Do you ever think back to a moment, so insignificant that everyone else involved has probably long forgotten, and get filled with dread and shame about the way you handled it? I have a lot of these, mostly from high school, and they sort of bug me even though I know there’s no use in being ashamed of an awkward exchange 10 years ago. And these moments of awkwardness and being uncomfortable in my own skin stick with me, and bug me to a point, but it’s certain other regrets that I really get hung up on.

For an introvert, high school is a time where you do your best to fit in and your best to go unnoticed. The less attention you draw to yourself, the better. I had friends and I was sociable enough to get by, I tried my hardest not to seem “weird,” whatever that means.  But the shit that gets to me is the stuff I did to fit in with those I perceived to be “cooler” than me, again, whatever the hell that means. I remember this one kid; we’ll call him Tim, who didn’t deserve the treatment he got from others and resultantly from me. Tim was extremely introverted, rarely talking to anyone. He wore the same two pairs of navy blue or gray shorts and t-shirts every day. He rolled his backpack around like airplane luggage. He was a Wiccan, he wore a pentagram around his neck, and he was a self-proclaimed asexual.

The shorts he wore rode up a bit too high, his rolling backpack drew all sorts of unwanted attention his way, and he was just the easiest target. The “popular” kids loved to force him into uncomfortable conversations, making him feel even more alienated than before. And I watched. And I laughed. I didn’t do anything to help a kid who probably wasn’t that different from me. I don’t want to talk to these football players and overzealous party-goers, but I don’t want them to turn their ire my way.

So I watched and I laughed and I didn’t lose much, if any, sleep over it at the time. On one occasion I helped to orchestrate a sort of prank on Tim, something that might be funny if it were done from a place of friendship, but just feels mean-spirited and cruel in retrospect. His rolling backpack was a signature item, the sort of thing that everyone was aware of, even if they’d never had a class with Tim. While in a class with him, several kids engaged him in conversation while others snuck around the back of the room and rolled his backpack away, all the way down the hall. He didn’t notice it was gone for nearly twenty minutes. A successful prank, sure, but it was pretty easy to see on his face that he wasn’t in on the joke.

And then I graduated from high school, moved on, had more moments that I’ll think back to and regret, graduated college, and arrived where I am today. I lose more sleep over Tim now than I ever did then. I’d like to think I’m a better person or that something has changed, but maybe I’m just comfortable enough with myself now to say that I always knew it was wrong, and that I wish I hadn’t treated him that way. I was just so afraid of being treated that way myself.


I saw the light coming off of a lamp in the window of an apartment on my way home from work. It was a dark and cold night in Boston and I couldn’t help but be drawn to the light. From then on, I looked for the light every night on my walk home from work. It shone like a beacon, letting me know that I was nearing my destination.

It didn’t take long for curiosity to get the better of me. After three weeks of walking past the light, I took a sharp right turn up the steps of the apartment. I slipped in the door as a resident made her way out and I climbed the stairs to the third floor, towards the apartment from which the light emanated. I walked to the corner apartment, knowing all too well that this was it. I knocked on the door, and no one answered. I could hear rustling inside, but despite my repeated knocking, there was no answer.

I left defeated and went back to my usual ritual, walking home, spotting the light, and continuing on my way. But I was still drawn to the light. I was a goddamn moth and it was the flame that would almost surely be the death of me. I spent the ensuing months thinking about a return to the apartment, but never could bring myself to do it.

A little over a year after I had first spotted the light, when I was making my way home, I noticed that there was no light. The window was dark and empty, not even the silhouette of the lampshade visible from the outside. It threw me off. These little things become routine, changes can be jarring.

That light never turned back on. I’d walk by occasionally, not even coming back from work, just to see if the light came back. It was just dark. I went back inside and knocked on the door again, no answer. Not even rustling. Just silence. And darkness.

I walked home a different way from then on.  

Product Review: Dude Wipes™

The first thing I noticed about this product is the distinctive packaging, it’s very distinct. Then I opened up the Dude Wipes™ and the fun really began. You can use them to wipe all sorts of things: butts, genitals, hell, even faces. BUT NO WOMEN.

Wipe as many dudes as you’d like. I’ve been walking around wiping dudes on the street. At first, they seemed a little reticent, but most of them thank me for the free dude wiping. It’s a remarkable product that does a great job of gathering up dude juice from dudes.

The lesser known use for Dude Wipes™ is as an air freshener. It’s great to find that your car now smells like clean genitalia instead of the usual odor of unclean genitalia. Anyway, I’ve got to go, bye.

I have never used or even seen Dude Wipes™.

Final Product Rating: 9.3/10 – Would Not Recommend


Sarah and I have been dating for a few years now. It’s been pretty serious but we’ve had our fair share of ups and downs. But for the last few months, there’s been a lingering resentment between us that I can’t seem to break through. She glares at me a lot of the time, I find myself staring at the floor when she talks. I still love her, but the tension and unease that we’ve been feeling lately can’t be healthy. I need to do something.

About 5 years ago I had microfracture surgery on my shoulder. The way the doctor explained it to me is that they drill small holes into your bone to trick the body into thinking the bone is broken, promoting healing. After a fairly arduous rehab process, my shoulder was just about as good as new.

So in the past few days, I’ve been picking little fights with Sarah. I let her win, we make up, and it promotes healing. In the long term, I figured this might fix the problems between us. It might make us good as new. But yesterday she left. It was a result of how much fighting we’d been doing lately, she said. I don’t know if the little fights I had been picking cause our breakup of if they were simply the straw that broke the camel’s back with regards to the aforementioned lingering resentment, but I know it feels like shit.


On the day we moved out of our old house, we found a box of old VHS tapes in the basement. We took them with us, just in case, when we moved into our new place. They got stuck in a closet in a room we barely ever use and we just forgot about them. My wife mentioned them in passing a few weeks back and after that I just couldn’t get them out of my head.

Yesterday while she was at work and I was at home with the kids, I decided to dig them out. The labels were worn off the few of them that had been titled and each tape was covered in dust. We still had an old combo DVD/VHS player in the living room, so I carried the box out there and sat it down in front of the TV. I made sure the kids were out of the room and the TV was muted, because honestly, who knows what these things could have been. I was relatively sure I hadn’t recorded them, which meant that they either belonged to my wife or they belonged to the family who owned the old house before us.

The first tape was a home movie – definitely not my wife – of a boy and his father watching an old boxing match on a tiny color television. The boy sat in his father’s lap and they cheered and shadowboxed along. They seemed happy. The second tape was much the same. Seemed like a different fight, but I’ve never been much of a boxing aficionado and their TV was awfully small. The third tape followed the theme, the father and son watching fights together.

Eventually I dug down towards the bottom of the pile and I found that this tape was one of the old boxing matches, Ali vs. Foreman, the Rumble In The Jungle. I went back to the first few tapes and found the boy and his father watching this very fight. I dug around the pile a bit more and I found a video of the boy, now in his early teens, watching the same fight with his father. And finally one more video of the boy, probably about sixteen now, watching the same fight, alone. He no longer seemed happy. Something was missing. Someone was missing.

When my wife got home from work, she found me in the living room covered in dust and weeping. The kids had been asleep for hours. I tried to explain it to my wife, but I couldn’t articulate what I was feeling. It was something like loss, or maybe regret. I just wanted to go back and put the box where we found it in the old house, where it belonged. It was left there on purpose. No one needed these tapes anymore.  

Dear Condescending Wonka, It’s Me, Gene Wilder

Dear Condescending Wonka,

Hi, it’s me, Gene Wilder. I played Willy Wonka in the film Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory. It was a pretty big movie.

So I was browsing my favorite memes on the internet yesterday, as I do every other day, and I came across a remarkable thing: my face! And under it, such mean stuff about how “oh, you read Atlas Shrugged? Tell me about it!” And here’s the thing, I’m not a condescending guy. I’m really not.
I don’t even own a chocolate factory. I’m just a simple actor who wanted to make kids laugh and maybe cry a little bit with that weird tunnel scene.

Anyway, the point I was getting to, in a roundabout sort of way, is fuck you, Condescending Wonka. You are the worst meme ever, and I, Gene Wilder, love memes. Can’t get enough of them. Named my dog Meme. Meme Wilder. Anyway, please go away forever.

Gene Wilder


He woke up in a strange bed with no recollection of who or where he was. As far as he could tell, he was alone and unharmed. He rolled over, climbed out of the bed, and staggered through the nearby doorway. He made his way into the kitchen of the small apartment that he had woken up in. On the counter next to a scrap of paper was a DVD copy of the film Memento.

He started to watch the movie, taking careful notes on the back of the scrap of paper he had found next to the DVD. Whoever had left this DVD for him was trying to help him. Or they were responsible for all of this. He fell asleep towards the end but he was pretty sure he knew what was going on.

When he woke up again he went out to find the nearest tattoo parlor. He had the artist tattoo the script to Memento along nearly every inch of his flesh, in case he forgot. He regretted it almost immediately. He returned to the apartment to find himself locked out.

Turned away from the only place he knew, he simply left. He wandered the country for the rest of his days, knowing only the plot to Memento and that he really wished he didn’t have those tattoos.

On the floor of the apartment he had woken up in, on the other side of his Memento notes was a message that read, “Greg, I’m off to work, I hope you’re okay, you bumped your head pretty hard last night. Can you take this DVD back to Mark’s for me if you’re feeling up to it? Love you, Jane.”


Kevin was exceptionally imaginative. His parents always told him that anything he put his mind to, he could make happen, and this was truer than they knew. By age six, Kevin could build skyscrapers purely by force of will. When his concentration broke, the buildings crumbled to the Earth and disappeared as instantly as they had appeared. What made him such an exceptional child, though, was that everyone else could see these projections. He could quite literally imagine things into being.

There was another catch, though. Kevin could form these projections, but whenever a person tried to touch them, they would crumble as though Kevin had lost his focus. No matter how intricate the systems that Kevin could imagine, he could not manage to make them tangible.

When Kevin was fourteen, his parents separated. It wasn’t his fault, he was assured. He wanted to believe it, but he was fourteen. His parents finalized the divorced inside of the year and Kevin went to live with his mom. He only saw his dad on the weekends. At night, in his bedroom at his mom’s apartment, Kevin would perfectly recreate his father with his imagination. But he couldn’t give his father a hug.

Kevin hatched a plan to use his imagination to make his mother love his father again. He would project images of his father lovingly looking at her and his mother would go into her room, shut the door, and audibly weep. He didn’t like seeing his mother upset, but he couldn’t bear the state that his family was in, so he kept at it. His mother became skilled at ignoring the projections, knowing that they were just Kevin’s willful thinking, his naivete, manifested.

When Kevin turned eighteen, he moved out of his mom’s place and got his own apartment across town. He stopped sharing his projections with others. But at night, when he went to bed, he’d project his father and his mother laying on the couch in his childhood living room. But he couldn’t make them touch, or they’d shatter. He couldn’t bring them back together.


I watched the sun come up out the window in the bathroom of my apartment last Saturday morning. It was less beautiful than I had expected; you know, a lifetime of being told about how amazing sunrises and sunsets are? It’s not that I hadn’t seen one before, but maybe that I hadn’t really paid attention. I just wanted to see something beautiful for once. I tried again at sunset, but the result was the same. Maybe I was doing it wrong. Is there a right way to watch the sunrise or sunset?

It will be alright, though. I’ll look for beauty somewhere else. Sometimes I think it might be more beautiful to watch the traffic go by than a sunset. There’s something reassuring about seeing so many people go about their lives. Sunrise and sunset feel like a beginning and an ending, but the traffic never really stops. Sure, it’ll slow down here and there, but if you wait a few minutes, a car will go by. It doesn’t matter what time it is, someone has to be somewhere. I’ve got to be somewhere, eventually.

The Ball Pit, Part 2

In the fall of 1992, a Chuck E. Cheese’s franchise was built in Cedar Falls, Iowa. By January of 1993, four separate incidents involving disappearing children had occurred at this Chuck-E-Cheese’s and there were no leads for police to follow. The parents were distraught, but none of them had seen anything suspicious. They all said the same thing: their kids went into the ball pit and never came back out. Police and restaurant management cleared out the ball pit, in an effort to uncover some sort of explanation, but beneath the ball pit was an old gym mat, and beneath the gym mat, the gray concrete floor.

When Tommy went missing, he was only seven years old. His parents, Joe and Martha, couldn’t bear the grief. Joe worked construction, Martha was a paralegal, they tried their best to provide a good upbringing for their son. They had been at the Chuck-E-Cheese’s for the birthday party of Tommy’s friend Greg, and nothing seemed out of the ordinary. When the police arrived, their search was thorough, but it turned up no information. This being the fourth such incident in such a short period of time, the police determined that they should close the establishment down on a temporary basis while they looked into the case.

But, as is often the case, temporary turned into permanent, and that Chuck-E-Cheese’s never opened its doors again. Six years later, the time came for the building to be demolished. When Joe arrived at his work site for the day, his heart sank. He got back into his truck and drove away. He didn’t go home. He left Iowa altogether. He didn’t stop driving until he was sure he had gotten away. When he finally got out of the car, he was in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

He got a job at a fast food restaurant and drank himself to sleep most nights. He had a truck and a few sets of clothes and a carton of cigarettes. That was home. At the very least, he wasn’t in Cedar Falls.

On the night that Joe left, Martha came home late and was surprised to find the house empty. Surprised, sure, but not upset. She and her husband hadn’t seen eye to eye in years, really since Tommy had gone missing. Things had fallen apart. She was sleeping with her old college boyfriend, not even bothering to come home some nights, and trying to find some semblance of happiness. She didn’t blame Joe, but she didn’t love him anymore. She did blame herself, but she tried to ignore that.

Once Joe left, Martha had one less reminder of Tommy. She preferred it that way. She just couldn’t bear to remember. 

Ball Pit

In the fall of 1992, a Chuck E. Cheese’s franchise was built in Cedar Falls, Iowa. By January of 1993, four separate incidents involving disappearing children had occurred at this Chuck-E-Cheese’s and there were no leads for police to follow. The parents were distraught, but none of them had seen anything suspicious. They all said the same thing: their kids went into the ball pit and never came back out. Police and restaurant management cleared out the ball pit, in an effort to uncover some sort of explanation, but beneath the ball pit was an old gym mat, and beneath the gym mat, the gray concrete floor.

Tommy was seven years old when he disappeared, and he didn’t know how to feel about it. As he swam in the depths of the ball pit, he felt drawn to the bottom. He dove down and fell through a wormhole that transported him to a place that he had always imagined might exist. There were flowing rivers of root beer, as the waves crashed, the foam that formed was vanilla ice cream. There were arcade games lining the street and a trampoline that bounced him higher than he had previously thought possible. There were TV sets several stories tall that played all of his favorite movies and TV shows. And then there was a door. Tommy opened the door once, the day he arrived, and peered through it. He saw back into the Chuck-E-Cheese’s; the animatronic band playing horrid music, kids running and screaming, old people looking miserable. He could smell the plasticky pizza that he associated so closely with the restaurant. He shut the door and didn’t give it a second thought. He talked to the other kids that had disappeared into the ball pit. They were all happy. It felt a little strange at first, but Tommy got used to it pretty quickly. This world provided for them in whatever way they wanted, it seemed to operate as an extension of their imaginations.

The four children lived together in relative harmony for over 30 years. By that point, they were adults, but their imaginations hadn’t grown very much. Without the inspiration of the outside world, their once imaginative, bubbling world felt dull and familiar. Tommy missed the world that he once knew.

When the others had gone to bed for the night, Tommy made his way to the door. He took a deep breath and prepared himself for that old, plasticky pizza smell. He swung the door open, and there was no smell. There was no animatronic band, no kids running and screaming. Just a pile of rubble where a building used to be. Tommy stepped through the doorway and into the shattered corpse of the Chuck-E-Cheese’s. He shut the door behind him and examined his surroundings. He could see some familiar landmarks; the city hadn’t changed all that much. He turned around and the door was gone, the only way back to his world of imagination closed for good.

He was okay with it. It was time to move on.


Jay’s ex-wife had been his muse, and once she was gone, he spent his free time sketching portraits, recreating her in the pages of his sketchpad. He remembered every line of her face, every shade of red in her hair, the way her green eyes contrasted with her olive skin. He did everything he could to bring her back to him, but he only ever got as close as a picture to place by his bed.

Her name was Sarah, well, her name is Sarah, but she’s not with him anymore. It seemed to Jay as if their marriage had fallen apart in an instant, but Sarah had been unhappy for a long time. He spent too much time working, drawing this or that for whoever needed it, she felt like he couldn’t even see her. A few weeks before she left, Sarah woke up in the middle of the night, unsettled. She made her way to Jay’s studio and flipped through his sketchbook. There were dozens of portraits of her, but something felt off.

She stared for a while, trying to figure out what was missing. The longer she looked, the clearer it became. Sure, he had all the lines right. The colors were spot on. But the picture lacked character, it provided no reflection of who Sarah was. She was more than green eyes and red hair and a perfect nose, she was a person with more than two dimensions. That was the moment when she was sure it was over. She flipped to the last portrait in the sketch book and grabbed a pencil and made her own alterations, and went back to bed.

The day that she left, Sarah left Jay a note on the fridge. It was cliched, she knew, but he’d have to eat at some point, so she was sure he’d see it. She put an enormous amount of detail into the note, detail in equal measure to the detail in Jay’s portraits. She had always had a bit of a talent for writing, not that Jay had ever noticed, but when she put all of her feelings into words, she felt that she had put her truest self on the page.

Jay came home from a meeting with a client to discover the note. He skimmed it. The details didn’t seem important to him, he got the gist. She was leaving. He didn’t see her for who she really was. He was distracted. She was lonely. Goddamnit.

Six weeks after Sarah had left, Jay was working all night on some sketches for a client. In need of a break, he flipped through his old sketches. He saw one rendering after another of his ex, each more practiced than the one that came before. When he finally reached the last page, he was furious. His portrait had been ruined. Someone - no, Sarah - had drawn tears onto her face, etched in pencil, standing out against the full-color backdrop he had created. But as he stared, his anger melted into understanding. He finally was able to comprehend why his wife had left.

For the next three nights, Jay worked tirelessly on a new portrait of Sarah. It portrayed a full range of emotion, a layer of depth that he had never considered including before. And when he was done and it was perfect, he felt he had brought her back to him. He had never felt more alone.

The Mattress

It had been three days since Mark dumped Sam, and she was still sleeping on the couch, although “sleeping” was probably the wrong word for the intermittent spells in which her eyes closed. She had trouble even stepping into her bedroom; it used to be their bedroom, and that was complicated for her. When she did finally manage to walk in there, her eyes went straight for the bed. She tore off the blankets and sheets and threw them on the floor. And then it was just the mattress, the place they used to lay together and share everything with one another.

It had to go. Every second she spent staring at it, she thought of him. She grabbed at it and tried to figure out what to do with it. Now that she thought about it, it even kind of looked like him; it was tall, white, and sort of lumpy. His side was ever so slightly more sunken in, and she could just picture his naked form making that impression, and she felt sick. It was all she could do to keep from hurling all over the mattress and adding to the already countless number of stains on it.

She pulled herself together and got to work. She slid the mattress to the side, but failed to dislodge it from the box spring and dragged the metal bed frame across floor, gouging the hardwood in the process; another scar to remind Sam of the things she would rather forget. She tried once more, this time slipping her fingers under the edge of the mattress and tipping it up, successfully freeing it. Sam shoved the underside of the mattress and it tipped over and leaned against the wall, knocking over a lamp. The lamp was shaped like a leg, like the one from A Christmas Story, it was Mark’s. It didn’t break. She wished it had broken.

She tipped the mattress up on its end and gave it a shove. It barely budged; she was only a very small woman and it was quite a large mattress. She was going to need help. She took out her phone and scrolled through the names and landed on Tom, an old friend who had always been pretty helpful to her. He picked up almost immediately and Sam put her request as gently as possible, “Tom, do you think maybe you could swing by and give me a hand getting rid of this old mattress, I could really use the help.”

The length of the pause that Tom took was not comforting to Sam, and when he finally spoke, things only got worse, “sorry, but no.” Sam just hung up on him. She wasn’t interested in hearing his explanation, although she had to wonder. He’d never said no to her before, at least that she could remember. She couldn’t afford to lose anyone else.

Sam sighed, she felt as though she was being ignored. It was a familiar feeling. She didn’t care for it. The mattress finally passed through the doorway of her bedroom and into the living room. She closed the bedroom door behind her and took a rest, leaning her head against the mattress. With her face pressed against the mattress, her nose was flooded with the smell of stale pot smoke, another unpleasant reminder of the past. It took some time, but she eventually pushed the mattress across the living room to the door of her apartment. She swung the door open and began to slowly shove the mattress into the hallway. Her neighbor walked by and said hello, but didn’t offer to help. Sam gave a quick smile and then gave him the finger behind his back as he walked away.

Sam took her phone out again and called her dad. While it was ringing, her eyes fixed on the stains on the mattress. That would be awkward. When her father finally answered, all she could get out was, “I meant to call Dan, sorry dad.” She didn’t know a Dan.

She slid the mattress inch by inch to the stairwell at the end of the hall and began the arduous task of pushing the mattress up the stairs to street level. It was just the one flight of stairs, but it seemed impossibly steep and impossibly long for only a very small woman. Sam tried to get her shoulder underneath and push, but the mattress spun off of her shoulder and knocked her over. She gathered herself and tried again, this time successfully getting underneath it, but failing to make much progress.

At last, Sam managed to move the mattress up three steps. She sighed, paused, and shouted, “FUCK.” She dropped the mattress on the stairs and walked back into to her apartment, not bothering to lock the door behind her. She wandered the living room for a few minutes before the exhaustion hit her. She went to the bedroom, hoping to get some sleep. She looked around. The mattress was gone, and things seemed different. She scanned the room and her eyes fell on the leg lamp once more. She wrapped herself in the blankets that used to cover the bed, curled up on the floor, and tried her best to fall asleep.

I illustrated another of my stories, I guess I should post it on tumblr too.

Crime and Punishment

Will spent all of his spare time reading Dostoyevsky, which meant that he also had a lot of spare time. It’s sort of hard to make friends when all you want to talk about is Crime and Punishment.

At 23, Will drafted his will – that is, his last will and testament – in case anything should ever happen to him. At his funeral, he wished for there to be a reading from Crime and Punishment, serving as a metaphor for how all of the bad things he had done in his life were balanced out by the subsequent good he did. At 23, he had done his share of bad, he hadn’t quite gotten around to the good, but he’d get there.

By 49, Will had given up on doing good, but he sort of forgot about the will. If anyone showed up to his funeral, the whole thing might be kind of funny.