Slip into your daydreaming dance shoes and come spin with me.
Gray chasms will blossom into gardens —
shadows will apologize to sunshine.
Horns will be traded out for halos
and crimes for bearing crosses.
If there can be death by a thousand cuts,
there can be life by a thousand kisses.
If there can be catastrophe by a world’s curses,
there can be change by a world’s wishes.
Say hello to your new best fear: A six-foot-tall Atlantean peasant risen from the underwater ruins with extraterrestrial hair the shade of sunshine and seawater eyes so piercing they call them nuclear reactor peppermint! Say hello to a woman who pounds treadmills into puddles of tar and sweats like a glazed doughnut winks. This is a woman who smells like teen spirit with a touch of Tarzan, a vagabond of the urban jungle who acts like she could have been extracted by a Smithsonian helicopter from the depths of the Martian rainforest and put on private display as “Mystery Specimen from Another World.”
All jokes and sarcasm aside–or maybe not–I’m more like your average human housecat and I like to eat, sleep, poop, and repeat. I have one of those Live Laugh Love signs in my house and I just recently colored my hair Karen Brown. I wear a Starbucks macchiato on my sleeve and have the temper of a constipated five-thousand-year-old chihuahua, and tend to enjoy speaking to the manager with the vocal tone of a testosterone-powered T-Rex on helium. I like long walks to the buffet line and my soul is contained within the hollow nugget-sized arena of my Instagram account where I run and jump and post photos of myself like a chimpanzee with the personality of Adam Sandler. To get me to fall for an evil witch’s dinner schemes, all you’d have to do is blaze a trail of pizza bites dipped in positivity funneling directly into her bubbling cauldron. I also took a Facebook test once and it said I was 73% cool, so.
Just kidding. That was another level of sarcasm that I was slathering onto this sandwich and we’re just about ready to make Subway proud because this bologna is rising to beastly heights and threatening to eat the vegans. Have a taste of this fiery tea and tell me you don’t want to climb an evergreen, proclaim victory over the elves and take over the entire forest. This nourishing dose of sass is like cough syrup to the spice-deprived potato and it could medicate the whole Senate in buttery joy if we saponified it. Anyway, moving on. We’ll save the sarcasm sandwiches for the long walks to the buffet line. Or will we?
Anyway, I’m a natural kind of girl. I tend to wear leaves and twigs upon waking from my bed and run around my small plot of land in the ghetto like a misplaced farm chicken with its head fully intact, meaning that I am wild yet still intellectual about my morning scamper. My wardrobe consists of nature and nudity in which I do westernized yoga poses and sigh with feigned emotional release when rising from downward dog. During my yogic daze, I like to wear neon leggings that are so tight and bright they floss my buttcheeks better than a dental hygienist flosses teeth. When the day is over and I’m done rocking the town to shreds like a boss twinsy of Bin Laden, I like to come home to my small hut in the urban village and light a candle that fills the room with such a titanic typhoon of butterscotch, it smells like we sewed a birthday cake-scented bomb into the abdomen of a Care Bear and set it off, exploding it into a terrifying mushroom cloud of volcanic nebulosity that swallows my home, creates its own electromagnetic vanilla time zone and establishes itself as the alpha smell of the domain, emanating a mutant marshmallow aroma with a hint of burnt cotton–and all before 8 PM. Lil Miss Pyromaniac is my name, and wild candlelit weekdays are my game.
In my spare time I like to sneeze as though I am trying to start the engine of a tiny goth motorcycle inside my nose. And when I feel awkward, I blink so fast my eyelashes catch flight. And I like to wear makeup, the kind where you carve your own face structure into the hypnotizingly hot angularity of a Roman patrician. Yet I end up looking like a gobsmackingly orange Oompa Loompa escapee from the chocolate factory whose complexion so closely mirrors Donald Trump’s tan that I just might earn my own branch on the family orange tree. But not really, I mainly go for walks in the public park where I look like a highly upstanding citizen, and if we were ever to be invaded by aliens, I would be the last boring hooman bean to get beamed up by the green beans.
In the larger phases of the moon when I’m not howling at it, I can whip up a dish of lemon crème lucidity swifter than a swashbuckler on steroids, shoot a silver arrow through the sound system of heaven and heave a hurricane into a high-pitched whine. You can convert thunder into bass drops, did you know? And when winter rolls around and the snow starts spitting fluffy profanities onto our driveways, I can tip an iceberg upside down and dive into a syrupy pool of subconscious, into the natatorium of night where starlit concepts swim and swirl like waltzing stanzas let loose from the library. As for politics? I frequently straighten my spectacles and strengthen my resolve to pitch every last crate of British tea into the frothy void, strutting the red carpet of civil revolution like royal dynamite. Yeet yourself into freedom with the speed of a buttered vanilla bean, it’ll boost your immune system.
And never forget: taxation is theft.
In all reality, I’m a wannabe Hermione who lurks in library halls just ready to worm her way into a good read, leaving behind a ghostly trail smelling of tea and sweaty pantyhose because really–when you have the option of sailing through the open sea of imagination vs. scrubbing down stockings (just so you can smell like powdered strawberries with a touch of bleach), what would you pick? I’m just kidding, I only said that for dramatic effect. I’m actually bathing in a vat of strawberry milk right now and nibbling on a niblet of strawberry shortcake while chugging along the sea of imagination like an artsy fartsy Moby Dick with an arsenal of crayons under his belt. And I was never allowed to watch “Harry Potter” as a child. (What a plot twist, eh?)
To the wise and elderly, I’m a shameless beatnik whose giraffe neck should definitely have a snap in the pillory and whose Life GPA can only be improved with a few straw brooms spanks to the bent-over butt. Which is probably true. We humans tend to be atrociously warlike from the moment we pop out of the womb, and sometimes it’s good to get sent through the soul-slashing blades of discipline and come out the other side sharper than a toucan’s beak, getting trimmed from a wretched pile of untamed seaweed to a crisp bouquet of cilantro. Sometimes you need to get beaten to a pulp to realize your inner orange.
I have an appetite for antiquity, a love of history, and an inherent craving for sacred geometry–one glance at a juicy dodecahedron and I’ve probably already whisked it into my Portfolio of Phenomenal Phantasms. I like puppies and little figurines of toadstools and faerie lights and German folktales. I once made chocolate chip cookies with supremely expensive medicinal honey that is so freakishly immune-boosting you can time-travel with it (as long as you’re capable of eating a millennium of cookies, but don’t tell the Russians I know that). I believe in the power of kung fu, the ancient rite of trial by combat, and believe that with enough tubs of Butthurt Balm, we can make America mature again.
And… that’s all you need to know.
Don’t be afraid to be the gold-dusted unicorn in a world of donkeys, the nerd in the catty clique of mean girls, the flaming freethinker who puts the belle in rebel. Be the self-sufficient outcast, the sun-tanned warrior, the feral tiger who won’t submit to tricks for treats. We aren’t the government’s neutered guppies. We are God’s glittering sharks, and we are slicing our path through the salty waters on our way to freedom.
Be more than your material items. Be more than your accomplishments and accolades. Rise above your earthly identity. Reach into the cathedral of your heart and pull out that eternal truth: your soul comes straight from the breath of God and we’ve been suffocating for eons.
It is time to breathe deep and get down to business. It is time to escape the cocktail party, wipe off the masquerade from our noble faces, and look ourselves in the eyes again, to be pierced by our own raw gaze. It’s time to get back to our kindred, to toss aside mankind’s poisons for God’s medicine. Acknowledge your power to choose the better route. Choose lyrics instead of chants, calmness over chaos, and always think for yourselves. Get up from your groove in the societal machine and meet the truth again. Glaze your gears in the oil of curiosity and put on the spectacles of a brand-new perspective. It never hurts to change your view of the sunrise and see a new shade of rebirth.
Sometimes unplugging from the world and diving into the depths of your mind can be the most brilliant thing you do. Bookworms are better than bombshells. Crusades for love are better than charades for fame. Build up your soul one brokenhearted brick at a time, fortified in the balmy mortar of bravery. Construct a hammock in the forest of stars and swing between Venus and Mars. Step outside the expanse of terra firma and linear time and tip your hat to eternity.
This world is not our home and its dramas are fading dreams.
We are the knights of our own humble order, fighting a beautifully unfair battle. It’s one night of nightmares against an infinity of stars. It’s ancient truth against manmade propaganda. You don’t have to fight for the truth, all you have to do is say it–just speak it and let the syllables roll off your tongue–and it will come roaring to the frontline to fight with weapons of fact and strategies of logic, and all you’ll have to do is sit back and watch the lies burn.
So wake up and go against the grain. Let’s find out how delicious life is outside of the box. Let’s go on an adventure away from the panicked crowd and pick daisies in the fields before they’re soaked in blood. Let’s pick lavender and lilacs in a world of lunatics and craft purple bouquets of forgiveness out of festering scars–let’s pluck blossoms of floral love out of the smithereens of urban hate and take back our stolen freedoms.
Show the world why real talk is better than small talk, why individual research is better than institutionalized information; show them why personal belief is better than blind patriotism and love-led honesty is superior to political correctness. Shout with all the loudspeaker in you and all the independence our burnt flag has left every ounce of truth your heart can house. Show us how beautiful the raw human soul is when it hasn’t been tenderized and tampered with by the robotic talons of our dystopian time; roar like the last lion on Earth for the sake of life’s freedoms.
Present the power of the soul to a world that thinks morality and ethics, humility and honor are vestigial traits and the soul a hippie’s concept.
Don’t be afraid to buck the black and white standards and go for glorious grey. While the world is screaming for the blue team and the red team and it’s always democrat versus republican, liberal versus conservative, toss all division in the trash and instead, choose divine truth: it’s good against evil, no matter what. Grab the color spectrum and go for the priceless gold of a personal outlook. The truth is dynamic and multidimensional, and it’s never found in one extreme. Think for yourself. Be your own brainiac. Jump on the infernal back of that raging bull and wear your cowboy hat like a crown.
The world is starving for classic simplicity, dying for a sip of pure morality, suffering from a deprivation of 100% wild and free human souls. We’re thirsting for an ice-cold ounce of freedom. We’re hiring for the cream of the crop but all the harvest has to offer is lukewarm copycats. We’ve sent too many souls through the slaughterhouse of this system and created too many voiceless clones to lose another ounce of uniqueness again. Get out of the gridlocked dungeon of groupthink and escape to freedom, even if it means being labeled.
Even if it means being shunned, shed the serpentine skin of corporate, government, and institutional influence and resuscitate your appetite for truth. Spark a hunger for unaltered reality. Invent a novel form of contemplation, a brand-new method of cognition, a way of thinking where you learn before you panic, where you pray before you speak, where you consider the feelings of the other person before you type out that nasty reply. We are all flesh and blood behind the screen. Even the monsters who pour fear over America through their falsities on the news are real people who will regret their decisions at Judgement Day. Pray for the deceived and spiritually dead; pray for the people who scream their opinions in fear.
No matter what, be that being you were before you were told to be anything other than true.
Be the crackling fire that ignites the world’s wonder. Be the kiss of kindness that quenches its thirst for something fresh, something sweet–be the something that will sweep it off its feet. Spin like a ballerina, swing like an acrobat, speak like the spawn of Braveheart himself. You have nothing but love on your side and a fellow army of wartorn ruffians to accompany you into the smoky darkness of revolution.
Don’t forget what kind of family you belong to: our genealogy goes back to the King of Kings. God will march with us from earthly chaos to heavenly kingdom and He’s not letting go of His adopted children. There is holy blood that soaks our adoption papers and Jesus is still waiting for His siblings to come home.
Your crown is made for you and of you. We aren’t earthly royalty and we won’t be defined by sapphires and rubies, diamonds and emeralds. Paper money means nothing to the Prince of Peace and heirs and heiresses without a heart breaks His heart. Fortune runs like the Nile through Egypt in this family, and it’s not a fortune you can touch. Our crown will be decorated in the gems of our actions, furnished by the love and hate we gave during our human lives.
Let your legacy be a life of love. Keep your kindness in abundant stock and let the candle of love burn into the deepest hours of this darkened night. When God pours His cup of fire over the world and cleanses it, closes these aching curtains and rolls the credits, what will you be credited with?
When the descendants of the future look back on the history books, be the kind of person whose bravery strikes them with awe, of whom the stories of tomorrow will say, “In a time of hate, she loved. In a time of panic, she reasoned. In a time of darkness, she kept lighting her candle; and though it was small, it could be seen across the hills from miles away.”
Be the little light on the hilltop, the firefly in God’s palm, beating with a beautiful rebellion, shining with all the love you have. And if there are no cities of the future, if this is it?
Then all we’ve gotta do is survive the headlines and we’ll be going Home.
I don’t care what other people have said about you, how many times their mouths have spewed poison, how prolifically they’ve rained on your parade.
It doesn’t matter how soaked you are in the showers of censure, how tight their talons of tyranny have trespassed the sanctuary of your soul.
Their sly vice may mock you, wrapping itself around your heart like a spandex python and sucking it into a sun-dried skeleton–their slipshod gossip may chop at your being like a lumberjack’s ax, shredding the sacred structure into a wreckage of raw flesh. But here’s the thing: the degree to which they’ve swallowed your words, drowned your dance, tricked your thoughts, made you feel like the biggest loser in all of history… none of it matters, because you’re wonderful.
They can stalk around like peckish lions and make the hairs on our arms stick up straight like silver needles, make our spines quiver with the creeps, make our confidences shrivel up into a handful of raisins.
Their presences, starved of company, will flood our homes with grim gravity and they will laugh like they’re known to do at our perceived naivety. They can gossip like a flock of vultures and bleed bad vibes, perched in the boughs of their brutal brilliance, looking down on our innocence. Because that’s what they do, it’s their expertise – they’re professional freaks.
They who are full of darkness will be cruel, they will be cold, their icicle thoughts and iceberg hearts will chill you to the bone, but remember this: They’re living like slaves in a season of snow, but you’ve got the sunshine of a lightyear in your soul.
They’re going to hate that peace inside of you. They’re going to hate how vulnerable you are, how sweet you are, how open your eyes look and how clearly your soul shines through those winking windows, and this will trigger them. Love always triggers something in everyone — it’s the ultimate big red button.
There are so many people out there whose souls are just clumps of calcified trauma and they’re giving all their energy into keeping closed that skeleton-filled closet. Since such a huge portion of their psyche goes into the task of taming that behemoth, that enraged little child within them who never stops crying in pain, they’re going to hate anything that softens them, that domesticates them. Anything that sands their serrated horns, that calms their braying breath, that shushes their shaking sins into the silent past — it’s a sour sip of battery acid to their brittle ego still shivering with chemical exposure.
They’re riddled with wounds and smothered in scabs and they’re kicking like a convulsive kangaroo because you’re going against everything they’ve worked for. You’re melting their castle of ice. You’re yanking them away from the comfort of their downward spiral. You’re grabbing the dying motion of their life and throwing it in reverse. You’re buttering their bitter soul in the balm of rebirth. You’re offering the lifejacket, but they’ve already decided they’d rather drown.
These people have labored long and hard to bury their sins in the ground. Yet at the same time, they want the pumice of their pounding heart to be softened — they haven’t felt the beauty of a full beat in years.
They’ve been living in the confines of superficial survival since the dawn of time. They felt the ripe weight of rain at the first roaring of their life, at the very entrance of their genesis into the gallimaufry of this madness and it morphed them from moonstruck to mutilated, hopeless to control their hurting heart with its leaden wingspan as it threatened to crack open their chest with every challenged heave.
Bruised by the merciless monsoon, by the brutal fist of fate, they themselves were beaten into soundless submission. And now all they have to show for a heart is a paper mache piñata packed with skin upon skin of scar tissue, issue upon issue of emotional baggage. They struggle to dictate the very function of their inner world. Every day is a sinister circus and they the walloped ringleader. Their anemic willpower is the handler, their soul is the spike-toothed tiger in the crate, its inky stripes glinting with thunder, its luminescent irises impishly broadcasting a battle between destiny and fate. They’re a roughhoused ragdoll tossed between love and hate.
They’re a jungle of jiving demons, a tight-lipped loner layered in sheet after sheet of leathered heartache, a stone inside a stone beating rivers of deadweight.
They’ve grown worlds around themselves, choked by raven-black woods, great billowing bloodbaths of brooding moods, and they breathe each day with hesitant breath, each muscle tensed, each secret kept, each pain hemmed into their very hemoglobin, meshed with their muscles, bonded with their bones, nestled in their neurons like ghosts in an abandoned home.
And with each pull of the heartstrings, their cadaverous cocoon is cracked a little bit more – their stony stature is melted by the golden sugar of the sun, and they’ll cringe. You’re simply witnessing their wince at the sudden heat wave.
Love them anyway.
They were once just as beautiful as you, just as hopeful, with a swooning set of snowglobe eyes in a face of dewy dreams, glittering with the anticipation of new things. They held the world in their hands like a tennis ball, playfully bouncing it off the walls and hoping they could handle everything it had to offer. But they were mistaken, and it became a bomb, blowing up in their palms and annihilating their childlike awe into a thousand glassy shards, cutting deep, wounding great, transforming them from seedling into sober, from excited into “eh.”
And a leviathan rose up from the ruddy waters, its roar as loud as the growl of a meteor, muffling any cry they might have uttered as its scales blotted out the stars. And this was Pain. And its darkness was such a tar-black glue that it suffocated their sense of the future and their concept of possibility, erased their spiritual agility, grabbed them by the neck and pushed them into a life of negativity, convincing them of the lie that nothing could be changed.
So they nodded their heads in agreement and nothing more was said.
And now here they are, abusing you and abusing themselves, a zealous student of pessimism and a faithful devotee of doom, still living out that dirty lie with all the passion that preceded the event — yet it’s skewed in the wrong direction, aimed at the wrong goal. In fact, it’s aimed at you, like a sizzling cannon of criticism pointed right at the target of your forehead. They’re insulting you, they’re trashing you, they’re climbing all over you like evil athletic kittens with claws as sharp as a 150-point I.Q. and they’re absolutely dousing you in the gasoline of their misery.
Well, do it again.
Love them anyway.
Spin their soul so hard it does a dizzying 180 and finds itself in the opposite direction, pointing toward the beauty of their reality.
You are wonderful.
Tell them they’re beautiful, worth it, and they’re not deserving of the abuse that Pain gives them.
You are wonderful.
Show them what Pain is trying to hide: The fact that they’re birthed from the breath of God, children of the future, victors of the past, promised a life more than this. You are yet to grow into the marvelous mansion you are, your soul has yet to stretch its infinite wings, filling all its lacy electric compartments with your winsome bling.
You’re a bountiful crop of coolness and the world is starving of the harvest you have to offer – you’re a rare sight, an odd one, wonky in all the right ways, and who on Earth would want to miss the scintillating shindig that lives inside the sparkle of your eyes, the coral blush of your blooming cheeks, the way a garden of energy gathers in the bed of your bones and makes you walk with the smoothest of bewitching swing?
Who are you?
Well, you’re wonderful.
Come as you are to this Earth,
leave as you are from this Earth,
be who you are on this Earth
as long as you’re alive.
⬤ ⬤ ⬤
Just so you know, you’re fine being yourself. You don’t need to follow the norm like some cow in a herd. You don’t need to play the part of perfect citizen and you don’t need to cover up the reality of your life. You shouldn’t idolize. You shouldn’t compare. You shouldn’t follow.
You are you and you are absolutely fine without any extra stuff. Stop coloring your hair. Stop smothering your face in layers of drywall-esque makeup. Stop listening to mindless music you don’t even like. Stop admiring people you actually dislike. Stop slaving away for materialistic things while letting your soul shrivel up into a forgotten skeleton. Stop allowing your brain to be manipulated by our consumerist culture—you don’t need that. You are glorious in the raw. You are magnificent as a single entity. You are fine without a fat paycheck, without a fancy house, without the latest clothes.
You are fine.
There is no meaning behind a shallow life, a life lived in the pursuit of perfection, a life lived in the exhausting search for popularity, a life lived in worship of the god of pride. Frivolity will freeze your soul to death, and the lies will eat your heart up.
We’re all so concerned with what others are thinking about us, that we never stop to realize this fact:
If I… am thinking about me… and every other person is thinking about themselves… then in reality, my audience is imagined. My critics are invented. My judges and jury are hallucinated, and they’re haunting me for no good reason.
So let your nerves sink into their natural shapes and have a chance to feel without outside interruption. Drink in the serenity of your surroundings. Pick up on the things you’ve dropped, resume walking the road you once loved. Find yourself and don’t let go. You’re a valuable gift to the world, a living piece of art, and you don’t deserve the cruelty you give yourself.
No one is thinking, “Oh, I wonder what she’s doing right now, what she’s wearing right now, what she’s thinking right now,” OR, “I wonder how clean her house is, how smelly her breath is, or if she has a stain on her shirt.”
They’re not worried about how spiffy your social media is, how clean/big/expensive your car/house/job is, or what your daily inner soliloquies are.
We’re all trying to survive. They’re thinking about their own battles, prepping for their own wars. Be kind to yourself, and treasure the truthful things. Spit out the false perceptions, detox yourself of the worthless drama, and relinquish the roar of groupthink. Supplant it with curiosity and a love as vast as the cosmos.
And don’t ever go back, because vanity is venom. Pride is poison. Comparison is the thief of joy. Following the norm will sap you of your life force, because you will be chasing a nonexistent beast for as long as it takes you to realize that it’s not attainable. How can you follow something that doesn’t exist, that isn’t tangible? Can you hunt down and catch a shadow?
No one is normal, and that’s the beauty of life. There is not a single normal person in this world. And if they do indeed seem to be normal, it’s because they have suppressed and smothered their true self SO well that it’s hard to even find that tiny soul in such a dismal morass of anonymity.
It’s been lost in the abyss of self-hate. It’s been lost in a sea of shallow thinking. It’s been lost and it might never be found. Some people live their lives in such an immaculately mediocre way that it would take years to unearth the dusty truth from under their avalanche of lies.
So be you, and stop trying to murder your personality.
The person you are on the inside is beautiful. You’re beautiful when you’re yourself. Authenticity looks good on you. Reality is attractive! Genuine personality is priceless and it’s free to you, it’s free to me, if we just let ourselves be.
Let yourself live, let yourself breathe, in all your God-given lovable awkwardness.
You never know who might adore it.
Summertime. The echoing glow of green consumes everything in its path, spreading the buttery balm of bright baby leaves across the palette of a pure blue sky. The air is freckled in a calypso of flight, tinged with the tittering of songbirds, and of small playful voices thrilled to be alive.
It’s a summer of that special species, the kind where the powers of good triumph the trickery of the bad, and the darkness of chaos seems to be trapped in a galaxy far, far away, crammed into a cell in the domesticating blackness of space.
And I’m nine. Or ten. Or twelve. Or possibly ageless, my designated identity lost to the labyrinthine allure of this sunshine-soaked land.
I’m staying at my grandmother’s house in Wisconsin.
It is a massive estate, grand in its breadth and width and height, a sort of modernized castle, and it breathes with billowing breath like a dragon full of sugared steam, each room ripe with sparks of curiosity, each room a living lung singing of Italy.
There’s always a weather front arriving to the door of my senses that smells like oregano, parmesan, and the starchy warmth of pasta, intermingled with the rosy aroma of my grandmother’s salmon-pink lipstick and her barely-there perfume. It mingles with the glossed oaken floorboards and the woolen sofas and swirls through the silken air like the Cheshire Cat on a cloud of smoke.
The house is a mystery to me, it always will be. The darkness of the velvet sofa as it winks at me with scarlet whimsy, drawing me into its warm bosom; the outdoor patio and its electric heat, drinking in gallons of sunshine and feeding them into you through the ruddy soles of your feet; the sky-high ceiling where the heavens seem to hide, sunshine pouring through the skylights like an avalanche of gold. And the fruity dew of the basement where colonies of wine bottles live like uninterrupted kings, where the brooding housecat roams like a secret tiger through the winding halls.
Each breath, light with the easiness of youth, smells like sleepy grapes and the honeyed halo of summertime nights. The air ripples with the laughter of my grandfather. He’s saying sentences to us in Italian and taking just one more sip.
If my mind was a vessel, suppose it had a little hatch like a secret passageway within a hobbit house. A quaint thing the shade of springtime grass, a cheery sprout, just a series of verdant planks that creaked open like a whispering grandmother into a gnarled garden. Upon stepping inside, your feet crunching on shattered stained glass, you were met with an implosion of gala-worthy jewels. You saw scrumptious rubies and dazzling diamonds whose sumptuous geometry winked with echoing blue. You saw rivers of pure white rushing down rocks of black, a stunning juxtaposition so beautifully jarring it could knock you out. Crystalline aquamarine carving smiles out of granite, epiphanic evanescence sprinkling down moss-lined stairways, platinum ringlets of electric ivy winding into the mist-perfumed lobbies of heaven; you saw blushing petals and powerful stalks, where a world of romance and darkness collided like velvet into tar. With a sudden blow of thunder, the kamikaze careened into a sopping organ of red and black, a two-toned universe of opposites–an arena so feral even gladiators don’t dare tame it, doctors don’t dare nurse it, healers who convulse with spirit flee at its infernal beauty, a place where warring wildernesses grow to monstrous size and sweep the land in mystery; where ferns of fear eat hope whole. Where mushrooms grow with such venomous vigor on the mineral rain, they’re waterlogged mutants, their leathery grow-in-the-dark skin a pulsating alien nightlight. Where sandpaper leaves droop off glass trees, coated in a colorful dust–then spray out into a floral fan, glittering with a peacocky aerosol of candy-crowned chlorophyll so sweet and addictive animals disdain its gourmet delights. Where caves are more than doorways to the womb of the Earth, but portals to dimensions that make even gravity bow to their vacuum-sealed silence. Where jet-black jaguars wander through memory-drenched daisies and crying chrysanthemums and bathe in oases full of nothing but the blood-curdling truth. Where gossip feeds gargantuan evergreens clothed in mint-green scales, their pinecones reptilian orbs. Where saber-tooth tigers with machete-sharp fangs curl beneath weeping willow trees and whine for the moon to let loose its dreamy dictatorship over the land, to cease its casting of somnolence across the country. Where decrees are sent out to every doorpost in the universe, demanding the moon slurp up the silver milk it’s spilled.
To mourn the woolly mammoths, dream of Doritos, overthink itself into a psychic simoom–to do whatever a mind does when the mind is free to be itself, that is the dream.
But one day, the hatch unlatched–the vessel was breached from the underbelly to the peak, from the thickest depths of gravity to the euphoria of the exosphere, and for a split second, it was quiet. I hung in aerial silence, hovered beneath the shade of the unspoken. I came to terms with it, a hole in my head, a glitch in my system, an additional leviathan to patrol the watery caves of my subconscious and haunt my morning swims. And from my place in the center of the sea, surrounded by nothing but the spit of salt, the slap of water, and the singeing of the sun, I could see on the sun-speckled coasts of my white sand beach the aquamarine keepers of the cosmos, the stars in their royal armor wrenched out of place. The stars were standing, ripe in the corners of the atmospheric castle like sterling oranges drooping from a molten tree, melting into a glassy heap of liquid ivory. The sky looked like a sheet of blue birthday cake liquefying into a milky morass, a falling monarch of sugar-soaked satin giving way to a black hole.
Appearing suddenly from the depths of the forest, a looming behemoth stood on the shore, baring its blackened fangs and growling with threat. The ground shook, a ferocious beating of tectonic plates pounding one another into a fiery fanfare, spewing out fractals of volcanic voltage. The beast stood, digging its claws into the dirt and making earthen daggers out of digits. And I was trapped. My mind surrounded me, and I swam through its ocean like a bug in a bowl of syrup. The guise of sky gutted, the surface of the earth splitting like sackcloth at the seam, the ocean crying luminescent steam. Pouring a storm of jet-black ocean spray, the pot of ink and parchment were licked by the feather-tipped fingers of lightning, scrawled into scorched cuneiform, and slammed together between leaden panels of solemn fate. It was decided: the rain would pour.
The army of jagged clouds tugged at each other’s gnarled ends with barbarian torque, tussling themselves into a tangle of wires that flashed like a writhing mass of brilliant axons and dendrites. With each electric throb, it withered and swelled, pumped and deflated, threatening to release the egg of black rain incubating at the basin of the moon. The metal in me had eaten enough; my waterlogged lungs heaved like balloons in my ribs, every cell of me a cistern for the satiny downpour. But I began to choke on the frothy medicine sold by the pharmacies of the marine world, the abyssal jets, the saltwater elixirs so delicious to overdose, and the rain was beginning to swallow the beach and break down the levy and drown the billowing pink beds of roses, whisk the gems away to sterile museums and flush my bright blue memories into the dusky onyx sea.
Whole beings burst like grapes between the thumbs of a giant, tiny explosions that sound like rubber boots landing in a mud puddle–beings I could not be and places I could not go. A festival of burst berries, a party of punctured sacs, the terradomes of other times concentrated into snowglobes and this was Earth, my land: a place of unfertilized seeds and rotten fruit, pictures of what had been but could never again be. Time and situations, circumstances and seconds sewn into the cement-lined barbed wire-blanketed jailhouse of dead jubilees. Transience, impermanence, the nine to five of the fallen worlds: The fact that time holds the wheel of film on which our lives are written, and it runs at a jet’s speed, an elusive cheetah, a wisp of auroral radioactivity unable to be leashed in its wild luminescence. The place where light crystallizes mid-catch on the coattails of traveling clouds–that’s where my soul got caught, and the sun surged in the sky like a yolk of butter, an orange marmalade, and popped, birthing a deluge of honeybees hissing out at Niagara Falls speed. It was a burst colony and the queen was zipping away on wings of translucent exit as the world below her blew up.
One roaring geyser thrust itself from the center of the sea, a muscled forearm punching the surface and breaking the waves, then exploding into a rage of steam. Another shot out of the side of a rock, cracking the moss-skinned boulder in two and hissing out a horizon of acid that vaporized the water it kissed. The horizon was split in half, where the ground and sky were divided by a wall of whitewater framed by ribbons of ricocheting radiance. The sea screamed itself into a salty schism, an acrid testament to warring opposites. Cascading into a realm of light, the water offended all it met, reflecting off the waves of the sea, flashing in the sky above, spinning tortoises and dolphins and jellyfish into harassed whirlpools like a DJ spins a disc. The water spat all different kinds of light: a party of neon halogens, of cackling old gaslights, of flickering torches that still dance with the call of the ancients. It breathed like a sauna, drank like a fountain recycles every gallon, gathering it into its icy cycle of eternal flow. My feet sashaying beneath me, my arms rotating like a watermill to keep abreast, my swimming proved pointless. I was sucked down to the deepest blue, almost into the undreamable darkness of the ocean’s origin, that drop of ink in an abyss, that pupil of Sheol which rarely blinks until the day it won’t at all.
Light climbed up out of the cocoon of saltwater, the most stubborn of sidekicks, and shimmied like a sun-kissed salmon at my hips. It was as though the whole world uttered, But wait… there’s more. The lasers would dance, the bulbs of ether would shudder. Light flooded the plane, spilling into the scene. Flickering, faltering, came a fire of oceanic flames: I saw dizzying silver strobe lights, fancy blinding floodlights followed by a flock of starlit shadows, and slouching in the corner of the peachy corals brooded a bubbly gang of cool cats, a crowd of lava lamps, oozing with psychedelic antiquity. A party of such slow magnificence, balloons filled with syrup and confetti made of stars–a swirling centrifuge with such tart gravity, it was a whirlpool of dimensional wonder. It was a shindig that made you want to test your best gander with shameless grandeur, to ask all that had been asked and more, to question the quietness into a roar. It made you want to quiz the professor in all the queries there were to ask, just to tickle the petty nature of the sea-borne teacher–a professor of stark delight, a ruler of the ocean’s midnight, a water-crowned creature of rarest feature and a being of froth-fitted flight. But the teacher taught more and I asked less.
The disco ball slammed into a skid in the cycle, hitting its last deadline, and dove into the dreamy oasis of silence, still spinning like a planet made of silver. There was a soundless void that enveloped each second before the sea was judged, and the judging was rich. It would get a criminally sweet cashmere kiss from the final pirouette of the crystalline canopy, a most frozen prophecy that quickly melted into reality. Suddenly the swooning ceiling came crashing down and the sky spat a scepter, an ozone-gilded sabre, bending into itself and fashioning an infernal glow to the beryl room above us. The blue became a bowl, a sunken cistern, a hollow abyss that swelled into a floral haze. With each loving blossom of pulsing thunder, the atmosphere morphed into a misty pot of perfume, a place where hot water soaks rose petals into light pink nectar, where geishas dip their fingers and dab their necks and flowers follow them all day long.
The peak of the sky showed the finale of moonlight, the prodigal stars’ return. They shone with neon heat, magma smiles, the grin of a graduated class. They were finished with their waxing and waning, soaring and swaying like snowflakes in winter’s breath. The stars stood rooted, wrapped in white, ivory buttons blazed in snow. They were pressed into their powdery forms like faerie dust in fondant, glued in their gullies like handprints in honey. They were scattered across the sky like astronaut footprints in a buttery layer of moondusted marshmallow, a glacial money wielded by a sky-borne volcano. The stars stayed and shone light unafraid. And you would see me, in my throne under the waves, in my home in the clouds, as I coast through the trees like a silent breeze, bowing in reverence to it all.
Back in the prehistoric days of my life when I was but a wee sapling, I liked to swim like a dolphin likes to swim. I was made of fins, gills, and aquatic thrills, and had a hobby of hightailing it out of land and into the heaven of H2O. Every week, my mom summoned us on a crusade to the local Family Y where we took part in a parent’s dream, translating our psychotic jitters into chillaxed quivers. My mother, being the mastermind that she is, devised the perfect equation to drain our excess energy: Just toss the kids into a pool and they’ll exorcise – ahem, exercise their electricity ‘til it’s more of an angelic voltage. And sure enough, once we spent our joules on a jive in the swimming pool, we emerged like limp noodles, our muscles mushy as applesauce, granting more and more credit to our mother’s genius. We no longer bounced off the walls like boomerangs brought to life and my mother felt complete in her responsibility of ringleader, leaning back into her chair of authority after a long day of scolding the circus clowns.
I can just picture it now: Me up to the neck in water, my bambino bod slashing at the surface, kicking up an eye-stinging storm as my twiggy arms ate feasts of distance. I wouldn’t stop swinging my steaming fists until every muscle in my body felt like it had been tenderized by a massive ax, seasoned with a heaping tablespoon of lactic acid and draped over my bones like molten bubblegum. I knew I’d done a good job of being an otter if my skin smelled like it had been injected with cologne made of chlorine and I was a walking talking creature of chemical stink.
But the atmosphere itself was to blame for all the awesomeness. The YMCA was a thriving mecca of joy and the pool was nothing but paradise. The place had the vibe of a cathedral – airy and mystical – with brilliant lights beaming down in a slow-moving smile. The surface of the water echoed an electric ultramarine and the air was pickled in a haze of chlorine. Life was alive all around. People were swimming, splashing, and shrieking with mirth. But the most noticeable of all was the writhing beehive of babies floating like fattened buoys in the water. Flocks of children pocked the surface like micro-pimples on the blue skin of an Avatar – it looked like the sea had chicken pox. And once you did a little Jane Goodall glance, it seemed like the population could be divided into two groups of behavior: the attackers and the attacked.
The attackers cut through the currents like sharks, their voices mounting in a mutiny of high-pitched pirate cries. And the attacked floated like banal beige dumplings in a bowel of soy sauce, their cherubic cheeks blushing with blood flow, aimlessly drifting away. It was a panic at the poolside and everyone was getting stormy as could be, living it up like apes in an asylum. Their mothers sat on the sidelines cheering for the little mermaids and mermen, watching with adoration as the fantastical beasts bobbed about. They’d fidget with their manicured hands and tickle the car keys and apply lip balm religiously, but they kept a stern eye on their champions.
The children’s arms were always adorned in floaties, their every limb flailing in some way as they snuffed water with their poor inflamed nostrils and gulped down gallons of chlorine. Now I realize why their mothers were so attentive: the kids were begging the Fates to take them, dragging their chins in the water and pleading for a powwow with the Grim Reaper. Every time I witnessed yet another nautical slam dunk I thanked God for the floaties, because without them the lifeguard might’ve needed to do his job. When they stepped out of the water they were red-eyed and snotty, happy to look like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer tripping on a THC high.
And sitting like cranky royals on their thrones were the ever-annoyed teenage lifeguards. They were speckled in acne and bedecked in bad attitudes, and they came in an abundance of different shapes, sizes, and skin tones, but each one of them wore the same pinched lemonsquint as if they’d been trying to expel a turd for five years and still hadn’t become number one in their battle with number two. They were lessons in negative body language, surveying the vastness of their aqueous domain like the sniveling spawns of Poseidon or the poolside police. I swam with civil caution and never ran on the slick cement. But every so often something melted their iceberg scowls: The daily flirt. Surpassing all stereotypes, they became cool as mint and smooth as honey for the sake of impressing their beaus. The guys and girls of the lifeguarding league would converge in a cloud of floral hormones to flirt together, and though I was jealous, I enjoyed the sitcom undertones, brooding like a drama-loving crocodile from the camouflage of the pool, watching the big kids make big memories.
The whole scene looked like a tribal oasis in which aborigines lived ambrosial lives, where they coasted on the crystalline water and lollygagged on the lighthearted laughter and feasted on the golden fallout of the sun that swam in through the skylights. The movement of the moments followed a strictly supernatural pattern, like the Milky Way melting into itself, into chocolate nectar at the core of all creation. The children swam in swirling circles, the mothers obsessed over their amphibious offspring, and the lifeguards revved their egotistical engines ‘til they smoked like burnt steak. It seemed like a predestined memory unfolding yet again in the endless cycle of rebirth. Oblivious to it all, we swam faster than missiles, carving carousels in the currents so strong you’d think we could’ve punched a black hole in the floor.
As a person who feels a lot, who feels emotions so strongly it’s like I’m busting the pink pipes of my heart with every elephantine pulse, whose soul is an electric bloodbath bleeding the embers of Eve’s first PMS nightmare, I am destined to be fazed. Some can roar on by like wildebeests cloaked in a suit of ice-cold iron and cough blood without batting an eye, who slap their outdated feelzies out of their face the moment they begin to swarm it in a flock of flaxen dots. This special breed of warrior humanoid is known to keep a face as bitchy as a pack of wild dogs and a soul-garden so dry it rivals the humor of a bitter Brit. Only cacti and curses and pickled porcupines inhabit this garden—anything weak is welcome to die.
But me, I can fake the scowl of a warrior only so long. I can pretend to be the Nazi, but just for a nanosecond before I break into a harmonious hugging spree. I can act like an asshole, but in the end I’d rather be a peach. Or a pillow made of cashmere. Or a cumulus cloud comprised of cotton candy, that chugs through the sky kissing the earth in shadows.
It’s almost as if my nervous system is too electric for my body, with my wiring all warped and wry in my tiny frame—like I’m a bundle of concentrated nerves compacted into a single atom… as if a mega-computer were crammed into the skull of an unarmed teddy bear. I have the guts of a Goliathan in the form of a peanut butter plop, with the punch of paper mache and the monologue of a mime. My blood is silken scarlet housed in a microscopic engine, and she’s happy to keep gobbling up years and manifesting memories and keep the huffing puffing wolf of life alive, but sadly she keeps getting choked to near death by the toxic influx of foreign affairs. Too much data, not enough drawers. Vanilla or chocolate? Mortgage, or homelessness? Job, or homelessness? Taxes or prison? Health and happiness, or death and despair? I am boggled to the brim by the sheer weight of life’s extremes and the vast potpourri of choices set before me.
Plus, I’ve always been told that moderation is key, but it doesn’t seem like life obeys this rule. Life is a fickle player to please. At one moment she’s the only hope you’ve got, because she embodies the path you’ll follow if you want to live here, and the only concept in which your existence finds its possibility. Life. And on the other hand, she’s a psychopath stalker streamlining every single feasible folly straight into your soup and laughing while you sputter on the spice.
But she’ll keep on tipping scales and tossing ships and throwing our sanities into the nothingness of the cosmos like the clever girl she is, because that’s how she keeps us busy. What on Earth would we do if life did not keep us busy? We might actually have a well-formed thought for once, or cook a satisfying meal, or maybe have a moment to contemplate the ugliness of our government. And where would we go with that? There’d be no end to the mental merry-making. We’d go from single to married in a millisecond and how would the airlines handle the deluge of honeymooning revolutionists?
One moment we’d be finishing up a pot of broiled ambrosia and congratulating ourselves on finally finding the time cook for ourselves—and after a split-second of personal improvements we’d wake to discover that we’re now parading through the streets like Braveheart, shirtless and reckless and wearing tribal war paint on our faces and little leather thongs like the Na’vi people, prancing on our way to paint the White House Oompa Loompa orange.
I’m hungry, you’re hungry, let’s eat cake. Or pie. Or… cake. “Well, why not both?” you may ask. That’s a tragic question, my dear fellow, because though our bellies are brewing a lake of acid and we could digest a Roman statue, we are limited to a single slice because we only have $5. Cake or pie?
Marie Antoinette would tell you that cake is the best option, white cake, the kind that melts like a pillow of proper sugar in your mouth, the kind that wears an outfit of vanilla frills and dewy dollops and waxy candles of every kind, emitting mouthwatering vibes of carbohydrate charisma. Cake is Effie Trinket in edible form. It’s royal cake. Cake of the highest rank. Cake for the coolest of cats. Cake for the Everest of echelons. Great cake for great minds. Cake is a door into other dimensions, through which you can see yourself sitting on a sofa with fork in hand, gobbling her up like the fierce hunter you are. This world is a caterwauling cold war, but cake is our fattening lifeboat, and once we jump in, she’ll take you from the harrowing House of Hunger straight into the cush of Comfort Castle, and you’ll go from anemic skeleton into beefy damsel with little to no effort whatsoever!
But like all things, cake has a dark side. She may seem like a cottony dreamboat and the hottest name in the cookbook, but beneath the surface she has quite the criminal record. She’s the slimiest schmooze and if her flavor were honest about her person, she would taste like creamed turds, because she brownnoses like no one else can. She’s a houseguest with an outstanding sense of snobbery and a skill for spying, because somehow she has found her way into every family photo and is the smoothest of time-travelling trespassers. She haunts our weddings, birthdays, and graduations, and convinces us all to take part in her forbidden flesh, flaunting her lacy lashes and proclaiming her peachy membranes and driving us all mad, and if that weren’t enough, she winks with her irksome icing and finishes the final step. We need a slice. So we mosey on over to the cake table and get ourselves a tasty portion, and before we know it we’re suffering from a sugar-induced migraine and sprawled out on the couch, just another one of her well-fed victims.
Pie, on the other hand, is a saint. Pie is kind, pie is smart, pie is important. Pie is the humble mother of all pastries, the philanthropic queen of all desserts, the all-seeing eyeball of edible euphoria. Her fruity insides gleam with organic glitter and her buttery crust could blow your mind. She is both sweet and nutritious, both exciting and edifying, and in all reality, if sugar is kept to the bare minimum, she’s a health food. She is the result of orchards, of wild forests, of hardworking farmers and their juicy bounties, and arrives to the table when the sun has been bright and the rains just right. She is the utopian synthesis of soulfood, echoing the fertility of nature.
But like all members of creation, pie has her downfalls, and sometimes she falls so flat that we wonder, as we weep, why we didn’t choose Charming Cake as our chieftain and why we went with Pathetic Pie, whose leadership skills are blasé and bland at best, whose willpower more closely mimics lukewarm pudding than the spicy CEO she pretends to be. She is a mediocre member of the dinner table, a dispensable citizen of the meal, and once freshly baked, she often just sits on the table, steaming like a pile of sh!t and scowling at everyone with her unapproachable heat. And though she possesses a hot temper within, her initiative is as weak as a newborn giraffe’s knees, and her intellect as tame as a tub of trapped sounds, each one being the phrase, “I am Pie,” in eerie monotone. We could say great things about pie’s dark side, like we did with cake’s, depicting her as a rebellious spy and a successful predator of the human appetite, but with pie, she’s just too plain. We could easily replace her with a bowl of ice cream, with baklava or a pumpkin roll, and call it an okay day. But her familial appeal is almost addictive, and though the show would still go on, the table wouldn’t seem quite right. Without her, we would all feel a pie-shaped chasm in our hearts and pine for her matronly vibes.
So even though pie’s a little boring and cake is a little catty, we can both say that no high school would be the same without the nerd and the cheerleader, and chick flicks across the globe would be without a plot. Likewise, family milestones and holidays would be miserable naked things without them, each table denuded of its brightest sugared star and everyone wondering where on Earth they’ll get their glucose overdose now. Even though they’re a little bitter to the bite sometimes, they’re a pair of flourishing petunias in our culinary garden we couldn’t do without.