J. S. Betula

there is a section of subway drain at the second stop in my commute, approximately two feet long, that is blocked entirely by a thick, shiny, orange sludge. 

at once, it looks like it is crawling up from the Depths and eeking out from the tiles on the wall. it may have also been spattered there as a baby slime and reached its tendrils nanometer by nanometer further until it unfurled to its current glory. 

below is a short list of ways i have tried to describe it before, none of which do its beguiling wobbliness justice: 

i am enchanted and delighted by the Sludge, and i know that it tastes like peach fun dip and pennies. not-so-patiently, i await the day that i finally collapse to my knees before it and cup it lovingly in my hands to get a real sense of its volume and its sliding weight. 

when i gaze down upon it each morning, my headphones stutter into static and i can feel its smoothness on my face like a seaweed mask i can’t afford; i can feel its slick warmth against my torn cuticles. 

as my other senses erode from overuse, my desire sharpens and hones itself. it will soon prick bloodily through my skin and onto the concrete surrounding the tunnel drains, and the color will clash terribly when i bend my face to the floor.

positive affirmations

J. S. Betula

the katydid you picked up from the subway platform and put in your lunchbox is thriving where you placed her outside. she chose not to bite you because she knew you were trying to help her. 

the sensory overload is not slowly sloughing years off your life, you’re just a little sensitive and you’ll get used to it. 

the rats love each other so much, and they have the most wonderful little rat-sized contraptions that spirit them around the city in style and safety. they eat little blocks of cheese just like in the movies and they never die in unspeakably horrifying ways. 

you did not just contract COVID at the playground with the toddler you nanny. 

the woman in the chanel suit on the train glaring at your leg hair is having a quiet moment of loving revelation; she’s going to try not shaving tonight. 

your congestion is seasonal and will be over soon; you are not allergic to this entire city. 

the roach problem will diminish in the cool weather. 

the broker you are meeting is not going to string you up like a hunting trophy in a $1850/month studio in astoria. 

you do not literally need clear mountain air to stay alive. you can breathe just fine. 

your super is going to be here any minute to fix your toilet once and for all, and he is not going to shove you against the wall and scream at you like the last one. 

you did not just contract COVID at the grocery store. 

everyone else loves pigeons just as much as you do, and no one ever tries to startle or murder them. 

the mothers in wildly expensive athleisure at the park in manhattan have not clocked you as the gay transsexual that you are; they’re staring at you and your nanny toddler because he’s adorable and you’re having so much fun together. 

you are not being followed right now. 

the kid in the alleyway next to your window is screaming in delight, not abject terror. 

you are going to survive this. you can breathe just fine.

Jay is a genderqueer speculative fiction writer from the swamps of rural New York, currently living in Queens. Xe adores pigeons, public transit, and practical effects, and you can find hir on twitter @jsbetula.