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He is sitting at the table raking his bonsai tree. I am standing in front of him, watching. This is what he does now. It is all that he does. He grooms this little tree. He sits at this table, small, white, boring. It’s fun, he says. He does not look up at me.

Sometimes music blares in the room. It’s good music. It makes him happy, as he sits very still and stares at the bonsai tree. I listen to his music. I search for some kind of meaning in it, because he is silent. Slowly the music is becoming more interesting than he is. I watch him; he does not look up at me.

The tree is alive but he is dying. I want to dump the thing on the floor, pull him away, throw a clock at him, kiss his face, make him stare into a sunset. Wake up. Stop this. It is such a little thing, it is not as big as you think it is. He stops listening to me.

It is getting worse and worse. The music is still playing, it still sounds nice, but it’s starting to make my head hurt. Too much of a good thing. Too much of this one thing. Not enough of the man behind the tree. He is lost in it. Somehow he is gone.

Finally, finally, finally, I am tired. I sing softly along with his song as I leave the room. He does not look at me, he does not look for me. Somehow he has died. The door shuts. Maybe I will see him again in the sunshine.

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1. Who do you think you are?! No, really, who are you? Putting on different fake faces for different people isn’t a good way to live life.

2. Here’s the thing you forgot, the thing you’ve been searching for: it isn’t that you want to do it, it’s that you must do it.

3. If you leave the music on your iPod long enough, you’ll start to like at all again! (Might take several years.)

4. I’m pretty excited (geeked!) for the new Stars Wars movie. I didn’t even think I liked Star Wars that much! Where’s the VHS box set?! Dig it out of the basement, please. Yes, I did forget what VHS were called! I googled it.

5. I haven’t practiced French in 6 months. Oops! But really, when are they going to come up with an “upgrade” for my brain?! My computer has to update every once in awhile, why can’t some program add “French V.1.0” to my head while I sleep?! #questions

6. Being cruel in an attempt to be funny, isn’t. It just makes you an asshole.

7. “You found out what kind of person to be from your parents.” “But I’m nothing like my parents.” “You found out what kind of person to be from your parents.”

8. It’s all okay.

9. Where are we going? Why is it so confusing? Why is it so hard? Why is it so easy for some people? What’s wrong with them?! 

10. Where to now?

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I wish I could filter out all the things I don’t care about. But that’s terrible, isn’t it? I should care. Shouldn’t I?

They make big posters and banners and they scream, “black lives matter!!” and I don’t care. “All lives matter,” I whisper. “Everyone matters,” I whisper.

He writes, “Je suis Charlie,” and he doesn’t know what he’s saying. He doesn’t understand anything. Neither do I, but I don’t care. “Je suis moi,’ I whisper. “Qui etes-vous?” I whisper. I’m trying to teach myself French. I’m trying to understand without listening.

She yells at me because I take a picture of my Italian dessert in Seoul. She teases me, asks if I’ll share it on Instagram. “Of course not,” I say. “Not anymore,” I whisper. It doesn’t matter. Sometimes I just want to share everything with you. Do you? Voulez-vous?

I was in love with a black boy when I was young. His skin was like chocolate. I don’t remember his name because he moved away, and I don’t remember anyone’s name. I wonder where he is now. I wonder if he speaks French. Who knows? Je ne sais pas.

They hate war, say it’s terrible. They hate bombs. They won’t talk about it, they filter it out. Everything is black and white. The gray color is too difficult. No one knows what gray matter is really about. I miss Psychology class. I learned a lot back then. I think I have forgotten everything. What good is a degree you don’t remember? But it still might get me a job somewhere. Peut etre.

I stay up too late. Too early. What timezone am I living in? My own, I guess. How do you say that in French? “Ma propre, je suppose.” That’s nice.

I want to write you a book. I remember this one time my friend said to me, “If you write a book, I’ll read it.” And that was a great thing to say. So maybe I’ll write a book for her, if I ever think of anything good. But maybe I should learn French first. It seems important. How do you say that? “Il semble important.” That’s nice.

I want to talk to all the people who I disagree with. I mean, it seems like I disagree with them. They march around upset and screaming, waving banners, blaming each other. They scare me. I don’t know if they would talk to me. I don’t know if we could get past our disagreements. Isn’t that sad? Tragic. Terrible. Lonely.

Je suis seul. I know that one. I like it because seul is a lot like Seoul and I’ve been to both places. Loneliness seems like a wonderful and terrible name for a place, doesn’t it? N’est-ce pas?

Hello. Who are you? Will you tell me? What do you look like when you’re all alone? Who are you? I don’t care about anything else. I won’t tell anyone your secrets, I promise. I miss you. I probably do, anyway. Even if I don’t know you. Isn’t that fucking stupid? Maybe you think it is. It’s not really true, because it’s impossible. Maybe I learned about this kind of logic in Philosophy classes, but I don’t remember any more. Merde.

I’m very bad at endings. I remember once I took an online Theater class, and I had to write a play. Just a short one. And it was about a family, and I don’t really remember what they said to each other. But students in my class commented on my play, and I remember they said it was too happy. There was no tension. It was too circular. Everything happened for a reason and the end was like the beginning. Do you think life is like that? Tell me. “Dîtes-moi!”

 

 

 

 

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We sat in a row on the ground in the backyard of someone’s house at someone’s halloween party. We were watching two costumed people fight with fake swords — I think the female version of John Snow won in the end, somehow; I’m not sure how you win a fake fight.

The backyard belonged to a house that belonged to a group of college students — anyway maybe that explains why the backyard was only patches of grass and the ground was mostly scraggly dirt, large rocks, a spare desk chair, and an old couch that everyone was avoiding. Most people were standing anyway, looped into circles of hand-made-costumed art majors waving clear plastic cups full of questionable mixed drinks around in the air as they spoke. My little group — three girls sitting on a row of lumpy rocks — cycled between watching the sword fight, chatting, and gazing around at other people.

I was in town from out of state, visiting my friend in her city for the second time in as many months. It was November 1st, and I had just  Mega-Bussed my way south for 8 hours, Halloween costume shoved into my backpack.

As we sat in our little artsy row, another person came to join us. And his costume was confusing but very good and I had to ask him what it all meant and sometimes that’s the way homemade costumes and art both are.  And the four of us continued the chatting and watching and gazing cycle. And really it’s not entirely true that my friend was the only person I knew at the party, because I had met this boy before, a month earlier, during my first visit to the city.

The rest of the party happened and then ended, after John Snow won the fight and we all got up from the rocky, dirty, chair-y backyard and danced in the room that is usually the dining room and drank more questionable drinks made by two college kids dressed as a werewolf and the universe. And the rest of my visit happened, happily, spending time with my friend and exploring the city she lived in which was slowly becoming my third favorite, after my hometown and Chicago.

I remember at one point during the next day how I found myself with nothing much to do for a few hours, as my friend was working on a project for school. And I could have done a lot of things with that free time. And I remember thinking about the boy from the party, the intriguing beautiful artsy boy, and I wondered what he was doing as I was sitting around (writing this), and if he would agree to get coffee if I asked him, or just wander, or chat, or gaze at other people somewhere in my new, third-favorite place.

These were all things I thought about but didn’t do. And I Mega-Bussed back home and his name was added to the list of “Cool People I Should Have Hung Out With.” Almost a year later, and that list slowly continues to grow. Of course the other list, the cool people I have hung out with, is much longer, but there are names that I’ve missed, people I’ve missed out on, experiences I haven’t had, for no good reason other than I was too afraid or too unmoved or too lazy, or a cycle of all three. And that’s no good. That list exists but it shouldn’t. This is a true story but it shouldn’t be.

There is a man. He is walking toward me on a long dark path. He could be young or old. It might be a woman. We will pass each other and we will not speak. And the path will still be long and dark.

Let’s go to the rose garden and not take a single picture. We’ll weave past the smart-phone-slingers and we’ll run, colors blurring until there are no colors; until there is every color. The roses — don’t touch them, just smell them, and try to remember the exact shade of pink that no camera could capture anyway.

Death might surely be coming for us soon. And we’ll lie in our beds surrounded by all of the plastic containers we’ve emptied in our lifetimes. Our vision will blur at the edges like it did we when were running past the roses in the garden; we’ll see every color — we’ve seen every color, while we’ve been running — and then we will see nothing.

On the long walk home from the garden, we’ll walk into the city center, and through. The lights will glare down on us, from every angle and corner, every color that neon comes in. The lights they flicker, and drop, and loop, and blink. The signs they politely and shyly and cunningly ask you for every penny you have — every 99 cents. And we will give them most of everything we have, we will leave it all here: some of it drops from us as we run, some we left quietly with that man we never spoke to on the dark park path, some leaves from our eyes as we smile at little dogs and little children and at strangers’ backs as they hold hands with other strangers that they love.

In August, one sign reads, the roses will droop and their petals will fall to the ground. The pinks and reds and purples and yellows will all fade to brown, the same color, the same shade. They will be swept up — this is a tidy city, after all — and dumped into a clear plastic garbage bag and left at the same street corner as the convenience store you bought a candy bar from two weeks ago. Brown and brown and brown, buried unnaturally in the earth. Us, too.

Two dogs are sniffing at each other on the walking path. One is white, a tiny fluffy creature, the other black, with short hair, also small. Their owners smile politely at each other, earbuds in, tugging on their leashes. They do not want to say hello, unlike their dogs, even though they are the ones that are able, and they would very much appreciate if their furry companions would ignore every other living creature around them, as they do. And eventually, I’m sure, the two small dogs were pulled away, but I did not stay to watch it, and you do not, either. We walk away. We do not smile when they can see us. We do not speak.

It is hot, tonight. It will be hot all week. The sun will shine down on us and on the pink roses in the rose garden in the park. The bright light will burn the corners of the flower petals; bleach them, turn them a shade lighter than before. No one will take pictures of the roses by the end of July; they will no longer be beautiful enough for Instagram; no amount of photo editing could bring back that shade of pink; there will be no more selfies.

When we reach our home, we will jog up the flights of stairs to our apartments. We will close the door behind us and enter a dark space. Lying on our beds in silence, we will close our eyes, think of the pink we’ve seen, of all the pink we’ve seen, of all the colors. We will think of the old man on the walking path, the one who we never really saw. We will think of the tiny dogs that wanted to be friends. We will think of all the people who do not see the roses, only take pictures of them. We will try to picture the exact shade of pink on those pink roses in the rose garden in the park. We won’t be able to, and the color won’t be the same tomorrow, when we go back. The sun will have been shining down, the color lost, the day over, gone, wasted.  What a waste of a rose garden, you are. We are, us happy snap-backed photo snappers. We tiny dog owners. We tiny home owners. Tiny life livers.

Tomorrow night we will all go back to the park. We will walk quietly along the cement paths. We will weave around those who walk slower than us; let faster walkers pass. We will march in a small, green and flowery parade, fancy tennis shoes squeaking under bright lights. The roses in the rose garden in the park will be there, too. And the small dogs. And the strangers who will stay strangers. And we will march and then march home. And we will close our eyes and everything will go dark.

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1. I hope you are happy.

2. People are still living their lives even when you can’t see them.

3. You are beautiful, you know that. Tell me why you need to keep posting poorly-lit pictures of yourself to prove it.

4. Our planet is both the largest and smallest thing that exists; the largest hunk of rock you’ll ever live on, a tiny speck in the universe. You can be thousands of miles (kilometers?) away from someone, and yet they’re just at your fingertips, on your computer screen, in your pocket. Big and small, near and far, finite and infinite.

5. Yes, Frozen is amazing. But think of all the other great Disney songs young kids are missing out on! Someone dig out the Lion King/Aladdin/Little Mermaid VHS!!

6. If you appear to other people to be what you dream of yet becoming, what are you? Who are we all trying to be, anyway? Are we even trying to be anything?

7. For the love of all that exists, please can we stop saying “literally“?!! Even if you actually truly really mean literally. Just don’t. Get a thesaurus. Stop. Stop. Stop.

8. Someone save me from my apparently über-Canadian fate. Irish? Italians? French? Is anyone out there?! It’s me, Margaret. Wait, what?

9. It makes me sad that when someone asks a child, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”, the only socially acceptable examples are, “A doctor? A lawyer? Scientist?” No one says artist, philosopher, barkeeper — whatever. It’s 2014 and we still can’t speak the truth.

10. You’re not alone. Even when it feels like it. Even when you physically are. You’re just not.