Depression Dust

Written by Rigby Celeste
Art by Karolina Grabowska

Depression convinced me to hole up in my apartment. I didn’t sleep through my days, like the movies have you believe. I tried to maintain a small routine. I checked in on my classes; though, I had no work to hand in. I made food for myself, but only convenient stuff, stuff you can microwave. I fed the cat. Nonetheless, my days felt empty. Only one part of my routine genuinely felt productive: When the monotony of my waking life overwhelmed me, I could kneel in my kitchen, pull the bottles of disinfectant from under my sink, and clean.

I would start with the rag, the one with fleur de lis indented along its length, woven like a plush paper towel. I pulled it along the length of our plastic counters and repeated. My first pass was dry. As the rag approached the cliff of the counter, individual specks of dust and crumbs and basil leaves rained on our linoleum floor. I made my cleaning process precise. I’d start in the corner where our cooking oils were kept. I picked up each slicked bottle one at a time and transferred them to the center of our stove. With effort, I could reach into the pockets of gunk where the counters met the wall, then pull all of it together and down it would fall to our checkered floor. 

Next, to the stove, where I’d replace the oils to their home and transfer the burner covers to the newly dusted corner. The crumbs on the stove were usually big. Expect uncooked pasta bits, plates of dried tomato sauce, and rat-gray indeterminate specks. Instead of the flat length of my rag, I would roll it up to give it some bulk. Down, down, down all the food would fall.

Once the stove was clear, I passed my rag along the open area next to the stove. On inspired nights this counter could shoulder tiny bowls of prepped onion, garlic, bell peppers, sweet potatoes, anxious vegetables anticipating the rush of hot oil. The next morning, I would be the one-man clean up crew. The clutter would often spill over to the far right counter in the kitchen. The counter: our patient friend. He held open boxes of cereal, unlidded bouillon, and packaging my roommates forgot to throw out. In order to express my love for him, I lidded the jars and placed boxes in the cabinets. I wiped him off until he was dust-free.

Though my counters were now spotless, the floor became victim to the crumbs. All of the dust and kibble that my rag pushed landed down below. Bits of food and plastic skirted to the far reaches of the ground. Now, my duty was to sweep it all away. I used the broom to tease the corners of the room. I could gather the bits all together like I did on the counters, but instead of discarding off an edge, I pulled it into the dustpan. Weightlessly, I’d drop the dust into the trash.

After sweeping, I finally reveled in the joy of spritzing disinfectant. It would go everywhere! For a moment, I was a child again, in a swimming pool with a squirt gun aimed at my cousin’s head. When all I could breathe was sterile citrus, I would put my bottle down and scrub. All of my frustrations and anxiety would channel into my rag. It would twitch along the surface of my counter as my wrist dug into the murky sections of my counter. When I found something stuck, I would imagine my arm dipping into the volume of the counter. I could curl my wrist, press my palm, then allow the pressure to roll through my muscles until it hit my tricep. I Press, press, press, until the spot went away. Finally, I’d step back and admire a room that practically sparkled.  In the long months of uncertainty, between depression naps and cleaning, I attended therapy. My therapist emphasized routine. What does your perfect day look like? Now I do that. On my perfect day, I wake up and before my body could switch on, I am already on my routine: wiping, then scrubbing, then sweeping. I used the same rag every time. What once was elegant in its bleach white had become green-gray with pockmarks of bright oranges and blacks. It was no work of art, but each hue stood as a trophy of a time I came and I conquered. It was not the dirt that I heroed, but the slew of white noise that replaced my brain. For at least an hour I had coherent thoughts: dust, then sweep, then spray.

Fever Break

Written by Rigby Celeste
Art by Cottonbro

I feel as if my lungs have collapsed. I am the loner in the corner of the library who jumps when they breathe. Each inhale stabs the left of my chest and I skip my next, as if my breath swallowed itself. My body is shutting down. Swollen lymph nodes around my jawline spread my neck into a trumpet. The base of my skull houses tender lumps I mistook for spider bites. My throat has inflated inside me, barricading my swallows and breaths. Can a shut down body still operate?

I cope with immersion in another world. At the hospital, I live inside the stories of Faulkner, Salinger, and Kafka. As Gregor acclimates to his hard shelled body, I acclimate to my fever state. My senses are skewed by congestion and a high body temperature. Under attack of a virus, my body produces soldier white blood cells en masse. The excess of immune cells swell the skin. The perimeter of my body expands, and I fail to adjust to the inflation. I feel like a passenger in the body of a balloon animal.  

In an abundance of caution, I am banned from visiting work, friends, or school. I am alone most of the day, only obligated to isolate. I have time to look closer around me. Yesterday I saw a car driving backward in the street. No one could do anything about it. The couple in the seats sat slumped and blank faced, like they were watching a B-rate movie.

To settle the nerves, I tell myself I am not breaking. I buy the lozenges the doctor prescribed. I take medicine. To keep the days from blending together, I make a routine out of my home pharmacy. In the morning, I suck the throat drops and in the afternoon, I take DayQuil. When the DayQuil wears off–around 4pm–I take my Tylenol. When I decide the sky is too dark for me to be active, I swallow some NyQuil and hope I don’t wake up until it is time for tea. But without fail, I wake up so stuffy I can’t breathe, so swollen my head aches as it pivots on my neck, and so sore I swear my muscles are a forest on fire. I fear the day I wake up morphed, like Gregor. Suddenly I am an ashen shadow of a forest. Imagine my skin alchemized to bark. Imagine my fever becomes the fire that minimizes me to dust. I am all singe and burn. Gone are my limbs, gone goes my heart. 

Nightmares are pounding at my perception, so life seems more disordered. I dream of a domesticated snake, loosed by its owner. Abandoned, the snake is forced to make a home from litter in the reeds. It tests its caution; It rolls its body across the peat. Shivers. The snake is reinvigorated: a wild creature finally connected to habitat. Its body orients itself to branches and mineral caves it had only known as plastic imitations its entire life. Finally adjusted, the snake curls into a log in ecstacy, when from the brambles scutter seventeen deer ticks. Deer ticks with a direction toward body heat, with hook teeth that claw through the luxurious leather of the scaled python. Ticks, the fat parasites who make homes in their food. The longer they gorge on the snake, the larger they swell. And all while the snake is drained, the ticks keep watch on the sky, fearing the swoop of a woodland fowl who might feast on their skeletal bodies. 

I wake up in fright, and sweep my skin for bites or lumps. As I come to, the panic crystallizes to pain, and I go through my medical routine again. Swallow the logenze and spoon down cough syrup. Somehow, I am not relieved. The virus which infected me is not large or living like an insect, but I am surely drained. Drained from the fever, drained from the paranoia. Yet I am uncertain said paranoia is linked to my fever. My sick days are the same as any days in the past two years: bored, isolated, and deranged. I lived a whole life before I wore this broken body. No swells, no burns, no nightmares. I was once a young dancer, a set of muscles clenched en pointe. I was an artist with intuitive hands. I ate lunch beneath trees, surrounded with laughter. Once, I was a body in rhythm with a crowd. My chest used to pound with anticipation of another body to love. I used to love. I used to be real.

I comfort myself away from this epiphany: I am not lonely, I am metamorphosed. I am the released snake. I am reunited with home in the soil. I love my rock cave. Again I swallow the syrup and the drops and the tylenol pills. I can make this work. I try to revel in the verdure, but I am cautious of ticks around the corner. I feel like a target: a tick meal. I simply must settle, must orient myself to my new home and this new normal.

Kill Your Darlings

Written by Rigby Celeste
Art by Bekka Mongeau

I come up with the right ideas far too late. I think up stronger essay topics as soon as my upload is complete. An old illustration reconfigures into a delicate composition as I scan the final draft. At times, solutions to storage problems from apartments I have moved out of will swim through my thoughts. I even mentally audition opening lines dedicated to kids I admired in grade school, now completely useless. Like a slice of life dramedy, I am the stumbling main character. How ironic I might finally find the resolution when the episode is already over! This is my burden, a tragic cycle of falling short. I am the failing clown.

I know my failure is necessary to grow. If I can conceptualize a better essay or illustration now, it’s usually the result of improvement since my last project. But why am I so attached to my last project? The grade is final and the paint has dried. I am right to reflect, but when I look at a mirror the light points back at me. Just as light bounces back from a mirror, my insight is not meant to permeate into past decisions I’ve made. I make my past too precious. Under my bed, buckling folders hold years worth of doodles since middle school. For the past ten years, I’ve told everyone I am making a game which I still have no development for. These ideas have become my identity. 

Every writing coach I’ve ever had would advise “cut, cut, cut! When in doubt, cut it out!”. No mentor was as radical as my screenwriting professor. “Kill your darlings!” She meant it as literal as was legal: murder the piece of your film that you loved the most. “In fact,” she says, “When students include their favorite line, it’s usually their worst.” Sure enough, as we read our classmates rough scripts, faux insights would stick out like sore thumbs. When we answered which was the strongest line, it would be in the place we least expect it. Students always think they know what their screenplays’ most memorable line will be. Yet, without fail, the collective favorite was unexpected. 

You will not know your most memorable line. When I entered college, I was a film student with some art experience. I thought I would make a hand-drawn, heartfelt animated show that would herald a revolution in children’s cartoons. I had a script and character designs and I even asked a friend to voice the lead. But it never came into fruition. I am graduating as a general art student with an interest in creative writing. I took my poetry class because I didn’t have enough credits in that semester; I picked up a non-fiction class because I loved poetry and didn’t want to try prose. I expect now to exit college writing freelance for various publications, but I really might not. I don’t know what my most memorable line will be. 

  I realize what my professors were pleading was not only a mechanical editing rule, but a radical philosophy. Whether it’s sentences, projects, or memories, nothing is so precious it should prevent building something better. The masters of drawing were not trying to create a masterpiece. Masterpieces happen at the end of years of practice, a process in repetition. In order to be a master, preciousness is to be eviscerated. To be precious about your ideas bleeds into the preciousness of lived moments. Sometimes reminiscing is a sign of stagnation. When I replay memories, I neglect the present. I don’t wake up and greet the sunlight, I ruminate on when the moon lighted my room. But in 12 hours the moon will be out again, and I bet I’d be disappointed that the sun went down and I didn’t enjoy the warmth when it was out. My life is not the drawings I could have made better. It’s not the grades I could improve, or the people I didn’t talk to enough. My life can only be what it is right now. How cold I feel in the room. The scent of onions and meat from my roommate’s lunch. The orange tabby lounging on my neighbor’s porch through the window. My life is now. Not precious, but certainly true. Like the masters of life drawing, all there is to do is to practice.

What International Women’s Day means to me

Written by Cam Khalid
Art Lindsey LaMont

March 8. Another typical boring day for some. And yet, for half the world, this day is one of liberation and empowerment. 

It holds a special place in my heart as a woman and as an advocate for equality. It reminds me of the daily efforts that I, as well as all the women in my life, have put in both our personal and professional lives for an unbiased world. It is also a day that has always stood to me as a strong marker for the strength of womanhood. 

Observed as International Women’s Day, March 8 is a United Nations-recognized event that celebrates the cultural, political, and socioeconomic achievements of women throughout the years. 

However, despite such significant achievements, a majority of the world still experiences a gender pay gap, lack of female leaders, lack of research in female healthcare, violence against women and girls—the list goes on. Therefore, it also marks a call to action to push for gender equality.

A major event like IWD has no geographical or religious borders, and that’s the beauty of it—to me, at least. No matter where we are on the map, IWD serves to educate and raise awareness of the daily struggles of women and girls around the world, while honoring those who have been at the forefront of fighting against gender inequality. 

Since the early 1900s, the month of March has been the focal point in the women’s rights movement. While it is hard to pinpoint the exact point in history that kick-started this movement, it has been acknowledged that the first National Women’s Day—as it was called then—fell on February 28, 1909. It was propelled into the streets of New York by a Ukraine-born suffragist named Clara Lemlich who demanded better pay, shorter working hours and improved working conditions.

Soon after, IWD was formalized in 1910 when Clara Zetkin, the leader of the ‘women’s office’ for the Social Democratic Party in Germany, encouraged every country to celebrate women one day every year while pushing for their demands of equal rights. The event gained traction around the world, starting on March 19 in 1911, before shifting to March 8 in 1913.

To this day, IWD is celebrated on March 8 with women around the world continually bringing attention to issues such as gender equality, reproductive rights, and domestic abuse through activism and protest.

That makes it a century’s battle for gender parity.

Photo by Chloe Simpson

Sadly, the light at the end of the tunnel is far from near. According to the World Economic Forum, as stated on the official IWD website, “none of us will see gender parity in our lifetimes, and nor likely will many of our children.”

However, this doesn’t mean that all the sacrifices that have been made are in vain. We still need to keep the conversations going, amplifying the voices until we attain full gender equality.

While it’s easy for me to grumble about the shocking pay gap between me and a male colleague of mine, who—mind you—has less work experience than me and does not need to suffer through period pains on the desk, I am fully aware of the efforts that my company has made to level the playing field. I have been given opportunities that have helped me with my career progression, from working with a diverse team including women leaders to having my achievements recognised with awards and even a pay rise. I was even allowed to continue working while studying for my Master’s degree.

While these workplace events have allowed me to acknowledge the privilege that comes with living in a ‘woke’ system, we also have to understand that many others are not as fortunate. According to UNICEF, 129 million girls around the world are out of school. In South Sudan, nearly three-quarters of girls do not attend schools. 

This extends beyond education too. In countries like Egypt, Nigeria and Yemen, girls are subjected to female genital mutilation (FGM). In Malta, if a man who abducts a woman marries her afterwards, he is exempt from any punishment. Last year, Poland introduced one of the most restrictive abortion laws in Europe. Therefore, it is important to also recognize and reflect on the horrors lived by women everyday.

Before the pandemic, UN Women reported that 243 million women experienced sexual and/or physical violence by an intimate partner. Since the pandemic, such violence has intensified.

To make matters worse, a 2020 UN report stated that almost 90 percent of people are prejudiced against women globally. It’s no surprise that McKinsey & Company reported that more women than men were dismissed from their jobs during the pandemic. I’ll even admit that I was working from home in fear of being laid-off, despite having a good work ethic and relationship with my manager.

As relevant as it was in 2020 or even 1909 when it all began, this year’s IWD theme is #BreakTheBias. Whether it’s in the boardroom or bar, it’s important for everyone – men and women alike – to recognize and address bias, ​​conscious or not. There’s simply no place for prejudice.

That is why I will continue to observe the annual celebration, admiring the incredible women around me, marveling at how far we have come, fighting the good fight alongside our international sisters and anticipating the lengths we have to go through to finally achieve gender parity.

Photo by Vlad Tchompalov

Solar Slide, Domestic Planets

Written by Rigby Celeste
Art by Gustavo Galeano Maz

Maybe it is as simple as everyone has told me: eat a good meal, go for a walk, soak in the sun. I live next to an outdoor after-school program. The park is not even a block from my residence; turn a corner and you’re there. When unpleasant thoughts pelt the rim of my forehead, I take myself on a walk for five minutes. Five minutes and you’re there! And once you’re there, you can’t imagine yourself anywhere else. The jungle gym twists and pulls around itself like spun candy in orange, emerald, and royal blue. The school kids swing, slide, scream and chase. Their yips and taunts merge with the songbird cries. Trees shade the walkways that spiral into the sun-lit playground. Without the leaves to shade it, the slide beams back sunlight. It becomes a star of its own. Like all stars, the park has a solar system in its orbit. 

Surrounding the jubilant playplace are rows of houses. They each vary in color, material and shape. Some are stucco with spanish tiles. Some have wooden panels and hanging flower pots. Like our own eight planets, I pass eight rows of houses: two on my street and five around the corner. Each yard is its own work of art. Imagine rows of Rauschenberg combines pulled down to lay flat in the gallery–that is what I pass on each walk. 16 compositions filled with light-up shoes, toy pianos, shovels, watering cans, cat litter, lawn chairs. Streaky, junky canvases of concrete, grass, and plastic figurines. I examine the junk treasures each person owns like I’m searching for meaning in burnt ochre brush strokes. I wonder where that small bike came from. I construct who owns the yard. The one with wilted grass and a peach toy jeep belongs to a family of five. Two of their children have already moved out of the house. And the yard across the street from them, with a wild garden and wooden windchimes, is owned by a spiritual grandma who lives alone. I prod at my fantasy tenants, trying to shape them into unpredictable characters. Perhaps that lonely grandma has a girlfriend with a beach-front retirement home; Perhaps the two children who moved out from the home across the way are Vegas stunt performers; Perhaps one house is owned only by a pack of rats!

When the real families walk out toting purses and keys, I pretend they are passing visitors. I prefer to decide what is inside the worlds of these houses. It changes every time. In that way, each walk to the park is a new adventure. I buzz to the farthest edge of my imagination. Where I once fabricated worse-case scenarios, I now paint whimsy and humor in the neighbor’s yard. My gallery walks redirect my attention from my stuttering ego, desperate for examination, to my little community. I don’t have to look to the stars and guess what I am here for. Instead, I am simply here. Here in the long dandelion-speckled grasses, with the tabbies too rowdy to stay indoors. Here with the barbie trucks, the lesbian meemaws, and the infinite possible surrounding planets. I am simply here, in my neighborhood, its own set of cosmos.

Beetle Catching

Written by Rigby Celeste
Art by Bruno Cervera

My boyfriend takes care of me. He texts me when he’s out of the house. Even if he plans to tiptoe into his own bed after I’ve fallen asleep, he cradles me in my room as soon as he comes home. I’ve got in the habit of eating his frozen foods. We brush our teeth together in the mornings and the nights when I neglected my hygiene all day. He always comes when I cry at the sight of cockroaches. 

My boyfriend takes care of the roaches. He coos out reassurance and grasps me when I shake. Then, he goes for the kitchen and steals a plastic cup. He refuses to kill. Gentle, he places a cup in the path of the animal and carries it out the door. I asked him once, “Don’t the bugs scare you too?” and he told me yes, but he sees the fear in my frown, so he just keeps his cool. As long as the critters don’t run up his sleeve, he’ll rescue me. Each time he crouches down, both hands shadowed beneath the sink, I hold my breath for his final catch. In that moment, I no longer fear the bug, I fear this might be the time the bug charges towards his body and teaches him fear. The odds are stacked against me. He smells like home, after all, where I know those animals are trying to go. When he is finally confronted with the same fears I have, will he stop rescuing me? If the roach runs up his sleeve, will he walk himself outside with it?

They say memory loss from your childhood is linked to dissociation through youth. I don’t have a memory. Totally out of it. My life is a collage of grey and white noise. The noise crowds and clogs my ears. It fuzzes my eyesight until I’m too scared to get out of bed. I feel the noise scutter across the walls around me, like thick black bugs in a glittering mob. The noise-bugs are boundless; I can’t walk without stepping into their swarm. So I don’t function. Don’t make meals, don’t clean, don’t create. I am afraid of living, afraid of the sadness my brain has created everywhere I look. My body and brain have given up against the glistening creatures. They’re the new residents of this apartment and I pay their lease. 

The only way I’ve found to get rid of the noise is a friend to clear it. My sweet boyfriend has happily taken on the job. He loves me when I am sad, and guides me out of my dissociation. My lovely boyfriend greets me daily with his kindness. He lets me eat his food and crawl into his bed on the nights I can’t sleep. He lives by a “mi casa es su casa” mentality. He feeds me even when he’s low on groceries, because I am too tired to make food myself. He soothes me to sleep even after late shifts, because my thoughts are always racing. He holds me all day even if he needs space, because I am desensitized to feeling anything. I cling to him with the stubborn grasp of a spider. I have made his cuerpo my casa instead. he My sweet boyfriend who stinks of tenderness has become my live-in caretaker. Me, I have become a cockroach on his bathroom floor, and on his principles he will not let me die. He told me he isn’t afraid of the bugs unless they hop onto him, but I’ve invaded him. I’ve risked him being afraid of me. And without him, I have been afraid of everything. I don’t want to be afraid anymore. 

My New Year’s resolution is very simple: This year I will function. I have been a zombie for twenty-two years of my life. I have no confidence in my functioning abilities and no practice to boot. I have little exercise over my executive function by nature of depression. Yet I don’t find the task in front of me daunting. I know exactly what I need to do. Like a new hire, I’ve shadowed my boyfriend as he teaches me necessary skills. He has done something radical; He has shown me love to teach me self-love. My boyfriend has never made me feel like the bug in his sleeve. Instead, he’s given me patience, care, and comfort, so that now I find myself with a toolkit I’ve never known. I get out of bed alone like we start our days together. I feed myself a small meal like the oatmeal he makes me on the stove. When I can’t sleep, I hold myself in the places he favors. My gentle boyfriend, my guide to life. Just as I have been riddled with shiny black beetles, he is built of patient cups and gentle slips of paper. He leaves them behind when he is gone. By now, there is enough to carry out every creature in this apartment.


Written by Anne Marie Ward
Art by Meritt Thomas

Why don’t I go to a peninsula in Belize? There is nothing for me here. Melodramatic, but truer than anything I have ever thought; I’m sure. I look up travel doctors in the surrounding metro area. The CDC recommends a number of vaccinations for travelers to Belize, notably a rabies shot, as it might be tough to get swift treatment if exposed. I wasn’t going to be spelunking, sure, but didn’t want my brain melting after a nip from a stray puppy. Of course, antimalarial drugs, chemical-treated clothes, mosquito nets. Wouldn’t it be the rainy season this time of year? Prime mosquito time.But this isn’t some random home in a rural town; this is a curated beachside community for digital nomads, converted from a luxury resort–all cashing in on the sudden influx of remote workers from the pandemic, charging for dorm rooms and wifi and shuttles to a grocery store at the monthly price comparable to a Manhattan studio, maybe even cheaper in some cases. The carefully-curated digital-nomad-elite-hostel situation insists that people must stay for three weeks or more; they really want to focus on building a community.

My Dear Doppelgänger

Written by Anne Marie Ward
Art by Anh Tuan To

“[…] two Popsicles are talking to each other. One accuses, ‘You’re more interested in fantasy than reality.’ The other responds, ‘I’m interested in the reality of my fantasy.’ Both of the Popsicles are melting off their sticks.”

–Maggie Nelson, The Argonauts

A doppelgänger moved into the spare bedroom. Some icy thing that looked identical to you but couldn’t possibly be. Maybe a sophisticated android replaced you in the night, dropped into the apartment by an actor of some shadowy government-adjacent agency. It crept through the patio sliding door on silent foot, clasped a hand over your mouth, and left the robot in your place to spy on me. This machine creaked around softly on the carpeted floor, avoiding eye contact and keeping to the edges of every room, while constantly processing various data via Tik Toks on loop in its palm—trying to assimilate. Why? 

Or perhaps, it was your same physical body that had been overtaken by some entity, like a demon or a parasite or a previously unknown prion disease. This entity–whether spiritual or biological– allows you to go through your habitual routine, putting you on autopilot as it slowly wastes your brain, gnawing holes through the lobes. One day, you might suddenly collapse, and strange liquids would ooze from your orifices, causing you to choke and gasp like a mad dog, mouth gaping open and shut like a koi, as those around you looked on aghast. Surely, this is why there was no longer any light in your eyes when you glanced in my vague direction, plus a vast flatness in every syllable you uttered to me—a tiny monster was eating your brain!

Really, you just dumped me.

Okay, deep breath. Breathe. Breathe. Breathe. Breathe. Breathe. Breathe.

Some comic relief:

Wanna hear a joke? Okay, so, a girlfriend begs her boyfriend to go to therapy to improve their relationship because she feels that he has no communication skills, and she is not capable of teaching them. Men aren’t often socialized to talk about their feelings. The boyfriend rolls his eyes and nods but makes no plans for counseling. His family was skeptical too, crinkling their noses, an aunt even asks, “Can’t he just talk to us?” After many years of begging, the boyfriend finally acquiesced and booked his appointment. The girlfriend was so excited and relieved; she couldn’t wait to begin learning more about each other! Mine into deeper emotional layers! During his first session, the boyfriend talks with his new therapist about the best way to end this relationship. She was right after all: what an improvement to things! He was finally able to communicate that he wanted to leave her on the way out. 

There is a delusion called Capgras syndrome, where one can become convinced that someone familiar has been replaced by a double or has been altered in some way. Most often this delusion is seen with those suffering from various psychiatric disorders, brain damage caused by dementia, or other neurodegenerative diseases. Capgras is thought to be caused by a brain’s recent inability to properly characterize and recognize faces, a type of face-blindness. Some seriously complicated memory-processing-neuroscience at play.

But here, now, in this sense, I wasn’t actually deluded, because I knew you weren’t truly replaced by an android or possessed by a demon, but boy were you doing a good job at making me feel like you were. Suddenly, you seemed so different. I no longer recognized your body language, your shape in the dark, the sound of your footsteps, the particular light and warmth in your big eyes vanished. I couldn’t find the happy creases that usually flanked them. A dozen friends texted, asking, “Why is he doing this? I can’t believe he is acting like this.” Neither could I. But you’re not truly a doppelganger… right? Right?

When had you been replaced by a version that didn’t love me? Did this version have an agenda? An endgame? The hair stood up on my arms and my stomach dropped when I approached you sitting on the couch, texting your new favorite coworker while smiling at the screen, and told you, “Doppelgänger, it just doesn’t seem like you have any love for me anymore.” And you agreed and ended things. You gently cried, sniffling. And I sobbed and sobbed and sobbed. 

My mom thinks you had been replaced much earlier than that, at least by the previous Spring. She claims she called you half a dozen times from the east coast in the two weeks before my birthday to plan something—a surprise, a cake—but you never called her back. However, your response was that you got me an iPad when I asked for one as a gift; who needs reciprocated love and affection when you can receive an iPad? You maintained that you received not a single one of her calls. 

According to you, doppelgänger you, you had been replaced much much earlier than that. I only learned this when I did the most “crazy girlfriend” thing I have ever done and read your texts after your strange behavior. I have to admit, the optics aren’t great for me here; I’d become a misogynistic trope incarnate. Crazy emotional ex-girlfriend going through your texts. I apologized for that, but it doesn’t make it okay behavior on my behalf–

I would also like to acknowledge that I was far from a perfect partner, and I struggled greatly with mental health. I am sure that I hurt you in a thousand ways, and I wish you would’ve told me more often when I did. I am so sorry for that. I was and continue to be a young and dumb bitch. I am sorry for hurting you. I hope you believe that I was constantly trying to be a better girlfriend for you. My therapists can vouch for me, at least in that small way–

—However, reading these texts did expose a number of lies that you had told about me and the intimate details you shared about me to your coworker who you would start fucking. According to you, when speaking with this coworker:

“I should’ve ended this relationship
a long time ago. I was unhappy at home with her,
with family, always at work to distract myself. I
basically threw a dart at the indeed (sic) job
wall and just mass applied and found Kansas
City. I came here to start over and learn how to
not suck.”

So why did you ask me to leave my home for you and your job? You seemed to understand that you needed personal growth when you said that you “want to learn how to not suck.” That text also suggested that you wanted to wash your hands of your old life months before moving, over a year before the breakup. Perhaps you also thought it was a Hail Mary pass for our relationship. But it seems like it was just more convenient for this version of you who no longer loved me. Afterall, you don’t need to love someone to have her help you move, clean the apartment, schedule training and vet appointments for your dog, or cum inside her even when she was kinda tired.

 Because people are complicated, it was probably both your need for convenience and because you were hoping it would make things better between us. Regardless, it still was much more selfish than leaving me in Jersey. 

My limbs shook with adrenaline while I read your texts to her. I read them aloud to you, voice buckling under pressing sobs. You needed to acknowledge how you betrayed me, disparaged my struggles with mental health, and made fun of petty things like my driving. I screamed at you in some Hyatt or Comfort Inn or Marriott in Indiana about how you betrayed me, and then you started kissing me and initiating sex. “Let me do this. Please,” you purred while removing my pants. 

This wouldn’t be the last time after our breakup you would say in my ear: “You always know what to do.”

 It was only after I stopped wanting to kiss you and asked you to wear a condom that you stopped initiating–a week later, a month later?–and the cool distance between us became something more sinister and hostile. 

In the morning, we had to finish driving home and tell our families it was over between us. With all the lights off in the hotel room, I couldn’t see you super well. I heard our lips and your breath; I smelled the hotel-sheet starch and air-conditioning and your body. I wondered that night, did I ever even know another version of you? Perhaps, it was always only this one, this stranger insisting and cajoling with his eyes flashing a strange light in the dark. 

Kansas City, Missouri


Written by Anne Marie Ward
Art by Robina Weermeijer on Unsplash

“I don’t know what my body is for other than just taking my head from room to room.” -John Mulaney, Kid Gorgeous

  Recently, a New Jersey man named Fabrizio Stabile was admitted to the hospital after developing a blinding headache and passing out. CNN reported that soon, his doctors diagnosed him with the incredibly rare and deadly condition called primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM), inflammation and deterioration of the brain caused by what is more commonly known as the Brain-Eating Amoeba and scientifically known as Naegleria fowleri. 

These critters live in warm freshwater. In the United States, they are most commonly found and contracted in the South. Stabile contracted the microbe from a contaminated water park in Waco, Texas, which was partly shut down for inspection after this ordeal. He died a few days after the onset of severe symptoms, after he collapsed mowing the lawn, after the health professionals tapped his spine and found the amoeba swimming in his clear spinal fluid. Too late to successfully treat.

Often, N. fowleri is diagnosed postmortem. It’s almost always fatal. The condition is incredibly rare, but since the occurrence is not below 0, it occurs 100% more often than preferred because of the lack of successful treatments. 

With the last few cases, albeit not all of them, physicians have had some success in treating patients, often children, with a newly-developed, powerful antimicrobial called miltefosine. They combine miltefosine with a cocktail of other antimicrobials, a breathing tube, a drug-induced coma to protect the brain, and prayers. They continue to run tests periodically, hoping to see amoeba no more.  A Florida teen survived in 2016, as well as two children treated with miltefosine some years before. Although, the one boy survived with brain damage. The only person to survive without this drug was a man in California in 1978, and they can only conjecture that was because he had a less-aggressive or weakened strain. 

Fabrizio Stabile was not so lucky, and while it might’ve been too late to treat, those close to him really tried. His family and friends already started a GoFundMe to raise money for the life-saving drug, as he lay dying.  Now the GoFundMe acts as a way to raise awareness about PAM, having raised a little over half of their original $50,000 goal.

A New Year’s Resolution: Ditching the list

Written by Cam Khalid
Art by Content Pixie

You know the drill. It’s December 31st and you reflect on everything that has happened throughout the year. You begin to reconsider the stuff you want to start, stop or continue, fingers crossed for a better future. You make a mental list (or key it down in your Notes app) of New Year’s resolutions. “New year, new me!” – you tell yourself and everyone else. Cheers.

Looking back now, most of the resolutions I’ve created were based on shallow trends, social norms or something someone has told me to change. I remember prioritizing weight loss in 2017 after a relative pointed out my weight gain: “What a waste of a pretty face.” While it was a horrible quote that lived in my mind rent free for a couple of months, it managed to get me to sign up for a gym membership.

Sure there was some good in listing New Year’s resolutions. There were undesired habits that I wanted to break and personal goals that I wanted to achieve. On paper, these looked feasible, but year after year I found myself failing more than half of my resolutions. I would give myself an excuse like lacking the funds for a gym subscription, not being mentally ready for a certain task, or prioritizing my day job over my hobbies. Sometimes it can be something as silly as blaming the gloomy weather for not completing my daily walks. 

I guess the idea of starting fresh on an arbitrary date like January 1st was easier said than done.

In 2020, I had a list that  included eating less meat, being more sustainable, travelling more and spending less time on social media – the latter of  which bombed thanks to the compulsion of doomscrolling through the pandemic. I gave myself a pass for that. And… for most of the things on the list too. It was a tough year, okay?

Then 2021 rolled in, and instead of fireworks, only uncertainty hung in the air on New Year’s Eve. So I thought to myself: what’s the point of making another list? The previous year has left me feeling anxious, burnt out and exhausted. I was completing my master’s degree and working full-time in a world that felt like a five-alarm fire. At that point, obsessing over new beginnings in the new year just felt daunting and unnatural. Creating a list of New Year’s resolutions would just feel like a mandate to fix myself in a world that’s still coming to terms with the new norm.

Two years on and the last thing I want to do is put too much pressure on myself, especially when Covid restrictions still apply. For example, the constant across all of my resolutions lists happens to be weight loss. But in the last 24 months, I’ve re-evaluated my relationship with my body. I’ve learned to be kinder to myself as my body responds to the stress. Even if I plan to go to the gym five days a week to shed a couple of kilos, I’d find myself in a sticky situation if it shuts because of Covid. Mapping out plans at this time, let alone a list of New Year’s resolutions, just seems futile.

In the name of self-care and well-being, I’m now learning to propel any toxic energy and attract only good vibes without having to rely on a list. I take time to reflect on my choices, trust my instincts and make the necessary changes, one step at a time throughout the year. And to be honest, doing so feels quite liberating, so why not continue ditching the list in 2022? 

Don’t get me wrong – while skeptics like me may stew over whether the practice is worthwhile, there’s no doubt that drawing up resolutions still makes a great way to set up good intentions. But personally, it’s the practices that are developed throughout the year that matter most. This will enable us to keep them long-term. After all, there is no one way and no deadline when it comes to achieving our goals.