City

The city is tired, the city is alive. The city is moving, the city lies still. A stop motion. A slow motion. When the light turns green I cross anyway, counting down the milliseconds, swiveling my sight in circles.

The city, from far away, sparkles and sprinkles and glitters and glows. Juxtapositions sit at every street corner. The homeless slump by the chatty elite, carry cardboard signs by their fine wine glasses. Angry bright lights glare. Still cold lampposts hang. I play the streets by ear, following the crowd, hoping to god that I’m moving southeast, not north.

The city overwhelms. Screams, honks, turns right because it’s right on red. Showers rain like a garden hose lite, like a childhood treat on summery southern days. Spinning and laughing in a one-piece, now cold and shuddering in jorts, jean shorts.

The city is zha. A mess. Tight cold fear plus high strung steps. I quicken my pace as the alleyways add up and it’s no longer hipster city. I hear there are Cambodian gangs by sixth and that it ain’t pretty up North but in the South it’s just fine. Just fine. Except at home, I whisper–like it’s a curse word and I’m a clean-mouthed spiritual believer–this would be the ghetto.

The city houses nail salon after nail salon. Our nail salon’s next to the gas station. Open doors. First breeze of summer wafts in. A woman with acrylic stuck in her nail drifts in, “you can remove this?” You don’t want new nails? A new coat? “Nah, just get rid of this.” Five minutes later she leaves muttering under her breath because she doesn’t want to soak them-she wants to rip them off.

The city is gritty, the city is loud, the city is terrifying, the city is striking, the city is cold. I skip down the steps to the train, slot in my coins, smile at the receiver who seems unusually patient and friendly. I pace my way back and forth as I wait stonily for the trolley.

The city is a million breaths at once, all breathing, breathing, breathing. And I’m afraid–once in love, but now just afraid.

April 2018

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Urban

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Overhead and through the speakers, Kanye’s insisting that “diamonds are forever.”

Hair hat-flattened and fingers pink, I wonder why I’m alone at night in the city in a part I’ve never been to.

I’ve just missed my bus and it’s cold so I wait in Urban Outfitters. When I step outside, the streets glitter and swell with din. “Fuck you,” some girl’s voice rings as she passes by me. She’s on the phone. Her lips are neon pink.

In going into the city, I’d anticipated a brief respite. But I always feel as though I’m running or floating when I’m here, my feet hovering three inches above the ground.

Heart

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SO you take it upon yourself to judge the content of someone’s heart without ever having the chance to rip open a chest to peer inside. Instead you look at the way their arms flail or their facial expression, the way they extend a hand or recoil in fear. On a bench or through a friend of a friend, you decide on which adjectives you’ll use to describe this heart.

You decide that:

the heart is open, the heart is cold, the heart is kind, the heart is distant, the heart is hardened, the heart is shut-off, the heart is readable, the heart is murky, the heart is big. The heart is stony. The heart is a million things except for what it simply is: a heart.

It never occurs to you that: maybe we’re all just wasting our time trying to superimpose these value judgments on an organ. But that doesn’t stop us.

Lost in my Mind

Scarlet scarfs frayed at the edges. Orange-yellow bulbs of life, warm against the blue black bruises of the cold outside. Home is a phone call away.

The coffeeshop is empty, save for the hawkish worker with the light eyes who started a few years ago. He wasn’t here when I was ten, when this place was new, and I only ever asked for mango smoothies.

And it’d come out artificial-creamy sweet, rich sun yellow against a dollop of white. I’d scoop out the whipped cream with the outer edge of my straw, slurp it into a pathetic heap at the corner I couldn’t reach.

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Familiar strumming overhead. A lollying tune, an indie low-whine. Drawn out wail of a banjo and musician who sounds like he sports a beard and wears pea-green jackets with camo sleeves,

Lost in my mind, lost in my mind, I’ve been lo-o-o-o-st—

They play this song every time I come in. It’s on the coffeeshop playlist, and it always has ben, unchanging, carved in time, shaping my own musical preferences as I bury my head in words.

______

Insomnia. There’s a softened edge to memory, to memory’s memory of insomnia, to memory’s memory of the insomniac’s late-night thoughts. Other things mattered then, trivial things, mind-numbing replays of the inconsequential, and that was what kept me up.

______

The things that matter now stand in sharp relief against the mindset I’d held then.

Sun streams in through the window. On five hours of sleep, I crawl out of bed.

At this coffeeshop, littered with people working hard and hardly working, I order nothing from the bar. I bring a water in. I peruse through reddit and creepypasta and play psychic word games. When I pass the counter, the barista jokes about throwing out my water container, but I can’t tell if it’s a joke, so I laugh as though it is, and throw the water out.

Overheard, Lost in my Mind plays. And for a moment, I’m enmeshed in the warm cocoon of nostalgia, buried in tunnel vision.

Insomniac’s Rmble

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The insomniac has a song. It’s not a song, it’s a warble. It does math problems at 1:29 in the morning and curses at small bladders. It tallies up why the studies show that we lose two friends for every romantic relationship you gain and why it doesn’t matter. I kept things from you anyways. 

It ruminates over slander, and how it can’t be slander if it’s true.

The insomniac has a cry. A cry about blacklisted tags. About puffs of light brown, one, two, minus three. On existentialist concerns, but mostly practical ones. On critical tirades, on bi-monthly tantrums. And nightmarish things. This is why you don’t binge horror on a plane.

The insomniac has a dream. A daydream. An elaborate daydream about coconut cream and custard and condensed milk at the cusp of a cup. It wants to listen. All it wants to do is listen. And it dreams, more, of listening. Of evolving into a massive, massive ear. So tight-lipped, you are.

Sensory Clash: Washington, D.C

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The streets of D.C are wider, quieter, flatter, cleaner. D.C isn’t as frantic as New York. Or as gritty as Philly. Or as schizophrenic as Austin. There’s something immaculate about D.C., instead, something steely and modern and calm.

From up here, I watch the slow scenes of the city unfold. Cars whizz by, colorful legos beneath our legs. Human beans cross the crosswalks, Beatles-style, almost in slo-mo. Lotion pink berries bloom in angry succession.

It’s my third time in Washington D.C. I welcome the sensory familiarities.

There’s a distinct vibe to the D.C metro, clash of smells and sights and sounds. Smell of metros, musk. Row of escalators, steep. Metro-card, bendy and flappy. Gripped tightly in my palm, lest I accidentally drop it–it’s our way out, this card.

We’re encircled by large beige arches. I’m constantly reminded: we are in a giant tunnel.

The subway’s clean. Stops are quick. There’s a sign above a girl’s head that indicates where we are, and the announcer’s clean voice projects from the speakers, and she’s telling us we’re at this stop, that stop. It’s not our stop, and then it is, and we hop off the subway, back into the station, where we scan our Metro cards on the way out.

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We exit Union Station. It’s a high-end train station, fancy airport-style. It’s got spiral staircases leading up to shops and restaurants and balcony areas on the second floor. Statues and pillars greet us from the entrance. Out and back, in and through, and we’ve hopped onto the train again, and we’re hailing home.