The Year of Looking Up Friends on Our iPhones Only to Wonder Who We Actually Met


Chloe read the Magna Carta backward. I’m sure of it, whether you are or not. Please tell me we are not the last people on earth. Please tell me if I open the door I will find the mail in the box, maybe a couple bills we can pay on our meager salaries. There was a guy named Peter one of us knew from somewhere, not a support group, no, I never went to that one that met down the street from the place where somebody my parents used to know lived. People started dying long before we started living.

Freddy is not worth talking about.

Oh. Raquel is another story. Well, there was this one instance, and I only heard this from Cam, who happened to be with her at the party and eventually got her home completely without taking advantage of the situation whatsoever (considering Cam this is almost unbelievable and I don’t even need to include any euphemisms for you to know what sort of activity he refrained from that I find unbelievable yet enlightening because, perhaps, humanity has some baseline goodness left and since Cam was probably five to six rum and Cokes heavier than when he started the night that this story takes place on makes it all the more improbable yet uplifting/encouraging/inspiring). Anyway, Cam tells me stuff went down and Raquel happens to be lucky in that there is nothing worth remembering (in a good or bad sense) from the night because she definitely remembered zero of what transpired in perhaps the best possible way of not remembering zilch.

Patrick? I don’t remember why I have that number but I think maybe I have a grudge against him for how he treated Grace, which is not something I take lightly seeing as me and Grace go back to that intro math class freshman year before I met you or the other you whose name I can’t recall but anyway he really screwed Grace over by cheating on her with Jackie when he knew Grace needed relational security and because of the nastiness was a complete emotional train wreck for the ensuing semester and ended up graduating a semester late because she had to take three classes over that she failed while in the abyss created by Patrick’s shenanigans. I keep his number in case I decide to send a snarky text calling his character into question in a manner reminiscent of Kevin Hart but I never bring myself to do it.

Winston. Haven’t called him in three years. I guess that means we aren’t friends or don’t intend to be and are former acquaintances who will think of each other for split seconds while we fill out our list of wedding invites before moving on to people who actually deserve to be invited. Though that extra wedding present might have been worth it. But really, nobody needs a second salad spinner, because of course we would have gotten each other something lame like that.

Jessica. Doesn’t ring a bell.

The other Jessica. I guess I used to know a lot of people. Maybe that’s a good sign. Maybe you are with me because of who I know.

Shaun. Couldn’t tie his shoelaces. No joke.

David. Had the strangest last name in the world. I mean it. But we never gave him a nickname. Just called him David.

Steph dated Cliff before she dated Bryan and later Aaron, then Aron, no joke, then she finally ended up with Bill, who she had a kid with. Maybe they’re still together. I think they’re still together?


The Year of Yellow


Your name is, was, or might be Claire and we are in the park and you are telling me about the time you overdosed on antidepressants, vomited truckloads of yellow foam before being dragged by your roommate to the hospital in her rusted yellow Toyota, the same yellow as your vomit you joked to me that time in the park.

Your week in the lockdown ward the worst of your life but I wanted to tell you how even then, surely, the sun rose outside your drawn hospital blinds, it still came up and the days moved on. But maybe that’s the horror.

For now your name might be, is, or was Claire and we share a park bench and the clouds are too heavy for the sun.

You smoked a lot of pot back then. Maybe still do. Something to get by. Something to distract from the slipping percentages in your classes.

I think about how many cities you might live in, how many attempts to follow, if any, how many tries to resurrect the sun from the depths of your stomach in a burst of nonchalance.

Your name is, was, or might be….


The Year of Being on the Road, or at Least Pretending We Had a Road Left


Trips to the grocery.

I filled my cart one thing at a time because I only had two hands. I always avoided senior discount day, the wheelchairs, the shuffling. When I got home you were waiting for me and you were unchanged in expression or style or aperture and the way you leaned against the counter as I put a box of rotini up in the cupboard made me wonder how soon the next celebrity affair might go glossy at the checkout counters. Today was an unfamiliar face besides the candy bars, mints, gum, and lighters.

You made a triangle of space by placing a hand on your hipbone and I looked through the vortex your posture created and responded in throaty noises that could have been confused with any animal at a petting zoo mixed with the way a lawnmower chokes on itself during a failed startup. But not repetitive like a lawnmower. Just singular gurgles. Like plugged-up explosions.

Michael Prihoda is a poet and artist, born and living in the Midwest. He is the founding editor of After the Pause literary magazine. Find him on instagram @michaeldprihoda and Twitter @michaelprihoda. He loves animal crackers and when people say hello.