I picked up my camera from the booth, with metallic black nails, and held the viewfinder up to my face. I pushed my glasses up to my forehead to get a better focus on him. He said, "you look like a stereotype." My shutter made it’s clunky click anyway. I lowered the camera to my thighs. My birthday pancakes hadn't arrived yet. 


I'm aware of him immediately when he walks in. He always looks the same—wearing a mismatched scarf around his neck and a dark cowboy hat, even though it is over 90º. Everyone notices him and our collected energy adjusts, tightens. His character is unwelcome. He walks toward me. He paces behind me to get to the bathroom. Once he sits on the other side of the coffee shop, I notice I had been holding my breath. Almost in a whisper, only loud enough for the friend less than a foot away to hear me under multiple conversations, I said, "I know that if something happened, I'd be able to handle it. I could say something...And you guys are here. I know I'm safe, but I hold my breath anyway."


I googled “slash–and–burn.” It’s a method used to cut down and burn the forest to create an empty field. If I burned it all down, what could I accomplish in emptiness? 

Cut out negativity, invaluable thoughts, worthless wants, tricks society played, things I need to unlearn, the shit I tell myself that I recognize as shit but it’s still in there anyway. Burn out what he told me, and I believed. Cut down my perfectionist tendencies, the obstacles keeping me from growth. Burn my expectations. Simmer the impatience, the anxiety, I have with myself. Burn down the previous versions of my self. Take only the seeds with me (this is a lame metaphor).

Maybe then, in an empty field, I could do whatever I want. I could replant the good stuff, the important stuff, only the best versions of myself. I’d stare at the empty field, too unsure of myself to make any sudden moves. 

“Dream” feels like a childish concept to me, right now. Reality should take priority. I’ve not been allowing myself to think any bigger than surviving day-to-day, week-to-week, first of the month to the first of the month. 

If I’m capable of near emptiness, would I allow myself to experience gratitude for everything good I am doing for myself? There would be more space for this habit.

I’m afraid the vastness could invite too much of an impulse to experience everything new, distracting me from my ambitions.


“I give myself up to the possibility of true light.” - Tonight I’m Someone Else by Chelsea Hodson 


We were both self sabotaging before our birthdays, separately and together. It was one of the ways we used each other.


Any time I felt scared or anticipated something graphic on the screen, I would turn my head and press my face through the crack between seats. I’d look up to the window at the top back of theatre and watch the inverted picture.  Sometimes it felt like I was seeing an advanced screening—I was being let in on the secret before anyone else—of the bigger picture happening behind me. I would listen to dialogue, the sounds of a character being killed, gunshots, explosions, gruesome deaths. I’d still gather the information needed to move the story forward. Minimizing the visualization of horror was a way I protected myself. 
Playing Be The Cowboy by Mitski on repeat.