I Will Never Drive a Big Rig (Poetry)

I rely on taking breaks from the world to endure it,
Whether through sleeping (despite my insomnia),
Writing, or through the wonders of virtual reality;
Today, a Saturday, I woke up so exhausted,
And mentally drained from a long week at work
(I’ll never get used to returning home at night),
That after eating I only wanted to take a nap;
My mind remained foggy and sluggish,
So I knew I wouldn’t write anything of value,
But I didn’t want to sleep through the day,
So I returned to my comfort game in VR,
Which consists on driving virtual trucks around

Due to how my brain works from birth,
I’ve never learned to drive;
My mind takes flight by itself,
And when it returns to reality,
I have to reacquaint myself
With whatever I was doing

I’ve talked with other autistic people,
And some understand what I mean,
But others are driving safely to this day
(Then again, autism seems to be caused
By atypical pruning of neuron connections
In babies’ brains as they develop,
Producing different overall configurations)

(There was this guy who crashed many times,
And who got his driver’s license revoked,
But he had taken so many drugs in his youth
That he now suffers from epileptic seizures)

My point is that my wiring is all fucked up,
And I rarely know how much I care about things,
Except maybe for food and shelter and sex
(And VR also helps with one of those things)

My mind takes flight even when I try to focus;
I don’t think anybody has noticed at work,
Although I keep being absent in conversations,
But my inability to stick to reality
Constantly ends up with me rear-ending
The poor bastard who was driving in front of me

Thankfully this only happens in video games,
Such as when I’m driving a virtual truck,
But if I was able to drive my own vehicle,
I’m sure I would crash in less than a week,
Or maybe I would obey my nagging thoughts
About driving straight, full speed, into a wall

(Besides, I’ve never had a stable job;
I rarely know if enough money will come in,
So I can hardly justify buying a vehicle
When the public transport is so good here)

Learning to endure my lot in life
Has depended on me facing the reality
That I’m equipped with two different brains:
One the analytical, slower one on top,
And the other the primordial, bestial brain
Which takes most of the decisions for us
While the analytical brain makes up a story
(So it can keep telling itself that it’s in charge)

Immersing myself in VR is a constant reminder
That although my PC is producing the world,
My primitive brain is deceived easily,
So I get to escape for a while from my life
Because my stupid brain is convinced
That I’m a trucker driving through Europe
While listening to popular tunes
(From annoying modern music
To the rock classics from decades ago,
But all of them feel good while driving)

When you’re trapped inside a truck cab,
You stop thinking about your problems,
And if the right song ends up playing,
It’ll make you feel like you’re on the road
With the wind blowing through the windows,
As you drive across the plains of France
While the sun shines in the sky,
And the beautiful landscapes never end

(But the VR journeys always end,
Because I have to return to my real life,
And I need to remember to eat and sleep
If I want to continue driving a truck
In the virtual reality, where I am king
Of the highway, and my trucks rule the land)

Driving a virtual truck fills me with nostalgia
About a world I haven’t experienced in reality,
That involves sitting inside a huge metal box
Which would explode into mush any human
Who was stupid enough to walk in front of it

My virtual trucks make me feel powerful and free,
And like I could drive to the ends of the Earth,
If I could afford all the gasoline it would take
And if my trucks wouldn’t break down so often

Being a trucker sounds like a blissful life,
But many things sound good when imagined;
In reality, you need to sleep at fixed times,
At random rest areas frequented by weirdoes
Who may decide to break into your truck,
And I doubt that the deliveries pay enough,
Or else most truckers would be filthy rich;
They don’t seem to have much luck at making
A living off their trucks, although they are kings

Still, I want to drive through the desert
While listening to radio stations,
And singing along to the music,
And worrying about being abducted by aliens,
(And coming across ghost hitchhikers,
Or sasquatches that crossed the road)

My mind would keep drifting away from reality
While I thought about the important stuff,
Like how to repair my truck’s engine,
Or when I should pick up the next prostitute,
Or whether I should become a serial killer

When my mind would return to reality,
I would have crashed into a telephone pole,
And there would be suspicious splatters,
Huge and red ones, dirtying my windshield,
But luckily I wouldn’t have died,
So I would keep driving around town
Till my truck started to smoke;
Then I’d find a motel room
Where I could spend the night

(I would be woken up by a loud alarm clock,
And I’d start my day with a cup of coffee,
Then I’d drive my truck back to the shop
For repairs, or to get a new one)

I never became a trucker,
I will never drive a big rig,
And those are my biggest regrets in life,
But maybe there’s time to move to Brazil,
Where I could rent a truck and drive straight
Into that goddamn Amazon jungle,
To be the first to cut it through
With my huge metal box I’d sit in,
While I listened to the radio
And failed to see another person
For days at a time
(Unless I drove into them)

My brain feels like shit today,
But I’m a failure if I don’t produce a text,
So I wrote these words that I hope you enjoyed;
Now I can return to my virtual trucks
And my virtual life, which is just as real
As the one I live in (although it’s not)

‘I Will Never Drive a Big Rig’ by Jon Ureña

An Untethered Life (Poetry)

Years ago I stored a permanent memory:
My latest relationship had ended badly,
And I was standing in a random street
While I looked down at my two feet;
I suddenly felt that the tethers
I had allowed that person to attach to my skin,
And that tied me to another human being
Wherever in the world she happened to be,
Had been forcefully severed,
And I found myself like a stranded astronaut
Drifting through the black void,
Unable even to radio back home

Ever since, I’ve refused to let anyone
Tether themselves to my sensitive skin;
All I’ve learned from my intimate relationships
Is that I wasn’t born for any of it
They were just there as an excuse for me to live,
To enjoy life while pretending to love them

(Besides, what a romantic relationship provides
Isn’t worth the demands and the humiliations)

Real human beings are far too complicated
For someone like me, who’s only ever loved
Either the broken or the monsters
(Most of them fictional, some I made up)

Human beings are bound to bother you,
And if you lack the instinct to interact with them,
They only steal your time and energy
That could have gone into writing,
Or anything better than dealing with them,
Such as idly browsing the internet;
I only want people when I want them,
Otherwise they should go away

(I still fantasize about fucking
The many attractive women
That I come across any given day,
But that’s the hormones speaking,
And VR is very good at solving
That age-old problem)

This week I’ve been working afternoons;
By one and a half PM I want to take a nap,
But I have to traverse my city
(Which has become merely a container
Where dozens of nationalities push each other),
Get on a train, and later on take a bus,
So I can work at an office doing shit
That I couldn’t care less about

At the end of the month I get angry
Because the government steals
Hundreds of euros I need for myself,
So it can fund my country’s suicide
(Or more appropriately, its murder)

And I only care because I have to live here
(I couldn’t begin to figure out how to leave);
I’ve already had people trying to break in,
And a woman almost got raped nearby
(The neighbors beat the culprit up);
Just two things on top of the usual shit

I make my way back home
At eleven PM at night,
And I usually just stare up ahead
So I don’t despair at the chaos,
And the hopelessness of our future

I guess it’s different for those people
Who look around and feel connected,
But wherever I look, I see flat images,
Ones that don’t elicit any feelings
(Any positive ones, at least)

Walking through my workspace,
Or any of the streets I pass through,
They remind me of movie sets
Where important movies had been filmed,
But that have been abandoned to rot,
And the people who remain around
Keep cleaning and repairing the sets
Without knowing why,
And without a single clue about
What it all means

At work, I keep looking at the time
As the hours tick by;
The years have gone by so fast,
And I’ve wasted my youth,
My entire life,
Waiting for a phone call or email
From people who never contacted me

I’m working through the second full-length revision
Of that novel I wrote in May, about the ghost woman,
But it advances slowly, and the process is painful;
Those scenes feel like memories from a past life,
Moments that I’ve seared in my brain
Because nothing in reality makes any sense to me

I wish I could delude myself into going back,
To live vicariously through their fictional lives;
I’ve never cared about my own,
For as long as I remember, I’ve wanted to disappear

(I’m just waiting to be shot down
By an army of soldiers and policemen,
And when they finally find me,
I’ll probably get the same treatment I gave others)

Why go on living if you know
How pointless your life truly is?
How much pain and suffering
Are worth enduring?

(You’re just a pawn in someone else’s game,
A piece that no one cares about,
An object to use and discard,
A tool to satisfy the needs of the powerful)

I only have days in which such questions burn me,
Or those in which nothing manages to matter;
That’s unless I can distract myself
Through writing my way out of hell

None of the stuff I’ve written
Has ever amounted to anything,
But I can be proud that I tried my best,
Even though I knew I would fail

I have no choice but to continue on
To try and escape from my misery
And the future I don’t want,
Which will surely come true
(I hope I die before that happens)

And I do all of this shit
Because I may as well

‘An Untethered Life’ by Jon Ureña

A Ghastly Scar (Poetry)

My broken brain forced me to endure
Another one of many sleepless nights;
I rolled in bed, drenched in sweat,
Assailed by dredged up memories
And painful thoughts brought back to life

Only in such moments I recall this one girl
I briefly hung out with during middle school:
She was lanky, always wore her hair short
(It got wild when it grew to chin length),
Her eyes were too big for her face,
Her mouth puckered up awkwardly,
And when she talked, her voice sounded weird,
Like she swallowed air before speaking

Maybe because she sensed we were similar,
She attempted to become friends with me,
But she struggled to hold conversations;
All she did was talk and talk nonstop
As her words rambled around in circles
Like a child struggling to tell important stuff,
And yet coming out like incoherent gibberish;
Her speech reminded me of the sound
An old cassette tape makes when it is scratched

Whenever we met, she would act all cool,
Spouting smart talk that didn’t ring true;
I could tell she wasn’t happy,
But she kept trying anyway,
In an attempt to fool others
Into thinking she was fine

There was something desperate
About her smell,
And it annoyed me

She was falling apart inside;
This awkward girl, like me,
Was never able to fit in,
So I guess she tried to hide
Her emotional pain with fake smiles,
Because she couldn’t stand how she looked,
Or how she smelled or sounded,
Or how her brain made her feel so bad

Maybe to explain herself,
She wrote me letters on notebook pages
And filled them with elaborate drawings
Which she colored carefully
With her toxic-smelling ink pens

I’m not sure if I ever read those letters
With the care that she maybe deserved,
Because during those times I struggled
To even hold on to my sanity,
As an undiagnosed autistic teen
Who had to ditch plenty of classes
Due to anxiety, paranoia, bullying,
And a depression built into my brain,
As well as issues with auditory processing;
I felt like a wild animal captured
And trapped in a cage

I was the classic autistic case
Of a kid who does great in school
(Mainly because I spent my time
Either reading books or writing stories),
Until his peers begin developing socially;
The autistic kid’s grades quickly collapse,
Because his mind is already struggling
To process the rowdy, savage beasts
With whom he’s forced to share a classroom

I was a shy, quiet, anxious teen
Sitting alone in a corner
By a window, scribbling away
On notebooks that I hid from view;
‘Autistic Ghost’ would have been
My perfect superhero name

I’ve retained three memories of that girl:
The first one is her sitting next to me
As she struggled awkwardly to talk
(And I can’t be sure of the accuracy
Of any of the memories I’ve stored;
I read that our brains rewrite
Aspects of every memory
Whenever we access them,
So the best way to keep them pure
Is to never remember them at all)

The second memory is me standing
Close to the entrance of that school
When that girl came out bleeding
From a gash in her forehead
Which was bathing her face in blood;
She was being dragged by her armpits
By two pale-faced, female classmates

The next day I learned
That during arts and crafts class,
A well-known delinquent stoner
Had been twirling around
The handle of a paper guillotine,
Which ended up flying off
Until the blade of the steel cutter
Pierced the girl’s forehead vertically
From the hairline to the brow ridge

A different girl from the adjoined classroom
Had been taking a shower after gym class
When the shower floor collapsed,
Impaling the soles of her feet
With ceramic shards
(I was also loitering near the entrance
When they dragged this poor girl out,
So who knows how many times
Such unlikely disasters happened there)

We went to a working-class middle school
That would produce the next generation
Of retail clerks, civil servants, druggies and suicides;
A year after I graduated, a riot broke out:
The principal was beaten up,
Desks were hurled out of the windows,
Plenty of students got arrested
(I imagined the police shooting round after round
At young people in the playground)

(Why do I keep recalling
All these traumatic events?
Does PTSD work this way?)

The stoner who disfigured that girl
Was the popular, bad boy kind
That many teens were swooning over,
But I remember that he stunk like pot,
That he got arrested during a skiing trip
(I think he tried to sell hashish to the locals),
And that as an adult, he was the one
Who ripped my ticket in two
Whenever I went to see a movie;
He always hung his head low,
But I thought he was lucky:
At least he could keep that job

My third and last memory of the girl
Is glancing at her from a distance;
Her forehead was bisected
By a wide, purplish scar,
Like one left by a major operation
Where they had to open the flesh
To implant metal on a broken bone

(I imagine her,
In an attempt to hide it,
Drawing in black paint
Over that ugly wound,
Like the unhealthiest smile,
As if to say,
“See, you’re not alone”)

I don’t think I ever saw her again,
And I don’t recall any of her words;
My teen years had been so miserable
That I gave up every memento of them:
Stories, drawings, photos, letters;
So whatever this girl had to tell me
Ended up ripped in pieces
And thrown away into a trash bin

Soon enough I forgot her name,
But whenever my brain dredges her up,
Only during my many sleepless nights,
I picture her awkwardness and her scars,
Her desperate attempts to connect with others;
The pain I feel when I think about her
Reminds me how my own life ended
The same way hers did

I wish I could figure out how to google her,
To at least confirm what I always assumed,
That I would come across her obituary,
Which would be the last time
That anyone would have mentioned her name;
One day someone I have forgotten about
Will do the same for me

(Those letters are here again now,
Generated by my broken mind;
I can see that handwriting clearly,
Haunting me like a ghost

Her last letter went like this:
‘You can forget about me now,
I will no longer exist
Don’t try to reach out to me again,
Forget that I existed at all’

Like so many others,
I’m forced to remember her
For the rest of my life)

In hindsight, I wish I could have sat
Side by side with this girl on benches,
Even if we said nothing at all,
Because I think she felt the same way,
And that our pains were the same,
And that she would understand
That I wasn’t different from her

I’ve come to understand myself,
Now that I’ve gotten this old,
And I know that if I could go back
And spend time in her presence,
I would yearn to return to solitude,
Because no amount of goodwill
Has ever been able to change
What this monster demands of me

New experiences snick the surface
Of my clinically depressed brain,
Turning their memories into scars;
After I have endured for many years,
I’m left with a mesh of crisscrossing cuts,
So I can roll around in bed, drenched in sweat,
While my brain reopens some scars
To make them bleed again

‘A Ghastly Scar’ by Jon Ureña

The Princess of the Gutter (Poetry)

I entered my thirties as someone
Who had failed to get a stable job,
Who had worked for minimum wage
Programming corporate websites,
Which involved typing away non-stop,
Being pressured into working overtime,
And leaving the office at around five PM

As I waited for the train to come,
I daydreamed about walking forward
And dropping onto the train tracks below
(Why not? Why was I alive at all?),
And when I finally got home
Around six and a half PM,
Often I went to sleep immediately
(Or passed out when I sat down),
So I could wake up the next morning
For a new workday to drain me dry

One of those jobs I quit because
I couldn’t tolerate the stress
And exhaustion of those work hours,
I was fired from another one
While I was on medical leave
Due to anxiety and depression,
And the others either let me go
Or didn’t hire me after the trial period,
All of them with a creative variety
Of ‘you can’t work well in a team’,
Which would be fair and all
If working there had involved teamwork,
Instead of me sitting alone at a desk
Programming whatever they told me to

(I’m a terrible worker, I admit it,
Unless I’m interested in the subject,
Because I only care about my obsessions,
And I will work as little as possible
If I can get away with it)

The last of those cases was back in 2015,
When my immediate boss argued angrily
Against the supervisor that didn’t hire me
After a trial period I got through a center
For adults on the autistic spectrum;
That supervisor I hadn’t dealt with
Stated the cookie-cutter phrase
As the reason why she wouldn’t hire me:
‘You wouldn’t fit in with the team’
A more accurate assessment of my abilities
Would have been ‘We’re better off hiring
Somebody else that has less problems’

I had spent six months of my life
Programming their intranet for free
So I could add that bullshit experience
To my curriculum vitae,
Although no employer who reads it
Would consider hiring me

(Their HR person wanted me to be proud
That my effort reduced their work time)

Anyway, I had given up on ever making it
As a regular member of society
(In which I never felt I like belonged);
I spent most of my days reading,
Writing (very little those days),
Playing video games, playing guitar,
Or masturbating

As I was busy hating my life,
I was called from a center that deals
With adults with severe disabilities,
To attend some half-assed, bullshit course
About developing social skills for work

During the initial interview for the course,
One of the counselors offered me a job
At a workshop, in the assembly line;
Leaving aside that I didn’t want it
(I try to avoid working in jobs that
Would make me want to kill myself),
The tremendous din of those workshops,
As well as how loud some workers are,
Would clash with my auditory disorder,
And my IBS would make me stop the line
Every forty minutes or so to take a shit,
So I decided to pass on that opportunity
(If you can call an opportunity a job
That wouldn’t pay me enough to live;
I hadn’t become that desperate yet)

They justified the government grants
By setting up a course that would teach us
How to talk politely and behave professionally,
To learn how to face life’s challenges
And become integrated into the workforce

Modern society believes, and is forced to,
That everyone is equal in a diffuse sense,
The same way a religious person believes
In a god that is just a construct
From which they derive their sense of meaning
Without the need to question or analyze it;
The gods are not omnipotent,
So if we don’t believe in them,
Everything collapses into absurdity

(I’m not willing to accept an existence
Where different people must be treated equally;
People are born with or develop
Wildly incompatible needs and abilities)

The supposedly well meaning idiots
In charge of organizing these courses
Put people with physical injuries,
Severe intellectual disabilities,
Severe “social” disabilities (autism),
And even a jihadist without disabilities
(Some shit about risking exclusion)
In the same fucking course,
Which made it utterly worthless;
I was furious at the state we were in
As a society that I had to deal with it

(We wasted half of every class
Hearing how our society was terrible
And we should think about converting
Into a more compassionate religion,
As if I didn’t already hate this civilization
For forcing us to tolerate this garbage)

Anyway, during one of the breaks,
I skedaddled as usual to read alone,
Sitting at an isolated bench
As my earphones played storm sounds

But that day someone walked out
Of the nearby workshop,
Where a bunch of disabled people
Sat in front of an assembly line
To assemble machinery parts

It was a beautiful woman
About twenty five years old,
Who wore a workshop uniform;
As she shuffled to the bench
Located right in front of me
(Maybe seven meters away),
She was sobbing like a child
As if nobody could hear her
Or nobody would care

(I immediately thought that she cried
Because her life wasn’t worth living)

When she sat down,
Her shoulders drooped
While the streams of tears
Dripped onto her lap

She looked like those women
I passed by as I walked through
The fanciest neighborhoods
Of the capital of Gipuzkoa,
Where well-off women strolled
While they held their shopping bags;
I would believe her if she had told me
She was an actress preparing a role

I sat there gawking at her
While I held my breath;
There was something epiphanic
In how such an incongruous woman
Sobbed like an abandoned puppy,
As if the world had left her behind

I wondered how broken she was,
And about her kind of brokenness
(Nobody would have ended up there,
In a facility up in the hills of Donostia,
If society hadn’t decided to hide them)

Someone else came out of the workshop:
It was a hirsute, ugly man in his forties;
He was missing most of the hair on top,
But I remember tufts of thick back hair
Peeking out from the collar of his uniform

He hurried up to sit at the bench
Next to the beautiful, sobbing coworker;
I think he asked her what was wrong,
While she trembled
And her chest convulsed,
Then I heard her thin, broken voice,
Trying to cobble a sentence together
As if her brain was cleaved in two;
The words were incomprehensible

(It made me feel that life is a lie,
A farce that we’re forced to accept,
And I wished that all the pain
That was in the depths of my heart
Was so intense that it would kill me)

It might have been cerebral palsy,
Or a myriad other disorders or diseases,
But whatever the cause, she was broken
To the extent that she knew
That she could freely sob in public
Like a ghost wailing in the night

The hirsute coworker put his arms
Around the sobbing woman’s shoulders,
And as he cuddled up to her,
He spoke to the crying beauty
With tender words

He stroked her head
And kissed her temple,
Like a lover does
To comfort their beloved,
While she wept and wept

(That man was the ugliest I’d ever seen,
Because he was the one hugging her
When it should have been me)

I still wonder if she knew,
If she was aware of her limitations,
If she was a bright woman
Trapped in a brain unable
To put together coherent sentences,
Or if she had been blissfully spared
By her severe disabilities
That degree of sentience

(I hope she was stupid,
As dumb as a wild animal,
So she wouldn’t understand
The kind of hell she lived in)

What I learned from attending centers
For disabled people who can’t get jobs,
Is that most human beings are spared
Having to come across the people
Who would disturb society
With their misery

‘The Princess of the Gutter’ by Jon Ureña

The Cleaning Crew (Poetry)

This one cleaning guy walks with a limp,
Has a useless arm, and curses to himself
(On top of all that, he’s prematurely bald)
Like many other afternoons at the office,
Until this guy came in to do his job,
I was blissfully alone, sitting at my desk,
Watching YouTube, hoping to write stuff,
Wishing that nobody would call for an issue

They keep sending different cleaning workers,
But they are all the kind that keep muttering,
Maybe hoping to start a conversation,
Maybe just to have their existence acknowledged,
Or maybe there’s a correlation between
Such verbal incontinence
And having to clean hospitals for a living

“I can’t do this shit in thirty minutes
Who the fuck does she think she is,”
The crippled guy grumbled
While he mopped the floor
With his remaining healthy arm

Through his festering bitterness,
I imagined this guy’s entire life
As being filled with such complaints;
He never felt happy, loved, nor appreciated,
Not for a single day since he was born

I wondered if anyone ever told him
That muttering a series of curse words
Makes people want to listen even less;
I was a quiet kid who opened his mouth
To curse when he couldn’t help it,
Until I realized that it sounded ugly,
So from then on I only cursed in my mind,
At the world and at myself

Another cleaning worker came, a woman
I don’t look at their faces if I can avoid it
(She likely wasn’t a model,
And if I want to stare at a tired, wrinkly face,
From lack of sleep and constant stress,
I just look in the mirror instead),
But she sounded like she was in her forties
Both started a loud, private conversation,
As I sat there trying to waste my time
By watching Korean videos on YouTube

They ranted about another coworker:
“She said that my girlfriend would leave me,”
The crippled cleaning guy complained
“You know that she won’t clean the fifth?
Because of the COVID patients, she says,
But those were moved to other floors
I keep asking her why do I have to do her job,
And she just repeats that she won’t go there”

The cleaning woman added to the conversation:
“You know that she used to work in the kitchen?
She came drunk often, and one day
She was stumbling while snot ran down her nose,
And she dropped some pottage on the floor,
But instead of throwing it away,
She put it back in the pot
Another coworker freaked out, and contacted me
Because she didn’t know how to stop her,
And they ended up calling security”

The crippled cleaning guy cursed
“That stupid bitch, she looked at my phone
For just a few seconds, got to see my girlfriend,
And she said that she looked like a cheap whore”
The cleaning woman shook her head
“I don’t know how someone like that can exist”

I could hear every word as I sat there,
And in such cases I can never tell
If people like these want to be heard
(Some people just need to be listened to),
Or if their minds don’t allow them to realize
That they are cleaning someone else’s office,
Where someone is trying to do his job
(And at that moment, my job consisted
Of watching videos of a hot Korean model)

I didn’t stick around for them to finish;
My bowels were churning and burning,
As usual due to this IBS curse,
So I slipped away to take a shit

When I came back, they were gone,
So I returned to my precious solitude,
This time for a new batch of prank videos
As I waited for the remaining time to pass
Until I could exit the hospital into the night,
To wait for my bus to come,
Then to wait for my train to come,
Then to walk through my shitty city,
Until I could finally hide between my walls,
So tomorrow I can do it all over again,
And pull off a few hours of real work
While I try to ignore the sound of cursing
Inside my own brain

In such days I feel that no one
Wants to live in this world,
That there isn’t a single person
Who would choose to stay,
Yet we all do it anyway
(Until the day when we don’t)

We spend our whole life
Doing what others ask us to,
While always hoping that
Someone will appreciate it
And love us for who we are,
But nobody ever does

It’s just a futile game
That you can’t win,
Yet you have to play it anyway,
So today I did it too:
I wrote an ugly poem
About those guys who complain
And curse because of a life
That is not worth living

‘The Cleaning Crew’ by Jon Ureña

I Was Born a Unicorn (Poetry)

A realization that most children are spared
Is the stark epiphany that others are different
Or more accurately, that I was the different one;
I felt different from everyone else on Earth
(No wonder I loved UFOs from an early age)
My mind doesn’t process information like theirs do,
I couldn’t understand what made them laugh or cry,
They giggled over things that caused no reaction in me,
And they tolerated behaviors that caused me anxiety
As a child I felt a pressure to hide my inner self,
Because if anyone knew how unusual I was,
The world would think less of me

Being close to people is a way to feel alienated,
Since I don’t feel like responding how they expect
They all seem so similar to each other,
While I have always remained a stranger

It usually takes them opening their mouths
To voice an opinion, or share their interests,
Or just reacting naturally to normal stimuli,
For me to think, “These people aren’t like me”
Discovering someone who can relate
Is like finding a whole new planet in space

The only place I felt like I belonged
Was in the darkness of the universe
(If anything, I wanted to exist
In a parallel universe where I could live
Free of the expectations of society)

When a child’s parents realize
That the kid is different than the rest,
They can go two different routes:
The first explores what makes the kid unique,
And the other insists on him becoming normal,
Which involves smothering his natural instincts
And him learning to behave in normal ways

I was told the second thing, to wear a mask,
Because eventually it would become natural
It only helped me develop a severe self-hate,
As I kept flagellating myself with stuff like:
“Maybe if I try harder I’ll fit in better”
“When will these feelings go away?”
“When will I become normal?”
“I must be completely stupid”

My mind split into two: the conscious brain
(The one that deliberately chose what to do),
And the monster, what came from deep inside,
That only spat out unacceptable reactions
And emotions, many of them troublesome
(Or at least made some people uncomfortable)

When I visited one of my first therapists,
My reason for going was, “I can’t feel anything”
I had come to believe I didn’t experience emotions,
Because for all my life I had to train myself
To discard the products of my subconscious mind,
So I could live like a normal person

I only identified with my conscious self,
Which barely kept its head above the water
(Opaque, mercurial waters, filled with monsters)
I felt that if I lessened the tight grip on my mind,
My self would literally disappear, swallowed
By the unacceptable, monstrous forces
That I was taught to repudiate and suppress

This may be why I developed a strong tendency
To view the world as a dangerous place full of threats
(Except that it is such a dangerous place;
Most people don’t care to connect the dots)
A terrifying world full of untrustworthy people,
Where even many of the benevolent ones are evil
The very nature of the universe is a conspiracy,
A vast, hostile, and ultimately undefeatable enemy
I am afraid, terrified, and deeply concerned
About the future of humanity

Acting like a normal person isn’t a solution,
Because other people behave naturally,
And acting is mostly a conscious action
Sustained in time through mental efforts;
Every day I ended up exhausted,
And some days I even passed out
(I recall one time I took the train
In the opposite direction by mistake,
And then immediately fell asleep)
Worst of all, acting didn’t even work,
Because people realize someone is fake,
Or least they get creeped out enough

Wearing a mask also damages your dignity:
The mask has to be perfect and unblemished
Otherwise, the whole facade will crumble
You’re forced to wear it constantly
(Not just on special occasions)
Your brain can’t keep up, you stay on guard
While you’re trying to maintain an act
With no room for error, or slipups,
Because if something triggers a response
That normal people consider inappropriate,
Then everyone will think you’re strange
(The monster can never be seen)

Unless you feel an impulse to murder people,
Just be yourself, and those who dislike you
Weren’t meant to stick around anyway
(And if you want to murder people,
Join the military, I guess)

It took many years and self-searching
For me to allow my subconscious mind to be,
Which involved learning to listen to it,
Its likes, dislikes, and all kinds of impulses,
That I had denied for my entire life,
And it took even more to identify with it,
To let it come forth without resistance,
For me to accept the monster inside

Ever since, I only feel like myself when I’m lost,
When the subconscious mind does its thing
(For example writing, or playing the guitar),
Completely unshackled and uncontrolled,
Running too fast for the conscious brain

People lie to themselves about their choices,
About why they hold certain beliefs,
About the myriad of tiny decisions they make;
Most are decided by the primordial monster,
And the conscious mind rationalizes it away

That self-important conscious brain
Is like a tenant being pelted with objects
In his house during a violent poltergeist;
It’s not a trick, dude: the house is haunted
(I’m not sure if the analogy works,
But my point is that there are forces there,
Down in the ancient depths of our brain,
That we can’t even begin to understand;
Just let it do its thing, throw a few plates)

I recall a moment in a writing class
When everyone burst into laughing
Within milliseconds of the comment made,
And I was the only one sitting there stone faced,
Because it had failed to affect my brain
The others stared at me as if I was killing their vibe
They looked away from my face, because they saw
A weirdo who was different from them
None of the people involved chose their reactions

Curiously, whenever a normal person finds out
That one of us (usually autistic) reacts differently,
They get disturbed, feel off, deflated,
They think that we lack intelligence of empathy
The empathy accusations always kill me;
They come from people that surround themselves
With like-minded people who react the same way,
And they feel that the accused person should adjust
His mindset and reactions to suit their needs

I also had to realize that most people
Don’t walk around in tight circles,
Nor flap their hands to dissipate anxiety
(One of my fondest memories
Involves me getting out of an operation
While I was still high on morphine;
It was the first time in my life
That I wasn’t besieged by anxiety,
But most people must feel that way,
Which explains many of their opinions)

My thoughts also walk in circles,
Caring little about reaching a destination;
My brain forces me to ponder the same stuff
Almost every day, or else it bombards me
With everything that has ever gone wrong,
Or what could go wrong, and the consequences

I’m one of those autistic people, very common,
With a full-blown auditory processing disorder;
Repetitive noises or sudden, loudish ones
Make me feel as if I have been literally slapped
(It makes me want to get angry at the culprit),
Or else it feels like getting nudged repeatedly
By someone who insists on bothering me

I’ve never learned to control those reactions
(They come from the depths of the brain)
It gets as bad as losing my train of thought
Each time I hear a meow somewhere around
(And I love cats, particularly cat-girls),
And then I can’t concentrate for life
Until the noise stops and the feeling goes away

I tend to wear earbuds, or play loud music,
Or white noise of choice, like storm sounds,
Because it helps to block out the world,
The outside sound and the invading voices
That circle around inside my head all day long

I had to learn about prosopagnosia,
Because most people don’t experience it
(It’s more common for autistic people):
Every face looks familiar, but not enough,
And I can hardly recognize people outside
Of the familiar places where they belong
It even happens with my family members

As an example of how shitty it gets:
I made out with this cute basketball player,
(She was a girl, though, maybe sixteen),
And I fucked up a relationship as I do,
By being a coward and hating myself
I’m quite sure that I lost her email address
She lived nearby, but I wouldn’t go there
As far as I know, I never saw her again;
I’m quite sure I came across her,
And the poor girl believed I was a shithead
Because I completely ignored her existence
Sorry, sweetie, I was fucked from birth
With a broken brain
You dodged a nuclear missile, though
(What I’d do to fondle that ass again)

When I went for my disability assessment,
The guy working there said I should be fine
Regarding the autism with which I was born,
Because it’s called a developmental disorder
(Meaning that such disorders only affect kids);
For society, adults with Asperger’s don’t exist,
Or else it gets its impressions from Hollywood
(Hoffman based his Rain Man on Kim Peek,
But that guy wasn’t even autistic)

According to the Spanish government,
I’m fifty two percent disabled,
And I think it should be higher:
I can barely get through a workday
Because of the constant anxiety,
The variety of physical pains,
The need to get away from the noises,
The social adjustments I need to make
To avoid making others uncomfortable,
My difficulties to communicate verbally,
And the lack of trust that comes from it
(And I was born with other afflictions
That factor into that percentage,
But that have nothing to do with autism)

I’m exhausted and miserable most days,
Like most autistic people are, I guess

Anyway, I wrote this poem
(Or however I could name this thing)
Because there are still too many people
Who believe that everyone’s brain
Pretty much works the same way

‘I Was Born a Unicorn’ by Jon Ureña

Fly On the Wall (Poetry)

Back in the 2000s I loved this soft rock band
That I learned about through an online forum
The songwriter was a working-class fellow
That wrote about failed relationships,
About how everything was disappointing,
About hoping to disappear in romance,
And about barely keeping his head above water
Because he could barely afford to pay the rent

Listening to his/their sad songs
Made me feel there were other people
Who felt as though they had no choice
About the person they were forced to be,
But still tried to make good things happen,
Although they feared nothing would come of it
The songwriter was following a calling within
That would likely lead him to his doom
(If you had to swim, it was fine to drown)

He had dreams that were unfulfilled by reality
As he shared every song on the forum,
I was awed by this guy’s enthusiasm,
Not to mention his unique talent,
And how hard he focused on creating stuff
So his little band could one day make it big

This guy reminded me of myself
(I loved to believe I was talented,
Particularly if I didn’t have to prove it)
He shared similar feelings and thoughts,
Even if we came from different backgrounds
His world view was so much more mature,
Which made his music seem realer
(I didn’t need to pay the rent,
So I didn’t know how it felt
To be one step away
From poverty)

I went through hard times, a bad relationship
(I wish I had never met you, M.;
You have to be a bitch to call your ex
And tell him that a new dick feels better,
As much as it takes a pathetic guy
With self-hate and abysmal self-esteem
To take your fucking calls),
And I had to leave most of my tastes aside,
While fearing what might become of me
(At least I don’t have to worry anymore;
My life has gone far beyond my control)

When I returned to being on my own
(As I should have always been),
I recalled that the aforementioned band
Existed at all, and I hadn’t dreamed it up
During one of my psychotic breaks
(I want to erase the memories of those years)
Yeah, their existence was proof for me
That I wasn’t crazy; I actually existed
In some sort of alternate dimension

Although they had been selling albums online,
I was never able to find any trace of them
(They seemed to have been scrubbed
By someone who wanted them gone)
The website of that forum had disappeared
I had formatted the drive that had the songs
My mind sometimes replayed the echoes,
As well as what I could remember of the lyrics,
All the while wondering where they were now,
Because I was pretty sure that the band was no more

(Was this a dream? Was I dreaming?)
It was possible I’d only heard
A few lines here and there in a song
That seemed to exist in another world
(Maybe their music escaped from a breach
Into an alternate, more soulful Earth)

As I was cleaning my place, I found a CD
That contained, among forgotten stories,
All of their songs I had downloaded then
After I listened to their tracks again,
I remembered why I was drawn to them,
How refreshing it was to hear such feelings,
Of someone who struggled in a similar way

Now that I’m older, I hear them differently
The guy talked about the pressure to create,
How every day felt wasted if he didn’t make
Part of a song, or worked on their lyrics
In one of the last songs, the guy spoke about
Having gotten tired of playing with paper swords,
And that from then on he would seek security

(When I was a child we caught a bird,
Then put it in a cage as a new pet;
It suffered a heart a attack and died
It didn’t even take a whole day
Sometimes I think of the newborns
That the bird probably went to feed)

As a lanky, pimply teen, I wrote like crazy
I spent a few years writing a psychotic story
About colonial marines in deep space
That would have interested nobody
(Because it was a complete piece of shit)
When I read some of the pages, I’m appalled
At the disordered, broken mind it revealed
(I was so embarrassed by the drafts
That I burned them after reading,
Then threw away my computer
And shot myself in the head)

I was on the verge of hanging myself back then;
I wrote to stay afloat, to make it somewhere,
Although I already knew I had no place here
Something I miss from those days is the fire
To write something meaningful each and everyday,
Of knowing that I have a limited time in this world
But still needing to fight before it’s too late
(I wish I could spend the rest of my life
Just sitting at my desk, typing out thoughts
That are hidden inside me),
And that nothing matters except creating art;
For me every day without writing was wasted

For many years I gave up my dreams for security
I studied to become a programmer, worked as one
(Barely above minimum wage, and terrible hours)
I discovered my broken mind wouldn’t tolerate
Nor be accepted in any private office’s culture
(I got a series of ‘You won’t work well in a team’,
Always by supervisors who weren’t technicians;
The bosses I worked with were fine with me
All those supervisors were always women
Against a less than stellar example of a man,
And it is hard to avoid seeing that pattern
In our society at large, not just in that industry)

Eventually I got too old to be exploited as a dev,
So I worked for a while as a freelance merc,
But most of the months I wasn’t getting paid,
Although I worked my ass off, full time
(I never want to receive again calls at 1 AM
Because some crazed client wants a feature)

I enjoyed programming a version of DF
(‘Dwarf Fortress’, that old grail, a total mess),
But you need a whole team to make a game

I spent many years doing nothing but gaming,
Listening to music, reading, browsing the net
(And copious amounts of masturbating),
Because I was sure I wouldn’t fit in anywhere
I learned how to play guitar, played it in the woods,
But only writing stuff ever felt truly right
(Meanwhile, my parents paid for most things;
Maybe it was fair, after they raised me to be shit)

I now work in IT for a hospital,
Which is garbage, but it pays well
(I’ve learned to hate computers)
If I had stayed as a musician,
I’d probably be dead,
Or a poor alcoholic,
Or maybe in jail
(I’ve been busted twice,
Because I was under the influence
Of painkillers)

I always look forward to being unemployed
Some people say that you have to work,
Because that ennobles you or something
As far as I’m concerned, that’s slave mentality,
That’s like having to believe that pain is good,
Because no pills get rid of your constant pain
(So you have to befriend it or else go insane)
I’d rather have some people supporting me,
Paying my bills and the roof over my head,
Even if most days I would only masturbate,
And occasionally produce some sort of text

Writing struck me when I was young:
It felt so good to escape reality,
To tell stories that no one else could see
It’s something I can do by myself, in silence
(Or talking to myself, acting out the dialogue)
I didn’t need anyone else to understand me,
Or to cheer me up, or to tell me what to write
People were always involved in everything else,
And they kept me away from doing what I liked
All I have to worry about is being lazy
When I am sick of it all, I’ll stop writing

From 2012 to 2018, I tried my best in Spanish,
Writing serious stuff that might sell enough to eat
I couldn’t even get along with the local writers;
I didn’t understand their reasons for writing,
And their brains worked differently from birth
(It’s a waste of time trying to explain myself)

After I self-published two books and nobody cared,
That tainted all the effort I put into my stuff
Writing had ceased to be fun like it used to be
I stopped writing for a while, the words were dry
I was angry, bitter, confused, depressed
Everything I did seemed pointless in retrospect

When I was a child, I knew I wouldn’t get published,
But that didn’t stop me from doing what I wanted to
Now that I’m older, I realise just how much trouble
I’d have had to go through to have my stuff printed,
How many asses even normal people have to kiss
(I don’t want to deal with that shit anymore)

When I was twenty one or so, I had given up
On what I cared about as a kid, to become an adult
I would move to the capital, work at some job
Sitting in a cubicle, working on a computer,
(Live my life by rules invented by other people)
Get married to that girl, have a couple of kids,
Get verbally abused because I was insufficient
(I would be weak and take it, like my father),
Live in poverty and pay off all my debts,
And I would forget all about what felt right,
And all those weird dreams I had as a child
I would forget that I never wanted to grow up,
To just live the same old, boring routine,
Waste the rest of my time until I died

When I was younger I thought that getting old
Would mean losing the motivation for living,
And that’s mostly true, but I can still find
The same desire I had as a child to create
(In spite of having to work a shitty 8 to 3)
I enjoy the feeling of translating
Into words what is inside me

Even now, as I write this at work (at 9 PM),
I’ve never managed to land a stable job,
And given how I was born, I never will
(In addition, the world has gone to shit)
That means likely never owning a house,
Never having a wife, nor a bunch of kids
(Those are rare daydreams, gene-driven,
Because I don’t have the instinct to socialize)
I have lost this game, so I can write for fun
(Although I suppose I could kill myself;
There’s always time for that down the line)

I’m thirty six years old these days,
And for the foreseeable future
(Until I turn thirty seven years old),
But mentally I’m like eighteen or so,
And that’s unlikely to change:
When I was a child I felt much older,
When I was eighteen I felt my age,
And from then on I failed to progress,
But those who had a problem were others
(Like romantic partners I had to impress)
I’m a single man for life as far as I care,
Because I’m not giving up my stuff,
Everything that truly matters to me
(Everyone else can eat shit)
I’ll keep writing until I die and rot away
I’ll always be able to use it to escape reality

My point is, I remember you, Tim,
And the songs you used to make
I hope you didn’t die and shit
I’m sure you got married, got kids,
And had to give up on your dreams
(Unless your dreams now involve
Being married and raising kids)
All’s well that ends well
As long as you are happy,
But I have the sneaking suspicion
That you aren’t, nor would I be;
Someone who hears the calling
Of the creative life can’t be happy
Unless he cuts himself to bleed

Blood flows from the wound
(That will only close when you die)
And from the heart, which can tell
That it was the blood’s song
Which the artist heard,
A voice that said, ‘Now paint!’,
‘Now write!’, ‘Now compose!’
(I’m not sure what musicians hear;
I never felt like writing a song,
But I play other people’s songs)
What kind of music do I listen to?
It doesn’t matter, just pick something
(Anything but Colours Run)

It’s as though the artist
Was a young boy again
(Or girl, I guess; I have a dick)
And his mother, watching him sleep,
Sang him lullabies in her breast
(I imagine big, soft breasts,
Perennially full of milk)

(I daydream of a woman
Who will let me suck on hers
For the entire day if I want,
No questions asked)

‘Fly On The Wall’ by Jon Ureña

I Wish I Were Wet (Poetry)

Even the greats have few stories to tell,
Which they keep telling over and over
Until their voices grow hoarse
And then die away

There’s no point in writing a story,
At least as far as I’m concerned,
Unless you came up with a killer concept,
One that would make people interested
By hearing it explained in a sentence
Those are so hard to come by
That you should always carry a notebook
In case they pop up when you’re outside
You don’t want to keep it in your mind;
You don’t realize how much stuff you forget
Until you have gone through the notes
You have hoarded for many years

I have stockpiled plenty of crazy ideas,
But most of them are unworkable,
Whether because I don’t want to research,
Or because I haven’t done enough living,
So they just sit on the shelf
Like old wine bottles collecting dust

Seriously, write your ideas down
You need an uncluttered mind
To get in the zone when writing
Classify your notes,
Order them chronologically
According to their place in a story
Above all, don’t lose them
After several years of neglect,
They may be worth more than gold

That story about the ghost woman
Who falls in love with a living one
Had been waiting in my notes for years,
Until I figured out how it should be told
The same is the case for many poems,
Like the one about the immortal warrior,
Or the one about interdimensional travels
I even rewrote one of my old stories,
Shortened it, made it wear another costume
Because I couldn’t figure out what to write

I can only work on the stuff I connect with,
That may make me excited, laugh or cry,
And there are few things that move me at all
I fear that one day I’ll need to build a house
But I will have run out of stone and clay
I will need to escape, to lose myself
By living through another person’s skin,
But my mind will have turned barren

It doesn’t work if I have to fake it,
And it’s not as if writing stuff pays well
The other problem is working on a story
Only for my enthusiasm to fade away
Writing takes so much time and energy,
And a peculiar state of mind,
So I have to take advantage of every chance

None of the therapists solved my troubles,
Which are physical and inborn anyway,
Etched into the brain like depression
(It involves the amygdala, hippocampus,
and the dorsomedial thalamus
Structural and functional abnormalities
Are found in the brain of depressed people)
They give out drugs for this problem,
But none of those helped either
(I had the impression that they try stuff,
They don’t know what they are doing)

The only therapy that worked for me
Is processing my troubles through writing,
But I start way more poems and stories
Than those I end up finishing:
Most of my attempts leave me dry,
So I abandon them midway through
The prospect of losing my only solution
Is a source of constant dread
For now I keep the shadows at bay
By living through other people’s dreams,
Writing down all their fears and hopes,
Whether or not anyone reads the result,
But it would be nice to get paid,
Although I’d still need to keep a job

Many of the writers that I met in courses
Wrote for status or to meet other people
I do it as a way to keep myself alive
Although nothing has felt as meaningful,
I’ve gone years without writing,
Resentful that I wouldn’t get published,
Because I thought it was ridiculous
To write stories about people’s troubles
When I barely care about humans
I’m a loner, a high-functioning recluse
If I was strong enough and had the means,
I would move out into the countryside
Or somewhere where I could be alone,
Go weeks without talking to anyone

All my characters are versions of myself,
They wear costumes to talk to each other,
And they worry about what bothers me
I could never talk about societal issues,
Because I don’t feel like I belong to any,
And most people sound like morons
When they diagnose the ills of society
I can only tell you about the world
Where I live, which is very small

For years I’ve read many books on writing,
And I put the notes together in a manual
Generating original, killer concepts is key,
And for that they proposed ways
To get your internal juices going:
Write down a list of stuff you want to see
Take the building blocks of a story you dislike,
To rearrange them into something you like
Pull apart what you like of your favorite stories
Freewrite a hundred questions
About your personal life or the world,
To see if those worries are reflected
In the stories you have come up with
Write your impressions, visions, dreams
Reflect upon your most satisfying experiences,
Whether fictional or from your own life
Write about what excites your imagination
Write five things you are passionate about
Brainstorm about the things you hate,
Things you love,
Best things you’ve ever done,
Worst things you’ve ever done,
The people you’ve loved,
Your bucket list,
Your hobbies,
The things you know,
What you’d like to know,
Areas of expertise,
People you’ve hated
Think of something you wouldn’t tell anyone
Write about problems that resonate with your own
Elaborate on experiences that made you cringe
Recall your worst humiliation, pain, or sorrow
Write about your worst fears
How would you live differently if you started over?
Write about the turning points in your life
Write about the darkest things in your soul
Have you ever had to face up to your mistakes?
Have you ever had to admit failure?
Are you prepared to let go of all the people
Who have disappointed you, betrayed you,
Left you feeling like a fool for believing in them?
Can you imagine living without regrets,
Without harboring grudges and resentments?
Have you ever had to find a way to go on?
Do you think that you deserve to be happy?
Have you ever been wrecked by the knowledge
That you are inadequate, that you can’t fix things,
That your limitations are evident for everybody?
Are you willing to acknowledge
The extent to which you’re a fraud,
A phony who has no real talent for anything?
You may not be able to answer these questions,
But if you haven’t written about it yet,
Then now is the time to do so

I’m going through the second revision
Of that novel I wrote about the ghost lady
The scenes I wrote at the office are a mess;
I’ve averaged around 70 notes to fix,
And they’ll require a third revision
For me, narrative is about immersion:
I need to disappear into the character’s skin,
Which means being excited, angry, sad, horny
Obviously I can’t do that shit at work
(Getting blue balled is one of my nightmares)
It’s better to reserve my narrative writing
For when I’m alone and isolated,
Or else I’ll damage the quality of my work
Writing poems at the office is fine, though
Even if those poems are articles in poem form,
Like this stuff you are reading now
If I’m not careful, I’m going to turn into a bore
My job requires a lot of social interaction
I don’t have the patience or endurance for it,
So I need to write to get away from people

My point is that I can’t come up with concepts,
Or at least I have been dry for a good while
If I had the free time now to write a novel,
I wouldn’t know what to write about,
And that’s really troublesome

Anyway, thank you for your attention
Stay tuned for the next episode

‘I Wish I Were Wet’ by Jon Ureña