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Let’s turn doing almost nothing into something to talk about.

I’m exploring my options by doing almost nothing for once. Or at least, I’m not driving to an office and sitting in between the office walls and letting fluorescent lights beam down into my eyes every day. I’m not plagued by constant dull headaches. I’m not sitting at a desk this summer.

Instead, I’ve elected to float below the surface, not quite staying afloat but also not sinking. I’m not hiding, I’m here, I’m just peering up through the surface.

The summer has developed a soupy consistency, all days are equally hot and humid. The air is moist and clings to the skin. From above, it weighs down on our brows and sends beads of sweat dripping down the backs of our necks. This summer, we are living in a fishbowl.

There’s no air conditioning in the car, so it’s a hot and heavy and necessary death trap. To travel anywhere in this vehicle is to volunteer to smother a warm pillow over our face. When the windows are rolled down all the way, the air whips by fast enough that there is some cooling effect. But this city is a knot of traffic, and most of the time spent in the car is baking into the cloth seats, oppressive clouds of air wafting in through the windows and hanging under the roof of the car. What an amazing machine, it can take us anywhere on this continent, we certainly could find the money to feed it gas, but surely it will kill us, or burst into flames. Touching the dashboard burns our fingers. Do not touch the seatbelts

But I don’t have the car this summer during the day. So this isn’t a transportation option for me in this time frame. I live in a cave, luckily, on the top floor of an apartment building built into a hill. The apartment is small, condensed, and the large windows in the back of the main living room open up to the trees sloping upward, blocking us from the view of the other apartments on the top of the hill. In order to fight the beating, violent heat from the other large windows facing out to the bare blue sky, I covered them with a vivid green tapestry with flowers and leaves curling around all throughout the design. During the day, the sun struggles to beam through these designs, illuminating the room in a light yellowish green.

I lock the door. I slide the golden chain into place. The other apartments are empty now, the fools in the office raised rent and no one wants them, and I can hear maintenance men clopping around in the building.

Most importantly, the old air conditioner runs all day long, swathed in the green tapestry and constantly filling the small space with a nice refreshing chill and droning hum. Since I’m well-aware this is racking up the electric bill, I keep all the other lights in the apartment off and the bedroom and bathroom door shut. The dark apartment, with light beaming in through the tapestry and the air cool, make the place feel like a cave.

We are living in a cave in a fishbowl this summer.

The days are so long that even when I wake up at 5:30AM there is light in the window. I’ve been sliding out of bed and we drink coffee in the morning, sitting in the same spots every day with our mugs, blessing the universe for routine, beautiful routine, gorgeous and amazing routine. Feeling scheduled brings us together, we can drag our bodies to where we know we are meant to be and put as little effort into our existence as possible. We can both buzz side by side, aware of each other, which is all we really need.

I just can’t stay in this cave forever. I need to escape occasionally and remember the world. In the middle of July, we slung some backpacks into the death box and drove up to New York for the weekend. We drove later at night, to escape some of the heat, at least. The sun was setting and the thick air composed a vibrant purple and pink sky, clouds stretching from the horizon and reaching for the center of the sky. In New York, we slept on several couches in cool apartments swathed with curtains.

We drove to the beach, walking through the molten sand dunes, heat radiating through us from all sides. The sand was clean and glimmering gold though. We fanned out the towels and lay down on a flat stretch, playing with the rocks and piling the sand up onto our bodies. The water was a blend of cool and warm, and we bounced along the sliding sand bars until we were far into the lake and everything looked small except the consistent endless blue above us.

We rolled a joint and walked back into the woods, where there was a wide creek and dunes so tall you could sit on the peak under a tree and stare straight down into the water, a solid emerald green. The emerald was so brilliant it almost seems strange, I asked, how can the water be this green? Chugging beers and passing the joint, we stood in the cold sand under the trees, a breeze teasing through the branches and through our wet hair.

But we had to return to the cave. The cave is our home. I crawled back into the icy reaches of our little apartment at the bottom of the hill, at the bottom of the fishbowl.

I’ve been working online. Pattering away at the keyboard at record speeds, selling products and making listicles for small fees, focusing on word count for hours and hours on end, playlists looping in the background and the brilliance of day trying to reach through the tapestry.

When the cool air of the apartment dries my sinuses and makes me pace, I make a cup of tea and turn on some resonant ambient music that floods the apartment. All this time, all this down time, allows me to toss over brittle old questions, prod them from a detached and neutral point of view. Where does my depression come from? What about my anxiety? I’m neurotypical, prone to anxiety, and when I fail to control it, which happens, my stress levels rise and perhaps there’s an autoimmune response. Perhaps when I’m clinging to the floor and imagining crushing my head under a cement block, it’s symptomatic of an illness, my poor lethargic body attacked by stress and my immune system doing only what it knows best and kicking into gear so hard that it leaves me a sick dog crawling on the floor.

Maybe my brain is inflamed.

I toss this question around under the ambient sounds and the buzz of the air conditioner until my mind is blank. After hours of taking huge purposeful breaths, I become empty and whole simultaneously. I am okay. This uneventful alone time involves me sharpening my knives, to fend off bad thoughts in the future. I am equipping myself to help myself. It may appear like I am doing nothing, but my mind is never inactive.

In fact, my mind has developed its own insistent little non-sensible tune about how this city is evil. Realistically I know positive framing will do me better than giving into weird fancies, and I tell myself that just because this city is squished into the hills with blankets of heat slapped over it, and even though it takes hours to even leave the evil circumference surrounding the rivers, this city cannot be evil.

There’s really no such thing.

I am safe inside a cave inside a fishbowl. I don’t need to properly emerge until September.

fishbowl

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This place is the best place I’ve ever lived—the place I’m moving out of in three weeks. Crap! I fucked this one up, probably. In my decadent unemployment, I keep walking around my apartment, wondering how I could be so stupid as to leave this. I have a balcony, I live on a one-way street that’s out of the way, I live in the nice part of a city, in an artsy neighborhood full of young people and crafty old people. I have three bedrooms, and a big dining room. Seriously, what am I thinking?

If only the rest of the city pleased me so. After four years of constant job hunting, stuck with a crappy job I couldn’t move up in, I’ve practically given up on finding a decent job here. And the partner is going back to school—this is a good opportunity to move to another city. The current one is rather stagnant, and if we stay here then we will be doing the same thing we do every year. Which isn’t bad (smoking weed and hanging with friends, tha’s pretty good!) but it’s not exactly a formula to move me along the path toward… achieving my dreams, or whatever. I’m balancing in my two hands the things that I love and enjoy, and the things that I’ve always wanted for myself and have always striven for. The fact that I’ve never done anything particularly daring (on this level, anyway) helps place more weight in the one hand.

Fuck, I should move away from here! I’ve been here my whole life. I’ve always wanted to live somewhere else.

God, but this apartment is so nice. I like that I was able to give myself this, even if it was for only a year. The whole street is filled with beautiful houses, and the house next door is owned by this sweet old gay couple who might be my favorite people ever. I think they’re both retired, but the one is some sort of landscaper or horticulturist or something. He’s outside every day, gardening. In a sunhat and jeans. His garden is truly a work of art, the most spectacular thing I’ve ever seen, just filled with flowers, no lawn. There’s a bird fountain and trees, and all the neighborhood cats love it. He also changes the flowers depending on the season, so his garden is in full operation constantly, except for when the snow covers it.

This garden cheers me up every single day. When I had work, I loved parking right next to his garden and walking through the flowers to get to my place (his garden spreads past the sidewalk). I love smelling the flowers infused into the air. I love looking down at it from my balcony. I love hearing the couple’s banter, and with all the people that hang outside their place. They’re just so great!

They have a cat named Ashton who struts around the street, old and gentle and fearless. We have several chairs out on the porch downstairs, and he sleeps on them. I always like to make friends with the neighborhood animals wherever I live, but this is by far the best group of animals. There’s a whole crew of cats, who I either know the name of or have named myself. There’s a black and white cat who looks just like Ashton, she wears a pink color, and I don’t really know her name so I just call her Ashley. (Get it? Ashton? Ashley? I’m good). She’s extremely skittish, so usually I approach her slowly and let her smell me first, but she loves to be pet. She pretty much knows me by now, and doesn’t run away when she sees me. She’ll hover around me, waiting for me to kneel down.

I was just parking my car today, and Ashley was in the parking spots outside my place. I rolled down my window and called out to her from my car in the middle of the street, “Ashley, what are you doing? What’s up? What are you doing there?” And her owner (who I didn’t know was her owner) came by and picked her up. I don’t know whether he thought I was a weirdo or that I wanted to run over his cat or what. I don’t really know what I was thinking, but she perked up when she saw me and I thought I could sweet talk her out of the spot

She has a bit of a bully, except her bully is also my favorite cat on the whole street. Jean Paul! Oh, Jean Paul. I don’t know what his name really is, he has a tag-less collar on and off, but he’s Jean Paul to me. He started off as a little blonde kitten who I spotted several months ago, and now he’s a big tiger cat with a feather duster tail and the cutest light pink nose. He’s so rambunctious, and sometimes he attacks Ashley for fun, once getting a cut on his nose from this. Had to break up the two the other day. Whenever he sees me, he rolls onto his back and rubs his head all over the ground—he loves to have his tummy rubbed. He will hide in the neighbor’s garden and leap out playfully at me when I walk by. I just love this cat, and if I didn’t have two already and this one clearly wasn’t owned, I would’ve snagged this cat a while ago. Every time I see him stalking through the neighborhood I get happy.

Forgetting the cats and their antics and disputes (I spent way longer describing that than is probably healthy for a person to do, regarding the cats outside), there are also two convenience stores down the street, as well as more gardens, a park, bars, restaurants. Everybody on the street hangs out on their balconies and porches, they grill and have people over. It’s all just so lively.

I really hope my next place is at least almost this nice. If the neighbors can be kind, that would be best. Having been evicted in the past, I grow uneasy about the other people living near me. The world has an abundant supply of crazies, and I don’t want the sort of luck that has me moving in above or below them.

Leaving this place is going to be sad, but I can’t dig down yet in my life—I need to keep moving.

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