I want to tell you about the universe. My knowledge extends not to the outer reaches of the unknown, but I know what I’m hungry for, what I’m scared of, what I think about when I wake up, fall asleep, and what makes me laugh and cry and horny. This universe is my body and what makes it move. Enough for me, and in no way enough for you. But in my spiritual journey fueled by nihilism, I now understand some bright almost celestial flash of happiness that sparked from not giving a fuck about what people want from me. Unless that is, you’re someone on my mind, in my bed, or being treated badly by someone positioned, in some probably horrible way, above you. Then I care. I guess you’ll just have to trust me.
Paragraphs are tools, like what? A hammer? Yes, sure. I can tell you that paragraphs are sequential or something. I can almost believe paragraphs, when utilized correctly, will argue one point that contributes to the debate of a whole charade. But I have no confidence in that idea (sorry, Dr. Hammer (my first-year writing professor)). I write paragraphs that seem like they should be there, and it works. Some- times it doesn’t. Some contractor comes in and sees all the dents of missed hammer strikes and says, What an aggressive, unskilled craftsman you are. But at that point, I’m looking for the next surface to beat the shit out of. I will find something that needs fastening or nailing-in or murdering. I am needed somewhere, and I will go mad trying to find it. My hammer, my hand.
I used to camouflage sexual imagery in every piece of my art. I’m lost in a magnolia flower now. It looks like an asshole. Did I intend when I set out to paint this flower to have the petals come together at the center and fold into each other like they do? No. But does it look like an asshole? Yes, I wouldn’t lie. What does that mean, you ask me. I have no idea. Some of you will swear it’s because I’m gay and others will erase this paragraph from your brains and whoever is left will say, I guess Magnolia flower insides do kind of look like assholes.
I’m hammering here. Is anything hitting? I guess it doesn’t matter. Maybe it does. Is creating and expressing the same thing? Can you have one without the other? Do we create for ourselves or others?
I have a feeling whoever finds this will not care and that soothes me. I don’t know anything except my body electric.
Fireworks in North Carolina. Everything is always quiet, and night is always black, and heads are always hanging low. That is until someone shoots off a spark into the sky. I don’t know if fireworks are illegal because they’re dangerous or because they’re loud and pretty but, tell me, what’s the difference? When the first blast goes off, everyone lifts their heads. People stop moving and talking and thinking, and I think that’s why I like them so much. Some do get scared. And that’s OK. You can’t tell someone they shouldn’t be something they can’t help but be.
I painted the magnolia asshole flower on break from my first year in college. At home, I was into girls and painting flowers just to show them that I could. At school, I was talking — you know, as people do — to a boy, man, guy who looked in my eyes when I spoke. My first homosexual love interest, but that only matters because I want you to know that I was scared. Scared then so proud of myself for overcoming that fear that I refused to admit something wasn’t clicking between the two of us. We’d been on a couple of dates, gotten a strange kind of close. I understood his family dynamic, I saw how his insecurities drove him, I could tell when he wanted to stop going on dates without him having to tell me. As I painted the flowers I thought about how I should’ve done things differently. As I went on other dates with other men and did things differently, I became furious with myself because it’s so easy to show attraction, act on impulses, draw people in. I’m still embarrassed, as you can tell. But I now understand I wasn’t born magnetic, and I work around it. I subconsciously painted assholes until I stuck myself inside of one.
I mention him, a different him, every time I start seeing someone else. He comes up because my trust issues come up. Every time his name leaves my mouth I remember the picture of someone else’s dick he opened in front of me. I remember getting mad and I remember him messaging the guy back and I remember him telling me that he can’t help what other people send him. I remember some variation of some event of some relation to that one. I remember him and wonder which one of you fucked him while I was too. I mention him every time I start seeing someone else, and I, every time, feel like I’ve told them that there is a reason they should cheat on me. They just haven’t found it yet.
Keep looking, I want to say. I’m sure you’ll find something.
I’ve always had a rather large forehead. No one would’ve known this in middle school — the scariest years of human existence — because my bangs came straight down to my eyebrows like a curtain covering a movie screen. But now that my hairline is threatening to recede, I’m running out of ways to hide one of my most prominent insecurities. I lie in bed, you’re here too and you like to run your fingers through my hair, but every time you do I feel more and more sure that I don’t deserve to be here with you. That there’s a guy out there that doesn’t wear his fleeting youth on his fucking face. I push my head into your chest. I get up to drink a glass of water. I wonder if you’d look away from me if I set off a firework in my room. If you found someone just like me, unaffected by some genetic deforestation, would you kiss them like you kiss me? Would you, for a second, think about running your fingers through their hair? You might end up reading this. Don’t give me an answer if you do.
I will build. There will be a you and fireworks will explode and we will both look up. I will comfort those who are scared because I know what that is like. My body will pulse with undulated happiness. Maybe I’ll have a career too and some source of joy that isn’t dependent on another human being, but where is the romance in that? I wouldn’t lie. This is the end. Everything ends in truth. My everything, anyways. ◦
Will Lowder, a junior English major, is happy when he listens to “We Found Love” by Rihanna, when someone tells him they like his shirt, and when Lindsay Lohan and Jamie Lee Curtis give their heartfelt speeches at the end of Freaky Friday. He does not want to tell you what makes him sad.