Snippets

I Started With a Tiger

Photo of a pink pillow on a couch with a cartoon tiger stitched on it with a raised front foot and its head turned away.

I am a little pink pillow with a tiger on it. One of my feet is a circle. It’s the foot that’s raised. It was sewn from memory. I posted this tiger illustration on DeviantArt in high school, and you commented to say, “I want this as a poster to hang on my wall”. For your birthday, I printed it out and gave it to you. You hung it up in your hallway and looked at it every day. Then you moved out, and it continued to hang in the hallway of your mother’s house. For years, your mother had the tiger poster. Then she moved somewhere else, and it was taken down and packed away. You haven’t been able to find it since. You wanted to use it as a reference, but you remembered it pretty well, particularly the foot that was a circle.

“Aw, I was learning to draw,” I say after receiving the pink tiger pillow for my twenty-eighth birthday. I was fifteen? Sixteen? A teen who dedicated a year of their life to learning how to draw. I drew every day, and on one of those days, I drew a tiger in my sketchbook and coloured it in on Photoshop. Or maybe it was Paint. Either way, I used block colours: orange, white, black, and pink.

Of the front feet, which is its right and which is its left? Nobody knows!

This tiger was my commitment. This tiger was my enthusiasm. This tiger was my dedication. This tiger was my anxiety, my neurosis. You cannot see its face. It never turns around. The original file was lost. The poster was displaced. Only the pillow remains, created from memory. Memory made from years and years of hanging in a hallway. This tiger was my adolescence. Its raised foot is a circle. We’re not sure how its front legs work. We’re not sure if that’s what its stripes looked like. There’s no shading. It’s in block colours. I made it on a trial version of Photoshop I had on a CD back before it was subscription-only. Or maybe it was Paint. Either way, I made it. This tiger was me.

I don’t draw anymore. I got that out of my system. I focus on writing now. I write in Google Docs, and I do my best to shade in my words. I try to use references. My backgrounds are more than simple block colours. I attempt accuracy with my proportions. I’m not afraid to write faces. I examine the tiger from all angles. I have a lot of learning to do still and a long way to go yet. I did not start here. I started with enthusiasm. I started with dedication. I started with a tiger, drawn in a sketchbook and coloured in with bright digital blocks.

Snippets

Cherry Pie

Photo of a cherry pie sitting on a cooling rack with the outline of a heart carved into its centre.
Photo by davidpwhelan.

Content note: this piece contains gory imagery symbolizing heartbreak.


It’s easy to get distracted. It’s easy to start consuming. It’s easy for everything to become confusing. It’s easy to mistake typing for writing. It’s easy to forget how to write, but it’s just as easy to remember (in theory). I’m easy, some would say, yet my heart is locked away. I say I’ll date again when the pandemic ends and my date says if. I say I’ll lock my heart in an icy cold container for the winter and, if it feels right, let it out in the spring.

None of my recent romances have worked out. Last year, I wrote a poem about how we would keep each other warm for the winter. Aside from moving into an overheated house with no access to the thermostat, we absolutely did not do that.

I tried to fall in love twice last summer. I succeeded once and then had my heart cracked open over concrete. I ran inside just in time for my blood to spray across the walls and leak from the rapidly beating organ onto a floor that desperately needed retiling. I tried. I gave it my best. I really did.

For the past while, I’ve been jumping into bed with whoever spares me some attention. I jumped into bed with a boy who was not supposed to be a boyfriend. We made an agreement. Then a few months passed and he became a boyfriend. A few more and we moved in together. He hated going outside. My mother said that was a warning sign.

Like everyone else, I pay too much rent. I watch the world unravel out the window. I become a hyperventilating, vibrating creature. My heart continues beating, but it beats in the wrong ways. I am no longer human. Instead, I am fear, I am anxiety. I scroll through timelines and feel my guts churn. The world is burning, literally in some places. I cannot do anything. I cannot move. I share stories on Instagram, for all the good that will do. I follow the government’s orders and continue to stay inside. My heart breaks open, and I bake its juices into a cherry pie. No one will know what’s inside.

Wow, it’s so sweet! They’ll say. And there’s something else…

There’s

Something more substantial as well.

Snippets

Red Mug

Photo of a wide red mug held by the handle against 70s-style wallpaper with a yellow flower pattern.

Content note: this piece contains references to death and the COVID-19 pandemic.


I pour myself a cup of coffee in a red mug from the place they started taking me when I was a baby. I pour myself a cup of coffee from the place with the hill where I ran, tumbled, and lost my ice-cream cone. I pour myself a cup of coffee from the place where I sobbed hysterically and they gave me a new one. I pour myself a cup of coffee in a red mug with a white outline of an opened-mouthed fish jumping out of the water. This is my mother’s mug. She hates fish, but she loves where it’s from.

My grandparents loved it too, and now they’re gone. It’s just my mother, my brother, and me. We also lost my dad, but I don’t know how to talk about that succinctly. Sometimes, I feel like he was never really with us. His body came to that place, but I’m not sure if he ever did. Except, perhaps, for that time when I fell, but the memory is foggy. I think he helped me up and took me back for more ice-cream, so maybe he was there after all.

I’m not here to write about my dad. I’ve done enough of that.

The coffee is hot, so I have to keep my sips small. It’s rain-snowing outside, and there’s a pandemic, so that place is currently closed. I think it will survive though. The owner has money to burn. I trust they’ll keep it running and warm.

It was near there that I found a purple book in an outdoor lending library, part four of a mystery series that got me reading again. I left my mother and grandmother early that evening to read a hundred pages while rocking gently on a patio swing. I didn’t stop until I lost the light. The next morning, I told my grandmother about the story because she always liked to share what she was reading. She used to give us stories of faraway places and times and people in rich detail.

I haven’t seen my extended family since she died. That was the last time she brought us all together. That was the last time we were allowed to be together.

I was given a tarot reading over a year ago that told me I will find what I’m looking for eventually, but it will take a long time. I’m on the right path, but it twists and winds. I accept this. I have to. My grandmother was interested in my path. Her life was coming to an end, she said, but mine was just beginning, and she was curious about where it would lead. What will I make of this life? Where will it take me?

I can’t answer that yet, but I’ll share the story with her one day.

For now, I sit typing at my computer with a red mug half-full of cooling coffee. I write about the past and the future. I write about my family. I watch the rain fall, and I let the music play. It’s February. It’s been a hard year. I have a little hope growing inside of me, but I can’t place where it’s coming from. Maybe the coffee.

Snippets

Wandering Man

Photo of a frozen lake. Bare trees, a boathouse, and a cloudy sky are in the upper quarter of the image. There are footprints crossing the snowy/icy lake horizontally in two paths, one in the foreground and one in the centre of the image.

There’s a wandering man. Where does he go? There’s a wandering man out in the snow. There’s a wandering man. He walks slow. There’s a wandering man. He breathes smoke. There’s a wandering man. He looks cold. There’s a wandering man. He turns a corner. There’s a wandering man. I can see him no longer. There’s a wandering man. Is that my father?

Snippets

This House

This house is breathing its warm breath. That’s why we live here. It’s symbiotic. We entertain it, provide it with life, and it breathes its warm breath in the winter and shelters us from thunderstorms in the summer. We laugh with this house. We love this house. It loves us back, as it’s done for decades. We won’t be here forever, however, but it does not know this. Like a dog, this house does not know time. Everything is always. Everything is all at once. Nothing starts and nothing stops. That means it has no trouble moving on from one guest to the next. It transitions well. It will be okay, this house. It will keep breathing its spell.

Snippets

The Knowing

Most of the photo is black. There are a handful of faint lights in the centre left of the image.

Content note: this piece contains abstract references to trauma.


Sometimes, you want to stay in the dark because the light is too much to take. Sometimes, you choose the dark. Sometimes, you say no to new information. Yes, even in the information age. Yes, even in the disinformation age. Sometimes, you say no. Sometimes, you go for solitary walks at night. Sometimes, you don’t respond to messages. Sometimes, you choose to be alone. Sometimes, you just don’t want to know.

You’re tired of knowing. You wish you could know less. You wish you could go back to knowing less because you know the regret of knowing. When given the option, the choice, sometimes you say no to more knowing. Sometimes, you say yes to the dark and you slide slowly into its embrace. It’s safer here. It’s quieter. It hurts less. You can tend to your scars here, rub the raised skin with lightly-scented oil. You don’t need any new gashes. Not yet, not now, maybe not ever.

Your friends may not understand. Aren’t you curious? They’ll ask. I’d be curious. I couldn’t stand not knowing.

I know enough to know I won’t be able to stand knowing more. I’ve known too much. I’ve known too much too young. I’ve had too much knowing. I want to unknow. I can’t do that, but I can say no to more. I can exit the conversation. I can leave the letter on the floor. I can put down the phone. I can go for a walk in the dark. I can fade into the peace of night. I can dwell in the peace of not knowing.

Please, let me stay here. Please, don’t share any more. I can’t take knowing more. And of what I have, I plan to… if not let it drain away, at least let it fade. Let it fade so it doesn’t hurt so much. I will always have this knowing, but I can choose, now, how much more to take and what to do with what I have.

I choose to leave the pages untouched

and

I choose to say no

and

I choose to let this knowing fade.

Snippets

Searching

Painting hanging in a tree of an abstract, orange crying face with the words, "There is so much pain and nothing I do will stop it." written on the forehead. Blue tears in the background. Around the painting, many naked branches, a greyish sky, and snow on the ground are visible.

I have been so many places, so many people. I have been with so many people. What does it say that I am still alone? Maybe I found my person, maybe I already found them, and what I did was simply fail to be with them. Maybe I can’t look anymore. Maybe I’ve already found what I’m looking for and I just don’t know it.

And so I am a lost soul, a soul lost, lost and searching. What could I possibly still be looking for? Under every rock, in every crevice, all over the earth, Sage is searching, searching for what they’ve already found, searching for someone else, searching for themselves. Under every rock, in every crevice. When will I know that I’ve found it? When will I stop? When will I settle under a rock?

It’s painful, this searching, this wandering. This insatiable loneliness is consuming. This desire to be desired, to find desire. Love can soothe this ache, can make it stop, but only for a little while, because the reality is that love isn’t enough. Love isn’t enough to fix this, this emptiness. Love is flawed, and what I’m looking for is flawless, and what I’m looking for doesn’t exist…

But I don’t know how to stop looking for it.

I’m afraid, while I do, that I will cast off everything that is good, everything for this mission of mine, this mission to find something I’ll never find. Perfect something, perfect nothing. It’s perfectly nothing. I’m perfectly fine.

Aren’t I?

Why am I searching, and when did I start? I don’t know how to let go of this expectation that life owes me this thing, this thing that I am never finding, that I will never find… That maybe I’ve already found, already found and let slip through my fingers.

I’m grasping at everything, but holding onto nothing. My fingers are flippers. They’re wet, they’re slippery. I’m grasping, grasping, grasping… It’s ridiculous, really. I can’t see my true nature. I’ve never looked in a mirror. There are no mirrors here. I am alone, alone in a sea of others, alone all by ourselves. Alone, together, searching, grasping, slipping, wanting.

Snippets

New Tab

Content note: this piece focuses on the COVID-19 pandemic.


I open a new tab to check the numbers. I open a new tab to check the numbers. It’s the morning, and I open a new tab to check the numbers. It’s the afternoon, and I open a new tab to check the numbers. It’s the evening, and I open a new tab to check the numbers.

This time, however, I close the tab before I can check the numbers. I close the tab because I am writing. I am writing. I am meant to be writing. I don’t need to check the numbers when I am writing. What bearing do the numbers have on the writing? None (but also a lot).

I open a new tab to check for a vaccine. I open a new tab to check for new restrictions. I open a new tab. I open a new tab.

How many hours have I spent opening a new tab? I open a new tab to check.

Snippets

Inside the MRI

Content note: this piece explores medical issues and death.


I lie on my back with my head ear-muffed inside the MRI scanner, listening to bad club music, trying not to laugh, and thinking about death. The awkward redheaded technician is visible as a shapeshifting shadow through the glass. They’ve provided a mirror inside the machine so I can see them and not have a panic attack. They are (apparently) shifting my copper IUD around and taking a picture of the inside of my skull. The instructions said to put on pants but I couldn’t find any pants. I’m worried they can see up my gown and grateful I kept my underwear on. My grandfather died of brain cancer and I’ve been getting migraines. I searched for his obituary online and came up with nothing. He’s buried in Smiths Falls. We used to visit his grave once a year. I wonder if death is like dreaming, if when you die you go to a dreamscape. Maybe dreaming at night keeps us in touch with death, a little taste of the other side, reminders of what we will go back to. Is my grandfather dreaming? Did he ever lie on his back with his head ear-muffed inside an MRI scanner, listening to bad club music, trying not to laugh, and thinking about death?

Death seems less scary if it’s like a dream because I know what a dream is. I never really knew who my grandfather was. I’m scared I might have brain cancer.


Note: Nothing scary came up on the MRI, thankfully. I’m still trying to figure out what’s causing the migraines but I’m okay.