That early morning dew smell

7:21 am.

Window slightly cracked,

a cool breeze passes

and I awake.

The smell of dew

and birds chirping

make me feel something

I haven’t felt in a while.

I never wake up this early,

but my window outlooks the east

and I can see the sun rising-

it’s beautiful,

almost enough to keep me awake.

I haven’t written in a month,

it’s been a tough summer,

but there’s something about 

cool summer mornings.

I don’t feel so broken.

a nihilistic view on people: Shan’s story

People are good. But people are selfish. They want to help others, they want to do the right thing, but only for their own selfish reasons. Whether they believe in karma or they just want someone to owe them one, people don’t genuinely care about each other. Now, a disclaimer: this is a broad generalization. I know that. And it’s my opinion. I know that, too. Feel free to disagree, I’m just saying how I’ve perceived people for the last 26 years. 

I prefer to people watch. It’s easier on my heart. I know what love feels like and I know what heart break is, I’m fine living the rest of my life never feeling either. Now, I know what you’re thinking: but Shan, what’s the point of life if not to feel? If not to see someone you love’s car drive up your driveway and barely make out their smile from the front seat as they turn their car off, collect their things, and amble on into your house? Is the whole reason we exist as humans not to feel? To love? To hurt?

My counterpoint: you don’t need other people to feel love. Or pain. Or any fleeting emotion you so desperately crave. All you need to feel is an open road, a full tank of gas, and a playlist of your favorite songs. The right song can make you fall in love ten times in those two and a half minutes. An empty road at dusk in the middle of the summer, windows down, the sun setting in front of you, hair blowing through the wind as your arm drapes down, out the window- that’s what I live for. If I could propose to the feeling that gives me, I would. Believe me. 

I have friends, I know that’s hypocritical and makes what I said kind of shitty, but they’re the same way. We drift in and out of each other’s lives, it’s kind of funny. We drive. That’s what we do. We drive anywhere our hearts desire. And once in a while, we’ll be in the same place at the same time and we’ll reconnect. Have a few beers. Share a few new tunes. Give each other tattoos to commemorate the feeling. 

That’s how we make money. That’s how I can manage travelling across the States, a new county every day. I wouldn’t call myself famous, but if you’re in the tattoo-scene, you follow me on Instagram. That sounds douche-y, but it’s hard not to say “hey, I have thousands of followers and dozens of them send me money for my services every day” without sounding incredibly douche-y. 

I have a route that I follow. It’s not like I just go wherever. Well, route is a bad word for it. It’s more of a road-trip. A never-ending road-trip. Where I get paid at each stop. I’m an artist. I’ve been called pretentious by people who’ve asked the wrong questions at appointments, but I don’t care. I’m a nihilist. It’s not deep. I tattoo, and I drive. If you take anything away from this, it should be that. 

My car isn’t anything special. I gave it a new stereo, that’s about it. It’s reliable and comfortable. It’s not too big and it’s not too small. It fits me and my equipment. A comfortable two-seater with a trunk just big enough for the essentials. I travel alone. No one else has been in my car since Julie. 

I won’t lie to you. That’s a big part of my beliefs. Lying is pointless. People lie when they’re ashamed. I don’t feel shame. 

So, on the topic of truth-telling, I’ll tell you who Julie is. Well, was. 

Julie was my girlfriend. We were going to get married, she proposed back when gay marriage was legalized nationally. We were engaged for a year before it happened. She used to sit in the seat right next to me, queueing up songs on my phone for our long trips between tattoo parlors. She was larger than life. I’d never met someone who made everyone love them so easily like Julie. All she had to do was smile at them and they’d fall victim like I did so many years ago. She was a metaphoric light at the end of the tunnel. A happy ending. I’d been so depressed before I met her. Then one day she asked for a tattoo and I fell. It was as though any pain I felt disappeared. I laughed later on, after we had been dating for a month, about how as I was tattooing her that first day we met, I was causing her pain, and little did I know she’d soon take all mine away. Blue skies and open roads for four years.

But with every positive feeling comes an equal negative one. And it made so much fucking sense to me, how could I not see that if someone could make you feel so good, they can take that all away in the blink of an eye, the turn of a wheel? 

I don’t blame her for what happened. It wasn’t her fault. I shouldn’t have let her drive. We should’ve called a Lyft and gotten the car in the morning. I never even got my things from that hotel room, either. I couldn’t bring myself to go back after the accident. I called the hotel. Told them I’d be checking out early. Didn’t even wait for an answer. 

If you’re thinking her death was the reason I’m a nihilist, you’d be wrong. I was a nihilist before I met Julie, she just took that part of me away while we were together. She was like a cold ice pack resting on your forehead as you feel your pulse thumping at your temples. She soothed me in a way no one ever could. I didn’t think it was possible to feel that kind of relief, but she knew all the right words to make any bad feeling go away. 

When the doctors told me she wasn’t going to make it, I laughed- of all things. What else would it be? I thought bitterly. Happy endings are just stories that haven’t ended yet. This story ended with an ambulance and flooded comments for weeks. Hardly any of my DM’s the weeks to follow were about appointments, they were all about Julie. She wasn’t a tattoo artist, but she was the fiancé of one that tagged along to all her appointments. And she lit up any room she was in. People knew her name. People knew her face. They knew her aura. Of course, they asked about her afterwards. They felt bad. Not for me or for our families. For themselves. People felt bad because they would never see Julie again. Someone they’d only met once or twice. 

That’s the reason I’m a nihilist. Like I said, people are selfish. It makes me bitter. They only care so they can score points to redeem later on something they want They suck-up to me because they think it’ll get them a discount. It doesn’t. I have bills to pay just like everyone. I live in hotel rooms. It gets expensive. 

Someday, I’ll settle down, get a house, a dog, maybe stick to one tattoo parlor. That day isn’t today. When things get tough, I turn to the road. I turn up my music. And I drown out the bad. As I drive down an unfamiliar road, 7 pm, mid-July, after a long shift, I ask myself: why? I’ve been on so many goddamn roads, why do they all remind me of her? 

cowritten by my middle school self

Despair cloaked in irony,

layers of deep seeded anguish

behind a joke, a one-liner

designed to fool anyone who listens.

I smile while I lie to their faces.

With the laughter,

the one form of acceptance I know,

it’s like you want me to lie more.

What am I if not a joke and a grin?

When the jokes stop, so do your invitations,

when I can’t bring myself to keep up the facade,

you’ll leave just like they all have.

It’s not pretty, it’s an art

the way it’s all so goddamn predictable.

They ask questions that fuel their own self doubt

because they need to do better than me,

but all I ask is

what does that achieve?

Birthday Ramblings

Today’s my birthday. I’m 22 today. I’d like to take this time to reflect on all the things 21 taught me.

In no way do I consider myself a fully-functioning adult, but I’m a hell of a lot more mature than I was last year. This year has been a year for self-reflecting and personal, internal growth.

I’ve learned to speak up for myself. Though I’m still not perfect at it, I’ve managed to avoid a lot of distress and suffering by noticing when something isn’t right, and fixing it.

I’ve gotten better at managing stress, anxiety, and depression. Of course, I still fall into my old self-destructive habits sometimes, but they’re a lot shorter now, and I can bring myself back to reality sooner than before.

I can notice what I need to work on within myself and actually begin to work on it. In the past, if I know there’s something I need to work on, I’d get stressed out and fall into a spiral at the thought of having to actually try– you mean I’m not perfect?! Nowadays, I don’t worry about that kind of thing. Knowing there’s something I need to work on just means I’m one step closer to bettering myself.

Today, I just want to take it easy. No schoolwork, no work-work. I’m going out to breakfast with my family then spending the day with my boyfriend. It’ll be a simple day to relax after a long year. A good year, but a long one.

Lonely Owl

Late at night, darkened room,

windows down, a single owl outside.

It has no nest, perches on a branch beside my window.

I don’t sleep when he’s out there,

but I never bring myself to shut the window.

Because who will listen if not me?

He’s got a lot to say, this homeless bird,

and he’s always alone,

Maybe I feel connected to it-

projecting my own loneliness

onto this brown nocturnal owl,

hoping maybe if I let this bird speak

someone will let me, too.

Monument Pier (Part 2)

Missed part one? Check it out here!

Cold. A bitter, gruesome cold spread throughout Jakey’s body. He couldn’t feel his fingertips, but he was less concerned about that than where he was. He opened his eyes to find himself laying on his side on a damp and uncomfortable bed. He could just barely see a bedside table next to him, illuminated by a single dim and flickering lamp. The lamp looked to be something from an old movie. His mind jumped straight to pirates. 

Where am I?Jakey thought to himself. The last thing he could remember was jumping into Boston Harbor after that terrible fight with his parents. Was he dead? Was this what the afterlife was? Why did he feel like he was rocking back and forth? Jakey thought he would be sick. 

His eyes slightly adjusted to the darkness and noticed a window behind the table. He could barely make out a light far in the distance. Then the light was gone. It reminded him of a lighthouse, but he couldn’t think straight enough yet to wrap his head around that.

It’s freezing.Jakey thought to himself, sitting up in bed and placing his feet on the ground. Where are my shoes?His feet felt a cool breeze as he noticed he was no longer wearing his shoes and his socks were damp just like the rest of him. It was a terrible feeling, he couldn’t stand it any longer. Without thinking, he took his socks off and felt a sudden relief. 

I’m not dead, but I wish I was. This is awful. Where the hell am I?Jakey attempted to stand, lost his balance, and fell back down onto the bed. Why can’t I stand up? Is the world rocking back and forth? Or am I losing it?He squinted and looked around. At the bottom of the bed was another light and one on the opposite side of the bed, too. He was in a small room with two doors on each side of the bed respectively. Everything was wooden. 

Jakey felt delirious. He couldn’t wrap his head around what was happening until he heard a loud crash, a sound he was all too familiar with after spending years at the pier. He was on a ship. He understood that now. How he got here was unclear, but he was here now. He didn’t feel threatened, as if he was kidnapped. Hell, even if he was some prisoner on a pirate’s ship it’d be better than his old living situation. At least then he’d have something to live for. 

His mind was finally coming to. Jakey had never been on a ship before besides the time he toured his father’s boat many years ago. He knew boats rocked back and forth, but he never knew the feeling until now. Seasickness was something his father always said was for the weakhearted, but he could feel something rising in his stomach. Oh, no, he was going to be sick right now. He couldn’t see well enough to find something to throw up in, but he stood up and searched anyway. As he stood up, much too fast might he add, he uncontrollably bent over and let it all out. 

Groaning, Jakey laid back down on the bed, legs dangling off the edge and hands rubbing his temples. Voices came from behind the door behind him followed by footsteps and the creaking of an old door handle turning. Without sitting up, he watched a light illuminate from the other room. A figure appeared carrying a lamp identical to the ones in his room, but much brighter. 

“Well, I’ll be. You’re awake!” Said a deep voice in an accent he couldn’t quite place.

“You alright, boy?” A second voice said. Two figures now stood at his bedside, upside down from his perspective. 

“Mnm, got sick.” Jakey croaked. 

“Where didja get sick, now, kid?” The second voice said. The two piled in and Jakey sat up.

“Over here, sorry, I couldn’t find a place to go. It happened so suddenly. Never been on a boat.” Jakey mumbled, gesturing to the mess on the floor next to him.

“Well, that’s alright, nothing a mop can’t clean, right?” The first voice said as they inspected Jakey’s mess. 

“What’s your name now? And what were ya doin’ out at sea? We thought you were a dead man. Scared us, didn’t it?” The second voice asked, taking a mop and bucket out of the cabinet at the end of the room and began cleaning.

“Jakey. I don’t know, was trying to end it, honestly.” Jakey admitted sheepishly.

“Well, that’s not the way to go, now is it? How old are ya? 16? That’s a bit too young to be wanting to end it all, wouldn’t you say?” The second voice said.

“I’d do anything to get away from my parents.” Jakey said solemnly. 

“Is that right? They’re abusive? Guess we can’t bring you back ashore then, can we?” The first voice said, nudging Jakey. Jakey chuckled.

“Sorry for rescuing me. I really don’t want to overstay my welcome. You can bring me back to shore, I don’t care where. I’ll get out of your hair.” Jakey mumbled.

“Nonsense. Jakey. We were just talking about how we need a new shipmate, weren’t we, Artie?” The second voice said, peering up at Jakey and Artie as he finished cleaning.

“Aye. We’ve got a crew, but we could use another person.” Artie said, “Tell me, Jakey, what do ya know about the ports ‘round Boston?”

“I know a little.” Jakey lied. He knew Boston Harbor better than he knew himself. He’d spent hours a day as a kid memorizing the paths of ships and tides from his father’s charts. He would draw them on spare pieces of paper from memory in class when he’d get bored. The margins of his math homework were riddled with maps and boat designs. He could tell you where the captain’s quarters were in every boat that belonged to the harbor. 

“Don’t be modest, kid, we want to give you a safe place to live. All we ask is you help us take back what’s ours.” Artie said.

On depression and motivation

I travelled across the states

searching for a feeling.

A feeling I knew I could feel

because I’d felt it once before

years before it all went downhill.

I knew the feeling in dreams,

in books, in shows, in movies,

but I’d be lying if I said I felt it anymore.

I know I’m not miserable,

I’m not hopeless or destined for failure,

but when the sun sets, what’s left?

I remember motivation like a childhood memory,

it’s a foggy feeling I can vaguely comprehend,

so I go on walks, I go on road trips,

I try new things in an effort to bring the feeling back.

Sometimes I wonder if the world wants me.

where did the sun go

Sitting in a dimly lit room,

the light went out a week ago

and it’s rainy and foggy today.

The rain carries from outside

to deep within my soul,

creating puddles in my chest,

a type of flooding only possible

when it’s rained relentlessly for weeks.

Doctors and meteorologists 

don’t know when the rain will stop,

but they assure us it will.

It’s a strange comfort when

you know the rain will end,

but you have no idea when.

It’ll come unexpected,

you won’t be sure at first.

“Is that the sun

peering through the clouds?”

And it is. 

And it is beautiful.

Monument Pier (Part One)

Jakey had enough. The relentless screaming matches followed by forced tears and attempted apologies from his parents had finally broken him. He took nothing but the clothes on his back as he marched determinedly towards Monument Pier. 

It was late, Jakey was unsure the exact time, but the sun had already set. The only light source was the streetlamps intermittently illuminating the sidewalk. He was lucky, well, lucky was one way of putting it, to live only a mile from Monument Pier. Lucky because that was his escape, he felt free at the pier. He could sit with his legs dangling off the edge of the boardwalk and listen to the tide push and pull, the commotion of Boston Harbor echoing softly. The occasional horn of a boat leaving the harbor would carry down towards Monument Pier and Jakey would daydream about what the boat had planned. Were they a rescue boat out to save someone drowning? Or were they a transportation boat, just making their rounds? 

Jakey liked to imagine it was pirates. He was always fascinated with pirates. He had his own spin, though. They were never bad pirates. They didn’t steal or loot or kill, they just lived at sea. He was always interested in pirates, ever since he was a child. Before his father turned to alcoholism and was forced to retire, he was a ship captain for the Monument Pier Security. He would tell Jakey about the criminals they caught and Jakey would imagine they were pirates because he was 10 and what other criminals are out at sea besides pirates? Jakey loved hearing his father’s stories and he wished nothing more than to be able to hear one again, but the most his father does now is complain about the TV not working or the alleged rude cashier at the liquor store. 

His father was lucky enough to have the savings to retire, Jakey was too young to understand how hard that is for people nowadays. His father had been in the Marines for ten years before being ship captain, he was discharged when Jakey was 5 and struggled a lot. That was when the yelling started. 

Jakey made it to the pier, fighting off tears along the way. His head swimming with angry thoughts and suicidal ideations as he sat down at the end of the dock. A few fishing boats lined the dock, Jakey wished he brought his phone so he would know when to expect the fishermen. The last thing he wanted was to be around anyone, never mind his nosy, upbeat fishermen neighbors. 

The dock was wooden and uneven, various nails sticking up and loose boards throughout. Jakey knew sitting here for too long would get uncomfortable, but he didn’t have anywhere else to go. The coffeeshop he frequents closed at sunset and this was the only place he could ever truly be alone. 

He sat and listened to the waves crashing, looking out at the city skyline. It was beautiful, he couldn’t deny that. The city at night was incredible. Almost enough to stop the recurring thought in his head that uttered those two words repetitively. 

“Jump in, jump in, jump in,” his depression echoed. 

“Stop,” He spoke, tears welling up.

“Jump in,” It didn’t even sound like his own thought, as though coming from a demon possessing his body with strictly bad intentions. 

“I can’t.” His voice cracked, mouth going dry.

“You must. It is the only option.” The voice hissed. He couldn’t argue any more, his voice of reason gone, all he could think of was how cold would the water be? And his clothes would get all wet. Should he take his shoes off first?

It seemed to happen in slow motion. Effortlessly, like he was being dragged in by an invisible force. Before he knew it, he was completely immersed. He didn’t even take his shoes off.

When it’s warm outside and life is good again (besides the bugs, the bees, and the humidity)

It’s warm now for the first time

in a long time.

I wasn’t sure winter would ever end,

but it did now.

Now it’s warm nights and sunny mornings,

sipping coffee

as the trees bloom all around me.

I’ve never known joy,

at least not like I know it now,

but I know it now.