High Concepts

Photo by Artem Podrez from Pexels

My wife and I recently bought a shelf and unpacked our DVDs and Blu-rays. Physical media seems a little quaint in this day and age, but there’s something really cool about seeing all those spines arranged in alphabetical order. A variety of fonts and colors. Lots of good memories in those cases, and a few things that you can’t reliably stream on demand.

This afternoon, while sitting on the couch and pondering those DVDs and Blu-rays, a fun little game occurred to me. A twist on the classic “[movie] meets [movie]” formula, using adjoining cases. Totally arbitrary, and definitely limited by the 250 or so titles that remain in our collection after occasional pruning.

Okay, Hollywood! I have some boffo socko ideas for you. Call my agent, we’ll do lunch:

The Edge meets Ed Wood

Imagine a low-budget film crew taking a really shitty charter flight somewhere to shoot a crappy sci-fi movie. The plane crashes in the middle of nowhere, no one knows where they are. Night one, as everyone huddles together for warmth, our enthusiastic yet not-terribly-talented director hammers out a new screenplay. Gone is the sci-fi–this is a survival story! All they need is an appropriate threat for the starlet to deal with. Cue the bear.

Josie and the Pussycats meets The Karate Kid

A transfer student tries to join the school jazz band, but lacks the chops. The other musicians bully him. He meets an old musician (think Tommy Chong as a Keith Richards-type) who takes him under his wing and teaches him how to shred. The student forms a band of other misfits, and they take on the jazz band at the All-Valley Battle of the Bands.

The Lost Boys meets Magic Mike

This may be the best one. What if Magic Mike and the boys were all vampires? They’re already creatures of the night. Stunt cast someone like Kiefer Sutherland to play the Matthew McConaughey head vampire/emcee role. Our Alex Pettyfer/Jason Patric-type is the new dancer, brought in and turned by someone with all the charisma of Vampire Lestat and Channing Tatum. (Bonus points if you can get the great Tim Cappello on the soundtrack!)

Romancing the Stone meets The Room

Did I say the last one was the best one? Ha ha ha, what a story, Mark! What should be a fairly straight forward, big budget adventure/romance has a decidedly odd, borderline Adult Swim-esque treatment. Get weird. Cast Nick Kroll in the Kathleen Turner role and Kate McKinnon in the Michael Douglas role. Make it incredibly anti-romantic. Same basic structure: prolific self-published erotica writer has to find some lost relic to save his sister. Wackiness ensues.

Time to Refresh

Classic GeoCities Under Construction gif sourced from Archive Team

My old online Photoshop portfolio recently gave up the ghost. More specifically, the folks at Carbonmade made their free service a subscription service. Good for them–make that money! But I’m not interested in paying for storage, particularly when I already pay both Dropbox and Google for additional storage. Sure, Carbonmade would give me all sorts of bells and whistles to zhuzh things up, but the point of a portfolio is my work, not the bells and whistles.

Ho-hum.

As I began picking at that particular thread, the entire EverythingAndrew.com experience began to unravel. I started this particular blog/website five years ago. That’s an eternity in online time. And aside from fixing the occasional broken link and setting up a private page for Gearbox when I was was trying to get a job, I haven’t done much to it. Basically, I’d log on every now and then and post a poem or essay.

So here we are. I’ve saved all the pages as drafts, save one: writer. It needs updating, but it’s not too far off. Everything else needs a major overhaul, and in some cases, possible deletion! I mean, sure… I can make mediocre Photoshop magic, but am I really selling those services anymore? I’m proud of the work I’ve done, but I may be a little too old for an online refrigerator decorated with my art.

Time to refresh, but that’s going to take some rethinking. And so, the ironic gif at the head of this dispatch. It may be quite a while until the refresh actually happens.

The Bubble

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Life on the Bubble

National Lampoon’s European Vacation transports the Griswalds across the Atlantic. They live out the trope of the”ugly American” with endearing charm, while poking gentle fun at European stereotypes. The overly polite Englishman. French cabarets. Italian fashion.

Early in the film, on a sightseeing tour of London with the family, Clark Griswald turns into a roundabout and promptly gets stuck. “Look kids! Big Ben! Parliament!” he says with every cycle around the never ending bend.

They spend hours in the roundabout. Night falls. His family sound asleep, Clark’s mental state completely deteriorated, he clutches the wheel and giddily exclaims, “It’s amazing. I cannot get left!”

That is what it feels like to live life on the bubble.

You have a destination in mind. You pull into traffic. You see your goal, but you just can’t seem to break through. You’re moving. You’re making forward progress—or so it seems. You’re at least putting on miles. Maybe it’s your unfamiliarity with the roundabout, maybe it’s the other traffic. Regardless, it’s amazing. You cannot get left.

An Early Bubble

My dad’s a minister. When I was a kid, Dad was an enthusiastic booker of song evangelists. Our churches and homes played host to the Whitey Gleason Singers, Janie White and the Sonlights, the great Jimmy Dell, the incomparable Jeff Steinberg, and many others whose names are lost somewhere in my memory.

My wife and I watched the 2021 flick The Eyes of Tammy Faye over New Years Eve weekend, and it brought back all these memories. In part because on one of his visits back in the early 80s, Jeff Steinberg brought a VHS tape with his performance on the 700 Club. 

Dad had a low opinion of televangelists in general, and Jeff wasn’t too keen on his experience with Jim and Tammy Faye, but you couldn’t deny the popularity of PTL. It was a big booking for Jeff, and we were all excited for him. (The man has incredible pipes and an inspiring story, by the way.)

These song evangelists were my first interaction with show business, and they were my earliest role models for how to make a living as an artist. Be professional. Show up on time. Give the audience your all.

I even had my own micro-experience with that life. On a few occasions, our family was brought to other churches for revivals, a two or three day series of services filled with music (our family singing pop gospel tunes) and sermons (that’s Dad’s bag).

We were on the bubble. My family was just nomadic enough—I went to 13 different schools in as many years—we could have made the leap from Rev. Moore and family to the Moore Family Gospel Singers. I think we had the talent for it. Dad is certainly a captivating storyteller and minister. Everytime we loaded up in the family Caddy and drove to a nearby town to “headline” a revival, dressed in our absolute best and warming up our vocals on the way, I could see the potential.

I could see Big Ben and Parliament, but the family Caddy continued to go around and ‘round.

I vaguely recall the family chatting about maybe doing it full time, but for some reason, we never really followed up on it. The last time we sort-of discussed it as a family, we were living in Chicago. Dad was pastoring a huge, multicultural inner-city church. We had enough on our hands without adding touring into the mix.

We took on gigs when they arose, but largely abandoned any notion of taking our act on the road around the same time Dad took a sabbatical from the ministry.

High on Your Own Supply

They say you’re supposed to practice creative visualization to achieve a goal. I think that’s survivorship bias. We never hear about the failures who clung onto their visualizations like a junkie, while their goals drifted further and further away. 

Life on the bubble can have an intoxicating effect. When I look back on my own experiences with various bubbles, I see the commonalities: Getting all fired up with potential energy, playing the “what if?” game, and visualizing myself having accomplished some seemingly impossible task. Do it right and you feel ten feet tall and bulletproof, to borrow a line from Travis Tritt.

We are exceptionally talented when it comes to self-delusion. As the great playwright Tom Stoppard once said, “Almost everybody today is more trying to match himself up with an external image he has of himself, almost as if he’s seen himself on a screen.” True when he said it back in the mid-1990s, and so much more true in the age of Instagram and Tik Tok.

Filtering everything through a social media lens, we develop parasocial relationships with people we actually know. We need to be careful not to develop parasocial relationships with ourselves.

Steve Martin has an interesting take on creative visualization: “Through the years, I have learned that there is no harm in charging oneself up with delusions between moments of valid inspiration.” Those delusions do charge you up, and it is so incredibly important to work on those moments of valid inspiration.

The performance-enhancing drug can’t be an end unto itself. It has to propel you into action. Otherwise, you’ll continue to race around the roundabout, pointing out the landmarks you’re trying to reach, but never quite getting there.

Leaving the Bubble

There’s a similar phenomenon written about by marketing guru Seth Godin, in his book The Dip:

The Cul-de-Sac (French for “dead end”) is […] a situation where you work and you work and you work and nothing much changes. It doesn’t get a lot better, it doesn’t get a lot worse, it just is.

That’s why they call those jobs dead-end jobs.

There’s not a lot to say about the Cul-de-Sac except to realize that it exists and to embrace the fact that when you find one, you need to get off it, fast. That’s because a dead end is keeping you from doing something else. The opportunity cost of investing your life in something that’s not going to get better is just too high.

He compares this to “The Cliff,” where you can’t quit until you fall off, and the titular “Dip,” which is that spot where you feel like you’re maybe failing, right before you hit the breakthrough that takes you on to new heights. The Cliff and The Cul-de-Sac both lead to failure.

I’ve learned a thing or two about sunk costs, and the need to reassess where you are, to make sure you aren’t holding onto something simply because you’ve already invested too much of yourself in it. I’ve quit relationships, jobs, hell, entire towns where the only thing keeping me in was the sunk cost. It stings, but ultimately I can see where it was the right choice.

When you add the bubble to sunk costs, you get something else. A peculiar kind of trap where the sunk costs feel like a smart investment, because you can see the landmark you’re trying to reach right over there. Maybe you see members of your own cohort somehow cross through that thin, shimmery boundary that turns to brick when you approach it.

So you charge yourself up. You continue your rounds. You get nowhere. But you could get somewhere… you could. 

Pulling yourself out of that situation feels awful. It feels like a personal failing. You wonder what it all meant and if you actually accomplished anything with your time. You didn’t just commit time and treasure to the sunk cost, you committed yourself.

And what do we do when our ego gets bruised? Lash out. My father-in-law had a great adage: “If you can’t want it, hate it.” Your psychic survival is on the line, so playing the sour grapes game only makes sense. You need to insulate your bruised ego and nurse it back to health. But allowing yourself to get embittered by the bubble is just one more way the bubble wins.

I don’t have all the answers, but I do know that at any given moment, you’re making the best decisions you can based on your best understanding of the situation. You can’t beat yourself up for dreaming big and going for it. Most people don’t get that far. 

So what if you couldn’t navigate the roundabout? Most people never leave the driveway.

Santa’s Big Red Ass

It was on a Christmas Eve, not so very long ago, that two lost souls found each other. One, a mythic man, larger than life, dressed in red, the other a simple ass.

In the mountains of Spain, a powerful winter storm kicked up, suddenly and without warning. Santa Claus, not one to fly willy nilly into whiteout conditions, landed his sleigh. According to the weather elves back at the North Pole, the storm would soon pass. He was running a little ahead of schedule, so he had the time to spare.

Bitterly cold, Santa poured himself a cup of hot apple cider from a spigot installed on the dashboard of his sleigh. Ordinarily he would have hot chocolate, but he had just completed his run in Germany, where thick cream accompanied the delicious cookies. He needed a break from dairy.

As he checked over the reindeer’s rigging, he heard a sad braying on the wind. Santa turned, and through the driving snow could just make out a small brown figure, shivering in the distance. Santa approached this figure with great strides, and soon towered over a pathetic little ass.

“Whoa ho ho,” he exclaimed. “This ass is freezing!” He scooped up the little fellow in one arm, and offered it a sip from his hot apple cider.

The ass sipped a little at first, but was soon greedily drinking up all he could.

“Slow down there, little guy!” said Santa. Santa held the ass up and looked him over. “You are a cute ass!” he exclaimed. Looking around, there was no sign of civilization. “Who would abandon an ass like you?” Santa cuddled the ass in his burly arms, and turned back to his sleigh. 

“Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen! Comet, Cupid, Donner, Blitzen! We have company!” Santa made a little bed for the ass next to him. The ass settled into a big fluffy blanket. “This ass is exhausted! Let’s finish our rounds so we can take him home!”

And so Santa flew off into the night, delivering toys to little boys and girls, while his ass waited for him in the sleigh.

Mrs. Claus wasn’t too crazy about Santa bringing home a strange ass.

“Santa! Why would you bring your dirty ass in here!”

“Aw… he’s just a little ass, after all. And he’s freezing still! Here, put your hand on my ass!”

Mrs. Claus gave Santa a look, but did as requested. “My! Your ass is cold! Let’s get it close to the fire!”

They kept watch on the shivering little ass all night. No matter how hot the fire, how thick the blankets, nothing seemed to warm up Santa’s ass.

Suddenly, Santa had a brilliant idea. Remembering how the ass responded to hot apple cider, he fetched a piping hot bowl for the ass. The ass came to life, and started slurping up the delicious drink. 

Santa laughed, cheeks aglow. “That ass can’t get enough! I’m going to name him Cinnamon!”

And so he did. Months passed, and Santa’s little ass grew larger and larger. It must have been the hot apple cider, because while he grew he also changed colors! No longer was he small and brown. Santa’s ass was big and red!

Another Christmas came around, and to everyone’s dismay, the reindeer had all come down with a reindeer-specific strain of coronavirus. They were in no shape to pull Santa’s sleigh. At wit’s end, afraid he’d have to cancel Christmas, Santa suddenly had a brilliant thought.

“Cinnamon!” You see, asses are known for their ability to pull great weight. And an ass as big as Santa’s could surely pull his sleigh!

“Okay, Cinnamon,” said Santa. “I need you to do me a huge favor tonight. You see, all the good little boys and girls of the world are counting on me to deliver presents. Do you think you could pull Santa’s sleigh?”

Cinnamon lifted his chin and looked out across the starry sky. He knew that out there were hundreds of thousands, perhaps even millions of children counting on Santa. This was the moment for Santa’s ass to shine. Cinnamon looked Santa in the eye, and solemnly nodded his head.

“I’m going to put some magic reindeer flying powder in your hot apple cider. This is going to make it so you can fly.” Cinnamon drank deep, and instantly felt the magical charge shoot through him. “Let’s go make some children happy!”

And so Cinnamon pulled Santa’s sleigh that night, taking hot apple cider breaks to stay warm against the frigid cold. When they pulled back into the North Pole, all the elves were waiting to cheer. Even the reindeer, sick though they were, came out to beat their hooves on the ground in salute. Mrs. Claus held out Cinnamon’s favorite blanket. She was definitely going to pamper that ass tonight!

Santa scratched Cinnamon’s ears and gave him a kiss on the nose.

“You did a great job tonight. I’m so happy I found you last year! I may have rescued you, but you’ve returned the favor tonight!” For the first time Cinnamon could remember, he felt warm. Not because of blankets or hot apple cider, but because of a job well done.

And that’s the story of Santa’s big red ass.

Apropos of Something

Thinking back to riding the bus in… Tyler? Longview? Shreveport? That time in life is a blur. But I remember this one kid on the bus, older than me, who was under constant attack from a group of four or five bullies.

He suffered their abuse in silence. Once, it was storming outside. The bullies took up a seat in front of him and opened the window wide. Rain poured in, pelting this kid. He held up his jacket as a shield and didn’t say a thing.

No one else said a thing. Not the bus driver, no one. In my defense, I was a couple three years younger than the bullies and their target. A pipsqueak.

Some of the other kids laughed, some stayed quiet and averted their eyes. The most I could do was sit by the kid. Ask him about the NASA sticker on his notebook.

“Why are people piling on this person?”

Rather than join in, I want to find out more about the person being dog piled. What am I missing? And I want to know for myself, not just trust the so-called “wisdom” of the crowd.

“Ask not for whom the bell tolls,” and all that.

I’m not perfect, and I’ve definitely been a bully from time to time, but for the most part, my instinct is to slow down and learn what I can about the dog piled. Maybe it’s because I’ve been bullied, too. I don’t know.

What I do know is the dopamine hit from piling on isn’t worth the IQ drop from turning off your curiosity, or blunting your capacity for empathy by acting cruel.

A high school friend once shared an essay with me about kindness. It moved her and it’s really stuck with me. (That might have been the point, come to think of it. I could be a real prick back then. She might have been trying to instruct me—out of kindness, of course.)

Basically, there’s a difference between being “nice” and being “kind.” Being “nice” is empty and obsequious. It’s compromising your integrity to make other people comfortable. Being kind doesn’t mean sacrificing your integrity; it means don’t be a dick about it.

“Nice” is shallow and pretentious. “Kind” is engaging on a human level.

It’s a simple thing.

“Do you want to work at NASA someday?”

“I don’t know. Maybe. I just like the logo I guess.”

I wonder where that kid is now.

Liminal

I enjoy watching YouTube channels devoted to old, defunct theme park attractions. Channels like Defunctland, Yesterworld, and others offer highly entertaining and informative deep dives into one of my most favorite topics: ephemera. Maybe it’s a lingering side effect of working in live theater, but I have a fondness for things that just aren’t built to last.

Sure, a place like Disneyland seems timeless and in a constant state of renewal, but I first visited the part in 2001, when it was desperately in need of some TLC. I’ve seen how quickly the timeless can crumble when neglected.

Last night, I watched a video that has stayed with me all day. Offhand Disney’s “Liminal Spaces at the Disney Parks”:

A transitional space that is neither here nor there.

It reminds me of growing up in “flyover country,” mostly in rural Arkansas and Louisiana, looking up at the night sky and picking out the distant blinking lights of a passenger plane. Thinking about the people inside the plane, who left one destination city bound for another. That was a very liminal time in my life.

When my wife and I moved to Los Angeles, I felt that I had finally arrived. In fact, I had passed from one liminal space to another. I don’t think I really appreciated it at the time–I was too busy trying to make that transition to notice where I was–but I can reflect on just how magical it was.

There’s a buzz in Los Angeles. It’s a liminal space for so many people; hundreds of thousands of other people simultaneously transitioning. Actively working on it. It’s energizing.

In reading about liminal space today, I ran across this meditation by a Franciscan friar, Father Richard Rohr:

“There alone is our old world left behind, while we are not yet sure of the new existence. That’s a good space where genuine newness can begin. Get there often and stay as long as you can by whatever means possible.”

Much like Zeno’s arrow I think we sometimes forget that we are constantly in a state of motion. Constantly in a liminal space. We have an illusion of being at rest, but we are nevertheless firing forward into the unknown, towards some distant target that will mark the end of our flight.

It reminds me of something I wrote in my journal, not long after moving from Los Angeles to our new home in Dallas. “Life is a series of interlocking interludes. Rolling French scenes that meander through time. We make our entrances and our exits, as does everyone. You can’t replay the past or perform your future roles before their time. All you have is now. Don’t squander that and you’ll do fine.”

More from Fr. Rohr:

“Cheap religion teaches us how to live contentedly in a sick world, just as poor therapy teaches us how to accommodate ourselves to a sometimes small world based on power, prestige, and possessions. A good therapist and a good minister will always open up larger vistas for you, which are by definition risky, instead of just ‘rearranging the deck chairs’ on a sinking Titanic.”

Lately I’ve been missing the old me. The “cocksure and arrogant” me who dreamed big and boldly chased down those dreams. The me who is capable of commanding an audience, inspiring others, and creating marvels. Not because I desire power, prestige, or possessions. Not at all. Because I miss the way it makes me feel. I miss dancing at the edge of risk, creating ephemeral experiences that nevertheless echo forward into the lives of others.

Much like Disneyland, circa 2001, I feel like I’m slowing falling apart. Yeah, I’m getting older. I was 26 years old when I first set foot on Hollywood Blvd. I’m 46 now. But it’s more than just routine body stuff, more than just sleep apnea, anxiety issues, occasional aches and pains.

I don’t know what I’m doing anymore. I guess I never really knew what I was doing, but when I was in my 20s and 30s at least I didn’t know that I didn’t know.

Fr. Rohr says, “If we don’t encounter liminal space in our lives, we start idealizing normalcy.” I think it can work the other way, too. You can start idealizing normalcy so much that you shut yourself off to liminal space. The liminal is all around us. The only constant in the cosmos is change, and we are very much a part of the cosmos.

I need to open up to larger vistas. I need to figure out how.

The Evil Thing

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I don’t know where it came from
Somehow it’s always been there
Watching, taunting, mocking me
Blinkless eyes and empty stare

I must’ve thrown it out
A thousand times before
To find it back again
And watching me once more

I locked it in the attic
In shadows black and deep
For once I felt so peaceful
For once my fears could sleep

I went about my life
The evil thing was gone
And yet it lurked above
Its moment yet to come

And come it did one day
When feeling battered, living,
I found it waiting for me
Familiar comfort giving

Slowly I succumbed
And falling at its perch
Delivered to it offerings
With reverence besmirched

As the world outside grew colder
The evil was an ally
My confidante and succor
On whom I could rely

But it was I grown cold
My own eyes grown dim
The evil wore me down
I ushered in the grim

I’ve woke up to the truth
I know it’s not my friend
I know it wants to kill me
It wants to see my end

I want to throw it out again
Remove it from my midst
But I can feel it watching me
Its blinkless eyes affixed

I made a home for evil
And turned my back to all
Alone with the empty eyes
Of a simple kewpie doll

Split the Page

It’s been a minute since I posted anything here. “Life’s what happens,” etc. My wife and I have been slowing moving into our new house, so I’ve been otherwise preoccupied.

The good news is, the packing process has turned up a bunch of random scribblings. This is a poem fragment I wrote in 2018 (I think).

Unfocused eyes split the page
I rub them into alignment
Too many thoughts are lost
As the eyes wander away

Wrist protests the motion
Of scratching ink onto the page
Which is, again, split
I rotate the wrist
I close the eyes

So many thoughts are wasted
I can’t pour them out fast enough
Can’t scratch enough ink
Across fractured pages

Super Powers

Photo by Elti Meshau from Pexels

It should be obvious from the tags and such, but this is a work of fiction. Just putting that out there so you don’t think I’m insane. (Feel free to think that for other reasons.)

If you could have a super power? What would it be?

It’s a game kids play with each other. I’ve never answered it straight. When I was a kid, I would say stuff like “deadly farts” or “explosive boogers.” Always a joke. The truth was, I didn’t have to daydream about a super power. I had one.

My entire life, whenever I’ve been around a bully, the moment they inflict pain on their victim, I get a flash. A knowing. More colorful than full-color, more dimensional than 3D, I perceive that bully’s ultimate weakness. Not some physical thing, like an Achilles heel, no. I see their ruin.

The thing, the one fact about that bully, the linchpin of their very existence, the thing that hurts them most. I then, at that moment, have the power to completely and utterly crush the bully. With just a few words, I can open up their very soul and hit them at their deepest point.

I remember the first time it happened. A bully in the recess yard named Greg Artz pushed Renee Andersen off her swing. He laughed, she cried. Fuming, I hissed just a few words to Greg: “It’s your fault he left.” Greg’s face went pale. Tears poured down his face. He was out of school for a week.

Was that a fair punishment for the crime of pushing little Renee off her swing? What about all the Renees that came before? Or would have come after? When Greg came back to school, I always hovered near. If I ever saw him get that wicked look in his eye, all it took was a look. He backed down.

It’s an awesome power, and one I take very seriously. “With great power comes…” you know the rest. To be completely honest, I have misused it a time or two. When the bullying is acute or accidental, and when the existential dagger I can throw would in some way benefit me. A work rival thoughtlessly saying something calloused. A work rival who then has to take a leave of absence for a while, to tend to the nervous breakdown he had in the men’s room later that day.

I suffer for those. Not with a nervous breakdown, divorce, attempted suicide, or a lifetime of crippling anxiety. But I do get violently ill for the next 72 hours. I can’t keep anything down. Can’t sleep. I look like death at the end of it.

These days, I mostly ply my trade online. If you’ve ever been eviscerated by a cyberbully who suddenly disappeared online, never to be heard from again, I probably slipped into their DMs. “Your mother died thinking you hated her.” “She is sleeping with your brother.” “I know what you did to your sister’s hamster.” “Your father is right about you.”

I’ll be honest, I do get off on it. Maybe that makes me a bully. Maybe I’m as sadistic as Greg Artz. No one would know it. I’m actually a pretty nice guy. Unless you’re a bully, of course. Whatever (okay, I’ll say it) evil impulses I have are well fed by my bully takedowns. 

I’ll admit to a certain sociopathic thrill at shaking an asshole to their very core, and I don’t regret what I do. Hell, I wish I could be there to witness every act of bullying, everytime some rotten bastard puts themselves in a position of dominance over another human being. I love being able to turn the tables on someone just as they are feeling powerful at another’s expense. 

But truly, you have to believe me, that’s the only darkness in my life. On the whole, I’d say I’m pretty well adjusted.

Okay, pretty well adjusted, all things considered. Just last year, I followed a guy through traffic. He nearly drove another driver off the road, a longhaired kid with a honest-to-God peace symbol painted on his hood. As the bully’s head rocked back with laughter, I saw his ruin. I followed that jerk halfway across town before he finally pulled into a sporting goods store. I think he was the manager or something. 

He didn’t see or notice me–another possible super power, but I’ve never really tested it. I waited until he was alone, at the gun counter. I leaned over and said just five words to him. A look of horror washed over his face. I left.

Out in my car, I thought I heard a gunshot. I couldn’t be sure. It wouldn’t be the first time an encounter with my uncanny ability would end that way.

It sounds like I’m bragging. I don’t mean to brag. I shouldn’t brag about something so horrible. But I’m trying to be radically honest these days. Have you heard of radical honesty? It’s a movement, there’s a book. Anyway.

I have to tell someone this. This next part. And you have to understand that everything I’ve told you is the truth. Do you remember Aaron? Two houses over. Yes. The one who disappeared for a few weeks and turned up back living with his mom in Des Moines. I saw him yelling at his kid one afternoon. I almost regret breaking up the family, but she is so much better off without him.

Do you believe me?

So this is the next part. Something happens to me if I don’t use my super power. It makes the sickness after misusing it look like a spa day. Sick like I am right now. You’ve seen me like this before. Last March. That wasn’t the flu. This isn’t the flu. 

There was a bully at church who I knew had some health issues. That wasn’t his ruin–no his ruin was something far more pernicious that health issues. But, knowing that most of us have bullying impulses that we keep in check, and knowing the kind of pain he was going through, I tried to show some mercy. 

It wrecked me. I thought I was going to die. I spent almost two days straight online. I destroyed a message board–so many bullies in such a small space. It wasn’t until I found a YouTuber who posted videos ridiculing various comic book movies that I was able to turn the corner on it.

Yes, the one that killed himself.

I’ve started getting sick again, and there’s nothing I can do about it.

There’s a guy on tv… I’m sorry, I can’t say his name without wanting to throw up. I mean literally. You know him. Everyone knows him. It’s just constant vitriol. Constant belittling. He has his favorite targets, and he goes after them all the time. And the hate he inspires in others–God! There’s an echo effect to his bullying that I can feel in my bones.

The thing is, everytime I witness his bullying, everytime my bones shake, I get nothing.

No flash. No “knowing.” No color, no depth. 

And it’s slowly killing me. I can feel it. The sheer weight of what he does to people is too much. I can’t offset it with internet trolls and road rage assholes.

I have to tell someone. I’m going to die. If I confessed some personal horror at how easily I can inflict pain on the cruel, I hope you would understand–the horror this guy makes me feel is hundred times worse. 

Evil has always been a relative term. Oftentimes the people I dispatch have an “evil” that’s caused by some past trauma. What I do to them is also “evil,” I suppose. But this guy, he’s Evil. He doesn’t have a soul.

My God, he doesn’t have a soul!

Hi, My Name is Gerund

Hi, My Name is Gerund

I am aging
My hair graying, thinning
My waist expanding
My clock is ticking
My past extending
My time is fleeting
My heart is beating
My lungs are breathing
And my body moving
If somewhat slowing
And also aching

But at least I’m present
Not yet present perfect
And far from perfect
Far enough along
To see the end and the beginning
And always beginning
As if to forestall the end

And so I’m running
Ever striving
Goddammit! Trying
But I would be lying
If I were saying
I wasn’t fretting
The day my gerunds
Stop