Vaster Emptiness Achieved

‘I like your mistakes,’ I write to Anika in an email. I didn’t know Anika and then I saw her read poetry at some event and then read some of her poetry online and liked it and then we met and talked a few times and for no reason began joking about constantly making bad decisions and horrible distressing mistakes in our personal lives and then somehow started writing daily-ish emails to update one another on the new mistakes we’d made. We both like mistakes.

‘The mistake thread of probably intense self-loathing,’ is the title of our email conversation.

My roommate found an abandoned cat and brought the cat in and the cat is antisocial. It never climbs on furniture, hides in one room and only comes out when it thinks no one is around.

Earlier I walked in on the cat petting itself using its own reflection in the mirror.

‘Last night I had uninspired sex with a person and I am seeing the person again on thursday,’ I write to Anika. ‘She seems to have unnecessary self-esteem issues so we’re bonding over that. She kept describing relationships in terms of either ‘healthy’ or ‘unhealthy’ and I thought, that’s such an odd classification, where did that come from, seems insane, can’t we come up with a better adjective to describe relationships.’

Anika is seven years younger than me but her past relationships have felt ‘like being gored by a bull,’ forcing her to fast-forward through her emotional maturation process. She seems disillusioned and also like she’s deliberately trying to stay away from love or relationships or any of those things.

Unless she had complete control over the terms of engagement, then maybe.

We write poetry, everyone hates us, do we really have to hate each other also.

I am so unmotivated at work that I don’t even have the energy to quit.

Lonely would be a better adjective. A ‘lonely’ or ‘unlonely’ relationship.

‘Someone said, ‘come to blizzarts’ and I wanted to say no,’ Anika’s email reads. ‘If you replace sleep with stress, that’s how my week was. I could hear snowflakes falling and melting inside my head. But I felt energized from the beer and also I wanted to get more wasted than my friends, who have no responsibilities and get drunk by default a lot. If they could have fun then I deserved to have at least twice the fun probably. My post-beer logic is usually shitty like that. At blizzarts, my energy level went down quickly. I was sitting there and it was like being in a duel against the pint of beer in my hand. I said generic stuff like, ‘what are you drinking?’ and, ‘the music is very loud’ and sat in the dark and felt bored then laughed at myself and then felt bored again. I got not that much sleep and in the morning it felt like my skull was cracked and that a flower was maybe growing through the crack. I ran to catch the metro and heard air whistling though the crack.’

I steal so much tea from work. I don’t even need tea anymore, I just don’t want them to have it.

I am underwhelmed by the pool of sexual candidates in this town and if I keep trying it’s mostly out of boredom probably.

I didn’t know cats could have seizures but apparently this cat is a cat that goes into shock and starts convulsing and throws up a lot and then looks mentally disoriented for maybe an hour.

Later the cat looks at me as if I was the one who had hurt it.

I think I really like Anika now but also it’s never going to happen which is sad.

‘I am so tired. The only thing I am good at right now is staring thoughtlessly at nothing,’ Anika’s chat message reads. ‘I am really good at it though. When I press the keys on the keyboard, words appear in the chat box but it’s like I only have a small amount of control over them.’

I like the internet because I envy the internet. It lives without the hindrance and limitations of a body and I don’t.

Either find me a wife or bury me in books, there is no third option.

‘That girl I had sex with,’ I say to Anika over beers, ‘for some reason, her dad had given her a ride so we had to shake hands through the car window. He left and so we sat at a table and drank things and talked about other things. It didn’t take long for me to feel like there was some sort of invisible glass window between us and maybe a lack of positive intimacy also.’

I open the fridge and grab two aluminium cans. We bought beer earlier and the beer we bought seems to have awarded itself a blue ribbon, for prettiest beer maybe.

‘As a communicator, she’s like a walled garden or something. I basically had no idea what she was thinking or how she was thinking it. It felt like we were playing a game of emotional poker, trying to protect ourselves by keeping our intentions hidden from one another. We weren’t being honest or saying what we were thinking, which never leads anywhere other than disappointment or a slow burn.’

‘I wish people would say more concrete things,’ Anika says, ‘like, I like this person and would be okay with that person and me having sex and then after that evaluating whether we wanted to have sex again in the future or not.’

Buy nothing, move forward linearly through time, never think anything.

I was trying to impress her and felt stupid, like a toy poodle jumping through a very large hoop.

‘A day and a half later I emailed her to tell her that I liked her but that this wouldn’t work out and that I would start looking elsewhere,’ I write in an email to Anika. ‘She got back to me saying she thought I was good but felt destroyed inside for the time being and that it made things difficult for her and that she was sorry and other things. I replied an intense, novel-sized email on pain and the reduction of pain. I didn’t intend for the email to be that long, I just typed things until my hands were out of typing. Then later or maybe the next day she came up to me on facebook chat and thanked me and later complained about her food situation. I told her that I wouldn’t let her starve to death and that she should come by. She made me wait all day and texted new excuses as the day went on and the first thing that came out of her mouth when I opened the door was, ‘I almost ditched you.’ Right away, I felt like I was dealing with her vaguely bitter self as opposed to her somewhat caring self. We ended up saying mean things to each other and later we still went to a bar but as soon as I could I ditched her without saying goodbye.’

I moved to Montreal two years ago. I only know Montreal as it appears to me now, not as a city in decline or on the rise but as a city of transition, a purgatory of some sort. People come here to experience growth but not finality. When they start feeling like they’ve exhausted either themselves or the city, they move elsewhere. The party scene fuels itself on youth, giving the illusion that no one is getting older, just you. Retirements from the scene occur not in the limelight but in the shadows.
Montreal feels like a UPS centre, packages coming and going, creating motion, instability, shifting supplies and demands. Living situations have fast-approaching expiration dates while romantic pairings are more like brackets in a giant tournament tree.

Staring at web pages until I become a web page.

I made a game out of stealing tea from work. How much tea can I steal in one afternoon, fifteen tea packets, can I steal twenty.

‘It became obvious that she was insane probably and an abyss that no amount of love or affection could ever bridge,’ I write to Anika, ‘so I did something wise I think but out-of-character for me, which is to suddenly drop her from my life and phone and facebook without telling her anything. At first, she texted me things and left progressively more accusatory voicemail messages but then I wasn’t responding so eventually she got bored and moved on.’

We were hoping that doing nothing and investing no money would make the cat seizures go away but now the cat is averaging a seizure a day almost. Today the cat was lying on the floor then stood up and jumped up a little then lay down then stood up again and then fell to its side, its eyes wide and expanding and very dramatic.

The internet told us that our options include medicine like phenobarbitals, having the cat put down or way too expensive surgery.

‘Can you do something for free,’ I ask a person from the vet clinic.

‘If you bring the cat to us while it’s having a seizure, we can give it laughing gas to make the seizure stop,’ the person says.

I wish I was a shooting star.

‘Talk to me tomorrow and I will tell you what happened tonight,’ I type in the chat box.

‘I saw her last night,’ I write to Anika. ‘I was talking with a person and she wedged herself between us and said hi. I was three beers in and felt defiant and like a big person also. I am a little surprised by how cold-blooded I was and also by how good being cold-blooded to her felt. Being an asshole is great. Did you know that, I didn’t know that at all. She was with a guy who had long hair and was handsome and his pants were ripped in multiple places, like he was wearing some sort of fishing net made out of jeans. She said, ‘I’ve been meaning to talk to you’ and then a really long sentence that ended with, ‘I miss you.’ I said, ‘okay’ in an unimpressed sort of way and then she said something like, ‘I don’t know why you dropped me.’ I said, ‘why do you think’ and she said, ‘we should be friends’ and then switched to her cute voice and added, ‘hug’ while pouting a little. I said, ‘no’ in an amused sort of way, as if she had asked me to do something really stupid, like jumping off a cliff with a horse or something. She started talking about the guy she was with but I interrupted her and said, ‘you know that’s going to end badly, why do you even bother’ and that’s when she finally got mad and walked away.’

Never log out of facebook.

Shake hands nod a lot appear sociable but not desperate network that kind of crap.

‘By the way, of all living entities, girls are the most insane,’ I write. ‘What’s more insane, a girl or an octopus or an oak tree. Out of all those things, a girl is the most insane. Out of everything, a girl is the most insane.’

My heart is a bargain really.

Someone at work finally noticed the rate at which tea disappears. Later, the person closed his office door angrily. Later, the person faxed things less angrily but still angrily.

They don’t know it’s me. They wouldn’t fire a person for this I think. I feel like I should maybe frame someone for this, just to see what happens.

‘I am okay,’ Anika types in the chat box, ‘I just wish that today was tomorrow and that tomorrow was also tomorrow.’

At the poetry reading I read poetry and then Anika read poetry. We both read poetry.

‘You suck,’ I felt.

‘Anika this is Jess,’ I say. ‘Anika is the shit and Jess is also the shit. So you guys have something in common.’

I was trying to say serious things but I was seriously drunk.

On facebook, people don’t feel like people, they feel like smaller versions of themselves. Kind of like standing on a rooftop and looking down and seeing people from afar as small and insignificant and ant-like and then thinking, ‘I could crush them like party cups.’

‘And yeah, we did make out briefly,’ I write to Anika. ‘Also you showed me your left tit and I played with it a little I think. I didn’t think anything of it other than drunken fooling around. Probably just curiosity on my end, find out what kissing Anika feels like. I don’t know, I don’t think it changed anything on my end. I still like you in the same way.’

Within 10 minutes we were making out. Maybe all we needed was an initial transgression.


My hands are door knobs. When I was a little kid, art class for me felt like being mugged. One time we had to make a thing and I can’t remember what the thing was but I remember that there were several steps and that I had made a shitty dolphin by drawing over some pre-made outline. The last step was to paint it and after that I was done.

But I messed up. I messed up and tried correcting my mistake and messed up even more. Something like thirty minutes later, my teacher walked by and became agitated and shouted questions like, ‘what did you do’ and the entire class looked and laughed and yelled mean things so I tossed the thing in the garbage and ran out of the classroom crying.

I didn’t say anything to anyone for maybe four days after that. Instead, I tucked my head inside my shirt and refused to make eye contact with others. I would eat lunch with my head tucked in my shirt while pretending that nothing outside my shirt existed.

That humiliation was probably the beginning of my inner life.

‘It’s summer though, that’s normal,’ Anika tells me while sitting on my bed. ‘My distraction level is usually the same as the temperature. If it’s minus seventeen outside then I feel like I am minus seventeen distracted.’

Help me get drunk or go away.

There are a few subplots to this party.

My roommate’s cousin is in town for a few days. Drugs are going around and my roommate doesn’t want his cousin to know that yeah, sometimes he does drugs. He tried to get him drunk on whiskey but they’re both drunk on whiskey now. His plan backfired, sort of.

Another subplot is that Anika doesn’t want her friend Shannon to find out about me for now because we have friends in common.

Anika is leaving and I am going to leave 10 minutes from now. We’re not being very subtle or clever, just subtle or clever enough to feel like we’ve tried.

I don’t know how to evaluate whether being with Anika is a good thing or a bad thing or a neutral thing or what is it. I feel like I should get myself a suggestion box, label it ‘life advice,’ put it around my neck, carry it around and just let people tell me what to do.

I like to communicate a lot when I am with another person, not just mine her body for pleasure but also her mind.

Anika is being an asshole to me I think. She’s been off the map for a few days, reduced online presence, not responding to her emails or else being evasive, dodgy. I don’t think I did anything wrong, I wasn’t an asshole to her or anything, which is probably what I did wrong.

Normally, in a situation like this, I would email Anika and describe the problem to her and stare directly at the problem the way a stem cell researcher would stare at a stem cell and then later I would feel liberated or maybe just at a greater distance from the problem. I don’t know who to email this time.

Sitting at the computer typing stuff while time passes outside.

A new entry for my collection of rejection letters from literary magazines.

The person who was angry about the tea was standing behind me and I reached inside my left pocket for my keycard to open the door and what came out wasn’t my keycard and so there I was, holding right in front of him a bunch of tea packets that came out of my pocket.

She might be acting cold towards me because I wasn’t an asshole to her and her past experiences taught her that by this point usually someone is an asshole to someone.

This morning I have downsized my life to a cup of tea and a rectangle that allows me to click on things or people that I’ll never have or be. It feels more manageable. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

image – Don Kennedy

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