How To Be Human

Contributor: Luke Maguire Armstrong

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She’s decided to declare war on midnight,
when she dreams of the railroad and remembers.
A war to crush the dreams of the child who knew cockroaches,
who met them at night when they scurried across her face,
a humiliation to any humanity whose neighbors are the
children who knew rats, whose toes were marked with scars
from the nights when the rats had nothing better to do.

Who was she? Because when she looks into the mirror all
she sees is this woman whose face has wilted, with no one to save,
and no one to save her, so she concludes that the young girl
whose memories she keeps inside her head died
in the desert, just beyond the tracks.

When he’s unkind to himself he overdoses on certain albums,
harmful harmonies whose melodic melancholy makes him feel less alone.

But however we hold ourselves away from the world, away from the light, we are moths addicted to a flame when we find ourselves alone at night, flying upside down, willing to change course for the lightest flicker caught by the corner of our compounding eyes.

Anticipation is his cellphone, whose darkened face has more patience than his fidgeting hands, massaging everything they touch, working out the stiffness of the world, rubbing reality’s dull sensitivity until his fingers dial numbers before the mind can ask the body what the hell are you doing?


picks up his phone




memory genocide


emotional anarchy


neither forgets what crumbling feels like

him to her her to him

Anger. Where did it all come from?
Where can it all go?

Boy meats girl, a vulgar phrase for sex, he wrote once on a napkin and left it for her to find in her datebook.

she keeps the napkin in a drawer



she knows the answer

Damnit, he says, knowing the question.

Damn you.


You know why.

I hate being hopeful that things will change, she say.

Are you still there?

No one answers. But no dial tone.

Because we are all unwittingly heading towards the end.

She remembers and repeats her mantra of thoughts.

I’ve had too much sadness to live with more. I don’t have faces, family or friends left to lose. There is no slate to wipe clean. But don’t use me as an excuse for being unhappy. I came here as dust, into your life as dust, and we both need to enjoy every stupid moment we have apart before we are dust again.

Where did that come from?

She doesn’t know either.
This makes them laugh. And if they can laugh, then why not?

It was mostly laughter anyways. The rest came later, out of the stupid, meaningless why-the-hell-are-we-doing-this-to-each-other.

And as he pulled his car out of the garage it felt like.

Seeing your name in the credits of a movie
Blowing out birthday candles
Lighting a Christmas Tree
Making a wish

But more.

And different. 

And more.

- - -
Luke Maguire Armstrong ( was a baby, who became a boy, who became a man. Once he fought a bear and almost died. Haters later claimed it was "only a raccoon" and he was acting like "a little girl." But everyone knows it was clearly a miniture bear. He is the author of How We Are Human (2010). Follow @LukeSpartacus.
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