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How I Chose What to Write

One slow writer’s leap from idea to commitment.

I’m an idea man, always have been. With so many ideas and a lot of ADHD, it’s hard to get any piece past a synopsis.

However, a few pieces make it past the initial idea phase and make it into either in the form of a rough outline or an even more rigid “first chapter.” At the time of writing this, I have ten stories on the back burner. We’re not gonna mention non-fiction.

These stories get left in the ‘hold-off folder’ because of the interruptions of regular life. I write as long as I can, and then after coming back from everyday life, another idea has caught my attention.

This is where I struggle. Neil Gaiman’s advice to aspiring writers is to write and finish things. I do the first part decently, so which story do I pick back up and finish first?

Earlier this year, I had finished an experimental piece and once again stared at the pile of unfinished work and felt paralysis.

I began telling myself, ‘this is a good one’ or ‘no, I should wait until I’m a better writer to do this one.’ I was full of doubt and uncertainty about my talent, my content, and my style.

There was an apparent conflict between Resistance and Me. In the Art of War, Steven Pressfield said:

“The more important a call or action is to our soul’s evolution, the Resistance we will feel toward pursuing it.”

I couldn’t have resistance to all of them at the same time, so what did I do?

I asked my friends. Readers, poets, hipsters, and actors. I asked them all.

The decision came down to two stories. An account of a man struggling to reintegrate into society after prison and a chronicle, halfway finished, about the complexities of achieving your life’s desires and how it may not be all that great.

Even with all the answers, I was still torn. Despite the split in responses, there was a clear denominator among everyone I asked. They all agreed on which story I shouldn’t write.

My friends gave comments like “That’s gross,” “Why would you write that?” “No one will read it.”

That was the confirmation that I needed.

That story is the one I chose to commit to. I’m still finishing it up, but after eight-ish months, I’m nearly there.

Instead of asking what you should write, ask what you shouldn’t write?

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The Curious Case of FerociouslySteph and The Rise of Gamergate 2.0

“History never repeats itself, but it rhymes,” — Mark Twain.

We, as a planet, are living through an absurd period of history. Despite our current climate, there is still plenty of time and energy to swarm people over the internet. We have yet to hit the second wave of Corona, but we may be hitting the second wave of the gamer hate mobs mobilizing. Flashes of late 2014 come to mind with a mystic rhyme reiterated in the spectacle of FerociouslySteph. Escalations of harassment, conspiracy theories, rape and death threats, doxxing, and at times legitimate criticisms.

The controversy started as Twitch published a post about their new Safety Advisory Council, which was quickly reported on by The Verge. Twitch’s new council comprised of both online harassment experts, Sameer Hinduja, T.L. Taylor, Alex Holmes, and streamers CohhCarnageCupahnoodleFerociouslySteph, and Zizaran. At first, there were basic reactionary talking points over the idea from some but also a cautious optimism from others. Most of the streamers are well-known in the community except for FerociouslySteph. FerociouslySteph is a streamer who identifies as a trans-deer-girl Twitch Broadcaster. It was upon research of Steph that things blew up. The atmosphere surrounded this issue harkened back to the Gamergate era.

The Genealogy of Gamergate

Gamergate, defined by Wikipedia, was a harassment campaign targeted at women in the video game industry, notably Zoë Quinn, Anita Sarkeesian, and Brianna Wu. Gamergate started with a nasty blog post by Quinn’s ex-boyfriend stating false accusations that she had an unethical relationship with a journalist for a positive review of her game. The campaigns that targeted these women included everything from rape and death threats to doxxing.

Gamergate was perfectly summed up by former football player Chris Kluwe in his post on the topic. Gamergate is “…a combination of a secret cabal of power-mad journalists are working with the world-threatening feminist agenda in order to remove the purity of video games, because Obama and Jews.” Kluwe also hilariously stated that toxic gamerbros were “…paint-huffing shitgoblins think they’re “gamers,” and it pisses me the fuck off.” The movement was full of healthy mindsets.

Gamergate and the Atheism Plus movement are what led to the development of the Youtube skeptic community and the ever-popular Anti-SJW sentiment, usually in the form of SJW Cringe Compilations. This style is how many of these ‘skeptics’ got their start. Notable Gamergate commentators from this time were Carl Benjamin (or Sargon of Akkad) and Thunderf00t, who led the discussion over the anti-feminist movement. Carl remarkably over his six years on Youtube has made at minimum 25+ videos about Anita Sarkeesian.

Gamergate was a symptomatic microcosm of an underlying cultural and social fervor boiling under the surface. This view of society is not only still present but has grown more mainstream.

Steph’s Hot Takes

There were only a few clips that exemplified FerociouslySteph’s controversial opinions of the gaming community. Those few clips have been endlessly shared, discussed, and used as ammunition to harass Steph. These clips have been in the top posts of the beautiful subreddit r/LivestreamFails for the past week.

In one clip, FerociouslySteph said to her stream that “A lot of you gamers are actually white supremacists.” This is the first statement that everyone has been sharing and got everyone talking.

In another clip, following the announcement of her position in the safety council FerociouslySteph stated that: “There are some people that should be afraid of me,” after which Steph danced and exclaimed that haters couldn’t do anything about it because Twitch endorses her.

One video, in particular, has been touted as ultra-cringe. It is a clip where Steph is getting her head scratched by whom presumably is her partner. While having this massage, Steph is making ecstatic deer noises.

The one prescriptive assertion pertains to voice chat. FerociouslySteph explains that minorities are at a disadvantage in voice chat with competitive play. When she says minorities Steph means women, Non-native English speakers, and members of the LGBT community.

The Critiques, Concerns, and the Council

There are a decent amount of reasonable, level-headed critiques about Steph and the comments she has made on stream and of the council in general. One streamer, Asmongold, found FerociouslySteph’s comments highly discriminatory and admits that he worries that the council will either a machine to push personal agendas or will be a direct group of people that undue blame will be placed upon. Both streamers Cr1tikal and Vaush point to Steph’s behavior as immature and unprofessional. Another point stated was a lack of self-control, which led to the spicy statements that set the community on fire.

Cr1tikal, who has 5M subscribers on Youtube and 800K on Twitch, shared the same views towards Steph but contrary to Asmongold, Cr1tikal, despite not knowing the level of involvement, feels the Safety Advisory Council will be a net good. It shows that creators on the site will have a say in new rules and regulations moving forward to him. Cr1tikal, although while disagreeing with Steph’s voice chat opinion, understands where she’s coming from. He explains that it’s a commonly known fact that women in videogames are dog-piled with flirtation and requests or vitriolic harassment.

Vaush had less to say about FerociouslySteph’s opinion and more about its optical presentation. Vaush went as far as to take Steph’s statements and reword them into a less volatile and affectatious instead. Here is a paraphrased example:

“I do think there are some issues with racism and white supremacy everywhere but this is my community and I just want to make sure that people aren’t being discriminated against for the color of their skin and I believe this is a message all gamers should be able to get behind.”

Vaush also believes FerociouslySteph is not suitable for the position because she is not capable of managing the level of public responsibility and scrutiny.

These are the criticisms of FerociouslySteph that are reasonable, measured, and in good-faith.

The Attacks and Conflations

As said earlier, this thing blew up r/LivestreamFails and being mild, the comments were not positive, but a lot of the harsher comments were removed. Many remarks were about FerociouslySteph’s identity as a trans-deer-girl regardless of her arguments.

One of the non-gamer critics was transphobe Sophia Narwitz. Narwitz put on her alt-right tin foil hat and criticized Steph for having ties to the ADL in her RT article. This attack alludes to a conspiracy theory that the ADL is controlling Twitch. Like Kluwe mentioned beforehand, if not the Jews, then who?

One of the most frequent criticizers of Steph is right-wing neckbeard Jeremy Hambly, better known as The Quartering. The Quartering as of writing has made seven videos on the subject since the council’s announcement. Many of which appear to repeat the same content from the previous video. In one of these videos, Jeremy mentioned that deer hunting season is usually in November but that over the weekend, there was’ a slew of BTFO attacks and antagonisms.’ Jeremy tells us that he loves this ‘dumpster fire.’

Self-avowed White Nationalist Carl Benjamin or Sargon of Akkad claimed that everyone on the safety council were “experts at being radical socialists who are pushing a particular agenda…” Not a biased take at all. Carl got his start during Gamergate and created the trend of right-wing Youtubers using ambiguous avatars and voice-overs to respond to “current events.” Sargon has dropped the avatar feeling comfortable with his IRL appearance, but he has not dropped the disingenuous attitude towards those he views as undesirable. In his coverage of FerociouslySteph, Sargon inflated and misinterpreted nearly everything Steph said, twisting one statement from “a lot of gamers” to “all gamers.” Journalistic integrity FTW.

Worst of all, on May 17th, Loehr was doxxed, meaning all her information: phone number, address. Which is conceivably the apex of online bullying as it opens the door to all sorts of in-person harassment. Doxxing is widely condemned, usually, by both sides of the political spectrum (mostly) for the undeniable danger, it promises on its target. At times doxxing has led to swatting, calling in fake emergencies to dispatch armed forces to a residence, sometimes leading to deaths of the victims.

Corrections and Conclusions

Are people misquoting, misinterpreting, hyperinflating what FerociouslySteph said? Yes.

Are people taking what she said out of context? Sadly, no.

Is some of Loehr’s content cringe? Absolutely.

However, the most significant condemnation should be levied against the toxic gamerbros. If you have a problem with what Steph said or how she said it, join the club, but don’t harass her, don’t fight cringe with your cringe. Think about it, the guys who do this kind of shit can boil down to being solely online sexists. Online sexists are losers who can’t get laid and can’t realize why they can’t get laid (which is because they’re sexists). Don’t be one, have some dignity. Don’t be cringe, don’t be toxic.

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Camus’ The Plague, Corona, and Us

“It is in the thick of calamity that one gets hardened to the truth — in other words, to silence.”
― Albert Camus, The Plague

Credit: Cottonbro, https://www.pexels.com/@cottonbro
Source: sumanley via pixabay

In the same weeks as the inception of the global pandemic, it was the 60th anniversary of Albert Camus’ death.

Albert Camus’ The Plague was written during World War II, and published in the years following. The Plague is the most mature in Camus’ line of absurdist fiction. It’s rare for so many of the world’s illnesses to be in a single piece. The human experience is laid bare in the seaside town of Oran.

Camus’ perennial story alludes to relevant details that parallel today’s current climate involving the Coronavirus. In the book, the plague is not only an actual plague, but it’s also a metaphor for Capitalism, Fascism, the erosion of the soul, and the absurd fragility of man. With the Coronavirus being such a severe issue, although not on par with plague, it should be taken just as seriously.

THE STORY

The town of Oran is a modern and materialistic landscape that lacks trees, seagulls, and inspiration. The townsfolk are industrious and only that.

“Our citizens work hard, but solely with the object of getting rich.” and “the commercial character of the town, whose aspect, activities, and even pleasures all seemed to be dictated by considerations of business.”

In an earlier essay titled The Desert, Camus describes a “repugnant materialism” that has become a plague itself.

With this as the backdrop for the town, we see Rieux send his wife off to a sanitarium. Rats are dying in the street. A man Cottard attempts suicide and fails. Then Rieux’s doorman M. Michel dies from a suspicious fever.

All considered, no one is that worried, not even Rieux. Throughout the following chapters, we are introduced to great characters, who all have their own arcs as they navigate the plague with Rieux.

Cottard, as mentioned before, attempted suicide because he’s a felon, and until the outbreak, he was waiting to be imprisoned. Unlike the others, Cottard blossoms and enjoys the plague. Then there’s Grand, a reserved municipal clerk who works for little pay. Grand spends his nights writing a novel as an apology to his estranged ex-wife.

Rambert, who reminds me of Garcon from No Exit, is a journalist from Paris who gets stuck in Oran after the quarantine. Rambert tries everything to escape the town and to get back to his wife in Paris.

Father Paneloux, a priest who sees the plague as punishment for the town’s depravity, is in stark contrast to the protagonist. As the epidemic worsens, he doubles down in his faith, making bold statements about why. Lastly is Tarrou, an odd wine salesman whose diary observations compromise a large portion of the narrative.

The people of the town start with the gripping sense of uncertainty for the future as they continue their daily routines in mechanical fashion. The disease worsens and the townsfolk enter a state of shared apathy and exile. They all begin to know the pain of separation from loved ones and from the rest of the world.

Denial follows as people think they have the power of choice, but Camus tells us the reader:

“the plague had swallowed up everything and everyone. No longer were there individual destinies; only a collective destiny, made of plague and the emotions shared by all.”

The Oranians, defeated, and do nothing but count the days that pass through the Mist heat exhaustion and plague. When the bacillus finally recedes, the town cautiously rejoices as life before this austerity slowly restores itself.

The efforts to fight the plague are revealed to be entropic, solely attrition warfare tactics. There are small moments of relief as Father Paneloux and Rambert join the cause, but these do little. Rieux suffers a breaking point when the failed trial run of an anti-plague serum kills a child. The boy’s screams pierce the hearts of all present and Rieux has to leave.

Rieux, hopeless and fatigued, finds a spark of renewal when he and Tarrou swim in the ocean that night. It is their only hour of consolation during the plague. The death of the child is so abominable that it leads Father Paneloux to declare in a second sermon that God demands the town to accept his judgment entirely, death of children and all, or reject him wholly. Panaloux believes that this is God’s will.

Panaloux soon falls ill and refuses treatment or the comfort of friends. He dies gently, clutching a crucifix. When the body is examined, they determined the cause of death was not from plague.

As the disease winds down and the opening of the gates are announced, Rieux’s confidant Tarrou contracts both forms of plague and dies after a heroic fight against it. After Tarrou’s death, Rieux receives a telegram stating his wife died a week ago.

When the gates open, Rambert is reunited with his wife. Rieux realizes that he’s lost two significant chances for love since both his wife and Tarrou were lost to death.

In the last few pages, Rieux is apathetic as he returns to his regular duties. Progression is halted as Cottard’s mind snaps due to the pressures of normalcy and he starts shooting people in the street. After killing and wounding a few civilians, he’s arrested. Grand and Rieux are witnesses to the entire spectacle.

Rieux then reflects on the past months and realizes they may have stopped this interlude of the disease, but it’s no final victory. Camus ends his novel with this chilling remark:

“the plague bacillus never dies or disappears for good; that it can lie dormant for years and years in furniture and linen-chests; that it bides its time in bedrooms, cellars, trunks, and bookshelves; and that perhaps the day would come when, for the bane and the enlightening of men, it would rouse up its rats again and send them forth to die in a happy city.”

CORONA

We have a lot in common with the people of Oran. During the first talks of the Corona, we all continued with our lives as they did. Unlike the leaders of the coastal town, ours didn’t take the virus seriously. Our President called the virus a hoax created by the Democrats instead of engaging it as a legitimate threat.

Camus’ fictional Oran takes a massive hit to its economy. Businesses didn’t close but had to keep their lights off to save energy. Despite many businesses being open, people were still left without work. The Coronavirus is nowhere near the potency of the bubonic or pneumonic plague.

After a record high of over 10 million people filing for unemployment in March, we have to ask some hard questions. Are unemployment benefits and a single stimulus check the only actions that can be taken to see us to the end of this pandemic? And what will be done in the future to ensure a more serious event would be handled better?

FASCISM

The plague has been her marked as an allegory for Nazi occupation in France. From the language Camus uses we can see that clearly. With excerpts such as, “The plague was no respecter of persons and under its despotic rule everyone.” One could point to Panaloux’s remarks in his second sermon as a nod to the classic Us vs Them dichotomy that is present fascist propaganda.

Fascism is more incorporated in the atmosphere of the town in undertones more than as an outright antagonist. However, there is the image of Lucifer looming over the shingled houses striking down residents with his spear of pestilence. That’s pretty cool.

The plague is fascistic in that it’s an unyielding, all-consuming entity, one that “ceased to believe in anything but success.” It’s an enemy that cannot be reasoned with, it has an inherent necessity for violence. People who try to leave the town are shot by sentries, and those who do escape can only do so through illegal means to avoid certain death.

For those who stay, their view of death shifts to it being commonplace. A group of looters are shot at by authorities resulting in two deaths and there’s little effect on the onlooking crowd. Camus explains here:

“With so many deaths taking place every day, these two executions went unheeded — a mere drop in the ocean.”

Unlike the novel, today, we face a negligent attitude by right-wing media outlets. Irresponsible talks about returning to work and saving the economy are perverse at best. These political actors advocate for our sacrifice to the state from their sheltered studios.

To these ‘diehards’, the economic machine comes first and you as a cog in that machine should be happy to give your life, and the lives of your family and friends, in service of that glorious machine. The conservatives that advocate for such measures would never do it themselves or have to deal with the consequences of it.

They’ll never be on the front lines.

They will never work in unity with working people.

At no point should anyone have to die just to make the economy look a little better.

THE ABSURD

We’ve discussed how the horror that Rieux and his friends fight against is not only a literal disease but a metaphorical representation of fascism. However, the infection is most accurately the Absurd. Like all things with Albert Camus, the Absurd is front and center in The Plague.

The Absurd can be defined as the friction that lies between man’s search for meaning and the indifferent nature of our universe. It is the cohabitation of burning passion and silent death.

The plague isn’t concerned with the cries of agony that it produces in its victims. Camus’ alludes to favorite characters, Sisyphus, a king who must repeatedly roll a boulder up a hill just to watch it tumble down the mountain. He does this for all eternity. A circular system for someone who’s immortal.

But Dr. Rieux and friends are not immortal, and their war against the unwavering plague is clearly futile. Each of these men represents a different response to massive cataclysm, they are powerless to this force. They can only watch and fumble as it destroys everything around them.

Camus tells us this is a virtue, but that the greatest virtue that comes from such tragedies is action. These men act and never give any ground and after a year of fighting the plague finally withdraws.

Camus ascribes many anecdotes to deal with symptoms of the Absurd and gives each of his characters a different route. Devotion to God, escape in love, work towards self-actualization, moral codes based on universality. But what strikes me most is the reprieve they all find in each other through brotherhood and comradery.

Reflections of the Absurd can be seen in our current epidemic. Two prominent right-wing media figures told their followers to take a drug called Hydroxychloroquine, a malaria drug, to cure themselves of Coronavirus. This drug had been proven not to help with Corona and is known to cause cardiac arrhythmia, which is fatal to people with heart conditions. That misinformation killed people.

Another amazing grievance is that if you have Corona but no insurance, hospitals can deny you. One uninsured teen has already died, and many more are ticking time-bombs of either dejection or medical bankruptcy, oh joy.

To add to the list, President Trump let pillow company CEO, Mike Lindell, talk at a COVID19 press conference. In the speech, Lindell tells us, much like Panaloux, that this epidemic is because we as a nation have turned our backs on God. Lindell further explains:

“God had been taken out of our schools and lives. A nation had turned its back on God. I encourage you to use this time at home to get back in the Word, read our Bibles, and spend time with our families.”

IN CONCLUSION

In the story, Tarrou tells Rieux that he wants to become a saint, and Rieux then replies that he just wants things to go back to normal. At the end of the conversation, Tarrou concludes, “Yes, we’re both after the same thing, but I’m less ambitious.” With all the unemployment, deaths, debt, and anger, can things really return to “normal” after this is over?

It’s highly debatable, but for most people, the answer will be no. Despite this many will try to waive away this period as if it was nothing.

This novel is a timeless story, it’s relevant to all epidemics from flu to AIDS. Before now, discussions on The Plague resurged during the Ebola outbreak. That’s when I read it, there was a bunch of fake news about plastic coffins outside of Atlanta, and I wanted to know what it’s going to be like.

The pertinence of the novel comes from its ability to transcend past what it was originally intended to represent. The prose is anything but prosaic, it is ephemeral and haunting. It is far from any kind of felo-de-se. Camus shows us the sway of love and suffering in the dance that is the earthly existence.

Its message is clear. There will always be a plague, we only move from one form to another in a never-ending fight against it.

“Everyone has it inside himself, this plague, because no one in the world, no one, is immune.”

Read the book, it speaks to so much more than what I’ve mentioned. It’s existential. It’s absurd. It will not disappoint.

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A Story Stolen from Someone

who knows me, no one
who hears me, no one 
who sees me, no one 
who I am, no one

a woman stands tall and proud on a street corner,
the wind howls at her but she yells louder in return,
the wind is outmatched 

where is your mother now?
she has no home, she has no kids
she has no life
you won’t even hear her cries

she speaks to no one, only to herself
she speaks of no one, only of herself
she speaks for no one, only for herself
to ease the pain of a lifetime of decisions and an eternity of loss

who wants to be with me, no one
who wants to have my kids, no one
who buried my baby, I did 
and you called me a whore for all of it

she stands at that street corner,
singing her sorrows to a deaf world,
lighter and flame cupped in her, 
a vigil for the countless lives that became her own

she was Someone

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Vivian

Vivian was a recluse who loved going out, it was her torture, her masochism. Vivian’s mother died of pancreatic cancer 8 days before Vivian turned four and one-half. She was raised to never go outside by her father, a man who lost his wife and wasn’t about to let the same happen to his little girl. “The outside world is full of many different cancers my little mouse, the worst of them: people. People who could help but don’t and end up letting good people die.” he told her. She hated being called “little mouse” more than anything.

Seclusion wasn’t much of a problem for Vivian as a child, she liked to draw and paint and think about what ifs, she didn’t go outside much before her mother passed anyways. The thing that bothered the young Vivian wasn’t not being outside but not being allowed outside. This would spark into a rebellious attitude in her teenage years. An attitude that was only ever reactive and never proactive. Vivian never threw the first punch but nearly always threw the last.

One affair happened one day at school, Vivian’s 8th grade teacher, Madam. Malmoud, told her that her skirt was too short. The skirt in question reached 2 inches below Vivian’s knee which she thought was quite modest for a skirt given modern times and how Vivian’s older sister Marie dressed. Alas, the skirt was still too short, it did not reach past the knee’s halfway point, the Madam was not satisfied. Vivian tried telling her that the skirt was in fact 6 inches past the shortest allowed length and that it was not a tight or bright or eye catching but Madam Malmoud wouldn’t budge. “If you want to dress like a whore young lady, you may do so outside of school… But for now, you may see the principle and hope he doesn’t go 6 inches past your money hole.” the crone said as she pointed towards the door, all the kids in shock. Vivian got up calmly and went to the principal’s office. Later that day, an ambulance rushed Madam Mahmood away in an ambulance after she had accidentally mistaken her Coke Zero for a large and almost deadly amount of hand sanitizer. The Mother Malmoud did not return to school until the next year, until after Vivian would have gone on to a different school.

In her late teenage years, Vivian heard a rudimentary psychology lecture that left her paranoid of the strength of memory and decided that she would take pictures each day and write about the day. She used her phone and started recording the crunch of leaves in autumn, snow falling under a street lamp at night, early morning fog. She wrote down the beauty of her days sentence by sentence as time passed by. Vivian also recorded the bad moments, ones she didn’t want to remember but needed to remember.

Vivian looked out her window to see the neighbor’s cat playing with a squirrel, toying with it, like the cruel psychopath all cats are. The neighbor cat grew tired as it had mangled most of the near dead rodent and walked away to more the more exciting past time of sitting in a box. Vivian walked out and saw the squirrel breathing heavy and convulsing every 20 or 30 seconds. She stood over the half dead mammal and took a short video of its harsh breath, being sure to capture at least one seizure. Then she went to the shed in her backyard grabbed a shovel and ended the creatures suffering. 

In an upper level film class, Vivian met Henri. Henri was an aspiring film student who, to Vivian’s shock, knew very little about the non-technical aspects of filming. Henri’s attention was ‘very focused’ he would say while others would tell him how limited his perspective was, not studying the whole scope of film and only caring about angles, frames, and shots. People constantly would barrage him with their opinions “you need to learn story to be able to tell story through film.” “practice is nothing if you have no theory to exercise in practice.” “you’re that creepy dude with a camera.” Henri never minded these comments and would often mumble to himself “…lower class scum…”  as he would walk away from the conversation. Then one day he saw a girl, a girl he had to record. Henri had to capture this girl’s movements, her elegance, her very essence.

When Vivian turned to see a boy with a camera recording her, she felt instantly faltered. Vivian started to approach Henri, he began to run expecting a strike from a purse full of buckles. “WAIT!” she yelled “I WANT TO SEE THE VIDEO!” Henri stopped, sweat beating down his chest, he gulped and showed her after she caught up. Vivian thought the clip, though short, was beautiful and asked for a copy, they exchange information and started dating the next day. 

Vivian and Henri had a struggling relationship as Henri had problems performing. It mortified Vivian at first, she thought she was ugly or that somehow it was her fault, she was the problem. Did it smell bad? Are her hands too cold? Is he a homosexual? But after some time, Vivian became accustomed to Henri and his low libido. Stress and frustration added up even more for Vivian as time went by. Vivian lost one of her scholarships the following semester and money had become tight. Henri told her to come work at the restaurant he worked at, she could be a server. She was intrigued to say the least, but Henri was very insistent on the idea. She was very surprised by his eagerness, Henri rarely showed enthusiasm for anything Vivian included. Maybe this will make things better with him and we can finally have sex on a semi regular basis… Vivian thought. Vivian wanted intimacy so much more than the once or twice a month (and that’d be if she was lucky) that she was accustomed to with Henri.

She started at the cafe as a hostess and not a server, the manager was not convinced of her capabilities. After a hectic night, a server quite mid-shift and the manager yelled at Vivian to grab a check holder and apron and get her ass on the floor. The manager looked away and snapped his head back…”Don’t forget to suck their dicks with your eyes while talking to them. It’s how you get good tips and make them happy.” It was that kind of shock that one can only feel when something so ridiculous drops into life. There’s an absurdity that you can’t wrestle with and must walk away from, no matter how wide your eyes are. The job was awful, the customers rude and detached from the world, occupied by art galleries and pretty spreadsheets but the pay was better than hostess, better than “not shit.” 

Henri began looking more at his phone and less at Vivian which chipped away at her every day. One day, when she got home from work, Henri on the couch, staring at his phone… again, not even noticing her come in. She stopped though and found what had long been missing from their relationship: an erection. Maybe that’s it! He wants something hardcore, that must be what he’s looking at on his phone, I gotta find out… Vivian thought. She crept up behind the couch which faced away from the front door, Henri was still under the phone’s spell and didn’t notice Vivian behind him.

What Vivian saw was not something hardcore as she thought she would find. She was stunned to see that a video of a woman peeing was playing. Even more shocking was the bathroom was all too familiar, it was the women’s bathroom of the cafe. Vivian was silent with her tears, covering her mouth as not to make noise. Henri hit the back button revealing thousands of videos, hundreds of women, not just in the bathroom but changing rooms too. Vivian even saw her own bathroom in the thumbnails, her aqua tiles along the wall. 

Henri was a voyeurist. Vivian cried even harder thinking about how this had been a part of him since before they met. It was why he never wanted to have sex. She had been with him for nearly two years and they’d been living together for over 5 months, all this time he was a creep, a scumbag, and a criminal. Henri jumped when he heard the crying, his head turned slowly to look behind him to a banshee wailing. Henri jumped back and landed breaking the glass coffee table

“It’s not what you think.” He said.

“Then what is it? Tell me.”

 Between the gasps of air of Vivian had to take to remain conscious.

“It’s…It’s….what it looks like…” Henri drifted off, his eyes now staring at the bottom right corner of the couch, he wasn’t being mindful of the glass lodged in his hands and ass. 

Vivian left for America the following week, she told no one, except on the last day she visited her father. Her father, who was lounging in a chair watching T.V. not paying attention, she said to him “I’ll never see you again, you were a terrible father and a hypochondriac, but you tried.” Vivian’s father huffed in recognition of whatever words she was saying to him, the TV was his child now, no room for disappointment. Vivian left for New York like all immigrants. Vivian wanted a new start without videographers and voyeurists, without men failing to give her what she needs. She would date almost exclusively women and develop a drinking habit to help her forget her traumas. 

Henri left for America a week after figuring out Vivian would never return, he discovered that she left for America by exploiting the weak security on the airport’s camera network. He followed her but never found her, New York is a hundred thousand life times of searching and longing packed into one city. Henri was persistent he worked bare minimum ate bare minimum and spent all his money on spray paint cans to write Je t’aime Vivian. Where is my Vivian. I miss Vivian. I have lost my heart she is somewhere…scared. Henri garnered a small clique of social followers and admirers, they did not know the truth behind his words, they thought only of a genial and pained street artist. 

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amber, ether, and gold

amber, ether, and gold wafting among the banter 
everything so cold, so cold,
the women who never answer
the drink that doesn’t satiate 
beginnings of your mind’s rapture
reality distant and unnamed
one more saturday wasted,
laughed away staring at the sidewalk naked and indifferent
post punk narrating the background as you take another swig
your existence paused for a moment only to resume the present tense 
another jaded drunk’s narrative 
poor bastard sipping and pilling away his consciousness 
nights spent contemplating a means to to their end

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Diffuser

“You’re a fool,” she shakes her head. “Even you can’t stop what’s to come.”

The way it was said sent a shiver down Tony’s spine. This is not the answer he expected when he asked the tiny old lady:

“Welcome to Starbucks, what can I get you today?” Tony wondered if it was his smile, he had a tendency to attract the crazier bunch. ‘Maybe next time I’ll stick to the standard, may I take your order.’ he thought. ‘Hey stop staring with that stare that says ‘biiiiiiiiiiiiiiish what? say something.’

“Oh, I’m sorry ma’am were out of soy milk but almond milk is a great alternative.” Tony replied.

“Oh that’s alright then, I’ll just take a white chocolate mocha.”

“And what was the name for that?”

“Susan. with two O’s”

“Alright,” Tony wrote on the cup and gave it to his coworker Jill, “that’ll be $3.53”

The frail woman handed out a five dollar bill. Tony rang it up and gave back the exact change… with a few extra cents. The lady was clearly off her medication or something. Tony thought it’d be nice to give her a little extra so she didn’t curse or stab him on his way out. Jill had finally made the white chocolate mocha and read the name on the cup.

“Suhh- ooo – zan…” She called, confused by the spelling, as she looked at the cup again she confirmation that she was not having a stroke and that the name was in fact spelled: Soozan. She called out again with more confidence, “Susan.” The old woman got her coffee from the end of the bar, gave Jill a smile, and left to watch pigeons by the fountain outside. Tony turned to Jill with a frightened expression.

“That was scary. If she stays there all night we might have to leave out the back.” Tony said.

“What are you talking about?” Jill asked.

“I think she’s off her meds, she said some really weird shit to me like…” Tony stopped because another customer entered the previously empty line.

Word count:344 in 15 minutes

“Welcome to Starbucks, may I take your order?” Tony asked the business man.

“You’ll never win. You can’t win. Give up now. He will rip your very atoms to shreds.” The man told him.

“Sir, we don’t have that, it’s not on our menu. May I recommend a Nitro Cold Brew? It’s great on a hot day like today.”

“Uh, sure I’ll go with that.”

“That’ll be $4.34 and a name to go with that?”

“Jerome.”

“It’ll be readdy at the end of the counter.” Tony handed off the markered cup to Jill, who’s face was bewildered by what just happened.

Jill filled the order called Jerome’s name and gave him the cold brew. “Delcious” he said as he sipped through the straw on his way out, toting his briefcase like it had a miniature schnauzer in it. Tony stood at the register still looking forward waiting for the man ‘Jerome’ to be out of sight. His fingers tapping furiously against the countertop. When Tony could no longer see the strange professional he turned to Jill.

“I have to get out of here before another crazy shows up.” Tony told her.

“You know, usually you’re pretty dramatic and tend to over exaggerate things but I think you’re right. They’re some weirdos out to get you.” Jill conceded.

“Thanks for understanding!” Tony ripped off his apron nearly tearing out his ear rings with it. He ran for the kitchen door as if the chase had already began. Tony didn’t stop moving and grabbed his bag while speed walking through the kitchen to the back door. Hector, the sandwich maker and dishwasher saw the blur and was confused, his music kept him from hearing the whole ordeal, he was left seeing the back door close violently.

Tony sped through the dark alley way trying to get to the street and the normal folk as quick as possible. A shoadow of a figure was in the midway of the strip. As Tony drew closer he saw that it was just a homeless man. Once Tony was visible though, the man stood up. A sharp glare fell upon the fleeing barista.

“You can’t beat him Diffuser! Once he gets his hands on you, you’re dust! Hahaha!” the homeless man laughed maniacally.

“Here’s $2 in quarters, now leave me alone!” Tony shouted, throwing the money at the vagrant’s chest.

The beggar caught all of the coins before they fell, he glanced at Tony with confusion as he passed by but then shrugged his shoulders and sat back down. The man was too tired and hungry to chase Tony, and he had just gotten $2 in quarters, enough for two slices of pizza. Tony almost made it to the end of the alley, he could see the light of civilation at the end of the tunnel, but a blood curdling chill went up his spine, making his asshole pucker and stopping him in his place.

“Diffuser! Finally we meet!” A disembodied voice echoed.

“Who’s there?” Tony’s words barfed.

“It is I, Nyarlathotep! Crawling Chaos! God of a Thousand Forms! Stalker Among Stars! Black Pharaoh! Messenger of the Outer Go…”

“Eew! A talking cockroach!” Tony shrieked stomping on Nyarlathotep in his current incarnation.

The bug was definitely dead but Tony stomped more than a few more times just to make sure. Then scraped the bug corpse off his shoe with assistance from the corner of a dumpster. The homeless man snuck up on Tony and patted him on the shoulder. It made Tony jump and think he was about to be revenge murdered by one of the fanatics.

“You did it kid! you freed us all from his mindcontrol. Can I have 35 more cents so I can catch the train?” The homeless man said.

“That’s great and all but I’m still gonna go home. Bye.” Tony said leaving the man in the alley.

“What about that 35 cents?”

“I gave you all my change!” Tony shouted from the street.

“Asshole!” the bum shouted before sitting back down and taking a well deserved nap. Being mind controlled by an outer god sure does take it out of you. Tony spent the rest of the day, lying, curled up in bed. He didn’t answer any phone calls even from Jill. Eventually, he got over it and wondered about a career in hostage negotiations.

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bella at the bar

a sea of smiles and intoxication 
flirtations, flashings, and promises of fucking
with the inebriated and the unaware,
nothing is guaranteed
addled minds talking numbly of basic pleasantries
hi, my name is bella
she asks if i have any tattoos
i tell her i have a tat that says i love creed, bush,and that one song about the lips of an angel
‘show me’ she says
i show her my nipples and say it was done in pink ink 
surprisingly shows me hers
tattoo hearts and piercings surround 
‘you weren’t expecting that were you?’
no, no i wasn’t.

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a day at the farm

i have a miserable life 
i get up at dark 
i have no breakfast
i take her home 
i get on I-85
i drive through an ocean of cars
i drink yesterday’s cold coffee
i get to the place i hate 
i say hi and hello to the strangers, known as coworkers
i do nothing 
i type meaningless words
i take calls from unpleasant, unimportant people 
i sit in a farm where no life grows
i’ve killed myself again today
i leave at 5
i dive back into the sea of metal and concrete and idiots
i pick her up
i read to her and she reads to me
i go to sleep 
i get up at dark
i have a miserable life

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an april poem

i want to get lost in you again and again
that infinite

i want your eyes to fall on me like before
that stare

the constellations that lay behind your eyes
that want 

the way you bite your lip
how you wrap around me and i forget it all

my breaks, my scars, my heart impartial
that nausea

the only thing that binds me to world
that pain

keeping me from thinking about thoughts about thoughts
that touch

without it i have nothing
i am nothing
“oh what is this emptiness?”
make me forget again