aSoSS 15 | Shoot

Put your hands on your hips… one leg up… yeah!

You know how I do it? I don’t even take photos! I take a video and screenshot!

I take live photos!

Ichiban, 7:00PM, 11/11/2023

our strongest memories are linked by sounds and smells. the running exhaust, the radio leaking through the window, the heat gradient running up the side of my arm from the incandescent lightbulb. photos can only take us so far — they are shortcuts, figures without depth or dimension. try committing these words, this moment, this raindrop of time. let it disappear behind the veil. sights, smells, sounds, me and you. point, grip, pull the trigger.

You look at pictures of your relatives and that’s the only thing you know them by… when people only know you through photos, it’s important to be present.

Couzens Hall, 8:00PM, 1/24/2024

there is a bin of photos for sale at the scrap center, fifty cents per stacked inch. they are shaken out of albums and cards, tossed aside, ink yellowing in the sun. i look through them and i imagine you looking with me, behind my shoulder. i have no photos of you — deleted or neglected, i do not remember — but it does not matter. i think about going to art school so i can learn to draw your face. what force flows through a pencil when it etches the subconscious into reality?

Actually, I didn’t show my teeth because I was insecure, so I didn’t smile.

Glen/Catherine Inbound, 12:00PM, 2/18/2024

an insecure mouth suffocates laughter. it is a cinch, a noose, like being shushed as you are strangled. the snaggletooth peeks out and waves to the camera. your eagerness betrays you, but only for a second. your grandparents sit on the top of the fridge, tight-lipped, stone-faced. i’m sorry, you say. what for? i grab your hand as the shutter clicks. carved out of paper, nonetheless, but a smile preserved.

aSoSS 14 | Lover

I have two dogs, one of them’s a rescue. Because my own dog’s name is Daisy, I wanted to name him Gatsby–you know, from the book–

That’s so cute!

Yeah, but he doesn’t respond well to it, so we call him by the shelter name.

Walmart, 2:00PM, 12/12/2023

english has condensed a singularity into the word love, a tricky thorn in the theory that a language is able to encompass our feelings. thus we turn to pictures, worth their weight in words, yet still unsatisfactory. interpretive. a cupped palm, water dripping from the cracks. a crossword clue: what will i see if i look into the dog’s eyes? what will i see if i look into yours?

it is a clash of preshattered wills. he stands over the water, over a circle of light–a broken halo–scrapped from leftover sun. the green light blinks once, twice, and disappears.

He was with a girl. That’s why he pretends not to notice us.

Mosher-Jordan Dining Hall, 10:00AM, 11/25/2023

a burial is hypothetical, until it’s not. the relationships we forge are perfect to the ones that see it. mix up the recipe and it brews disaster, strong and seductive and fragrant. do not lose yourself in the pursuit of others–what if they do not exist? we are nothing but the brains that perceive, you and i. perhaps one day i will run into you, dear reader. perhaps we will part with nothing but a smile.

I don’t have a valentine! Maybe I should hit up my Michigan Marriage Pact…

Central Campus Transit Center, 7:00PM, 2/10/2024

no tax is placed on the mouth–talking pays no toll. rose between your lips, gum bleeding from the thorns… carry your tongue in cheek (yours or otherwise), a novelty, naked and unashamed. golden in the purest sense of the world. momentum carries you forward, up and above, standing on a slice of mountainside, hidden by a reef of red clouds. you will look back, breathless at your own audacity, at the world you created, at the richness of a newly vanished earth.

aSoSS 13 | Redundancy

What’s a spikeball?

It’s where you take the ball and you spike it, dear.

Scheels, 2:30PM, 1/6/2024

humans are attracted to circles. they are soft, rounded, happy. an evolutionary tactic, or implicit bias? you think it is the former, that round things are less likely to bite, that pointy things hurt. i tell you that bullets used to be round as well. perfect spheres, lodged into tree trunks and muscle mass and the soft dirt that buries it like a seed. one day it will grow into a beautiful tree, with orange-veined bark and branches that wrap arguments in cloth. they have a name for that today: weeping willow.

Donate it, it’s thirty-one cents. I don’t need thirty-one cents, I already have a lot of cents.

Chipotle, 2:00PM, 1/14/2024

when we dream, we do it by replacing sight with touch. eyes closed, mouth open, arms out…we have replaced shooting stars with coins and candles: a tangible dream, a manifestation we can hold. the flame, the spin of the metal, a drop of water in the rain. in the future there will be fables written about fountains: a thief robs the trevi, heart of rome, and must fulfill the desires each coin represents. thirty-one wishes? one for each day of the month. pennies on the dollar — the sun will shine once more.

Why do you ask odd questions?

Why do you give odd answers?

That’s an odd question!

The Shelter, 7:00PM, 1/28/2024

the politician, modern-day sphinx, speaks in riddles. the figure in the frame has glowing white teeth, slightly yellowed. perhaps it is from the elements or the urine of the minority, or perhaps it is intentional — picture the candidates among the common people, hardworking farmers, suntans and crooked teeth from where the wheat slips though the cracks. i imagine the paws of the sphinx cupping a palm of water, a vision of truth broken in ripples. slipping through the cracks, indeed.

aSoSS 12 | Schedule

She texts me and she goes, “hey, are you busy March 22nd?” I’m like bro, how would I know??

Kroger, 6:00PM, 12/14/2023

the missed-step feeling lingers. you grip a warm mug, waiting. watching. stir in two packets of sugar, or sweetener, or guilt. barista turns into bartender. time does not pass, or does it pass too quickly? on certain days we sit back and compare our inadequacies, our sterile speeches. save the date! what really needs to be saved? the guilt dissolves with the heat of the coffee.

I switched next weekend, my daughter has a volleyball tournament that I want to go watch, so…

Scheels, 2:00PM, 1/6/2024

in a storm, only the sturdiest trees survive. they tower over the clouds and watch as their neighbors are ripped to the ground. anchors of the forest, lighthouses in the water. blinking, bending, never breaking. one of them waves a branch. screams i love you. the storm pauses, tilting her head. she giggles. her smile — the sun — pulls the clouds apart. these are the kind of trees they make national parks for.

Did you help around the house over the weekend?

Oh, no.

Wow! You actually relaxed?

Bursley Dining Hall, 11:30AM, 1/22/2024

the light in the window deforms as it shatters against the beam of dust. back when broken rules tasted like blood under the tongue — we were happier back then. the dishes pile against the porcelain sink. one day they will return to their homes; the cup recounts its better days to the silverware, like a scarred veteran clinging to life after a war. if dust could talk, would it scream?

The Kingdom of Tokavsk, Session 27: A Note from the Editors

There is an extensive gap in our knowledge and the information we were able to gather at this point. However, using context cluse, we pieced together a rough timeline of what happened over the course of the second month of the investigation.

1. A man by the name of Boris Zhaven confessed to providing false information. His reason for doing so is unknown.

2. Lord Eskyil is removed from his position as advisor to the King. However, he remains on castle grounds in isolation.

3. A battle on the border of Tokavsk and Arkia results in heavy Tokavskan losses.

4. A small fire destroys part of the records pertaining to the investigation. The fire is put out quickly and no one is injured.

The final event is the most important, as it hampered both the investigation and our work. However, we believe we have sufficiently accounted for that gap through independent research as part of the agreement we have with Tokavsk and Your Majesty. The next few parts contain information we acquired directly with the help of an interpreter, and while we acknowledge that the verity of what we were told is uncertain, the conclusion reached at the end of our time in Tokavsk supports the facts we were given. Additionally, we dealt with the individual who attempted to interfere with our work and adjusted our report accordingly. We have drafted a shorter report on that matter than need not be mentioned here again.

aSoSS 11 | Impostor

Do you think work will say anything?

I don’t think so, I work at Banner Health but I’m in the office, I don’t deal with the patients face-to-face. I imagine they are more relaxed with their policy.

Yeah, if you’re representing a medical firm I’d assume they want you to be more, like, neutral, to cater for the diversity.

Fantastic Sam’s, 1:00PM, 12/12/2023

if diversity asked you to the party, would you have the courage to dance? verna myers would believe. she would seize the moment — you only live once, she might say. and maybe that’s the problem: we split into a fractal, a kaleidoscope of memory, illuminated by the neurons of the strangers we pass everyday. bright, blinking, gone. the moonlight catches the hairs on your cheek. i reach up to brush them away. upon closer examination, it is a scar.

life is short. wear it like a pixie cut, like a quiff, like a bob.

I have this really weird twinge about Instagram about being perfect. Like, on TikTok I don’t care, I’ll post about being silly or something but on Instagram –

Tiktok feels super casual.

– Exactly. I could have no makeup and be talking and I wouldn’t care, but if I did that on Instagram, uh oh, there’s like a mental block for me with the aesthetic, and appearing on other people’s feed, you know?

Denver International Airport, 12:00PM, 1/8/2024

consider a future modern art exhibition. large indium screens are plastered across six-by-eight feet windows. it is a prison, a jail cell, a red-blood among a sea of great-whites. my sense of smell strikes like a lightning bolt. the cloud erupts, quivers, begins to cry. why are you imprisoned? the door is open. all you have to do is fall. pull the plug. short pleasure, long repentance.

Sometimes I feel like I’m stuck in a hotel with a thousand other people that I don’t know.

Yeah, especially like the numbers on the door?

Mosher-Jordan Dining Hall, 6:30PM, 1/11/2024

stop me if you’ve heard this one before: an infinite number of guests walk into a hotel… where do they go? up the stairs, through the halls, n-plus-one steps more. the days blend together. who am i? you look to your right and i stare back at you. we are one and the same. i reach out at the same time as you, like a mirror, except our fingers touch. the shadow of the mind sends reality staggering. the doors slam shut. outside, the sun sets once more. spend another day with me?