Anxiety comes in a lot of different forms. And each one has informed every decision I’ve ever made in life. For a long time I listened to my anxiety like directions on a page, keeping myself from the world. It wasn’t until I was out of high school that I began to follow the mantra I live by now. Which is to say yes to social occasions. Because either you’ll have a great time, or you’ll have a great story. And either way you win. Unless you’re attending a party at a high profile music studio and start having an anxiety attack halfway through and need to go hide in the bathroom until you’re good, and then you trip over a fire extinguisher on your way out and everyone is asking if you’re okay to drive yourself home when you’re actually the only sober one there and also you don’t even fucking drive.
Sometimes anxiety feels like a trap. Like you’re snowed in, in a phonebooth with no service and a wolf pacing nearby. Sometimes it feels like that until you’re halfway through, when you come to your senses and, seeing clearer now, realize that you are the wolf. That you are the one that paced and waited and attacked. Your prints in the snow shaming your lack of self-awareness.
Sometimes anxiety feels like a missing voice, forcing you to pack up and leave without saying goodbye. To give a friend your copy of a game because you’re unable to tell him that you lost his. The numbness that strikes your hand as you’re about to turn the doorknob, because you heard a footstep on the other side. The feeling that your “let’s hang out” will come up on their phone and be left on read, when that is all that could pull you out of this pit.
But sometimes anxiety can be banished. Sometimes you’ll meet in the park with your friend and idol, Valerie, armed with a violin and a voice much stronger in ink than in air. And she’s tiny but what she sees and what she says is bigger than anything you think you can reach. And that friend will strike a spark in you when she says that she learns from you. It will reignite the fire held by the green in your eyes. Because if the most creative person that you know is inspired by what you do, then you have succeeded. And no wolf in the snow, or mess on the floor, or twenty foot door will ever be able to lie to you about who you are again.
“I’m sorry. Just walk through the door.”
I just want to say, you know how in every thriller/apocalypse movie there's that one character that has the news playing in the background warning that the entire world is falling apart and then they just turn it off and go back to playing sudoku? That's absolutely me. If you think I've absorbed any dystopian thing that's happened in the past 2 years and haven't fully just been having an out of body experience this whole time, then you're underestimating me. Or overestimating me. Not sure which.
"Crack! The whip lashes out towards the lion in the ring. The lion roars and bursts into a wondrous flame. Your date smirks, eyes glued ahead and lurched forward, more enveloped than just impressed. Money is no object for you, but these seats cost a fortune."
"The blood is rushing to your head. Your feet are strung up on a hook as you hang upside down in the meat locker. You think about the monster that put you here and your heart begins to race."
"You crouch down in the dark, dripping cave. You’ve run for too long and your legs don’t feel like they’re yours anymore. The beast is here, you can hear it snarling. You think hard about how you’re going to do this…"
"Before you is a silver dish with a lid, the contents waiting to be revealed. There are 20 others at the table as well, a dish before them. On each dish are two names: The name of the person at the table that must kill you, and the name of the person that you must kill. "
"You lock your seatbelt and nod to the pilot. They nod back, as they prepare the vessel for lift off. In a few moments you’ll be in space, and that is where the mission starts."
"Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock. The person interrogating you has been out of the room for some time. Tick. Tock. Time is all you can think about, looking around and seeing the clocks that litter the walls. You’ve messed with forces you knew you shouldn’t have. Tick. Tock. Tick… The door opens."
"Before you is a mask, shaped in an odd way and made of thick oak. You know what this is for, and the thought both intrigues and terrifies you. Particularly because it is now yours."
One thing I will give my fear of death is that it totally turned my fear of the supernatural into appreciation. Because in my mind it was silly to be scared of dying if I was just gonna become a spooky ghost after and get to haunt people for a living. Which sounds kind of like a sweet gig, and would also give me a reason to put my ability to sneak up on people back on my resume. The only bad thing would be the possibility of an exorcism, which would totally suck. Especially because they always seem to bring a priest along while doing those and I’m a healer main so it’ll just end up being this awkward power struggle the whole time. It’d honestly just be better for everyone if you brought someone more focused on DPS, like a dentist or a gym teacher.
In high school my fear of death, much like my gayness, came out in full force. And one of the boys I was friends with at the time tried to calm me down by suggesting that maybe what happens when we die is exactly what happened on LOST. But that just made things even worse, because I’m super not prepared to survive on a deserted island. If we didn’t find the hatch within the first 7 days of me being dead I would’ve put my own torch out at tribal council and walked out on Jeff Probst before the episode was even over. And then Matthew Fox would come up to me all, “WE HAVE TO GO BACK RYAN” and I’d make out with him for a little bit before I’d inevitably remember that he and I are too different to ever make it work, and I’d have to leave him. Plus once the government gets Kyogre to throw a storm at us we’d be done anyway, because we spent all of our time on the island starting and stopping relationships and none of our time actually planning an escape. Not very responsible, Matthew Fox. I expected more from you.
I finally broke out of my intense fear of death when I grew up and moved to the city. Which is ironic because you’d think I would be way more terrified of serial killers while living with roommates, but almost none of them have actively tried to kill me yet. Which is admittedly super cool of them considering some of the craigslist ads I saw at the same time as theirs were advertising an initiation into a secret brotherhood. Which sounds cool and all but I just know there’s a hidden membership fee at some point and I’m not about it. Unless your secret brotherhood is about recapturing the Pokémon unwillingly being used for government labor, I’m not interested in paying. And if it is then fine, but let me build up some pinap berries first because I’m honestly SOOOOO close to a magikarp evolution.
I’m speaking cause I find myself asking, “what is my voice?” And why do I feel the need to justify why I’m speaking?
When I was seeing this guy named Connor he told me that there are two kinds of people: those that walk through doors and those that walk around them. Now, me personally, I vibrate up through the ceiling because I’ve had 7 cups of coffee and my atoms are holding on for dear life as I transform into Shadowcat from the X-Men, but he said it to tell me that I walk around doors. Which is to say that I enter a room already apologizing for taking up space. And that is at the core of everything I do and don’t do. Every joke I make is an apology for having taken up your time. Every edit, every sentence cut, is me saying that you could be doing something better. Because I don’t believe in me. Because I’m sorry for me. And what I can’t bring to the table.
So… what is my voice? Am I the 5 second edited joke? Am I the painting before it receives its colors? Am I the character breaking down on stage? Am I the insider text to a friend? Am I an apology for myself wrapped in lead and code? I don’t know.
And when I find my voice, can I finally say to myself,
Just walk through the door.”
I’ve thought about quitting before, but the migraine is always so painful. You know that scene in X-Men when Professor X puts Cerebro on to try and find someone but then it was secretly poisoned by Mystique the whole time and so his head almost explodes? The coffee migraine is kind of like that, but worse because some of us don’t have telekinesis, Charles. And also because Professor X probably got to have coffee before he put cerebro on and almost died.
When I moved to the city I lost contact with all of my Long Island friends. And I do mean all of them. A long-lasting depressive episode held me in place, not allowing me to reach out. Telling me, whether true or not, that they hated me now. Five years after moving to the city I had to gather the strength to reach out to them. My depressive episode that drove me to isolate myself from everyone that cared about me finally wrapped up in a way like when you’ve finally recovered from crying and realize just how hungry you were the whole time. Your sadness no longer blanketing it, no longer a tourniquet for the pain.
I reached out, finally, to the person I knew I could count on first. Over coffee and food, for the first time in 4 years, I reconnected with Yeliz. It was a story I’d written in her yearbook that I thought would be fiction. The story of us 4 years in the future having had no contact but coming back together like we hadn’t spent a day apart. And that’s exactly how it went. Yeliz was also the start of me reconnecting with the rest of my friends from Long Island. Dragging myself out of the depressed pit that I’d slipped into while moving to Manhattan. My chosen family. And that’s the happy ending.
If you're anything like me you literally didn't realize a week had passed and so that's why you're writing this post at 6PM instead of at 10AM like normal. Oops. But here we go!
First thing on the weekly recap was Trish's newest post from the dark comedy cooking blog, Trish's Dishes:
Trish taught us all how to make an... omelette... Thanks, Trish. Uh, great job. And she taught us how to imbue a demon with ancient power that will help them become more victorious in battle. Delicious and practical!
On Totally Logical Fear we got two more episodes and one poem from "Before Color." Episode 20: "Golden Sun" a chilling tale about losing someone else's video game, and Episode 21: "All You Can Eat" a stomachwarming adventure through a sushi buffet. Sandwiched between them was the poem, "Static and Stale."
And lastly we had our weekly writing prompts. Remember to leave a comment with a link to anything you write that you want to show off!
You’re an entry-level god given the tedious task of creating new life after the human race killed themselves off for the tenth time. You’re annoyed that this keeps happening, and this time you want to try something new. Is your supervisor looking?
You’re in a room working diligently on something. Out of the corner of your eye you see a snake slither out of one of the outlets in the wall.
You, the treasure, sigh. Another adventurer approaches, ready to open the chest and loot its insides. Just one more person that can’t identify a mimic upon first sight. You ready yourself for your attack and think back to how this all went wrong.
You are but a lonely frog trying to cross a dangerous road to get to the other side. You narrowly avoid a car, make it onto a floating log, and are making good time. Suddenly a barrel comes hurtling towards you.
He’s tinkering with the watch you brought in, but it won’t stop moving backwards. No matter how hard he tries. You’re fearful, as you know what this means.
You sit on the balcony of your apartment in the city, looking off into the calm sunrise surrounded by rooftops. Out of the corner of your eye you see movement on the roof a few buildings over. You recognize this as the building your recent date lives in. You note that the figures on top are wearing ceremonial clothing as they form a circle and drop someone from the building onto the street below.
The customer isn’t happy. The tonic she bought from you had the exact opposite effect that she wanted, and now her life is upside down. What are you going to do to make it up to her, she wants to know. And, no, a coupon won’t do.
Anyway, like some kind of messed up 80s coming of age story, those Mario Tennis skills translated to real life badminton skills (not even the same sport, but whatever brain) and I was returning shots back to the other team like my life depended on it. We still lost every single game and placed lowest in the class-wide tournament, but that’s not important. I mean, it was important for our gym grade, but not for this story.
My hunger for competition only grew through my senior year, even though I was barely there. I missed so many history classes that I almost wasn’t allowed to graduate. Except then we split into teams in our history class to hold an election and due to the perfect storm of one of the other groups arguing for the legalization of lightsabers during military action, some Russian bots (just assuming), and the popular girls accidentally voting for me because they didn’t realize they could vote for their own candidate, I ended up winning the election by a landslide. And I’m kind of convinced that that’s the only reason I didn’t end up flunking that class. I mean, you can’t fail the president. That’s in the constitution, I’m pretty sure. (Or maybe not, I don’t know, I didn’t really show up to any history classes.)
After the election, Yeliz, Gulsah, and I decided to go out and celebrate at an all you can eat sushi place, which sounds disgusting but hear us out. It’s not like buffet-style where it’s sitting out for potentially decades at a time. Instead they hand out these menus where you check off everything you want and pay a flat fee per person and on the bottom of the menu is a vaguely threatening message that says “DO NOT ORDER WHAT YOU WILL NOT EAT.” Which was just sensible and loud enough for us to be scared into only ordering what we knew we liked, which meant lots of generic but delicious rolls. So delicious and generic that it took us halfway through our platter to realize that we’d accidentally been given and were eating someone else’s food. Since we were already halfway through and stuffed completely full, we decided to just shovel the rest into our mouths no matter how painful it was, pay, and never speak of this ever again out of bloated embarrassment. We finished, gave ourselves a congratulatory but exhausted cheer and planned to head out. Unfortunately the sushi place also realized that we’d been given the wrong platter and then promptly placed ours down where our empty platter once was, and the words “DO NOT ORDER WHAT YOU WILL NOT EAT” echoed in the air as if Mufasa himself was speaking to us. Which, we were so full that all of us felt half dead, so communion with the spirit world really wasn’t too far fetched.
I wasn’t hungry, but we were also out with Gulsah’s sister and her sister’s boyfriend (who looked suspiciously like Joe Jonas but just enough where you could never really be sure and it felt too awkward to ask) and when the second platter came out he just started digging in. And then because the Ancient Greek goddess Monica Geller is at the very core of my being, I took that as a challenge and decided I was going to finish it off on my own. I had what I can only describe as a competitive blackout because I couldn’t tell you what happened beyond that except that ten minutes later the second platter was gone, my friends all looked disgusted with me, and I was asking who wanted to go get ice cream.
In elementary school I was best friends with a boy named James who was like my more normal, less anxiety-ridden half. We did everything together, hung out constantly, and I was totally in love with him but had no idea because being gay hadn’t been invented yet. We had a lot in common in terms of movies we liked, games we played, and our mutual curiosity/fear of the great demon Beetlejuice who we would try to summon with all of the lights off in James’s basement whenever we were bored and wanted to truly feel alive. It never worked but I think it’s because this was before cell phones were super popular and honestly maintaining a landline when you’re also working full time as a servant of the dark lord Beelzebub is probably pretty taxing.
One thing we were both mutually obsessed with was the game Golden Sun. Golden Sun was like if Final Fantasy was better and Pokemon was worse and then they came together like a Power Rangers Megazord and formed a perfect game that could finally kick Goldar’s ass. While James was better than me at every sport ever imaginable, I had him beat in the not-yet-invented-by-nerds category known as esports. Because of that he entrusted me with his copy of the game under the condition that I help him get past one boss. I agreed, took the game home with me, beat that boss, and then promptly lost his copy of the game into the deep cavern that was my room, because I’ve always been a very responsible person.
I had to think quick after I lost the game, which is really bad because that’s definitely not my strong suit. My strong suit is more in just hiding until all of my problems go away, which wouldn’t have worked in this case because James and I had played a lot of manhunt together so he knew all of my prime hiding spots. The only solution I could think of at that point was to give him my copy of the game, pretend I got him further than I originally intended, and then never speak about it again. And before you ask, no I didn’t consider telling him the truth because that would be stupid.
It took me until about a week after I gave him my copy of the game to remember that you could name all of the characters in the game, which presented a bit of a problem considering his were named after people he knew and mine were interchangeably named after Buffy characters and my favorite beanie babies. But he never brought it up so I’m just assuming he either never noticed or was too nice to call me out on it.
James and I lost touch in middle school and, although we shared a few classes here and there, we never really built our friendship back up. He became one of the jocks that people drooled over, I became one of the theatre kids that people avoided eye contact with, and Isaac from Golden Sun became a Smash Bros assist trophy instead of the fighter he rightly deserves to be because Nintendo abandoned the Golden Sun franchise and refuses to acknowledge their giant mistake. Get it together, Nintendo.
First, the link to my Patreon, where you can subscribe and contribute to the creative process in various ways (including gaining access to previews of future content, getting a thank you on this blog, as well as the ability to suggest future posts!)
Then from Totally Logical Fear this week we got episodes 18 and 19 from "Before Color!"
Next up we have Trish's new recipe for a Tofu Scramble on the satirical dark cooking blog, "Trish's Dishes."
And then last but not least we have all seven of my unusual writing prompts from this week. If you use any, let me know in the comments for that post and include a link to your stuff!
"You’re a character in a 1950s sitcom. The black and white antics taking place amongst you and yours are equal parts funny and heartwarming. Suddenly you notice Them watching you, and you’re struck with fear. You know Them, and you know what They’re capable of."
"You are a zombie working a dead-end job in an office. Things have been boring ever since you and yours ate the last human. You decide you need some excitement in your unlife. "
"You’re in the audience at an orchestra. In the middle of the piece the lights go out fully and the orchestra stops playing. Silence. The lights come on and everyone is gone. The audience and orchestra, vanished. All that remains is you and a viola player. And a cackle."
"You’re lying on a blanket with someone important to you in a clearing in the woods. The two of you are staring up at the starry sky talking about the future. One by one the stars begin to go out, until none are left. "
"You’re a bee-person from the year 6015. You’re in bee-person school learning about artifacts and mythology found in stories from the long lost years, 1920-2020. Known as “the century that information forgot.” Who are these ancient people’s gods? What are their tools? How did they survive as long as they did without a stinger on their butt to fend off predators?"
"You’re staring out the window of your apartment, head in a daze from any number of things (sickness, hangover, too much coffee, too little sleep, etc.) Between the skyscrapers you see something move. You squint, but don’t need to, as it raises up. It is the face of an Old God."
"You enter a theatre ready to watch a show. A man sits on stage, covered in muscle and tattoos. He closes his eyes and the tattoos begin to lift from his skin and onto the screen."
Ryan C. Robert is the writer of multiple comedy blogs, most of which are satirical and self-deprecating. He writes about his life in his personal essay series "Before Color," parodies cooking blogs in "Trish's Dishes" and posts writing prompts every single day.