It was not the lies that had her on edge. It wasn’t even the tumultuous rambling of her insipid, inconsequential little fairy-tale life– the story of which she had not only heard before, but had unimaginatively helped write for all of 22 years. The sound of her voice made her want to cut her ears off just so the sound of her own screaming would alleviate the sound of her happiness. It was not that she wanted to be unhappy, it was that she could find no reason to be happy. But yet she was. She was a terribly happy person and she was miserable for it.

I was loitering as usual. I was out taking pictures. I felt guilty that I hadn’t taken any in months. I’d begun to find reasons to revel in self-destructive guilt. I’d begun to find it vastly therapeutic. I had so little else to do and it did not help that my mind was fully open. The moths of mediocrity were drawn to it like it were light; and I was too naive to put out the fire. It used to be that I took pictures because I was awkward with my hands in their naked sincerity. It became that I spoke louder through that distracting device than I ever had in my years of noisy banter. And I’d grown dependent on the rare power it afforded me. That addiction has its place in the story of my life and as I look back upon the feeling, I realize that the craving has now been replaced by a content vacancy. When people ask me what I do for a living, it makes me wonder. I know that at some point I’d have to stop living and start making a living. It’s not a simple life anymore– everybody is making shit. By shit I mean stuff. Or– I think it is what they meant when I adopted the word from their dwindling vocabulary to give it, sprightly, a life of it’s own. Shits all made up these days. Not even their fictions are based on real life anymore. She was a clown in real life. She had promised me $200 for my pictures of her act in the New York City subway. I spent it on an old camera and some film.

He knew what it was; he could smell it. Burnt toast. He then took pride in telling me that he’d burnt it himself. I know how hard it is to burn toast, so I let him have his victory. He talked a lot and much of that talk was wasted on priding himself on his inability to cook. I told him cooking was easy, but I could see that he was the kind of man who couldn’t follow instructions. Not because he couldn’t, but because he wouldn’t. He told me he didn’t know who he is anymore. I asked him if he remembered who he was. He told me he’d forgotten who he was because he was growing fond of who he’d become. He rose from the ashes every day. He drew my attention to the dusty photographs on the wall. I remembered those photos; I’d taken them. They were not very good. Anybody could have taken them, but instead, I had. I walked up to the one in the center and blew a layer of dust off the glass. I think I liked it better dusty, I can’t remember. They were my photos but they were his memories. I watched as he stepped back once again, observed the spectacle of it all and put out the nostalgia with a breath as heavy as his absent past. He lit his cigarette and with a deliberation as exact as his nonchalance, he sucked the life out of it. He smoked because he was awkward about his empty hands. I took a picture because I had to. I gathered my things and waved goodbye. Her car still remained in the driveway. I wrote my name in the dust, and left.