Just / Part II

It was an addiction really. The way Nicky sat on bus benches even though she wasn’t waiting for a bus. She was still overweight and still trying to sweat herself to death, but everyone needs a break from their gradual suicide. 

"Hey," she’d say to a stranger with headphones in. "HEY!" she’d say louder. 

Nine times out of ten people would ignore her. Until the day she made a friend with the man who said “hey” back. 

"Hey," she said to Jimmy before she knew his name. 

"Hello," he said.

Nicky had seen him sitting on a bus bench on the corner of 5th & Diver with his wrinkly hands folded in his lap, an Orioles baseball cap on his head and a navy blue purse by his feet. It was three in the afternoon on a Monday and Nicky needed to know where he was going, the same way some people need a cigarette. If she didn’t know, she’d be irritated the rest of the day.

Jimmy said he didn’t have a destination in mind. He was just planning on hopping the first bus that came by and riding it for a while. Take a nap, maybe. Nicky, naive Nicky, asked him how he could possibly nap in such a dirty place. Didn’t he worry about germs getting in his mouth while he snored? She was confident Jimmy was a snorer because she assumed that of all old people.

"Ain’t no germ I haven’t met by this age," Jimmy reassured her. "Besides, I don’t snore."

"I don’t believe you," Nicky said, "but okay."

Jimmy told her he’d never ridden in a real car his whole life. For sixty-three years he’d managed to train, plane, bus and bike and he’d only been late twice. Jimmy told Nicky that he grew up in a one bedroom apartment with his mom and two sisters. It was small but their imaginations made it bigger. They’d paint new landscapes on the walls almost every day. They’d live in a jungle, on a beach, in the sky. Even on a planet once that they called “Homeraneum.” 

Nicky asked him if they ever lived in a castle. 

"Ha!" said Jimmy. "Did we ever. My younger sister had a thing for stone." 

She was dead now though, Jimmy explained. He had painted the inside of her casket the color yellow because the only place she liked living more than a castle was on the sun. 

"How come you don’t have a job?" Nicky asked. 

"Because I don’t want one."

"How can you afford your life?"

"Because I’m rich."

"And you don’t have a car!"

Jimmy laughed. ”Why be alone when you can be with twenty people,” he said. 

Nicky admitted that aside from meeting strangers on bus benches, she preferred to be alone. That way, no one could disappoint her. 

"If you don’t let people disappoint you every once in a while," he said,   "then you’ll never know what it means to care."

A long bus with an accordion in the middle powered up to their bench. 

"But I don’t care," Nicky said as the doors of the bus opened and Jimmy stood. 

"Everybody cares, darling. Especially those who say they don’t." 

Jimmy waved a nice little wave to Nicky, tipped his hat and disappeared onto the bus. Nicky didn’t know how to feel. Jimmy might have been the only friend she’d ever have and now he was gone. She looked down by her feet and noticed he’d left his navy blue purse behind. Without hesitating, she looked inside and found only a picture of who she assumed to be a younger Jimmy, his two sisters and their mom. Nicky smiled, put the purse over her shoulder and started walking home. 

"This is the best day of my life," she said to herself next to a stranger. 

"Why’s that?" the stranger asked.

And just like that, Nicky had another friend. 

Tiny Houses

And all the tiny houses on the hill become real when you look close enough. The people in them staring out but never turning towards each other. There’s a stillness in the air. The sound of motor music and the smell of gas perfume. It’s not hot, it’s not cold. It’s dry and there are gray smears in the white sky. Pink the other way. Orange almost. It’s so quiet. So still. All the people must be sleeping but they’re awake — doing, moving, being while you listen. Take it in. Another day.


The thing about skinny-dipping is most people will do it at least once in their lives. Those who do, will think back on it fondly trying to re-experience what it felt like then, now. The first moment of undressing. Revealing yourself. The tickle of your dress strap dancing down your shoulder. Or the weight of your boxers slinking down your thighs. Looking at others as they look at you. Dipping your bare toes in the water. Then, the rest of you. But this isn’t a story about those people. This is a story about a girl who walks around naked all the time…

Nadine. Oh, Nadine.

When you meet Nadine, it’s hard to tell if she’s naked because the first thing you notice about her is her smile. The way it takes you in. Makes you feel better about the world. Encourages you to call your mother and apologize for something you haven’t done yet. The smile is a nice cover for the naked girl. So is the tattoo of the dress she has inked across her body. It’s a short black dress, ending right above her knees. It has a cute round neck with bubble lining and red circles for buttons that run from her collarbone down to her belly button. If you saw her from across the street, you’d swear the girl was not only dressed but fashionable. You would think that a girl like that goes to outdoor concerts in open fields and house parties wherever there is one at four A.M.. Simply, the dress is Nadine. Which is why she never changes her “clothes.”

It’s only when you get up close, like… really close, that you realize… Ooh. This girl isn’t dressed at all. She’s as nude as it gets. Then you wonder how you feel about it. How you’re supposed to feel about it – hateful, embarrassed, jealous, free. It’s a four-step process, really. If you get to the fourth step – feeling free – then you’ll follow Nadine wherever she goes.

I know what you’re thinking. That all of her friends want to fuck her. That they’re just waiting for the right moment to start the conversation. Well, since you’re already naked… But in reality, that just isn’t so. Her friends don’t want her in that way. They’re more in awe of her. The way she challenges them to live a little, even though they know they’ll never be as brave as her. And consequently, never as interesting. See, the girl in black ink dress can cook you something grand on your kitchenette stove when you haven’t gone grocery shopping in three weeks. Or tell you a story that will lift you off your daybed and onto the overpass in Cleveland where she slept one night. That’s right – onto – not under, because that’s just the kind of person Nadine is.

Nadine. Oh, Nadine.

What you don’t know about Nadine that she’ll never tell you, is she enjoys the attention. It’s calculated, you see. She’s learned that it takes making someone uncomfortable in their own skin to really get to know them. How they think, feel, act when they’re uneasy. She thrives on this. Believes that by doing it, she’s making a difference in the world. Better the people, better the place. As a result, an honest community. If she’s right or not, no one knows. Not even her. But know one knows anything for sure until it’s too late anyway. That’s what Nadine will tell you if you ever ask her for advice. I know because I asked her once.

Please don’t tell Nadine what I’ve told you here today. Everyone has their insecurities. Having her secrets revealed is one of Nadine’s. Were she to find out, she might throw on a sweater and jeans and walk off in the opposite direction, leaving the rest of us to our own devices. And we don’t want that, now do we? 

Food for thought, from experience and rumor, just because you’re initial intention wasn’t to sleep with Nadine doesn’t mean she won’t fuck you if you ask.

Nadine. Oh, Nadine…



when you think you’re ready to move on, you end up on the couch under a red fleece blanket even though it’s eighty degrees outside. It’s hot but you’re too lazy to take it off. Using any energy would be a waste of time — besides, maybe you’re trying to sweat yourself to death anyway. 

Nicky thought about this a lot — sweating herself to death. It’s why she exercised. That, and her doctor told her she was twenty pounds “above average” for her weight to height/age ratio. Ever since, she’s obsessed about what being labeled “average” actually says about a person. Like, is it really so great? Or is it, well, boring? Wouldn’t you rather be ugly than average? Or fat, for example? Or, of course, very pretty and very skinny but not so skinny that you couldn’t sweat yourself to death? She asked her doctor these questions in a follow-up visit where instead of losing weight, she gained five pounds. 

"Won’t more people talk about fat-me than average me?" she asked Dr. Nuni. 

Dr. Nuni didn’t know how to answer. Nicky took her silence as a ‘yes.’

Nicky’s new plan was to become so far from average that she would surely be remembered one way or another. And it would surely, somehow, end in her death. That’s why she had the following message tattooed on her chest.

Nuni, love, would you mind feeding my turtle while I’m dead? My parents dislike cold things. 

She figured the tattoo was a win-win even if she didn’t die as soon as she wanted. That turtle would outlive her no matter what. Which made Nicky happy since she didn’t really love anything more in the world than her turtle, Turtle. Not one single thing. It was her biggest problem, really. Well, one of her biggest problems. 

Another was talking to strangers on bus benches. But that is a story for a different time…

ain’t nothing like a patch of grass in the middle of nowhere

It’s hard to see the green beyond the buildings. The long roads against the highway. The dirt paths in between. The mountains you can touch if you reach far enough. The crispness. You can taste it in your memories. Smell it on your skin. You can hear it when you’re close enough. The quiet in the wind. It’s hard to see beyond the billboards with the girls barely dressed. But if you get there, there’s a spot of earth, waiting. Maybe not for you but for someone. Anyone. A minute, a mile, longer or less — there ain’t nothing like a patch of grass in the middle of nowhere.

Dear Vampire

The thing about you, is that you’re dead inside. And for me, that’s what I look for in a guy — dead insides. That way, when I fall in love with you, you can reject me. Which is a comforting feeling. Like eating creamy mashed potatoes on the couch or going to Six Flags alone on my birthday.

Dating a vampire would also be good for me because you’re known for your sense of humor. Always cracking jokes like: “Your heart, am I right?” “You smell like fresh deer.” Or, “Are you on your period?” HAHAHA. See? I get you.

Really, when I think about the 3 things I want in a guy, I always say: cold, fanged and flaccid. So… YOU in a nutshell. If you can’t have a boner, I can’t sexually disappoint you. So, we both win.

Plus, when a guy knows more about the world than I do, I feel like a candy wrapper in a trash can. Small and worthless. Two words I actually use to describe myself (when I’m not having a fat day). HAHA.

So, vampire, if you’re reading this, sneak up to the edge of my bed when I’m sleeping and it’s dark outside. Make sure you’re breathing really heavily though, like in my dreams. All I ask is, don’t kill me, K? ‘Cause then we won’t be able to have any fun! Like when your kind comes after us with an army so they can burn us in fire or rip us apart by the limbs. So romantic.


;)> (one fang because I can’t find the right key for two).


Disposable Cameras

I miss ‘em. I miss disposable cameras like I miss LA Gear sneaks that light up pink when you walk. Sure, you can print out photos from your digi-cams but, admit it, you rarely do.

Maybe I’m too sentimental but when you show someone a picture that isn’t stuck inside your phone or personalized media, you see it differently. You feel the mortality of the moment in the photo paper in your hand. Time sticks between your fingertips. You have a chance to process your feelings since you’re without the capability to scroll. 

I’m not an old fogey but, man, I’ve got a craving for an album I can keep on my coffee table. So, if you see a chick on the street with a paper-wrapped green fuji cam you can toss after 24 snaps, that’s me.

I’m also having a lemonade sale in my driveway next week. You can pay in cash. Or VHS tape.

A drawing based on a conversation we had twenty minutes ago.

Artwork by the talented Maisie Culver.