Journal #44 (in which Brian takes over)

We were in San Francisco when I found her. The two of us, [said man] and I, were both in the back of the minivan and leaning against its opposite sides as we scoured the Tinderverse for her. Outside it was black and a rare summer San Francisco rain came down drumming the roof. Though I wasn’t swiping nearly as fast as [said man], the longer we sat there the closer I came to matching his almost manic pace.

Suddenly I had to pause, my thumb twitching over the screen. I refocused my eyes and stared at her.

“What did you say she looked like?” I asked him.

He went on to list her traits: her black hair, her pale skin and her full, always pursed lips—

But I wasn’t listening. I was going through her photos, this Annie, age 25, black hair, black eyes, pale skin, full pursed lips… of course it was her.

“Why do you ask?” he asked me.

I shook my head. The possibility of succeeding only now struck me as impossible, just now as the impossible became possible. I looked closer at her photos, one in particular, the second to last standing out. She’s as Disneyland. She’s younger. But it’s not complete, the photo is definitely cropped. Someone had been standing next to her. You could see his chin in the upper left hand corner and it’s his, albeit beardless, but definitely his. It’s crooked and uncertain, and from it you could paint the rest of his face, five years younger but still his face.

“Wait, did you find her?” He was staring at me, and I was afraid to look up. I didn’t know what to do. I wasn’t prepared for her eyes. Those eyes would destroy him. Already have destroyed him. Suddenly I wondered if this was a good idea. She became real just then, no longer the fantasy he conjured, but a real and breathing woman being and what was I supposed to do? I know now, of course, what I should have done, but that’s easy to see now, isn’t it? Knowing everything that’s happened.

I backed out to her bio which read:

“Beware of false men who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves.”

A chill ran through me. You will know them by their hunger.

“Give me that, what is it?”

He took a swipe at my phone, but I held it away. “It’s nobody,” I told him.

“If it’s nobody then let me see.”

He made another grab at it. I fell back onto the mattress and he on top of me. His chest pressing against my chest, my arm outstretched, us breathing against each other, and suddenly he had it, my phone in his hand.

My heart thumped as I pushed myself back up, watching his face. His face fell, disappointed, and he handed the phone back.

“I’m sorry,” he said. “I thought…”

“It’s okay,” I said.

I looked down at the phone, and where once was Annie was someone else, some thin blonde, in the struggle I must’ve swiped her left or right; anyway, it didn’t matter because she was gone and no match came. Still, her eyes were lodged in mine, gazing up at me from inside. I kept swiping to keep up the charade, but he knew something was up, he must’ve seen the change in me, that I wasn’t really searching.

He put down his phone and watched me. It didn’t matter that he saw “the proof” that I’d been telling “the truth,” he knew that I couldn’t be trusted. His eyes appeared to have a conversation with themselves, with some “other” that wasn’t there, and his distrust for me only grew. I’m not sure how long we were in San Francisco, maybe a week, but by the end he wasn’t talking to me. I disappeared as usual, there was only so much I could take. His presence was heavy, like there were two of him, and so he outnumbered me. I played it calm, but inside I was a mess. Some other side of him was taking over, this blank coldness in his eyes, and I began to doubt our mission. Especially after finding Annie on Tinder and losing her, I didn’t know what the hell we were doing. This was supposed to help him.

During our last night in San Francisco (we didn’t know it was our last night), I woke up to him whispering to himself and watching me. I could see only his silhouette and his eyes, and the glint of something in his hands, turning. My waking had no effect on him, he just kept whispering, whispering, watching me without seeing me.

“Put down the knife,” I said to him, but my voice didn’t register. He only watched me as I watched him. I said his name. I said his name again.

Suddenly he started shouting, I couldn’t understand what, it was like some primitive language he made up, just shouting, no emotion in his voice. Then he lunged at me. If the action was honest I’m sure he could’ve ended me then, but just as fast as he lunged, he dropped the knife and collapsed into the mattress and started to cry. I hid the knife away under the passenger seat. I thought I could hear him whispering I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m so sorry through the sobs.

I don’t like writing this. I don’t like telling you this. It paints a much different picture of the man you’ve come to know, because this couldn’t possibly be the man you’ve come to know. And it isn’t. It isn’t the man I know. This was a man taken by a madness, much more serious than his own writings made it out to be, whimsical and mystical and magical (I’m sure it was to him), but outside of him it looked like something else. The reality was worse.

It wasn’t always like this San Francisco night though, sometimes I felt as if he were close to something, something bigger, some great truth that only the mad are graced with. Maybe if he reached this everything would be okay, maybe he could benefit from this in the end, maybe we both could. I hoped that in allowing his delusions to play themselves out, he would find himself, he would come back into himself and find himself stronger. I didn’t want to see him medicated, to see him lose the light in his eyes that first drew me to him, but I was as naive and misguided as he was.

He became unresponsive during the sobbing fit in the van and the only thing I could think to do was to take him home, to his parents’ home. I knew we were close, they lived just south of here, so I took him home.

Honestly I don’t know if he remembered that night, he never wrote about it, and I’m fairly certain he was referring to something else when he wrote, repeatedly, that “nothing happened in San Francisco.” Something else happened between us, it seems unreal to me now but it did. I wouldn’t be surprised if he blocked it all out though. The “other” within him grew to be too much, and he shut down. When you become someone else your mind has to kill what it can, and memory is often the collateral damage.

I despise California. I hate being here. Every time I’m here, I find myself weary, there’s no other way to describe it. A fatigue buried in a place where simple exhaustion can’t reach. But after taking him home, I couldn’t bring myself to leave. I felt responsible for what happened, of course I did, I was frivolous with someone who was mentally ill, call it a distrust for doctors, I don’t know, but I’m certain I made it worse.

Tom was always close behind us. I told him what happened and where I was, he came to meet me, and I stayed with him during the first weeks of [said man]’s stay at home. The place was heavy, Sunnyvale I mean, a perfect suburbia so perfect it bordered on a prison. We never felt at ease here, parking on of the side streets, main streets, anywhere. Everything here was clean, well-ordered, so we stuck out like dog shit in a museum. Tom wanted to go, for us to move on and leave [said man] be, but I couldn’t leave him. I’m not sure if it was guilt that kept me around, that kept me checking up on him, or if it was something else.

I’m not sure I really believed this was the end.

Visiting him in his parents’ home grew tough, I never could accept it as his home. He was calm, he was taken care of, and if it wasn’t for the failing light in his eyes, I would’ve believed he was okay. I couldn’t watch this. I didn’t want to be there when the light was finally gone, knowing I was responsible. I had to let him go. He knew this too. So I let him go.

Tom picked me up and we went away, booked it as far away from California as we could go. We took I-80 through Nevada, into Utah, its endless white nothing the perfect cure for California’s never-ending everything, and reaching Salt Lake, switched north to I-15 into Idaho and I believe this was where we were when Trump was elected, though I can’t be sure where we were when any of this happened. This story isn’t about that. We protested, we burned shit, we headed further east as the world fell apart, but this story isn’t about that.

[Said man] no longer texted. He drifted from my thoughts, from my reality, and though he’d crop up there from time to time (I had to wonder if he knew what was going on, if he knew the state of the world, and if he did, if he even cared, if it mattered to him), mostly he was gone.

I do know we were in DC when my phone buzzed, I remember this very distinctly, and since I was with Tom at the time, I thought it must be [said man], but it wasn’t. It was Tinder.

I had a new match.

I knew it was Annie before I even opened my phone. I looked at her but did nothing. I couldn’t look at her, I couldn’t make room to think about her. I closed the app, put my phone in my pocket and tried to think of other things. More important things. Like what Tom and I were trying to do here. But there [said man] was again, back in my thoughts, back in my reality, this story we started and failed to finish.

But I was right to take him home, wasn’t I?

Yes, you were right to take him home, Tom would reassure me. He wasn’t well.

Right, I would say. He wasn’t.

My thoughts strayed from what we were doing here. What we were doing here felt increasingly like nothing at all, burning things that couldn’t burn, touching things that couldn’t be touched, screaming at the inevitable tide of history as it slipped in on itself.

I thought about him. What I did to him. How I left him there alone. How if there was one thing in this world I could change, one way I could make a difference…

“I have to go back,” I told Tom.

Tom nodded. He knew where I was talking about, to whom I was talking about, and without hesitation he told me he’d take me. And in a manic-light-blinding-quick-pissing-caffeine-headache-dreamless-sleepless three days, he drove me the whole way.

Beyond going back, I had no plan. I debated on whether or not to tell him about Annie, that I had found her (she was here! on my phone! we can finally end this!), but when we arrived back in Sunnyvale, I couldn’t do it, I couldn’t approach him.

Tom dropped me off, told me he’d stay close, to text him if I needed anything. And I nodded, said okay, now go.

I watched the house. His room was dark, no movement there. I waited at the open end of the cul-de-sac and felt eyes on me from other dark windows, but I didn’t move. Three nights I spent like this before I saw anything, and it wasn’t much, just a shadow at his bedroom window as his blinds flitted open, closed, and open again. When the shadow was gone I crept to the window and peered inside. A car rolled down the cul-de-sac, its windows open, its driver tossing newspapers deep into driveways. I stayed low as the headlights sprayed shadows across the bedroom walls. When the car turned the corner, I peeked in again. Except for his slow breathing, he hadn’t moved. He slept how normal people sleep. He breathed how normal people breathe. But whether this normality was normal or something else, dormant, I couldn’t know.

Passing by his minivan in the driveway, I noticed it was unlocked. I don’t know why I got in, maybe it was for old time’s sake, my way of saying goodbye for good without saying a thing, but I got in. Coming here was a bad idea. Maybe he really was better. I sat there in the driver’s seat and put my hands on the wheel. The wheel was cold, dusty and unused. Below it was a glint dangling in the dark. His keys, just hanging from the ignition. I laughed to myself then. No, he was not okay. He was not okay at all.

I toyed with the keychain, felt it with my fingers, up to the inserted key, and turned it a notch.

No, he was not okay at all.

From the stack of CDs on the passenger side floor, I picked one up from the top and slipped it into the slot. At first it was silence. Then bass static. Then guitar static. Guitar screaming. CLASH! Singer screaming. CLASH! Funk beat— CLASH!CLASH!CLASH!

And I sat there, listening, waiting, waiting, waiting…

Just waiting.


join Brian next week for journal #45 (in which Brian goes undercover)


Journal #39 (in which said man retreats further into himself)

My first word was “fuck.”

Now granted, what I was trying to say was undoubtedly truck, what came out at the time was definitely “fuck.” At least that’s what my parents tell me. Why I bring this up now, why this comes back to me — a memory that’s not really my memory at all, just someone else’s memory that involves me and was told to me — is hard to say. It could be because I’m struggling for words now, sitting at the same table where I once said my first word, and my parents are sitting here too and none of us are saying anything. There’s only the clanking and scraping of silverware against plates, the slow chewing of food. This silence at dinner isn’t unusual exactly, at least not for my family, only now it strikes me as mildly uncomfortable. Because here I am, a grown man eating with his parents, and it seems nothing has changed since the moments before I said my first word all those years ago. Except maybe there was hope then. Also, I’m older.

Growing up in a family of introverts was always an easy thing, it was never necessary to talk if you didn’t want to talk. I have three siblings — I realize I’ve never written about them here, probably because they never played into this story, and they won’t be playing a part now as far as the story goes, but maybe it’s important to bring them up if only to give you a better sense of things. I have an older sister, a younger brother, and a younger sister — I’ll leave their names out of this. My younger sister still goes to school, in San Luis Obispo, my brother works at an architecture firm in Seattle, and my older sister still lives at home though right now I don’t know where she is. I haven’t seen much of her since I wound up back here.

What I’m trying to say is, growing up, it wasn’t just me and my parents. But we were silent, all of us. We kept to ourselves. And this allowed for my thoughts to grow in any direction they wanted, and solidify there. Reality was no hindrance. I gave things names that weren’t their real names. I gave things meanings that weren’t their real meanings. I had my own internal language, my own internal set of rules I didn’t realize was internal. Nobody could tell me otherwise because I never spoke to anyone about any of this.

Then there were the voices, not heard, more felt as a cool draft in the back of my head. There were reoccurring nightmares of black-haired demons shapeshifting into black-haired cats. There were all the Bible stories from Sunday School compiling, taking on too literal of a history in my mind. And then there was the belief that all birds were angels, guardian angels to be more specific, that every person was assigned one, and that mine was a particular Blue Jay — though I just called him Blue — who often visited our backyard.

Blue would screech, not sing, in the cluster of trees by the fence. It sounded more like someone screaming. Trying to watch TV, my dad would inevitably get fed up and storm outside to throw rocks at the trees until Blue shut up, or disappeared (my dad even amassed a collection of rocks outside the door for this purpose). On other days, Blue would fly straight into the living room window — we’d always know by the hollow THUMP and rattle of windowpane you could hear from anywhere in the house. And sure enough, there he’d be, lying motionless on the back patio only to shake himself up, un-ruffle his blue and white feathers, give us a quick look with crazed eyes before taking off in whatever direction he saw fit. Sometimes right back into the window.

This was my guardian angel. I told no one this. Probably because I was ashamed of my guardian angel.

Blue stopped showing up around the time I went into high school. By college, I didn’t so much think he was dead, I’d simply forgotten he’d ever existed. Still, all of this remained — the voices and demons and Bible stories and the bird — though buried, hardening within me like cement and expanding. All it needed was a little nick, a slight crack in the skull to escape into the conscious mind.

So after the inevitable first crack came and I was forced to drop out of college, move back in with my parents to seal the crack back up, imagine my surprise when I hear that familiar THUMP against the living room window. I’m home alone at the time, it’s early winter, and who’s out there but little Blue, now gray, lying on the patio and struggling for breath. I recognize him immediately. A smudge of blood on the window where he hit. I crouch over him, watch his feet twitch, his little eyes open wide and eyeing me from their side as if to say, it’s your turn now, it’s your turn to take care of me. And I say, of course, little Blue, I’ll take care of you.

Then he dies.

I’m pretty drunk at the time, so I don’t feel much, drinking being a strict part of my regimen to seal the crack. I just hover over him, and stagger back. His feathers quiver but it’s only the wind. Only later, long after burying him in the stretch of dirt behind the basketball hoop, do I feel something. A brief moment of sober clarity before falling asleep. For the first time, I realize, I’m truly alone.

“Fuck,” I say to myself now, years later, here again, recovering from the second crack.

My parents look up from their plates, mid-chew.

“What was that?” my dad asks.

I feign a cough, shake my head, and that’s the end of that. We all go back to eating.

I’m working hard to seal this second crack up for good, and not just seal it up, but reinforce it with everything I’ve got so it never comes re-cracked, undone — whatever — again. This time I avoid booze, I avoid weed, I run like my life depends on it. And I’m afraid it does. I’m desperate for that hit of high, when the body feels like lead but the mind flies. Without it I sink, keep sinking. These “family” dinners are also part of the regimen, a suggestion from my parents to reintegrate a level of normality and routine back into my life.

And at night when I’m alone, I check the cracks, see what’s still there, what’s still getting through—

The bird was just a bird. Annie was just Annie. The man was just myself. Good. And Brian— well, who was he? My heart sinks. I turn off the light and my heart sinks deeper. Let it sink, I tell myself. I’ll seal my heart up too.

In the morning I run harder, sweat harder, read the papers over breakfast, and reaffirm this as reality. The rise and fall of Trump in the polls, the inevitability of another Clinton in the White House, etc.

I let the *scar tissue* crawl over the split, the tear in my mind, again and again, the *scar tissue* webs itself over—

But just then there’s a little rip, a tear in the

*scar tissue*

scar tissue that I wish you saw

sarcastic mister know it all

close your eyes and I’ll kiss you, cause

with the birds I’ll share—

I need to be more careful with my word choices, my thought choices, because there are still things out there, outside of myself, that can reach the things inside myself, and by connecting what’s inside to what’s outside, it doesn’t matter how much scar        

*AHEM* — reinforcement I’ve put up, what’s inside will always be inside and could at any time come spilling out. At any time.

So I avoid radios, I avoid thinking about radios, I avoid anywhere where radios play, which, it goes without saying, could be anywhere. Naturally this gets in the way of my return to society. I can’t leave the house in fear I’ll overhear a certain song, a certain voice, and all this work will have been for naught. My parents want me to get a job. I’m all for it, I tell them. Unfortunately the only jobs I’m qualified for are in retail or restaurants, places where the radio always plays. I try to explain this to them, my parents, and they’re kind enough to nod, to say they understand, but when suggesting that I should try it anyway and see how it goes, I see they don’t understand at all. It doesn’t matter though, they stick to their hands-off approach and their suggestions remain just that, suggestions.

After one particular visit to the grocery store — a poor decision on my part — I tell myself I can never set foot in a grocery store again. While I ‘d been checking out, a song by that band came down from the overhead speakers—

with the birds I’ll share this lonely viewin’

with the birds I’ll share this lonely viewin’

—and I felt myself waking from some dream, dark smoke pushing, rising, pulsating against the scar *stuff* of my mind, and standing there I knew that if I didn’t leave now all would be lost. I left the groceries with the cashier, and walked out without saying a word.

I cradled myself in the car, humming the song, trying to turn the tune into a different tune. I was unsuccessful.

It’s weeks before I leave my house again. And when I do, it’s to stand in the backyard. Listen to the birds — just birds. Back inside. I form a bubble in my room. I hope that maybe, when this red hot summer is over — though surely summer must be over? — I can safely make the trips outside, when the radios have finally had enough of

that band.

I don’t leave my room. I don’t go on my phone. Though Brian and I would text at first, sometimes he’d even call, our correspondence slows the way most distanced correspondences do. He’s on his way to becoming an old friend, and from there — a forgotten acquaintance. I’ve deleted Tinder, though I’m still charged $9.99 a month for the Plus upgrade because I failed to unsubscribe before deleting the app. I don’t care. I won’t touch it. I’m afraid of getting too close to it again, that somehow it’d draw me back in and I’d stumble across someone’s eyes and said someone’s eyes would wake me from this little cave I’ve created beneath the crack.

Anything to stay safe. To stay sane.

Anything to keep the *crack* closed.

Once again, my mom has to deliver my food, and leave it at the door.

Every now and again I’ll hear a THUMP.

A THUMP THUMP from the living room window but I don’t get up. I can’t let any light through the crack. Not until I’m sure it’s closed for good. For good. Cause with the birds I’ll share—

No. Enough.

Stop that.

—this lonely view. Little Blue.



Anyway. This is my state. This is where I’m at when Brian decides to come back.


join man next week for journal #40 (in which Brian comes back)

Journal #38 (in which said man revisits the one-armed Jesus)

We sit at the edge of the bed for some time without either of us saying a thing. I can tell there’s something else he wants to say but he’s not saying it. Or he hasn’t quite figured out what he needs to say, if he needs to say anything at all.

I’m still naked. Nothing on but a towel.

“Are you going to open the letter?” I ask him.

“I don’t know. Yes, eventually.”

“What do you think it says?”

“You know what I think it says.”

I nod.

“Is it helping, what he sends you?”

Brian shrugs.

“A little,” he says. “But mostly, no.”

“Will you tell me what this one says?”

“It depends on what it says. Do you want to know?”

“I don’t know. I won’t know till I know what it says.”

“I know what you mean.”

He gets up.

“You will tell me though, won’t you?” I ask.

“I’m glad to see you’re doing better.”

“Am I better?” I ask him. “I really can’t tell.”

“You’re different, that’s for sure.”

“Where are you going?”


“Will you be back?”

“Yes. I’ll be back.”

And he does come back. Often. Over the coming days, and weeks, he stops by to check up on me, to see how I’m doing. Neither of us seems to know if I’m getting better or if I’m getting worse, we only know that I’m changing. I definitely feel different — sedated, in the moment, but only because I have no hope for better moments. I take every day, day by day, and I’m in the moment because I’m terrified to look at my future, even more ashamed to look at my past. Brian will sometimes bring over a movie, this is when I can tell he doesn’t want to talk, and usually I’m okay with that. One morning he brings Scarface and we watch that. After the movie he asks me, “You like that movie?”

“Not really.”


We stare at the credits and then the DVD menu when the credits are done. And then he leaves.

Sometimes he doesn’t bring a movie over, and I’m okay with that too, because it means we get to talk, even if all the talks are the same, even though I can tell he’s just trying to confirm that I’m really okay so he can leave for good and wipe his conscience clean of me.

“My parents suggested I see someone,” I tell him.

“Do you want to see someone?”


“But do you think it would help?”

“I don’t know.”

He nods.

“I don’t know what I’d say,” I go on. “Also, I’m embarrassed.”

“About what?”

“About the person I thought I was.”

“So you don’t think you’re that anymore.”

“Yes? I don’t know. No. It’s not that though.”

“So what is it?”

“I know who I am, I know who I was, but I’m not sure it means anything anymore. Or I wasn’t Him at all. I don’t know. If I’m Him or I’m not Him, it doesn’t matter because I’m just me, and I’m outdated — He is outdated. I have nothing to say, nothing to do. If there is a God, he’s abandoned me. If I am God, I’ve abandoned myself. Does that make sense?”

“It does.”

“Anyway, I’m not sure telling anyone this would make any difference. Crazy or not, I know what I saw, I’ve seen the interconnectedness of meaningless things, and I can’t unsee that. The feeling will always stick with me. They can put me on medication, they can try to rewire my mind, correct incorrect imbalances, but no amount of dopamine or serotonin, or whatever they deem as the culprit, can make me forget that I’ve seen the interconnectedness of meaningless things. When you’re there, when you feel yourself at your very center, you see it all spreading out and colliding away from you, everything you do affecting everything else and it never ends, nothing ever ends, meaning it goes on forever in an endless cycle, on and on and back around again, every possibility playing itself out, so — mathematically — nothing you do matters. You will always end up where you are. Both of us will always end up here.”

“You’re so close though,” Brian says.

“Close to what?”

“I don’t know,” he says. “I never got there.”


“I was hoping you could tell me when you got there.”

“And then you took me here.”

“And then I took you here.”


A couple of blocks away from my house — there’s no question now this’ll always be my house, there’s no escaping it — there’s a church. In front of this church there’s a statue of Jesus, arms outspread like most statues of Jesus, only here his left arm is silver while the rest of the statue is bronze. This is because, back when I was in middle school, some of the kids had stolen the left arm as a prank. Nobody knew who had done it or why, but the result was that the statue became known as the “Hitler Jesus,” because with only one arm raised, it looked as if he was saluting, palm out, much like Hitler.

At the time, this meant nothing to me — it was just a stupid joke, calling this Jesus the “Hitler Jesus.” It wasn’t until years later, long after the arm was finally replaced with the silver one, that I saw the meaning in it, its careful foreshadowing of my own life. Because late in the first madness, I became convinced that in my cycle of death and rebirth, that every nine lives I was reborn as the antichrist. This came out of necessity, because the only way to create something was to destroy something. Not only was I the reincarnation of Jesus, I was the reincarnation of Hitler.

I had to come to terms with that. I was God. I was a mass murderer. Creating life necessitated killing it.

When, because of these thoughts, I dropped out of college and moved back in with my parents the first time, I had to wonder if the subconscious memory of the “Hitler Jesus” was the root of these delusions, if they were delusions, or instead confirmation of my enlightenment. Whatever the connection, there was a connection between Jesus, Hitler, the statue, and me — that I knew.

When I now talk about the interconnectedness of meaningless things, this is what I’m talking about.

All things are connected and none of it means anything.

Though everything changes, nothing changes at all.


Brian starts showing up less and less and I feel the time approaching when he’ll show up no more. California is not home to him, neither is Washington for that matter, and I’m surprised he’s lasted in either place for so long. Though he doesn’t say anything, I know one of these visits will be his last and I won’t have it in me to follow him.

I can’t forgive him for bringing me here because I forgave him a long time ago. I almost wonder if I knew this was where the road would end. My road is straight. My road has always been straight. Yet home was always where the straight road ends.

On Brian’s last visit — I know it’s his last visit because in his silence I know he’s trying to tell me something, and whether I’m better or worse than before, we both know I’ve reached the end of the road where better or worse ends — I suggest we go for a walk. He looked uncomfortable sitting there on the couch and maybe I was uncomfortable too. We walk along the perfectly white sidewalk squares and, before long, come across the statue once known as the “Hitler Jesus.” I have to wonder if this was the plan all along, to take him here. We sit on the stone bench beneath the statue.

“Why did you take me here?” he asks me.

I don’t have an answer to that.

He looks around and, confirming nobody is around, lights a cigarette. Even Brian must feel it, a devout atheist like him, he feels the sacredness of this place. He takes a drag from the cigarette and blows a plume up toward the statue.

“Why is his arm a different color?”

I tell him.

I tell him in all seriousness what I’ve told you.

When I’m done telling him, all he says is—


And then he bursts out laughing. He laughs and coughs and laughs some more. He wipes a tear from his cheek, pinches the rest from his eyes. “Oh god,” he says and takes a quick drag from his cigarette to steady himself. Once steady, he looks up, almost in awe at the statue, as if he’s been converted into something other than what he is.

“So somewhere out there, he has a third arm, just lying around?”

“Yeah? I guess so.”

“Shit,” he says, though I’m not sure why. “A third arm. Shit.”

He gets up from the bench, stares a long time into the bronze eyes of the statue, and then walks away. I follow him.

When we reach my house, though he still says nothing, I know this is goodbye. You don’t have to be omniscient to know I’m never going to see Brian again.

He says goodbye like all the other times, but this goodbye feels different. The breath in my own goodbye tastes different.

“We’ll always have San Francisco,” he says.

“What happened in San Francisco?”

“You don’t remember?”

“No,” I say.

“Oh. Nothing happened in San Francisco.”

Then he walks away, his duffle slung over his shoulder. He leaves me the keys to the minivan, which at first I find to be a touching parting gesture until I remember it was my minivan all along.

I watch him disappear around the street corner. I thought maybe he’d turn and wave when he got there, but he didn’t. He just vanished without so much as a glance back.

Nothing else moves on the street. The trees are still. The air is stagnant.

I go back inside.


join man next week for journal #39 (in which said man retreats further into himself)

Journal #35 (in which said man finds himself)

Of course, throughout all of this, we are still being followed. By a man in a car. By a man in blue Honda. You know the one.

We stick to the coast, southbound on Highway 1. The dark expanse of ocean threatens on our right, tumultuous under low hanging clouds. Wind sweeps in off the waters and pulls the meadow grass down low. An occasional break in the clouds will turn gray water to green water, but these moments of light are brief. Mostly we drive through an onslaught of muted colors.

My hope is the coastal roads will make it harder for us to be followed. With its winding curves, with its cliffs, hills, and bridges, there is no horizon for the blue Honda to balance on, no easy vantage point from which the aforementioned man can watch us.

Sometimes I’ll pull over and wait for the cars to pass, to see if I can recognize the one who follows. My senses heighten in these moments. A warning tightness in my chest. I watch the cars pass, scrunched down in the driver’s seat. But the man never passes. Suddenly, my senses abate, my heart slows, and a calmness sweeps over me that borders on coma.

I ask Brian for a joint. And a light. I crack open the window — opening the interior to the sound of the waves, the passing cars, the brush of wind against a beard — and I light the joint. Breathing in the smoke, its taste of earth, gives me a sense of oneness with this earth, and it’s this oneness that I tune into. The man waits somewhere behind. He’s tuned into what I’m tuned into now.

Somehow, we’re connected.

He knows where we’re heading. He knows what we’re up to. Shake him or not, he’ll still find us. I pull back onto the road and drive.

Though welcome, there’s another benefit to taking Highway 1 that I did not intend: Brian can find no place to stay on Tinder and therefore has no choice but to stay in the minivan with me. The reception is shoddy, and when he does manage to make a connection, it doesn’t last. This lack of technology on the northern coast feels backward, unsettling. Though we know where we are, we often find ourselves lost. The fog rolls in from the ocean and takes the road. Windswept trees claw inland like skeletal hands.

We drive slow. It’s been over an hour since we’ve seen another car. Brian grows restless next to me, constantly checking his phone for a signal but failing to find one. Neither of us want to stop, neither of us want to get out of the car in fear we’ll lose ourselves to the mist.

A sign tells us we are now


Our eyes grow weak in the dimming twilight, the headlights doing nothing to break the fog. Another sign, this one for Gerstle Cove Campground. We take this offshoot into the park, follow a short road to the campground loop and drive slow through the fog, looking for a vacant site. Little fires burn around us but fail to illuminate the silhouettes that surround them. It’s too early for a campground to be this quiet.

We pull into a secluded site, complete with picnic table and fire pit, but we don’t leave the car. Mist creeps along the windows. Condensation drips from the high trees against the roof. Brian checks his phone. Still no service.

It’s been four nights since he’s found a place to stay. Four nights since either of us have gotten any sleep.

“I’m cold,” he says, and gets out of the car. He sits at the table, facing the fire pit, and throws up his hood.

“We have wood,” I say, following him out.

He says nothing.

In the pit I stack the firewood into a house, like I’ve seen Brian do. I can’t find kindling so I take my journal and tear out the blank pages, crumpling them up and lighting them before throwing them into the little wood house. The wood doesn’t catch. Brian watches but doesn’t seem to care whether it catches or not. He doesn’t seem to expect it to.

Drops continue to fall from the trees. Slowly, the lights from the surrounding camps go out. Our firewood never catches, downgrading it to just wood. Dejected, I sit next to Brian. “Well—”

Brian says nothing.

Back in the van I lie across the sheets. Darkness spreads through the fog like ink, pressing itself against the windows. Brian is still out there, at the table, I haven’t heard him move. It must be well past midnight when I do hear something. Footsteps passing the car then growing distant.

I pull aside the hanging tapestries but see nothing. There’s no one out there. I slip on my shoes, open and close the sliding door as quietly as I can.

Far away footsteps. Where?

It would’ve been impossible to follow him if it wasn’t for the blue light of his phone. Every now and again he’ll raise it up as if searching for a signal. I use these beacons to track him.

At the other end of the loop there’s a trail that leads away from the campsite, away from the main road. I’m careful to keep a good deal behind, but even more careful not to lose him. The low thunder of waves grows louder. I can taste the salt of the sea. I see nothing. I’m utterly reliant on the brief moments of light from Brian’s phone — illuminated trees between shifting darkness, a Rorschach test with Brian’s silhouette always at the center.

Then the lights stop. I’m groping for a trail but there’s nothing. The winds rush at me from all sides. I bundle myself against myself, but I don’t seem to be all there. I stop walking, listen to anything beyond the wind, beyond the waves that could be coming from anywhere. Had I been walking uphill or downhill? The trees creak against the weight of the fog.

Suddenly, a great swinging glow from beyond the trees, brighter than any phone, any star, any sun, making shadows of the trees and moving them slow and synchronized across my feet. Then the unmistakable roll of tires on gravel. A car door slam. Now the lights are red and receding into the night.

I follow the spots in my eyes toward their origin — a slight downhill grade, the trees opening up — and I come out onto a dirt road.


The trail is here, it ends on one side of the road and continues on the other where there are no trees, just silver grass shuddering in the wind. Beyond that, the ocean. The air is so wet. The moon slides above through a rare break in clouds. I make my way toward the meadow.

Everything is black and gray, but with a tinge of technicolor blue. Only barely though. The light is much more mute than that.

“Brian?” I call out into the wind. “Brian!”

I don’t believe my voice carries beyond me, but instead is swept back with the wind behind me. I climb the sandstone that rises from the meadow before dropping into the ocean. There’s something there, on the wind, something other than the waves. A soft sob, yes, that’s the sound.

Below me to the right is a little cove, and on its beach I see a shadow sitting, hunched in the sand. I call out to him but he doesn’t answer, doesn’t even look up. Using the many pits, divots, and ridges — carved like honeycomb into the stone — I make my way down toward the beach and drop myself onto the wet sand.

The hunch of the figure is familiar, and I know I know him. He hears me coming and looks up.


His voice startles me. I search the darkness for his face, his faded features. Oh.

“Sorry, I thought you were Brian.”

“I thought you were Brian too.”

I sit next to him in the sand and its moisture seeps from my jeans to my underwear.

“Where do you think he went?”

“I don’t know.”

“Do you think he’ll come back?”

“He always does.”

I burrow deeper into myself, into the cold sand, and everything is so cold, even myself. I take myself into myself and tell myself everything is going to be alright.

“Are you sure?”

“I don’t know.”

The tide crawls up from the deep, lapping once at our shoes before scuttling back.

“We should probably be getting back,” I say.

“Yes. Yes we should.”

“I’m glad I have you,” I say.

“Me too. It’s not always so easy to find one’s self.”

The two of us climb back up to the meadow, find the trail where the road cuts through and follow it back toward the campsite. I can barely see myself in the dark, but I’m not all that hard to follow.

“Where have you been all this time?” I ask.

I seem to think for a bit, search my mind for the answer before giving it. “The greatest hazard of all,” I say, “losing one’s self, can occur very quietly in the world, as if it were nothing at all. No other loss can occur so quietly. Any other loss — an arm, a leg, five dollars, a wife, etc. — is sure to be noticed.”

“Who said that?”

“You said that.”

“But who said that first?”

“I don’t know.”

“Brian would know.”

“But doesn’t that make you suspicious, how much Brian knows?”

“I never thought—”

“He knows too much. Where do you think he goes to at night?”


“I don’t trust him.”


“Because you don’t trust him.”

“Yes. I never thought of it like that.”

“You don’t think enough.”

“You’re supposed to help me.”

“I’m not the one who lost me. That was your doing.”

“What do I call you?”

“You can call me whatever you want to call me.”

“But what do you call yourself?”

“I call myself many names, but you’ve called me Knight, you’ve called me Ranger, you’ve called me man in blue Honda, you’ve called me Walker.”


Walker nods.

“You’ve been following me.”

“You’ve been following yourself.”

I don’t remember much else of the conversation. How it ends, who leaves whom, which one of us I am when I wake in the morning. I’m left with myself. That’s all I know.

Opening my eyes, I feel full. Stronger, that’s the best way to describe it. The mist still moves through the trees but the rising sun gives it a wet, golden glow. Families are packing up their coolers, breaking down their tents. No one comes to collect payment as our presence here seems to have gone unnoticed.

I’m sitting out the open back of the van, smoking a cigarette from the pack Brian left in the front cupholder. I’m smoking it just like Brian smokes his, looking cool, looking collected, when Brian himself comes strolling down the campground loop smoking a cigarette too. He looks rested, he looks smug, and I realize I was right — he knows too much.

“Hey you,” he says, and sits down next to me.

“Where were you?”

“Walking. Thought you lost me?”

I shrug, as if it doesn’t matter. “The greatest hazard of all,” I say, “losing one’s self, can occur very quietly in the world, as if it were nothing at all. No other loss can occur so quietly. Any other loss — an arm, a leg, five dollars,” I look at him here, “a friend, etc. — is sure to be noticed.”


“Yes,” I say. “But who said it first?”

Brian blows a plume of smoke into the fog. His eyes narrow, his eyebrows shrug, when he looks at me.

“Me,” I say. “I said it first. I said it last. Everyone else, they’re saying my shit.”

He crushes out his cigarette, apparently calm, but his firmness in crushing it says this new revelation has upset him in some way. His eyes don’t quite meet mine when he looks up at me again.

“I am the Alpha,” I say. “I am the Omega. I am Everything that’s ever been said.”

“Well said,” he says.


“So. Shall we?”

“We shall.”

We leave the mists behind. And the coast, this California coast, grows golden. The sun is out, high and hot, and it beats down on the hood of the car with such metallic force. The future blinds, there’s a glare. Open the windows, a grit to the air. It’s like black sand in the lungs.


join man next week for journal #36 (in which nothing happens in San Francisco)

Journal #34 (in which said man walks among giants)

Walking under the shade of the redwoods, their trunks rising into high canopies where the sunlight ribbons in to the ferns below, even someone such as Myself can feel small, inconsequential. How many times have I lived and died with these same trees still standing? My dreams of the cross, dying there some 2000 years ago, some of these trees may well have been standing then. I touch the trees, the bark turning my fingertips the color of rust, and wonder if they know who I am.

And I realize — Of course they don’t. To them I am nothing. These gods among trees, among men, they could care less about what I’m here to do. What I’ve been sent here, again and again, life after life, repeatedly, to do. The ground mist has long since burned away. The air is cool, wet, if a bit dusty. I wipe my hands on my jeans.

What I’m here to do.

What am I here to do?

My mind stalls on the question. The weight of it halts the wheels, the cogs, everything stops. Sweat seeps into my clothing even as the air grows colder. The blood leaves my face. I stagger. I swim through the falling light, the strips of tree shadow. What I’m here to do. What am I here to do? I’m here to kneel. To fall into the red dirt and kneel, to buckle over and bow, and heave, heave — echh

“Let it out,” Brian says, patting me on the back. “There there.”

My stomach collapses to the size of a clenched fist, but there’s nothing to let out. I dry heave into the ferns, coughing, spitting — there’s a darkness beneath the leaves and I stare into it. Above me, I feel the weight of the trees.

Keeping my eyes closed I roll onto my back. Brian sits in the dirt beside me. I take a deep breath. Smoke trails from the joint between Brian’s lips, floods my senses and empties them of anything else. Air that tastes like earth. My heart beats to a slow, steady. Step. I open my eyes to the light angling down through the trees, and the dust of the world shines in this light like a spell.

Suddenly outside myself, I see myself whisper but can’t hear what it is that I say.

“What was that?” Brian asks.

“I see men as trees, walking.”

“Mm.” Brian takes a drag from his joint and nods. “Mark 8:24, yes?”


“Mark 8:24,” he says again, but I don’t know what he’s talking about.

I take his joint and place it between my lips. I breathe in and let what’s inside burn what’s inside me. I hold in the smoke and search for the answer to the question I’ve been asking.

What am I here to do? All these lives, what have I been missing? What have I been doing wrong?

Why must I die again and again while these trees persist? Why must I keep coming back?

As the sun descends, its light angles upward, almost horizontal now in the highest branches, leaving all undergrowth in shadow. Brian takes back the joint, crushes it out in the dirt.

The morning after the whiskey night, Brian knew right away that I’d been drinking. He didn’t even have to ask what happened to the whiskey. The smell when he found me passed out in the car must’ve been tremendous, the air warm and dank, the mattress soaked in vomit. I barely registered him.

“Brian,” I moaned into the wet mattress. “Briiaaannnnnn.”

“Okay,” he said. “Okay.” He opened all the doors and sat in the front to smoke a quick cigarette. When he was done he said, “Okay. You’ll be okay.” And he went to work — making sure I was clean of whiskey and vomit and piss, sliding the sheets out from under me, throwing them and the blankets into a trash bag, washing it all at a nearby laundromat he found, all the while letting me sleep off the whiskey night. He stayed with me in the van the next night, and the night after that. I kept mumbling how sorry I was, that it wouldn’t happen again, and he told me not to be sorry, don’t be sorry, and that he couldn’t care less if it happened again or not. And although I was telling the truth that the whiskey night was a one time thing, the resolve wouldn’t last. The drinking took me again, and again, and soon after that, the smoking followed too. Brian never offered his drink or his weed — I’m guessing because he didn’t want to feel responsible — but he never said no when I took it from him.

Crossing into California, an event that should’ve felt momentous, didn’t feel like  anything at all. I still felt no closer to finding Annie. She was nowhere to be found on Tinder, and away, bigger questions, questions much larger than Annie plagued me. What was I here to do? What was I here to say? I smoked to find the answer, I drank to forget the question. In this haze, Annie’s role started to drift, her face receding into a cloud of smog.

But here, lying under the redwoods with Brian, the question lingers. It’s always there—

What am I here to say? What can I say that hasn’t already been said?

“Nothing,” says Brian. “There’s nothing left to say.”

I’ll “plagiarize” the gospels, usually the Sermon on the Mount, and Brian will say, “Matthew 5:44, or John 7:13.”

I’ll tell him not to dwell on the past, nor dream of the future, but to concentrate on the present moment, and Brian will say, “Now you’re ripping off Gautama. Already done.”

I’ll tell him that only by abandoning his learning will he be free of his sorrow, and he’ll say, “Tao Te Ching, verse 20.”

I’ll change tactics, from the inner to the outer, and say maybe it’s all about the abolition of private property.

He’ll just smile and say, “Now you’re sounding like me.”

No matter what I say, no matter how I say it, Brian always knows the source. He throws my words back at me, in their truer, more original form. Marcus Aurelius, he’ll say. Plato, he’ll say. Thich Nhat Hanh.

“He who knows does not speak,” he says. “He who speaks does not know.”

“Who said that?”

“Lao Tzu said that.”

“So what am I supposed to say?”

“What I’ve been saying,” he says. “There’s nothing left to be said. It’s all been said. It’s all been said and turned into something else and said again.”

But I don’t believe him. I know somewhere, deep within me, if I stay still enough, if I stay silent enough, if I destroy my senses and self I will find the answer to the world.

“Now you’re talking about suicide,” he says.

I lift myself back to my feet. With the weight of everything, how have these trees remained standing for so long? Even after death, with their burnt, hollowed out corpses, they remain standing like dark pillars as if nothing changes, nothing happens, as if these tree gods are above the tide of time and the world falling away.

“But everything changes,” I whisper to myself. “Change is the only truth.”




The trail dumps us back onto the main road. We walk south along the road to where the forest opens up to meadow, where our van is parked against the roadside. The sun sets over the redwoods to the west. East of us, the redwoods grow dark. Black daggers against a navy sky.

Brian has a friend he wants to visit in Arcata, about 45 minutes south of us. Someone he knew from high school. The scenic parkway merges again with 101, and after meandering through more forest, 101 swings us back to the coast, again away from the coast, straying east with farmland growing to the west of us, 101 opening up to three lanes and before us the beaten down suburban sprawl of Arcata approaches. Low hanging clouds reflect the lights of the city, giving a feeling of dusk though dusk has long since passed.

Turning into the neighborhood where Brian’s friend lives, who I’m learning now is named Angela, I feel suddenly self-conscious of my appearance. Outside of Brian and the occasional store clerk, I haven’t interacted with anyone since leaving for the road. I haven’t showered in — how long has it been now? I feel thin, fragile, as if just introducing myself to another would break me. What would I say? Would I tell them my name? Or should I tell them my Name?

“I think this is it,” Brian says as we pull into their steep drive, dipping down behind their house to a dirt lot in the backyard. No fences, just more redwoods or Douglas firs — in the dark I can’t tell the difference — rising to give the properties some semblance of separation.

I wipe my hands against my jeans. Dirt peels off like dead skin.

Angela’s waiting of us at the top of the drive. She waves us over and Brian squeals — uncharacteristic of Brian — as he runs over to her. They tell each other how different they look, how good they look, and as I approach I can’t help but notice Brian’s voice, an octave higher than the voice I know.

Angela speaks steady and slow, she uses the word “yeah” a lot, “yeah,” and she’s always smiling. She has dirty blonde hair that might just be dirty, pulled back and dried into dreads, and a bandana wrapped around her forehead. When her eyes fall on mine, her smile twitches, but manages to stay up.

“Hi,” I say, holding out my hand.

She holds out her hand too, as if to mock me.

“Hi,” she says.

The house belongs to her father, though he lives somewhere down south. She rents out the extra rooms to a couple of friends, and following her inside, it’s clear they’ve made it fully their own — a typical college student house where none of the residents still go to college. Bongs and pipes and grinders scatter the resin crusted coffee table, a fifth of rum lies on the stained carpet. On some nature channel, an episode of Australia’s Deadliest plays on mute, though nobody watches. From the couch, a bulldog pup scampers toward us. It jumps up at me and barks.

“Hey, hey there,” she says, her voice slow and glazed. “These are friends. Friends,” she repeats. The dog doesn’t believe her either.

She gives us a quick tour of the house, shows us the empty room where we’ll be sleeping — Kai just moved out last week — and then she takes us to the laundry room where she shows us her plants.

Back in the living area, Angela sits on one couch with her pup lying across her lap, while Brian and I sit on the other. The TV still plays on mute, something about poisonous spiders. Brian and Angela talk about people they once knew, people they still know, people they don’t, mostly they talk about themselves. I nod every now and again, but say nothing.

For some reason Brian is holding my hand, his thumb caressing the back of my knuckles.

“So,” Angela asks. “Where are you guys going?” The question must be directed at me, an opening for me, because Brian doesn’t answer.

“Home,” I lie.

Angela looks to Brian, then back to me. “Yeah? Where’s that?”

“Sunnyvale. Just a little south of San Francisco.”

“Okay. Yeah. Yeah. I think I’ve passed through there. Tech companies and strip malls, yeah.”


“Family visits are nice,” she says.

“Yes,” I say. “They are.”

It’s not long before I excuse myself saying I’m beat and need to get some sleep. Both Brian and Angela feign disappointment but don’t object when I insist. Brian says he’ll follow me down in a bit.

I set up my mat in the corner of the empty room that still smells like Kai — it smells exactly how you’d imagine a Kai to smell — and bury myself in blankets and wait. I listen to their hushed voices upstairs, and then more voices. Doors opening, closing, footsteps beating against the hardwood, laughter and delights, a bottle breaking and music turned up and blaring and here I am, all alone in an empty room that smells like Kai, I don’t even know Kai, and above me music RUMP RUMP RUMP‘s the walls. Brian is drunk and laughing.

The noise doesn’t let up. I toss and turn and rehearse the speech I’ve prepared for Brian in my head, the one about this loneliness and abandonment, and then try to forget it because it sounds so stupid. Why am I so stupid.

Someone stumbles into the room, someone with a ponytail. When he sees me he says, “Oh. Sorry. I thought this was the bathroom,” and closes the door but the door doesn’t latch, it opens back up, and I hear him doubling over as he climbs the stairs.

Enough! I’ve had it. I’ve had enough. I take my blankets, wrap them around myself like a robe, like a cape, and rise into the noise, the people, the smoke. I stand at the top of the stairs, but nobody sees me. The way to the front door is blocked by people and in my mind, I part them, I part them like Moses parts the sea. My heart pounds at my ribs, I step forward. One by one the people step aside for me, but none seem to notice I’m there. I glide through them, parting the way one step at a time. When I reach the door, the two separate halves of the party become one again, and I close the door behind me.

The van is cold, quiet. I crawl into myself and fall asleep.

Brian is in the passenger seat when I wake up. He’s drinking coffee and looking at nothing in particular. I watch him for awhile, he doesn’t realize I’m watching him until I prop myself up on the mattress.

“Hey bud,” he says. “You okay?”

“I’m okay,” I say, but I can’t stop shaking. “I’m okay.” No matter how many times I say it I can’t convince either of us that it’s true. It’s so cold.

It’s not until Arcata is behind us that I start to feel better, that I start to feel more like Myself now that there’s nobody around to remind me that I’m no one. There’s something about people that makes me feel inhuman. Like I’m not one of the people.

And then I remember, it’s because I’m not. I’m not one of them. I’m here to save them but I’m not one of them. Only when I’m by myself do I remember this. Brian doesn’t count. When I’m with him, I may as well be alone. He’s good like that.

After Eureka, 101 pulls away from the coast and doesn’t come back. It’s not until Leggett that we switch to the 1, which after a dizzying, winding drive takes us back to the ocean. Following the claustrophobia of the inland, of the relentless trees and nonexistent skylines, the openness of the ocean is a relief. We stop at the very first pull-off, and just about every pull-off after that, the swift cold ocean air forcing breath back into our lungs. Though it’s always the same ocean, there is always a new feeling to it that brings you back to the same feeling — this feeling of oneness, of crashing stillness. Of the return of all things. We’re at one of these pull-offs now and I think Brian feels this too. His gaze is locked on the horizon where everything converges into a blue haze.

Staring at this open mouth of the ocean, sitting at its very lips, something rises from my center, reaches up to my own lips, something original, something profound, something that’s never been said. Something that would impress even Brian.

My jaw hangs there, gaping, filling in with wind off the ocean, my mind a blank. What was it? What was I about to say?

Without a word, Brian pushes himself up, and walks back to the car.


join man next week for journal #35 (in which said man finds himself in Salt Point Park)

Journal #33 (in which said man runs out of gas (and whiskey))

We meant to fill up the tank in Yachats. The gas light had just gone on in San Marine, past the last of their stations. We’ll get the next town, we agreed.

Yachats. A small four pump station on an otherwise vacant lot. Only when we pull into the station do we get the sense that something is wrong. Glass crunches under the tires. Plastic tarps hang before the mini mart windows. Hoses dangle from the kiosks but there are no pumps.

“It looks closed,” I say.

“You think?” Brian says.

The 76 logos are cracked and faded. At the side of the building a black pickup truck sits on blocks, a bearded man and his dog sprawled in the back. Neither of them move.

“We should go,” I say, more to myself as I pull out of the station. “We’ll get the next town.”

Only it seems there is no next town. After Yachats, 101 winds upward into a mass of forested headlands. The road climbs, juts out west past the trees. All we see are bluffs and peninsulas and black rock formations rising from the waters. No civilization in sight. I watch the miles click upward. How many miles have we driven since the gas light went on? Why didn’t I check? Well, I didn’t know there was no next town, I tell myself. How was I supposed to know? There’s always a next town. I ask Brian to check his phone, to tell me when this next town is, but he says he has no service.

“Check mine,” I say, handing him mine.

“No service,” he says.

I begin to sweat. The blood drains from my face and I know I could faint at any moment. This breathtaking, endless, perpetual, never-ending Oregon coast. This two lane highway cutting through spruce, Douglas-fir, and hemlock, opening back up to this breathtaking, endless, perpetual, never-ending Oregon coast we later find out is aptly named Cape Perpetua, albeit for altogether different reasons. Neither of us are paying any attention to any of this however, because our eyes are glued to the gas light.

“All things must pass,” I say to Brian. “This too shall end.”

“Not now,” he says to me, as if silence will help the tank to carry us further. We’ve long since turned off the radio and have been driving in silence for some time.

So I mumble it to myself, “This too shall end.”

The coast doesn’t come to an end. The gas in our tank does. The minivan quakes, then sputters, the pedal stops responding, and we roll to a stall, a line of honking cars building up behind us. I’m frozen. I don’t know what to do. What do I do? Brian has to tell me what to do.

“Put it in neutral,” he says.

“Then what?”

“We push it to the side of the road.”

When finally we get it to the pull-off, cars pass us and honk at us and flip us their fingers. My only solace is in knowing that when the end times come I’ll remember their faces, and I’ll point to their faces and theirs will be the faces that burn and then they’ll know who I am.

We lean against the hood of the van, no reception, no gas, the sun low in the western sky. Brian shields himself from the wind and lights a cigarette, moves to the side of the van looking out onto the waters below. We’re so far above the waves we can’t hear them. Only the passing of cars.

I cut up a box of Cheerios, turn it into a makeshift sign that reads: GAS FOR JESUS? PLEASE?

No one stops.

Once they see you, their eyes pretend they don’t see you, and focus back on the road.

This too shall pass, I say to myself. This too shall pass.

Before long I’m talking about the cars. This car too shall pass. This car too. But this moment will never pass. This moment will last forever. I begin to pity my children, who won’t so much as stop for their own Father. Tears stream down my cheeks, not for my children, but for Myself.

This world, I don’t belong here.

Brian finishes his cigarette and comes around to my side of the car where I’m balling now, frantically wiping away my tears.

“Hey,” he says. “Jesus… c’mon. Don’t cry.”

“I’m not crying.”

“Hey.” He takes the sign from me. “Let me give it a try. Hey.”

I give him the sign but say nothing.

On the other side of the van, I curl my knees into my chest and watch the waters move toward the coast, momentum turning them white before breaking against the shore. I try to smell the ocean but I only smell gas, or what used to be gas. Exhaust. Smog in the wilderness. Not even three minutes pass before a pickup stops for Brian and offers him a ride down to the next town. I’m listening to this and waiting for Brian to mention I’m there too. They look surprised when I peek up from the other side. A couple of hairy guys in flannel and their dog.

“That sound okay?” Brian asks me.

I nod and offer to stay with the car, but later in the evening, long after Brian left in the back of their truck, I’m not sure I even offered at all. Brian left me here. He finally did it.

Night seeps in from the trees and falls on the horizon. Stars poke through the darkening blue, slowly at first, until their numbers are so great I’m not sure there’s room for more. I curl up into my mattress corner, bury myself in sheets and wait, but I know nobody is coming. I replay the moment in my mind — the tipping of the driver’s cap as he pulls away, the relief in Brian’s eyes, the ease in which he left me — and I know he’s not coming back.

Fewer and fewer cars pass on the road. I’m scared. I’m embarrassed. Mostly, I’m furious. The slugging of blood against the inside of my skull works to numb me. I lie there unmoving, unfeeling, until finally, thank God, one slug of blood knocks me unconscious.

I wake to a light tapping on the window. I don’t move. It’s still dark. The tapping is too light to be Brian, too patient to be a cop. A tick tick that’s more of a tap tap.


I hold my breath. I pretend to be dead. If I pretend long enough, maybe… maybe…

When the tapping ends I hear no footsteps, just the wind coming in off the ocean and colliding with the trees. After enough time has passed in pretend death, I pull aside the tapestry and peek out the window where the tapping sounded, but there’s nothing there but my tired ghost reflection. I see nothing beyond the glass, beyond the—


The smallest smudge of a finger on the glass. The print of a fingertip tip, the last remains of the now mute taptap


more of a tick


I don’t pull aside the tapestry again.

In the morning Brian is banging on the hood and screaming, “We got gas! We got gas!” He’s in an unusually good mood and offers to take the wheel to the next town, which is Florence, which is really not that far away at all. I don’t bring up the tapping.

We fill up the rest of the tank at the first gas station we find, which is in a Fred Meyer strip mall along 101. While Brian waits for the attendant to fill up the van, I search the Fred Meyer for a bathroom. Only once I’m alone, sitting in the stall with my jeans at my ankles, do I realize how badly I’ve had to go. The relief floods through me, my body involuntarily quakes, and suddenly — with no warning whatsoever — I start to cry. A sob rises up and I’m struggling for breath, trying to hold myself together, trying to hold in the breath I’m at the same time struggling for, trying to muffle the squeals. Then it’s over. Somewhere a toilet flushes, a man coughs. I wait until I’m sure the bathroom is empty, the last man has washed his hands and left, and then awhile longer, before I pull up my pants and leave.

Outside Brian leans against the hood of the van. He’s on his phone, Tinder I’m beginning to suspect. I didn’t see it then but I see it now, the sex in his eyes, the sex in his sweat, the sweat that covers him but doesn’t belong to him.

Though it’s still morning, he suggests we stay in the Fred Meyer parking lot for the night. Just after dark however, Brian gets a call. “Hey,” he says. “Okay.” Hangs up. Outside, a Subaru waits for him. Brian makes no secret of it this time — he won’t be back until morning.

It’s happening just like the last time, this growing divide between Brian and myself. Last time it was the close confines of the cottage that did it, this time it’s the van. We drive, we stop — usually when Brian suggests it — Brian disappears and reappears in the morning, rested and less irritable. Though rare, there are the nights when he finds no one to stay with on Tinder, and he’s forced to stay with me. Neither of us able to sleep, I continue my search for Annie, he continues his search for the next town.

The thing about Brian’s type is that they’re everywhere. Repeat after me: alcoholic, anarchist, deadbeat.

______, _______, _______.


There’s a little of Brian’s whiskey tucked under the mattress. On the nights he’s gone, it taunts me, tells me one drink will put me to sleep, one drink will make it all go away. One drink, all of this will make sense.

No, I tell the whiskey. It won’t. I can’t.

And the whiskey only smiles, knowingly.

The beaches of Oregon pass us by, those little beach towns so meaningless when compared to the endlessness of this road. The people there, I can’t believe they actually exist. We don’t stop at the Dunes, but from 101 just before it strays several miles from the coast, I see the sands spilling over a forest of trees, little treetops poking from the sand like much smaller trees, though these trees must be immense, wind skidding off them and threatening to bury the towns too. None of this was meant to exist.

Brian disappears in state parks, campsites, vista point pull-offs, and gas station bathrooms. Before long he’s having me drop him off at the places he’s staying. I feel like his chauffeur. I wonder if he even remembers what we’re doing, where we’re going.

What are we doing, Brian? I want to ask him. What are you doing?

“This is it,” is all I say.

“It’s for the best, you know,” he says getting out of the car. “This way we both can get some sleep.”

So he’s noticed too.

He looks up and down this nameless residential street in this nameless residential town and says, “You can park out here if you want. I’m sure they won’t mind.” He walks up to the house and knocks, the door opens and a nameless shadow lets him inside.

I pull the van to the curb and crawl into the back.

The loneliest part of living in your car is when you have to go to the bathroom at night. You can’t leave the car, in fear you’ll be found out, so you must hold it, or go inside the car. There’s an empty gallon jug between the front seats, in case you must go with the latter. Not enough room to stand, you prop yourself up on your side, stick yourself into the opening, and do your best not to spill. Sometimes you spill. You screw back on the lid, tuck it back between the seats, and attempt sleep in this car that now smells like piss.

I try to roll away from the smell, but there’s nowhere to roll that doesn’t smell like piss.

“What’s up?” says the whiskey.


“Hey,” says the whiskey, its voice sounding like whiskey.

Not now.

I open up Tinder and start swiping but only make it through four LA girls before I have to stop. I take a breath. What am I doing? What are we doing here? I look back at my phone, tap into settings and change the location. I only have to type in three letters before auto type fills in the rest.

It’s refreshing, seeing again the girls with the homier outfits, the frumpy sweaters and hipster glasses, the hikers, the bikers, the climbers, the mousey poets, girls that feel like home, girls that once made me feel so miserable but now comfort me in their more familiar loneliness. I don’t know what I’m looking for really, I’m not swiping anyone right. I’m not sure if I even plan on going back. I realize that now — I don’t think I’m ever going back — but I keep swiping until I find the one I didn’t realize I was looking for.

I’d recognize her freckles anywhere. Her lavender hair, her toothy smile.

It wouldn’t be right to say that my stomach drops, that there’s a weak feeling to the pit of my stomach, because though it feels this way at first, it’s not entirely accurate. It’s everywhere else that feels sick, weak, shaky. The pit of my stomach actually feels pretty nice. Numb. I want nothing more than to curl up and retreat there.

Jane. She’s using the same photos as before, as if I never passed through her life at all. As if I never existed, she starts over again. I swipe her right.

Of course, nothing happens.

I don’t know why I did that. Stupid.

She’s gone. A new girl gazes up at me.

I stare up at the ceiling of the van I’ve come to know so well — beige, tattered felt, crusty in spots. I can just make out Brian’s low, sensual moans coming from the house. Nothing special, not this time. It means nothing.







Annie. Annie. Ann—

“Yo,” the whiskey whispers. “You okay?”

I answer by shutting the whiskey up for good. I drain that whiskey of its golden blood, and for the first time in three years my breath tastes like fire, my stomach feels like fire, my blood like gold, and my mind slows to the beat of my soul.

No, Whiskey, I am not okay. I am not okay at all.

Later in the night I throw Whiskey’s bloodless corpse across the street and it shatters the quiet. Lights go on. Dogs bark and I’m so silent. I’m so silent. I smile. Here in my van, no one knows I’m here. You fuckers, you don’t know I’m in here. Being silent.


join man next week for journal #34 (in which said man walks among giants)

Journal #24 (which involves sex and lies and somebody dies)

Every text, every phone call she gets, I assume it’s from him. I’m not sure if she realizes how little I begin to trust her. The late night phone calls grow more frequent. Sometimes she answers and steps outside, sometimes she just lets it ring. When she’s asleep, I try to answer her phone without waking her. She sleeps like a stone. I crawl over her and take the call.

On the phone I don’t say anything. I wait for the phone to speak first. I’m not breathing, and in the silence I can hear the phone not breathing too. We’re at a standoff. This wouldn’t have been odd, suspicious even, if the the silence hadn’t been so deep. The silence was too much to be nothing. I know it’s you. I know who you are. I know everything but what you’re doing, or how much time passes. It’s so clean, the silence. I lose myself in it. I lose myself in that oceanic feeling. Everything becomes so connected: me and the silence, the silence and the phone, the non-voice and the girl that sleeps next to me. They’re connected though I don’t know how. How Walker is connected to Jane is a mystery, but they’re connected. Maybe she’s working for Walker, maybe she’s against him. Maybe he’s tried to pay her off and she’s refused. Or! Maybe she was working for him but now she’s not—she’s backed out of their agreement because she’s fallen for me. One more theory: he calls her only to fuck with me, to wait for me to pick up and betray her trust, so I can again and again lose myself in his silence.

All these storylines flood my mind at once, contradicting everything.

Whatever is going on, I’m full of fear. Fear that she’s lying to me, fear that she’s putting herself in danger by refusing his demands. Fear that he hasn’t made contact at all, that he’s simply waiting on the sidelines for me to destroy this like I destroy everything else. Fear that he’s right, like he’s always been right.

A gray field at dusk. A wet electricity to the air. Above, a blanket of clouds pulls over us, like Nyx the Greek goddess of night covering the world in her shadow. The air grows chilly, both of us huddled up under quilts. Explosions bump the earth. Lights flicker and pulse in the haze. She wears a plaid flannel of red, white, and blue to commemorate the holiday. Sometimes a spray of sparks will shoot up from a neighboring property, followed by a splitting crack and echo. I’ve never been to Germany, but the field and the fence, the horses and the farmhouses, the light that’s turning black and gray, this feels like Germany, this feels like war. This feels like a memory of a past life. The two of us, surrounded by war. Me, once again surrounded by, haunted by, a past life I’m not sure was ever mine.

“I love you,” she says.

“I love you too,” I say.

“It’s cold,” she says.

“Me too.”

We pick up the blankets and make our way past the pond to the cottage where it’s warm, where inside it still feels like war.

A beach on Chuckanut Bay. We skip stones into the water. Actually I’m skipping stones and she’s just watching from the rocks. My wrist, then my arm grows tired. This feeling floods through me. “I’m so tired,” I say to her and sit down at her feet.

“I love you,” she says.

“I love you too.”

Her house. She’s outside again, on one of her late night phone calls from no one. This is a short one but it’s heated, her voice sounds emaciated and helpless.

“Who was it?” I ask when she comes back in.

“No one,” she says.

I was right.

“Hey,” she says, snuggling into me. “Hey, I love you.”

“I love you too.”

It’s as if our relationship has become just this, an empty shell of the moment we told each other we loved the other, the only moment it felt true. Since then the words become an attempt to recreate the moment, mimic a feeling that no longer exists. We felt that feeling already, experienced it, exhausted it, put it to bed. It’s no longer there.

Even sex becomes a play-act, both of us attempting to capture some past feeling. The longer we’re together, the rougher she wants it. She wants me to choke her, she want me to pull her hair. Recently, she introduced ropes. I’m afraid to ask her what it is she’s trying to recreate. I fall into her fantasy and lose sight of my own. I grow empty,  tired, I have nothing left to give. I empty myself into her, find myself emptier than before. All this emptying, she must be so full. But in her eyes when it’s over, I see an emptiness there too. And yet I have this incessant need to empty myself further. A desire to empty myself of desire. They say desire is the root of all suffering. What I’m trying for is the nothing one feels after. In that nothing one feels peace. You lose yourself in that nothing like nothing else. Nothing is everything, yet this nothing doesn’t last.

Nothing lasts forever.

But not in the way you want.

I no longer feel his eyes on me, I no longer feel his breath lap on the back of my neck everywhere I go. It would be a relief if I thought he’d given up, but I know he hasn’t. He’s keeping his distance. He knows I’m better at self destruction than he ever was at destruction.

“I love you,” she says to me.

“Are you sure?”

“What? Of course I’m sure.” She thinks I’m toying with her.

“But how do you know? How do you know it’s real?”

“Because I love you.”

“But what does that mean?”

“It means I love you.”

I want to go on, fight this further, but we just had sex. Meaning I’m too tired. I have nothing left.

“Hey,” she says, lifting my chin. “I love you.”

“I love you too.”

She lays her head on my chest as the clock ticks past midnight. I don’t fall asleep. I don’t think she falls asleep either. We lie like that till dawn. She gets dressed and goes to class.

The longer I’m with her, the worse I know it’s going to be for her. The sooner I leave her, the safer she’ll be. When I get to thinking like this, I think maybe I do love her after all—the words aren’t empty, just changing into something words can’t grasp. But then he’s there, watching me again from under his hood. His eyes grow impatient, but he knows he doesn’t have to do a thing. He won’t have to lay a hand on her.

There’s been talk at work of KyAnne coming back from Alaska to resume her life here as coffeeshop girl. But bad news reaches us before she does. Her body was found on the side of a mountain. The official story is that she slipped while rock climbing, the rope not tied properly into her harness. An amateur mistake, they say it was. But coffeeshop girl was no amateur, because outside of being coffeeshop girl she was also rock climbing girl. The news doesn’t fill me with sadness but it fills me with fear. Any doubt I had about Walker, my stalker in the hood, is gone. This is more than a game to him. And the way Jane says she loves me, I know she’ll say no to him if he tells her to stay away. She’ll stay with me to her end.

I have to tell her.

“I don’t love you.”

“What?” she says.

“I don’t love you anymore.”

She narrows her eyes as if this will help her to read me, to tell if I’m serious. I have this way about joking that people take too seriously. She looks at me to make sure this is one of those times, one of my tasteless jokes. The way her eyes grow wet, I know she sees that this is not one of those times, one of those jokes.

“Did I do something?” she asks me. “Did I do something wrong?”

“No. I just don’t love you.”

“Did you meet someone else?”


She doesn’t say anything, and then she says it again. “I love you.”

I don’t say anything.

“Was it the late night calls? Did you think I was cheating on you?”


“Because it was nothing. It was this guy I met before I met you. It was this guy who I hooked up with before I knew you. I haven’t seen him since I met you and now he won’t stop calling me. He won’t leave me alone. It’s nothing, I swear. I love you.”

“You haven’t seen him since?”

“No— I mean, once. A few weeks after we started dating. He texted me to say that we should just be friends and hang out, that he’s new to the area and has no one else. I felt bad for him so I saw him.”

“Did anything happen?”



“He tried to put his arm around me, but I said no. So he didn’t.”

“Nothing else?”



“I mean, later he asked if he could kiss me. And I said ‘what’ because I thought I misheard him. He asked me again and when I said nothing he pushed me against the wall—”

She pauses. Her eyes find her fingers and she fiddles with her rings.

“I was so scared. I thought it was happening again.”

“What did you do?”

“He placed his hand to my chest, above it I mean, and asked if I was scared. I told him I wasn’t. ‘Your heart is racing,’ he said. ‘Are you sure you’re not scared?’ And I told him no. I had to pretend I wasn’t upset or angry either, just so he’d let me go. I thought it was the only way.”

I don’t say anything.

“I love you,” she says.

“Why didn’t you tell me about this?”

“I wanted to, but I couldn’t. I thought you’d be mad.”

“I am mad, but not at you.”

“Are you sure?”


“I love you.”

“I love you too,” I say, because I forgot how this started.

We fall into her bed. Holding her in my arms, I feel her tremble. Later she tells me about the time in high school, what she meant when she said she thought it was happening again. She had been seeing this guy, had gone on a couple of dates with him when they’re driving home from the movies and he grows frustrated with her because she doesn’t know any good places to park, any good make out spots in town. She says she’s sorry but she just doesn’t know any. He gets angry, starts yelling at her, until finally she finds a pull off, not very private, where the two of them crawl into the backseat.

“I never told him no, though,” she tells me.

“Did you say anything else?”


Neither of them said a word the entire way home. When she dropped him off he didn’t say anything.

The first person she told about this was her school counselor, several months after. What the counselor told her was that “These things happen. Look at it this way, at least he thought you were attractive.”

There’s anger and then there’s anger. Holding her in my arms I feel both. I know how Tommy feels when he says he could kill someone, when he eventually does kill several.

“I love you so much,” she says to me. “I don’t know what I’d do without you.”

I hold her so tight that night. In the early hours of morning, 3:00 or 4:00, her phone keeps ringing. It keeps ringing but neither of us answer. The ringing is welcome tonight. Without it, that level of silence would be too much. You would lose yourself, yes, but I doubt you’d ever get yourself back, climb from the depths of yourself and back into the light.

I ignore the ringing, let it become something else. When she falls asleep I listen to her snore.


join man next week for journal #25 (in which Tommy Tinder returns home)

Journal #22 (in which Tommy Tinder writes a book)

Some weeks ago, long before I started seeing the manic-pixie-dream-girl named Jane, I ask Tommy why he never uses emojis in his texts or Tinder messages. He asks me what an emoji is. I show him.

An emoji is this: 😀

Or this: 😟

An emoji is used to express a feeling, or tone. Sometimes a place or thing.

This is also an emoji: 😮

That’s what Tommy looks like when I introduce him to emojis. He had no idea these weapons of communication were out there. His texts and messages become flooded with them. Though at first his usage is rough, amateurish if you will (Brian even tells me he wishes I never introduced Tommy to emojis), his emoji grammar and flow quickly improve. He becomes an expert, surpassing even me. Combined with his raw texts already so full of poetry, his mastery of the emoji turns his messages into something else entirely, something that transcends anything I’ve seen on any phone, in any prose. You would think that with his help, with his guiding words and emojis, I’d be drowning in Tinder pussy, but I refuse to let him pilot entire conversations. Once he gets a conversation going, I take the controls, and the conversation crashes most spectacularly. I drown in something that is definitely not Tinder pussy.

I scroll through his phone and try to emulate his style, not just in my texts and messages but in my own writing, in this investigative journal you’re reading. Quickly he becomes my favorite writer, surpassing Denis Johnson and Kurt Vonnegut and Haruki Murakami—and Tommy isn’t even a writer. There’s one text of his that leaves me speechless, so full it is of heart and soul and emojis, I’m tempted to quit writing altogether. I read it again and again, the seamless flow between his words and the yellow faces. When I finally hand the phone back to him, I say (sarcastically of course) that—

“You could write a novel with just emojis.”

He stares at me a long time before he turns around and leaves the cottage, deep and ponderous emojis swimming in the surface of his eyes. I don’t see him for two weeks. I’m not sure if he’s in the tent or living out of his car on some backstreet, but even Brian sees very little of him. The quiet at the cottage grows unsettling. I try to talk to Brian but it seems we’ve forgotten how to be friends, so set am I in my ways as a third wheel.

When Tommy reappears, he reappears with a full beard and a thick manuscript under his arm, must be at least 400, 500 pages. The title is: 😢😭🗻 🌋 🌌 😶. Tommy tells me this translates to The Tears That Carve Down Mountains, though he admits even his own translation is rough. I take the manuscript in my hands, flip through the pages. Every page is filled with emojis in proper manuscript format: double spaced, one-inch margins.

At first glance it’s gibberish, and then I start reading. I stay up all night with that novel and call in sick to work the next day so I can finish it. When I set the manuscript down, I have to push it away from me in fear I’ll soak the pages. I bury my head in my hands and cry like I haven’t cried in years. Tommy, he says so much and yet says it with so little. The plotting is intricate, his webbing of the three acts with a mysterious fourth dispersed in all three like some sort of dream. And how he pulls from classics I know very well he hasn’t read! Yet every time I read it, the story is different, a new catharsis takes me and water floods from my eyes, emptying some other part of my soul. Honestly, I don’t know how he did it.

I play it cool when I hand it back.

“It’s good,” I say.

And he flashes me that childish smile, that cheeky grin as he raises his chin and closes his eyes.

“How much is true?” I ask him.

He shrugs. “Some of it. Other parts I made up.”

I nod. I want to ask him about the parts involving his mother: did you really experience all of that so deeply? But I don’t have to ask, the proof is there on the page, in every emoji. His choices so abstract, yet so impossibly specific.

Sitting down to write, I try to write like Tommy writes. I try to use only emojis but it’s impossible to lose myself in the work. Without a keyboard exclusively of emojis, how is one supposed to disappear? I want to ask Tommy but I’m ashamed. I pound out a story of emojis but it doesn’t make sense. On Tinder, I send messages exclusively in emojis, but I receive only question marks and WTFs in response. And silence, I get that too.

There are some things you cannot fake, and you cannot fake being Tommy. His vagabond, bohemian lifestyle. His art without his being an artist. The way he makes Brian’s legs tingle in the night. There is just no way.

I want to be Tommy but I don’t have the courage. I want to be Tommy but I don’t have the style. I want to hate Tommy because he’s taken everything from me, but I can’t.

When he hears about my first date with Jane, his grin is so genuine, his eyes so proud, and his embrace so warm that really, you just can’t hate him. He pats me on the back and says, “You did it, bro. You did it.” I know he uses ‘bro’ ironically. Not even Brian shows that kind of emotion when things between Jane and myself grow more serious. If anything, he drifts further away, he stiffens when he’s around me, and yet somehow his eyes seem softer, full of some sort of emotion I don’t think there’s an emoji for. It almost reminds me of how much I love him.

We only pass each other now, using the cottage in shifts. I only see him with Tommy and he only sees me with Jane. Jane asks me if there is anything going on between Brian and me. I tell her there isn’t. I tell myself, quietly, that I need to be more careful. She’ll see right through me.

One morning I get a text from Tommy and it’s all in emojis. Unusual for Tommy, the text is incomprehensible. It’s gibberish. It makes me smile that, maybe, his novel was only a fluke. I don’t respond.

He finds me at work. His eyes are swollen and stale tears stick to his cheeks. His hands tremble. “I think Brian is going to leave me,” he says.

“No,” I say.

“Are you sure?”


He wipes tears from his face and snot from his nose. He smears it on his skinny jeans.

“He hasn’t said anything to you?”

I shake my head. It pains me to see him like this, but then again, it doesn’t. It’s nice to see him lose something too.

“If he tells you something, you’ll tell me right?”

“I will.”

Tommy smiles at me and tells me I’m a good friend. He says I’m a good friend even outside of his relationship with Brian. I have trouble wrapping my head around that.

Brian, as expected, tells me nothing. On the nights when I’m not at Jane’s, when Brian and Tommy have the cottage to themselves and I’m sleeping outside in my van, I hear their arguments grow louder, and then quieter which I know is worse.

Honestly, I don’t know what their fights are about, if they’re about anything at all. To my ears they don’t make sense. They shout about things they seem to agree on, saying it in different ways, ignorant of the fact that they’re saying the same thing.

I try to piece it all together, everything I hear. I make a list of the facts—

Fact #1: Tommy’s inheritance is running out. What was once an unknown sum has dwindled down to $300. He’s been selling what he has, but now has nothing left to sell but himself. (I think of his novel, he still has that. He doesn’t realize he’s sitting on a goldmine.)

Fact #2: He’s been trying to convince Brian to quit his job at the bookstore. This comes up a lot in their arguments. They scream at each other about it, yet they seem to be in agreement. I’m afraid they’ll find out they’re in agreement on this one, because if they do, Brian might succumb to Tommy’s next desire, which I lay out in—

Fact #3: Tommy wants Brian to hit the road with him. To bum it up across the country. To drag Brian into his homelessness.

Though I’m getting ahead of myself again, Brian does eventually quit the bookstore. Though he decides to hit the road, he decides to hit the road with someone else.

I’m there when Brian breaks the news to Tommy. I’ve never seen someone so full of light, lose the light just like that. Tommy doesn’t shed a tear, he just stands there, lifeless and empty, his world falling to pieces around him, everything he wanted, everything he’s already had.

His car is empty but for the manuscript that still sits in the backseat, still spotted with tears from the many hours I’ve spent reading it. I expect he’ll write an even better novel about this, tapping into this new heartbreak, this new Hell he’s found himself in.

Tommy looks to me, his eyes so full of empty. “You,” he says. “Friend,” he says. He turns to the car and grabs the manuscript. “I have something for you.”

He walks toward me, waving the manuscript. And my heart lights up, the thoughtfulness of this parting gesture. As he hands it to me, he drops it. He lights a match, drops that too. Flames lick up from the pages, a black ashiness crawls across the little yellow faces. I burn myself trying to put it out. I try to stomp, whomp out the flames.

“It doesn’t mean anything,” he says to me, but I don’t believe him.

I’m jumping on the pages now, the fiery ashes. Only my tears are enough to put it out, but it’s too late. I rake my hands through the ashes, the fragments of faces.

“You’re pathetic,” he says, then walks away.

I’m too focused on the mountain of char before me, my tears carving it down to nothing, I don’t see Tommy say goodbye to Brian. I don’t see them kiss, I don’t see the paper, the list that Brian slips into Tommy’s back pocket before Tommy drives away.

The sun sets over the trees and I gather what scraps are left from Tommy’s lost opus. In the cottage, sleepless, I try to piece the fragments together, but no structure comes, no meaning to make of it. I fall asleep and dream of what I’ve left out, what I haven’t told you, but this lacks structure too.

I wake to Brian shaking me, saying it’s time to go, when I realize I fell asleep in the surviving yellow faces, all of them staring at me with their black eyes. Sad faces stuck on my chest, laughter on my forehead, tears on my arms. It all means nothing. Sometimes it’s hard to believe this nothing ever was something to begin with. Sometimes I wonder if the something was only nothing after all.

But here I am, so far ahead of myself, I’m losing myself, I’m losing Brian, and reader, I’m losing you too.

🔥 📖 🔥

join man next week for journal #23 (in which said man discusses Jane and the L-word)

Journal #20 (in which a raccoon nighttime…)

I’m in the dark. I am the dark. A shadow merges with greater shadow. All around, little bonfires tear away at the shadow that is now a part of me. Pine needles and wood-rust crunch under my feet. A scattering of tents shimmer by flame like some post-apocalyptic dream.

My throat is dry. The space behind my eyes feels airy, empty. Brian and Tommy sit around a fire. Tommy, cross-legged in the dirt, pokes at the fire with a stick. There’s a glassy sheen to his eyes. Beer cans scatter at his feet.

Brian stands to give me a limp hug.

“Happy birthday,” I say to Tommy.

Tommy doesn’t so much as glance at me.

“He’s drunk,” Brian says. “Don’t worry about this drunk.” Brian sounds drunk.

I sit down in the only chair. Brian sits across from Tommy in the dirt. Surrounding us, trees ripple in the orange glow, dark towers shooting up into stars.

There are three tents. One for sleeping, one for supplies, one for dungeon sex. I hear their chains jangle inside. I don’t belong here. Beyond the firelight, something out there moves. Something moves where the firelight can’t reach. Eyes watch us, circle us, wait for our moment of weakness. They don’t realize how weak I already am.

“Mags might be coming,” I say.

Brian looks up. “Oh?”

Tommy glances up, and then back down into the flames. He pokes at a log, shifting it, it crumbles to coal. Sparks spray into the cool night.

“I thought Mags stopped talking to you.”

“She did. Now she’s not.”

“Not not talking to you?”


A crack and hiss of a beer. The tug of Tommy’s throat pulling it down. I shift in my seat. A can rolls into the trees. From the aluminum glint, I see something paw at it, something nudge it with its nose.

KKKKHHHEEHHHKKKKHHH! A raccoon hiss. A raccoon confrontation. The beer can scuttles out of sight.

My phone shocks my thigh. It’s Mags. Mags is here.

“Mags is here,” I say to everyone.

Mags is here, I say to myself.

Mags is here, I respond.

I find Mags. She’s sitting on a stump near the dirt lot. She plays with her fingernails. Nibbles on them just a little.

“Hey,” I say.

“Hey,” she says.

“You’re here.”

“You didn’t need to come find me.”

“You were lost.”

“I wasn’t lost.”

“You couldn’t find us.”

“I was fine.”


She follows me to the campsite, her hood up, her hands stuffed in her hoodie pockets.

“Mags is here,” I say to everyone.

Brian stands up, gives her a hug.

Tommy doesn’t so much as look at her.

“I like your hair,” Mags says to Brian.

“Thanks. Thomas cut it.”

An aggressive thumbs up from Tommy.

“Don’t ever let that one cut your hair,” Brian says. Brian points to me, because he means me. “Don’t let him touch you.”

Together they laugh, like it’s some inside joke. Everyone sits down.

Mags is on a log, hunched over herself. She watches the fire. I’m not watching her. I’m watching the fire too.

Beyond the firelight, another confrontation. Something between a hiss, a scream, and a scowl. Raccoons. Raccoons in the nighttime. Raccoons fighting over who gets dibs on us when all is said and done. Who gets to pick our bones. The fire reflects in their eyes. When they look away, they are nothing.

Brian and Tommy don’t look at each other.

Mags and I don’t look at each other.

No one looks at anyone. Everyone looks at the fire.

Tommy makes a low noise. A scowl. A hiss. A raccoon growl. His eyes are black like the beast. “KKKKHHHEEHHHKKKKHHH!” he cries.

Brian responds in kind—


Outside the light, the prowling eyes look unsure, make wider circles along the perimeter.

Brian and Tommy snarl and hiss at each other and here Mags and I are, stuck within one of their games. They paw at the night between them. I clench my own paws in my pockets.

*kkhheehhkcough* I choke.

Brian and Tommy look at me, smiling.

“Raccoon nighttime?” asks Brian.

“Raccoon nighttime,” says Tommy.

“Raccoon nighttime,” I whisper, to myself.

Mags crosses her legs.

Brian leans into the fire. “We are raccoons. We are the night. We prowl the night. We claw the night. We are the night and we are each other.”

Brian watches me, a smile creeping across his darkening cheeks.

I stand up. I want to be seen. I want to be seen by Mags. “Raccoons?” I announce, as I unbuckle my belt. “Are we raccoons?”

Brian and Tommy jump up and rip off their clothing like they know what they’re doing. “KKKKHHHEEHHHKKKKHHH!” they both scream. Their bodies are pale shadows, orange ghosts in the light. Naked, they step away from the flames. They merge into the shadow. They hiss. They growl. They prowl. A rustle in the brush then silence.

I can’t get my jeans past my sneakers. Mags watches me from her log by the fire. I yank, I pull, I crouch to the ground. Jeans at the ankles, I untie my sneakers, sit there, hunched over the dirt. A single tear bulbs in the corner of my eye. I don’t take off my sneakers. I tie them back up, I stand. I pull up my pants. Mags watches me.

Outside the light perimeter, two more raccoons roam with pale skin and they hiss at the moon sliding through the trees, and later in the distance, we hear screams and moans more human than raccoon.

My heart thumps at my inside ribs. “So,” I ask Mags, “how was your day?”


“That’s good.”

Brian and Tommy return with bruises. They return with scratches. Together they smell of raccoon.

Mags engages in conversation with Brian, and Tommy too. They talk about sex, they talk about tattoos. She takes off her top and shows them her ink, her little dipper. To me it still looks like moles. She leaves soon after Brian and Tommy retreat to their tent. I walk her back to her car though she tells me I don’t have to. In the dirt lot, I take her in my arms. I’m smelling her hair and still it smells of trees. Maybe it’s just the trees though.

“I should go,” she says. This time she doesn’t linger. She goes.

Brian and Tommy are still camped out there the next two nights. I meet up with them after work. We follow the railway tracks from the campground to a private cove that looks out onto Samish Bay. The sun drops down the sky and the horizon floods with orange. Then the orange is gone and a gradient of blue becomes the dome of the world. Brian and Tommy pass a cigarette back and forth as they watch the changing light. With Tommy’s hobo walking stick I hit pebbles into the water.

“Should I text Mags?” I ask Brian.

“I mean if you want. Why wouldn’t you?”

“Was she being— weird last night?”

Brian and Tommy look at each other.

“Weird like, bitch?” Brian asks.


“She was a bitch, yes.”


“But she likes you. I can tell she likes you.”


“That’s how I would act around guys I liked when I was her age.”

“Like that?”

“Like a bitch, yes.”


Brian studies me, cigarette smoke drifting from his fingers. “What?”

“Do you remember telling her that I hadn’t had sex in five years?”

“I didn’t say that.”

“You did.”


“And then she said how she couldn’t go five days without having sex. That she hasn’t gone five days without having sex.”



“You’re wondering why she won’t have sex with you.”

“No. I’m wondering why she won’t kiss me.”

“Oh.” Brian puts out his cigarette. “I really wouldn’t worry about it. She likes you.”

On the way back down the tracks, the moon follows us. The moon is full, brighter than I’ve ever seen it. The tracks glow like sleeping lightning. The trees are a bloody green and the rocky crags to our right are silver. I text Mags—

“Raccoon nighttime?”

She doesn’t respond.

Back at the campsite, I text her again—

“Raccoon nighttime?”

She doesn’t respond.

Days later, I text her again—

“Raccoon nighttime?”

She doesn’t respond.

Her sand castles drift into memory and I find the memory isn’t enough. I cling to what is gone. Violently, I masturbate in the shower for that feeling, but I feel nothing. I emerge from the bathroom naked, dripping. I drop to the floor.

I’m breathing heavy and hunched over my carpet and I know I need to chill the fuck out, get my shit together, because Mags isn’t worth this. Tears spot the carpet. Is this about Mags? Is this anything at all? I don’t know because I have nobody to talk to. It might be Brian. It might be Tommy. It might be Tommy ripping away my support system—Brian. It might be me trying to make Mags my support system and finding she won’t do. She won’t let herself be anything. I scream FUCK into nothing because I have no one to talk to. I scream FUCKFUCKFUCK into this blog because I have no one to listen.

“Are you alright?”

“No I’m not alright.”

“You’ll be alright.”

“I’ll be alright.”

“I was kidding, you won’t be alright.”

That’s me. Talking to myself at work. I’m watching Mags. She’s in the YA section again, reading some YA book. She hasn’t acknowledged me all night. I’m so hungry, I realize.

She re-shelves the book and walks toward me.

I wipe drool from my lips.

She wears that floral dress again, a zip-up hoodie thrown over. Her hands are in her pockets.

“Hey,” she says.

“Hey,” I think I say.

“Want to go for a walk tonight?” she asks.


A sudden calm takes me, a brief relief. Then it’s gone because there’s still that desperate hunger. It gets worse with the promise of its end.

8:59. One minute before closing. The phone rings. The phone rings.

The phone still rings.

I pick up. “Village Bookstore,” I say.

“What’s up,” the voice says, “is Magdalene there?”


“Yeah, is she there?”

I watch Mags lock the front doors. “May I ask who’s calling?”


And my heart goes cold, because of course his name is Walker. I put Walker on hold.

“Phone for you,” I say to Mags.

“Who is it?”



In her voice I sense surprise, curiosity, excitement. She takes the phone call. She whispers into the receiver, her eyes shooting short glances in my direction. I pretend not to notice.

After locking up, on our way back to the parking lot, I know what’s coming, what must be said. When we reach her car she says—

“I’m burnt. Raincheck on that walk?”

I’m not sure I say anything, but I know I laugh. I laugh all the way back to my car because I know exactly what’s going to happen before it happens. It’s all happening just the same way as before. When it comes to loneliness, my mind is God. I am omniscient. I am unforgiving.

I don’t sleep that night because I remember that voice. I can’t get that voice out of my head. The voice of the man who calls himself Walker. I know that voice because I’ve heard it before. I know that voice because I’ve met him before. At first I had thought it was the bro who’s been coming around the store lately to hit on Mags, but now I know better. That voice goes further back.

That voice is without age.

I’m being followed. At the grocery store. At Boulevard Park. I turn around and there he is—the voice-man who calls himself Walker—though it’s only his eyes that now speak. When I first made his acquaintance, five years ago when all this lonely first started, I knew him by Rider, I knew him as Strider. I knew him as the man in the hood, the man in black, the sleeping man in the blue Honda. Five years. I haven’t seen him in five years.

Sometimes he looks like a vagrant, sometimes a business man, sometimes he looks like a little old lady with a stroller. But always, he drives that beat up blue Honda… though sometimes it’s red, sometimes it’s actually a Toyota. I can’t shake him. He arrives everywhere before I do.

I thought this part of my story was over, I thought it ended when he disappeared. You, reader, you don’t know what I’m talking about. This current story, this blog, I thought this was about something else. But nothing is ever over. The man in the hood taught me that.

I hear his voice everywhere. I hear his whispers. They loop like circles, they return like Time. I don’t know how I didn’t hear him coming earlier. That little voice in my head, it’s always been him. It’s been him all along, whispering in the dark. Approaching every girl I meet and telling them—

“He’s not for you. This man you seek, he’s meant for someone else. You’ll find another.

If they protest, he pays them off. Though most of the time I imagine they say nothing, shrug their shoulders and walk away. I never hear from them again. This unrelenting loneliness of mine, it’s the only explanation. He must have scared off the mouse girl, sent the coffeeshop girl to Alaska, banished her from this dead man’s dream. Now he’s reached Mags, told her to stay away.

I wonder how much he pays them. I wonder how far he’ll go if they refuse. In my dreams I see their bodies. I see the mouse girl decapitated in a trap, I see the coffeeshop girl’s body dashed bloody against the side of a mountain. Every girl I’ve seen on Tinder, I see their eyes staring up at me from the bottom of the lake.

More than ever, I’m careful to close the door nine times, to make sure it clicks shut. Through the blinds I watch the world move outside. Across the pond and through the trees the main road sleeps, but I see the man in the hood, the man in the blue Honda drive back and forth, back and forth, though sometimes it’s black, sometimes the man isn’t even a man at all. Sometimes she’s a raccoon. Eyes prowling, circling me in the dark.


do not join man next week. man will be lying low. he will not be here. join man in three weeks time for the beginning of PART III (in which nothing begins, it’s already begun)

Journal #16 (in which the earth beneath said man vibrates, violently)

I wake to the world vibrating. The earth quivering violently beneath me. In the next room I hear pots fall from the counters, books off the shelves. I hear Brian scream. Jolting up from my mat, I search for something to hide beneath, somewhere to protect myself from this. The room is so bare, really, there is nowhere to cower.

I stumble into the next room, keeping myself steady against the vigorous vibration of the floor. Is this it—the Big One? Or something deeper. The dawn of the living Tinder. I buried you, I swear. In the next room the ground is unmoving, but Brian is manic. Turning over tables and chairs and throwing out books, emptying drawers. He looks to me, his yes yellow and full of dust.

“You. Where? Have you seen my phone?” His hands are trembling. So are his breasts.

“Your phone.”

“My phone. Have you seen it?”


I turn around, back to my mat in the corner where the ground still trembles with a low hum, where my pillow seems to be the epicenter of all this. Listening to the crash of everything in the next room, I carefully reach under my pillow. My fingers touch a phone.

My phone, clean. My phone, alive.

My phone, vibrating.

Flashes of the night. Dirt and shovel, gritty hands. A phone put to sleep, six feet under. The wrong man died last night. The wrong King put to his death. Brian, he won’t find his phone, not in there. I say nothing.

I look to my own phone. A survivor. Several notifications from Tinder. I scroll through them. My heart races, my palms grow sweaty. I thought I was done with this. Tinder informs me: you’ve been super liked.

Me. I’ve been super liked. Me, Super Liked!

An hour passes before I realize I’m reading the same line over and over again. Finally, I unlock my phone. Open the Tinder account that I thought was dead. It lives, thrives even.

When you receive a Super Like, it doesn’t place the person who Super Liked you at the top of the deck. You must swipe through other prospective mates first. I swipe. I swipe. I swipe again. Three cards down, I see the card highlighted blue that indicates the Super Like. Swipe. Swipe. Super Like.

My heart stops. My neck, paralyzed.

She’s terrifying.

Her hair is dyed red, her nose and lips and eyebrows all pierced. She’s a couple years older than me. Her name is Robin but her friends call her Bob. She cuts her hair like Brian cuts his hair. In one photo she wears a Batman onesie. In another she stands next to a bearded man with a knife. He wears the same onesie.

Later, when I ask Brian why someone like that would Super Like someone like me, he tells me that I’m their type, that they like the quiet ones. This Robin, she wanted to eat you alive, he says. She wanted to dominate.

But in the moment, I swipe her right because I’m flattered, because I’m curious, because I have nothing better to do.

She messages me immediately—

How goes it, sir?

I look at her profile again. It says she’s 12 miles away.

I return to the message, deliberate on what to send. What I send is this—

Goes well. Sun’s out, I’ve been super liked, I have no complaints. And you? (with super cool, casual undertones)

An immediate response—

Well, I missed most of the Sun due to work, but I’m off now, so I also have no complaints 😉

My god, I’m incapable of communicating this fast. I look once again at her profile. She’s now 3 miles away.

1 mile away.

Less than a mile away.

I put down my phone, look out the window. I bolt to the next room, look out that window too. Looking for red hair in the woods, in the reeds, in the pond. Nothing. Trembling fingers, I take out my phone. Using Tinder to triangulate my location, I fear she’ll find me before I respond. I type fast—

I type something about the weather, how the weather looks next week too, that it looks good.

To which I get no response. I wait there, heart hammering, searching the green outside for that splash of red. I wait. I look at my phone.

1 mile away.

3 miles away.

20 miles.

I never get a response, probably because I was talking about the weather.

In the living room/office/kitchen/entryway, Brian puts books back on the shelves, pots back on the counter. Both of us are trembling.

“Find your phone?” I ask.

Brian shakes his head. “What’s wrong with you?”

I shake my head.

I don’t yet tell him about the Super Like. The Super Like isn’t that important, nor the vanished possibility of my getting laid that night had the weather not been so nice and worth mentioning. What is important is what happens next. Because now I’m swiping again, now I’m getting used to the rejection. I don’t care, I just don’t care. Swipe swipe swipe. Wandering outside, eyes on my phone, swipe swipe, I don’t care.

Then there she is. I’m sitting on the porch now and well damn it, there she is. I stop swiping, I stare at her face on the screen.


No answer.


I get up, go inside. Brian is stretched out across the carpet, reading a book. Tommy is somewhere outside, roaming the fields, prowling the grass and talking with the chickens and cats and wild things, because that is what Tommy does. “It’s Mags,” I say to Brian.

Brian barely looks up from his book. It’s probably something by David Foster Wallace.

“It’s Mags,” I say again.

I show Brian my phone and he sees that yes, it is Mags. Mags with her dog in the snow and her blond hair of almost the same color. She looks different because she’s not wearing glasses. She always wears glasses at work. She also usually wears sweatpants, the tight formfitting kind with words across the butt. I never read them because I’m afraid. I never read them because there are cameras. I never read them because she is only 18. But at night, under my sheets I imagine what those words must say and what it would mean if the words weren’t there—by that I mean if the sweatpants weren’t there.

Mags doesn’t like it when I call her Mags but I still call her Mags. I don’t remember what her full name is. Something longer. Do you remember the coworker who caressed my back, way back in Journal #3, the one who smelled of lilacs and collapsed my knees?

That touch.

I’m gaping at my phone, at my Tinder, at Mags and her eyes without glasses, staring back up at me.

“What are you going to do?” Brian asks. “You’re going to swipe her right, right?”

“Should I? I was going to swipe her left, because, I mean, sexual harassment.”

“But, I mean, you’re going to swipe her right, right? It’s Mags. I mean… the Mags.”

And he makes an excellent point. It is the Mags.

Brian takes my phone from me, and he scrolls though her photos, reads her bio and laughs. “Aw she really worked hard on this one, you can tell. You need to swipe her right.” He hands the phone back to me, and I’m surprised he didn’t swipe right for me. I thought he was going to swipe right for me, that’s why I let him take it from me so easily.

“I shouldn’t,” I say.

“You should.”

“Sexual harassment,” I say.

“You’re not at work.”

“She might be.”

“It would be sexual harassment not to swipe her right. It’s Mags.”

It’s Mags. I walk back to the porch, sit down and lay my phone in my lap. I see Tommy out there, searching the fields, the trees, sniffing the dirt for God knows what. If Brian can find that on Tinder, I can find someone too.

I close my eyes, I swipe right.

Nothing happens. It’s not a match.

My heart feels weird.

The next day at work, Mags is working too. I watch her, I try to read her movements, her eyes, if her eyes are looking at me when I’m not looking at her, but it’s hard to tell because I’m not looking at her when I’m not looking at her. Also, most of the time I’m looking at her. Her hair is just short of shoulder length, white as starlight and yet it has streaks of something brighter. Behind her glasses her eyes are a pale blue. Have those eyes come across me on Tinder? Has she even been on Tinder recently?

Still, I think of that touch of hers. Sometimes when I see her coming I grab a book, any book, only to shelve it, only to turn away from her in the hopes her finger will once again graze that valley, make me weak to that lilac breeze.

She wouldn’t swipe me left, would she?

She’s awful at her job, worse even than me. She makes me feel like a good worker, top tier. She comes to me sometimes and complains there is nothing to do. I look at the books that need to be shelved, the shelves that need to be straightened, the stairs that need to be swept and I look her in the eyes and believe myself when I say—

“You’re right, there’s nothing to do.”

She scoots a stool into the YA section and opens a book and reads, her little chin propped up on her little fist. I then do the things that were the nothings left to be done. Shelve the books, straighten the shelves, sweep the stairs. All the while I’m watching her, wondering if she’s seen me on her phone with my shirt off, one claw out, in front of a fireplace on three of my fours.

My stomach roils with these thoughts, gives me diarrhea. Soupy poopy as Mags would call it.

It takes a few days for the match to come—


—and yes, it is Mags. I see it in the morning, though it happened sometime in the night, somewhere between 3:19 and 3:20 am. I turn off my phone. I don’t message her.

That day I watch her more closely than usual. Her eyes are red, her sockets are swollen, she’s worse at her job than usual. I see her shelve a fiction book in the mystery section. In the mystery section! Later, I hear someone crying in the bathroom. Mags is nowhere to be seen. When Mags reappears and the bathroom is empty, I say nothing. The bathroom is wet with rain. I mop up the puddles.

I follow her at a distance. I wait for her to say something, anything, about our match on Tinder. She never says anything. She keeps sniffing. Her sinuses sound awful. It’s unattractive.

It’s after closing and the lights are off and I’m counting the cash in the registers when I sense her approach. That lonely lilac breeze. Then it’s still. Warm, stagnant air. I feel a hand slide down my lower back, a light body press up against me, a heavy head resting on my shoulder. Tears that smell of salt. Blond hair that smells of trees.


join man next week for journal #17 (in which a beast is awakened)