A Robot Drives Me Home

Written by Cassidy Bull
Art by Alejandro Skol


A beep—the sensor scans the chip in my arm, clocking me out for the day. The automatic doors of my office building slide open, and I breathe a sigh of relief as I step out. 

The city’s bustling swarms me as I head to the bus stop. People glide across the sidewalk, wearing the latest i-glasses. Texts and TV and video games scroll over the lens screens. The skyscrapers are covered in digitized advertisements. Everywhere, there’s no respite from all this urging to buy.

Three different pop-up holograms appear in front of me as I walk. Prostitute androids coo and coax, claiming they’re more lifelike than ever. 

I guess the city’s algorithm senses my misery. 

I pass straight through them.

I can barely remember life before it turned robotic. 

Once I reach the stop, I stare down at the screens built into the ground while I wait for the bus. 

I hate the bus. But it’s better than the self-driving taxis, which often malfunction. Despite the deaths every day, they’re still the most popular mode of transportation. Their original design was faulty, something with the proximity sensors, but profits would have tanked if they issued a mass recall. So they didn’t. Only the rich own their own cars. The rest of us sign waivers saying we won’t sue if we die. 

I keep waiting for someone to do something about this artificial existence. Sometimes I think I might. I’m not sure what I would do exactly. I could burn down the server district, or plant a garden. 

The bus stops in front of me. 

I peer at the faceless robot in the driver’s seat. I shouldn’t get on. I don’t want to. But if I don’t, I’ll get a visit from the government androids, asking why I broke routine. 

With a sigh, I swipe my wrist under the scanner on the bus’ side. 

The doors open.

Death on the Page

Written by Cassidy Bull
Art by Steve A Johnson


I write about what it’s like to exist every day. That’s the purpose of an author. To explore the human condition, picking it apart until every ounce of our experience has been put into words on a page. 

I write about divorce. Mine wasn’t messy, just a relief. I write about growing up on a farm. Ill-prepped for city life. I write about writing. It’s easier to write about the struggle of writing than to actually overcome the struggle and write. 

I write about existence. It comforts people to see themselves in others’ words. The words themselves are rarely comforting, but to see our experience spelled out is the ultimate consolation—a validation of our experiences, no matter how disturbing those experiences may be. 

But what about what it’s like to not exist? To write about death is to truly wade into the unknown. 

When my mother died, all I craved were words that captured my feelings. I just wanted to be less alone. To know that someone somewhere had gone through the same thing and come out the other side.

It was impossible to find something that emulated the gaping cavity in my chest. The way my lungs felt pierced and drained of air. The way my heart had been carved out. The way my ribs seemed to crack under my own emotional pressure. 

Everything I read was disappointing. Some books came close, scraping the surface of my grief, but never diving fully into the state of my psyche. I wanted every nook and cranny of my lamenting spirit displayed and available to the world. Available to me. I wanted to see myself imagined by someone else. I wanted assurance that my anguish was appropriate. 

 When I couldn’t find anything to comfort me, I decided to write the words myself. But they wouldn’t come. For weeks, the blank page stared back into me as I stared into it. Whenever I thought some semblance of an idea was taking shape in my mind—the inability to fall asleep at night, the tongue like lead in the mouth when a friend asks how you’re doing, the paralysis in the kitchen after realizing Christmas dinner would never be the same again—my fingers would try to form it into language as a potter would with clay. But my hands could not mold the vision. 

I remember slamming my laptop closed and letting the sobs shake me until I passed out on my desk from exhaustion. 

Why was this up to me? Why has no one bottled this emptiness and turned it into familiar vocabulary? But if I could not type out my grief, I couldn’t expect others to type out theirs. Perhaps we are doomed to suffer alone. 

Since I was incapable of writing about grief, I figured I would write about death. But what is it like to die? Only the dead know.

I have seen death written as dark and nothing. The darkness closes in. And then there is nothing. But we do not know if it gets dark. And we do not know if there is nothing. 

I wonder what my mother saw as she died. Was there a light? Or did the light go out? Dylan Thomas urges us to rage against the dying of the light. Do not go gently. But what if life was not gentle? Life pummeled my mother. Widowed her on my first birthday, destroyed her home with a hurricane, and demanded a grueling battle with incurable cancer. Life is uniquely brutal to everyone. Perhaps our own personalized suffering is the only thing we all truly have in common. 

What if death is gentle? The grim reaper might hold out a bony hand and guide us slowly through the threshold toward our inevitable nonexistence. I imagine death was relieving to my mom. Like a breath of fresh air. I witnessed her last literal breath. A small sigh, as if shedding the burdens the world forced her to endure. 

I find peace in eternal nothingness. Like sleeping, but without the nightmares. 

How do I write about nothing? How do I describe the absence of everything? 

If the aftermath of death is not nothing, the writing process grows exponentially more complicated. I do not know how to imagine the afterlife, let alone describe it. Did my mother’s soul find my father’s? Are they holding hands and floating through space, exploring the cosmos? 

If a god exists and has blessed them with an eternal utopia, perhaps they finally got to take that road trip across the country my mother told me they always wanted to. She spoke with such longing in her voice for what could never be. I hope it can be now. 

If there is a god, what’s the point of living? What’s the point of all this suffering? Life requires torment. Demands pain. Why does existence not just begin in the afterwards? 

I can’t write about grief. I can’t write about dying. I can’t write about death. I am incapable, unqualified, and unimaginative. 

The words I long to write remain unwritten. My hands hover over the keyboard, twitching with frustrated energy that has nowhere to go because twenty-six characters and a handful of punctuation is nowhere near enough.

Maybe there are no words. Maybe that’s why they don’t exist yet. And why I cannot create them. The lack of words describes the hollowness, and any attempt to fill the page with lettered description would present a lackluster account of death and dying. Perhaps the blank page is more indicative of grief than any attempts at words could ever be.

Coffee House Ideas

Written Cassidy Bull
Art by Eak K


The espresso machine behind the counter gurgles, struggling to add the last few drops to the cup underneath. Two baristas move quickly—it’s rush hour—taking cash, washing blenders, drizzling syrup, adding vegan cream, pouring Colombian goodness into to-go cups. I don’t know how they keep up with it. Fast-paced—I’ve never been good at it. 

Writing—I’m pretty good at it. It’s Thursday. I’ve been at this cafe every day since Monday. A table in the corner with dim lighting, where I could peer over the top of my computer at the endless variety of lives streaming in the door and back out again, coffees in hands. With this many stories right in front of me, you’d think inspiration would arrive along with them. 

My boot taps against the wooden floor in time with the beat of the lo-fi music emanating from small speakers in ceiling corners. With every pat, I feel the sole bind for just a moment to the perpetually sticky floor. With every piano note, I feel the soul of almost-jazz players immortalized indefinitely by digitized records. 

Maybe I could write about music. A book about a musician. No, I didn’t know anything about music. I gave up the violin when I was ten. The only thing I remembered was the eternal crick in my neck from the awkward way the instrument had to be positioned. Now, I just enjoy the talents of other people, reap the brilliance from someone else’s hard work rather than my own. 

A young woman with three kids who all look the same walks up to the counter. One kid, barely as tall as the counter, attempts to peer over it. The woman, I’ll call her Anna—she looks like an Anna—orders and pays with a card. I don’t hear her words, but I imagine she asks for an extra shot of energy. One kid, with long hair that hasn’t been brushed in a while, holds onto Anna’s leg as if afraid she would float away. They move to the end of the counter where the finished products are spit out. The wait begins. One kid, spinning around in circles, perhaps out of boredom, sings the alphabet song a little too loudly. Anna hushes. 

Maybe I could write about Anna. A book about a mother of triplets, just doing her best in this mad world that doesn’t appreciate mothers enough. No, I didn’t know anything about mothers. I had a good one, but I wasn’t one. I didn’t want to be. 

I want to be a writer, not a caretaker. Whatever the gene was that makes people want to raise mini versions of themselves, I didn’t have it. I want to live alone in a lighthouse, not in the suburbs. Climb the skinny spiral staircase to the spinning bulb larger than me and look out over the waves crashing into sea stacks. Watch the ships in the distance, knowing they’re watching me. Breathe in salty air and breathe out beautiful books because I’d have all the time I’d need to weave words together. My memoir will be subtitled In The Lighthouse. Admirers of Woolf will appreciate. 

Until then, I’m stuck in this coffee shop. Waiting for inspiration to walk in and strike my mind, then ideas will flow from my fingers like lightning. I stare at the empty document in front of me. The text cursor endlessly blinking, mocking. I hate that tiny vertical line. 

Maybe I could write about this coffee shop. A story about trying to write, trying to find inspiration in the people who enter while I watch from the dimly lit corner table, tapping my foot against the floor riddled with remnants of old spilt coffee, as I dream about a hermit future, accompanied only by far away boats and my own crafted sentences. No, that’s stupid. 

The baristas start to wipe down tables, subtly informing us they are closing soon. I pack up my stuff. I’ll be back tomorrow. 

Another day gone. Still the same blank page.

Not-So-Far Future–Glimpsed

Written by Cassidy Bull
Art by ArtTower


Sometimes, when I go outside in the one-hundred-degree October heat, I let myself believe that one day I’ll live where it’s true autumn in autumn. Where leaves grow red and fall into a crisp swirling breeze, then settle on pavement that doesn’t melt rubber soles. Where seasons are seasons and snow drizzles calm heat waves. I’d love to live somewhere with trees.

My grandmother tells me of long-ago winters, back when the cold still came. She says she used to wear jackets outside. I long to be where sweaters are in style, where they don’t make you sweat in seconds. Those places barely exist, spread few and far between, condensed to pinpoints near the poles—destinations only the rich get to be. 

I see them on my phone: the kids of the exploiters, posting insensitive photos and captioning them with ignorance. Last week, the son of the big tech mogul posed with the only polar bear still breathing. A too-wide smile and a peace sign. As if peace were something we all would know. It’s not their fault they were born into the one percent of humanity who’d come out of this sixth mass extinction alive. But they choose to not know better. 

Once the planet’s tipping points were passed—they came and went, about as uneventful as Earth Day—an acceptance of hopelessness settled over the world like a dense fog. (Not to be confused with the literal smog coating the planet’s surface. That was already there.) It was funny, really, how quickly we all gave up. Though, I suppose, we did that a long time ago. It was nothing like the movies, the epic action-packed ones where aliens invade, or an asteroid is on its way to obliterate us, and every country puts aside their differences to come together as one and save the world. Maybe global heroism doesn’t apply to disasters of our own making. 

When I’m in the mood to be really depressed, I’ll read news articles written a couple decades ago from the online archives. When it was reported that salmon were being boiled alive in their rivers, entire states went up in flames, and the ocean caught on fire. And people just… didn’t do anything about it? I mean, can you imagine? 

I used to believe that if the people back then caught a glimpse of my daily routine, they would’ve done something to prevent it. But some did predict this future. I’ve found long-ago-published books, buried deep in the dust-riddled shelves of the nearby abandoned library, prophesying the very existence I have now. It was hard to read them, both because the pages were brittle and falling apart from the heat they’d been sitting in, and because it was chapter after chapter of cautionary warnings and cries for planetary help that I knew went ignored. 

While sipping my dirty water ration, I let myself think about the ancient pictures I’ve seen of serene springs, of clear blue sea, of non-acidic rain, and I imagine that the grimy liquid running down my throat is fresh and pure instead. It helps to get it down. The water might be slowly killing me, but I drink it to stay alive. 

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from existing sometime between a mid- and post-apocalypse, it’s that dystopias are only fun in books. Reading about someone starving is a whole different experience than actually starving. Tyrannical governments are only exciting when the protagonist burns them to the ground. In reality, we do not rise up, and the ground’s been scorched since before I was born. 

Sometimes, when I think about how teenagers used to worry about summer jobs and first kisses, I let myself imagine a life where I’d be living and not just surviving. Where I’d look forward to each day, instead of dreading them. Where I’d breathe in the beauty of the world, instead of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. Where I’d look out over the valley and see birds and buffalo and bees surrounded by green, instead of their bones crumbling atop the long-barren wasteland. 

I never let it get too far—the daydreaming. I’ll never know a world that isn’t grey and gutted, burned and battered, decrepit and dying. If I stop accepting that, I might start to hope. Hope that the God my grandmother sometimes prays to hasn’t actually abandoned us. Hope that I’ll win one of the six lottery tickets for the upcoming launch to Mars that would likely kill me anyway. Hope that it’s not too late. Hope that we can save ourselves. 

But hope is useless. Just take a look around. We’ve never been safe from ourselves.

Words from the Brine

Written by Cassidy Bull
Art by Sergei Tokmakov


Most think I’m empty, but I’m far from that. In actuality, I’m quite full—filled right up to my jagged cliffs and smooth shore edges. The vast majority of the living reside within me. I encompass most entities on this planet. I cover most areas on this planet. Parts of me run deep, deep towards the core. In some places, near the sandy bottom, the core oozes through cracks, burning me, but my frigidity solidifies it. Parts of me run shallow, shallow towards the surface. In some places, near sandy beaches, surface dwellers enter, disrupting my tranquility, stealing species from me. They slip right through my white-capped fingers. 

            Despite superficial separation drawn onto maps, I am one. I am one, yet I am not a monolith. Every piece varies, every partition holds new happenings. The top of my head and the soles of my feet remain perpetually frozen—iced skin with borderline frostbite. I like it that way. It balances my eternally sweltering belly, where an imaginary belt marks the exact middle. Here, sun rays beat down year-round—surface water warm to the touch, and summer isn’t seasonal, but everlasting. My shoulders and my knees fall somewhere in between, depending on the angle of this planetary entity. 

            My behavior is highly dependent on the weather. Storms ravage pinpoints of me that touch air. Whirling winds throw me everywhere, cause rolls to swell, spinning me (tornado equivalency) up into the sky until my water spouts far away from me, to altitudes I don’t like. I prefer zero altitude. After all, I am sea level. 

I’ve got veins and arteries, carrying my blood around, across, down, and through—capillary currents like a conveyor belt, transporting dissolved needs. 

            Life’s constantly teeming. Microscopics and megafauna swim, skitter, and slither from epipelagic to benthic zones, thriving throughout my water column. Meters deep within me, light begins to lag: it can’t pierce my density. Rich blues fade to black, a dark gradient into full absence of light. Unless you’re crafted by evolution for this particular ecological niche, you won’t survive. My depths are merciless. They disorient and use pressure to crush. Lurking always are beautiful monsters accustomed to the bleak, and they’ll strike as soon as they see you because sustenance stays sparse. 

            Existence, as you understand it, began within me. First organisms flourished here, all alive in a single cell. Proterozoic proliferation. The biodiversity today was billions of years in the making, a time scale very few can fathom. Every strand of DNA carefully crafted over extensive time. Your flesh is an extension of me, your bones an expansion of me, your lungs an extravascular version of mine. You’re an externalization, but you’re nevertheless me. 

            We are the same. With such a limited number of elements on this Earth, we are all bound to be the same. You need every piece of me to survive. And yet you steal from me without returning. No give, just take. There’s no balance in what you’ve become. My equilibrium interrupted, skewed, severed. I’m trashed, polluted, drowned in oil. You can’t even survive in me, yet your debris has infiltrated even the parts of me you’ve never seen. Man-made manufactured abominations sink to trenches that should be left untouched. I’m littered with your residue, choked by your unbothered hands, massacred over and over by your machines. 

            For such a small species, you really pack a poisonous punch. I thought the most intelligent breed would be smart. What a stupid thought of mine. You’re unable to exist in harmony with what created you, with what allows you to live. You’re a parasite. Feeding selfishly. The detrimental effects of your existence are omnipresent, continuing to flaunt your artificial omnipotence, under the false impression you’re omniscient. 

            Do you think it is wise to destroy the very thing that keeps you alive? You believe you’ve been gifted profound wisdom from the divine, imparting you unrestricted access to exploit Earth in its entirety. You think your creations are beautiful, but you’re just constructing monsters. You think I hold the beasts, the freaks, the horrors within my depths. Down in the darkness you’re so afraid of, the darkness you try so hard to eliminate with fake illumination. You think I contain the monsters. The real monstrosity is right where you stand. Look down into your depths—that’s where true darkness lives.

            I am decaying from your needless alterations. I am with one foot in the grave you dug. I am in extremis, repeatedly brutally beaten by you, as if my blood dripping is beautiful to you. I am in anguish, the misery you’ve so misfortunately inflicted on me has led me to a petrifying point of no return. I am damned, and you are the cause. I am the ocean, and you are killing me.

the ride home

Written by Cassidy Bull
Art by cottonbro


fond memories of the roads
in my hometown
small winding streets slithering through the night
woods and swamps on either side
where the moon can’t reach
there’s no money for street lights
so semi reliable headlights we rely on instead
heart pattering too fast
passenger seat
gas pedal too fast
drivers seat
lengthy highways
no scenic view
left lane solely
passing perpetually vacant parking lots
then sun heat shining through untinted windshield
aviators polarized barely shielding eyes from florida sun
arms hang out beat up pickup truck windows
tanned from elbow down
high school habits cemented in me now
I always take the back road to the market
I always cut through old friend’s neighborhood to dale mabry main road
all roads lead back
nowhere
I remember a boy who used to drive me
around sometimes
to places with people barely known to me
and around sometimes to
venues on corners with friends from class
I liked the way he drove
at night
down back roads too accelerated
too sharp turns
only one hand steering
sometimes none
a few times lost
who needs maps in hometowns?
not us
occasionally misplaced ourselves on the way home
at midnight
just a tad turned around
righted ourselves though
signs marking next county over read
turned right around
driving now in my own hometown a trip down
memory lane
etched in asphalt
in signs marking exits
to the coffee shop where I skipped school
to the now closed down diner with Elvis booths for two
to the park with the bench on which first kissed
exits I take but don’t stay because memories stay in the past
so I drive past
merge back to main road
because side streets remind me of that boy who auxed my favorite album
blaring loud
windows down
I never told him it was my favorite
maybe that’s the boy I should’ve kissed
too late
I can only see him in rearview mirrors
he’s just a memory now

PapasWarStories

Written by Cassidy Bull
Art by Mark Vegera


Drafted to Vietnam,
eighteen years young,
already an aircraft
mechanic.
Through the Air
Force flown across the world with brothers, one
in a set of dominoes.
Bought a car on the base
for two hundred dollars—
a tradition,
a rite of passage.
Drove too fast for fun down the length of the base
and back again, and again,
fixed it up when it broke down.
Sold the car upon leaving
for two hundred dollars—
passed on the tradition,
the rite of passage.
Stories within stories told
of legendary pilots,
of visiting villagers,
of writing letters home.
Aviator impossibilities,
evasive maneuvers upside down loops and twists, narrowly
avoids being shot down.
Unreal claims, but when
Papa climbed up for repairs,
the wing top was sticky and damp— covered in rice paddy remains.

Terraced grain fields
carved into mountain sides, glorious greens seen
from the hill.
Densely forested terrain
interspersed with rolling plains, fog follows all, floods follow typhoons during monsoon season.

Drafted to Vietnam,
but that’s not entirely true.
Papa was almost drafted,
enlisted instead.
Knew if he was drafted,
he’d have to fight the futile fight. Enlisted to be a mechanic
so he could fix, not fight.

Dead Poetry

Written by Cassidy Bull
Art by pixabay / 8385


I’m a poetry writer for a literary journal, but this month I’m coming up blank. The theme for this publication is death. I had no say in it, I’m not an editor. Needless to say, I don’t write poems about death. I write about love, flowers, the sky, the way entire cities streak by on long car rides, the smell of old leather-bound books stacked to impossibly high ceilings. Poetry should be pretty. Death isn’t pretty. 

After reaching out to my fellow poets, I’ve concluded they don’t mind the romanticization of the end of existence. It twisted my stomach and constricted my throat when they said just write about the elegance of gravestones, and just write about the gracefulness of falling into darkness. Just. As if it were some minuscule, easy, everyday task. 

Gravestones are not elegant. They’re thick, heavy slabs of rock with jarring letters to mark the positions of rotting corpses under the ground. Falling into darkness is not graceful. Falling is terrifying. And falling always comes to an abrupt, eternal end. 

Nevertheless, if I don’t write a poem, I don’t get paid, and it’s already arduous to make ends meet. The life of a poet is not as glamorous as it may seem. Though, I don’t know of one successful poet who didn’t suffer. Occupational hazard, I suppose. Maybe I should channel them. 

Following in the footsteps 

of lives taken too soon—

far too often by own hands.

I write about pieces of the world that bring me joy because I don’t like to look too far inward. It’s scary in there. Instead, I look outward. In hopes, perhaps, that some of the brightness might find its way to me. I admire those with the capability of turning their agony into art. But to do that, you first have to face your agony. It’s easier to bury it. Like the dead. Maybe I should get over myself. 

To write about death is fragmentary. 

Ink on paper compares not 

to deeply cut misery, 

grief gouged into chests. 

Words come not close to the everlasting 

anguish accompanying annihilation. 

I will not romanticize death. Mine will be the only piece in this magazine that doesn’t. I’ve witnessed enough dying to understand the glamorizing of souls’ demise is false advertising. Life is beautiful because it is alive. When it ends, it ends. Often without warning. Death arrives, but it doesn’t tell you when it’s coming. It’s like rude relatives who show up and take your food, your time, without asking first. No notice, a knock at the door, devilish smiles. They steal from you. Steal you. 

Death— the ultimate absolute. 

Wraps bony fingers around hearts 

and squeezes 

until it beats no more.

The dead do not return, 

they remain.

Gone.

Dead once, dead forever.

Only pieces stay—

their remains.

None of these poem scraps are very good. I suppose it’s alright if this month’s not my best. Everyone has some bad work to their name, right? My boyfriend told me just write a few lines, make it rhyme, and get over it. Yeah, he’s not really a connoisseur of the arts. Which is fine. It would be nice, though, for someone to be a little more understanding about this irritating internal struggle of mine. Just. I really wish I could just write a few lines, make it rhyme, and get over it. I mean, I am trying. 

Poetry and poem lengths are so interesting. Very few people can write an effective short poem. You have to really pack a punch in only a few words— every syllable brimming with purpose. It’s exhausting. I’ve never gotten a poem shorter than twelve lines published, I tend to embellish. One of our poets is brilliant with haiku. I am constantly in awe of her ability to move me with seventeen syllables. Five, seven, five. It seems so simple. They sound so effortless when you read them, but they’re essentially impossible to create. 

Aggressively long poems are troublesome too. You have to hook someone and keep them on the line to captivate for pages at a time. It seems exhausting. I’ve never even attempted that feat. One of our poets attempts it every time, and every time the editors cut it, slash it, wreak havoc until it’s a fraction of what it once was. Extensive elongation is often a symptom of the inability to know where to end. Fortunately, I always know where to end. I always know when poems need to die. 

Death belongs

not just to the living. 

The end of things—

ubiquitous.

Friendships evaporate, 

great loves expire, 

stories dissipate, 

poems die. 

A bitter end finds all. 

Destruction is never far behind creation. Everything croaks. From the moment existence begins, decay commences. As we move through our lives, we are moving toward our deaths. The first word of a poem is one word closer to the poem’s fatality. Our first breath is one breath closer to our last. Despite the pervasive myth of immortality, the only real certainty is mortality. 

It’s not something I like to think about. The futility of my being. Thinking about it leads to the mind pondering existential questions with no answers. Only the dead know the answers, and the dead tell no tales. I don’t like to think about it, but I do need to write about it. To write about it, I need to think about it. Death. Inescapable. Unwanted. Relentless. Perpetual. Omnipresent. 

Maybe that’s what I should write about.

The universality of death.

Morning Monotony

Written by Cassidy Bull
Art by geralt


The steady beat of beeping yanks me away from bad dreams every morning. The alarm gets set for 8:55 because 9:00 is too on the dot, too exact. If the time ends in a zero, or god forbid a double zero, it feels overly formal. Why do we schedule things for the even times always? A lifetime of being occupied at o’clocks has led to eternal anxiety about the start of hours. Racking my forgetful brain to triple check I’ve nowhere to be. 

After a few snoozes of the beyond annoying, headache-inducing racket, I drag myself off the mattress that was born before me and onto shag carpet from the 70s. Another day, another zombie stumble to brush my teeth. Mint in the morning, always too sharp a flavor. But those other toothpastes are even worse. I saw a cinnamon one at the store once and literally shuddered at the thought. 

Every so often, when I’m scrubbing bristles over my slightly yellowed teeth, despite the package’s whitening advertisement, I’m struck with overwhelming indignation because I’m going to have to do this underwhelming activity twice a day, every day, for the rest of my goddamn life. Too much of our time is dedicated to housekeeping ourselves. Evolution failed somewhere. 

I’ve found that I suffer from chronic boredom. It plagues me. It makes me roll my eyes and sigh a deep, bothered breath in the direction of things that really ought to be interesting. Books that are praised for slow burn I end up throwing across the room, movies without action make my eyes glaze over. I used to like painting, but now I’ve used every color, there’s no new shade, each brush stroke looks the same. Sudoku’s too easy. Crossword’s no fun. I’ve run out of hobbies. Too impatient for chess. Too cold out for golf. Too alone for bowling. 

Maybe I’ve hit a lull in life. Graduated college, couldn’t get a job— even entry level positions require years of experience. Been bartending for a while, at least there’s some chemistry in that. Maybe my degree won’t be totally useless. 

I spit out as much toothpaste as I can and head to the kitchen. With a sigh, I pull open the fridge, knowing it’s futile. It’s practically empty, yet I stare into the white shelves anyway. Maybe if I stand here long enough, letting the chill flow over me, groceries I’m too lazy to buy will appear. They don’t appear. They never do. I resign myself to coffee for breakfast again. Coffee isn’t a meal, I know that. I know that. But it’s going to be today, just like it has been every day this week, because I cannot bring myself to go to the sad, abnormally beige store with food for sale that has a 50 percent chance of sporting a long-passed expiration date.

It’s hard to escape routine. We fall into patterns so easily, even if we’re trying not to. Wake up, brush your teeth, put on socially acceptable clothes, go to work, hate it, go home, figure out what the hell to make for dinner, watch a show, go to bed, start the cycle over again. Wash, rinse, repeat, or whatever. It’s mundane. Who decided life should be this way? Why was society designed to turn us into pathetic, unhappy, unfulfilled worker bees? Actually, that’s an insult to bees. Bees are cool. They get to fly around, dance to speak, make honey, and allow life to flourish. Bees literally keep the world alive. What the fuck do we do for the world? 

What do I do for the world? I pour drinks to suspiciously young-looking 21 year olds and straight up suspicious-looking 40 year olds at the shitty bar near my high school where I used to be a suspiciously young-looking “21” year old. I had aspirations. Have. I have aspirations. They’re still there, somewhere. Hopefully they’ll stick around for a while. 

The coffee isn’t bad. I sip it slowly from a too-bright orange mug. I like coffee. It gives me the energy I’ve never had naturally. I flip open my laptop and press the spacebar impatiently as it, like me, takes too long to wake up. Lately, I’ve been browsing PhD programs. If I can’t get a job, maybe I can get a doctorate, and then get a job. Maybe I could just get the doctorate and then teach. Warn the future generations about the horrors of post-college life. 

More school sounds like a drag. If I go that route, I’ll be in academia for the rest of my life. I’ll be bored for the rest of my life. What other option do I have? At least in grad school, I’d have the opportunity to not be a waste of space. I’d have an opportunity, which was a stranger to me now. I could do some research, sure it wouldn’t be interesting, but it would still, like, contribute to something. 

I down the last of the coffee— the bitter bit at the bottom. The empty mug goes in the sink next to three other empty mugs from the past few days. I tell myself once again that I’ll wash them later today. I’m always telling myself I’ll do things later, and I never do them later. With life too. Everyone tells me I have time to figure things out. I tell myself I’ll figure it all out eventually. If I’m being honest, though, I won’t. God, how am I supposed to know what to do with myself? 

My dwindling clean clothes greet me when I open the closet door. My ever-growing pile of dirty clothes on the floor grabs at my ankles, trying to pull me down. I almost let it. It would be so much easier to just collapse into a pity puddle and let myself expire. Maybe I should. I wouldn’t have to endure this morning monotony for another goddamn day. Maybe I’m depressed.