Non-Fiction

Wait Time

Photo of a dirt road with grass and trees on either side and a truck with lit-up headlights at the end. Blue filter over image. White text aligned left reads, "Our lives are so short, and yet we spend so much of our time waiting." Handle @sage_pantony in white in bottom right corner.

A big part of life is about waiting. A big part of life is about learning to be patient. You can’t always get what you want, and you certainly can’t always get what you want right away. If what you want is coming, you’ll have to learn how to wait for it.

We wait in line. We wait for the school year to end. We wait for our lease to be up. We wait for the right time to speak. We wait for the night to pass. We wait for the morning to come.

Our lives are so short, and yet we spend so much of our time waiting.

You have to get comfortable with the wait. You have to learn to be patient. Patience is a virtue, but not one of my virtues. And yet, I wait. I wait because I have to. The universe gives me no choice in the matter.

There’s a lot to be found by waiting, a lot to learn while waiting. There are lessons you can only gain from waiting.

There’s growth that happens while waiting, quiet growth. Not the kind you can measure against the wall, no, the mark won’t move, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t there. While waiting, you might feel like nothing is happening, but really, you are transforming. Like ingredients in a crock-pot, you’re a meal that’s slowly cooking.

There’s value in waiting, as annoying as it might be. These wait times are mandatory. You must go through them. You cannot rush off to the next thing. You must pause. You must wait your turn. You must learn the lessons only waiting can give you.

You will come out the other side of these waiting periods transformed. I guarantee it. How and in which ways? You’ll have to wait and see.

Non-Fiction

Moving on From Creative Projects

Close-up photo of two dead flowers lying facedown in the dirt, with some sticks, bark, and a few little green plants around them.

You are allowed to take breaks. You are allowed to pause. You are allowed to go on a hiatus from a creative project. You are allowed to abandon that project entirely. You are allowed to shift gears. You are allowed to leave things unfinished.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that you are or the project is a failure. Maybe it was never meant to be finished, or maybe it wasn’t meant to be done so quickly.

Maybe you were meant to learn something from this project. Maybe you can apply these lessons to the next one. Maybe you were meant to develop some skills. Maybe you were simply meant to have this experience.

Sometimes, the only thing you can do for a creative project that isn’t working is just let it go.

Even if you move on, you have not wasted your time. Art is never a waste. Allow yourself to move forward. Leave the guilt behind.


Thinking about all my abandoned manuscripts, the books I started writing before I figured out what kind of writer I wanted to be. I will never finish them, but they are still valuable. They helped me become the writer I am today.

Thinking about my old YouTube channel, which I poured passion, creative energy, and hundreds of hours of my time into. I decided to stop being a YouTuber, but I carry the lessons and skills that gave me into my work today. I wouldn’t take it back. I wouldn’t undo it.

Everything that came before has been a part of my creative path. A creative path is messy, leaving all kinds of debris on its shoulders and in its wake. That’s all right. That’s how it should be.

Non-Fiction

You Don’t Need to Have a Brand

Photo taken out of a car window that's covered in water droplets of a storefront with an open sign in the window and several framed pieces of art on the walls within. Pink-and-purple filter over image. White text aligned left reads, "You don’t have to have a brand as a creative person. You can just create. It’s fine." Handle @sage_pantony in white in bottom right corner.

You don’t have to have a brand as a creative person. You can just create. It’s fine.

Late-stage capitalism and social media are impacting our relationships to ourselves and our art. We are encouraged to commodify, label, and measure the success of our creativity.

If we don’t have a large audience for our work, we may feel like we’ve failed as artists. If we don’t make money from our art, we may feel like we’ve failed as artists. If we don’t have a defined brand or theme for our work, we may feel like we’ve failed as artists.

We haven’t.

Feel free to experiment, get weird, and try different things. Don’t feel like you have to stick to creating something you don’t like just because it’s a part of “your brand”. It’s probably healthiest to stop thinking of yourself as a brand.

Creativity likes flow, freedom, experimentation, messiness, and room to breathe. Creativity doesn’t like confinement, pressure, rigid expectations, commodification, and, um, capitalism. Don’t kill your creative process with branding. Don’t try to label and define something just as it’s trying to be born.

Let yourself fuck around. Start new projects and abandon them. Spend your time creating what you want rather than what you think the world wants from you. Don’t get stuck making the same thing over and over just because other people like it.

Art is not always straightforward, presentable, and easily consumable. Not everything you create has to be made for consumption. Not everything you create has to resonate with an audience. Art can exist for its own sake. You can make it just because you want to.

If you’ve been feeling pressure to create specific things in certain ways, if you’ve been feeling blocked, try doing something completely different. Step outside of the confines of what you normally make. Experiment. Don’t worry about how it will be received, and know that it doesn’t have to be received at all. Don’t worry about the final product. Allow yourself to get lost in the process and see what happens.

Non-Fiction

Someone’s Probably Laughing at Your Art

Close-up photo of a flower peeking out between two wooden slats in a fence. Pink filter over image. White text in the centre reads, "Yes, someone's probably laughing at your art." Handle @sage_pantony in white in bottom right corner.

Yes, someone’s probably laughing at your art.

Depending on the size of your audience, there may be multiple people laughing at it. Unless you’re a comedian, this probably doesn’t feel great.

I recently saw another poet talk about how devastated they were to find out their partner and his friends laughed at their poetry. Obviously, that’s cruel and messed up, and it’s going to hurt.

I assume that there are people who laugh at my writing. While I wouldn’t tolerate this from a partner, I expect it from strangers online. I’m sure some people follow me or look at my stuff just to make fun of it. If that’s what you get out of my work, well, I’m glad it makes you feel something at least. Making people laugh isn’t the worst thing.

This is the risk of putting yourself out there, making yourself vulnerable, and showing the world your art. This is the risk of being sincere about what you love.

Some people will laugh at your art. Some people will make fun of you, especially if you’re on the internet.

If you’re a lurker who laughs at my work, I wish you all the best. And if you’re an artist who’s worried about being made fun of, know that this happens to everyone. It doesn’t mean you’re bad at what you do. It doesn’t mean you should stop doing it. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t put yourself out there.

As artists, we deal with all kinds of rejection. People mocking your art is a kind of rejection you may have to face. While we can’t change other people’s behaviour, we can choose how we respond. What works for me is to anticipate and accept that some people will laugh at my work and take that in stride.

Non-Fiction

Create What You Want to Create

Close-up photo of a blooming flower. Grass, sidewalk, and road in the background. Red filter over image. White text in the centre reads, "Let yourself create what you want to create." Handle @sage_pantony in white in bottom right corner.

Let yourself create what you want to create.

Your art can be anything.

It does not have to be serious. It does not have to be “real”.

Creating silly art for the sake of it is a gift you can give to yourself.

Creating silly art for the sake of it is a gift you can give to the world.

You are not meant to take your art so seriously that it drains you of joy.

Your desire to create is a gift you were given to bring more joy into your life.

Embrace the ridiculous. Make silly art. Don’t worry about what “counts”.

Respect your desire to create by allowing yourself to create whatever the hell you want.


For years, I thought I had to be a fiction writer to be a “real” writer. I don’t know why. I suppose I didn’t understand that creative non-fiction is a legitimate art form. I thought that I couldn’t just write about my life, I had to write about something interesting, something people would actually want to read. I didn’t think that the kind of writing that comes naturally to me, creative non-fiction and poetry, “counted” as real writing.

So, I wrote short stories. I didn’t enjoy this nearly as much as writing creative non-fiction and poetry. I also wasn’t particularly good at it, but I persisted. If I was going to be a writer, then I needed to be a real, legitimate writer.

Then one day, I sat down at the computer and typed up an essay about the challenges I was facing trying to access hormone replacement therapy. All of the logistical and emotional details poured out of me. Writing that essay felt effortless, cathartic, and therapeutic, but I told myself that it wasn’t “real” writing and I needed to get back to my fiction the next day.

I ended up submitting that essay to an anthology that wanted to publish it. Years later, I included it in my zine about transitioning. I’m unable to recall most of the fiction I wrote years ago, but the creative non-fiction and poetry have stuck with me. Non-fiction has felt more meaningful, and even though I tried to push it away, I couldn’t stop writing it.

I have since learned that this thing I do where I write about my life is called creative non-fiction, many writers do it, and it’s a perfectly legitimate art form. It is creative, expansive, cathartic, therapeutic, vulnerable, brave, painful, and also ART.

These days, I write what I want. When I noticed I was writing more about kink, I went, okay, that’s a scary subject to tackle publicly, but I’m going to make a zine about it. When I found myself writing more poetry than prose, I embraced that. When I started to enjoy adding text to my photographs, I indulged in that too. I create because I am driven to. I believe it makes more sense to create what I want rather than what I think I should. Both I and my art are better off for it.

Non-Fiction

Life is Absurd

Photo of the body of a stuffed long-neck dinosaur toy sitting on a ledge in front of a window. A fence with some vines on it can be seen behind the dinosaur outside of the window. Green filter over image. White text in the centre reads, "Life isn't that serious." Handle @sage_pantony in white in bottom right corner.

Life isn’t that serious.

Sure, it has its moments, but mainly, life is absurd.

I am at my healthiest when I can recognize the absurdity.

I am at my healthiest when I can laugh at my life.

It’s when I get too serious that I get stuck.

If there’s one quality I could never live without, it’s my sense of humour. I wouldn’t be here without this coping mechanism, and I wouldn’t be me.

Life is absurd. Think about it.

We’re living through late-stage capitalism and making memes.

We think of ourselves as these incredibly productive beings, yet we sleep for a third of our lives.

They sell chocolate pizzas at the store. I’m an adult who hasn’t swept their apartment for over three months. I broke off the end of my favourite knife on a frozen burrito.

None of us know what the hell we’re doing. We’re just stumbling around trying to put on a good show.

Life is a lot of things, including absurd. Embracing that absurdity has gotten me through its most difficult chapters, its darkest moments.

Also, I like absurdity. It keeps things interesting, keeps me on my toes, laughing, expecting the unexpected.

Life can be incredibly serious, yes, but even at its most serious, it’s not that serious. Life is absurd.

Non-Fiction

Queer4Queer

Photo of Sage, a white non-binary person with short red hair, smiling slightly and wearing a blue baseball cap, jean jacket, and necklace with a quartz crystal. There is a bi pride flag hanging on the wall behind them.

I am Queer4Queer.

I’m a queer person. I identify as queer. If you want to get technical about it, I’m bisexual. I am attracted to people of all genders.

At this point in my life, I am prioritizing sexual and romantic connections with women and non-binary people.

Though I am attracted to them, I have complicated feelings about dating men. There have been periods in my life where I’ve stopped dating men entirely in order to explore my queerness, prioritize relationships with non-men, and not feel like such a “bad” queer for consorting with them (though I recognize this last one comes from internalized biphobia).

I often go back and forth on whether or not I should keep dating men. Do I actually want to? Am I really attracted to them? I’m pretty sure that I am, but something as simple as going on a dating app causes me to question my sexuality. As I swipe through prospective male matches, I wonder, am I even attracted to men? I frequently look at their photos with disinterest, jokingly thinking to myself, all of these men are just so . . . men. I don’t think that’s what I mean though. I think what I mean is: all of these men are just so straight.

I think that might be the issue. Most of the time, I’m not attracted to your typical cishet dude. I don’t often find myself drawn to straight women either. I’m a queer person. I resonate with queerness. I’m attracted to queer energy.

What I’ve been coming to realize over the past few years is that I have no interest in pursuing sexual or romantic connections with people who aren’t a part of the LGBTQ2S+ community. I’m attracted to people of all genders, yes, but the majority of the people I find myself attracted to are some flavour of queer—whether they be lesbians, enbies, bi dudes, etcetera. I’m Queer4Queer. That’s it. That’s my sexual orientation.

It’s not that I’m not attracted to men at all, it’s that the vast majority of cishet guys just don’t do it for me.

I also just want to be with other queer people, other people who carry queer energy and experiences. In general, I’ve had a better time dating queer folks than I have dating straight cis guys. I won’t list all of the reasons why in this piece, but suffice it to say that queer dating has felt more comfortable, intimate, and safe for me.

Is this it then? Has the ever-questioning bisexual finally figured out their sexuality? Probably not, but I feel like I’m closer to understanding it now than I’ve ever been.


Note: I’m using “queer” in this piece as an umbrella term for members of the LGBTQ2S+ community. I recognize that not everyone vibes with or uses this word, and that’s totally fine. I wouldn’t refer to a specific member of the community as queer unless they identified that way. However, I believe in all of the reclamation work that’s gone into it and see it as an acceptable umbrella. It’s also a useful shorthand to use when referring to the community rather than awkwardly writing out LGBTQ2S+ each time.

Non-Fiction

The Vaccine

Photo of three unmarked vials with clear liquid inside them arranged around each other on a white table. One is laying down with another rested on it.
Image Source

Content note: this piece is about the COVID-19 pandemic.


I walk up to the hospital. There’s a line with a sign that says “COVID VACCINES”. I get in it. A woman lines up behind me and starts coughing. I inch forward. A nurse hands me a medical mask. “You can take off your mask and put this on or put this on over yours”. I put it on over. The mask I wore already has two layers and a filter, so now I have four layers of mask. It slides into my eyes. I fix it. It slides into my eyes again. I am ushered into a foyer, and a nurse with a mask and face shield screens me for the first time. I have to ask her to repeat herself. It’s loud with all the people milling about, and I can seldom hear anyone who wears a mask. “Has anyone in your household been ordered to self-isolate?” I lean my ear towards her, unable to maintain social distancing and our conversation. After a bit of repetition, we settle that my answers to all her questions are no. I am ushered forward again and told to follow the pink dots.

I am grateful for the pink dots because it’s overwhelming inside with nurses, doctors, admin staff, and patients everywhere. I am no longer used to being in places so full of people. I’m thankful for the double masks. I follow the pink dots and am told to stand on a circle. “No, not that circle, stand on the circle at the end”. I walk towards the circle at the end when someone with a tablet beckons me over. Sorry, circle, not today. I hold out my health card, and they do not take it. They don’t take anything from you these days. My details are read off the card and typed into the tablet, and I am screened once again. Then they ask, “Why are you getting the vaccine?” I wasn’t expecting this question. Why are any of us getting the vaccine? Not sure of the appropriate response, I just say “Work”. I give them the name of my agency.

I am told which door to go through. I have no autonomy. I’ve become compliant, turned into putty. Another nurse asks me to stand on another circle. Someone else is told off for standing on the wrong circle. I enter the doctor room. Their names are posted on each tiny cubicle. Dr. This, Dr. That. I see an older woman getting vaccinated. A doctor is explaining to her that the vaccine is not a substitute for social distancing. I follow the line and move to a new circle because it seems to make sense, hoping I’m not doing it wrong. Everyone is terribly close together, but there are screens everywhere to prevent virus particles from floating into mouths and eyeballs. I am sent to cubicle six. My doctor’s name is John. I feel a sense of familiarity, like I’m always encountering doctors named John, though I don’t think this is actually the case.

I sit down and neither of us speak. He is looking at his tablet. He asks for my name, and I tell him it’s spelled with an I. I’m screened for the third time. I still don’t have any COVID symptoms. I am told that this is not a substitute for social distancing and wearing masks. I tell him I understand. I get the evil eye because I am a young person. I swear, Doctor, I’ve been good! Doctor, doctor, I have an anxiety disorder. I’m a hypochondriac. Trust me, I’ve been good! I am given a choice of arms and sacrifice the left one. “Do you consent to the vaccine?” “Yes”. God, yes. It’s quick, painless. “Well, that’s it, you’ve been vaccinated.” “Thank you!” “Go over there. You will have to wait for fifteen minutes to make sure you don’t have an adverse reaction.”

I am directed to a hallway where people are lined up and waiting on chairs between screens. They print out my ticket and tell me I am allowed to leave at 12:21. I hear the nurses tell others that they can validate their parking at the welcome desk. I left my ticket in the car. Damn.

When allowed, I exit the hospital with a little more autonomy (though not a lot). I use sanitizer before I leave. I’m not protected just yet. I get in my car and begin the hardest part of my journey. I don’t go back in to validate my parking because I believe that would disrupt the order of things. Just a few people out of place in there could throw everything into chaos, and then I may end up on the news: Local vaccinations stalled by careless redhead over parking dispute. The person in the car in front of me struggles with the parking meter, but eventually, the bar rises and they are free.

I drive into place. The person ahead of me left their ticket in the machine. For some reason, I pull it out and try to put it back in. Then I try with my ticket. Then I try with theirs again. Then mine. There’s a car behind me. I realize then that the machine is telling me to stop putting the tickets in upside down. I put in their ticket again. It tells me it’s already been used. Duh. I put mine in again. It says I owe six dollars. We’re getting somewhere. I pull out my credit card and tap to pay on the contactless “tap to pay” spot. It beeps. Nothing happens. The car behind me pulls into the other lane, pays, and leaves, which I am grateful for. I don’t need a sustained witness. I tap my card about six more times. I begin tapping my card all over the meter. Sometimes it beeps, sometimes it doesn’t, but otherwise, nothing happens. I will die here.

I have to call for help. I press the green “call for help” button. A voice answers.

“Hello?”

“Hi, um, I’m trying to pay with my credit card, and it isn’t working”.

“Have you tried putting it inside the machine?”

“Like where the ticket goes?”

“Yes”

OH”.

Thank goodness there were no other witnesses.

“Thank you!” I say. They hang up.

It accepts my payment, and I leave. As I roll out of the parking lot, I say to myself, “That was the hardest thing I’ve ever done”. Not the vaccination, just the parking.

I was impressed with how well-organized and efficient they were, like a well-oiled machine, easily able to handle my chaos. If the hardest thing about getting vaccinated is leaving the parking lot, that means they’re doing something right. Thank you to all the frontline workers, the nurses, doctors, screeners, and admin staff, for working long and hard all year to protect fools like me. Your services are essential and greatly appreciated.

Non-Fiction

A Strained Relationship

Photo of the top half of a blue glass bottle. In the background and out of focus is a yard with green grass, trees, part of a shed, and two wooden Adirondack chairs.

Content note: this piece discusses alcohol consumption, binge drinking, intoxication, and trauma. It also briefly describes sexual assault.


I have a strained relationship with alcohol. I don’t really drink except when I do. Throughout my twenties, drinking gradually evolved from an enjoyable activity to one I’m rather afraid of. There have been too many nights where I lost control, too many days lost to hangovers, and so many apologies that I’ve lost track. When a night went well, people told me I was fun and funny and crazy, the life of the party. I miss being able to be that person. When a night didn’t go well, people told me I was crying and yelling and crazy, that I’d killed the party. I don’t miss that and am afraid of becoming that person again.

I was drunk when I yelled at my friend about her girlfriend who sat listening in the other room.

I was drunk when I threw myself out of a cab and into a snowbank.

I was drunk when I hurled nonsensical accusations at my boyfriend. I was drunk when he carried me home.

I was drunk after sneaking shots of Irish whiskey away from my friends in-between the shots of vodka we were doing together. I was drunk when they carried me crying through the streets with my strapless dress hanging around my waist. I was still drunk hours later when I woke up in my bed after blacking out and asked if they still wanted to party. I was drunk when they told me I had killed the party.

I was drunk when I tried to leave and he pulled me onto the floor, ran his hands over my body, and whispered his repulsive desires into my ear. I was drunk when I went still and silent, when I needed to spring into action, to fight and to run. I was drunk when I shoved my elbow into his gut, releasing his hold on me, and fucking ran, ran, ran.

I was drunk when I broke my best friend’s laundry basket and puked on his dorm’s bathroom floor. I was drunk when I tried to clean it up with my socks, and he told me the biohazard people would have to come. I was drunk as I imagined that scene from E.T. with horror: people in head-to-toe gear storming in, taking over.

I was drunk when an angel found me crying alone in a laundry room. I was drunk when she introduced me to her friends and took me out for the night.

I was drunk on prosecco on my champagne birthday when I stood up on a chair and made announcements to the surprising number of people who liked me enough to attend.

I was drunk on red wine in your bathtub when we poured it into the water and watched it turn a cloudy grey.

I was drunk on hard liquor on New Year’s Eve when I calmly and carefully made myself throw up in the toilet and then came back downstairs for snacks…and more liquor.

I was drunk and standing by myself in a bar while tears crept silently down my face. I was drunk when you asked me what was wrong and told me it’s okay, wine makes you cry for no reason too.

I was drunk when a little voice inside my head whispered that it wanted more, more, more. It never wanted this to stop. It wanted to feel powerful and brave and invincible forever.

I was drunk when I told you I loved you and made you cry.

I was drunk when I ran out of your house in socks and a t-shirt in the middle of February, and you had to chase me down the street.

I was drunk when you found me hiding in a stairwell, when I was a scared and needy puddle. I was drunk, and I wanted you to look for me.

I was drunk when I splattered glow stick goo all over your basement, ripped down your curtain rod, and then smoked a cigarette while sitting on your floor. I was drunk when I held my friend’s hand and took her to the bathroom to clean the blood off of her feet. I was drunk when I ran the three of us a bath, and you threw up in the toilet. We were drunk when we put you to bed soaking wet in the freezing cold glowstick room after laying an unopened sleeping bag on top of you.

I was drunk on the half-empty bottle of vodka and orange juice I held in my hand as we sat on the swings and flew. I was drunk and full of the future.

I was drunk when I stripped naked next to the fire, when you laughed and said my name before we all dove into the lake. I was still drunk when I joined the others hotboxing in a tent even though weed fucks me up, and I don’t like it. I was drunk, and then I was crossfaded, sick, disoriented.

I was drunk and full of possibility when I ran out of the house, called your name, and then held your hand and said goodbye.

I have a strained relationship with alcohol. It’s not all good nor bad. It’s not cut and dry (heh). I go through periods of sobriety. I go through periods where I drink cautiously. Occasionally, I lose control, the alcohol imp in me waking after a few drinks and driving me to have more, more, more…

When I drink, I awaken my fun side. I awaken my wild side. I awaken my no fucks given side. I awaken my destructive side.

Over the years, I’ve learned that vodka and trauma make a terrible mixed drink.

I guess you could say I practice harm reduction when it comes to alcohol. I mostly avoid it, and when I drink, I tend to do so cautiously. So cautiously that I rarely let myself get drunk, as that’s usually when I lose control of my behaviour and how much I consume. I also get wicked hangovers after just a couple of drinks these days, which makes it feel not particularly worth it anymore. I don’t miss the hangovers. I don’t miss drinking most of the time. I do miss the person it allowed me to become sometimes: fun, bold, adventurous, wild, and free. I don’t miss the person it brought out at others: angry, sad, destructive, tactless, and self-loathing.

I have a complicated relationship with alcohol. I don’t really drink except when I do. That glass of wine you put in my hand? It makes me nervous. It can also make me fearless, spontaneous, reckless…

Drinking enhances and exaggerates whoever I am, whatever I’m carrying inside. There are days when I have a beer and all it does is make me feel sad and hopeless and vaguely nauseous. There are days when I have a beer and it makes me feel lighter, looser, and more carefree. I can’t predict what the next drink will bring out. I can’t predict who I will be.

It’s not all bad, so I don’t cut off all contact. It’s not all good either, so I’m wary of our interactions. I’m not sober, but I don’t really drink either. I have a strained relationship with alcohol. I wish I didn’t. I wish it was simpler. I wish I could go back to when drinking was fun and exciting instead of fraught and disconcerting. I wish I hadn’t inherited this perilous relationship with alcohol that goes back generations in my family. I wish it was simpler, but it’s not.

I have a strained relationship with alcohol. I don’t really drink anymore. Oh, except when I do.

Non-Fiction

A Magical Rollercoaster of a Night

Photo of a fountain at night, lit up by several lights within it. To the left, there is a green statue of a human figure and several fish with water coming out of their mouths. To the right, there is a raised part of the fountain with water coming out of it. City buildings with lights in the background. All of the lights have a hazy, glowing effect.
Photo by roastedamoeba.

Content note: the following piece contains descriptions of drinking and intoxication.


We arrive at the hostel, unpack our things, and head to the bar. We’ve been travelling all day and have steam to blow off. My companion and I open the menus and are met with a variety of overpriced cocktails. We each order something pink and settle into our booth. Time passes in a haze of sickly sweet drinks and strong beer because for some unholy reason, we’re going between the two each round. I keep pace with my friend. Not a great decision.

We lose our seats, and the bar becomes standing room only. We end up in a corner with a man whose breath I can smell from three feet away. He’s interested in my friend and mostly ignores me. I’m pretty into tea at this point in my life, working for a tea shop back home. The topic of conversation turns to tea and my boredom lifts for a moment. I begin talking about the magical powers of certain brews. The man cuts me off by saying, “I don’t get tea. It’s just barely-flavoured warm water”. I excuse myself to go to the bathroom.

I return to the bar, but I don’t go back to my friend and the man. The man is irritating, and I don’t want to spend the rest of the night standing to the side while I watch them flirt. At this point, I’ve had way too much to drink. Two of our roommates, who we’d met earlier that day, arrive at the bar and say hello. One asks why I’m crying.

“Oh,” I touch my face and find the tears, “…I don’t know”.

“It’s okay,” my roommate says, “sometimes I drink too much wine and start crying for no reason”.

I excuse myself. I’m feeling the tears now. I leave the bar and climb the stairs that lead back to our shared room. I get to the door and can hear voices inside. Wanting to be alone, I walk back down the hallway and find an open door. I enter an unused laundry room and sit down on one of the benches. I’m at the far end of the rectangular room and can see all of the unused washers and dryers sitting in shadow. I do what any drunk eighteen-year-old far from home for the first time who has just had their passion rejected by some tea-hating man would do: I begin sobbing. Heaving, gut-wrenching sobs. In my mind, I’m all alone in this laundry room without a door and am able to privately express how I feel. I’m also not cognizant of the volume of my feelings.

Seemingly out of nowhere, a man fills the doorway, his arms raised and hanging onto the top of the frame. I go silent. He looks terrified.

“Are you okay?” He asks.

I nod my head, in shock. I had left the hostel behind and ridden the waves of intoxicated emotional despair, and this man’s arrival has unceremoniously snapped me back to reality.

He disappears, clearly unequipped to deal with the mess that is me. I descend back into tears, expecting to be left alone for good, but before I can get in too deep, my saviour appears.

She floats in on a cloud of glitter and light. Long arms wrap around me, and I am struck by a vision of blonde hair and perfect makeup. She looks like the kind of girl who would have bullied me in high school, but here and now, she is my guardian angel. She murmurs words of comfort such as sweet and baby and it’ll be okay. Transfixed, I go quiet and compliant. She asks for my name, and I give it. She asks what’s wrong. I tell her I don’t know.

“You know what you need? A little mascara. Whenever I’m feeling down, I just put on some mascara, and it makes me feel so much better.”

She takes me by the hand and leads me back downstairs to the bathroom by the bar.

At this point, the bathroom is full of women in various states of intoxication, and all of them are friends. The angel unleashes compliments on them and her mascara brush on me. I silently take in my surroundings. She applies the mascara and rubs something on my face. I trust her completely.

“What do you think?” She asks.

She turns me towards a mirror. My face has been transformed. I’d expected to see blotchy redness from the crying, but the concealer has taken care of that. My eyes look big and beautiful, not bloodshot. She is a magician, doing with makeup in five minutes something I’d never managed with far more time. I look fucking pretty.

I thank her and we reenter the bar. She buys me a drink because I clearly need another. She introduces me to her boyfriend, and it turns out she’s friends with my two roommates from earlier as well as the man I’d seen in the laundry room doorway.

“We’re gonna go dancing. Do you want to go dancing?”

“Yes!” I say, “But I have to find my friend first”.

I go back to the corner of the bar where my travel companion is still talking to the man who just doesn’t get tea.

“Oh, there you are!” She exclaims.

I reach for her hand. “I made friends, and we’re going dancing”.

She bids the man a quick goodbye and follows me.

Our group bursts onto the street. The angel, her boyfriend, our two roommates, the man from the doorway, my friend, and a short man I haven’t been introduced to. It’s a chilly night in Munich, and the air is enlivening. The angel leads us to a club. On the way there, we come across a fountain shooting water out of the ground in several places. Despite the temperature, I run through its icy jet sprays. The short man joins me, and we leap about and laugh together.

We arrive at the club and wait in line for a long time, only to be turned away for having too many men and not being attractive enough. The angel and her boyfriend are the only ones allowed in. The rest of us make our return to the hostel, but not before a quick diversion into the subway to look for a bathroom. We roam through the twisting tunnels with our riotous voices echoing off the walls. There are no bathrooms in sight. Eventually, one of my roommates finds a seemingly abandoned, narrow hallway and pops a squat while I stand guard. I have to pee too but don’t want to risk arrest in a foreign country.

We arrive back at the bar and luckily for us, the party is still going strong. Our group, multiplying upon arrival with friends of friends, fills up a large table. Pitchers of beer are ordered. The short man sits next to me, and I ask him where he’s from. He says Toronto, which isn’t particularly exciting as it’s only a few hours from where I grew up. My friend disappears with a tall Australian man who is exactly her type. I notice I’ve put my hand on the short man’s leg and before I know it, we’re making out. My friend comes back after her brief interlude. The tea-hating man from earlier sits down at our table and starts hitting on her aggressively, but this time she tells him he has bad breath. I consider saying that tea could help with that but decide to leave him alone. We continue to drink too much beer until the bar closes and then we’re off to bed. We don’t bring any men with us, being too tired and too drunk. We collapse onto our bunks, foregoing the necessary water drinking after such a bender. I’m not thinking about it yet (I’m not thinking about anything), but the next morning is going to be rough when the cleaner arrives, throws the curtain open, and yells at us for lying in.

This took place almost ten years ago when I was just eighteen. I still think about that rollercoaster of a night and the magic imbued within it. There’s something beautiful about making friends with a bunch of strangers for a single night of adventure. As someone who’s pretty introverted, these nights are rare occasions for me, which makes them feel even more special. I’m not currently living in a world where doing something like this is even possible, but when it is again, I hope to ride the magic of another night like this, with angels, mascara, fountains, friends, and all.