A Conversation With God: Vignetted.

I wrote this as an answer to “If God asks you on Judgement Day, “Why didn’t you believe in me,” what would you say to him?” on Quora. It is the companion piece to this. Enjoy.

~*~*~

“AAAAAAAAAAAGH!”

I shove my chair back and stand up, enraged. The drink in my hand becomes a missile: I launch it across the room, over his head, and the glass shatters against the wall opposite me. Whatever had been in it, I could not remember now, sprays the wall, dripping down. I stare at it, watching it change colours as it slides towards the floor.

I could not remember what I had ordered, how it tasted, even if I liked it. But, it sure was beautiful on the wall.

I had been sitting across from him for what felt like a moment, but also forever. Ages had come and gone, civilizations risen and fallen, while we sat across from each other, conversing.

Or just a moment.

Maybe I had been a baby in my parents’ house in the eighties but a blink of an eye ago.

Maybe the planet had froze, melted, froze again, melted, froze again, melted, and was nearing another ice age in the time we have talked.

I watch my drink creep down the wall.

“You’re a fucking asshole.”

“What?”

“You fucking heard me.”

“Chelsey, sit down.”

“No. I prefer to stand.”

He sighs. crossing his legs. He did it just like my dad used to: he would cross one ankle over the other knee and lean back, locking his fingers behind his neck for support, and usually smile, or at least look soft in the eyes.

God looks like my dad, but not the way my dad looked when I saw him last. He has a darker, fuller head of hair, and an older style of glasses that is trendy in the late teens of the 21st century, again. They were sitting low on his nose, but his warm brown eyes were still looking through them with his head tilted back like that. His shirt was a baseball shirt that he had made with iron-on letters that said “Still Awesome”.

Not God, my dad had made the shirt.

God was wearing my dad’s shirt.

He wears athletic socks. The coloured bands at the tops could be seen on the leg raised, uncovered from where his jeans rode up.

He looks like my dad used to look when I was very small.

I think he did that so I wouldn’t be afraid of him.

“I did it because it was an easy, comforting image in your memories. I like how your dad presents.”

“That is super creepy.”

“Omniscience is pretty creepy, yes.”

“I’m not buying the relational pitch.”

“So, back to what I was asking you, if we could? Why didn’t you believe in me?”

“Have you seen what it’s like?”

“Of course.”

“Well, forgive me for my skepticism when my understanding of your conceptual existence is based on principles of unconditional love and shit, because like, I’m serious, have you really seen what’s going on out there… down there? Here? Where are we?”

“Unconditional love, you say. We’re in a bar. I thought this would be an easy, comfortable space for you.”

I look around the room. It has metamorphosed from an indiscriminate room into a more intimate space. The lighting is warm, and the furniture looks soft and inviting. There is a fireplace where the wall my drink was decorating had been. The technicolor liquid now drips off the mantle, pooling near the bases of candle holders. There are beautiful moving pictures in ornate frames on the walls with little signs next to them indicating titles, artist names and prices.

God is an art dealer, I think to myself. As if he’s got nothing better to do.

“I know what would be better for me to occupy my time with, Chelsey. Back to the question at hand.”

“No, but… never mind, don’t distract me,” I took a few breaths in an attempt to calm my nerves; talking to God is stressful. “I think probably because I don’t get it.”

“What do you not get?”

“I don’t get why we exist, what we’re supposed to be doing, why we are so prone to the destruction of others but ultimately also ourselves, what we’re supposed to do now that “judgement day” has come. Honestly, can you come up with a better name for this? Whatever this is? We people have made bad art about it for too long and it is totally loaded.”

I looked around for a bartender or wait staff to get another beverage. One happened to be sitting in front of me already. I don’t know when it got there, but it may have been immediately after I threw the last one at the wall. The mantle?

I pick it up and gave it a stir with the little drink stick poking out the top. It has cherries skewered on it. When I put it to my lips it tastes like almonds and strong, complex whiskey.

“Did you just make this drink appear?”

“Yes and no.”

“……..”

“You made it appear, but it’s the same one you had before, so, um… do we need to have a time-space continuum science lesson right now?”

“Probably but I don’t really have time for that.”

“I assure you that you do.”

I take a breath to cry out and start to raise my drink-hand to a throwing position; I pause. I wonder how many times I have thrown drinks at the wall since we’ve been here.

I can’t remember.

“That was the time-space continuum lesson.”

“Oh for fuck sakes. You’re impossible.”

“I assure you I am not, nor have I ever been.”

“Well, you are obviously devoid of compassion, because we are suffering! All of us! Existential pain is universal, and it is relentless.”

“Is it, now.”

“YES. Every single person that is in existence on Earth is hurting, one way or another. And it is because of YOU.”

“I assure you it is not.”

“You do nothing to stop it!”

“That doesn’t make me the cause.”

“You might as well be.”

“That is not the same.”

“Dad… fuck, no, you’re not my dad.” I squint my eyes shut and press my fingers over them for a moment as if somehow, the image would change if I wiped it off my eyes.

When I open them again, across from me sits my wife. My heart skips and I relish for a moment just being with her, in this strange place. I allow myself to pretend nothing has changed, and we just came here, to this bar, together to get a drink. Maybe we’re travelling somewhere together, and decided to duck into this space next to the venue where we were seeing some electronic music. Maybe it was in Berlin, or New York.

That would be nice. I miss her.

She looks like when we met: bangs perfectly in place, hair swept to one side and blown straight. She is wearing a charcoal pencil skirt and sleeveless dark-toned blouse she had sewn herself. She always looks completely immaculate, even when we’re just at home doing nothing. Her eyes are soft; this is an expression I associate with her concern, because she worries about me more often than not.

“Love…”

“Don’t call me that! You’re not her!”

As if she had never been sitting there at all, and I had imagined it, he is now Ray.

He pulls a pack of cigarettes out of his shirt pocket, lit one, while running his hand through his thick hair, like he used to do all the time while he drank, smoked, watched television, whatever he was doing. His moustache twitched at the corners as he smiled his strange, artificial smile at me and my stomach lurches.

Ray sexually assaulted me when I was eleven years old.

I stare incredulously.

“Yeah, great. Great choice.” I lean back and look up at the ceiling. This is incredible.

“Well, I mean, you seem to not want to speak to an image of someone you love, so how about one whom you decidedly do not?”

“This is pretty fucked up, if I may say so.”

“You are still not answering my question.”

“Look, if you’re so god damned omniscient, you know why I didn’t believe.”

“It is the only thing I cannot know.”

“What?”

“I can see everything, except what you think of me.”

I smirked.

“That must be frustrating for someone as self-indulgent as you.”

“It is not ideal.”

“Well, that makes all of us.”

“Hm. Interesting perspective.”

“Oh, come on. You don’t think all the garbage we made up about how you made us in your image, in the context of your inability to see what we think about you, doesn’t make for a hysterical paradox? Wait, how did you even know I didn’t believe? I didn’t tell you that. Did I?”

He bounces the ankle of the crossed leg in the air, adding an air of annoyance to his posture.

“You did. And you tell me eventually what you think of me, now, but apparently not today.”

“What, did I hurt your feelings or something?”

He uncrosses his legs and stands, towering over me.

“You told me, and you’ll tell me again. We will be back here when you do.”

“Is this about the time-space whatever again? Are you seriously leaving because a little person made fun of you? What a joke. God has a fragile ego. I mean, I’m not surprised, but also, really? And like, look at you. How the fuck did you think I was going to handle facing my childhood molester? Did you really think that was going to prompt me to tell you anything? You’re fucking lucky I am more resilient than, say, clamming up or going into shock, or something, because then you’d be fucked. I wouldn’t be able to tell you anything at all. You have got a thing or two to learn about how to have a conversation in which you have an agenda.”

I suddenly lean forward, snatching the pack of cigarettes out of his shirt pocket. I free one from the package, lighting it with a matchbook that appears in my hand as soon as I think it should, and take a long drag.

Cloves.

Of course they are clove cigarettes. Leave it to God to be ostentatious like that.

“You know, I haven’t had a cigarette in 5 years. That is how fucked up the world is, and you know it is your responsibility. We actively murder ourselves to cope more often than not.”

I sit back, annoyed but also smirking . I am suddenly pleased I did not throw my new cocktail across the room. I pick it up and take a sip, lifting the cherries out of their bath and sliding one off with my teeth, smug. It is amazing how ranting at God can leave you so conceited. I feel brazen, capable of saying anything.

“You know what I think of you? I am let down. Disappointed. This scene, here, you and me, was poorly executed, never mind your whole little human race project. Good fucking luck getting any references after that shit show of a venture.”

The look on his face softened. His lips don’t move but I hear him. I hear him not in the way we hear people sitting across from us, their voices projecting directionally toward us.

I hear him inside of me. His voice reverberates through my bones, as if the sound is coming out of me and also the walls around me, the furniture, the air may have even caused it. The cacophony of sound makes me want to cover my ears, but it won’t help because it is everywhere. I feel it in my hair, the individual follicles vibrating from the tone. I feel it in the blood cells that are syphoning through my heart.

“Thank you.”

Everything dissolves. Consciousness, the bar, God, it all disappears. I am sitting at a laptop, writing a short story about an encounter with a supposed deity, and thinking about whether to grab something at the grocer before going home to have dinner with my wife.

A Conversation With Death: Vignetted.

I wrote this to answer a question on Quora. I enjoyed writing it so much that I needed to include it in my blog. The original can be found here. Enjoy.

~*~*~


“So, what will it be this time, love?”

I sigh. “This is a predicament.”

“You knew the whole time, love, somewhere inside you. If you think of it now, you know it’s true. It is all here for you. You chose to not look. You always do.”

My fingers rest on the edge of the tea cup in front of me as I stare out the window. I am absorbing what they just said, and it is taking me a minute.

I chose not to see, they said.

The sky has changed colour two hundred and sixty three times since I’ve been sitting here. I have been counting them without even thinking about it, a roll call of shades. Azure, fuchsia, eggplant, rose, coral, marigold, chartreuse, forest, deepening to an inky black before lightening back to a turquoise, garnet, slate, fire…

When did the sky start changing colours? I seemed to recall it only being variations of one shade, at one point in time.

There is a shift in the air that suggests a door opening or closing in the near vicinity, but I can’t take my eyes off the changing sky to see where the door is, or if anyone else has entered this place. I might lose count.

I get the sense that they are sitting with me, at this antique, gnarled-looking table. Every time I glance over to where the oversized chair is opposite me, competing in age with the table between us, they fade around the edges so I cannot quite make out their identifiable features so I know what I am looking at. I know there is someone there, though. It is like my eyes will not focus enough on them to really see them.

I can feel them, though. I can feel their breath on my hand, resting on the table next to the tea cup, where my other hand’s fingers play with the edges. I feel tiny prickles on my skin. It doesn’t hurt, it just feels mildly tingly. I want to move away from it, but also toward it. I can feel something graze me periodically, brushing my cheek, the back of my neck, the edge of my elbow, curl around my ankle, like a wisp of air that has lost it’s way from the rest of a wind.

How long have I been sitting here, sipping earl grey out of this beautiful china? The cup was large enough for a good sized cup of tea, but felt feathery fragile in my hands. It has a beautiful pattern on the sides of it that moves a little so the details are hard to focus on, kind of like them. It provoked me to touch the edges of it, making sure I was caring for it while holding it and drinking for it; showing it affection, even.

I don’t actually know if a minute has passed. It could have been an hour, or maybe a year. I could have been sitting here with my index finger tracing the edge of a china cup for a decade. Maybe it’s been millennia.

I chose not to see, they said.

The cushion on the matching chair under me is soft. My hips don’t hurt at all. Usually, if I’ve been sitting in the same position for a while, my right hip starts to protest a little. Now that I’m thinking about my physicality, I take note of the fact that my hip isn’t hurting. I uncross my legs, resetting my posture, and cross them the other way. My right foot curls around the back of my opposite calf, the muscles of my legs tightening against each other.

I remember reading somewhere that if you cross your legs too much, the veins on them struggle and become visible, creating spiderweb designs on thighs that a lot of women crinkle their noses at the prospects of having. I can’t remember not having those tiny visible blue lines here and there on my legs, or if they started appearing at a point, or if they’ve always been.

Maybe I’ve always been sitting here.

“If I chose to see, what would happen if I looked? How many times have there been, can you tell me that, at least?” I asked.

“You always choose blindness. You’re all the same, when it comes to that. You look away.”

“Everyone?”

“Well, not everyone. Most.”

“Okay. What now, then?”

“Now, you get to choose to look and never go back, or leave me.”

“But, I’m not done with living. I’m not ready.”

“I know, love. I didn’t expect this one, of them all, to change your mind.”

“It was pretty good, this time.”

“You say that every time, love.”

“This one seemed particularly good.”

“How do you know? Do you remember the others?”

I thought about this for another two hundred years, at least.

“No. I dream about them, though. I have seen glimpses of others in my dreams. Tiny vignettes into the rest, and the vignettes fade very quickly upon waking. They feel subliminal in my unconsciousness, like interlopers.”

“You can see them all if you look, but that means you will not go back again.”

Tears were standing in my eyes.

“You cry every time, too, love.”

“I just, I cannot imagine not going back. There’s too much to do, and see. Have you been there lately? It’s beautiful.”

“You do not have any idea how many times those words have passed over your perfect lips, love. I know. You tell me all about your time, every one.”

My hand suddenly tightens around the tea cup, crushing it. The cup was so delicate that it turned into dust in my palm.

“I have to go back.”

“I know you do, love. I’ll be here, waiting, when you’re done. We will see each other again, and you can decide that time if you are ready to look.”

“I’m sorry.” Why am I apologizing to Death? I feel remorse, suddenly, for abandoning them. “Will you be sad if I go?”

“Oh, no. I can wait. I have been waiting for you forever, and will continue to do so.”

“That’s sweet.” I squint at them, trying to see who I am speaking with. They are familiar, and alien, all at once. They look like no one, and every single being I have every laid eyes on. “You’ve been with me the whole time, yes? Thank you. I appreciate your patience with my leaving, and your being here when I come back.”

“How can you say that? You never remember the other times.”

“… I suppose that’s true. I will miss you.” I know this is an empty statement, because according to them, I don’t remember each time I am here. That must be infuriating, I thought for a moment, and then I remember that Death has to be the most patient, and can only keep me when I want to be kept.

“I appreciate the sentiment.”

“I feel compelled to go, though.”

“I know, love. Go. I can wait.”

“You’re perfect.”

I could not see the expression on Death’s face, but I want to say they were smiling.

“You have no idea.”

~*~*~

On Depression, and Grieving.

When my alarm goes off in the morning, I’m stunned. I wonder if I even slept. I must have, because I remember the dreams. I remember imagery representing conflict and struggle, my subconscious throwing uncomfortable situations I cannot escape from and spectres of real people that my brain has made up for me to confront, or wrangle myself away from. I dream of emotional violence, and physical transgressions: subtly escalating conundrums that I allow to unfold until I can’t anymore because they’re too fucked up and I can’t tolerate them. I have to get out. I wake when I reach the point of needing to get out. My voice doesn’t exist in these dreams. It is when I say “no”, or scream, or throw a flurry of protesting language about what is happening to me that I awaken.

I never get to say my piece.

Getting out of bed every day is like trying to chip away at cement that holds me in place, under the pile of blankets. I lay in bed for as long as I possibly can without being late, letting my alarm go off repeatedly, and usually end up late anyway as a result of staring in the mirror or standing in the shower thinking too long.

I suppose I’ll shower. I can’t remember whether I’m supposed to wash my hair today or tomorrow, so I’ll do it now I guess. Putting on some eyeliner is a good idea, right? Maybe it will help me not look so tired. Or look like I tried.

Eating is work, but I get hungry so I do it. I better drink a coffee so I don’t get a headache later, but if I don’t it doesn’t really matter. Headaches are fine. I try to drink as much water as I can over the course of the day, because I think maybe that is helpful, I don’t know. I rely on a routine to tell me whether I’ve taken care of myself or not; a mental check-list of the things I seem to remember wanting to do every day to help me function.

I go to do whatever i’m supposed to be doing, working or some other thing, putting one foot in front of the other because that’s how walking happens, and that’s how I get there. I think while I walk; I try to convince myself that I can get through the day, as a kind of mantra as I pick my way through busier areas littered with pedestrians or quieter side streets. When I interact with strangers, I try to plaster a smile on my face that is, by some feat of inner strength, is reaching my eyes. I succeed sometimes, and know I do when people don’t ask if I’m okay.

I don’t want to answer them. I’m bad at lying.

I try to make sure I don’t cancel too many of my plans to see friends, because I know I need to be with people socially in order to get energy. I seem to remember that working, before.

Making keystrokes is like moving through mud, my fingers struggling to form the words across my laptop screen. The swirling thoughts in my head have to go somewhere else, though. The list of unwritten projects has grown to the point where I may never run out of ideas.

I experience relief that I love to write, because if every one of these thoughts had to stay inside my head, I might die.

Sometimes I wish I could draw. The things that spring into existence in my head might better be served with a physical representation, but I, for whatever reason, haven’t put time into learning how to accurately represent imagery. Words do okay, though. They have to.

If I could draw what the last several months has been like, I would draw a vast post-apocalyptic wasteland. The sun barely cuts through the smog, casting a red-brown hue on every shape, forming elongated shadows across barren terrain dotted with structural ruin. Dumpster fires, piles of garbage, abandoned shells of what used to be homes and gardens. The land here is scorched from some sort of war. Burnt soil, scattered with large burlap sacks full of salt to make sure that once the earth has stopped burning, there’s salt to put down.

Nothing grows here. The salt is to make sure of it.

I’m sitting on a pile of broken bricks in the middle of all this wreckage. My hair is thin, falling out, the pieces of it that hit the ground turn into ashes. My fingers are stained with soot from sifting around the dirt to try to put out the fires. My nails are cracking. My shoulders are hunched over, a bit shaky. It’s hard to sit up straight when there’s nothing inside me to hold my form up. The colour has escaped my eyes, and in them is nothing. Vacancy. I’ve lost the ability to look up; I have the sense that if I could just look at the horizon, I might see something that feels like light or hope. My neck simply won’t allow my eyes to lift enough to look. I’m staring down at the ground in front of me, at my own hands, barely able to keep my eyes from squinting shut and just not looking at anything at all but the blackness on the inside of my eyelids. I smell burning. Rubber, paper, oil, all the burning smells are on the air like a chorus of voices. Breathing is shallow and laboured. I can see wisps of my tiny little breaths curl out of my nose with my exhales after i’ve taken a tiny little breath, off the edges of my lips. The tendrils of air disappear quickly, barely real. I cannot even tell if I still need to breathe. Do my lungs want to? Do I need oxygen? Is there any? It is very cold here, which is unexpected because there are fires everywhere.

Everything is burning.

Get the salt ready.

My fingers are curled around a small spade, and there’s a bag of salt sitting next to me. My hands vibrate from the strain as I shove my little tool into the sack, barely able to lift and shake the salt on the ground around me. I haven’t cried about any of it of weeks, which is surprising because normally i’m quite prone to tears. I blink, and somehow a few more of my tears collect in the waterline, waiting to go in the bag of salt, with the rest of them.

Those were the last ones. They are all gone. I’ve been crying into bags and sitting here, waiting for the tears to turn into the salt that I’ve been spreading around, making sure nothing grows anymore.

Off on the horizon is the monster that Ruined Everything. It is a projection, a shade. I can’t see what it looks like, only that the whole place looks like this because of it. I can feel it; It is angry at me for letting it exist. It is laughing at me for allowing it to do such a phenomenal job of destroying everything. It can’t believe I’ve allowed this to happen, and at the same time, it is shaming me because of course I did.

It knew I would.

I can feel its smoke-like claws rest on the back of my neck, scratching around the edges of my throat. If I move, it pokes me a little. Somehow it is far in the distance breaking things, but also right here, on me, making sure I don’t fight.

It is my worst enemy, my bully, my critic, my oppressor, the shackles that hold me down and back. It hates everything I do; It tells me I’m bad at writing, that I shouldn’t bother, no one cares. It tells me I will lose everything I’ve worked towards because I deserve to, and because I’m a failure. I’m not good enough. It promises me that soon, my business will fail because I’m not that good at my job anyway. It tells me the people that love me will soon see what’s wrong with me, and leave. It tells me that people who don’t meet me where I’m at are better off, and I’’m to be blamed for that. It tells me I’m not worth it. It whispers terrible judgements and accusations about my heart, my priorities, my intelligence, my appearance, my intentions, and as I write these words down It is chastising me, asking me what the point of writing this is. It’s asking me why I think anyone would ever want to read it. It scoffs at my attempts at catharsis, at relief. It tells me I am wasting my time if I think any of this will do any good, or serve anyone, including me.

It’s me.

The shade is me; it speaks to me the way I speak to myself.

I am familiar with it; my brain, for the purpose of this description, assumes it’s a part of me. I am, after all, creating this reality with every keystroke. The letters form the words that spring this projection into existence. I’m choosing them, and choosing the perspective.

Everything is different from what it was six months ago. I have a new house with new cohabitants, I have new plans, new projects. I am curating spaces that are important to me. I have welcomed some people closer to my heart, and distanced myself from others. I have seen beautiful art, eaten delicious food, drank a fair amount of scotch. I laughed about things, cried about them, made jokes, enjoyed company, argued, discussed, worked, played, slept, had amazing sex, fallen in love, fallen further in love anew, stood up for myself, stood up for things that I think are important, been devastated at the world news, marched, supported people, received support. I have felt treasured, betrayed, advocated for, totally abandoned, understood, judged, free, trapped, heard, ignored, appreciated, taken for granted, seen, underestimated, humanized and objectified.

I have felt profound, passionate, soul-shattering love.

The representation of time during which amazing things have happened as dystopian, in this case, is the shade. It has to be. I can’t be the shadow of myself as I feel I have become.

I have to still be in here.

There is something resting on my neck, though. It has one talon-like set of fingers grazing me, sharp some moments and fading away into whispers the next. The other is wrapped tightly around my heart.

(Not So) Manic Pixie Dream Girl.

Once upon a time in a not-so-far away land, there was a woman. She was what most people would consider attractive, and dressed a bit eclectically and hipster-like, without a lot of effort. The pattern of her socks would clash and yet match the shoes she was wearing. She liked flowered tote bags and maybe a delicate-looking pin tucked gently into her full, messy, deeply-to-the-side parted hair and overgrown bangs. She had been meaning to get a haircut, but every so often would trim the ends with tiny scissors she used for cutting thread while sewing. Her eyebrows are full and she sometimes wears red lipstick, but not always. The polish is dark on her short nails, usually a bit chipped. This is not from a lack of attempting to keep it looking nice, but simply because she likes to do things with her hands, like woodwork, and so they chip quickly after she paints them.

None of this is very important to who she is on the inside, though. These are just physicality descriptors to help us along as we imagine this woman in front of us.

Before we look within. Where the good stuff is.

She does a job that pays moderately well for the purpose of having the finances to support her pursuit in doing other things that are of more interest her, but are not necessarily very good capitalistic endeavours. Her childhood was relatively normal, with a few mishaps that left her with a sense of emotional strength being valuable. She had a weird uncle that always hugged and kissed her too many times which lead her to be stand-offish with physical affection unless she is asked for consent explicitly, even before that became a social expectation in her circle. Her mum kept fashion magazines lying around the house that she liked to admire the images in which gave her a value and appreciation for femme presentation. She wrestles a lot with her own identity as queer because of her femme presentation, and that she is able to “blend” and not experience a lot of the marginalization some queer people cannot avoid. She has a smallish social group of people she loves, and spends time with them, but also enjoys being by herself. She goes to shows: tiny local bands or deejays in the bar down the street on week nights. She really likes animals, and sometimes fosters for the local cat shelter, but does not want to have a pet at home all the time. She gets a lot of gratification from being a safe place for kittens to start out their adjustment to stable existence. She reads books in parks on Saturday afternoons, and is easily distracted from them to just look at how beautiful the trees are. She has a sense of humour that is on the palatable-to-the-masses side of dark, but gets much darker once she is comfortable with her audience.

She considers herself to be a loyal friend because she makes time for people and in good at staying in touch with them.

She takes her coffee with a small amount of milk in it, and always cold. She pays attention to people when they are speaking to her, and smiles at strangers, especially the people she sees regularly who live on the streets in her area. This is important to her because she really values witnessing the humanity of others and having small interactions that might brighten the day of someone without precedent. She has a purple string tied around her ankle and has done since the last time she travelled. It reminds her that her next adventure will sneak up on her, and to pay attention. Sometimes she is paralyzed with sadness because of the news she sees and the horrible things that are happening all over the world as a result of prejudice and hate, but has no idea where to start in order to help solve problems so systemic and huge. She usually looks like she’s carrying one too many things with her, but wants to make sure she is prepared. She would rather have a pen if she wants to write something down, or a scarf if it gets chilly out, than not.

She considers herself to be a relatively good person, but has a bit of imposter syndrome around this because she knows she could be better.

She had thoughts, feelings, and aspirations independent of anyone else’s experience, but is also affected by the societal structures that place her in a hierarchy. She listens to philosophical and political podcasts while she commutes to work. She has interesting and thought-provoking ideas. She likes social media, and uses it as a tool to connect information she thinks is important to people she thinks would be interested. Freedom of information is important to her. Feminism is expected by her of everyone as the default; when she is met with patriarchal nuances, it is off-putting and disappointing to her, but she doesn’t expend a lot of emotional energy trying to shine light on it for others. Sometimes, she’s tired and doesn’t want to die on that proverbial mountain, no matter how tall it is in the moment.

She has been called “pretty” or “cute”, sometimes “striking” or “beautiful” her whole life, therefore places little value on the compliment but has a lot of self-worth wrapped up in people thinking she is cute or beautiful. She doesn’t really like this preoccupation.

She doesn’t really like her feet. She thinks they’re a bit too big for the rest of her frame. She also wishes her hair would grow faster because she thinks she looks better with it long, and cut it off out of frustration with the combination of it being thick and the weather being quite warm.

One day, a particularly overcast day, this woman meets a man. He is around her age range, and looks like he hasn’t shaved in a couple of days on purpose. His jeans are straight-legged. He wears T-shirts that has things on them like band logos or emblems that reference sci-fi films.

He has just been through some kind of struggle. Maybe he just found out his partner was cheating on him, or a family member has fallen ill, or a professional endeavour just didn’t work out the way he wanted it to. His general outlook was “I need something to inspire me”.

She’s sitting on a bench in outside an art studio, or some such thing, watching the people inside who are throwing clay on wheels. He walks by and she says something funny about how muddy they all are, pointing so he will look. He looks and smiles and sits down with her to make up stories about the muddy clay-throwers’ lives. They decide that the two on either end are secretly in love and haven’t been able to tell each other because they are both either in relationships or not of the sexual orientation the other is suited to. They laugh for a while and she gets up to leave, commenting that sometimes it’s nice to stop and watch what is happening around us. It’s a nice reminder that we’re not alone. He asks her for her number. She declines but takes his.

He thinks about her a lot in the next few days, and makes up all sorts of stories in his head about who she is. He surmises that she is not that good a cook, but would try anyway, and that she likes the same music that he does. She probably lives in a really cool part of town that he would like to spend more time in. He could probably talk to her a lot about his problems and she would be a good listener. He is very sad about his recent turn of events, and upon meeting the woman, he is uplifted. He thinks she is magic.

A week or two later she texts him to let him know that she is going to go eat ice cream on the side of a bridge that is particularly beautiful at sunset and he could join her, if he wanted. He has been wondering a bit frantically if she was ever going to contact him. He has made an idealized script up in his head about who she is, and how that benefits him. “She’s so pretty and unusual; delightfully quirky,” he thinks to himself. “I hope she likes me and will listen to my problems, and help me solve them in weird and unexpectedly inspirational ways.” He rushes to the bridge to meet up with her and they go get cones from a nearby shop. She has a funny interaction with the girl who is working there, and he is enthralled with how easily she speaks to people. He resolves to talk to strangers more, and mentally pats himself on the back for this revelation.

They walk down to the bridge just as the sky is starting to warm up in colour scheme. They sit on a rock off to the side of the bridge, taking in the view. They talk a bit about their week and exchange some jokes. She asks him about himself. He tells her about his job, his family, the turn of events that has left him out of sorts. Whenever she starts to talk about anything that does not directly relate to him or him experience, he steers the conversation back to things that engage and benefit him. She notices this in the beginning and squints a bit whenever he redirects. As the dialogue continues, and the redirection continues, she speaks less and less about things that have to do with her. Her thoughts and feelings remain in her mind, swirling. She changes the subject increasingly often when he is talking about something he is interested in, and he seems to somehow be able to make it about him anyway, commenting on her unique perspective helping him see things in a different way.

He does not ask her anything about herself at all.

When they have finished their ice creams and their hands are empty, he reaches for hers. She looks at him, pulling her hand away,.

“Oh. So, um, you don’t seem to get it,” she says. “I think we’re done here,” and she stands up, brushing off her shorts.

“What?”

“Yeah, so, that conversation we just had? It was all about you. The whole thing. Do you know anything about me?”

“I… yeah! I mean, you like art, and…”

She looks at him, deadpan. “We just spent an hour talking about you: your problems, your thoughts, things that matter to you. I was interested, but I was also looking forward to sharing a part of myself with you. I thought the conversation was going to be reciprocal, because you expressed an interest in me, but I don’t think you’re really interested in ME at all. I have thoughts, feelings, aspirations and lots of memories that are important to me. I think you’re interested in what I can do and be for YOU.”

“………”

“Yeah, I didn’t think you would have much of an argument for that.”

She walked off over the bridge, away from him, and they never saw each other again. She lived a full, happy life with people surrounding her that empowered her and gave her validation, which she happily reciprocated because she felt witnessed, and thinks it is as important to see as to be seen.