I. Roller skating, gliding effortlessly (or maybe clumsily) over the wooden floor. There’s no thought, no questions. All you really need to know is right, left, right, left. Possibly how to stop, but crashing into a wall will do just as nicely. As with all things, the skating has special categories. They’re announced by some faceless, merciless god, known only as DJ. Backwards skate; glow in the dark skate; Girl’s skate. That one is dreaded the most. It goes against skating as a whole; with it comes the questioning, the pondering, the thinking. You’re not supposed to think when skating. Yet there the thoughts are, gnawing at your wheels. Do I go out because I look like a girl? Even though deep down I know I’m not anywhere close? A standstill, a pause, waiting for an answer. Your wheels lacking the spin needed to glide like the rest of them. Your laces are chained to the floor, tangled together in a mesh of confusion. You go girlfriend, a mother’s words pushing you, chains and all, onto the floor. You’re no longer able to glide, scraping your skates against trees.
II. A caterpillar’s short lifespan is spent throughout 4 stages. All stages are ones of growth and development and change; the caterpillar is working hard to reach their end goal. They start out as an egg, become a larva, then a pupa. After that they become butterflies, beautiful winged insects. Stating it so plainly makes it seem like a simple process, but it’s not. It sometimes takes up to a year to finish, a surely tiring process for the bug. However, it should be worth it, right? Beauty is supposedly pain, so a grueling journey must be worth the charm waiting with open arms at the end. The caterpillar－I’ve known them as a caterpillar my whole life, saying “butterfly” is difficult－has to know what they signed up for. It’s their fault they’re in pain, so why don’t they just stay a caterpillar? Just grin and bear the discomfort so you won’t have to go through the pain. It sounds much easier, much more pleasant.
III. There are at least 2 types of binders, but they both serve the same purpose; they keep things in place, tucked away from the naked eye. Both are holders, helpers. Except one binder doesn’t crush your lungs in the process. It doesn’t have you heaving, wheezing, gasping for any air. One you can’t ignore, forced to know it’s there. Take it, take it off and be free of yet another layer of chains. Breathe the air, take a gulp of its sweetness. Except maybe you could learn to bear the chains. Maybe you could find out they only wanted to help you in their own twisted ways. They didn’t mean any harm; they’re just misunderstood. You’re overreacting as usual, making a big mess out of a small spill. C’mon, put the binder back on; we both know you want to. Ears perked up, listening attentively to the quiet voice. Yes, I’ll put you back on. I’ll embrace you, your claws digging into my skin. The scars aren’t visible, but they’re there. You just have to know where to probe, to look.
IV. Clownfish. The name evokes a little chuckle; clown fish. Just silly little orange jokers swimming around in the great ocean blue. However, did you know they can change their sex? Female clownfish rule over all, the queen of their kingdom. If the female dies, a male will become female just to take her place at the top. They carry both reproductive organs, ensuring survival (or at least making it easier to). They’ve found the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, the treasure trove hidden in the cave. Everyone accepts them as they are, too. Not a single question; no asking, wait wasn’t she a he? No reverting back to old pronouns and old names. No latching onto something that no longer exists, something that should be forgotten. The clownfish don’t need to see a doctor. The waiting process, the consultations, etc. They don’t exist. Clownfish don’t have to get permission from their parents or raise money. They’re just different now, neither more nor less. Still the same just with slight changes. When my organs fail and my bones collapse in on themselves, maybe I’ll be reborn, reincarnated as a clownfish.
V. Always a mirror. Always a reflection for me to analyze. Who is that, looking back at me? That can’t possibly be me. No, I don’t look like that. No no no, I refuse to look. Just surrounded by so many Xs. Everything is wrong. Where am I? I shouldn’t be here, it’s all too much. Any longer and I’ll sink into the murky, disgusting water of pipes. Dragging my feet, I kick water at the walls. They’re soaked and peeling, revealing their innards, their guts. The doors are all gone, playing a sick game of hide and seek with me; where do I go? Should I dare shove my way through the walls? What’s in there might kill me as well, making it more painful. Thinking too much and sinking too deep, my hips below the surface as the water rises to swallow me whole. It’s angry and fast, swirling around me. It glares at me, knowing I shouldn’t be here either. Except it aims to drown me, keeping me as its prisoner until it finds a new plaything. I aim to escape this place I despise, to be free. The water is up to my neck now, rubbing against my chin. It’s only as I take my final breath do I realize that the water was my tears all along.
VI. Summer, Autumn, Winter, Spring, repeat. Over and over and over, a never ending cycle. Effortlessly switching, the seasons fade into each other. They welcome one another, ushering them in and allowing them to make themself at home. The crisp fiery leaves morph into cold white snow, landing softly on your tongue. The seasons change, allowing each other to rest and relax until it’s their turn again. Not quite effortless, but much easier than a human. It’s inevitable that Summer will welcome in Fall, only for Fall to usher a path for Winter, then for Winter to guide in the Spring. Their change is expected, accepted. It’s not like humans can question nature, the unstoppable force, as sure as the sun will rise. A constant relay race, uninterrupted by man. There’s no stopping the inescapable. There’s no one to judge nature, no one to make nature doubt its flow. You can’t ask nature if it’s really supposed to be Winter when it’s actually Spring. Nature takes no demands; you can tell it to be Fall as loudly and harshly as you want, yet it still remains Summer.
VII. The sweet taste of slumber is always on the tip of my tongue, making me long for more. How badly I want another piece, another spoonful of the delicious cake. When I go for another bite, the cake rearranges itself. It’s not cake anymore, no, but a mouth. Would it still taste just as savory as the cake had been? I grab out for it, only for it to bite my hand. It starts whispering in my ears as the red fills my skin. The mouth’s words are not sweet, instead pricking me like needles. Poison contained in the needle is injected into my skin, into my head, into my heart. Lies lie in bed with me, snuggling close, their cold touch like ice in my veins. You’re not who you wish to be, edging closer. Getting colder, like I’m wearing a swimsuit in the snow. I reach up to cover my ears but they have my arms locked against their bodies. It’s the chains again, keeping me stuck in place as they devour me in one bite. It seems I’m the cake, sweet, delicious, defenseless.
VIII. Instagram, Discord, more. All of the above using your profile picture as a representation of you (or just having it be you). You get a choice, a decision. You can pick how others see you, what their eyes tell them when they look at you. There’ll come a time when maybe the picture doesn’t fit you anymore, so you change it. Maybe there’ll come a time when your username no longer fits you anymore either, so you change it as well. You’ve found something new to represent you, your ever changing identity and person. So that’s what it becomes; it becomes you. Or so you wish. That profile picture, username, maybe it’s just idealization? Maybe it’s the stars wishing they were the moon, the moon wishing it were the sun. Everything wishing it were something else, anything else. Making their profile picture someone else, their username someone else. Faking it until the faking doesn’t help them anymore. The fantasy loses its appeal, the exciting becomes mundane. The picture disappears, along with its owner, into a void of their own creation.
IX. Who? Who? An owl’s call from a human’s lips. You have a name tag, the name written in erasable marker. Kay, King, Kade. Which one are you? Experimenting, science just in words. It’s a puzzle, but none of the pieces quite fit. Too round, not square enough, too many connectors, not enough connectors. How is one supposed to complete a puzzle if some of the pieces are gone? Maybe the box swallowed them whole, opening up its chasm mouth for a delicious treat. You feel selfish for wishing that the box left the pieces to you. You are selfish for wanting more than you are. You’re a thief; you steal names, identities, personalities in order to fulfill your puzzle. It’s all about you. You, you, you. Why don’t you think of other people? Eyes too blinded by questions to acknowledge something other than Kade. Someone other than King or Kay. God, you’re so self-absorbed, and you don’t even like yourself. Drawing your sword and backstabbing your enemy, only to realize that the enemy is just you. A pool of your own failures puddling around your limp corpse as your lungs sputter and crumble; your eyes looking at the one world in your final moments.
By Kade Booker