sometimes i think that nobody really knows me. at most, i might lend them access to the parts of me that i allow them to perceive. my being is fragmented. it’s not that i lie to people on purpose. i just refuse to let them see anything beyond a fraction of who or what i actually am. if i died right now and a funeral service was held for me, any individual who stood up to deliver a eulogy would be booed offstage halfway through by someone else who thought they knew me better. i’d be mythologized, and the reality of who i once was would be forgotten as people repeated urban legends that they had heard about me like they were playing a game of telephone - an exquisite corpse, reduced to a likeness drawn from memory alone.

the list of people who are aware of the type of human being i really am - the full extent of my nature, the awful things i truly am capable of - is short enough to fit inside the blank space provided by a post-it note. i keep an un-expanding record of them in my notebook that reads as follows:

1. bulimic male model. 5’11 and 135 pounds (100 during fashion week, or so he says - i don’t know how he does it). you’ve got to be a total psycho to succeed in this field, it’s like working in the military. they’ve all got this look to them - nothing behind the eyes. the funny thing is that he was forced into the industry by his parents initially, but he learned to love it. culturally illiterate, sexually multilingual. when he’s around me he acts like he doesn’t experience embarrassment or shame, but around everyone else, he acts guarded. he feels no remorse, and he knows that there’s something wrong with him but he doesn’t know how to fix it. he hates himself, but he hates the world more. he’s a misanthrope - that much is obvious - but he despises some people more than others. the more similar another human being is to him, the less he likes them. he doesn’t want an apology, or an opportunity to start anew. the only thing he desires is revenge. he wants to redistribute all the suffering in the world like an emotional communist. someday everyone who has ever hurt him will come to him begging for forgiveness, and he’ll just laugh. he’ll show them the same amount of mercy that they had for him. he scares the absolute shit out of me. he’s the only person i trust.

2. the spider that crawls across my ceiling at night and watches me masturbate.

3. you.

you were always into spooky stuff, like ghosts and cryptids. on my sixth or seventh birthday, you gave me a hat shaped like an alien as a present. i don’t remember this. i’ve only seen the pictures that my parents show me sometimes. i think that they want to plant a false memory in my brain and change the way that i remember you. i heard about this theory the other day and i think you would have liked to hear about it. someone said that the existence of the uncanny valley implies that there is a reason why we are biologically hardwired to fear things that we don’t recognize or understand. there was a point in time - somewhere, somehow - where there was a reason to be scared of something that looked like a human being, yet wasn’t one. a lot of people have tried to come up with logical explanations as to why people are born with this instinct. we’re supposed to be afraid of corpses, of people with diseases, of members of neighboring tribes who don’t look quite like us. but this doesn’t make sense, because all of these things are human beings (or at least, they used to be), and i’ve never met a human being who i would describe as “uncanny.” and you know what makes this all even more disturbing? some people don’t experience this feeling at all.

there are certain groups of human beings who do provoke a feeling of uncanniness in other groups of people, or so i’ve been told. those who suffer from conditions like antisocial personality disorder or autism, cross-dressers, geriatric patients who are so old that their eyes are sunken in like they’re already dead and you can see every crack in their time-weathered faces. that’s why it’s so easy to create effective propaganda against these people. it’s almost as if they aren’t human at all to the world, that they are a few degrees of separation away from being a person. but i don’t feel afraid when i see them. a person is still a person, no matter how strange they might be. i want to believe that people are inherently good. sometimes i get scared that someone will find a cure to suffering because if no one is subjected to the same pain that i was, then they’ll never really be able to create anything of value. but for now, there is no shortage of misery in this world, and a part of me takes comfort in that. maybe there’s something wrong with me too and that’s why i don’t get that feeling when i look at these people. i worry that other people feel that way when they look at me and that’s why i don’t have too many friends.

i don’t like it when the media labels jeffrey dahmer, for example, as a monster. calling someone a monster implies that they do not realize the impact that their actions have. people like jeffrey dahmer are painfully, constantly, agonizingly self-aware. they relish every second of the torture they inflict on others and they hate themselves for enjoying it so much - not because they really do feel guilty, but because they’ve been trained by the outside world to believe that they should be.

the last time i saw you, we were hiking in the forest in alaska. it was so foggy i could barely make out the features of your face, but i knew it looked far too weather-beaten for a man as young as you were and always will be. i teased you about your facial hair, and you just shook your head and sighed, trying as hard as you could to not crack a smirk. in the final moments that i spent with you, i told you that i wished you would have trimmed that caterpillar mustache, that it made you look like a serial killer on the prowl for little boys. sometimes i regret saying that. on other days i wonder if that’s what you would’ve wanted. if you could have known that your life was about to come to an end, if you had spent months rotting away on your deathbed instead of being suddenly struck down by some unknowable force, would you have preferred me to stay by your side and make you laugh until your heart stopped beating?

you lit a cigarette and my father scolded you. you told him that it didn’t make a difference whether or not you did it because you would die anyway. i could smell the crisp scent of damp earth in the air. we trudged along until you noticed a mushroom underneath a rotting tree - psilocybin aztecorum, is that what you said it was? i used to admire your ability to spot them so easily, even from a distance. before i met you, i had no idea what erowid was. afterward, i scrolled through stories about bad trips like i was reading the morning paper.

about three months later, your apartment burned down with you inside. at first, i was told that you were smoking in bed when your comforter caught alight. by the time you started to smell smoke, it was too late. everything you had ever known was consumed by the flames in an instant. later, my father retracted his initial statement, and he said that a fuse caught fire in your apartment. i suppose it doesn’t really matter. i just hope that the abundance of carbon monoxide in that cramped, confined space caused you to lose consciousness completely before you could become aware of that excruciating pain, but that's between you and god.

burning plastic smells awfully similar to smoldering flesh.

a single article was written about your death in the local newspaper, titled man killed in fire at alaskan apartment. no pictures of you were included in it - only an image of the building you lived in, obscured by smoke, a few windows glowing like a candlelight vigil in the night. they couldn’t even manage to dig up a copy of one of those creepy collages you made out of newspaper clippings from ripley’s believe it or not! books, a photo of the comics you used to write to cheer up your brother after he came home from a long day of school, some sort of artifact to prove that you were real. you willfully obfuscated yourself out of existence.

you were 49 and i was 11. now i’m 16, and you’re still 49.

a week before you died i prayed for the first time in years in the back of your brother, my father's beaten-up honda civic, reeking of mothballs and must. i begged him to give me a reason, to strike me down then and there if necessary, to do something, anything, to prove to me that he was real. i don’t remember why i did it, but he must have heard my prayers. i hope you can forgive me, but i wouldn’t if i were you.

it was early in the morning and the only light i could see was the fluorescent glow of the bulbs in my kitchen. they illuminated my father’s face, highlighting his smile lines like craters in the moon. his hands were clasped underneath his chin, the same way mine were a week prior. he seemed to be staring into the distance but no tears were streaming down his cheeks. i asked him what was wrong and he said that you had died. i didn’t respond. anything i could possibly say would make it worse.

a year after you died we lit a fire in our backyard. my father wrote you a letter and so did i. i don’t recall what it said. maybe i told you that i’m sorry. as for my father’s note, i only saw a glimpse of his handwriting as it disintegrated into embers on the grill and its remnants dissipated into the atmosphere. neat. clean. professional. everything a dead man should be.

the truth is that i never saw you in those ashes. you were the secondhand smoke. you surround me all the time, and i don’t even realize it because i’ve gotten so used to that smell. it once filled your lungs and now it has crept its way inside of mine. i wonder if they exhumed all of those winter jackets, the ones that stunk of cigarettes and attic dust, from your room. part of me hopes that they left it exactly the way that you did that day, and turned it into a shrine to you, an unmoving film still permanently suspended in time while the rest of the world moves on. but i know you wouldn’t have wanted that. a real ghost doesn’t need a house to haunt. there’s never a shortage of negativity to feed off of.

i always wanted to be a funeral home cosmetologist. the horror stories that i heard about mortuary neglect sickened me. it was the small details that really mattered. they might easily go unnoticed by a stranger, but to the friend of the deceased, these seemingly unimportant mistakes served as unpleasant reminders of their own mortality. an unpainted blue fingernail, a mouth left slightly agape - these errors made in the process of trying to render these corpses more “presentable” could single-handedly shatter the illusion that their loved ones were only resting. as a child, your parents tell you that dead people look like they’re sleeping to soothe your anxieties so that you won’t break down upon seeing what used to be your grandpa, your dog, your aunt in a casket. it’s not true, of course. if i could, i’d ban open-casket funerals and force all those grieving families to foster an organic set of memories attached to the departed. parading around an empty husk is a grotesque mockery of everything it means to be human.

i saw you in a dream once. my mother told me that if i put a piece of amethyst underneath my pillow before i fell asleep, i’d have vivid dreams. she said that she once dreamt that she encountered joseph in a dark alleyway and he flashed her. he opened up his coat of many colors, which was plain black on the outside, and he exposed her to a kaleidoscopic beam of light - seemingly thousands of ever-shifting, rapidly changing colors. i did what i was told, and when i woke up i didn’t remember exactly what you said to me, but i knew that you seemed confused. you weren’t scared, but you acted as if you didn’t even know that you were dead. back then i thought it was best to keep it that way, but in retrospect, i don’t think you would’ve freaked out upon learning that information. in fact, i think you would’ve been pretty stoked.

the other night, i couldn’t fall asleep because i read an article about this musician who used to be a male prostitute. he started a rock band and he sold his art and he got a job at a clothing store and he managed to scrape together just enough money to quit without starving to death. he never really hated god, but he despised what he represented, so he made a mission out of disappointing his intolerant christian family in every possible way. he declared himself a devil worshiper, and he committed countless acts of blasphemy. he’d perform onstage in the same clothes and makeup that he put on when he sold himself for sex, but he still wore the rosaries which he was forced to as a child. he never became a star, but he amassed a small yet loyal following composed of other people - those who were also able to take the pain they had experienced and turn it into something beautiful that resonated with others instead of letting those wounds fester, just like he did. but that tiny group of fans wasn’t enough to save him from himself, or from dying in obscurity. after his lover died of an overdose, he re-converted to christianity after years of openly mocking christ. it’s said that in the years before he died, he told many of his acquaintances that he had grown very close to god.

on april fool’s day, he invited a friend over to his house, and they watched a movie about this girl who hung herself. that evening, he shut himself in his room, locked the door, tied a noose, put it around his neck, and suffocated to death slowly. god’s love wasn’t enough. god absolved him of all his sins, but he didn’t forgive himself. you might wonder why i’m telling you all this. well, sometimes i think that there’s a limit to just how much god can forgive. why would god sentence this poor soul who didn’t hurt anyone but himself to suffer for the rest of his short life even after he devoted himself to christ? not only was this man subjected to an objectively miserable existence, but he was also forgotten even in death.

after he killed himself, another musician stole his entire shtick and this hack became a billionaire rockstar hotshot while the groundbreaking artist he copied died in poverty, alone and in pain. this fucking asshole rockstar, this talentless twat without a single thought swimming around inside his vacuous coke-addled mind, donned the same torn fishnets and blood-red lipstick which his inspiration wore when he was getting down on his knees in some filthy inner city bathroom stall choking on the cock of an equally repulsive pervert for a few cents. every night this rockstar would make a conscious decision to put on this costume, not because he needed to, but because he wanted to. this pair of fishnets, that tube of lipstick, they didn’t mean anything to him. they weren’t emblems of any abuse that he had been subjected to which he needed to reclaim. they were just more tools that he could use to further his own cause, his lifelong desire to subjugate and fuck and destroy. those groupies saw his willingness to perform femininity, and they thought this meant that he was different, that he wouldn’t hurt them. well, he did.

if you ask any religious person why they still believe in god, knowing that innocent people suffer while the crimes of murderers and rapists go unpunished, they’ll tell you that nothing happens without a reason. i have to agree, but i don’t believe this for the same reason that they do. i think that man was created and put on this earth to struggle with god, that’s his sole purpose. but it’s a one-sided quarrel. i don’t think god actively chooses to hurt people. he just doesn’t care. he’s as useless as a sports mascot, a purely symbolic subject of idolatry, nothing more. to pray to god is to attempt to have a conversation with the automatic voice message emitted by an answering machine after whoever you’re calling doesn’t pick up the phone. nobody gets through to him.

you can’t go searching for god. he has to find you. if you only pray to him when you know you’ve fucked up, he’ll dismiss you as a spiritual beggar. in your darkest moments, you will be too distracted by your own suffering to even think of asking for his assistance, and that is when he will step in. but if you try to listen for him, the same way you would press your ear to a conch shell hoping to hear the ocean’s roar, you’ll never hear the voice of god. you’ll look up to the endless miles of blue sky and you’ll see nothing.

i didn’t cry when you died. but now i do. nothing reminds me of you, but there are still a few things in this world that remind me of the way that you made me feel. today i saw a collage - faded black and white pictures of a cat playing in various different positions with a caption superimposed onto it in a typewriter-esque font. it read something like this:

“my hair looked good today.
i wish you could have seen it.
and no one hugs me the way you did.”

to weston
please write back.