It takes a great deal of effort, but you manage to squeeze through the crack, tumbling onto the grass on the other side. When you look up, you see a deer staring back at you, startled.

The moment you move, she rears up and canters away from you, her ribbons billowing behind.

The trees gradually get less dense as you follow the doe toward the sounds you heard. The canopy above lets up a bit, and for a moment you savor the feeling of sun again on your skin.

The trees give way completely to a warm grassy clearing, a circle of lush green intermittent with wildflowers in blue and white. Sitting square in the center is an old cassette player with a spindly set of headphones snaking out from it. You lift it out from under the moss that's grown over it and pop the tape to see what's inside. It's computer colored, unlabeled. You close it again, then put on the headphones, adjusting them a bit. You press play.

You sit in the clearing for a while, letting the sunlight shift across your face. You let your eyes drift shut, and you feel a flood of memories, unsure whether they're your own.

It's after sunset, dusk. Your lover lays with you in bed, and you're more comfortable than you've ever been before. You sing to her. The light goes out, you're alone on the walk home, cradling the comfort inside the thick walls of your coat. The warm streetlamps wash over you, caught like the snowflakes against your scarf.

It's desert in the city, or, city in the desert. New friends gathered around on the concrete patio in the backyard. You feel a growing sense of something more in your chest. Sure, growth can come with a cost, but right now you feel all the possibility of an unspooling summer afternoon.

There's a tenderness here, something so small you have to get close to it. Intimate, like listening through a tin-can phone. Fraternal or sororal or whatever that friendship feeling is where you feel like no matter what you'll always be together. Who doesn't want that? Then why is it so hard to get?

Yet here she is against your chest, relaxed. And here are the rest too, coming together after so many days apart. She's changed her hair, combusted the person you thought you were so close to before. Maybe I've changed that much too. It's like fire that we shared, two wicks brought too close together. How do you make that quotidian? What makes up a relationship when it isn't everyting? How do you make forever a sometimes thing?

Catharsis! !!! Cutting ur hair in the berlin apartment bathroom!! Getting a tattoo from someone you just met!! What have you got to lose??

You flip the tape.

It's another day in the bathtub, acclimating, scrubbing off your calves with the ikea washcloth. You feel a longing to get a text from someone you used to know. You want to hold hands with somebody. It's a pathetic feeling, but at the same time it's just like the sun on your arms. Like when your hair gets warm and brushes against you. the smell... the swell in your guts of happiness... laying down to rest and almost crying that it's over already...

You're standing at the edge of the ocean. Or is it just a lake? The sand slaps against your feet and you feel the burn start to set in. You feel so far away from what was so close for so long. An island sits on the horizon obscured by fog, and you swear you used to live there.

So many happy fantasies flash by,, You build a desk that's just right, brushing sawdust off your pant leg and spreading varnish over the surfaces. You meet a friend on the corner by chance and he gives you a few flowers he found on the way.

There's hardly anyone left in the city now, just the few of you who decided to stick around and fight it out. But you won! Whatever that means... You have each other, and you feel safe.

There's so much work to do in the day, but the evenings are always a stretch on the couch and something fun on the tv. You lay on laps reading a book, writing something down. It's hazy, fuzzy, vhs scuz.

It's easy to forget the mess. There are days you can't stand all the chaos of people living with you like this, having to juggle their interpersonal strife. You wish there was an easy answer, but all you can do is keep being there. But sometimes you can't even do that. The sun set a few hours ago and you head out to walk the streets. The lights are few and far between. It's a dry dusty night. The fires on the other side of the mountain have been burning for weeks, but the wind has shifted enough that you don't need your respirator. It's a relief, but you still feel like shit. You can't believe you could be so stupid...

You find a bench in a park and sit down. 4 crows wander around. You feel alien and alone. You try to make your peace with this reality.

You just hope you can do better than before.

You wake up to find the doe standing over you again. She nudges her head against your side. The sun is setting.