yellow car syndrome

the world is what you make it, my dear / so close your eyes / and wave it all away / that’s another problem, for another day / you don’t have to look too close / at the animal guts on the side of the road / just grimace, and try to look away / it happens, doesn’t it? / pretty things die every single day / and the weight of it is going to weigh down your shoulders / oh baby, your luck isn’t gonna change / so you better learn to deal with it / come on / why don’t you run, and hide away / why don’t you fall asleep under your bed / with the lights on / and scare off spiders with a broom / your little baby heart skipping a beat / cause you never grew up, not really / just fossilized inside yourself / buried hidden layers in the dirt / like sidewalk chalk between wet fingers / it makes your skin crawl, doesn’t it? / and maybe that’s just in your head / maybe you were thirteen and desperate / maybe you burn, burn burn / with half-baked assumptions and fever dreams of a future / to sweat out later / ’cause the world is what you make it / flickers and skips in your mind / you won’t remember in the morning / and surrender quietly / to the sun beating down on your back

So, for those of you who didn’t know the word for this until a while ago like myself, yellow car syndrome (or red car syndrome, or blue, whatever, the first time I heard it used it was yellow car and now I think it sounds better) is the phenomenon where once you become aware or something and start looking for it–for example, thinking about buying a yellow car–suddenly, it will seem like everyone on the road is driving yellow cars.

I don’t know if this scares other people like it scares me, but I think the idea that my perception of reality is that strongly influenced by what’s on my mind is one of the most terrifying concepts to me, and I tried to capture that in this piece. The idea that there are all these things that I could be missing right now, that my brain is just tuning out is absolutely horrifying, I don’t know–I guess we all like to think what we see is an unbiased perception of what’s going on around us. Every time I start noticing things this way, I’m just reminded that it’s not.

to the grocery store plant lying dead in the water

i am fourteen and arrogant, but that’s okay. ’cause it’s always just to compensate for the hole in my gut. i guess i just thought that this was gonna be my thing, you know? i was gonna bring the world to life with the touch of my evergreen palm. but things don’t always work out like that. so i buy this sad plant for seven bucks, and i read all about how to care for it. i forgot to water it, or i water it too much. ’cause sometimes, i can barely take care of myself. and other days, i feel so fucking alone, and it comes to a rolling boil; yeah it spills right through the cracks of me. and i just want to hold somebody, wanna make them feel better. i’m sorry i let the reminders pile up on my phone, i’m sorry my room is dark and dingy, and the winters always get so cold. but for what it’s worth, you were really pretty. made me think i could fix somebody, clip off all their broken leaves and kiss them back to life. have you ever loved someone so bad, and just watched from a distance as they withered in the cold? and you try everything you’ve got, you turn up the heater, you mist their leaves, you beg them to be safe when you hang up the phone? ever drifted apart from a sinking ship; whispered eulogies to your pillow when nobody is home? you’re a plant, of course not. you should count yourself lucky, you know.

fuck you, (but not really)

fuck you

for encouraging me to take care of myself

and get that checked out by a doctor

or that a sliver could get infected?

or that salmonella poisoning exists?

did you know that you are dying? like, every single day?

and eventually, you’re gonna find yourself

lying on a hospital bed, watching the lights go out?

and maybe they’ll mourn you

maybe they’ll remember

and does it even matter, in the end?

so now, i am staring at myself in the bathroom mirror

and i’m starting to hyperventilate

while i furiously wash my skin

’cause the world is a dangerous place

full of monsters and pathogens

and you stupid bitch, you broken hard drive

shutting down at the slightest inconvenience

why do you think that you’re above it all?

it’s not healthy

it’s not good

and maybe so far, you’ve made it through life

with a wind-up flashlight

hazard lights on in knee-high water

you can sleep when you’ve made it

you can always catch up later

it’s not healthy

and it’s not good

but i did what i had to do

but it’s out of my control

but this is just the way

so fuck you

for telling me to take time off

and get some sleep

’cause my body’s just a delicate little thing, really

flower petals and marrow

yearning oozing from my throat

and for the rest of my life, i will be learning how to cope

so fuck you

for kissing my forehead

and promising that if i just get some rest

i’ll feel better in the morning

cry it out

smash some glass

cut your hair

do what you have to do to ease the pain

even just a little


I don’t know if I’m alone in this–but I still get surprised when I glance down at the clock on my computer. You know that feeling you get in the new year, when you have to write down the date for the first time, and there are just a couple seconds where you’re like, there’s no way that’s right. It feels so clunky, and futuristic… and then you move on with your life. After a month, you get over it.

I don’t think I ever stopped doing that when 2020 rolled around.

I remember in middle school, I was writing this book series set in 2024, the year I’ll eighteen. I wrote out all my worst fears for what that year would be like as a way to process them. It was a dystopia, but the end of the world was only happening in the protagonists’ peripheral vision, as she built a life with someone she loved. And in theory it would have been awesome. But I could never figure out how to execute it, even after years of trying. I’d grown with that project, and not in a good way; everywhere I looked, all I could see was smudges of old ideas long since outgrown, that I couldn’t extricate from the narrative no matter how I tried. I can’t say I’ll never revisit the premise, ‘cause it was a pretty good one. But giving myself permission to scrap it was a very good decision. Anyway; I couldn’t fathom the idea that I would ever live to see the 2020s. I knew, logically, I’d be in the protagonists’ shoes one day, but that doesn’t mean it ever quite clicked in my brain.

But here we are. It’s 2021, and I feel like I was celebrating New Year’s Eve last week; the memory fresh and bright, and ridiculously optimistic. I know it’s been more than a year since that night, but I don’t even care, because in my mind, I am playing Monopoly with my friends and counting down ’til midnight. I am happy, and scared, and alive, the whole world spread out before me. I wonder, sometimes, what might have happened for me, should the pandemic not have happened. Would I be a happier person in the long term? Would I have been more or less successful? Sometimes, I wonder. Even though that kind of reasoning feels really self-centred and pointless, like my hypothetical success was the real loss here, which it most definitely was not. So then, I do my best to shut down that train of thought.

But every time I see that fucking date on my phone, I can’t help but feel like I should be doing more than I am. I should be some kind of international success by now, I should be preparing to publish my first novel, I should be raking in views by the thousands. At the very least, I should have a concrete plan for my future. But I don’t.

I feel like as soon as lockdown happened, I went into survival mode. I doubt I’m alone in that. Honestly, as it goes, I was really lucky; three months of isolation and that was it. But those three months were some of the worst in my life. It’s been a long time since I’ve plummeted into depression that deep, if ever. It took all my energy not to fall apart–and I went into denial. I told myself things I knew were lies, and drilled them into my head–that this was going to last forever, that my friends were good as dead. I know that sounds counterproductive, but I needed to grieve, and it’s pretty hard to grieve someone who’s technically a twenty minute drive away. I needed to rush through the stages, all the way to acceptance, and go on with my life as best I could. It was the only thing that was holding me together.

I never got closure on that year. There was no end-of-year assembly, no milestone to cross in this new, strange world turned upside down. In my mind, I am fourteen, and about to graduate ninth grade–planning to do another open mic, or maybe put on my own event that summer. I’ve just done WE Day, and I’m so proud of myself. I think everything is going to be better now.

But in reality, I’m going into grade eleven next year, which means I’m pretty close to being done with high school. And I have a job. And everyone is asking me what I want to do with my life, and I don’t know how to answer. And sometimes, I feel like I may as well be a grown-up already. But other days, I feel like I was born yesterday. I have so much to learn, so many different interests and skills to develop, and the idea of being an adult in a couple of years makes me want to hide under the covers and never come out. I’m gonna be learning to drive pretty soon! And then I’m gonna move out, maybe I’ll get a job or start a business (side note: something I’ve been considering a lot of late), and I’ll share an apartment with a friend or something, and… I can’t even fathom past that. Wow.

Ever since the New Year’s Eve of 2020, it feels like time is slipping through my fingers like sand onto the floor, and there’s nothing I can do to stop it. I feel faded, like a cheap knockoff of who I used to be. Is this just how my life is gonna be now?

Oh god, am I about to become one of those people who peaked in high school? I really hope not. That’s gonna be my goal now, I think. Do not peak in ninth grade. Like, I did some cool shit that year, but oh dear lord, if anyone catches me bragging about that when I’m a fully grown adult, please pull me aside and very lovingly tell me to get a life.

Lots of love,



it’s been a year now, hasn’t it?

or maybe it’s been two

because time is weird these days, and sometimes

i think about you

your fearless desperation

and your clandestine hope

and i wouldn’t go back for all the money in the world

but sometimes, on long nights, i let myself miss you

lie to my face in the mirror

that the old days were good

say i am a washed-out version of the person i used to be

slowly melting down

which makes it better, somehow

paint the past a rose-tinted shade

and let the aching knowledge

that i have never felt this before

wash away with the waves

and now i think i understand

why people cling to tradition

stick to the same routine

wear it rusty and jagged

sleep in old t-shirts

’til there are holes in the sleeves

and paint myself innocent

pretend i don’t have a clue

when you say the past few years

have changed me

made me cynical, and guarded

but stronger, too

replaced manic desperation with sharpened teeth

bite-marks and warning signs

’cause these days, i step slowly

these days i wear winter coats

and hold my keys like a knife

but i refuse to be afraid

of the passage of time

and the lines on my palm

like old wood, telling stories

of all the places i’ve been

i refuse to cower in the corner

and sing myself to sleep

lingering in a false history

like warm sheets

so i will bury your t-shirts

and your headphones i can’t bring myself to throw away

in a box in my closet

’cause some day, i’m gonna see you in the mirror

and i’ll kneel down on the carpet

stroke your cheek, as i tape your pieces back together