The Night That Didn’t Exist

I was on my way to work when it hit me—the smell of nighttime summer air that sometimes slips unexpectedly into February on the east coast. It smells like hope and nostalgia and tends to make folks feel giddy. It came through the civic windows somewhere on interstate 40 and mixed with my anger to produce a drunken sort of elation. It was the kind of fed-up-with-this-shit feeling you finally reach after a long stretch of uncomfortably swallowing little annoyances. It feels good to be certain about anything in life and there’s something particularly freeing about being fucking done with something…or someone. I was realizing I had options.

In the weeks leading up to this, I had almost consciously kept my focus as narrow as possible to avoid feelings of regret for giving up my cheap one bedroom and moving into a house with two friends and their three dogs. I thought it would be good for me to not be alone, but I had become disgusted by my friend’s laziness and her crazy mood swings. I felt smothered living in a house that wasn’t my own and pretending not to be bothered by her neediness and her self-appointed authority. I had to get out and I was more than willing to burn bridges to do it.

I had moved so I could get away from the man I felt was using me, the ex I couldn’t stay away from. I had been drowning once more in the abyss of his past, his love lost, trying desperately to put together the pieces for him so he could see what I saw, the lies I was certain she had fed him. One night a bit of alcohol passed my lips and opened them up to him. We were in my living room, I had called him over late. I told him what I had found, who I had spoken with. I could feel the hot panic sweep across his body, his heart pounding as he sat next to me on the couch. I knew he was feeling that same painful rush of adrenaline and sickness that I felt almost a year before when I had found conversations between the two of them. I felt grateful for the alcohol in my blood and the numbness that allowed me to feel only slight curiosity when he insisted again and again on her purity. But I knew I had shaken him. 

Over the next few days, I tried to help him fit the rest of the pieces together, practically handed him the directions. And what was so maddening was that he simply refused to do a thing. For the 19 months we had known each other, he had sworn he would get to the bottom of what she had done. I had searched for her wrongdoings but found instead what should have been better: a door. Behind it lay the answer, without context but plain as day. I handed him the key. He just put it in his pocket and walked away. Told me again how we could never be together because of her. Told me he couldn’t see himself with anyone for a long time. He expected me to swallow this rejection for the hundredth time, to act as if I didn’t mind and to carry on fucking him while he kept me at arm’s length.

So I moved, and for five weeks I ignored his existence. I told him not to call and I knew he would listen. I knew it was what I had to do but it felt so wrong. I was lonely and always crying in my car, grateful for any good thing in the day that reminded me how much bigger life should be than this. But not having him around felt like I was suffocating.  I told myself that it was okay for it to feel wrong, that I just wasn’t used to being away from him and time would fix things. I told myself it was necessary, that I would come out the other side eventually, but I guess I just couldn’t wait. 

That night in February, I got gas and bought a pack of cigarettes and a lighter. I went to the bar, giddy to choose the beer that would break the camel’s back. There’s something that feels empowering about self-destruction. I was tired of telling myself “no” and being so responsible only to have my efforts amount to what felt like a sub-par existence. I was living what I felt was a dull life, the kind that makes you feel kind of okay with dying. I just couldn’t stand it anymore when relief was at my fingertips. How the fuck was I supposed to say no? I drank my beer and texted him to meet me. I breathed for the first time in five weeks.

Part of the allure was knowing exactly how things would unfold, I was cocksure and riding high on it. I knew the way he’d look at me, I knew how he’d act, I knew what I could get away with, I knew what we’d do and I knew the feeling I’d have all night long. With a swaggering grin and a drag on my cigarette, I informed him that the night was to be entirely without rules. He just kind of smiled and shook his head, said: “the night that doesn’t exist”. I took that and ran with it. 

I was satisfied to stay buzzed on our chemistry and alcohol, but then I found a small bag of coke on the floor of the bar’s bathroom. It was as if it had lept from someone’s pocket and willed itself into my hands—it knew about the little night I was having for myself. Oh, how fun this was all starting to get! Maybe I should have been afraid to try strange drugs I found in a public restroom, but that man is bulletproof, and I’m bulletproof when I’m with him.

We ended up at a second bar where I reveled in our existence, the way I always did when I was out with him. I had a drink and a shot and we decided to go back to his place. There’s always a bit of a let down with the night ending, but I still had the coke in my pocket, and if the night didn’t exist, then I wasn’t done with it just yet.

We sat at the dining room table while he cut it up. I looked out the window into the backyard and felt myself prematurely reminiscing about the moment I was living in. The feeling was dark and beautiful and somehow familiar, and a longing swelled inside my chest, yearning for what was right in front of me. I did a bump and crawled into his lap, let the dopamine flood my brain with more pleasure than I had felt in months. I knew this wouldn’t happen again, that the world would come to wake me in a few short hours and I would have only the memory. We weren’t really the type of people to do coke at the dining room table, but in a strange way we also were, and in that moment I couldn’t have loved us more.

The next morning in the back of a cab, I secretly watched the video we had made. I blushed as I watched him grab me by my hair, still feeling a bit devilish but slowly resigning myself to the hangover. I had failed yet another attempt at an alternative life, I had cracked my heart back open. I sat back with my head against the window and felt the familiar hum of the looming pain and the relief of giving up. It was all I knew.



The sadist of my own mind has been replaced by your voice. Soft, furtive lashings of the tongue and contemptuous glances have crept insidiously into my skin and paralyzed me in a turmoil I cannot escape. This affliction has left me tortured, for while my nature rebels against it, the shame that it brings leaves me spiritless in the prelude of what may be my awakening. I take defiant solace in the hope for music beneath the roar of insult, but the recognition of this hubris leads me further into shame. I have become so mired in the faults of my mind that I cannot enjoy its gifts.


she was your star, and around her we both spun

you as the earth to her fire

and me as the lonely moon, tugging at the waves inside you

when you turned your back to me, I wept in the cold of your shadow

for she alone held your light

now that she’s gone, we stay cold together

fumbling in the dark over wreckage we can’t forget

struggling to find light in the deadness

hell season

Maybe I put too much blame on you. Maybe the blame should be on the circumstances, hell, maybe the blame should be on me. I’m the one who keeps coming back for it. Maybe it’s not for the love, maybe it’s because something inside of me needed this. The insecurities that have long since turned to hate have shamed me. Again and again, I’ve run from this pain only to return upon a whirlwind of fantasy and find myself on my knees, a fire before me. Embers burn and glow in my eyes and I am transfixed by this fire you cannot see. The sense of desperation you impart beckons me into the flames if only I could be brave enough to burn.

Well, maybe this is hell season. Maybe there was just no other way for me. Maybe if your love was easy, if there was no struggle for your affections I would be in blissful ignorance resting upon the laurels that soothe me with the fallacy that I am enough. Maybe that security would have stunted me, made me soft. Maybe I’m sick for coming back to this place that makes me hate myself, but here I am in the fucking fire and I’m getting real comfortable now. I don’t know how long this will take but I’m starting to like it. The shame has burned away and the fire rages farther inside forging steel guts and thick skin slick with vim. Am I worthy now? Don’t answer, I’m not done here. If I needed to burn like this, then you were well worth the pain but it doesn’t mean I have to thank you for it.

we ran screaming

I have this thing inside me that screams a lot. I’ve spent years trying to shut it up, years living in a hole of shoulds, a life of fear. A small, safe life. And when I was self-medicating my hole became my comfort. I thought, at least I’m being responsible, other people should be like me as I peered sideways, green-eyeing everyone else. I would see people doing artistic, daring, unconventional things and wonder why I couldn’t live a life like that. Who was going to give me permission? Or I would see people living life the way I thought I should, and some of them actually seemed to like it. I wondered why I couldn’t like it, too. I wondered what was wrong with me, why I couldn’t read those books I swore I would, why I couldn’t dress like that or be that shiny. I wondered if I really cared about anything and I was so lost I didn’t even know what I liked. And I thought it was too late for me, so I stayed in my hole. It was the responsible thing to do, to die slowly, quietly.

But always there was this screaming thing. It was the reason I was so exhausted. It had been fighting for years trying to move my arms and my legs, find a foothold, climb out of the hole. It had been screaming and fighting this life I didn’t want, this life of shoulds, and not only had it been fighting alone, but it was fighting through all the bullshit I had been throwing at it to get it to shut up. It was painful to have something fighting inside me so I stuffed it down with food, with booze, tried to knock it out with pills, drown it out with gross attention-seeking behavior and constant stimulus. But it wouldn’t die. It kept screaming. I kept thinking I needed to drink because I kept feeling it, and how was I supposed to live happily in this hole of shoulds with a screaming thing inside me? Shut up shut up shut up I would tell it. I couldn’t trust myself because I couldn’t even hear myself. I hated myself because I was ruining myself.

How I quit drinking is a story for another time. (Mostly just white-knuckling and blind faith, to be honest.) But when I did, the screaming got louder and I had nowhere to run, I had to listen. It told me my life wasn’t my own, that I had thrown myself into this hole of shoulds. It showed me instead a life imagined in snapshots of inspiration, glimpses of color. It showed me pieces of myself and said here, now go play. I looked knowingly at the pieces with tears in my eyes, and then I looked up to see the world come rushing back to me, I breathed deeply and the universe filled my lungs.

I became one with the screaming thing.

We screamed as we climbed out of that fucking hole and we ran screaming into the daylight. Now we scream for joy and sometimes we scream just to feel it. We’re crazy and we’re wild and we don’t care anymore. Maybe someday we won’t need to scream so much, but right now we’re just happy to be making up for lost time. If this is what it means to love oneself then maybe I’ve finally figured it out…or at least figured out how to try. All I know is that self-medicating is self-mutilation. If you have something screaming inside of you, it’s screaming for a reason. Listen to it. Let it be weird, let it be crazy, and for God’s sake let yourself like it. It’s you, after all.








The Leaving (Pt 2)

Sadness creeps in at the end of each day and I’ve got nothing and no one to save me. Can’t even rely on the self-pity that comes with mourning your give-a-fucks for me because I’ve known for a while now that you’re all out. Or maybe you never had them to begin with. Is the chair that sits next to me too uncomfortable for you?

You’re tired and time will just make you more tired. You’re tired of me being sad, I know you won’t come around when I feel crazy. There’s no more room for me to be anything but a delight, a pleasure. There’s no room for my darkness, no room for me to mess up and no shoulder to cry on.

You listen but you keep me at arm’s distance. I don’t know how to inhabit this space. It makes me hate you and it makes me hate myself. But when I leave you accuse me of not caring. You can’t see that I’m just trying to live somewhere that doesn’t hurt so much.

I’m alone. But maybe that’s what I need after all this time.