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Wear My Art On My Sleeve

When I was a little girl, I helped my step grandma complete a puzzle one summer.

I don’t recall it perfectly, just that it was some stupid, soothing almost Thomas Kinkadesque picture of a stream or some shit like that, and when we were done, she had it glued together and framed, and gave it to me. It hung in my bedroom for many years, but only in the last few years have I realized I don’t know where it’s gone. Perhaps my stepfather took it when my parents divorced, I mean it did come from his mother so that would make sense I suppose, but I had a hand in that too. A part of that is mine. There’s so much that’s just gone now, so little left for me to hang onto, that I cling to anything I’ve had a hand in, which is why I defend my art so vehemently. Even if I myself am not good enough, I know with full force that my work is good enough. The problem is, a lot of art is so introspective, something that will make people think and analyze themselves and question things, but nobody wants to do that. Everyone is too happy being spoonfed what to think, what opinions to have, and then being told they came up with said thoughts and opinions in the first place, so they can feel clever.

I want this to be made perfectly clear. I am not saying I deserve anything, any praise, recognition or what have you. My work might, who knows, but me as a person? God no. I don’t deserve to be famous or popular simply for making something people like. People like my artwork, that’s a separate entity from me. I just want to be able to do it, to live comfortably enough doing it, and to have people enjoy it. I just want to make others happy, feel connected to something, to make them…not…feel like me. I am so unhappy, that I work actively to make those around me feel good, so they never have to feel as low as I’ve felt, or do feel. I want to make them better. I want to make them what I’m not. What I can’t be. Look at how unhappy artists are. Sylvia Plath put her head in an oven, Van Gogh lopped his ear off. I’m not saying I am anywhere as good as these people, because heaven knows I am not, but I don’t want anyone to feel as bad as I do.

So many people tell me to give up, that maybe I should delegate my art to being a “hobby”, saying it doesn’t “provide for me”. No. I would rather starve than fail at the one thing I was put here to do. I haven’t been doing this for 90% of my life to have it be boiled down to a fucking “hobby”. So many people hate their jobs, and keep the things they’d love to do instead as their careers as their “hobbies” simply because it doesn’t “provide” for them, but where’s the fucking logic in that. If I’m already this unhappy doing the thing I love, the thing I was put here to do, why the fuck would I ever do something that’d make me even unhappier, with less time for the thing I love to do? Perhaps if my parents had wanted me, if my family had loved me, if I had been fulfilled in that sort of way, I could say “Okay, well, this is just a fun thing to do on the side”, but the way I see it, when the only thing I’m here to do isn’t good enough, then there’s no reason for me to be here at all.

Art…it’s all that I have. It’s been my entire life. An escape from the ever ongoing existential dread that is my existence. Movies, books, television, music, comics, painting, drawing, video games. Art in all its glorious outcomes, it has been my friend. I came home everyday, from a school where students endlessly harassed me and teachers were of no help, to parents who yelled at me for not being better and made no effort to really know me or help me, who told me I’d never be good enough. I came home to that, every single fucking day, and having art, any kind of art, any medium at all, be my only escape…

…I have to give back to it, for all that it’s given me.

Hey. I’m Maggie. If you like this thing I made, then maybe you’d like these other things I made, like my webcomic “In Space, No One Can Hear You Cry”, my writing over at Medium or my podcast, “Coping With Tonal Shifts In Reality”. If you really like what I do and really want to support me, you can either donate directly to the PayPal or help out at my Patreon. Thank you so much for reading, it means the world to me.

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Michael & Gina Sit On The Roof

technologiesMichael had been up here so many times in his life, watching the stars or waiting for fireworks with a good view. This roof had become as familiar to him as his own house had, except he’d spent so much more time here, at Lucy’s, that it almost felt more like home than his own home had. He glanced over his shoulder at the sound of someone coming onto the roof behind him, only to see his friend Gina crawling up to sit beside him, handing him a coffee mug and holding one for herself. Michael took the mug and took a long sip as Gina settled herself beside him on the roof.

“I think I’ve spent more time on this roof than I have inside the house, oddly enough,” Michael said, and Gina smirked.

“Yeah, I know what you mean,” she said, “This roof has seen so much more action than anywhere I’ve ever lived. You remember Lillian Burk? That girl I was in band with in high school, the sort of gothy one?”

“Yeah, I remember her,” Michael said.

“I brought her up here on New Years and kissed her,” Gina said, smiling as she looked down at the coffee she was swirling in her mug, “She ended up not being into it in the end, but it’s a very vivid, happy memory for me. This roof is where I had my first kiss.”

“Did you ever tell Lucy that?” Michael asked and Gina laughed.

“God, no, never. No, Lucy and I weren’t the sort of secret sharing best friends everyone seems to be in love with concept wise. No, we were more like the ‘let’s go to college together and be eachothers bridesmaids’ sort of best friends.”

“I remember when Kyle Lowman fell off this roof,” Michael said, taking another long sip from his mug, “Remember that?”

“I do remember that!” Gina said loudly, pointing at him, “I remember he was getting angry at Tally Spimoni for something, and he lost his footing and slid off the roof into the bushes below! He wasn’t even hurt, but he acted like he was, and of course that made Tally be all apologetic and shit. God, those two belonged together.”

A long pause came over them, as the cool summer air picked up, wafting past them, turning the weather vane on the roof a bit, the both of them watching.

“Everyone’s gone now,” Gina said, “Some are dead, some just moved and lost touch with, the only one we had left really was Lucy, and her roof. I don’t want to lose the roof. I’ve already lost my best friend.”

“They’re going to sell the house, you know that,” Michael said.

“I don’t see why we don’t just pool our money and-”

“Yeah, I can barely afford my rent, let alone half a house,” Michael said, interrupting her before she got too attached to the idea like she usually did, “No, I mean, I’m right there with you, this roof has been a major part of my life for so long, I don’t want to lose it either, but…but we’re going to, and we just need to accept that. You know, I lost my virginity up here.”

“What?!”

“Yeah,” Michael said, chuckling, “Yeah, to Carmen Tortona, from Saint Marys, remember her?”

“You lost it to a girl from a catholic school? Wow, that’s impressive,” Gina said.

“She wasn’t very catholic as it turned out,” Michael said, “But it was like, sometime in the fall, early October, and we were over here hanging out and we were seniors, I remember that, and I think we were here pet sitting cause Lucy had to go visit her grandma or something, and her parents asked me to watch the dog, so obviously I invited a girl over to a house I had all to myself a week.”

“What a casanova,” Gina said, grinning.

“Well,” Michael replied, “I do what I can for the ladies. But we were up here, and it was like one in the morning or something, and we were talking about graduation and stuff and, I don’t know, it just sort of came up that we were both still virgins, and that we liked one another enough and that we both could’ve ended up having our first time with worse people so why not do it with eachother, right?…it was nice.”

Another long pause, as Gina looked at her nails.

“Did you see Lucy after she got sick?”

“A few times,” Michael said, “Did you?”

“I couldn’t,” Gina said, “I feel awful about it, but she told me it was fine if I couldn’t stomach it. The worst part is when she told me she was going to die, I was sad but the first thing that ran through my head was ‘oh no, we’re going to lose her house’. Am I a bad person?”

“Buildings are important to people,” Michael said, shrugging, “I mean, I don’t get it but it’s true. A lot of times, when people recount memories, what they don’t realize is that the memory isn’t so much about when or how it happened or with whom it happened, but where it happened. That’s what actually helps you remember, is the setting. That’s why you were scared of losing the house when she told you she was sick, because this is where so many formative moments in your life occurred, right here, on this goddamned roof. You don’t want to lose that, nobody would.”

Another pause, and then Michael laughed and looked at Gina.

“Let’s take a shingle, each,” he said, “That way, we’ll always have some of the roof with us. Often times these homes when they get sold end up getting redone anyway, so why not? Nobody’s going to miss a few lousy shingles.”

“That’s a good idea,” Gina said, as the two of them got onto their knees and started prying some of the looser shingles free from the roof. They then picked the ones they liked best, and each took one. As they sat there, staring at their respective shingles, Michael sighed.

“Don’t worry,” he said, finishing his coffee, “There will always be other roofs, and there will always be other Lucy’s, cruel as it may sound, but there will never be another Lucy’s roof.”

Gina smiled, stood up and held her hand out. Michael took it, as she helped him up, and the two of them headed down from the roof, through the house, locking it up and out to their cars. Standing there, in the driveway, Gina looked at Michael.

“I’m hungry, you want to go get something to eat?”

“I could eat, yeah,” he replied, “You pick and I’ll just follow you.”

“Okay.”

The two got into their cars and drove away. As they left, Michael couldn’t help but glance at his rearview mirror, back at Lucy’s roof one final time, and smiled. He didn’t mean by his statement that Lucy wasn’t special or unique or that she could be easily replaced. Everyone was special and unique and couldn’t be easily replaced. He just meant that there would never be another roof like Lucy’s. One that held so much history of their youth, of their time spent together, their friendship. Other roofs would hold other history, the start of their own families, their own holiday traditions, their eventual children’s youths, but there would never be another like this roof. Yes, there will always be other roofs, other Lucy’s.

But there would never be another Lucy’s roof.

Hey, I’m Maggie. You like this thing I made? Then you might like other things I make, like my depressing webcomic “In Space, No One Can Hear You Cry”, or my writing over at Medium. You can also donate at the PayPal or follow/support my work on Patreon! Anything given will go to paying my rent and groceries, and be greatly appreciated. Thanks for reading!

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My Mom’s Going To Haunt Me

It’s gotta be some sort of cruel irony that I’ve spent a good portion of my life running away from my mother both in a physical sense and a personality sense, and yet despite all the effort, I’m going to wind up carrying her around after she dies since she has chosen to be cremated and as her only child, I’ll be stuck with her ashes.

My mother has made this stance of hers clear for years, likely ever since her brother died when I was a little girl. She says that she hates the idea of being buried (too confining, as if your corpse would notice), and that she doesn’t want to be reincarnated and thinks by being burnt that you cannot be brought back because your essence is literally released into the universe. While I don’t make fun of her for these things, shit, we hardly even speak, I also don’t believe in it myself. But, the fact remains…no matter how far I run, how hard I try to break free, how much I tell people I want nothing to do with my family and they don’t care about me either, I will end up with my mothers remains, because I am her only child and it’ll all fall down to me. The only upside to this is that my father likely won’t be cremated, so thank god I won’t end up with them both.

There’s a famous quote, “We all become our parents”. That quote is a load of giant bullshit. While that quote might be totally applicable to people who like their parents, admire traits their parents have and want to emulate them as adults themselves, it’s absolute crap for people who have been abused by their parents and spent their lives running away from them. I assure you, aside from a slight overlap in musical taste, I have nothing in common with my mother. We have very different “religious” beliefs, political stances, overall viewpoint of the world and so on and so forth. And it goes beyond your usual “millennial” vs “baby boomer” aspect. First of all, I don’t really consider myself a millennial more than any other reason because I hold a lot of values held by Generation X. While I recognize it isn’t ideas that determine what generation you’re a part of, it’s the year you’re born in, I still hold fast to that belief. So this gap between us goes far beyond the usual generational differences. It’s likely it goes far beyond that because of how she treated me most of my life, so please, do not ever compare me to my mother. I assure you, we aren’t alike. In fact, I am so different from my parents, I don’t even take after them physically.

Hilarious. I’ll spend years running away, trying to escape a woman who made my life a literal living hell a lot of the time, and made my self esteem go in the toilet, and it won’t matter how far I go or what I do to put distance between us physically or otherwise, because in the end, all that matters is that she’s gonna end up in my possession anyway. She’s going to get what she wants; being stuck to me, always a presence in my life in some way. She’s going to be a presence in my future childs life simply because she’ll be there in an urn. I guess there’s truth in the whole “you can’t outrun your problems” concept.

So okay, my mother will have the last laugh because she’ll force her way into my life one way or another in the end. I can’t fight it. Sometimes you just have to give applause to dedication. Sure, she may be with me in an urn, but, as someone who didn’t expect to live past 14 and is now nearing her thirties, the fact I’ll outlive my mother, someone who made me want to die for so long, is a somewhat comforting fact and one she can’t take away from me.

She’ll never truly win.

Hey, I’m Maggie. Did you like this thing I made? Then you might like some other things I make, like my webcomic “In Space, No One Can Hear You Cry” or my writing over at Medium. If you want to support all the work I do, you can donate directly at my PayPal or follow and donate at my Patreon, where for a dollar a month (the basic tier), you get posts early, along with behind the scenes content! Anything you give goes to survival and is greatly appreciated! Thanks for reading!

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Jessica Throws Herself Down A Well

technologiesJessica Thrush stretched her arm out over its pitch black opening, only barely lit by the dim flashlight she had shaking in her other hand, and opened her clenched fist to allow the pebbles to fall into the well.

After a few minutes, she heard them hit the ground, faintly, and smiled to herself. She put the flashlight on the edge of the well, and took her brown leather jacket off, tossing it on the ground. She then began to pace back and forth as she started to put her hair up in a ponytail, mumbling to herself. She finally stopped, looked at the well and approached it again, leaning over, looking back down the hole. She walked farther away, flashlight in hand, and then beamed it back at the dilapidated house, the shingles sliding off the roof, the paint peeling, the windows somewhat broken. She felt herself get choked up, and quickly shut it down. Jessica started to head towards the house, and pushed on the door, but it wouldn’t budge. She put all her strength into her right shoulder and pushed her way through, realizing that some boards from the second floor had fallen down and wedged themselves between the floor and the door, causing it to be stuck.

As Jessica looked around at the house that used to be hers, recognizing that nobody else had been here in years. She let her flashlights faded beam dance across the rotting wallpaper, landing on the fireplace mantel, where it finally settled on a box sitting on the mantel. Jessica walked over to it and cautiously removed it from the mantel, then made her way to the middle of the living room, sitting down in the middle of the floor, cross legged, and put the end of the flashlight in her mouth. She slowly opened the old box, and inside was a twirling ballerina. The old music she’d left here was still here, and still functional. She wiped the tears from her eyes, her mascara rubbing off on the sides of her hand, and stood up, heading upstairs now.

This was where it’d all been. The only good memories she’d had of her life. Not because of the people she was with here, but because of the place itself. Because of how good the place had made her feel. In the open fields at night, looking at the stars, and in the open fields in the day, looking for birds. Sitting in the upstairs bedroom with her sister, reading or doing puzzles. Sitting with their parents at the breakfast table, laughing and happy. But that was then, and this was now, and now the house was gone, her family was gone, and her will was gone.

When she opened the door to her old bedroom, she half expected to see her sister sitting inside, still reading magazines or listening to records on their grandpas old record player, but no. It was just as empty and run down as every other part of the house. On the old desk they’d left behind, she ran her fingertips across a phrase they’d etched into the wood the night before they left. “Home again, home again, jiggity jig.” She let a smirk skip across her lips as she read it, and then looked at where their old bed was. The place they sat, discussing their first kisses, her sisters first time, and were read stories by their mom at night. But once again, it wasn’t so much the people involved, as much as it was the bed itself. The room. This place had once held so much light, and now it was black as the depths of space itself. After a few moments of running her palm across the decaying wallpaper with the carousel horses on it, she finally let herself head back downstairs.

As Jessica exited the house, she put the music box on the edge of the well and took a long, deep breath. Why wouldn’t she be buried with her family? Why wouldn’t she want to be with them, if she’d loved them so much? Because Jessica wanted to be here. She wanted her final resting place to be the place she’d been happiest. This, to her, was where her life had began, and where she wanted it to end. Jessica walked back to the well, looked into the hole again and sighed. Home isn’t just a place, it’s a feeling, and no place had given her that feeling like this one had. This was her home. This was her casket. Besides, if you believed in the afterlife, she didn’t have to be buried with her family anyway, she’d see them no matter where her physical body landed.

“Home again, home again, jiggity jig,” she muttered under her breath as she shut her eyes, clenched her fists and let herself lean forward, falling headfirst into the well to her death.

This is the first piece in a series I’m doing called “Irrational Attachment To Places”, mostly inspired by this Medium article I wrote recently. These will continue sporadically here and on Medium. If you liked this, you could also check out my webcomic, “In Space, No One Can Hear You Cry”, or my communal site “Sad Party”, where I encourage others to share their sadness so others don’t feel alone.

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The Black Sheep

There’s no questioning it, I am the black sheep of my family.

Even back when I was involved with my family, I was always the odd one out. Whether it was christmas spent together or some vacation, or hell even just day to day life, I was always the one who didn’t belong. So it only makes sense that I’d come to be the black sheep. About three years ago, after leaving my abusive family behind in the dust physically, I cut off all contact with them on social media, leaving them forever in the dark about my doings and whereabouts, not that they were ever remotely interested to begin with, as the only reason any of them had friended me on Facebook in the first place as simply to relay information to my mother so she could use it against me. When my girlfriend and I visited California, where I’m originally from, a few times in the last two years, I never saw any of them and the few texts I did receive possibly seeing any of them were mostly, “Why don’t you talk to your mother? Why do you talk about her that way!?”

So I’m the black sheep. But, because I have no siblings and nobody really cares about me, I’m not one of those cool gay aunts that people routinely ask about, who’s shrouded in mysteriousness but who is really way cooler than my nephew/nieces parents. No. I’m just the one who is completely forgotten. Nobody asks about me. Nobody wonders what happened. Nobody tries to contact me. On one hand, it’s wonderful, because I have nobody left to let down and disappoint except myself, but on the other hand a part of me wonders what was so wrong with me that even the people I was born into don’t care about me. It’d be one thing if I was just the sort of black sheep I mentioned before, the one who’s shunned her relatives herself, who is surrounded by questions, but I’m not. I’m the opposite. I’m the one who got shunned. I’m not the one people ask questions about. I’m the one nobody asks questions about. After a lifetime of abuse, you’d think that this would be a dream come true, not having to deal with those people anymore, but…

I just never felt welcome anywhere with any of them. Even though my extended family, aunts and uncles and whatnot, weren’t directly abusive to me, most of them also never really made me feel all that welcome or genuinely loved. I always felt out of place and only there because I just happened to have been born into this group of people. Rarely did anyone ever bother to actually get to know my interests, so christmas or birthday gifts were always relatively generic. Clothes. Not even clothes I liked. Media. A lot of time, media I didn’t like, more of a “oh, she likes movies! This just came out on DVD, get it for her!”. Even to this day, I wonder who really knows me. It’s not like it’s that hard to know who I am or what I like. I post things I like to social media, I talk about my interests & hobbies openly. It just seems like nobody bothers to listen. And I’m not saying this in a “Why doesn’t anyone pay attention to me!” sort of way, this is more of a “Well, I guess….I’m just not all that worthy of being known or cared about” sort of way. See, the thing about abuse, especially abuse from people like your family, who’re supposed to love and care about you, is that that then carries over into every other relationship you ever form from then on.

I have people I know who care about me. Certain close friends. My girlfriend. And yet…a part of me is absolutely convinced they don’t. That they’re doing it out of pity, or shame, or because they feel they have to because nobody else has. I know this isn’t true, but when you become so used to abuse, so used to it that you need it to survive, then you believe it no matter what. Call it stockholm syndrome if you must, I don’t care what label you assign it, but what I do know is that I suffer from it and I suffer greatly. What’s even more sick is still missing it. Is missing these people despite knowing damn well what they did to me and how they made me feel. I’m the black sheep. I’m the deserter. Not because I deserted, but because I was driven out. They had an entire flock, and saw me and went, “She’s not like the others, get her out of here.” Even growing up, the few friends I did have, I always had to contact them, they never made an effort to contact me. I’m not just a black sheep to my family. I’m a black sheep to every single relationship.

Then, you might meet some people who make you trust others again. Who make you believe that you are worthy of being loved, are capable of finding people who care about you. You’re so starved for attention and affection and kindness, that you latch onto them and trust them deeply. Then they hurt you too, in ways similar to or worse than the others before them have, and make you really retreat back into your hole. They shatter that trust they’ve built, because they were using you or just didn’t really care all that much. That’s what happened this summer. Someone I trusted for 4 years, someone who considered me a part of their family, they in turn wound up being just as bad as my parents, and destroyed any hope I could have for trusting others again for a very long time, and they took no responsibility for it. No, like all other abusers they wanted the abused to take the blame. Once again, I’m the black sheep, cut off from contact of someone I trusted for years.

So fine. I’m the black sheep. I’ve accepted that, and you know what? You all need a herd to be with, but I don’t, and I’m finding that maybe it’s better this way, because it’s taught me to survive on my own. To be strong. That nobody except me can tell me how worthy I am and how capable of success I can be.

Baa, baa, black sheep,
Have you any shame?
Yes, sir, yes, sir,
Three bags the same;
One for the parents,
And one for the “friends”,
And none for myself
Because that’s where it ends.

I’m Maggie Taylor. Did you like this thing? If so, well, I make other things you might like too. You check out my webcomic “In Space, No One Can Hear You Cry”, or my writing on Medium. You can also submit a piece to my new site, “Sad Party”, where I encourage others to share their struggles with mental illness so others don’t feel as alone. Also working on some other big projects for the end of the year, so be on the lookout for those! Thanks for reading!

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I Almost Saw My Mother Die

When I was about 6 or so, my mother had an allergic reaction to some shellfish in my grandparents house. I was told to go next door and get a neighbor to take us to the hospital, which I did. I’ve thought back to that day countless times, about what would’ve happened had the neighbor not been home, or she hadn’t gotten to the hospital in time. A few years prior to this, I’d gotten very sick and dehydrated, and had to be taken to the hospital, where I stayed for who knows how long because perception of time means nothing to a 4 year old. All I can really recall about my time spent in the hospital was that they played The Lion King nonstop on a VHS and I don’t think I’ve watched that movie since that time because I’m so fucking tired of it. I almost wished I could’ve died just to escape having to watch the fucking Lion King again, but, that’s a rant for another post.

Sometimes, when things get hard, when things get so hard they feel like I can’t go on, I think back to that point in time and wish that I had just died there, in that hospital bed, as a 4 year old girl. Then, I think to when my mother nearly died, and I get mad at myself because I…I sort of wish she had. Allow me to explain. Had my mother died, she never would’ve met my stepfather, they never would’ve gotten married, and my life wouldn’t have become the abusive hellhole it became for 15 long years. Things could’ve been so different. I might not be that broken. Sure, who knows where I might’ve ended up. I could’ve ended up in a foster home of a couple who fuck dead goats in their basement, you never know, but I would be lying if I said I don’t think about it sometimes. But, despite my anger towards a family who turned against me, who hurt me so much as a child, and despite never being in good standing with her, I cannot in good conscience say that I wish she had died, because it was that life that made me who I am today. I’m not saying that I’m happy with what I went through, but it made me into a person who’s faced adversity and abuse and came out the other side, beaten, damaged, but still managing to keep going.

The fact that my mother lived, the fact that she married this man and that my adolescence was as terrible as it was, it made me me. No, “what didn’t kill me didn’t make me stronger”, despite the ever popular saying. I’m not stronger because of what I’ve endured. If anything, I’m weaker because of it, however, that weakness has made me want to become stronger, and keep going. As I said in my medium article, there’s a bizarre attachment to being broken. A sort of “I don’t wanna be fixed, this is who I am!“, but why am I so attached to being broken? Where’s the logic in that? So like I said, no, it didn’t kill me, but it didn’t make me stronger. I’m the only thing that can make me stronger, by choosing to become stronger.

Hey, let’s put it this way. Family isn’t always there for you, but you are always there for you, so at least you aren’t really alone.

Hey. I’m Maggie. If you liked this thing, you might like some other things I do, like my webcomic “In Space, No One Can Hear You Cry”, or “Sad Party” where I encourage others to share their sadness so others can not feel so alone. I also write at Medium from time to time. You can also donate to my SquareCash, it’d be very appreciated. Thanks for reading!

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Terrible, Thanks For Asking

Sandy Price was sitting at a table, waiting for Reggie Carter to arrive. She wasn’t dressed sharp, as one normally would when meeting with an old friend, and instead had opted for an old torn t-shirt and pajama pants. Thankfully, they were only meeting at a cafe and not somewhere fancy, so she could get away with it. A waiter came by the table and handed her a menu, and she looked up at him, pushing her hair behind her ear.

“Thank you,” she said politely.

“Do you know what you want?” the waiter asked, “Or what you may want to drink?”

“I’m just going to have an iced tea and your most expensive, artery clogging sandwich,” Sandy said and the waiter nodded.

“One slice of quick death coming right up,” he said, before turning and heading off into the cafe. Sandy opened her menu, simply for something to read until Reggie showed up, and after a few moments, she heard a voice in front of her.

“Isn’t it weird how they put how many calories are in each item now?” Reggie asked, taking her seat across from Sandy, “People used to make fun of calorie counters, and now McDonalds puts how many calories are in a hashbrown. Someone will laugh at Global Warming and yet turn off every lightbulb in their house for an hour in an effort to ‘Go Green’ for a facebook event. The hypocrisy and the associated blindness that goes hand in hand is hilarious and yet terrifying.”

Reggie was wearing a nice blue, backless dress and what looked to be a very realistic, well styled blonde wig. She looked beautiful, and at first glance, you’d never suspect she was sick. Sandy was surprised at how seeing her made her feel good.

“It’s just amazing how quickly society adapts to whoever is calling the shots now, and then tries to deny they were ever any other way. ‘Oh, what, being nerdy is in now? Well, good thing I’ve always been a nerd and never shoved anyone in a locker before’. It’s ridiculous,” Reggie said, sitting down as Sandy watched the waiter set her sandwich and drink down on the table, before turning to Reggie.

“What can I get for you ma’am?” he asked.

“I’ll just have a slice of pumpkin pie please,” she said and he nodded, heading off back inside as Reggie folded her hands and watched Sandy quietly take a bit from her sandwich, trying to talk with her mouth full.

“You loof goo’,” Sandy said, chewing and swallowing, “You look good,” she repeated, “I mean, your hair looks nice and-”

“Oh, it’s a wig,” Reggie said, “I mean, it’s a high end model, but it’s a wig. Not that I’m embarrassed or ashamed of it. We all deal with what we’re handed in life, right? Some people got rich. I got sick. It is what it is.”

“You don’t sound particularly sad about being on deaths doorstep,” Sandy said.

“I’m not on deaths door. More like deaths driveway. Still, it happens to everyone, and to some people it happens sooner, so why be upset about something that’ll happen to all of us eventually anyway? Besides, it’s not a total lost cause. There’s still some hope it’ll get better,” Reggie said as Sandy sipped her drink.

“That’s the spirit I guess,” Sandy said.

“How’re you doing? It’s been so long,” Reggie asked, sounding genuine in her interest. Sandy pushed her hair back and pulled it up into a bun before thinking for a moment.

“It’s okay. I’m working as a dance teacher for ballet, mostly for young girls right now, which is fine. Living with a guy named Derek. I’m…we’re….I don’t know what we are. We just are. We live together, sometimes we sleep together, it’s all as vague as the rest of my life to be honest. Not speaking to my mother much. She’s not happy about my job. Not much exciting going on,” Sandy said, her eyes sitting on her drink the entire time.

“…well, it doesn’t sound like a bad life, exactly. I mean, you’re doing what you like, right? And you’ve got someone by your side. That’s better than most people I’ve spoken to from college.”

“Is it really worth having someone by your side if you’re not sure you want them there?” Sandy asked, suddenly surprising even herself by her own statement as it left her mouth, and she clenched her fists tight, “I mean…not that I don’t like having Derek, but-”

“You don’t have to explain, Sandy, I get it,” Reggie said, “Believe me, getting sick really puts into perspective who really cares about you.”

“Really?”

“You’d be surprised,” Reggie said as the waiter came back and set her pie down before leaving again. Reggie picked up her fork and started in on it before continuing, “I mean, they say family is supposed to be the one constant you can always count on, but wow, you really don’t know just how everything comes with an asterisk attached to it. The Asterisk Effect is astounding.”

“The Asterisk Effect?” Sandy asked, continuing eating her sandwich.

“It’s something I came up with with my therapist,” Reggie said, slicing another piece of pie, “It’s like when you go to buy a car, you know, or you sign up for a website, and they have that long list of terms and conditions, and then there’s a whole section at the bottom in fine print because something above had an asterisk next to it, you know? It’s what really matters regarding this contract. The dirty part that everyone tries to sweep under the rug. Everything is affected by The Asterisk Effect. Your family will always love and support you, so long as you don’t become an inconvenience. That sort of thing.”

“I guess I never really thought about it like that before…” Sandy said, mumbling.

“So I guess the thing you really have to do when you look at your life, the things and the people in it, is are they affected by The Asterisk Effect? You care about Derek, but is there a caveat? Is there fine print?” Reggie asked, eating some of her pie crust.

Sandy leaned back in her seat and folded her arms, thinking long and hard about the last few months with her and Derek. Thinking about what they’d said, done, how they’d interacted between themselves and around others. After a few moments, she smiled as Reggie put her fork down and wiped her face on her napkin.

“What?” Reggie asked.

“There isn’t any fine print,” Sandy said, “There’s no Asterisk Effect. In fact, my relationship with Derek is probably the one thing in my life that isn’t affected by that. We’re so open, we talk about everything, we hold nothing back, so there’s nothing to be brought down by it. No. There’s no caveat.”

“Well,” Reggie said, “There ya go.”

Sandy smiled, looking up at Reggie now, feeling better than she had in weeks. After lunch, the girls shopped for a bit before going their own ways. They made plans to meet again in a few weeks and Sandy told her that if she needed any help, being driven to appointments or anything, to call her. When Sandy got into her car, she thought about Derek, and started driving to his part time job he’d recently picked up, doing photo editing in a darkroom downtown. Sandy got there in scant minutes, got into the building, and found the darkroom, which she entered without a second thought. Derek turned to face her.

“Hey, be careful, any light could-” he started before she interrupted him.

“I need to ask you something,” she said, “Is there any fine print between us? Is there…is there anything that would ever make you change how you feel towards me, or about me, or us in general?”

“I mean, if you tried to kill me or something that might sour the deal, but otherwise, not really,” Derek said.

Sandy waited a second, took her hands off her hips and locked the door, and approached Derek, pushing her lips against his.

Hey. I’m Maggie. Did you like this thing I made? Then you might like some other things I make, like my depressing space webcomic, “In Space, No One Can Hear You Cry”, or my new site “Sad Party”, where I encourage others to share how low they feel so others feel better. You can also donate to my SquareCash. Thanks and enjoy!