I know what time it is – the plants on my balcony fade from green to beige to dead-brown.

He knows what time it is but doesn’t want anyone else to know – but they know.

She knows what time it is but doesn’t care about me anymore – her life is on track and going very well.

They know what time it is – time to continue on as ever as the light fades away.


When I was little, Fall was a tall pile of crunchy leaves in the backyard. It was the great expanse of our place in the world made bigger by the absence of foliage – more space to play. Fall was the shrugging on of colorful, warm coats pulled from the front closet with the wide swinging doors. 


Look at the girl, grinning. Dream of that girl, dreaming. Back before everything became different.


What do you remember? What will she remember – little sweet running thing, tiny small jumping thing, precious baby laughing thing? What can we make, build, burn, do for her? What did you ever think you could do?


Beauty staring into beauty, fading like colors of Fall, fading like memories of childhood, staring backwards at everything, staring forwards at everything. Take more pictures – they don’t fade as fast.

It’s raining this morning. Water falling from the sky – how far away is that? Tea sitting on my desk beside me. Leaves grown in Thailand – how far away is that?

We keep doing the same things. Shocking, maddening, damaging. All the colors of the rainbow. There’s no rainbow. Just rain.

People are afraid. Humans are frightening. Generations at war with ourselves and everything around us. How do we throw away fear? It’s kept us alive all these years. Well, some of us.

See, it seems we didn’t evolve enough. We stopped too soon, happily scraping our tools in the dirt. We’re all missing something. What is it? Can we know?

Pulling back, looking down at all of it from the rain clouds above, we’re just scrambling animals without a clue. The rain knows more than us.

He saw his mother put in the ground last year. She never knew the answer. He doesn’t know. Can’t seem to find it as his babies are being born into this world. Who is left to ask? We fragile things keep dying off before we can figure it out. Struggling to survive, still, even with our modern technologies. With our tea from the other side of the world. We’ve gotten really good at hunting and gathering. What else could we possibly need?

 

I follow in my ancestral footsteps as my coffee sloshes from my mug and leaves droplets on the carpet. I won’t ever wash it, I’m sure it’s fine, the house smells worse than coffee anyway, I’ve really only ever improved the scent. Like most other things, I’m making a mess as I find my way through.

It’s a new year. But somehow we already live in the second month. The one-year anniversary approaches of living away from each other, covering our mouths, worrying about more than we ever did, even though we already worried quite a lot.

Somehow life has mostly plodded on as usual. We’re expected to work, study, clean (but not the carpet – don’t ever tell anyone about the carpet) – all on our own. It’s more obvious than ever before that we’re on our own, surrounded by others on their own, surrounded again by an entire planet on its own. Society at large seems to be surviving only by definition, cemented by taxes and rule followers: families that wait to cross at traffic lights, dog owners who pick up poo, sweet ape-like creatures who dress themselves and go about life how they ought. The recent drama with the stock market only underlines all of this – it turns out it’s all a game, whether or not you know you’re playing. We’re all born into it, and we either learn the unwritten rules, or end up an utter failure in a coffee-stained hallway. Or worse – you might not like coffee, you might not have a hallway.

Though suddenly I’m much more grateful for everything I’ve ever had, whether or not I still have it. It might be just the coffee talking, here, but I’m appreciating my childhood friends, the multitude of houses I’ve called home, the books I’ve loved, and all of the people I find still in my life today. It also seems easier to let things (and people) go – probably because we’re all balancing so much. We’re playing on survival mode more than ever before, in a game much more confusing and with more challenging problems than our little ape-brains have ever had to face. (Or so I presume. I can’t speak for those of us who had to fight giant toothy cats to survive. I mean, it’s just a coffee spill and a global pandemic and stuff, right? Calm down.)

It feels though as we’ve all been collectively procrastinating (something I know how to do pretty well, thanks) and now everything’s due next Friday and we don’t really have enough time left. It’s all piling up on us, one by one by one, and it’s too much to manage, too much to comprehend, let alone fit into our Google calendar.

And that leads me to the whole point of all of this, which is that I’ve never claimed to be an academic – I obviously don’t like to follow grammar rules, let alone do scholarly research or make MLA-style citations. So, I think it should be acceptable to my professors, who hold the mighty red pen so loftily, that I leave a little note letting them know that I tried my best (mostly) and to give me a gold star sticker like I got back in kindergarten. I mean, who said older people don’t like stickers? Why is that a rule? I don’t know how to be an academic writer in the same way I don’t fully understand how the game of society works. So, let me get away with making it up as I want. It’ll all make sense in the end. (Mostly.)

 

 

 

 

The grounds swirl at the bottom of my coffee cup, proving gravity exists as the sun rises. You won’t notice them as you sip your sweetened caffeine, don’t worry. This is European Style I tell myself. In reality it’s probably poorly done, but it makes me happy pressing down the plunger – a sense of satisfaction. Today, I did something. I pressed a plunger down and I made some coffee that tasted pretty good at least to the standards of how it usually tastes when I make my coffee which is pretty much every single time I ever have coffee.

This year has dragged on and drag-raced away. Somehow the plants have kept growing and the windowsills always need to be dusted again. Families have felt deep loss, countries have faced harsh realities, the world has taken a collective breath and held it, trying not to breathe on one another.

As the sun comes up and the level of coffee in my mug goes down, I think about power. The power of the wealthy. The power of kindness. How hard it is to be kind when you’re powerless, with no resources to your name. How easy it is to be kind if you make the choice, despite how the world has shown itself to be.

The very best people I know struggle to live the way they want to. The most deserving humans whom I love, suffer. Talent, goodness, and kindness are left to swirl down the drain along with the remnants of my morning coffee. These are the things we don’t care about.

The sun is all the way up now. We see exactly what we are. The lights are on bright as we string up more lights for this holiday season, as we fill and refill our mugs full. We know what we are, you and I. What shall we do about it?

 

What is there to say? We’ve said it all already – all of the words. Which of them were useful? Which good? Is there any more good coming?

Still, all we have are questions. Still, all we have are more problems – more and more, piling on top of one another, rotting the older ones into forgetful oblivion, stinking up the inside of our heads, leading to another question: what is that smell? Is it our democracy, dead or dying?

Far away and right next door, a girl takes a white paper flag and covers it in colorful words. No justice, no peace. We are here, we are loud. You will listen. You will hear me. This has gone on long enough, all of it. All of us. Together, we make this. Together, we must change this.

Far away and right next door, a man swears loudly at his ancient television screen. Things are not right. There is danger at every corner. The world has gone mad. If my father were alive to see this, he thinks, well, thank the lord he’s not. Everything will be better, soon. We must continue on, we’ll get there – back to normal.

Too small-minded to see the bigger picture. Too big-headed to have any room for an inkling of: perhaps it should be different. Too smart for this planet, too dumb for this planet. This, as they say, is us.

 

 

 

 

We should stay inside. Let the other animals have back their planet. Surely we have had enough of it already.

Our time is over. It should be clear to us now what it is we have done here. Let’s wait a century, see what happens, see what can improve.

We do not deserve the trees. We do not deserve to travel. We do not deserve to see more than what is viewable from the windows of our earth-constructed homes.

Let us cease to roam. Stop taking more than what is essential. It is not good. It is very likely bad.

So let us stay inside. We can listen together as the birds come back, chirping loudly on “overgrown” trees. Let the grass grow tall, be overtaken by “weeds”. Let the natural plants come home as we stay inside ours.

We do not need anything more. We have taken too much already. We are surrounded by it. It is killing us and everything.

The wolves will roam the streets. No man will force them away and out. The roads will crumble, return to dirt, return to forests. The Earth will heal itself, given time.

It is a small thing. We are too big. Enormous. We rules the skies, the seas, the highest mountains. We took it all. We should return it. We have more than what is necessary. Humans must learn to share.

 

 

He’s back, almost two years later. Everyone is unsure how to feel. Happy, at first. Excited for some amount of joy, eager to soak any of his sunshine in during the dark times. Confused, unsure, hesitant, guilty.

Was he guilty? If she thinks so, does it matter? What matters? Does he still matter to us? Are his words still important? Can a man be separate from his work? Am I?

He painted in rainbows, in sunshine, in colors so bright they might still blind us from our harsh realities.

It’s been more than a decade, more than a moment, more than that night we sat together in the same room and thought about the same things. But he was with other people in other rooms, too.

We move on.

There are seedlings growing in the sunshine on my balcony. Sunshine itself is sadly not enough for you and I to grow. Apart or together.

They abuse the colors of the rainbow to make money, to spread fear and misinformation, to tell truths we may or may not need to hear. There is very little silence. Here, too.

Writing is speaking. Speaking is wind rushing out of your lungs, through your vocal cords, over your teeth – back into the air. Release it all.

There is very little space, now. Too many people stuffed in too many homes. Don’t spread anything. Keep quiet. Share nothing. Don’t move. Stay still.

Yes, you’re all special. Loud and terrible beings. Your mother is the worst, your dog is the cutest, your life is the most important. Here, too.

It is warmest in the sunshine next to the window. From there you can look out onto the street, watch the people riding their bikes, buying fresh bread, holding hands.

It’s always been very distant. There’s never been a goal. I’ve never been part of it.

He’s back, feeling not too bad about any of it. He tells us he’s learned a lot about himself. Is that possible? Do we care?

Everyone is very tired. They nap in the sunshine, in the quietness, next to the colors of life.

The old man walking down the road calls to his little dog: Come, come here.

Last year she quit her job, sold her belongings, and moved to another state. Now she’s back again, and we’re here pretending nothing happened – no man broke her heart, no time has passed, she’s just living in a different apartment now, working a different job – slightly shifted but the same.

In my dream they stood naked in a field. In my head he sings to me still, though I haven’t seen him in years. He sings, he sings, the sun goes away behind a cloud, my eyes disappear beneath their lids, water swells over the earth.

You want to listen to his music pre-2017, Bob Dylan in his early years, my music in the future, if there is one.

My professor said all humans seek recognition. It’s the only way we can know ourselves – to see our self through someone else.

It isn’t real life, he said. It echoes at me through the years. It isn’t real life.

What are we building now? The houses of our past has crumbled. My mind is crumbling. Must we always make something more?

You are still alive out there, somewhere, though I haven’t seen you in years.

My old Philosophy teacher doesn’t want to vote for Bernie. But we all already knew that there is a limit to the usefulness of Philosophy.

The strings we left dangling may yet be tied back together. All we have is the time we have left to see what happens: what dreams we will dream, what music we will lose and find again, what people will fade away or come back, what all we will build and tear down.

If she could see me now, she wouldn’t believe it. Look at us, I whisper at her through time, you’d love this. Everything you wanted and still nothing.

We are at the brink, at the edge of destruction, at the cusp, the final race, the last human choice. We will go forward from here. It may be a beginning or an ending – we won’t know for many years.

Years ago the future was dark to me – a mystery. It still is. He still is. We still are.

The ivy plant I stole is growing in the windowsill, so slowly. What will its future be?

You should write – you should sing – you should dance to bad music – you should travel before your hips and knees and eyes go out.

What is it to us? We cannot see the melting glaciers from our ivory towers.

She told me it was a fine example of fictocriticism. I told her I like to refer to it as my life.

Ich bin ausländer.

On the train a little girl tells her mom about London. London doesn’t hurt like Berlin does, she says, leaving the train. She goes back to her hotel. She leaves Berlin. She grows up and some other things happen.

Photographs like the blink of an eye. Memories like faded photographs. I can’t see anything in my head. All is dark here.

Today it snowed in the place where I was born. Today it was the hottest it’s ever been in Antarctica. We are all cold and dying like the sun. Her son will be born soon, into this mess we’ve made. Clean your room, child. Put your toys away. Be responsible for something.

 

I wonder if I am a good writer, or if I have ever been a good writer, or what a good writer is, or if they have ever existed, or if they can exist.

Maybe I used to be good. Maybe I just used to think I was good. Maybe I’ve always been chasing some past version of myself that never actually existed. Maybe we all are doing that, right now.

The wooden bookshelf in my room has absorbed the scent of the frankincense incense I burn almost daily, becoming one large incense stick itself, one sure to burn down your entire apartment complex if lit, since it can’t fit inside the small vintage incense burner your dad gave to you or you stole from him, one or the other, one and the same.

I pick up one of the few books I have here, philosophy of happiness, read a page, put it back down, wonder what Athens looked like covered in thinkers.

The shades are often drawn, blocking out most of the sunlight. Summer has ended, over, finished, until the next one, if any of us live that long. Autumn began a few days ago, of course nothing really feels any different other than the change in the weather and in necessary outdoor wear. I wonder if I’ve changed in the year I’ve been in Europe. Surely. Maybe. Is it human to think so or human to think I’m exactly the same?

His crazy rambles make me crazy. I want to scream right back at him – SHUT THE FUCK UP! STOP TALKING TO YOURSELF! I DON’T WANT TO HEAR YOU ANYMORE! FUCKING FUCK!

It’s raining today. That makes it different than yesterday. Life just slips by, one day into another, season by season, long pants by short pants.

We are animals – it’s important to remember that. We’ve created all of this – thought it up, dreamed it out, built it up. It’s not real. Is it?

I can’t keep sitting here listening to the rain, I’ve got things to do. We all have things to do. We made them up.

I think I will sit here by the window in the sunshine with my plants a bit longer and listen to the rain with them. I’ll light an incense cone and watch the smoke crawl up towards the ceiling.

This isn’t meant to be anything. Maybe one day – one season, one summer, one year – I’ll make something more.

It’s due to rain straight through until morning. I’ll be here, at the window.