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A) I cried and he said it was fantastic. I asked him how it was fantastic. I asked him where in his fucked up mind did my situation intersect with the realm of fantastic, and he didn’t have anything to say to that. I left his office and picked up my pills from the pharmacy next door, and I thought about the last time I hadn’t had an antidepressant in my system, and it was a long fucking time ago.

I was ten and I was watching my hamster, Scratcher, walk in circles around the bottom of his hamster cage, and he had this tumor on his side, like a veined pink water balloon. I asked my mom if we could take him to the doctor, and she said okay, so we went, and he rode there in this little red tin that was probably for tea or something, and the vet took him into the back room, but when he returned, he was holding this little brown box, and I could hear something rattling around inside. I asked him when I was getting Scratcher back, and he looked at me, sighed, then said that the box was Scratcher, and I understood.

I wonder sometimes what would happen to me without medicine. Would I harm myself like they all say I will? Or are they all just terrified of the leviathan shit storm my unencumbered mind would brew up? Probably the former, but I’m inclined to think the latter.

It’s particularly gray going through the tunnel into Oakland. I think that maybe there is a fire, but there isn’t, then I think that maybe they’ve created a dust storm while digging the new tunnel, but they haven’t. I guess I’ve just forgotten how thick the fog can be. I haven’t taken my antidepressants in two weeks, but I’m not going to tell my psychiatrist. I’m just going to say that everything is peachy, and ask for a refill on my Ambien.

* * *

B-) I am in the barber waiting for the guy to finish cutting this old woman’s hair so he can cut mine. She wants her hair feathered. Fuck if I know what that means, but she makes these motions at her bangs and says that she doesn’t want them to be straight. “Feathered,” she says. The guy keeps cutting her hair, and I don’t know if he knows any better than me what this psychotic woman is talking about, but he keeps nodding and cutting, and she keeps saying she wants it feathered.

The song “We Belong,” comes on the radio and I’m sitting in a chair, looking at those pictures they have on the wall at all barber shops built during the nineteen-eighties. You know the ones, where the people with awful haircuts stand there with their arms folded across their chests, smiling like they just won the lottery.

Those posters are stupid. So full of this something that I’ve never felt, and that everyone who appears to be feeling it is probably faking. Maybe I have felt it, maybe I was right the first time, or maybe, and it seems the chances are good, I wouldn’t recognize the feeling if I felt it, so there’s really no point in talking about it anymore.

Something’s broken inside me. Not physically, more of a metaphysical breaking. “Feathered,” she says, and I think that I want someone to even out, not feather, my fucking soul. But therapists have told me over and over again that that healing and that straightening need to come from inside me, then they give me all these drugs to curb my mood, my suicidal tendencies, my anger, my anxiety.

Life’s funny like that sometimes.

Everybody needs to be straightened out.

There was this kid, Connor Leigh, and he was always running his mouth at me and my friends, despite the fact that he was tiny, because his older brother was in a biker gang, and he claimed that Kyle would “kill us” if we touched him.

I asked Kyle one day about it. He had his bike parked outside of Nation’s and I said to him, “Kyle, would you care if I punched Connor?”

He lowered his sunglasses, scratched his thick golden-brown beard and said, “Why? What did he do?”

I told him that Connor was a little bitch, and that someone needed to hit him, and that if he wasn’t going to let me do it, he should do it himself.

He scratched his beard again, put on his sunglasses and his helmet, one of those leather swim-cap, condom type deals that probably doesn’t protect anything, and he said, “Go for it.”

I laid Connor out the next day.

I don’t really need to be beaten, like I said, it’s not a physical ailment that’s plaguing me right now, but I need something to re-align me. If I were a car, I would have been hit on my front end while my wheel was turned.

I feel crooked.

I remember being three years old, and my neighbors were carrying off my dead dog, and I was trying to pet him, laughing, and running in circles. Maybe there’s a metaphor in there for how I’m feeling, then again there probably isn’t; I just remember it.

My memories feel like they don’t belong to me, like they’re all these snippets of time that don’t really connect or carry any weight or have any purpose other than to fill me with regret and resentment. I think the older I get, the more I’ll come to hate myself, and everyone who has let me let my life pass me by. It’s a pretty sad thought. I can see myself as an old man, sitting on a park bench (not feeding pigeons) looking through my phonebook on some projected holographic thing I don’t understand, and realizing that there’s no one I want to call.

I do that a lot now. Look at all the names in my phone and think how I really don’t have anyone that I’d call if I just wanted to talk. That’s a pretty sad thought.

I tried to pull out one of my earrings yesterday, and couldn’t get the back off. I just ended up making my ear bleed. There’s a bit of metaphor there definitely, ears bleeding. I think there’s probably something I can say about how I’m affected by therapists and my sister, and my dad, but I’m either too lazy to think of it, or just not creative enough.

If my Dad’s to be believed, I’m not a very effective person. He told me that once, that I’m “not effective,” and I didn’t really understand it until recently. What good am I? Not much at all and what good have I done? Not much at all. That’s what he means, wasted talent. I never had a teacher in high school or middle school who didn’t tell me I was squandering potential, even when I had an A in their class. Undriven, unmotivated, that’s me. Wasted fucking talent, and despite my expertise while sober, I can’t play the piano when I’m drunk, so there’s no metaphor there.

If I could give a message to children, I think it would be to be realists. The glass is half empty. Most of you will end up in careers that you hate for reasons that were ingrained into you in childhood, and you will live in a house that doesn’t quite measure up to what you expected or planned with a person that used to turn you on. I would then have to explain that being turned on means your dick gets hard or your pussy gets wet, and then I’d get in trouble for talking about penises and vaginas to little kids. But I’d be right, only none of them would know it until later.

When you’re a kid, you don’t know anything. At twenty-four, I still don’t know, but I’m at that age where the picture is starting to form, and it’s no sunny landscape by some woman who sits in her mansion looking at daisies and smiling, it’s a bleak, grey whirl of crap, like some scribble you’d find in a museum of modern art.

You don’t know when you’re a kid that your parents are people, that your teachers are people, that your pets and stuffed animals are not people. You don’t realize the sacrifices your parents made for you. You don’t get that most people don’t want to work sixty hours a week in an office so that some shit for brains kid (you) can sit around playing Super Mario and talking about how they’re (you’re) going to be in the NBA when they (you) grow up. You’re not. You’ll be too short, or too slow, or too weak, and in real life, you’ll never find your Princess Peach. Your parents probably didn’t want the lives they have. You, in one way or another, probably ruined their dreams, and there’s a chance that they seriously considered aborting you in utero.

I’ve been told by family, friends and fucking shrinks that I’m a pessimist, and I don’t think that’s true. I think I’m an idealist in the midst of an existential free fall, screaming my fucking head off as I hurtle down to Earth on an infinite ray of light through the nothing of stars and space. Life is pointless, the point of life is what you make of it. I make nothing of my life, the something is in the friends and memories I have. The memories are fading, and are disjointed and don’t mean anything. I don’t talk to any of my friends.

I realize that I’m in the middle of some psychotic or “emo,” self-pitying rant right now, and I don’t care. Go ahead and tell me that these words are useless. They are of no use to anyone but me, and I’ve accepted that, and I welcome your criticism. I’m double booked to play at the pity party and the bitter barn, and one of the crowds is going to be disappointed, probably the one I show up to, so get over it.

You don’t have to read this.

You’ll gain no meaning from anything if you go into it looking for meaning. Those will all be manufactured projections of what you were expecting to find that you’ll call a revelation, and I will call retarded, and you will get mad because I said the word retarded. If you want to find something, stop looking. Isn’t that what works with keys and wallets? And love? Why shouldn’t the same be true of profound philosophical meaning in literature (if I might slander the word and place my own writing under the category of literature)?

I’m writing this because I am pissed off, and I’m depressed, and I’ve lost all sense of myself and all sense of direction, purpose and whatever else people hang their hat on to get through this standardized test of life. I like that. There’s definitely a metaphor there, about how life is standardized, something about how Asian kids test best.

I broke up with my girlfriend because I felt like she was putting too much pressure on me, making me feel guilty and sad, and I couldn’t deal with it anymore. She said I hadn’t been trying to deal with it. She said I was ignoring her when I sent her a text that said, “I’m sorry, but I didn’t mean it like that.” Maybe I wasn’t trying. I just didn’t have what it took to keep going. That broken thing inside me, was probably the remnants of our relationship, the death rattle, the baby deer thrashing around in the crocodile’s mouth.

She said I used to always fight for us, and that was what she loved about me.

The fight was out of me, and she could tell.

There was this night when she kept telling me she wanted me to stay with her. She wanted me to watch Dr. Horrible’s Sing-along-Blog with her, but then she got a text from Nick asking what time she wanted to meet the next morning, and he called her beautiful, and I left.

I used to call her beautiful.

But beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and maybe my eyes just got tired. I can blame it on being a recovering addict, or I can blame it on emotional and psychological issues, but it would all be bull shit. I wasn’t good enough, or strong enough. I mean when it comes down to it, at the very core of everything I experience is me, right? So what’s the point of fighting when I’m fighting against myself? Edward Norton didn’t win an Oscar for beating himself up in Fight Club, or if he did then they seriously need to reconsider what defines Oscar-winning cinema, and I hate them for destroying my metaphor.

There’s this spot I go to up on Grizzly Peak, where you can park, and walk down a little hill to a patch of grass near one of those big electrical towers, and I used to sit there for hours, looking out over Berkeley, and Oakland, and Richmond, and the bay, and the city, and I would think how big the world was, how beautiful these things that men create are, and how no one else in the world had the same view that I had.

They’re building a house on my spot now.

I still go there sometimes and sit, and look, and think how small I am, and how nothing I create will ever add anything to the world, and how everything I say has been said before. The construction crew has let the grass grow up, and there are these weeds there now, the kind with thorns and stickers, and I don’t have the patience or the strength to pull them.

The last time I was there, I was thinking, “Here we go. I’m going to do it. I’m going to finally do it, and there will be some sort of poetry when they find me, eyes wide, slumped against the tower, blood settled neatly onto the white cotton towel beneath my arms,” but there was no poetry. I’m still here. I didn’t even have the strength for that.

I’ll have to stop going to my spot when someone moves in, and that’s a sad thought.

The beauty of youth and life fade. The fog rolls in over the hills, and I don’t have to tell you there’s a metaphor in that.

* * *

C) The mind isn’t a terrible thing to waste. It’s a terrible thing to see a mind wasting away. I lived with my grandma when I was in high school, and she had Alzheimer’s disease. I hadn’t thought about it in a long time, but then I read this essay a girl in my workshop had handed in and it was about how her grandmother got Alzheimer’s, and a lot of it came back to me. I envied her, the girl, because she had been off, living this fantastic life, travelling all over Italy for most of the time her grandmother was withering away, but there was this tone of regret to her story that made me wonder if I was actually jealous.

I used to write pages and pages about her dying, slowly, and I think I’m about out of things to say, but I can record memories, those pieces of her demise that come back to me still. Like the first time she called my friend, Josh, Brad. She’d met this guy Brad once, and then years later, called all of my friends Brad. Like the time I was leaving to go get stoned in the back of this girl’s Corolla, and she said, “Will you be here for my birthday?” Her birthday had been two weeks earlier. Like the time I sat with her in the hospital and the nurses kept looking at me like I was some lost dog, and I got my grandma to eat some of her food. Like the time I sat with her in the hospice and watched as she took her last breaths on this earth.

I wrote to that girl, the one who wrote the essay, and I asked her if she’d heard of Schrödinger’s cat. I told her that there was this German physicist named Erwin Schrödinger who, in an attempt to explain the problem with the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics, described a hypothetical experiment where a cat along with a flask containing a poison and a radioactive source is placed in a sealed box shielded against environmentally induced quantum decoherence. If an internal Geiger counter detects radiation, the flask is shattered, releasing the poison that kills the cat. The Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics implies that after a while, the cat is both alive and dead. While, someone looking into the box can see the cat is either alive or dead, the cat may be thought of as simultaneously alive and dead. I told her that our grandmothers were like that, both alive in body, but those qualities that made them human, that made them them had grayed, and so in a sense, they were both alive and dead.

I told her I was sorry for her loss.

* * *

D) My parents’ attitudes towards me are completely different. I’ve thought of calling it “The Dichotomy of Mom and Dad,” and writing a whole essay about how I have daddy issues because the guy really doesn’t like me, but then I figured there’s not a whole lot to say about it besides that.

He used to think I was really stupid because I got mostly B’s and C’s in school, and my sister got A’s and B’s, and he didn’t know I got the grades I got because I got A’s on tests and didn’t turn in homework. Then I took the SAT in tenth grade and got a fourteen ninety. He was pretty pissed off.

I don’t think he really envisioned me turning out the way I did. He’s the one person who didn’t say, “Congratulations,” when I got my acceptance letter to Berkeley. He told me, when I was getting my degree in Anthropology, and studying all of this biology, and cutting up cadavers in the basement of the Valley Life Sciences building, that I should take the MCATs and apply to medical school. I laughed, and he walked out of the room.

He told me when I was applying to graduate schools for an MFA in creative writing that I was wasting my time. That I was going to end up being poor and miserable, and that I’d be a burden on him and my mother forever. It was my turn to walk out of the room.

* * *

F) I see useless people.

What if the whole movie The Sixth Sense were based on Haley Joel Osment saying that? “I see useless people.” It would have been a way better movie. It would have been like, “Can you see what’s happening, Haley Joel Osment?” and he’d be like, “Yes mother, I can see. There’s a woman in a bike helmet. She got hit by a car trying to pass out flowers while riding her fixed gear bike in her skinny jeans.”

Or like, “I can see a little girl. She’s trying to give me a box. In the box, there’s a video of her ballet recital. It’s not very good.”

Or like, “Bruce Willis, you only think you’re a therapist, but really, you just talk to people because you’re unemployed, and that’s why your wife won’t look at you.”

Leave it to M. Night Shalama-whoma-whatsit. He’ll make The Village: Part II: They got out and realized it was the twenty-first century, but then they find out they’re in the matrix. In part three, we’ll discover that the matrix is actually a dream that an autistic baby with diarrhea is having.

I had an AIM conversation, sort of, with this useless IM bot that’s supposed to tell jokes. It went like this:

[20:20] MIKEsauce05: hi
[20:20] MIKEsauce05: tell me a joke
[20:20] MIKEsauce05: what the fuck, you never fucking work, youre the worst bot in the history of aim
[20:20] joketellerbot: Bot connection failed
[20:20] MIKEsauce05: worse that the gossip one
[20:20] joketellerbot: Bot connection failed
[20:20] MIKEsauce05: fuck yourself
[20:21] joketellerbot: Bot connection failed

Yesterday, I saw a guy with girl hair kissing a girl with blonde, pink-streaked hair outside of Hot Topic. The girl haired guy went in, and the girl walked off down telegraph.

* * *

P) “What if the what ifs of what ifs weren’t what ifs, but were what was?” Chelsea was lying with her head hanging off the bed, her long brown hair a waterfall, flowing down to the floor.

I took a drag on my cigarette, blew it out, and thought.

I told her that if what ifs weren’t what ifs, I wouldn’t be sitting there with her, smelling her flowery body spray, marveling at her smile, and her big dark eyes. I didn’t tell her that I would still be with Maria. Or, I would still be with Yumi, or Megan, that all those times I tried saying their names with my last name would have come to fruition. I would have kept my dog from dying, and he’d be miserable. I would have an eight inch dick, and we would never have had good sex.

“You’re a funny one,” I told her.

But she wanted to speculate.

She told me about how she would have lost her virginity to her boyfriend, Alex, and not to me, but that she still would have been in love with me, and we would have run off together, and that we would have had a wedding in a church, and that the sun would have been coming in through the big stained glass windows, and that I would have seen her, walking up the aisle through a golden haze, and that she would have blown the dust specks out of her face, “No,” she said, “There wouldn’t be any dust.” She told me that her dad would have walked her down the long, red carpet to me because he wouldn’t have died the summer before, and that we would have four kids, three girls and a boy, and that I would try to name one of them Justin Credible Mills-Sakoda, and that she would have vetoed it. She didn’t have to tell me that we were hyphenating our last name.

I didn’t tell her that I wished it was me and not her dad.

Neither of us said whether or not the first time we hooked up would have still been on that airplane back from Prague, while Maria was with her family in Italy, and Alex was back in the United States, probably shaving himself down for some water polo game. I didn’t say that I knew I wouldn’t have taken Sarah to junior prom, and that I knew she would have had gotten her hair done up, all high and curly and brown like it could be, and that I’d have gotten to put a white corsage on her wrist and kiss her on the hand while our moms took pictures.

Neither of us said whether or not we would have decided to go to college.

I didn’t tell her that if we’d gotten married out of high school, I wouldn’t have gone. I would have spent all my time holding her, resting my chin on the top of her head, and telling her that she was the most beautiful girl on the planet, because she was, not because she wanted to hear it.

“What if we’d met when we were kids?” she asked. “What if I’d known you before sophomore year, or what if you’d missed your cue?”

I’ve wondered a lot about that last one over the years. There was this time when we were first introduced that we were talking backstage at the school musical. She asked me if I had any siblings, and I never answered because I had to go on for Empty Chairs. I’ve wondered a lot about what would have happened if she hadn’t told me that she had a thing for Cade Pierce, but that she didn’t want me to give up. Maybe we would have never gotten together, or maybe we would have been together all along, legitimately, not sneaking around behind our “significant” others’ backs.

What if I could tell her out loud that I loved her?

“I love you,” she said.

I still think about Chelsea, and I find myself wondering, what if I’d said what I’d wanted to say to her then, what I wish I’d said now, and what if she’d considered it?

“Keep it,” I’d say.

* * *

NP) The world is one great big ball of shit. There are people who ride Vespas that aren’t European. There are men who use sunless tanning lotion; there are women who use it, for that matter. Harry Potter isn’t real, and you’ll never be a wizard, or ride a hypogryph, or fuck a Veela. Your parents will continue to drive you crazy, and your sister will cut the hair off of all your trolls. Pets will die, trees will be cut down, and strip malls will go up. Snooki is real, and so is New Jersey. There are guys who pop their collars, and that’s just how the world is.

It’s your turn.

I’m sitting in front of Sam’s Market, smoking a twenty-seven and people watching. I look down next to me and there’s this leaf, curled up, browning on the concrete, and I think there’s some sort of metaphor at work, like soon all that will be left of the natural world is a decaying leaf amidst the stone we’ve paved over the earth, and it’s sad.

Do not pass go.

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Michael Sakoda is a 24-year-old graduate of the University of California, Berkeley, where he earned a B.A. in anthropology with a minor in creative writing. Michael is the recipient of the Agnes Butler Award for Excellence in Creative Nonfiction and currently works as a freelance writer. He recently began work on his first book, Memoirs of a Pathological Liar, which is set to be completed in 2013. Follow him on twitter @michaelsakoda

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David Milano is a Los Angeles based freelance artist with a penchant for the macabre. His hobbies include chainsaws, fine cocktails and shrinking heads, not necessarily in that order. You can find his work at

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1 Comment

  1. Adam Black says:

    This is pretty funny.
    I mistook it for fiction until half-way through.
    Then I thought: fuck that, this is powerful if its real, waste of my time if its not. Of course, reality is a littie slippier. You can never really hold, it —it just falls through your hands like yesterdays jizz. It was real once, capable of giving new life; Now its just the afterburn, or rugburn , we call the past.

    You are cynical asshole, and I like that in a man, sometimes. Everyone needs a friend who better and one worse than he is. I like that you have both bases covered, so really, not so useless afterall—At least not compared to me.
    Welcome to the Non-fan club

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