Riverside

We were sitting next to the river. The water was quietly rushing past. A light breeze caused the nearby trees to rustle. I let my bare feet soak in the water. My friend was throwing stones into the river, trying to make them skip.

“Hey, look, that one actually managed a little bounce! I saw it!” I encouraged.

“Yeah, just a little bit. There has to be something with my angle; I used to be really good at this.”

“I remember. It’s been years.”

We were both quiet for a short while. My friend threw a couple more stones into water, and none of them bounced off.

“Forget about it, I don’t care if they skip anymore. I’m done.” After saying that, my friend came and sat next to me. My friend’s feet weren’t put into the water.

“How’s your mom doing?” I asked.

“I don’t know. I haven’t seen her in a couple months. I thought she might swing by for my birthday, but no luck.” My friend picked up another stone and tossed it into the water.

“I’m sorry,” I said.

“Don’t be,” My friend replied. “It isn’t your fault. At least you care enough to ask.”

I looked down at the river and sighed.

“Hey,” My friend said. “Chin up.” My friend put his hand underneath my chin and lifted my face up. I turned my head to look at my friend. “After all, you and I are still here, right?”

Take Note

Someone found a note on their ride home. Does it mean anything?

I hopped onto the bus, paid my fare, and walked to the back to sit down. On the way over, however, I saw a note. There was a small, pink square left on a seat. It was left in a somewhat standing position, but it definitely looked like it was supposed to catch someone’s attention. The bus was empty besides me.

I picked up the note. On the side that was facing me was a drawing of a crown. It had three tall points, and three small circles under each point. The tallest, middle point also had a taller circle beneath it. Above each point was a small line, that almost made the little crown doodle look like it was shimmering.

I sat down where the paper was. I flipped it over to look at what it said on the opposite side.

“Sometimes we must sacrifice something good for something better or best.”

I chuckled to myself. They added two words, and made the phrase sound kind of awkward. I flipped it back over and though about the quote some more.

Do we really need to sacrifice things to get better things? Or are the things that we think of as good sometimes actually not, and we don’t know that at the time? Maybe the note is telling me to let my comfort go for the chance and something even better.Maybe someone was just waxing poetic and hoped it would make a difference in someone’s life.

Either way, I slipped the note into my pocket and took it home with me.

Doodles

It’s important to take care of your pets, and okay to worry about them

I stepped to my front door. It had been a long day at work, and I just needed a break. I figured that I could just sit around and nap for a while. I think that I earned it, considering how rude my manager is.

I took out my keys, and unlocked my door. It slid open, my key glided out of the lock. “Doodles!” I yelled for my cat. I waited for a second. How odd. Normally he’s right at my feet the moment I open the door.

I began to walk around and look for him. “Doodles?” He wasn’t anywhere to be seen. “Doooooodles!” I heard a faint meow at that, coming from my room. “Doodles!” I was concerned at this point.

I walked into my open door frame. I looked down. Doodles was just lying there, breathing harshly. A pile of vomit lay near him. “Oh god, Doodles, what’s going on?” I panicked a bit. Doodles had never actually been sick like this before. I picked him up, and wrapped him in a blanket. I needed to get him to the vet’s.

I carried him away and put him in my car’s passenger seat. “It’s okay, buddy, I’ll get you better in no time.” Do veterinary clinics even have a pet emergency room?

Doodles mewed faintly. This looked bad.

I started to speed. I only hoped there weren’t any cops waiting to ticket me.

I continued driving to the clinic. I had him caught up on all of his vaccines, why is he so sick? I braked at a stop light, eager to continue. Maybe he just bit a bad bird or something while he was outside? The light turned green, and I pounded the gas. What if he caught avian flu or something? Can cats even catch diseases like that? I turned right into the parking lot, and parked as close to building as possible.

I hopped out of my car and ran to the other side to get Doodles out. I picked him up, to which he mewed again. I rushed inside the clinic. “Hello Miss, would you like some help?” I sighed in relief, and handed the man Doodles.

“Yes. I came home from work to see Doodles on the floor of my room next to a pile of vomit. I don’t know what’s wrong, but I think he needs attention right now!”

The aid smiled. “Of course ma’am. We’ll get Doodles attention right away,” he handed Doodles to another aid, “In the meantime, I’ll need to you to fill out these forms.” He handed me a clipboard. I took it, and thanked him.

I filled out the papers as quickly as I could. Name, Address, pet’s name, medical problem, insurance, the works. I had basically memorised all of this, since I took doodles in at least once every three months. I took the form up to the attendant. Then I waited.

I looked at the clock. It only took me a couple minutes to fill out the form. I had only been here for about ten minutes. I doubted that they would have examined him that quickly. I tapped my toes. Who knew how long it would be until they called me in? I had never had an emergency like this before. I looked at the clock again. Only a minute had passed. I leaned forward and put my head in my hands.

I tapped my fingers. I tried to avoid thinking about what could be wrong with Doodles. Instead, I thought about my three day weekend and all of the naps I would be taking. Yet, Doodles usually sleeps on my bed with me, and my thoughts fell to him anyway.

“Sophie?” Oh thank god. I stood up and walked over to the same aid who greeted me. “Right this way.”

He led me to my usual doctor’s office. I wouldn’t have guessed he was on emergency duty. The aid opened the door and let me in.

“Sophie, good to see you are well,” Doctor Rhodes greeted me. I got straight to the point, “How’s Doodles?”

He turned to my cat. “He’ll be fine by tomorrow. He just caught a rough bug that’s been going around the neighborhood. Just keep him inside for a couple weeks, and put him next to food and water for tonight.”

I smiled and laughed. “Thank you so much, doctor. I was so concerned that something really bad was going on” He laughed, too. “Just make sure you don’t speed on the way home.”

I wrapped Doodles back up, thanked the doctor once again, and brought Doodles home. “I’m so glad you’re going to be okay.”

A Wintertime Tale of Asexuality

During a wintertime festival celebrating snowfall, Ash has to explain asexuality to ver mom.

I was walking down the cold winter street with my mom. We were at some sort of winter festival thing, where people got together to celebrate the snowfall, and subsequently the runoff that would supply us with water during the summer. I had only heard about it this year.

The festival always took place on the 21st of December, the winter solstice, every year. It didn’t matter if it had actually snowed or not, apparently, because this year there wasn’t any snow yet. Well, there was a bit on the mountains, but not any down here.

The festival took up about two blocks of the city, and the roads were filled with small vendors selling all sorts of things, as well as a few street musicians. They were mostly playing Christmas songs, which I found quite irksome, but it was nice that there was music anyway. I always liked hearing acoustic musicians, but could never actually find the time to go out and listen to any. I just wish they’d choose some song other than “Let It Snow.”

I saw a cart filled to the brim with books. I stopped and looked at it, while my mom walked ahead without noticing. Picking up one of the books, I noticed it was some schlocky romance between a city girl and a country boy. I put it down and picked up another. This one was a schlocky romance between an alien woman who crash landed on earth and a farm dude. Shaking my head, I grabbed a different book. If you couldn’t bear to guess it was schlocky romance. This one was between two detective girls though. Neat to see some queer representation, I guess.

“Ash, what are you looking at?” Mom shouted at me. I guess she noticed I fell behind.

“Oh, it was just some books. I thought I might find something cool, but it was all romance,” I replied. I put the third book down and walked to catch up with Mom.

“Ah. You sure none of it would interest you?” Mom seemed to be hinting at something. I wasn’t a fan of that.

“No. I’m not really into romance. Or dating.” I picked up the pace a bit, hoping that forcing mom to move faster would distract for long enough to not ask about it.

“Yeah, but those are just stories. They aren’t real or anything.” Turns out my plan didn’t work.

“I know. That doesn’t mean I’m going to enjoy them.” I pushed my mom toward a small pizza stand. The smell was rather tantalising. I also figured I should sit down for this conversation.

“I’ll have a slice of margherita,” I told the stall worker. “Anything you want, mom?”

“I’ll have what he’s having,” she replied.

“Ve. What ve’s having,” I corrected. I paid for the pizza slices, gave the worker my name, and then sat down at a small table nearby.

Mom sat down with me. “So who are you attracted to?” she asked.

“I’m not attracted to anyone,” I told her. “I don’t really experience attraction like you do. I’m asexual.”

“Oh. Okay.”

The stall worker called my name and I grabbed our food. I was surprised my mom had let that go so fast. I was sure she was going to keep pressing for my sexual and/or romantic preferences. I don’t really think she knew what the difference between the two was, though.

“So if you were to date, would you rather date boys or girls?” She asked immediately as I handed her the pizza.

“Yup, there it is,” I said. “I’m not going to date, and the answer really doesn’t matter. So please stop asking.”

“I just want to know, that’s all,” she added trying to seem innocent.

I sighed. “Mom, I don’t feel attraction. I’ve literally never felt attracted to anyone to the point where I wanted to date or have sex with anyone. The most that I’ve ever done is conflate thinking someone was cool and maybe a little cute with feelings of attraction when I actually just wanted to be their friend. I ended up making supposedly romantic gestures to these people and pushing them away because of it. I’m not attracted to people.”

“Well, of those people you liked, were more of them boys or girls?” she retorted.

“Jesus, you were sitting on that response, weren’t you? Neither. Well, that and it’s kind of reductive to only include binary genders when I’m nonbinary. I don’t even like being called a boy in the first place. I literally changed my name to escape that kind of gendering.”

“Oh. Right.” Mom took a large bit of her slice of pizza. I think she was biding her time before she said something else. Which I guess I was the one who opened up that opportunity in the first place by buying food. Oh well. I took a bite of my own slice.

“I know you said you’d never get married a few times. I guess it makes sense that that should extend to dating,” Mom said after a few moments of quiet.

“Thanks for realising,” I said.

I was content to sit silently for a while, but Mom seemed to want to keep talking. “I guess I’m just curious.”

“Curiosity is fine,” I told her, “but that implies learning. You were really pushing for boys or girls in your questions. You should have asked a new question instead of reframing your old one.”

“I see.” After that she was okay with just eating and listening to music. A nearby group had started performing Auld Lang Syne.

Trainyard

Every step I took left a crunch as I passed over rocks and leaves. The sounds of my footsteps were accompanied by the sounds of birds singing in the distance. Overhead and on a bridge, I could hear cars driving by occasionally.

Around me were painted trains. By that, I mean trains and train cars that had been painted on. There were covered in graffiti. No one had driven these trains in years, so the art just kept accumulating. It took me a few minutes, but I eventually did find an empty spot on the side of a car. The train itself was a dingy red color, and its paint was chipping away in spots. It was exactly what I wanted.

I dropped my pack onto the ground next me. I kneeled down and started going through it. I took a few cans of spray paint out of the bag and put them down. After I had the colors that I wanted, I stood up and dusted my hands off on my pants. I picked up a black can, shook it up, and sprayed it onto the train car.

After a while, a dark black oval sat on top of the rusty red. I tossed the black can onto the ground, and reached down to grab a different color.

I might’ve been there for hours, just spray painting this train. I had emptied at least two of the cans that I had brought, including the black one I used for the background. After I was done making my art, I slid backward and admired my work. It was better than I had ever imagined putting onto a train car.

I took the remaining paint cans, the ones that weren’t empty, and put them back into my bag. I had left my mark in the trainyard, and that’s all I had wanted to do.

As I left, I could still admire the art around me. I know that graffiti is supposed to be a crime, but how can anyone hate something so wonderful?

Let’s Not

“Great view from down there, huh?”

“Yeah,” I replied. I was laying on the ground, taking photos of the party lights that shone on some trees.

Whoever said that walked away, and I took a few more photos. More than anything, I didn’t want to be here right now. Yet, I had to be. It was a scholarship required event. So here I was, laying on the ground, taking photos of lights on leaves.

I could hear the music and shouts of excitement coming from the crowd less than 20 feet to my right. I sighed.

I haven’t really felt much connection or want to connect with any of these people. The closest I had to a heartfelt moment was a really awful conversation that went like this:

“I really want to get into law, because I love politics,” he said.

“You love politics?” I asked.

“Yeah. They’re great.”

I sighed. “I mean, politics themselves aren’t great. By the standards of ‘politics,’ I have to debate my own existence with more people than I care to think about.”

“What do you mean you have to debate you’re existence?”

“I’m trans.”

“Oh. So does this mean you want to be a girl, or were you a girl before?” He seemed earnestly interested enough, so I figured I’d tell them the truth

“Neither. I’m nonbinary.”

“I see. So do you have a, you know? Or the other thing?”

I groaned loudly. “Oh my god. This is exactly what I was talking about.”

“Oh, I’m sorry. Let’s change the subject.”

“Sure.”

He smiled. “So I’m registered to vote Democrat. They want to expand trans rights. That’s good, right?”

“Mm. I mean, it would be nice, if it would ever happen. But Democrats are so obsessed with trying to appeal to a middle ground that they keep ceding power to Republicans.”

He seemed to be listening to me. I was a bit hopeful I could change his mind.

“Okay. So are you saying Republicans and Democrats are the same?” He asked.

“More or less. If they weren’t so similar, blue states would be drastically different from red ones. But do you ever really notice a difference between California and Oregon to the north?”

“Okay Republicans and Democrats are not the same. Have you seen the things Trump says? He’s so different from Democrats!” He sounded upset.

“Sure they are. Whatever. I’ve gotta go to the restroom.”

“Okay, man, see you later,” he said.

I winced. Man. I’m not a man. I had explained that.

The party seemed to have gotten larger while I was lost in thought. They were only fifteen feet away now. The cheers had certainly gotten louder.

I got up and walked away. It was dark enough that they wouldn’t notice.

So, I wandered. Not enough to get lost, but enough to be away. That was all I really wanted, so I was going to take it.

I walked away, to a small clearing with just a couple of trees. I sat down next to one and simply stared away.

In my pleasant fantasies, someone would approach me to have a conversation. But, seeing as how this wasn’t a fantasy, I couldn’t have that. To be fair, I looked like I wanted to be alone in the first place.

Lights and voices started to approach. They were people, likely trying to go to the bathroom. I sat in place, making no motion or sound. They walked past, oblivious to the fact that the only thing between them seeing me was a tree and my own low posture. I was hiding in plain sight.

I looked up, and hoped to see some stars. I didn’t. There was too much smoke in the sky from all the forest fires. In fact, earlier today, the sun was red from the smoke’s cover. Curling my head around the tree, so was the moon.

“I shouldn’t be breathing comfortably right now. This is really bad.”

I sighed. There was so little I could do to change anything right now. I couldn’t leave, I didn’t want to dance, the music was too close to the tents for me to sleep, I couldn’t stop the forest fires from happening, and I can’t vote my way into change.

The only thing I really could do was sit in silence, and continue to think about things.

What am I? Is this really something I can be?

I dreaded the idea of this moment for months. Maybe even years. I couldn’t tell you.

Holding a small, sealed envelope close to my chest, I tiptoed down the hallway. It was 3 A.M. and I didn’t want to wake up my parents. But I desperately needed to tell them something. But I also didn’t want to wake them up. Oh god oh god oh god oh god oh god oh god.

I stopped and leaned against the wall, shaking. I clutched the letter even closer to me. I let a breath out, and it shook as it left my lungs. Maybe I just shouldn’t tell them anything. Maybe I should just go to bed and forget all about this.

I took a breath. I need to do this. I told myself I’d at least do this before I go.

I got off of the wall, and took another step toward the door. I can do this. I can.

In less time than I would have liked, I was staring at the door. All I would have to do is slide the envelope underneath the door, and then leave.

It felt like an eternity before I made my choice. I stared at the crack underneath the door for what could have been hours. I slowly crouched down. Still, the envelope was held near my chest. My hands clutched it closer to me the more I thought about sliding it underneath the door.

Shaking, I eventually forced my hands away from myself, and toward the small crack underneath the door. I slipped the envelope into the crack, and breathed. I had finally done it. This was it.

Panic immediately set back in. What if they’re angry? What if my parents secretly hate me for this? What will my sisters think? Oh god, they’ve had an older brother for so long, what the hell am I supposed to do?

Slowly, I stood up from the door. My hands weren’t shaking anymore. I walked back to my room, just as quietly as before. I opened my closet, pulled out a bag, and started to pack it. I was going to have to leave. Yup, no way around it.

Once the bag was full, I tossed it next to my door. I needed to figure out what might be important enough to take with me.First things first, I grabbed my phone and threw it into my pocket. I grabbed the charger it was connected to as well.

Next up, I made sure my wallet was in my pocket. It was. Lastly, I grabbed my journal. I mean, at least that way if I die, someone can know my story.

I went downstairs and walked out of the house, with no intention of looking back. I made the choice, and I knew it would have consequences. Maybe some consequences I wasn’t ready to face.

I think I had walked for somewhere around two hours before I felt my phone buzzing in my pocket. It was probably just an early morning email or something. I pulled my phone out and looked at the notification.

Mom

We already know. Come home.