Circle of Life

Under a punishing sun in the midst of Kenya’s vast grasslands, a zebra’s luck is running out. It has attracted the attention of three starving hyenas. The zebra is ahead of its spotted pursuers but the predators are gaining on their striped prey.

Out of the thirty zebras drinking and bathing at the water hole, this one drew the short end of the straw. It ran left when the other zebras went right. The wrong choice.

Were it not for the cut on its left thigh, this zebra could have escaped its drooling hunters by now. At top speeds, zebras leave hyenas in the dust. These hyenas are running faster than hyenas ought to. These starving pups are desperate for a meal. This zebra cannot be allowed to escape like the others.

But it seems that may happen. The zebra is beginning to pull away. The hungry hyenas are starting to tire. Days of hunting without a kill has weakened them. Their legs give way beneath them. Fortune is on the zebra’s side for today.

The hyenas growl and whimper at one another as yet another zebra gets away. The two bigger hyenas eye down their younger brother. The small one bares its yellow teeth and barks. It scurries away with its tail beneath its legs. Its elder brothers keep close.

As the calls of the hyenas grow silent, the zebra slows. The endorphins fueling its strength run out. The zebra moves aimlessly until it finds shade underneath a tree. The cool spot under the branches and leaves of the Acacia tree is a rare place of comfort in the Kenyan grasslands. The zebra lies down, exhausted.

Its comfort ends when the whooping calls of the hyenas return. The calls are louder and more frantic. A clan of twenty hyenas is converging on the zebra.

The hyenas fight with one another, snapping and cackling. One hyena bites the ear of its brother. They each want to be the first one to satisfy their hunger.

The hyenas are like a swarm of hornets. They’re biting, ripping at the zebra before it can make a sound. To the human eye, the zebra appears to be calm and at peace as though it has accepted its fate. But death for this zebra is as agonizing and painful as death can be.

The calm that human observers claim to see is the zebra’s body going into shock. The zebra feels each rip and tear of its flesh and bone as the hyenas wrench it open and pull out its organs. Its senses dull as the blood seeps out of it. Its vision will blur and its hearing will lessen, but its pain receptors stay intact until its last heartbeat. If the zebra is fortunate, it may die a quick death. An overeager hyena could bite down on its heart and ends its misery.

The sight of hyenas feasting on zebras is distressing for human on-lookers, but this is what becomes of animals on the losing end of the circle of life.

 

Tis the Season

Seven years ago a Walmart employee was sent to the front doors of the store  to help take control of a crowd of Black Friday shoppers. He was known as a gentle giant to his loved ones. That size was what put him in harm’s way.  The store needed big strong men like him to keep the frenzied crowd in check. The front doors would be smashed off their hinges before anyone knew what to do. The human chain set up to stop the rush failed. His co-workers jumped on top of vending machines to escape the hundreds of people flooding into the store. Some were injured including a pregnant woman. A few fought for their lives and managed to get to safety. But this oneemployee did not have their luck. His life came to an end underneath the soles of a crowd of people who felt that fifty percent off electronics was worth more than a human life. He was 34 years old.

Paramedics who came on to the scene to try and help were stepped-on. The shoppers were told to leave the store after the employee’s death was discovered. They refused. They had waited on line for hours. Why did they have to leave because one person had died? They continued to shop as if nothing had happened.

Walmart paid the employee’s family $400,000 to compensate for the loss of life.

In the seven years since the employee’s unfortunate passing,  the pain hasn’t subsided for his family. They remember that fateful Black Friday. Every year they stay at home to honor the memory of their fallen giant. They will forever know what people are willing to disregard for the sake of a good sale.

Proceeding with Caution

I recently celebrated my 24th birthday. I still remember when I only had ten of them behind me. My family took me out for our annual celebration of my birth. I don’t like giving or receiving gifts but I do like spending time with people so this is how every occasion is celebrated now. This was the best compromise for everyone after a very controversial Mother’s Day in 2012.

I do not like official holidays. Fuck Christmas. Fuck Thanksgiving. Fuck Valentine’s Day. Fuck Columbus Day. Fuck them all. Holidays have lost all meaning behind them.

Christmas is the biggest example of this to me. Christmas is supposed to be about peace, love, and caring for other people. But people get trampled to death so we can rush in and buy Christmas gifts on Black Friday.

I may hate Christmas, but I do allow myself to enjoy birthdays. It’s a thing to celebrate if you make it another year. Not everyone makes it to 24 like I have. I read a story the other day of a girl who had brain cancer and did not make it to 24. I can get behind birthdays and the celebration of life.

I couldn’t help but ponder on my 24th birthday, how many more of these birthdays am I going to have? Eventually something’s going to do me in. I’ve always thought it would be sort of stomach or colon cancer. I did not eat greens or fruits enough as a child. That’s going to catch up with me at some point. I try to eat spinach now but I still have this feeling that the damage has been done. But I expect that to happen in my mid 50s once I’m happy with where my life is going.

Since my birthday, I’ve had a morbid curiosity with what kills people at 24. I’ve had this need to know so I could better protect my fragile life. I only get the one so might as well know what could take it away.

Luckily for me and other incredibly paranoid people, the CDC records the top ten killers of people across all age groups. Thank goodness!

According to cdc.gov, the top five killers of people ages 15-24 are the following;

1. Unintentional Injury.

2. Suicide

3. Homicide

4. Malignant neoplasms (Cancer)

5. Heart Disease.

Unintentional injury is no. 1. There were 11,000 deaths of people ages age group of 15-24 attributed to this in 2013. Around a third of those were motor vehicle related in 2015. This one is somewhat controllable. You can minimize the risk here by being a safe driver. Of course sometimes there is nothing you can do.

Suicide coming in at no. 2 is very depressing. About 5,000 people in 2013 decided they didn’t want to see 2014. This comes to the individual person. Suicide is a choice. Unless you subscribe to the field of thought that free will is an illusion. But that’s a deterministic argument that I don’t feel like discussing today.

Getting done in by someone else is sort of in your control. You can try to stay away from dangerous situations and people. But sometimes they find you. What can you do?

Cancer and Heart disease round out the rest of the list here and they will get most people in the end. If you look down at the chart I’ve included below, they climb higher throughout the age brackets until they are the top two killers. I don’t know if they can avoided. Even people who eat healthy are not immune to cancer and heart disease.

leading_causes_of_death_by_age_group_2013-a

Maybe one day mankind will find a way to conquer death and live forever. But that also opens up more problems. What are we going to do when the Sun eventually engulfs the earth in a few billion years? It might get a little hot around here.

The Great Bunny Robbery: Episode Bun

And now the time has come for a story about friendship, bunnies, and the nature of man.

DSC00506

And now the time has come for a story about friendship, bunnies, and the nature of man.

In South Jersey, there was a town called Eggy Township. It was as about as South Jersey as any town could be. The locals were Philadelphia sports fans and spent as much time denying the existence of Central Jersey as politicians did the existence of global warming. It was close enough to the beach that people said they cared about the on-going destruction of the shoreline, but not close enough for any of the residents to do anything about it.

There were many houses in Eggy Township. 1,269 to be exact. One of these houses had a hockey rink in the back. It was guarded by a clinically depressed lawn gnome and a cat that ran at the first sign of danger. Far around that house was a scary dark forest with critters that would freak out even the most hardened man. Inside the house lived the Tail family.

The Tail Family were a family of four, Mama Tail, Papa Tail, and two children. In the basement of the home lived their youngest child, a boy by the name of Reese Tail.

A slim young man with the spirit of stage-dives, kindness and punk in his heart. He was so tall that if he stood next to Yao Ming, he wouldn’t look that tall because he wasn’t super tall. He had the hair of an angel if angels existed. It was beautifully cut every Tuesday night by an expert team of South Jersey barbers. South Jersey barbers were world renowned for their hair cutting techniques. Reese also had a neck stronger than a young giraffe frolicking around in the Serengetti. Some might say he was the most beautiful man in the world.

Okay not some. Only one person in the world really believed he was that beautiful. And that was his fiancé/love rival/wife to be/confidant/financial partner/co-bun owner, Karyn. Reese and Karyn’s features complimented each other. Whereas Reese’s neck was stronger than a giraffe’s, Karyn had ankles of steel. Karyn had as much punk in her heart as Reese did. The color of her hair changed with the seasons. Now it was a blackish brown. Some might call it auburn. I wouldn’t.

Many of their friends speculated that Karyn would win in a fight between the two of them. Reese was favored by a small amount because he was slippery sort of guy. He’d slip his way in and out of holds. But the majority believed Karyn would whup his ass. She had a lot of tattoos and tattoos made a person tough.

Karyn was quite the tattoo enthusiast. She had tattoos of song lyrics and concert tickets. She had a glow-in-the-dark tattoo on the back of her neck. On her left elbow was her scratch-and-sniff tattoo that smelled like popcorn. Karyn loved each of her tattoos but she loved one of them the most. Her tattoo of her two adorable bunnies of the back of her left hand. This woman loved her two buns, Tempter and Siesta.

Reese was not on Karyn’s level when it came to tattoos. He had only one starter tattoo on the back of his leg. It was a disturbingly high detailed one of a rhino giving birth to Jim Carey inspired by the scene from Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls. It is said by those in the know that his tattoo artist still sees that tattoo in his nightmares to this very day.

The family home’s basement was where the two resided. One could visit that basement many times and make a new discovery. Reese’s father had not a clue what lay in every nook and cranny and he had built it himself. The basement had taken on a life of its own in the years before Reese and Karyn transformed the place into their home. Voices could be heard inside the walls during the early hours of the day.

Around every corner of that basement was a picture of Jesus. If you headed down the staircase, there was the usual picture of a suffering white Jesus carrying the weight of the cross. In the corner to the right over the old Asteroid Arcade machine was a black Jesus smoking a cigar. No one knew where these pictures of Jesus came from. And they kept turning up. Each of them with tears in their eyes like they were weeping for all of humanity. In an effort to make the basement more homely, Reese and Karyn put couple pictures next to the weeping pictures of Jesus. It did not help.

Today they were saying goodbye to Reese’s great Kwame Darkwah. Kwame was as punk as they were but had no tattoos. Unless you counted the tattoo of darkness that nature had inked into his skin permanently. He was a quiet young man with the accent of his forefathers.

Kwame had come all the way down from the mythical land Central Jersey and slept over for the weekend. It had been a great time for all of them. They suffered through an old eighties horror movie that had no plot. They punked out at a hardcore concert. And then finally spent an evening contemplating whether or not Joe Dirt 2 would be worth a watch.

“Great time as always, Kwame.” said Reese.

“I hope I get to see you guys again before the wedding. How is the wedding planning going, Karyn? “Replied Kwame.

“It’s a lot of work. I can’t wait until this is over and we’re on our honey moon.” said Karyn.

“We’re traveling across the world in eight hours on a fighter jet. We’ll fly through the air at Mach Speed 2!” shouted Reese excitedly.

Kwame put his black hoodie on one arm at a time. He looked down at his cell phone and then at the two bunny cages. He and Tempter met eyes.

Tempter was a black Netherland Dwarf, the cuddliest of all bunnies in this universe. He wrinkled his cute little nose at Kwame. He seemed to speak to the young African man.

“Take me away from this place.” said Tempter with his eyes and body language.

Somehow Kwame understood the creature’s plea. Karyn and Reese didn’t notice a thing. They were too busy debating how fast the plane would have to travel to get them home and back in only eight hours. They were distracted, but Kwame needed them gone to make his move.

Tempter had to be set free from the shackles of his life. Kwame was not a religious man, but he looked to Jesus, Black Jesus in his time of need. He seemed to be the Jesus who got shit done. A miracle had to happen and it had to happen now. Tempter’s freedom depended on it.

“Reesey! Karyn! Bill’s here!” shouted down Mama Tail.

“Bill! I haven’t seen him in forever!” shouted Reese.

“I love Bill!” announced Karyn.

The two of them ran up the stairs! They tripped and pulled on each other as they made their way up. Each of them wanted to be first one to greet their very good pal, Bill.

“Thank you Black Jesus.” said Kwame.

Kwame knelled down and broke the shackles of oppression from Tempter’s cage. The bunny hopped out. He knew the drill. Freedom was at hand. The bunny wrinkled his nose.

“Thank you for freeing me. Now we are bun-buds. That bond is eternal.”

Kwame stuffed his bun bud into his hoodie. He grabbed a bunch of food pellets and shoved them in there too. He pressed his ear to the stairs. Bill, Mama Tail, Reese and Karyn were chit-chattering.

“At that speed, you guys would be liquefied!” explained Bill.

“Nu-uh!” said Reese with all the poise of a man who graduated college at the top of his class.

“Mach 3 ain’t no joke, buddy!” pressed Bill!

Their backs were to the basement door. Kwame poked it open. He became like a statue and moved only his feet. He tip-toed all the way to the front door. No one noticed a damn thing.

“We’re out of here, Tempter.” said Kwame into his hoodie.

“Where do you think you’re going?” asked Reese out of nowhere.

The jig was up. Kwame stopped in his tracks.

“You know the rules. Nobody leaves here without getting their hug.” said Reese.

Reese and his incessant need to show love for his friends had damned the bun buds. Reese started to come over. His arms raised in hug position. Kwame knew if that hug happened, Reese would feel the bun inside him. And then it’d be all over.

Kwame rattled his brains for a solution. But his brain failed him just like it did when he had to explain to his younger brother where babies came from.

He looked inside his hoodie and asked Tempter for advice. The two of them were in it together. If he went down, so did Tempter. Luckily the bunny had a plan. He blinked his little brown eyes and wriggled his pointy bunny ears.

“Take the hug. Be casual about it. I’ve got this.”

Kwame swung around.

“Reese, my very best good friend that I’ve known for so long! I LOVE YOU!” screamed Kwame.

And the two friends shared a passionate beautiful hug of friendship. You could tell it was a friendship hug because they patted each other’s back three times.

Kwame pulled away. Reese walked back to the kitchen, very satisfied. Kwame slid out the front door and sprinted like a maniac to his old Toyota Camry.

He took out his keys, started his car and got the fuck out of Eggy Township. Once the town was long behind them, Tempter hopped out of Kwame’s hoodie.

“Tempter, how’d we get away with that?”

Tempter replied with a wriggle of the ears, a wrinkle of the nose, and a blink of the eyes.

“Reese pats the upper shoulders when he hugs. So I hid in your lower back on top of your big buns. Could you please open the window?”

Kwame did. Tempter jumped close to the open window and felt the wind blow on his fur. He was free!

Meanwhile back at the house, Bill had left the building.

“Bill’s such a great guy.” said Mama Tail. Then she dove right into the nearest couch and went straight to sleep.

This left Reese and Karyn alone to contemplate on where to eat.

“We can get ice cream.” suggested Karyn.

“Nah. That cashier was a huge jerk to us last time.” said Reese.

“That was kinda your fault, babe.”

“I told him I wanted chocolate and watermelon. He came back with strawberry. I didn’t order no strawberry.”

“You didn’t have to throw it at him.”

“But it was very punk to do that.”

“It was very punk.”

“Let’s just go to Mega Double Super Wawa.”

“Cool. I’ll feed the buns and then we can go.”

Karyn opened the basement door.

“Nah babe. I took care of that while Kwame was here. The buns are fine.”

“Awesome!”

“Bet I can beat you to the car!”

Reese raced out the back door! Karyn was right after him.

“No fair! You got a head-start!”

Many hours later, the couple returned to the house with their goodies.

“Why does Mega Double Super Wawa have to close at 5?” complained Reese.

“At least Wawa Supreme was open.”

“Wawa Supreme doesn’t have the Mega Double Super Wawa chocolate milkshake. This milkshake Supreme isn’t cutting it.”

“You left the back door open, babe.” pointed out Karyn.

“Actually it was you cause you got left in the dust!” bragged Reese!

“You cheated.”

Reese shut the backdoor behind them. He peeked into the living room. The television was on, showing previews for a movie that was made to end the career of Kristen Stewart once and for all. His mother was sound asleep.

“Mama Tail’s out. We should try to keep it down. ”

“I’m beat. I think it’s time for some sleep-sleep.”

“I could go for some sleep-sleep too.”

“You can take a shower first. I’ll put the buns to sleep.”

Karyn walked down into the basement. Reese sipped a bit on his Wawa Supreme Milkshake. Then he threw it into the garbage. He opened his fridge and grabbed himself some apple juice. He went to his cupboard and picked out his favorite mug. He poured out half a mug of apple juice. He looked around for a straw. There weren’t any. He needed a straw if he wanted to truly enjoy this mug of apple juice. He opened up his garbage can. The Wawa Supreme Milkshake was there. It seemed to look back at him, asking to be accepted. Reese got the straw and left the milkshake to its grave. Reese washed the straw off in the sink. He placed it into his mug of apple juice. He placed his lips on the tip of the straw.

Karyn screamed. This was not your normal everyday scream of absolute terror. This was the sort of the scream that you didn’t forget because it scarred itself into your brain. Reese had been to hundreds of hardcore shows in his young life. He was usually right there in front next to the speaker. His ears had heard the loudest screams from grunge core metal bands. But none of those bands compared to the sheer magnitude of Karyn’s scream.

Reese stepped down into the basement. His fiancée was tearing it apart! Their bed was on its side. The television flipped over. Books and records flew past Reese’s head.

“What’s going on?” asked Reese.

“Tempter got out of his cage! I can’t find him!”

Reese joined her in her futile task of searching the basement for her missing bun. An hour passed and they were no closer to finding the bunny. Reese watched on as Karyn unscrewed an air vent.

“He couldn’t get in there, babe.” said Reese.

“You don’t know Tempter like I do!”

Then Karyn gasped!

“We left the back door and the basement door open. OH NO!”

She went up those stairs like lightning would if lightning was a person! She swung open the back door!

“Tempter!” shouted Karyn into the night. She jumped over the backyard fence and vanished into the spooky forest! Reese got up the stairs too late to stop her.

“Karyn!” shouted Reese into the forest!

“What, babe?!” yelled Karyn back!

“What should I do to help?!” screamed Reese!

“Look in the house! I’m looking out here!”

“Okay!”

More hours passed. The bun could not be found.

Reese had searched pretty much everywhere in it. There was this one hole he didn’t check, but he’d know if a bunny tried to hide in there.

He went back to the backward. The sun was starting to come out.

“Karyn! Did you find him?”

The woods were silent Reese screamed louder. He climbed over the fence and called out her name into the forest. Then he saw a strange green light. He followed it

It was Karyn’s glow-in-dark tattoo. She was laid out on the ground, unconscious.

“Babycakes?”

She was out. Her skin was clammy. Reese picked her up and shook her. This did not help and likely worsened whatever was ailing her. He called for an ambulance. Karyn was hurried to the emergency room. Reese went along with her.

Mama Tail was still fast asleep on the couch.

Once they arrived at the hospital, Reese had to wait for Karyn in that room where people have to wait. With all those beeps and people looking sad because their loved ones are probably dead or in the middle of dying.

A nurse came for Reese and brought him to Karyn’s room.

“Dr. Menken will be with you in a few minutes.”

Karyn looked awful. She was hooked up to a bunch of imposing hospital machines. She had all sorts of wires and IV drips coming out of her. Reese sat by her side and held her hand.

In came Dr. Menken with a clipboard that had nothing on it.

“Hello. I’m Dr. Menken. Your cousin is in critical condition.”

“Fiancée.”

“Oh. Good for you. No judging here, man.” said Dr. Menken

Dr. Menken played around with the knobs of the hospital machines. One of them broke off. Dr. Menken put it in his pocket like nothing had happened.

“What’s wrong with her?” asked Reese.

“Your cuz-an-cee won’t be waking up for quite some time. The body has a few skin factors that directly pick up on the heat signature produced by rabbits and other rodents. Your cousin had developed a dependency on that bunny for her health and welfare. Her body has gone into shock following the loss of it.”

“How long will she be like this?”

“Maybe forever. I don’t know. It’s pretty bad. I’m having the nurse bring in a variety of cute animals like kittens and puppies to try and replicate the bunny’s heat signature. It’d be for the best if you could find that bunny. ”

“I’ll find that bun if it’s the last thing I ever do.”

Reese lived up to his claim.

He spared no expense to find this bunny. He bought fliers and handed them out in all of South Jersey. He even bought a billboard in West Philadelphia where Karyn was born and raised to try and spread the word. Reese did not sleep. Reese did not eat. His every waking moment was spent trying to find the key to his love’s only return.

He started to take his campaign north.

Meanwhile exactly seventy-five miles away, Kwame and his bun bud were having the time of their lives. They had gone to a carnival and gotten those photo shoot pictures done. They’d been out to the theater to see the new Fast and Furious movie. Tempter was a huge Paul Walker fan so it was a bittersweet endeavor. Kwame had to dry the tears from the bun’s eyes. Now they were finishing up a binge of the first season of Orange is the New Black in Kwame’s room.

Kwame’s room was not a wondrous place. It was a blue room that had originally been pink since his parents expected a girl. There was a pile of clothes and straight-edge books on the floor. Posters of the professional wrestler C.M. Punk in his various iterations took up all the wall space.

“Piper is such a bitch.” wriggled Tempter out through body language.

“I like her. She’s got spunk.” replied Kwame.

Knock. Knock. It was Kwame’s mother.

“Come in!”

“Hey sweetie. Did you get together what you’re going to donate to the old folk’s home?”

“Those clothes over there. The old people can have them.”

“Oh hunny. Old people don’t need clothes. I’ll come back. Try and think of something to give away.”

His mother left. Kwame’s stomach growled.

“I’m hungry. You hungry, bun bud?”

Tempter nodded. Kwame picked up a bag of bunny food. It was empty.

“Looks like I got make a run to the pet store. Don’t start season two without me!”

But Tempter did season two with him. Because he was a prick.

It didn’t take Kwame long to get to Pets Mart. He took a few back roads and ran through a red light.

Inside of Pets Mart were bored workers and much neglected animals. Kwame tried his best not to make eye contact with the greeter at the front. He was always butting his way into conversations because he thought people cared about his vast knowledge of animals.

Kwame went into the rabbit section. He had to look for Tempter’s favorite, Organic Teriyaki Feed. Tempter refused to eat anything processed. Kwame grabbed the bag of organic rabbit junk and put in his cart.

“Kwame!” yelled a familiar voice.

A chill ran up Kwame’s spine. This had to be impossible. It couldn’t be him. What could he be doing in Central Jersey?

But it was. It was Reese! In that store, at that time.

“Hey Kwame.”

Kwame threw a bunch of stuff into his cart to cover up the rabbit food. He noticed that Reese had a bunch of flyers with Tempter on them. Reese’s eyes were bugging out from the lack of sleep.

“Hey Reese. What the heck are you doing all the way up here in Central Jersey?”

“So you didn’t hear? Tempter’s missing.”

“Oh. Is he?”

“Yeah. It happened right after you left. Karyn and I left the back door open. He got out. ”

“Oh no. I guess you’ll just have to forget about him. Buns come and go, you know.”

“Karyn’s in the hospital.”

“Oh my god.”

“She’s in a coma. The doctor says she won’t wake up unless I find the bun.”

“Excuse me.” interrupted the greeter.

Both men turned their attention to him.

“Did you just say bun? Are you’re referring to that Netherland Dwarf or Oryctolagus cuniculus that you’ve plastered all over windows here without asking? Bun is not a scientific term. It should not be used. The word rabbit was made for common people like yourselves who aren’t intelligent enough to pronounce that species of Lagomorpha by its proper name.” said the greeter with far too much pride.

“Oh kay.” said Reese.

“I have got to get going, Reese. Good luck with finding that Lagomorpha.” replied Kwame.

Kwame hurried through the self-check-out.

He got back to his car. Kwame saw Reese walk out of Pets Mart with his head down. Reese was a beaten man. Reese handed out flyers to an uncaring public. People threw the picture of the bunny away right in front of him. Kwame watched on as Reese got the flyers out of the garbage.

The wind blew them out of his hands. Reese chased after them. The wind was too strong and blew him away too. He crashed and scraped his knees on the sidewalk.

Kwame sighed. He couldn’t do this to his friend. He opened the car door.

“Hey Reese. You alright.”

“Yeah. Just bleeding a bit.”

“Any luck with that bunny?”

“No.”

“Would it hurt our friendship if I told you something?”

“What?”

“You have to promise we’ll still be friends no matter what I say next.”

“Okay.”

“I sort of took Tempter. He’s at my house now just chilling. He and I have been hanging out.”

“You’ve had him this whole time?”

Kwame nodded.

“WHAT?! You bun-napped him! Kwame, you’re a dirty bun-napper!” shouted Reese with justified rage.

“Lagomorpha!” chimed in the noisy greeter!

“You lagomorpha-napped him!”

“It was his idea!”

“Not cool, Kwame! Not cool!”

“I know.”

“Where is he now?”

“My house.”

“You drive! I’ll follow! Not cool, Kwame! Not cool!”

And so Reese followed Kwame’s car back to Kwame’s house. Kwame opened his front door while Reese teared into him.

“How could you do that? Karyn’s in a coma!”

“I didn’t know that would happen! I’m sorry!”

“You’re a bun-napper, Kwame! A bun-napper!”

Reese and Kwame ran to his room. And it was in much better condition than when he left it.

“Where is he?!”

“I left him right on my bed.”

Kwame looked at his Netflix account.

“He started watching season 2 of Orange is the New Black without me! Damn it, Tempter. I thought we were bun-buds.”

“I’m going to make your orange the new black if you don’t get me that bun!”

Kwame’s mom looked into the room.

“What are you two yelling about in here?”

“Kwame stole my bunny and now we can’t find it!”

“Oh. That bunny? I thought you were donating him. I gave him to the old folk’s home.”

“YOU WHAT?!” said Kwame with an outside voice.

“Kwame’s mom, not cool!” said Reese with an even louder outside voice.

Kwame’s mother gave them the address to the old folk’s home.

It was on the edge of Kwame’s hometown. It was an old hospital that had a creepy vibe to it. Probably because it was the last place a lot of these old people would live in. They were left there to rot and fester by their children until their untimely demises. It was really their own fault since they did the same to their own parents.

“He better be here.” said Reese as they pulled up to the place.

“He will be.” said Kwame.

“I still can’t believe what you did.”

“He told me to.”

“Don’t say that man. I feel like I don’t even know you anymore. Stealing buns is not punk!”

“You promised that this wouldn’t hurt our friendship.”

“Sometimes promises are broken, Kwame.”

The inside of the old folk’s home smelled like the inside of a coffin. It looked kinda like one too. The wooden support beams needed to be replaced as they had gotten moldy. Flies and mosquitoes buzzed past Reese and Kwame as they walked up to the front desk.

Reese rang the bell on the desk.

“I hope it’s not a sassy black woman.” said Kwame.

Reese rang it again. In walked, a sassy black woman. She snatched the bell off the desk.

“Who the hell do you think you are? I heard you the first time! You got to give a woman a chance to get down here! I don’t need to be hearing this ring ring ring when I’m trying to get my ass down here to help you. I’m going to shove that where the sun don’t shine if you ring it again!”

“Damn it.” muttered Kwame under his breath.

“I’m Reese Tail.”

“And I’m his friend, Kwame.”

“Friend?” said Reese without a hint of sarcasm.

“Don’t do this to me.”

“And?” replied sassy black woman.

“We’re looking for my pet bunny. This guy here bun-napped him and then his mother donated him here.”

The sassy black woman pursed her lips.

“Well Old Man Frank is watching Orange is the New Black Season Two with a bun bud right now. That might be your bunny.”

“Where is this Old Man Frank?” asked Reese.

The sassy black woman brought them to Old Man Frank’s room which also happened to be the cafeteria. Old Man Frank didn’t own a thing. All his time went to watching old shows on Netflix on the cafeteria TV. He was usually the loneliest of loners. An outcast even among those who had been abandoned by their own families because father time had turned their brains to mush. He’d sit at his table way in the back and think about why he never could have the joys of life.

But today was not a usual day for Old Man Frank. He had a smile on his face. He greeted the two boys very happily. He had Tempter in his arms. Kwame tried to make eye-contact with Tempter, but Tempter turned his nose at him.

“Hello there! What brings two bright young men like you to my side today? I truly am blessed. I was settling in to watch a show with my new friend, Mr. Klypzxym. Someone out there with a kind heart graciously donated a pet rabbit to this home and for the first time in my life, I got a friend.”

“Well we-” started Reese.

“I’ve never had a friend before. I had a pet dog for a day before he ran away. The kids at school stayed away from me because my father killed a man. He got put away when I was three. Never knew him. My mother was there for a bit but not really. She suffered from dementia. My sister ran herself ragged trying to help my mom out. That is until she hung herself when I was five. I was the one who found her hanging in the attic. Then I became a ward of the state. I moved from foster family to foster family. One of my foster dads was real bad. I don’t want to talk about what happened with him. Being adopted didn’t make me a hit with ladies at the schools I went to except for my only girlfriend. Of course she was only using me as part of a prank to get back at her ex-girlfriend. Guess the joke was on me. But here I am with my first ever friend about to do some binge-watching as I hear the kids say. What can I do for you boys?”

Reese and Kwame were left silent by this diatribe. Then Reese spoke up.

“Give us a second.”

They walked away from Old Man Frank.

“Damn. He’s had a rough life.” said Kwame.

“I feel bad, but Karyn needs Tempter.”

They went back to Old Man Frank.

“I know this is asking a lot and I’m sorry. But that bunny’s name is not Mr. Klypzxym. His name is Tempter and he belongs to my wife-to-be. She’s in the hospital now and needs him. Could you please give him back?”

“No! I won’t give him up. I’ve had no friend in my entire life. You see this on my face. This is a smile. I’ve never done that before. Mr. Klypzxym is the best thing to happen to me. I’m not giving him up. ”

“Old Man Frank. His fiancée is in a coma because of my selfishness. She won’t wake up without that bunny. I didn’t know this was going to happen. Please don’t make her suffer any more because of my choice. I already ruined my friendship with Reese. I don’t want her blood on my hands too.” butted in Kwame.

“You two are friends?”

“We were.” continued Kwame.

“And you stole his bun and put his fiancée in the hospital? Is that what friends do? Maybe I haven’t been missing out on much then.”

“I stole his bunny because I wanted a bun bud to do bun bud stuff with. It was wrong and I accept that now. Please give us back Tempter.”

Old Man Frank looked down at his bun bud. Tempter wrinkled his nose.

“It’s alright. I’ve had my fun.” Tempter said to the Old Man in his special way.

Old Man Frank pet Tempter on the head.

“Go on then. Take Mr. Klypzxym.”

Old Man Frank said goodbye to his one and only friend. Reese grabbed the bunny.

“Thank you so much.” said Reese.

“Friendship is a gift, Mr. Tail. Remember that.”

“I will.”

The two left the old man behind. Old Man Frank went back to his usual ways.

Back in the hospital, Dr. Menken and the nurse were discussing a very important subject.

“Is there any hope for her, Doctor?”

“Nope. I tried those golden retriever puppies. Nothing. The little kittens didn’t register a response. She’s going to die”

“What a shame.”

“This is what happens when you develop an unhealthy love to creatures that aren’t people. The human psyche wasn’t built for love of animals I have a dog at home. I like him. I take him for walks and I enjoy his company. But if he ran away, I would not shed a tear. This girl is going to live the rest of her life like this. If only someone could have stopped her bun obsession before it was too late.”

BAM! Reese kicked door off its hinges!

“Why the hell did you do that?!” asked the nurse.

“For dramatic effect!”

Tempter hopped out of Reese’s arms and flew across the room to his owner. He nested into her belly. The hospital machines started to beep like crazy!

Karyn’s eyes opened! She was back!

“Where am I? Tempter?! My bun!”

Her arms wrapped around the bun like she’d never let go again. Reese pumped his fist in the air! Dr. Menken slipped the bill into Reese’s fist.

“That’ll be three thousand dollars plus an eighteen percent gratuity charge of course. I did a good job here.”

“No. It won’t be. At least not for him. I’ll pay that. This is my fault.” piped up Kwame who had snuck into the room.

“What’s he talking about, babe.” asked Karyn with Tempter still in her grasp.

“I bun-napped Tempter.” confessed Kwame.

“What?!”

“It’s true. I’m sorry, Karyn. I’m a dirty bun-napper.”

“Your honesty has touched my cold heart son. I won’t be charging for this.”

Dr. Menken tore up the bill.

“Can you do that?” asked Reese.

“Of course I can. I’m a doctor! I can do whatever the fuck I want.” yelled Dr. Menken. He then morphed into a pterodactyl and soared out the window.

“Kwame, I just thought up your punishment.” announced Reese.

“Okay. I’m ready.”

“You have to plan a pizza party for Old Man Frank. Then we’ll be even.”

“Is that it?”

“And you have to promise to never kidnap a bun again.” added Karyn.

“But he told me to.”

“Don’t go back to that excuse.” said Reese.

“Nah, babe. Tempter is always doing stuff like that. Remember that time your mom took him to Six Flags cause he made her do it? He might be like evil or something. The vet mentioned it once. We can’t be too mad at Kwame. Tempter’s just a bad bun.”

“So we’re still friends then?” asked Kwame.

Reese raised his arms into hug position and they shared yet another hug of friendship.

A few days later, Old Man Frank awoke to a pizza party in the cafeteria. The excitement of the kind gesture sent his heart racing and then unfortunately Old Man Frank died.

But he died with a smile on his face which is more than most of us will get.

That’s the story.

 

 

Where would you prefer to die?

What if you could choose where?

Not choosing to end your life early, but to pick the time and place your life naturally expires. We’re lucky enough to live in a time where we will die in a hospital.

The doctors will give their best effort and it won’t be enough. We’ll pass away under those bright white hospital LED lights. Our last sounds will be the beeping of medical instruments and chatter from the medical personnel. Our families might be there with us before we go.. Some of us will even be fortunate enough to say our goodbyes.

I’d hate that.

I’d want it to be a cool autumn night on the side of a forest lake. October cool not November. My old wrinkly feet down in the briskly cold lake. I’m laying down on this dam coast as the water retreads in and out. I’d follow the fish swimming beneath me with my eyes. Silent other than the blowing wind. It beats me on face. Me and the night sky. The stars are out. I try to guess the constellations but I’m no good. No friends or family. No doctors cutting into me, trying to squeeze out a few more seconds of life for me. No struggle. Calmness, peace. Serenity.

One last glimpse into the night and then…

What’s next?

It’s easy for us to look down on people in the past for having such wacko beliefs. As if the world could be flat. How could you even be racist? Don’t those people in the 1800’s know how totally lame slavery is? But then what about us? We’re the present now, but we won’t be forever.

What will the people of the future look down on us for? I’ll list a few things I think might make us look barbaric or nonsensical in the year 2165.

Monogamy

I’m fairly confident that within my lifetime gay marriage will be legalized across the United States. But what’s next? Maybe more than two. People in the future might just be turning their noses down at us.

How could they only have one partner?

Concept of ownership
We can copy digital data. Once we can copy physical stuff, owning things will be a thing of the past. My house? No. You can have your own version of my house. We all will

Exercising/Going outside

One day they’re going to make a pill that makes you lose weight. There’s a large demand and I think someone someday will find a way to do it. With that will come the end of all need to leave the house. People in the future will scratch their heads at old pictures of people out in the sun and needing a gym to stay in shape.

Natural Birth

Clones are coming and women will no longer have to endure the bliss of childbirth. They’ll scrape off DNA from dad and mom, then toss it into a baby baker. Then pop comes out the baby!

That’s all for now.

Master of Your Fate

This girl went missing at my college. It was about a month or so before graduation. I didn’t know her. She was in my class, but I hadn’t ever met her. Her name didn’t ring any bells. It wasn’t until I saw her picture in an online news article that I could place her face.

I had seen her around campus, one of those people I’d blast past on my way back to my dorm. So the story went that she up and disappeared on her family. What triggered it? Who knows. A few days go by after that initial news break. People are out looking for her. She was last seen bordering a train headed to New York City. Her cell phone, wallet and ID were found by the George Washington Bridge.

People went out into New York City to canvass for this girl. The family received phone calls of her being seen around that city. I remember reading an update where a cop mentioned having a good lead about where she was.

But it turned out that this girl took her own life. Her body washed up on shore. Her family released that awful news

Why.

They said she was a model student, incredibly high GPA.

Why.

She was involved in clubs and was even captain of the tennis team.

Why.

She was accepted to Rutgers Law School and was going to live with her sister.

Why. Why did she do it?

A few months ago, I go into my full-time job. Office work. The less said about it the better.
My supervisor brings me into a room with everyone else working the late shift. She says she has some unfortunate new. One of our coworkers is dead and he took his own life. I don’t recognize the man’s name at first. The room goes quiet and numb after she dropped that bombshell. She asks me if I knew him. I said I don’t know. She told me I had to have seen him around.

Then she starts to describe him. He always wore a jacket even if it was like 80 degrees outside. Always in a hurry. Easy to talk to. And I know immediately who she’s talking about. My bathroom buddy.

He and I got usage of the upstairs bathrooms banned. We weren’t supposed to use them in the first place, but it wasn’t a real rule. So I put it to the test. The down stairs bathrooms smelled like someone died while using them and often had piss all over the toilet paper. So I would sneak upstairs to the better toilets. I’d bump into him on way up the stairs all the time. He knew how much better they were too.

Oh my gosh he’s dead.

I saw him the day before. I used to small talk with him in the hallway.

Why.

He seemed happy, not different from all the other people I saw around there.

Why.

Everyone really liked him and considered him part of the family.

Why. Why did he do that?

With the recent death of Robin Williams, a lot of people are asking themselves “why”. Why would a person who brought them such joy leave the world in such a dark way?

Is there a single discernible reason? A trigger that set them off? Could it have been prevented? Is it our fault for missing the signs? Were there signs?

Even if we had those people back to tell us why, could they properly articulate their pain? Put their troubles into words? Do they even have words that can describe what they went through? Could we understand what it means to feel so trapped that death is a more viable option than tomorrow? Or to hate yourself so much you’d rather not be around any more?

We call suicide the cowardly way out. They weren’t strong enough to hold on to their lives. I believe that to be ignorant. Could we hold on if we were in their shoes? Just snap out of it like people often advise. We can talk a big game about holding on. But if life is depression, emotional pain, mental suffering, self-inflicted torture, is it even worth holding on to? To see the sunrise again on next worst day of your life? We can all easily say yes, but those who are gone would disagree.

Who’s right?

Can’t answer that question. I just can’t.

My Last Sob Story

“Woo Graduation!”

A lifetime ago, I etched these words inside of my high school graduation hat.

June 25th, 2009. A good day to graduate. Michael Jackson died that day.

We couldn’t contain our excitement that day; What a day that was.

Friends surrounded me on all sides. We made jokes about dropping out at the last second. We gasped together at the news of Michael Jackson’s death. And we suffered while our salutatorian rattled on and on about what her family meant to her. The girl wanted everyone to roast out there in the sun.

A clear blue sky lay above us like the world was proud of our accomplishments. Our families scrambling for their cameras. They snapped as many pictures as they could, trying to preserve a moment that had already passed. Everyone had the same beautiful smile on their face like peace had finally come to Earth.

One of my friends decided not to have that moment.

“Why?”

That was the question I kept pestering her wit. I tried to dissuade her. This was a once-in-a-lifetime happening. She shrugged her shoulders. She had better things to do.

My seventeen-year-old self couldn’t bring myself to entertain that idea. How could I no-show the biggest celebration in my life so far?

We fought our way through the public education system. Didn’t she want to feel like it was all worth something? All those absurd standardized tests that they shoved down her throat? All those ridiculous Didn’t she want to give her family that moment to enjoy her success? What could be better than basking in the glory of your achievement among those that you love?

On May 13th 2013, I her.

RISE

College was the best time of my life.

Before I went to college, I had no idea people from South Jersey didn’t believe Central Jersey existed. Or that there was feud between North and South Jersey.

There were such characters there. One of my dorm mates was an unkempt anti-establishment who despised jeans. I knew a tennis player who stopped playing tennis to start a rapping career.

My first night I watched a future great friend of mine rap Flo Rida’s Apple Bottom Jeans to an apathetic audience. He hopped up there and shouted at the crowd of other freshmen.

“Get on your feet. Come on everybody.”

Never before had I seen a crowd that unresponsive, to someone so energetic. That’s a memory I’ll treasure for years to come.

Every day had the potential to be a new adventure. A group of us bought dollar water guns. We were not supposed to have them. We also were not supposed to have a huge water gun fight spanning our entire dorm building. But we did anyway. We ran up and down stairs, hiding in elevators, waking up other residents. We got in trouble. We knew we would, but how could we pass up the opportunity? That was college.

There was so much freedom. In high school, everything was so rigid and calculated. You moved when the bells told you to. You went to school early in the morning and left when everyone else did. You had to even ask when you wanted to piss.

But in college, you didn’t have to go to class. You could go to other people’s classes and play an instrument if you wanted to. You could walk around in your pajamas, not bathe for days, and let your hair grow untamed. You were the master of your fate.

Is there a better joy in life than knowing you can do what you want whenever you want?

Of course with great power comes great irresponsibility. I had peers who crashed and burned right before my eyes, some within days of classes beginning. With no parental supervision or rigid schedule to adhere to, they became their own worst enemies. Their lives completely derailed by hedonism. Some are still picking up the pieces almost five years later.

I used the great power of freedom to go to my first wrestling live event. For a decade, I lived and breathed wrestling. Everybody hated Mondays, but I loved them. It meant another installment of Monday Night RAW. It was a cardinal sin in my household for me to even talk about it but I still caught RAW every week.

I walked 12 miles through a cold, snowy Trenton to get to the arena. All I had with me was a printed out Google Map and Have Heart blasting in my ears. Someone could have robbed, beaten up, or even murdered me. I was nearly run over by a car at an intersection. At one point I got completely lost. But who cares about danger when there’s wrestling!

When I entered that arena, my body shook like crazy in anticipation. There was the ring I saw every week on the show. The old ladies and obese men glared at me as I hollered and shouted throughout the show. They came to have a nice evening of entertainment. I came to have the time of my life! Even for the opening acts, I was on my feet until several people told me to sit down.

When I heard the opening guitar riff to CM Punk’s theme song, my heart skipped a beat. There he was. From my television screen to right in front of my eyes, the closest thing to a hero that I have. That was a mark out moment. The rest of the arena hated his guts. He was the biggest villain, a complete prick. He got right in fans’ faces, badmouthed New Jersey and beat on everyone’s hero, John Cena. I loved every second of it.

The power wasn’t all good for me. I got to do grocery shopping for myself. My meals consisted of Skittles, ice cream, snicker doodles, goldfish, Ritz crackers, Oreo’s, pop tarts, more skittles, assorted cookies, cinnamon toast crunch, Doritos, Tostitos and anything else with high fructose syrup. I may have lost four years of my life with my bad food choices. But it was so delicious.

I had the chance to delve into the film-making process and all the frustrations that go into it. I appreciate cinema a hell of a lot more now. Every movie made is a miracle. I’d consider the one short film that I wrote, produced, and directed to be the crowning achievement of my life so far. It’s not a great movie but it was in my brain and is now out there for everyone to see. My dreams brought to reality. That’s incredible. When we had our first script reading,

And boy did I ever write there. I had the chance to take two screen-writing classes when that’s not even allowed. Thanks crappy class selection system! I even got to listen to an Academy award winning screenwriter talk about his life. Without college I wouldn’t have this blog.

College gave me direction.

I’ll look back on the four years as life-changing

SINK

I remember writing my name down on that first student loan. There was a deep sink in my stomach, a ton of bricks weighing me down. I had a little less than two hundred dollars in my bank account at that time. I was borrowing thousands. I wasn’t even eighteen yet. My father assured me that this was the best decision for my future.

Not a day goes by that I don’t wish I would have told him, he was full of shit. But how could I have known then? My college was considered one of the best in the north east. My father said getting in was an accomplishment itself. I had to take that chance.

I didn’t know the terms of my student loan or how an interest rate worked. I didn’t understand the concept of looking around for better rates or getting money from other sources. I didn’t think of delaying my college education for years until I had enough money to pay it off. I didn’t think much at all. I acted.

I started in college with a dream that I’d become lawyer. After a mock trial in eighth grade, I thought it was a good fit. My major was criminology. But after only two classes, I learned the realities of our justice system and found it morally bankrupt. It was a system not set up to help, but to exploit people. There was no justice. People could walk away from crimes because of who they knew or how much money they had. The system was racially biased. I wanted no part in it. So then I had to answer the question we all struggle to answer. What do I want to do with my life?

My father said I was a strong writer so I should drift towards journalism. I had no objections. Journalism was new to me so.

I wanted to love reporting. I’d listen to news radio and read Huffington Post, Fox News, MSNBC. I’d write for the campus newspaper when given the chance. My life depended on me falling in love with my new major. But my heart never was into it. My professor would bring in professional journalists from different beats to our class. With each of them, a realization came over me. I didn’t want to follow down any of their paths. I spent thousands to learn a craft I didn’t love.

Oh no. What could I do about it? I couldn’t get that time back nor could I refund my money. Trapped.

I wanted to go back to seventeen, to that day on my high school football field. Back to when I had everything in front of me. Back when I had to the power to do or become anything.

I came to another crossroads in my junior year. I could have left. My life’s future didn’t depend on that piece of paper. I had value with or without the degree. I could save me. I’d cut my losses and take on the world.

My father disagreed. I had one more year to go. Why not finish it off? Suck it up and write for a newspaper. What would I do without college?

I didn’t know. I knew I’d have control and a genuine smile on my face if I went down that way. But what became of people without degrees? Weren’t they failures who flipped burgers or worked overtime at low paying jobs? Would I end up like one of them?

I took the easier path, the known path. I locked myself in for that final year. Then immediately started to hate myself. Everyone told me I made the right choice, but it made no difference to me. I saw myself as this coward. I acted out of fear. I could not live up to my words. I was an unjust man.

There were days where I’d get down on myself. All my problems would run through my head at once especially in those last few months. I’d blame myself for everything that had happened to me. I deserved my misery. I’d sit in class, not hear a word the professor would say. All I could see and hear was the past.

That time I threw a pen out the window and got detention. That time I took the blame for ripping down all. That time I called a friend . That time I missed the bus and had to walk home for the first time. That time I let down my father and missed. That time I tried to make friends and was instead mocked. That time my gym teacher mispronounced my name. That time That time my father said he was losing interest in me. That time I apologized to someone and they didn’t care. That time a friend tossed me away like I was trash. That time I nearly drowned to death as a child. That time I burst into tears in seventh grade.That time I stood on stage and forgot all my lines. That time That time I didn’t stand up and help a bullied friend. That time my grandfather died and I saw him laying there, lifeless.

These memories and more would swarm in my head, blocking out the present. Each one bubbling to the surface with that old pain cutting me again. My shitty life so far flashing in front of me. I couldn’t focus on homework. I couldn’t focus on applying for jobs. I couldn’t focus on the future nor did I want to. Because the future scared me. It was the pain that had yet to come.

Did I really want to wake up everyday and wither away right before my own eyes? Crow’s feet, bone aches, popping pills to keep going. Did I really want to live on and forget who I am? Or where I came from? What good was there in the future? Marriage? Children? I had zero interest in both of those things. What then for me? Work 40 hours a week for the next thirty to forty years so I can survive? Why the hell would I want to do that? Is there no escaping that reality?

I sought out a solution to my unsolvable problem. How could I escape the future? Time can’t be stopped. Each day I’d slip closer and closer out of one miserable existence into another. There had to be a way.

Then this devious morbid thought creeped into my head. What if I wasn’t around any more? What if there were no more me. What if I clocked out early?

On my worst days, I’d imagine the fallout. Never how I would do it. But what came next.

I’d be put on one of those funeral cards that my parent receive with a nice picture of the person. Smiling as big as they can, like they don’t have a clue what’s happened to them. Friends, family, and people who pretended to care about me gathering around my fresh corpse to mourn. I’d be there except not me at all, fitted with a suit I’d never wear and dressed up to be presentable for the ceremony. A solemn mood. Lots of black clothes. Crying? Yeah. My mother would be in shambles. My father stoic as always. And my brother, I can’t say for sure. Angry maybe. Confused like he often is. A pastor would talk, say some great things about me that he’d have never said if I were alive. There would be anger.

“Why?”

The question running through everyone’s heads. Could they have seen this coming? What did they miss?

Then they’d put me six feet under as part of the ritual.

There would be some lingering sentiment, but it would pass. Pain that would fade away. Life goes on. The world won’t stop for one dead boy. So why not?

I didn’t want to be dead. Death is not a solution to a problem. It’s the end of you.

This girl at my school jumped off the George Washington Bridge and killed herself during our last semester. For weeks she was missing before her body was finally found. I never knew the girl but it sounded like she had her entire life ahead of her. Her narrative came to a complete stop. She won’t ever conquer her demons or move to the next step. She’s gone.

What I wanted was to escape my life and all the obligations that came with it. I wanted room to breathe. Death wouldn’t give me that. I wanted to just live.

In college I learned to love solitary walks at night. Away from everyone. I’d gaze down a street and wonder what would happen if I followed it. See where the road would take me. I’d have my days where the temptation to walk further overcame me. I’d press on. The familiar streets would fade away behind me. My college long gone. My hometown miles away. I’d move on and all my problems would melt away behind me. My friends, my family, my identity. Away. Away. Away from it all. Each step taking me onto a new life, giving me back control.

But I’d stop. I couldn’t do that. I couldn’t leave that behind. What would I do? Where would I even go?

I’d make the solemn trek back to my life.

My life where I am the odd one out; different, peculiar, and most of all, weird. Even the people who put me here don’t know what to make of me. The apple has fallen as far from the tree as it can. Whether it’s on some online forum, a family get-together, or in class , I am out of place. Always have been, always will be. I understand that now.

“A sense of belonging is not a privilege that you enjoy.”

I am the single drop of oil in an ocean of water, a corruption of the natural flow of life. An aberration.

I left college, this feeble self-pitying husk; so full of fear of the future. The wind could have blown me over.

“Congratulations!”

Everyone kept repeating that. Again and again on that day they set up to honor us. May 17th, 2013.

I thought up scenarios where I could fail my classes at the last minute and not have to take that walk of shame. But my stupid geology professor passed me even though I couldn’t tell the difference between a stalagmite and Vegemite.

Graduation day was a hot day, damn hot. My housemates and I had to walk to campus. To say we were sweating is an understatement. I thought about what a stupid tradition the graduation gowns were.

As we fanned ourselves with our hats, the neighborhood came out to congratulate us as we made our way to the university.

Gosh. I still remember opening the door to my department’s graduation ceremony. All the experiences that separated me and my seventeen-year-old self flowed through me. I couldn’t shake off this feeling of defeat.

Everyone had that same dumb smiles on their face. Why the hell were they so happy? I didn’t I was the sole frown in the room. My mother told me to cheer up. This was my day.

I sat around strangers and acquaintances. I didn’t know any of the people called up for their awards. These were my peers.

They called my name. I got pity golf claps.

My professor had a grand smile. One of her students had graduated and was on to the next step in their life.
She congratulated me with the utmost enthusiasm.

No matter what she handed to me, in my own head. I would be a failure and a coward. She could not wipe away my regret or alleviate my torment.

She handed me my prize, what I set out to achieve when I signed my name down on student loan; a folder to hold my degree in.

I feigned a smile for her. It was the least I could do; not make a scene and let my true feelings come out. This was a day of celebration not time for a grumpy young man to vent.

I don’t remember what I wrote in my college graduation hat before I tossed it away.

A year later, I still have this sour taste in my mouth whenever someone brings up college. I could never win there. I lost so much. I lost my bravery. I gained twenty pounds. I lost my self-respect. I grew a ratty beard. I lost my confidence. I lost my motivation. And I paid for all that. I paid with more money than I’ve had in life.

For the past year, my life became this self-pity party. Oh woe is me. I wanted my life to be this long winded sob story. I’d blot out the good parts to fit a narrative.

I am sad and angry because the world is cruel. Happiness is an accident, that time when you forget your troubles. Happiness is delusion. That time when you lie to yourself because you’re afraid of the world. You should fear the world. It’s full of pain, sorrow, and hollow victories. Why try? The world will destroy anything you create.

Is that the narrative I want my life to follow? Can I change it? Should I? Do I want to?

The Eagle’s Wife

The arrow pierced his proud heart, the same heart that taught me how to love. The sound of that arrow whistling past me echoes in my dreams. I watched on in awe as his majestic body collided with the unforgiving ground. He didn’t die from the fall unfortunately. He bled out slowly gasping for air. He saw me on the branch I was resting on. We shared a long stare as his heart gave out its final beats. He knew I couldn’t help him. He wouldn’t blame me for his death. I still couldn’t help but feel guilty as his life flowed out of his body and on to the grass. Before the shot, I heard the branches shake. There are only two things that can shake a branch like that; bears and humans.

No bear can shoot an arrow. Arrows are a human creation. Humans are unnatural. Humans are the only creatures on the planet that do not kill with their bare hands or claws. They also do not kill to eat.  They do not belong in this forest.

I watched as the archer approached my fallen lover. The fiend had a devilish smile on his face. He came closer to my husband’s carcass and examined it. He would have orphaned my children just for a chance to impress his human friends. This archer like most humans did not hunt for food. I’d seen his kind before.

An orange glow awoke me from my sleep many nights ago. I flew near this strange glow and saw a group of humans sitting around it. It was a fire. I watched as the flames of a fire whisked from side to side in the light wind. An archer opened his bag and showed the corpse of a young eagle to a group of other human. They all laughed and danced before the rest emptied their bags. The meat was not eaten by him or his friends. They mutilated the bodies of those they had killed. They wore the carcasses as clothing. The archer attached the eagle’s feathers to his arrows. Son and daughters’ bodies were being paraded around as a joke. That’s what death is to these creatures.   Humans hunt because it makes them laugh. I can’t condone this. I kill because I need to eat, not because I enjoy it. That is the way of life.  Humans are perverting it.

I turned away when the archer skinned my husband. I could hear the swipes of his knife. Each swipe felt like he was cutting into me. When the swipes stopped, I turned to look again. The archer threw the mangled body in a bag, tossed it over his shoulder and walked away with a father, a teacher, and my lover. I’m not sure how long I stared at the blood on the ground. I hoped that in some way it wasn’t real. His beautiful wings would embrace me again tonight like they had before. He’d bring back a hare in his sharp elegant beak for our children. He’s gone now. He’s not even a meal to feed someone. He’s just a casualty of humanity’s perversion of life.

There would be no consequence for the archer. He would return home and laugh with the rest of his friends. Nothing would stop him from repeating this unnatural, brutal, and perverted act. The archer would be back to do this again. Next time, it could be my children that he would kill for no reason, but his own deluded joy. It was here that my pride finally rose up from the bottom of my heart. My wings soared me up from the branch I laid on. The archer heard me rise. He turned his head. His eyes widened in fear.  My talons were the last thing he ever saw. I ripped at his eyes. He screamed and grabbed his eyes. It was too late for him to do anything. The damage was done. He yelled for help. He swung his knife wildly at air. It was quite a funny sight to see.  My pride died down. I was satisfied as the archer tripped, and stumbled through the forest. We both had lost something irreplaceable now. His eyesight can never return just like my lover.

My Great Power

I changed its existence again.There’s a bug in my room. Or rather there was a bug in my room. It’s dead. I think it was a centipede or a millipede.  I don’t even remember killing it, but I know it was me. Its carcass lies on the wall of the corner of my room. It’s been there for years. I know it’s been at least four years. I used to call him Bob the cockroach as a joke when I’d look up and see it on my wall.

Its innards have long been eaten by some other bugs in my room. Life hasn’t been in it. It’s just an empty shell. Nobody would even know it existed. This bug had no name. It was just popped out by its parents, then left to fend for itself. That is my great power. I grant this bug existence by remembering it and looking up at that corner. There’s not a living creature in the world who cares what happened to this millipede. I murdered it. I ended its life just because it looked creepy. There’s no parents worrying about what happened to it. There’s no void in the world now that it is dead. It didn’t matter to the world whether or not this particular bug lived. It might as well not even have existed.

Was there any value to its life? I don’t know what this bug did before I ended it. I have some theories but I will never know how it lived its life. It was crushed to death.  A terrible way to die. I killed this bug and I’ll never be punished for it. Nobody cares about a millipede or centipede or what ever the heck it was.

My great power is to give this bug significance and existence. The world has forgotten this bug. The world never cared about this bug. I give this bug purpose. Whenever I remember it, it matters for once.  I’ve killed many bugs just like that one. Their dead bodies aren’t hanging in my room like this one. Its body grows harder and harder as the years pass by. One day it might fall. And then perhaps I’ll forget about that bug. It won’t exist at that time unless I recall it.

One day I’ll die and my memories will go with me. Then it will fade from this world forever. It will never exist again. Does it matter? There’s loads of these bugs. I see bugs just like it all over the place. Does it need to exist anymore? Is there any point to me remembering this bug that the world has moved on from? A bug with no name. A bug with parents that didn’t care for it. A bug that died because a young boy found that it offended his sight. I suppose there’s not much of a point to keeping it in mind at all.

I only remember it to flex my own ego. I control the existence of a creature. Even though the creature is insignificant to the world, I still hold the power of its existence in my hands. A great power. Of course, that power is no longer mine alone. Anyone who reads this now grants the bug existence.  Through my words, I’ve granted the bug a more permanent place of existence. It now rests among the data surfing around the internet.

I don’t know how long this bug will exist in this form. I have no control over it. WordPress could take its site down one day long after I die. taking away the bug’s existence once and for all. It’s fun to be able to decide whether something will exist or not and how it will continue to exist. I might use this power again on the next bug I encounter.