and hydrating. Some say having fun. Some say spending more time alone looking inwards. Some say staying in touch with friends and relatives. Most say all of these and more. This may seem like a lot to do just for making the process of getting out of bed easier, so you decide to do none of them and keep lying down, face in the pillow.
how brushing your teeth is harder than you think
Contrary to the belief some people still hold, brushing your teeth is an activity that must happen every day, ideally twice a day. In order to make this happen, you must buy a toothbrush and replace it every couple of months. These months go by quicker than you would think, and it can be difficult to remember every single time to replace your brush. It can also be difficult to remember to buy more toothpaste. That would require you writing down a reminder, and then acting upon the reminder by taking your body to a physical store and looking and possibly even asking someone, “hey do you know where the toothpastes are here?” Or you order toothpaste online, but that’s a hassle because you realize how many different kinds of toothpastes there are. You can’t make a choice like that because you didn’t go to toothpaste school. You also become extremely fatigued from looking at a screen. You question why you are using your miracle of a device to do nothing more than scroll through pictures of toothpastes, and you decide to throw your phone out the window, instantly realizing you just cost yourself a lot of money.
In order to make this easier on yourself, some people suggest buying a lifetime supply of toothpaste and toothbrushes, but this requires an amount of storage space that most people do not have.
how shaving is harder than you think
After weeks and weeks of people you love and strangers you don’t know telling you, “you need to shave,” you decide to take off your whiskers. You notice your shaving cream can is rusty and disgusting, so you make a mental note to buy a new one, which you will definitely forget. You are about to put shaving cream on your face when you see your neck has cuts all over it from the last time you attempted this event. You pour Hydrogen Peroxide on your wounds, but they have been there a while, so you don’t feel the burn. You notice that you have some nose hairs poking out but before you try to pluck them you remember your fifth-grade teacher Martin Jenkins said that if you pull a nose hair, it could tug on your brain and cause a serious problem. You know that can’t be true, but you still wonder, “is it?”
In order to make this easier on yourself, some people suggest using an electric razor but those have their own drawbacks.
how having a conversation is harder than you think
Somebody just asked you a question, and now you have to answer as if you had an answer. As if anyone had an answer to such a ridiculous question. But you have to say something and you have to say it now or else they will hate you forever and you will have no friends and you will live in an eternal loneliness abyss.
Are they still there? You haven’t said anything? You haven’t said anything. If you speak now, you will look like you have a serious disorder and should be put behind bars. Not only will you be lonely, but you will also be served a piece of bread twice a day, which means you will die either of starvation or of your deadly gluten allergy. It’s up to you.
“I’m doing alright,” you finally say. It’s not even the truth. You panicked just so you could spit out a lie. Now they look at you as if you must ask them something. You don’t have any questions. Say something instead. Say a demand – no, say something nice. Give them a compliment. You don’t want to tell them you like their hat because you think people care too much about fashion and if you tell them you like their hat, then they may start to feel insecure when they don’t wear their hat, and you just want everybody to be happy.
“I’m going to the restroom,” you say, but you quickly realize it was odd to use that terminology when you’re in your own apartment.
In order to make this easier on yourself, some people suggest not speaking at all, but that tends to anger some people, which gets in the way of your desire of wanting everyone happy.
how putting on shoes is harder than you think
This one may seem easy, but like everything, it’s not. Where the hell are they? You thought you took them off last night right by the door as usual, but they are not there. That is the only place they belong. They’re not there. They must have been stolen. You call your boss and tell them you are running late, and then you also ask if she has seen any shoes that look like yours. When she is confused why you are asking, you tell her you will see her soon, and then you hang up and stare at the front door again. You find yourself spitting on the ground out of anger? Sadness? Remorse? Just for the thrill? Before you can decide, you find it disgusting and appalling that saliva is on your floor, so you rush to the kitchen to grab some paper towels to clean up your mess. There are no paper towels so you look in the cabinet where the extra paper towels are always stored, and there are no paper towels there either. You wonder why God hates you and why God hates paper towels existing in your kitchen. You think about prayer for the first time in years, and you gently bring your hands together and try different prayer positions. None of them feel right. You get on your hands and knees and bow down, with your forehead touching the cold tile. After a few moments, your forehead hurts, so you sit up remembering you don’t believe in God.
In order to make this easier on yourself, try not wearing shoes for a while. You live in a city, so this will be painful.
how getting anything done at all is hard
Everyday you may wake up and even get out of bed thinking that you will have several hours to do exactly what you want. Maybe you’ll have time to paint that painting you always wanted to do or go for a nice picnic at your favorite park. But then you realize you have to go to the bathroom, and your stomach has been acting up lately so that takes much more time than you had planned. Then you have to wash your hands, but you forgot to replace the hand towel so your hands are sopping wet and your dry them off on the shirt you are wearing, reminding you that you have zero clean clothes and need to go put your clothes and hand towel in the wash. You don’t have a washing machine so you go to the laundromat which is always two miles farther than you remember so the walk feels extra-long. By the time you get there, there are no available machines, so you have to stand and wait. You put your laundry bag down to take out your phone in hopes you can refresh your email for half an hour until a machine opens, but you realize you left your phone at home. You open up your backpack to read that book you’ve been wanting to read, but then you remember you don’t own any books. You stand there and wait.
You think you can be productive before the wash is done, but when you get back home you realize it’s already time to go back and put your clothes in the dryer. This time you made sure to bring your phone, but you do not pay attention to the fact that it has one percent battery. As you wait for your clothes to dry, you refresh your email ten times before your phone dies.
Once you are back home again, you decide to listen to some relaxing music as you put your clothes away, but the instant you put on your soothing classical playlist, your boss from work calls. You ignore it because it is Saturday and this is your day. When you receive a text message saying URGENT you decide to call back. This conversation lasts two hours and was definitely not urgent.
You hang up the phone. You’re exhausted. It’s 4pm. You don’t know how it’s 4pm, but you tell yourself that time isn’t real. You remember you haven’t eaten or drunken anything all day, so you make some oatmeal and pour yourself a glass of water because you are trying to be healthy. When you realize you are out of blueberries, honey, and oats, you settle for a waffle that has been in your freezer for months. You forget about the water.
You think about taking a shower to reenergize yourself, and then you remember you have to mail a check to your insurance company because they don’t use email anymore. The post office you normally go to is closed, and this infuriates you because all you need is a single stamp. You go to the second closest post office, and there is a long line. An hour into waiting, you give up and walk out the door, instantly remembering that you have to do this today, so you go back and stand in the back of the line. Someone shoves you, which you think nothing of, but when they shove you again you say, “Excuse me,” thinking you are very polite and well put together. They tell you the great story how you cut them and because you are unable to speak anymore out of exhaustion, you stand behind them. Of course when this person gets to the front, they take half an hour explaining what they want mailed. They’re trying to mail a giraffe or something like that, you can’t wuite make it out, but you know that this is going to take a while. It’s finally your turn, and they’re out of stamps.
You go to your favorite park where there’s tall trees all around, so you can scream. But this time when you scream, there were two children playing tag that you didn’t notice because you were too busy sulking inside yourself. They cry and tell their parents who end up giving you a detailed lecture on why you should not scream in a park.
You finally arrive at home, ready to pass out for the evening. You pat yourself on the back because despite the arduous adventures, at least you completed your laundry. You shoot up and rush out the door realizing that you never took your clothes out of the dryer. By the time you arrive at the laundromat, there are several signs letting you it has closed. Too many signs you think, but you get the message. You sit down in the middle of the street, and you can’t even cry. “I can’t do anything,” you say aloud. You look down at the ground and see an ant carrying a crumb. You wonder if you were an ant, would you be as useless as you are now or would you be a part of the working community like every other ant?
In order to make this easier on yourself, we suggest giving us a call. Our services include: shooting people up into space without equipment, strapping people into a rollercoaster that never ends, and listening to you rant about your day. We hope you reach out. We need the money.
“You could gain some weight,” my neighbor told me. “A lot of weight.”
“How are you?” I offered.
“You must not be drinking nearly enough beer. That’s your problem.”
It looked like we were going to continue talking about my weight.
“I don’t know if that’s my biggest problem right now.” Instead of making eye contact, I watched a drop of water slowly muster up the courage to leave a leaf and explode onto the ground. I imagined my brain was the water droplet.
“You need a good daily dose of Coors or Corona.” I don’t know why he was speaking like a doctor because it was clear he hadn’t seen one in years. “Maybe mix in some Bud Light, too.”
I wished he’d stop naming beers. I have no interest in beer, and for some reason people have been trying to change that since I was nine years old. “If you wanna be a man, have yourself a beer!” said my friend’s dad to 9-year-old me. I’ll never understand why people worship beer so much. When I was 12, I saw my priest chug a Coors after a midnight mass.
“Just look at you. You’re thin as a rail.” I’d heard this phrase before, and I didn’t like it the first time.
Some people worship my weight almost as much as they worship beer. If people started caring about other things, maybe the world could be a better place.
“yeah, yeah,” I eventually responded, not knowing what I meant. I probably meant to say “I wish you were dead,” or “You should’ve joined that rain drop.”
What really bothered me was that he was not the first person to comment on my weight this week. Three days prior, my grandfather told me I looked fatter than usual. The day before that my friend punched me in the stomach and said, “Nice six pack, faggot.” I don’t talk to them anymore.
“I can get you some beers if you want.”
I was appalled we were still talking about this. This man is of the age where people wouldn’t flinch if he died, so I would think he had other things to talk about aside from beers. Maybe he loved three people in his 30’s but they all left him due to his alcoholism. Maybe in his 40’s, he built an entire house by himself. Maybe he fought in the civil war.
But all he wanted to talk about was beer and my weight.
“Come on in, and I’ll bulk you up.”
Now, what the hell does that mean? I was not interested in finding out, especially in today’s circumstances, so I told him I was late for school even though it was New Years Day.
“That’s no excuse. Come inside.”
The format of this story is becoming almost more irritating than the conversation with my old neighbor.
I’m not ageist, it’s just relevant.
“Yeah, I gotta get going,” I said as I wondered where I should go.
I was starting to question why I was here in the first place, and I remembered I was supposed to give him a gift. I was not giving this old man a gift. No chance. Not anymore. I’ve never been into gifts, but this was a situation I knew how to navigate.
The gift in my hands was a bunch of homemade chocolates that apparently taste fantastic.
“I have a gift,” I said, holding the chocolate in front of his nose as if he were a baby.
“You know I like chocolate,” he said.
I sure do.
“Spot!” I called out while rolling my eyes that people still name their dogs that.
The old man’s dog came running up to me and I fed Spot all the chocolate I had.
“He loves it,” I said with a smile.
The old man neighbor was frozen. If he hadn’t had so many beers in his lifetime maybe he would be able to squat down and help his dog.
“He’s going to die,” the old man finally mumbled.
“I’m just helping him out,” I said. “He’s thin as a rail.”
Waiter steps out and puts his tray down.
Thank you for stepping into our restaurant. Before we serve you, we have a few requests:
Please let us know if you have any peanut allergies, any seafood allergies, or any plant allergies. Let us know if you are allergic to iceberg lettuce, romaine lettuce, arugula lettuce, or any other kind of lettuce. Also let us know if you are allergic to any medicines.
Let us know if you will be dining indoors or outdoors. If you plan to smoke, we have one table where you can smoke outdoors, but I will have to check and see if it is available because some people reserve that table ahead of time. Oh, and if you smoke cigars, Chef Yousef will give you one of his Cubans, and he will smoke with you.
If you and your party need a high chair for a toddler… please find a different restaurant. We do not have toddler food, and our music is not appropriate for toddlers. We will not compromise or adjust to toddler needs.
If you plan to ask your waiter about our specials, know that we do not have specials. We do not have a secret menu. This is not a magical fantasy land with underground rules and riddles. This is a 5-star restaurant. Read the menu and order food.
Do not ask the waiters what they would recommend. They are not allowed to eat the food here, so your question will likely lead them to uncomfortably tell you a lie about how the dumplings are “out of this world.” If you want the dumplings, order them and find out for yourself.
Look, the dumplings are good. You know they are. That is why you came here in the first place. We have been the number one dumpling restaurant in the world for years, and you wanted dumplings so you came here. Do not ask for recommendations. Get the dumplings.
Please, please, please, do not urinate on the floors of our washrooms. As I said before, this is a 5-star restaurant. No toddlers are allowed. So there are no excuses for pee going anywhere else besides the toilets. We recently changed the signs from “restroom” to washroom” as a reminder of the formality of our establishment.
Do not make a joke with your friends about the bill when it comes. We can hear you. And we’re sick of it.
One mint is the maximum. When you discreetly steal, yes steal, an entire handful of mints from the front desk, it is entirely noticeable. There has never been a reason to take more than one.
Get the dumplings.
Do not bring in a laptop to do your “work.” This is not a whorehouse. Nor is it a café. This is a place to eat and enjoy the company of others and/or yourself.
Don’t wear shorts.
Do not raise your hand. This is not high school. Nobody wants to call on you here. We give you food, and you give us money. That is the deal. If you realize mid-meal that you want a side of salsa, it is too late. Remember that for next time. And please do come back again. We appreciate your coming here.
I do what you can't see
I say what you can't hear
I love what you despise
And I know what you do not
Creating Colorful Cartoons
Looks like boredom, feels like joy
You see brown hair, brown eyes
You miss the sand, the waves, and the Chips Ahoy
like toys, there's play, there's action, and fun
Don't Laugh at your inner Child and see it undone
You already won if you embrace it all
Open your eyes, Shoulders back, Stand Tall
We run together we run alone
together or not we're all just bones
care about the skin tone care about the phone
care about the idea that you think you have grown
But Darkness has Shone
You pull it over your head
Dig deeper, hide more, as you go and get wed
and you toss and you turn in your king size bed
and you wonder - what's it for ?
Your Life - a boring chore
i live for Me, not for a store
call me an experience whore but i open Doors
don't push us down
don't you fall down
don't get back up
but be quick, get up
This isn't Charlie Brown
you can't always be down
And expect the people around to get you off the ground and lift you up to spit out a message you already know
didn't take it to heart because you said "So?" so, so - So What?
i got friends that pretend i got a whole world too so i'll admire You
help you help You
we're alone in this world hey don't get blue you got nothing to lose just remember you won't ever fix a hole when you only got glue
for video poem click here
I stood up from the couch and walked out the door. There were teardrops falling from my forearm onto the ground. Cries blended in with the city sirens and car horns. I couldn't believe I had just stolen a baby.
The best hugs I ever got
were after I almost killed myself
What do I do now?
Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall, but she had lousy posture so her back was in immense pain. Exasperated with the world, she sat alone and was pretty sure there was a splinter in her thigh. This wall isn’t even made of wood, she thought to herself. She hopped off the aluminum wall and went over to watch the other kids play in the sandbox.
Humpty’s parents – Cameron and Nicole – were not happy people. They thought it would be quite entertaining to name their daughter Humpty despite their last name being Dumpty. “It would be hilarious,” Nicole Dumpty said while giving birth. Cameron Dumpty was holding her hand while using his free hand to gather skittles for his mouth. The doctor was trying hard to concentrate and insisted Nicole should stop talking and focus on her breathing. “But just imagine,” said Nicole with a big grin. She had the pain tolerance of a brick wall.
Humpty did not inherit those pain tolerance genes. She received genes that made her irritable to any noise, made her back hunch over, and made her left leg three whole inches longer than her right.
Humpty Dumpty had a horrible childhood, and it wasn’t even over. She was a nine-year-old girl filled with rage.
“Why the hell did you name me Humpty,” she asked one time.
“Don’t say hell in this household,” replied Nicole.
“I need a five-letter word that rhymes with Triscuit,” said Cameron.
Humpty would often take long walks just to get out of the house. Admiring the falling leaves of the swaying oak trees, this was her chance to blow off some steam. Her friend Amber said this was abnormal behavior for a nine-year-old. Humpty told her to “screw off” and hasn’t heard from her since.
Humpty watched the boys build sandcastles at recess. If I kick them over, they’re gonna cry, she thought.
"Why are you smiling at us,” asked one of the boys. He was oblivious to the gum someone put in his hair.
"I have more power than you know,” said Humpty.
The boy didn’t reply to that. He had an unbelievable amount of sand in his butt.
Humpty went back to the aluminum wall to eat a snack she had stolen from a nearby deli. It was a bunch of salami in a plastic container, but she thought it was pepperoni.
Humpty enjoyed sitting on the wall during recess because she had a view of every stupid event taking place. Two girls on the seesaw calling each other fat. The swing set boys seeing how far they could spit. Ronald Jernigan dry humping the slide because he hit puberty in preschool. Nobody knew what to do with that kid.
Humpty sat up in her room one night when the Deli manager called her mother. Nicole threw open Humpty’s door despite the sign that said, “I’m writing a suicide note, don’t come in.”
Nicole stomped her foot, which was a peculiar habit she developed over the years. She used to be a dancer.
“You’re always stomping,” said Humpty without looking up from her pocket dictionary.
“The Deli man called.”
“Who’s the Deli man?”
“YOU KNOW WHO THE DELI MAN IS.” The last time Nicole yelled like that was when nobody showed up at her wedding.
Humpty got up and started making her bed. She always made her bed when she needed to think. But Nicole was persistent. She wasn’t going to leave the room solely because she was proud of her daughter for making her bed. Nicole was still angry. That rage gene had to come from somewhere.
“I didn’t raise you to steal salamis.”
“It was pepperoni.”
“Deli Man said salami.”
They argued about that detail for seven minutes. By minute six, Cameron zoomed into the room.
“We’re out of salami,” he said casually.
“Well, that’s because a salami thief is living under our roof.”
When she heard this, Humpty looked up to see that the ceiling was leaking. Some sort of liquid was dousing her lonesome pillow. Humpty had a satin pillowcase so that sleeping wouldn’t mess up her hair, but she didn’t own a hairbrush, so her hair was always tangled anyway.
“I’m banishing you,” said Nicole.
“I’m going to buy salami,” said Cameron.
Cameron stumbled out of the room. Nicole explained that Humpty would be banished from her bedroom and would move to the living room because “that’s what it’s for.”
After moving her bed into the living room, Humpty lay down. Her bed was 1 foot by 1 foot, so it was not an arduous move. Both legs hung off her bed every night, especially the one that is three inches longer. Humpty didn’t mind her legs hanging off her bed. She was too focused on minding everything else.
Amber knocked on the door. It startled Humpty so much that she had a great fall.
Humpty threw herself back onto her feet and stared into the peephole, hoping she would watch Amber have a heart attack right then and there. She loved watching things through that tiny window. One night, she set up a projector outside and watched the movie Pollyanna through the peephole.
Nicole had fallen asleep out of pure exhaustion, and she lay on the floor in Humpty’s room. She couldn’t hear Amber’s knocking. She couldn’t hear much at all, really. She was a deep sleeper and deaf in her left ear.
Getting impatient, Amber attempted to open the door in case it was unlocked. Amber and Humpty were both surprised to see the door open. Neither one knew what to do in a situation like this.
Amber asked if Humpty wanted to come over to her house and make whipped cream on the rocks. This was a tempting offer for Humpty, but a girl filled with rage doesn’t give in to temptation easily.
“I don’t want your rocks,” said Humpty. “You haven’t talked to me in 2 weeks.”
“You told me to screw off,” said Amber. “So I did and now I’m back.”
Cameron drove up to the driveway and walked to the door with eight grocery bags filled with salami. He also got a pack of trail mix. He was thinking about going on a hike.
“Hey you cool kids,” he said with confidence.
They stared at him. There was a rumble in Humpty’s stomach that sounded like a blender trying to mash peanut butter and honey. She should have stolen more salami.
“Welp. It’s nap time.” Cameron was nervous around his daughter sometimes. He felt uncomfortable around all women including his wife. He tried to say vagina one time and fainted.
“I am grieving, and I want a friend to cry on,” said Amber.
“A friend’s shoulder,” said Humpty.
“You want a friend’s shoulder to cry on.”
“I don’t need more shoulders. I have two.”
“Okay.” But Humpty wasn’t okay. She was never okay.
It took great restraint to stop herself from slugging Amber in the jaw. She was so not okay.
She started talking quickly in Spanish to distract her from the fact that she was not okay. It reminded her of the time when she was just eight years old and failed a Spanish test.
“You will never be Hispanic,” said Señor Joe.
“Maybe because I’m not Hispanic,” replied Humpty.
“I want to stay friends because your parents are rich, so I think one day you might take me on a vacation.” Amber’s mouth remained open after she said this, and she started to drool a little.
“My parents aren’t rich. We can barely afford salami.” Amber could feel the truth of this statement and realized the Dumptys were not rich at all. Who knows where she heard that rumor.
Amber lingered a moment because the sun was in the position to make exciting shadow puppets on the concrete driveway. She had a faint memory of Humpty and her making shadow puppets with eggs they had stolen from the deli. Amber had a smile that turned into a frown when she remembered how Humpty would crack the eggs on her head and then complain about being hungry. Amber no longer wanted Humpty as a friend. She decided she was putting too much effort into this friendship and wished she spent more time kayaking or learning to knit.
Amber walked away.
Humpty let out a sigh of relief. She had bronchitis, so the sigh sounded more like a vacuum cleaner sucking up popcorn.
“I wish I could be more honest,” said Humpty to a mosquito on her arm. “I wish I could say: Amber, I don’t like you. I don’t like anyone. Everyone is annoying, and I want to be alone. I don’t want to catch up and talk about how 1st-grade summer camp was. I know how it was. It was the best summer of your life. You were in love with Jude, but he didn’t want to kiss you because he said you smelled like stale cashews, and that made you cry. No one cares. Don’t talk to me. Don’t anyone talk to me.”
The mosquito flew away.
Humpty Dumpty walked back to her wall and threw an egg at it. The yolk splattered and drooled down slowly.
“I wish I could say that.”
"Say this three times fast: Sheila’s a whore, Sheila’s a whore, Sheila’s a whore."
That’s what I said.
I said it three times.
I said it fast.
Sheila didn’t deserve those crude remarks. In fact, she was the most loyal companion I ever had. She knows I’m just jealous of her career writing tongue twisters. She sells seashells by the seashore was her first big break. I never liked that one personally, but that’s the one most people still talk about. There are not enough homophones in that one. And the premise is dry. I’ve never been even slightly interested in beach life. I’ve gone a few times, and I always get sunburnt. And I definitely don’t collect seashells. I thought they were called sand shells anyways.
So we were fighting, and I said my tongue twister three times fast, and she got quiet all of a sudden. She looked me dead in the eyes, but that look was like a living dragon breathing fire down my neck. When she stares at me in silence with that look of a warrior, I know I’ve done something wrong. When I do something right, she high-fives me and buys me candy.
We were arguing about the jingle her dishwasher makes. I said it sounds like a Christmas song; Sheila said it sounds like the ice cream truck. Whenever we get into arguments of these sorts, we remain calm. This afternoon was different. I probably lost my temper because it was an abnormally humid day, and the humidity effortlessly moved inside the apartment. More likely it was due to my extreme jealousy.
She ended her silence by telling me she was ashamed, not that I called her a whore, but that I used a short tongue twister that must be said three times fast. She always hated those: Which witch is which, six sticky skeletons, fresh fried fish.
“You’re a hack,” she told me. She thought the three times fast tongue twisters were cheap and easy to come up with. Her colleague became famous before Sheila because of those, so I think she might be jealous, too. She secretly tried to publish a three times fast tongue twister under a pseudonym, but she had no success. Her tongue twister was “squiggly squiggles” and her editor told her there were “too many squiggles, not enough umpf.”
After the fight, Sheila left me. I’m not sure why. The jealousy had something to do with it perhaps. She mentioned one time how she would rather be with anybody else, but I’m pretty sure she was sleep talking.
I started going through the things she left behind. There was a big blue binder of old writings in the attic. Scribbles on notebooks. Large cardboard cutouts that said things like I saw a kitten eating chicken in the kitchen. That one was from her diary but would have made her a great deal of cash I’m sure. The previous diary entry read I’m deeply depressed, and I’m starting to think my job is meaningless.
Sheila and I had been together two full days, so I needed some time to sulk. I’m sure she’s doing well. I’m sure I’ll be okay, too. You get a job, find someone to complain about it, then find someone else who listens better. I guess that’s life.
My skin is starting to peel
I do not tan
I do not get sunburnt
I am a banana
I just finished reading I Am Malala and the only thing I can remember is that she likes playing Connect Four.
I am a huge fan of Connect Four. I win most the time, and I am eager to challenge Malala to a game one day. She’ll look at me with a mischievous smile and say, “check mate,” but she won’t notice that I actually have the winning move, so I’ll say, “The sun is setting,” as I connect my fourth token.
She’ll look up at me and ask why I said that, and I’ll explain that the token falling into place sort of looks like a setting sun.
She’ll tell me “that’s not funny” and I’ll say “I never said it was. Now let me enjoy my victory.”
She’s a good sport so we’ll clean up together and grab some lunch downtown.
As I imagined this scenario, I started to question my reading comprehension skills. I had just finished an incredible book about Malala’s journey in Swat Valley and how she overcame intense oppression and bullets from the Taliban. And all I could think about was Connect Four.
I thought really hard and tried to remember what else had happened in this amazing book. Again, I started thinking about Connect Four, but I caught myself, and patted myself on the back for being so self-aware.
I thought about Malala in the hospital and remembered how she asked for fried chicken. What kind of dipping sauce did she use I thought aloud. My roommate who heard me, said “what?” but was clearly busy with something else and didn’t want to hear my answer. I went to my room, still thinking about the sauce.
Eventually I remembered other parts of the book, but I realize that the things that tend to stay in my head the longest are often the tiny details. I wish I could remember more meaningful details, but I just keep circling back to Connect Four. Maybe that’s the lesson I thought, this time to myself. Maybe focusing on Connect Four is the key to life. Take a deep breath, zoom out, and know that we are all humans who either have or have not played Connect Four.
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.
Walloping willows wistfully wail
Hot wind exhaled
My summer gaze is frozen
I need to do the dishes
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've always been a fan of Maya Moore. She showed she had all the makings of a star during her time at UConn and went on to realize that potential (and then some) after developing into one of the most dominant players the WNBA has ever seen. She’s won four WNBA championships with the Minnesota Lynx—including one where she earned the honor of Finals MVP, and she’s also led the United States to two gold medals at the Olympics. It’s hard to top what she’s managed to do on the court, but she’s given herself a run for her money based on what she’s recently done off of it.
Last February, Moore announced she was temporarily stepping away from the game she loved to embark on a journey of self-discovery. It was shocking but not entirely unprecedented, as at least one other basketball league has seen its best player unexpectedly announce they’re stepping away from the game to explore another passion. In this case, however, Moore was more concerned with justice as opposed to baseball.
Since 2016, Moore has been advocating for changes in law enforcement and the legal system. Soon after the nation’s eyes turned to Ferguson, she helped lead the Minnesota Lynx in one of the first athlete-backed protests for the Black Lives Matter movement. She helped pave a path for others to follow. This path eventually led her to freeing an innocent man from prison.
22 years ago, Jonathan Irons was given a 50-year sentence stemming from a botched robbery in Missouri despite having nothing to do with the crime. His life changed forever when he was just 16-years-old, watching an all-white jury rule him responsible for the burglary despite having no hard evidence to link him to the scene. The case eventually came to Moore’s attention, and she provided him with the resources and support necessary to overturn the conviction.
It is hard to imagine one of the world’s greatest basketball players stepping away from the game at age 29, but Maya Moore is much more than just an athlete. Irons was finally released this week and Moore posted a video of her standing outside the prison to greet him as he became a free man for the first time in over two decades. She dropped to her knees like she just won another WNBA championship, but this must have meant even more.
In the video, Irons says, “I feel like I can live life now,” and you can tell on his face the relief and joy he is experiencing after suffering for so long. Moore told Good Morning America, “In that moment, I really felt like I could rest.” Despite her relief, she is still not planning on returning to basketball anytime soon and says she’s focused on taking some time just to reset a bit. Thank goodness. She deserves it.
She may be out of the courtroom but it seems likely she’ll be back in before she steps onto a court. She’s already given up a lot by not playing but that’s nothing compared to what Irons and others like him have lost.
I take the first bite
Taste buds scream and shout
More salty than I remember
This is not a ham sandwich
“I look just like Buddy Holly”
Say this at the end of a job interview when they say, “Anything else?”
“I’m me. Me be. God damn. I am”
Pull this one out in any philosophy class.
“I guess you’re as real as me. Maybe I can’t live with that. Maybe I need fantasy.”
Say this when your partner wants to move in with you, and you want to break up.
“If you want to destroy my sweater, pull this thread as I walk away.”
When someone questions your outfit.
“I took you to Best Buy.”
An aside to your kids when you start trying to get them to remember the good times you had as a family as CPS pulls up.
“I will learn by studying the lessons in my dreams”
Say this to the world if you’re a middle school dropout.
“I’m falling in love. What was your name?”
When you’re a terrible barista at Starbucks, and a customer is trying to pay, but you’re still daydreaming.
“You take your car to work, I'll take my board. And when you're out of fuel, I'm still afloat."
If you’re a surfer trying to impress a businessman.
“This bottle of Stevens awakens ancient feelings”
I hope you never have to say that one.
“Excuse the bitching, I shouldn't complain”
When you’re about to start complaining.
“On an island in the sun”
When somebody angrily asks you, “Where’s my money?”
“I'm a troublemaker, never been a faker, doing things my own way”
When you get arrested
“I got my hash pipe”
When you’re running out the door and your mom asks, “have everything you need?”
Deep down I know I love you
But where exactly is “deep down”
Is it out of reach
Is it miles away
Is it beneath the earth
Or inside my human body
It’s why I get the shivers
It’s how I get an urge to dance
Because my feelings deep down try to escape
And I keep them locked up.
I keep them tied down,
Out of sight
Like buried treasure,
It’s always forgotten
Never found again
But it still exists
Maybe knowing that it’s there
Maybe that is enough
Maybe that’s what they mean when they say
“you don’t have to see to believe”
You put up your Christmas tree
Made of plastic
To honor the religion
you don’t believe
But maybe it’s just as real
As the feelings I have for you
That I store away
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.
Read more here:
©2022 Jake Schick