“You’re doing great!” said Random Old Guy. He was standing in line behind me, wearing curly gray hair, boxy orange glasses, and the cutest smile. He even offered me a double thumbs-up.

“Thanks!” I mouthed (and sort of whispered) back at him, returning the smile. I think HE thinks I’m a teenager, snagging her first license… I thought, amused.

And then the office lady said it was time to take my picture. I stood up straight in front of the camera and tucked a strand of hair behind my ear. One, two, click. 

“Oh, that’s a GOOD picture,” she said approvingly, nodding at her computer screen.

“Aw, really? It may be the first one I ever like… ha!”




Words have always mattered to me. So spending yesterday hopping around town, engaged in the endeavor of dropping the last name that no longer held anything real, gave me a 24-hour migraine in the best kind of way. More on that here.


The story I’m sharing below is the second one I’ve written this semester. It is, like the last one, 95% nonfiction.



by Jace Rose


“I mean, it’s been what — three years now?”

“Yeah. I know.”

This was kind of awkward, so we took a minute to sip on our drinks. I watched the bartender, a middle-aged blonde wearing tight everything and a shit-ton of rings, shake ice into a glass. Further down the counter, rogue beer rushed out of a spout. Voices yelled back and forth in the kitchen and an indie song played near the walls; something in my brain twitched a little.

“And you still think about him? Like, a lot?”

I turned to face my friend. “Yes. And I hate it.” I took another brave sip of bourbon, a real mood drink. “I don’t WANT to think about him anymore. I hope you know that. I don’t want to love him or care about how he’s feeling or wonder how he’s doing…” feeling disgusted with myself, I took another pause, shaking my drink slightly so that it sloshed against glass walls. I watched it raging freely and envied it. “I’m honestly open to any advice you have,” I said finally.

She pressed her lips together: pink, pretty. She was wearing a peach blouse underneath a light denim dress, a girl from another era. She’s sensitive; I’m telling you this, but you wouldn’t know it. She’s a Pisces, so good luck getting a clear idea what’s going on underneath her waters.

“You clearly know your feelings, but you don’t really take reality into account,” she said. “So, three years later, you need to put the feelings that won’t change and aren’t reciprocated SOMEWHERE… wherever you want, really. Just — find a way to contain them.”

Contain them. Despite being extremely punk rock, I work in a corporate office, so I immediately imagined a filing cabinet; I could cram files for the last two ex-lovers into one drawer, easy, but the first would need a drawer all his own. Ridiculous. It’s basically like the ass-hat murdered a whole damn tree, I criticized silently.

Or, instead of a filing cabinet, I could throw him in a cage — this seemed more fitting. More punk rock, for sure. Steel bars could reliably contain the king of the show… the silly house cat parading about as a lion. Fucking Gemini.

“Or maybe try to picture him as an itch you aren’t supposed to scratch,” she suggested, interrupting these scenes, “because when you do, it–”

“It just gets worse,” I finished. Basic and cliché as the tactic sounded, it could prove effective, as I’d just noticed a red bite on my left ankle that morning and it had been ruining various moments of the day.

“Right,” she said.

I smiled over at her. Sighed, shook my head. We were at a bar. It was Friday night.


We, he and I, used to play in bars on Friday nights and Wednesday nights and Monday nights and Tuesday nights…

Pale Eddie’s was our first main place. It was perpetually dark on the inside — you know; a typical bar. You walk in, bump into some sticky, beat-up tables here and there, and then further ahead, there’s a bar on the left and a stage on the right. Or whatever. Something like that.

It was so cool. My first real bar. And because my grandma had always warned that angels don’t follow you into bars, the place naturally possessed even more mystique.

Anyways, the five of us (me and him, the electric guitarist and bassist, and our sometimes-drummer) would walk in with gear weighing down our hands and arms. After taking about fifteen steps forward, across acid-washed concrete, we’d deposit everything beside the wall that extended beyond the stage: mics, guitars, amps, cables, saxophones, keyboards, capos, tuners — all of it.

And here’s the thing we hadn’t yet realized: You play first, hardly anyone’s there to hear it, other than other performers who are really just waiting for their own time to shine.

So you learn to play third, fourth, eighth, last — because the longer you wait, the bigger the crowd gets, and the longer you wait, the drunker the crowd gets, making you sound (whether this is real or imagined) the best.

When it’s go time and you’re finally up on the stage, the whole place becomes elevated… like, okay; instead of your angel not following you in there, he tagged along AND brought a whole host of friends. Like that. It’s insanely bright – white, blurry, and blinding.

And whether or not they’re supposed to, people smoke inside, blowing cancer and magic into the air. The magic makes you believe that things are going to change soon. That they’re destined to change. And that when they do, things are going to get so much better for you. He’ll stop doing things; you’ll start doing things. You forget about the cancer mixed in with it.

You’re strumming and singing into the mic, closing your eyes so you can see straight, and then bam – before you know it, you’ve played two, three songs. And when the people get loud, hollering out words and cheers, you want to play another song, but your ten minutes are up.

So you ride home feeling cool and feeling excited to eat because stage fright made food a non-option all day, but when you get home, you realize that you’re actually really tired, so you don’t eat. Instead, you and that guy you’re obsessed with collapse into the bed that you share but he won’t cuddle with you anymore; it’s summer, he says, and the AC’s only just kicked on. 


Cut that last part; that’s the kind of thing you don’t like to remember. You prefer remembering his green eyes when they were on you; the prickliness of his fiery beard – red on orange – when he’d tip his head down to kiss you; the spicy meals he’d cook in that tiny little apartment when he was feeling good enough, better than usual; and the goofy things he’d say in that silly tone of voice when it was just the two of you around and he could forget about looking cool and being right all the time.

You forget about the secret email account. He never did anything with it, true, but there was one, and he thought about using it.

And you never seem to remember the mean things he’d say when you’d push past his patience — the drastic change in tone, the shittiest choice of words.

The electric guitarist’s girlfriend had said something about that once, leaning in close during the guys’ smoke break at band practice: “I don’t know how you take it. I’d have slapped him across the face by now.”

“Yeah,” I said, unsure about what she’d said and what he’d said and everything. I watched him from where I was sitting, on the living room floor; he was bending over a bong in the kitchen, and then blowing out smoke – smuch smoke… I observed him through the haze.

But sometimes, you do remember how he found interesting ways of letting you know that you were a real disappointment to him – as a woman and a wife:

Guess all that make-up’s probably expired by now, huh? 

Please do SOMETHING with your hair… I bought that curler for YOU, you know. 

Would you wear something sexier than that dumb NASA t-shirt to the show? AGAIN? 

Why can’t we try this? 

Why do you have to be so paranoid all the time? 

Why are you such a prude? 

Quit being such a BITCH. 

Maybe that’s why you chopped all of your hair off in the summer; so he’d quit bugging you about it.

Maybe that’s why — partially why — you changed genders, in your mind, for a while there… because it just didn’t seem like you were doing an even halfway-decent job of being a girl.

And maybe that’s why, in the fall — with a shaved head, skeleton body, and ghost eyes — you began turning away when he’d go to kiss you…

Why you stopped wanting him to look at you and your plain, disappointing face at all.


The mic smells tonight.

Your shoes make slapping sounds as they cross the concrete, and when you get up there, you notice, before anything else, that the mic smells.

The air smells, too. Like Amber — and that guy, Jack Daniels. Like a green margarita; apple, lime, a pinch of salt.

The people here now look different, but they’re basically the same as the old ones; sitting at the bar with such ease it’s like they’re in their living room chairs. As you lift your guitar from its case, you hear these people talking to the girl behind the bar like she’s Heather Locklear; so gorgeous, and witty, and so beautifully alive on their television screens.

You put some reverb on, adjust the mic’s volume. The stage feels roomier than before. You discover you can’t change the stage lighting – a queasy yellow that makes you think of flies. You gingerly step over an XLR cable and notice someone’s stuck a fake plant in the corner, and while you snicker a little, you can’t really throw shade, because it’s basically as alive as you are.

In your mind, you hear someone counting down from five and then see one of those floor cameras creeping toward you… we’re rolling, they say. You place your fingers on your fretboard, in the familiar shape of a bar chord, barely feeling the nickel underneath your callouses, and then you look over to your right, because you can’t help it; the saxophone’s still gone. Of course it is. You, personally, kicked it off of the stage three years ago… I mean, Jesus; do you ever really know what you want, who you are, what you’re doing… anything at all?

Finally, with a buzzed amplifier behind you and a wasted mic in front, an old, washed out version of you turns on their radio. You sing a song, and another, and another, and another.


“I know he wasn’t the best,” I say. “I mean, duh… and neither was I; we were young!”

My best friend and I were drinking red wine at home, a few nights after the bar gig.

“Then what is it you’re missing so much? What’s the real hang-up?” he asked, and then disappeared from the kitchen, lugging a trash bag out into the garage. I tucked a strand of honey-blonde hair behind one ear and set my glass down, covering it with a paper towel and a rubber band. Flies like to hang out with us in the kitchen; the alcohol, the lights…

“I think I mostly miss taking care of him,” I said, walking over to the stove. Stirring the sauce, smelling the sauce, having cut and diced every vegetable simmering in that sauce, I could already taste it – red tomato, bitter vodka; sweet bell pepper, bold garlic…

“He was so unhappy,” I continued. “His baseline was being discontent. And I loved being the person who could make him feel better, make him smile.” I paused to watch noodles wage war in saltwater… whether it was on each other or on the water, I couldn’t tell.

“And I don’t know how to stop doing that, I guess – how to stop being that person.” I removed the steel pot from the stove and strained the noodles over the sink, instantly feeling their steam on my face and fingertips. Then I turned back around to combine them with the sauce.

“But you HAVEN’T taken care of him in three years now,” my best friend said, reappearing in the kitchen’s doorway without the trash. “You already aren’t that person, because you haven’t been…”

I turned my head to look over at him, to confirm that he was smiling.

Noodles hit sauce like that and I felt a warm splash on my face. “Huh…”




Still here,

Aun Aqui

flow, creep, drip, crash

“I’m 28 now — do I  wish  I had a husband and kids? Yes, of course, but I don’t. It does bother me, because I really want it, but I also realize that I have a lot of talents and things I’m doing right now and that I travel a lot and that maybe, I’ve got some things I still need to accomplish before we meet each other…” shrug.


I wanted to stand up, on the other side of the class room, and wave both arms at her, this visiting poet. “HEY! Hey, lady —  me too!  I just turned 27 and I’m in the  same  freakin boat as you!” Instead, I nodded my head up and down, very enthusiastically, like: Yeah… yeah. Exactly.


I talk about loneliness a lot because I am lonely, and I talk about missing people because I do. I try to keep myself busy (like the guy pictured below), and I’m successful with this to such an extent that it’s probably unhealthy.


never stop parks and rec


I eat a lot and then don’t eat enough; get tattoos as a socially-acceptable way of replacing bad habits but still miss seeing the blood; buy old scarves and dying plants to feel a little warmer, inside and out; drink a latte seventeen days in a row and then get off of them for a while; give a Chipotle gift card to the homeless man I see so often he feels like a friend and then worry over whether or not the bar code will malfunction when he goes to use it; still praise the boy who used my body for doing better with his finances; and try wearing sandals so that the fresh, flowing air can somehow invigorate me — change me,  transform me,  from the feet up…

But I’m not changing the way I want to… and what I mean by that is, the great depression isn’t relenting. You can’t blow it away, sweat it out, fill it up or dig past it. I’ve tried. It’s deeply embedded in me — tall, taller than me, and seemingly bottomless. I can’t bike fast enough for it to do anything other than trail behind me for a little while and then catch up quickly. It’s insane.

And it makes me feel insane, because I watch other people watching TV and dining out and playing on their phones and they seem happy enough, but those things don’t make me happy. I feel I’m missing something extremely important that I can’t place, although I call it companionship, and I say it’s love.

My mom’s going to text me after reading this and say that I need god, and she could be right, but I don’t (and won’t) have one. I think it’s great that some people do, but at my core, the capacity for belief just isn’t there. Fairy tales are lovely to read and think about, but they aren’t real. God and eternal life and perfect health and reunion with the dead souls we loved sound a lot (too much) like fairy tale components to me — nice, but unreal.

Honestly (and I’ve said this before), the whole “hope of heaven” thing sounds like a grand coping mechanism; the supreme delusion. I’m not trying to be mean, or rude; this is just how it is for me, and for me,  that’s just how it is. 

My mom likes to think this will change someday — that things will “click” back into place. I’m really sorry, mom. My lack of belief is fundamental — living inside of me, manifesting as me, tangible as a bone. It’s not a phase or an election so I can “live however I want” (btw, living “however I want” isn’t very crazy: I’m hyper-productive, go to bed at 8, drink coffee, and write stories).




There are so many days where I just want to end this — you lose a brother, husband, dog and your old god and it happens. Shit happens. You’re only 27 but you’re already ready to go, but the thing is that you know your mom’s already lost a child and you’ve got two dogs at home who are still alive and they like you,  they depend on you,  so you can’t – with a good conscience – leave while all of them are still around…

One consoling thing is that you can still sense the magic out there — you’re still getting some sparks: you feel them inside the cafe, down at the river, when you taste avocado; they just don’t stay with you.

You feel like throwing up, you’re so anxious; you feel terrible about yourself because you can sense the way other people (you believe this) look down on you for your instability, your wildcardness. Like: You’re here, we see you, but we don’t care for you very much. We’d really rather you not be around. I get these vibes, some places. Distinct vibes.

It’s the way they do, or don’t, look at me; the things they will, or won’t, say. People have this incredible ability of making you feel absolutely worthless without saying a damn thing, and then, you feel indescribably shitty but don’t know how to fix it, because you don’t know  exactly why  you’re shitty — you simply believe them and their crock of shit (perceived or real) instead of trusting yourself. You want so much to be at peace with everyone and to be accepted by the world and you feel like everything you say and do indicates this, but they’re just not having it…

I say I’m shaking it off (like Taylor); I say I’m trying to be like water (like Bruce); but the judgment of others (again, real or imagined — it still feels the same) seems to flow with me like leaves that fall and flow with the river. I love leaves, and I generally love people, but sometimes, they REALLY suck.


I told my best friend I was doing better this morning (mentally and emotionally). We were sitting at the table, talking; our other roommate padded softly down the stairs and then leaned back against the kitchen counter, facing us and combing his long hair with his fingers.

mmmmmbullshit, my best friend coughed into his hand. Our roommate smirked at the floor, and even I smiled. We’re all missing someone right now, so we all get it.

Ha-ha, I said. I really am, though — compared to the last three years, I AM doing better. I’m dropping the name, doubling my class load next semester, baking a casserole later today… I felt like crying until I couldn’t breathe, like when I was a child. I felt like not breathing for so long that I passed out. I just wanted to not carry all of this weight for a little while, however long, I don’t care anymore.


I played music at the University of Montevallo last night; a short four-song set. I had turned some reverb on, the mic was set-up really well, and the stage lighting was great. They’d let me pick the color: rose. One of the AV guys had even snuck a fake plant out of the nearby post office, placing it onto the stage as a prop. It was cute.

I heard someone counting down from 5 and then saw one of the floor cameras creeping toward me… rolling. I placed my fingers on my fret-board, barely feeling the nickel underneath my callouses, and then looked over to my right, because I couldn’t help it; still no keyboard. I sang a song, and another, and another, and another.

I don’t know what to do. Anyone reading this work with magic? Know how to set a person,  some heartbroken-loser-girl,  free?




Thoughts we both might like:

  • “I am not what happened to me, I am what I choose to become.” Carl Gustav Jung
  • “How can you change when you think who you are is what you think and what you think is what others made you think?” Sangram Lama
  • “If you can’t climb it, why not go through it?” 
  • “Don’t make a plan of fighting. That is a very good way to lose your teeth. If you try to remember, you will lose. Empty your mind. Be formless, shapeless, like water. Now you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup; you put water into a bottle, it becomes the bottle; you put water into a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now water can flow, or creep, or drip, or crash… be water, my friend.” Bruce Lee



Still here,

Aun Aqui

then i became a villain, too

“You like to drape yourself in things,” he observed. I tipped my chin down, looking at the blue blanket covering my chest, lap, and feet. Earlier that day, I’d been wearing a scarf. He wasn’t wrong.

“It’s like… you want everything to feel like a story,” he said. I wasn’t sure what he was trying to say.




And two weeks later, I’m still not sure what he meant, but I know what I eventually realized by replaying his words in my head — sounding them out, writing them down.

Real life and the stories I read and write are pretty similar but differ in one BIG respect: the “realm of good and evil” in storybooks portrays a fundamental separation between heroes and villains — a deep, marked line you can sometimes get across but that still places you either here or there. In real life, it’s just not like that.

Stories usually present characters who (either right from the start or by the end of the read) fall into one of two categories: heroes or villains. As we read the lines themselves and everything between them, we typically identify with the hero — the poor, victimized, capable and brave one — and steel our hearts against the villain — the bad guy; the one we feel the story could do without.

Because in real life, we view ourselves as the hero, making the people who hurt, ignore, or intimidate us automatically become villains. Sound about right?


Sure; we’ve bumped into heroes other than ourselves along the way: the person who’s let us merge onto the interstate during heavy traffic; the cashier who said “hey, it rang up wrong, so it’s free!”; the guy or gal who kissed us and promised they’d never leave (spoiler: this kinda hero usually goes villain, in the end); and the animals that keep us from swerving into oncoming traffic because they’re just so good, so much better than us, and we love taking care of them and we love them loving us.


But I’m going to share with you the mental newsflash that I wasn’t sure (at first) how to take: Outside of storybooks, NONE of us are just heroes or just villains. We’re both. Always. 


We’re all said to have character, and our characters seem to indicate our general caliber — the types of decisions we’re known to make, and the fine or fucked quality of our souls. But our characters are not (like a baked-and-cooled cheesecake) permanently set; mostly-good people can do bad things, and typically-bad people can do very good things.

We’re also a little biased when it comes to assessing our own characters versus the characters of others. We may fancy ourselves a “decent person who occasionally slips up” (aka hero) while dubbing the jerk who lied about xyz a villain because they did something – one single thing – we didn’t like. Is that fair (or accurate)? Of course it isn’t!

I just read about that “phenomenon” earlier this year — how we use the poor actions of others to malign their characters but excuse our own poor actions as a rare step outside of character. We call the person who cut us off in traffic a jackass, assuming they deliberately ticked us off because they either wanted to or believe themselves to be superior, while excusing ourselves cutting someone off as harmless because oh, I’m just in a real hurry today — I didn’t realize that lane was ending! — I don’t usually do this kinda thing… 


False. You are, like everyone else in traffic, a sometimes-jackass. And in case it isn’t clear, that’s what they are, too; a SOMETIMES-jackass. Not a perma-jackass.


So if we can’t call ourselves and the ones we like winners (heroes) and lump the rest of ’em together as losers (villains) , then what? Then it puts us all in the same bin: villain-heroes slash hero-villains… in other words, human beings who are probably (I still believe this) innately good but have the ability to make poor decisions (or great decisions) DAILY regardless of track record. 


So the guy who murdered my dog isn’t just a villain; the uncle who gifted me with a ’99 Neon eleven years ago isn’t only a hero; the boys who used me and made me feel like burnt toast aren’t wholehearted villains; the best friend who made a cranberry orange cheesecake for my birthday this year isn’t 100% sweet all of the time; and the girl who made fun of my granny panties in middle school isn’t a total witch.


We’re all sometimes-nice, sometimes-mean human beings. If you’ve been really mean, you’re still capable of being nice; and if you’ve been mostly nice, it doesn’t give you a free pass to be “a little mean.” 


Related Sidebar: I knew I’d hurt someone’s feelings for a while but didn’t know how to address the matter slash go about apologizing. I finally tried a week ago. I left a birthday card on her desk, asked her to please talk with me over coffee, and apologized for any discomfort/lack of peace I’d caused her. She said she wouldn’t take me up on the offer and that it simply was what it was.

I came home and told Charlie that I felt terrible. “I really want to make peace with her,” I said. “I don’t want to make anyone unhappy, but in scenarios where I have, I want to end it and make up for it…”

He shook his head. “You’ve asked her to forgive you; it’s her choice now whether she does or doesn’t. All you need to do now is forgive yourself and let yourself have peace. That isn’t someone else’s decision.”

While I know he’s right, it’s still hard: liking yourself when you know other people don’t. So I’m trying to picture it like this: I like pickles in my grilled cheese and mashed potatoes on my pizza, but not everyone does, and similarly, not everyone will like or accept me. That’s okay. Sometimes, it’s a mere matter of preference.

My best advice in light of the fact that we’re all hero-villains/villain-heroes: Be your best, do good things, and practice empathy; hurt people usually hurt people, so if someone’s being unkind to you, keep that in mind. You’ve been unkind before — would someone being mean have helped you in that situation?

A second piece of advice: Don’t keep tally of your nice words and acts and intentions versus the world’s… we’re all in a state of flux, changing for the better or worse every day, and the season I’m in right now could be totally different from yours. My worst days and your best ones — they aren’t to be used for comparison. Harboring jealousy or resentment hurts you more than anybody. Like my friend John said earlier today: Old news is old news. 

Heroes versus villains — that shit’s for the storybooks. In reality, our default is something like swimming along the line of two oceans touching each other — and I hope we CHOOSE to be nice, good, and kind today, and tomorrow, and this fall, and next spring… 





Still here — just keep swimming, just keep swimming… 

Aun Aqui

Ten Things I Hate About Nashville

  1. Alcohol is fun (in measure), but Nashville’s streets (particularly Broadway) really reek of it. While I was out walking (after snagging some REALLY great Indian food — check out Chauhan), I watched a young guy who was INCREDIBLY drunk wipe out on a rented scooter. Some dude called an ambulance, a lady ran over with a towel, and then I drenched the towel with water from my purple bottle before instructing the kid to hold it firmly to his forehead. He kept removing the damn thing, asking if he was still bleeding (DUH), and the thick, oozing, reappearing gash nearly made me faint. “Either of you got a camera phone?” he asked suddenly, slurring the words out. I was too stunned to reply — what the fuck does a camera phone have to do with ANY of this? I thought. He eventually produced his own phone. “Take a… picture…” he murmured, holding it up for one of us to grab. The lady who’d brought the towel snapped some shots and then he proceeded to text the images to his friends. “Good luck, dude. Hold the rag to your head,” I said, continuing on my way.
  2. (Almost) everyone has a butt — I know this — but I DON’T WANT TO SEE IT! I think I saw the shortest shorts in America up in Nashville, and I was not a fan of them. Look, I get it; we’re born naked, with butts, and it would be the most natural thing in the world for us to, generally (barring super cold weather), live our lives naked. Agreed. But here’s the deal: In the US, the human body is heavily sexualized in every possible media form, meaning that the more skin you show, the weirder and more insecure people around you tend to feel. And don’t even get me started on the disgusting horribleness of how the media objectifies women for advertising… just this week, back in bham, I drove by a billboard promoting boxing. Boxing’s fine, cool, whatever. But why does the girl-model have to flash sultry eyes and BITE her glove to effectively advertise boxing? I swear, sometimes, I really hate being here (ie in this world). It’s gross (people are gross) and mean (people are mean to each other AND animals). A good friend told me once: “Forget how your body looks — how does it feel? What can it do?” YES! Yes, yes, yes. These are WAY better points of focus, so why not show that same girl looking confident and kicking (or punching) ASS in the advertisement? Anyways (I said I wouldn’t go there)… I know it’s a thin line to walk — authentically expressing yourself while considering and respecting the sensitivities of others… and I don’t really know what to say to you about it, other than: If one’s ass is LITERALLY exceeding the length of their shorts, the shorts are probably inadequate.
  3. Drunk people are loud. And indecent. And rude. “Hey little girl!” some dude shouted at me, riding along in the passenger’s seat of a golf cart. “Gimme some of that–” “NOPE,” I yelled back at him, shaking my head firmly. The audacity. The golf cart zoomed away (as fast as a freakin golf cart can… how lame) and I hoped that the fat stuffed rabbit sticking out of my backpack was throwing him a sideways glare.
  4. Country music reigns supreme in Nashville, which is fine. I knew that, driving into the place.
  5. I passed by lots of “gentleman’s clubs” with the ickiest and most objectifying signage — and why the FUCK are they even called that? They are, in fact, NON-gentleman’s clubs. Hello!
  6. When people go to the obgyn, why do they spell it out? O-B-G-Y-N? Why not just say obgyn? This has nothing to do with (specifically) Nashville, but it bothers me… always has…
  7. There were simply too many people in Nashville. Whether they were residents or tourists (like me), there were just too many of us. That’s why I left and came home right after the vacation was over.
  8. The Whole Foods in Nashville did not carry my favoritest brand of kombucha (the Live brand). Minus 15 points from G’dor.
  9. There were more cafe options in Nashville than Birmingham. That makes me sad, so we’ll minus another 18 points from G’dor.
  10. One cafe I walked into didn’t offer caramel or white chocolate flavor options. I politely left. In addition to the lack of flavor options, the place was just uppity (for example, no basic white chocolate or standard caramel flavors, right? But they DID have a signature drink called the aspen or the apothecary or the aviators… and that’s some weird bullshit).


That’s all! I wanted to write about my experience in Nashville, of course, and thought it’d be more fun to rant about it than rave. In all fairness, Nash has some tasty vegetarian food and a nice collection of cafes (with interesting flavor options OTHER than caramel and white chocolate). Sharing pics of my latte orders (and listing where you can find ’em) below.



More than anything, I had a great time catching up with my parents. We perused various thrift stores together, drove down to the Harpeth River (which was TOTALLY awesome), and enjoyed being in the sunshine. I arrived home yesterday afternoon, with a bag of scarves and rosy cheeks, and then fell asleep around sunset.




Still here,

Aun Aqui

Bham: Boys and Coffee Shops

My first writing assignment of the semester was a total emotional purge, and I’d like to share it with you guys.

Our instructions were to draw our own personal map of Birmingham, and it could revolve around whatever kind of theme we wanted: where we’ve lost pairs of gloves; where we’ve had the best or craziest of times; or where we’ve kissed boys and girls… and the assignment (if you’re curious) was inspired by this book.

Filing for a legal name change on Monday spun my emotional wheel, and I’m genuinely happy to report that – after drawing my map, drafting a 95% nonfiction story, and tearfully depositing an old necklace, poem, and ring by those rusty ole’ railroad tracks – I am now ready to read and report on something other than old news.

I’m done — d-o-n-e — re-living all of these soul-crushing heartbreaks, both old and recent, and it feels so, so good to be facing forward for once. Actually letting go after holding on SO TIGHTLY for SO LONG has made it easier to breathe, easier to think, and easier to feel alright with who I am and how things really are. I think they call that peace.  

And this is the last time we’ll be talking about ’em, so goodbye, boys. 




Birmingham: Boys and Coffee Shops

Jace Rose


Number one tasted like resin. If taste was a color, stone grey; a nut, an old walnut; a chip, a stale Frito.

Number three tasted like baby powder. Or he smelled like baby powder, which made me think he tasted like baby powder… and I believe I was his first.

Number four tasted and smelled like tacos and fish. Fish tacos?

And number two was just like coffee. I love coffee.

I love the coffee on the corner of 1st and 17th most. This cafe is directly across from the park where families picnic, pups startle one another, and trains howl. The baristas make the whipped cream in-house and know me by my mug: “It’s Pumpkin Spice Season!” Thought I’d scored a real vintage treasure when I’d dug it out of a bin at a thrift store. Then I flipped it over after running it through the dishwasher at home and saw the streaky remains of a Walmart sticker.

I first started drinking coffee after I broke up with number one. It’s like I started needing something that would make me feel as alive as he did… and now – every day – I taste like white chocolate caramel, or white chocolate lavender, or white chocolate pumpkin spice. And nothing else.

First kisses happened everywhere.

With number one, it was on a picnic blanket in Georgia, two guitars in two laps, the boy leaning in quickly and surprising the girl. Squishy, wet, blunt pressure… like: Is this a kiss? We’d forgotten to bring food, and we’d also forgotten it was sabbath. All we really wanted was each other that day, so we drank water for free and kissed freely until sunset.

My third first kiss was on a boulder, way high up… and he asked first. Sweetheart. As inexperienced as I felt I was, he was the real baby that time.

Number two got me at a coffee shop — not the best coffee shop, but its sister café; the one that’s plagued with tourists on Saturday mornings, visitors with too many peaches in their baskets and kale sticking out of their reusable Whole Foods shopping bags. I’d signed separation papers with number one earlier that morning and then reported to my then-favorite cafe for a comforting latte. The girl behind the counter had leaned in, close, and grabbed my necklace while I was ordering, cooing over the material of it or the word on it, I can’t remember. I could smell cigarettes on her. Anyways, I took a seat on a couch and then a few minutes later, number two had walked in, wordlessly, and smooched me on the lips. “You’re mine now” is what I felt… the old blunt pressure becoming words.

And number four took me on his couch. The jackass. I think of him and think: shaved head; fish tacos; an old amplifier left turned on, buzzing throughout the room. He loved that damn amplifier more than he ever liked me. Raved about it like it had just taught itself the major scale. And when I broke up with him in the car, this was his stupid response: “Guess I’m not in the band anymore?” No shit. I’d stuck my guitar and effect pedals in the trunk before we’d even left his house. His home, I’ll mention, was a literal walk away from a pretty great frisbee golf course… that’s one of my deepest losses, looking back on us.

They were all great guys until they didn’t work out.

Number one liked to smoke weed in the house, so we didn’t really go anywhere. We’d move from sitting on couches to sitting on beds to sitting on floors. We’d travel the house in rooms, in socked feet and old t-shirts, an overweight German Shepherd padding stealthily along behind us. We stayed there. The world was small: wooden beams and frying pans and the fat dog and us.

But number four liked going places; punk shows, waterfalls, coffee shops, under my shirt. He was always going. He never settled down. I knew he wouldn’t, but I hoped I might change his mind. Reading this, you think I’m a teenager, but I’m older than that… I should know better than to expect someone to change for me.

Number two was and is a homebody, like number one, but he’s different. Quiet, deliberate, thoughtful. He is a lot like a turtle – slow and wise. He smokes his weed, but he also cleans the fridge out, also throws sticks for the dogs, also records the songs that he writes and goes out to buy us orange juice when he’s drank the last of it. I try to remember what went wrong with us and it’s hard to say. Timing? Plus the fact that I was still in love with number one?

Number three — I didn’t get to know him very well. But I believe that his time is divided pretty equivalently among three spaces: his workplace, the lab where he creates brilliant things, and the house where he sleeps upstairs and dreams about the girl next door. Spoiler: That girl isn’t me. And he really should have told me he was in love with his best friend, who is also his roommate, before we slept together. But that’s alright. And by that, I mean it’s totally fucking not.

So there was the issue of going nowhere, going everywhere, going too soon and going blindly. And then there were also things that they simply liked much more than they liked me.

For number four, it was marijuana, alcohol, LSD, DMT, and anything else mind-altering. Why he’s always dying to get out of his own head is still a mystery to me, but it probably has something to do with him being a complete jackass.

Number two likes coffee and tea and marijuana and mushrooms and cereal and almond milk and peanut butter and regular butter and chips. And falling in love. He really loves romance. Hard as I tried, I couldn’t make myself stay in love with him, and me breaking up with him nine times in two years sort of seemed to kill the romance for him. He’s now, wisely, looking elsewhere. We still enjoy talking and sharing dinners.

Number three likes protein bars (the same ones she likes), playing games (the ones she and he make up together), and riding bikes (with her). I got him to ride bikes with me once and – in retrospect – I do remember him finding interesting ways of bringing her up constantly. We like to talk about what and who we actually like, you know? Too bad I was too busy planning our future, non-existent wedding reception in my mind (catered by Chipotle? Yes please!) and didn’t notice.

Anyways, wrapping things up, number one likes jazz, weed, stability, big boobs and anime. And the big boobs are probably why he’s so into anime. And my flat chest, paired with my lack of stability, is precisely why we are no longer together.

I can remember exactly when I fell in love with each of them.

With number two, it was when we were hanging out upstairs one afternoon, printing off chords for a song. I’d forgotten to pull the printer’s tray out, and papers started falling to the floor. I apologized quickly, setting my guitar down and scrambling up from sitting cross-legged on the rug. It was a burnt orange rug – scratchy, warm. “No,” he said gently, holding his hand up. “This is exactly what I wanted to have happen.” I loved him right then — right at that very second.

With number three, it happened when we were stargazing at the park, the one in front of the cafe. The falsa blanket was under us and the lights were over us, and right in the middle of pointing out some constellation, he stopped himself. “You know, all I really want to talk about is black holes.” Bam. There you are. 

And with four, it was totally random; we were cuddling on the couch one evening, studying Spanish (independently but together — both of us working our own lessons on DuoLingo). He was absentmindedly repeating a phrase out loud, his voice different than usual, because he wasn’t thinking about someone listening. “Un… ves-tido… a-zul…” I could, by really hearing him, see him more clearly then, and I loved him.

There was another, unnumbered guy: Audio. I loved him but never dated him. He told me a story once, while we were sitting underneath the awning at that park (it was raining), about how he’d worked at this warehouse that was perpetually slow. “They used to let me sweep the store when nobody was in there, but then, I became confined to the ‘box’ — the area where the cash register was.” He paused, shaking his head. “So I started doing math.” Math? I laughed. He’d said it so seriously, and after confirming the word, he went on to explain that this was how he got a job working as a math tutor later on that year. That’s when I fell in love.

And then there was number one, of course. He’s the only one I loved before words. I just saw him one day, standing maybe thirty feet away from where I was in this dimly-lit sanctuary, and I felt something. It was a strange mixture of recognition, pain, and soul magic. My next memory of him is of me sitting next to him on a piano bench — him turning his head to the right, toward me; eyes half closed, fingers still tapping the keys, smiling.

I remember them when I smell pastries baking inside of Urban Standard, write about them from my camel-brown chair at Red Cat, and laugh over how stupid they all are when I’m alone in the shower, twenty-four driving minutes away from Birmingham. I think the funniest thing I’ve ever said to any of them in my mind was directed toward number three, picturing him in his tiny, white lab coat, in a sterilized corner of some room at the university, wearing smart-person glasses and holding a test tube like he’ll never hold a lover:

“I hope your research papers smell as good as my hair with leave-in conditioner.”



words, and when I fell in love with them

Wanna know something cool (and weird)? In English, I write stories, but in Spanish, I write poems. And I don’t know why! 

But I think I like that, because I’m such an amateur in this new language, the only way for me to express myself is extremely simply. You know? There’s no grab for fancy jargon (which often happens in English) because everything is just what it is. And saying something plainly — as honestly and succinctly as possible — feels really nice (for a change).

I’d like to pose a friendly challenge to you: Start learning a new language and then begin writing little poems in it… you’ll see exactly what I mean! It’s great! And then, you can do fun things w/your weird poems: hand them out to strangers or crushes (maybe they’re one in the same); post them on a bulletin board in your work’s break room; tape them to telephone poles; slip them underneath windshield wipers (unless that’s illegal — I’m not sure, although I did take a driving class recently). 


Anyways, I’m sharing three recent “pieces” (eye roll bc that sounds so pretentious — I’m NOT a poet, I just love language) below. Numero uno recollects a dream while dos and tres are about a boy (the same boy — you know; the cute, free-spirited, jackass type). And I’m actually sharing a fourth also — my first Spanish poem ever; I wrote it back in March but don’t think I ever shared it w/you guys. (Sidebar: #’s 1 and 4 are about a certain dumbhead who works in a bakery, in case it isn’t totally obvious.) Tip: If you’d like to read any of these poems in English, German, or Japanese, paying a quick visit to Google Translate will yield a rough (but mostly solid) translation.


Before I share these poems, though, I need to share something else: I love words, and when I’ve fallen in love with boys, it’s happened because of their words.


With Charlie, it was when we were hanging out upstairs one afternoon, printing off chords for a song. I’d forgotten to pull the printer’s tray out, and papers started falling to the floor. I apologized quickly, setting my guitar down and scrambling up from sitting cross-legged. “No,” Charlie said gently, holding his hand up. “This is exactly what I wanted to have happen.” I loved him right then — right at that very second.

With Space Boy, it happened when we were stargazing. The falsa blanket was under us and the lights were over us, and right in the middle of pointing out some constellation, he paused. “You know, all I really want to talk about is black holes.” Bam. There you are. 

And with Jackass, it was totally random; we were cuddling on the couch one evening, studying Spanish (independently but together — both of us working our own lessons on DuoLingo). He was absentmindedly repeating a phrase out loud, his voice different than usual, because he wasn’t thinking about someone listening. “Un… ves-ti-do… a-zul…” I could, by really hearing him, see him more clearly then, and I loved him.

There was another guy: Audio. I loved him but never dated him. He told me a story once, while we were sitting underneath the awning at the park (it was raining), about how he’d worked at this warehouse that was perpetually slow. “They used to let me sweep the store when nobody was in there, but then, I became confined to the ‘box’ — the area where the cash register was.” He paused, shaking his head. “So I started doing math.” Math? I laughed. He’d said it so seriously, and after confirming the word, he went on to explain that this was how he got a job working as a math tutor later on that year. That’s when I fell in love.


And then there was Christopher, of course. He’s the only one I loved before words. I just saw him one day, from maybe thirty feet away, and I felt something. It was a strange mixture of recognition, pain, and soul magic. My next memory of Christopher is me sitting next to him on a piano bench — him turning his head to the right, toward me; eyes half closed, fingers still tapping the keys, smiling.



lágrimas como nieve (inspired by a dream in late August) 

Ayernoche, soñé de tú.

Estuvimos a una fiesta para nosotros… fue una celebración de cambiar. Ud. tomó mi anillo desde este dedo y lo puso sobre un otro — libertad. El fin. Todos estuvieron feliz.

Yo lloré y lloré y gemí en la sala, el jardín, y sobre el piso del armario. Mi madre sento aqui conmigo, y mi abuela también — mi madre enfrente de mi y mi abuela detrás. Solo ellas supieron mi pena.

Lloré los copos de nieve afuera de mis pulmones y supe: aquí viene invierno.



días pasados (inspired by a cute memory Jackass shared w/me) 

estuvieron muchos libros en el carro

muchas peras sobre la tierra

tal fuego cerca al océano

tal viento en sus almas



quiero, sé (written after an informal breakup w/Jackass)

quiero ir a te

decir las cosas cálidas

mirar a tus ojos

y verlos ir


pero entiendo la verdad:

tú no piensas de mis ojos nunca

o se preguntas adónde los van



alma (written during a stronger-than-usual bout w/depression) 

mi alma duerme en un vestido azul

en un lugar frío

yo sueño de un jardín verde

una primavera después de tú

de sangre fuerte y brillante – rojo como una rosa

una mente fácil…

un mar de estrellas debajo de la tierra neblinosa


al mismo tiempo, es difícil gustar un mundo sin tú



first spanish poem



Still here,

Aun Aquí

uh-oh… she’s changing again!

“Are you by any chance related to so-and-so Yarbrough?”

I paused, typing something in on a work computer. I was logging into a program, or replying to an email… I don’t remember. I do remember instantly feeling sick to my stomach.

“You know, I’m not… I’m not actually a Yarbrough; I married into the clan, and we’re divorced now, so…” I said this lightheartedly, comically, with a smile. As if I’m not still heartbroken over the thing.

“Oh! Okay…” And then the person felt bad, and I didn’t want them to feel bad, and I didn’t want to feel bad.




That was on Wednesday, and while reaching for a container of lavender and argon oil lotion yesterday morning, I randomly happened upon our old wedding rings. They were tucked into a corner of my little red bookcase. Funny timing, right?

I knew mine would still fit but didn’t want to wear it, so I slid his onto my left index finger, nestling it right underneath my beloved cow ring. I was sitting on my bed then, having just finished unplugging my diffuser and dressing myself for the day. I let myself cry for a quick minute and then reminded myself that it was time to go appear alright in front of the world.






I’ll miss Christopher forever and ever, and I know this. It is not a choice, or a phase, or a delusion (as much as I wish it was); I’ve simply lost my soulmate — and by lost, I mean I pushed him away so I could fall to pieces and then I missed him once I’d finished reassembling a better, healthier version of myself. But it was too late then, and there was too much there.

And it’s the strangest thing — to be so happy with and proud of who you’ve become while abhorring the means it took to get there. In short, in the process of finding myself, I completely blew it with him. Was it worth it? I just don’t have the heart to say it.


I’m certain that he thinks I’m crazy — the whole damn world probably thinks I’m crazy (objectively-speaking, I would too!) — and the only sane thing I can really do to redeem the who-knows-how-many days I’ve still gotta be here is to focus my attention and energy on the things I like and to love the people I do. I’ve lost Chris, Bob, and Bruce now… so I know better, way better, than to take anything or anyone for granted ever again. So I will write and strum and sing and hug with a latte in one hand and a burrito in the other until these breaths quit coming. I’ll visit rivers and pass peaches out and I’ll try really, really hard to recognize what’s real instead of dwelling on what I wish was real.


Are there people that you love, admire, or feel you couldn’t live happily without? Please tell them. Don’t wait until it’s too late, or until circumstances make it so that you can’t comfortably (or decently) tell them.


Anyways — I am getting to my actual point…


College is in full swing now, and this morning, I’ve been toggling between coffee and kombucha; joy and despair; espanol and creative writing… and while I was standing by the coffee counter just now, waiting for them to call my name, I was reading about names. Three lines from “The Soul of Place” (Lappin) that really stood out:

It is also believed that an individual ‘becomes’ his or her name over time, which suggests that names have the power to shape and mold character and destiny.

Names can also express a form of wish-fulfillment, for example, when we give a desert road a name evoking water or trees, or try to enhance the glamour of a modest town by naming it after some great cultural capital, hoping that a little of the original charisma will rub off.

Names allow us to differentiate and mark out what would otherwise be blank, undetermined, and unknowable space.


And that’s when I suddenly realized it, you guys: I’ve always loved Rose.

I know this because, when I first started working at Publix (back when I was 16), an older woman who also worked there was named Rose, and I remember feeling distinctly jealous that she got to be Rose while everyone else called me by my first name (which I never liked): Amber.

And before that, during my public school days, the same feeling of disappointment would manifest in my gut when, on the first day of class, the teacher would call out “Amber Roderick?” instead of “Rose Roderick?” Present, I’d say, feeling like no one was ever really going to “get me” with a name like Amber. But Amber was my first name, and Rose was my second. I guess it made sense.


And when I dropped Amber Rose entirely three years ago — so I could start making myself from scratch, like a biscuit, by borrowing the name of a literary character whose selflessness and bravery deeply inspired me — I missed Rose. I missed her like a whisper, like an exhale. But at the time, I felt I had to let her go, because I didn’t want people to have the choice to remember her at all. I didn’t want a precedent for myself — nothing in concrete, nothing to be used for comparisons. I wanted to be free to go, or let go; to change as drastically or as slowly as I needed to… does that make sense?

When the identity crisis bloomed, it sort of felt like, just like I didn’t belong in dresses, a name like Rose was beautiful but wasn’t right for me. Like I didn’t deserve it. But I worked through all of that (wiggles fingers) and am wearing a super cute pink-and-yellow dress today (think: roses and sunshine). It looks very nice.

And when I read what I did (now 30ish minutes ago — sorting my thoughts out is taking a while), it struck me in the best kind of way: I can be, and have, both: the best beginning and the best ending — just a first and a last. The middle was always the part I didn’t want or need. It was the element that confused things; it contained what I wanted, but it wasn’t placed properly.


And this week, by a REALLY strange alignment of circumstances (it would be too hard to explain and it would bore you), I have the opportunity to legally change my name (again), and you know what, people who likely think I’m a $0.99 bag of pistachios (aka nuts)? This is the last frickin’ time. If I EVER get married again, dude’s going to have to change his name. Or we can both just love each other while staying ourselves.


Still here,

The girl who’s tending to her 35 indoor houseplants, trying so hard to be kind and brave always, and still growing into herself… 

Jace Rose (aka Aun Aqui) 

you’ve had your ideas…

I drove a friend and myself an hour north of Birmingham today. We then crouched, jumped, climbed up and skidded down to Noccalula Falls. Stunning.

I hadn’t brought swimming clothes with me but swam anyways, and when I was bouncing on the balls of my feet, shoulder-deep in the water, and about ten feet away from a misty cascade, I distinctly heard this in my head: “You’ve had your ideas…”

Now — I am not a religious person (more on that here), but I am a spiritual one, and I instantly got it: I’ve broken up with all of the boys now (both in real life and in my head) and school’s starting up again tomorrow, making today the perfect day for letting go — just a little. Planning everything all of the time, a little less. And being more like water.

“How is water?” one of two Latino boys asked me, in broken English — they were both sixteen years old and named Alfonso (cousins), and a few moments later, they asked if they could take my picture.

“Hace frio,” I replied, surprising them, “pero esta soleado tambien.”



Still here (and still a Virgo),

Aun Aqui

you hurt a lot

My last Trample ride of the season took place Thursday night, when the air was cool — it already felt like fall, and I felt a little like a ghost. There was a full moon, dark green field, thick row of trees, and train rolling down the tracks. Perfect. And I realized, listening to it come this time, that the sound it makes is actually, probably a warning, though I’ve always considered it a greeting.

Audio was there this time; he talked to me here and there and rode through the dark alley with me on our way back to the shop (lights off, jazz playing from somewhere), but I left without saying goodbye; feelings change, and I’m glad.

“I didn’t know he was going to be here tonight,” my cool friend Jon said, following me to my car.

I smiled. “Yeah…” I didn’t have the energy to explain that it didn’t matter anymore.

“Class on Thursday nights STINKS and I’ll NEVER do it again, but at least I’ll still see you at our cafe on the weekends!” I reassured both of us, hugging Jon and wishing him a safe and happy night.




The next evening, I went to a punk (or post-punk — not my usual genre) show with a guy. He shared his beer with me and we had a great time together, talking and looking at each other and walking through Avondale Park at midnight.

But before saying goodnight, we talked about the real shit, and I told him that I was happy to be his friend. I couldn’t reliably ask for anything else from him, and my intuition exhaled peacefully at the word as soon as I’d said it.




This afternoon, I’m at a cafe with Charlie; he’s drawing and I’m on-and-off studying Spanish. We’re catching up with a friend at Rojo in a little while.

During our ride over to Crestwood, we somehow ended up talking about smells and how each person has their own distinct smell.

“Of all the guys I’ve dated,” I told Charlie, laughing a little, “you and Christopher smelled the best. I remember you smelling like coffee back then, so now, I always think of you when I’m around coffee,” I smiled. “And Christopher… he smelled… spicy.” I couldn’t think of how to describe it, at first, but then I knew. “He smelled like the fall.” Then I cried. I didn’t even think, I’m going to cry — my soul just took over and started weeping for me. Fuck, I thought to myself, truly exhausted. When will he go go go away? 

I gave a quick tour of downtown Birmingham to my neighbor’s nephew earlier this morning (a 29-year-old guy from Chile), and by tour, I mean I showed him my favoritest parts: Red Cat, Railroad Park, and the Pepper Place Farmer’s Market. We spoke exclusively in Spanish, which was REALLY cool, and right out of the gate, I told him (in Spanish): “I don’t have or want a boyfriend — I’m pursuing peace right now.” I believe that honesty is true kindness. I don’t want to date him, or anyone. I want to be whole again, and I’m still not sure exactly how that works.




And with all prospects gone, I feel less burdened. Disheartened, certainly (because I truly love living the companion lifestyle), but relieved also. I forgot to mention this earlier, but the concert guy encouraged me to pursue other romantic endeavors; I replied that I was happy to be taking a break, and while happy isn’t really the best word for it, deciding to go it alone for a while has given me this deep sense of… stillness. I guess that’s the word. It’s kind of like I’ve tied all of my self-doubt and related chaos up in a bag and set it down by the road.


Because here’s the thing: I’m not looking for someone to entertain me or help me while the time away — I have plenty of ways to amuse myself and lots of things to occupy my time and am after something much deeper, and I’m also finally ready to hold out for it: A relationship that feels, and is, healthy and not a frenzied grasping for love that simply isn’t there. I’m sick of re-realizing, with a broken heart, that I’ve just overly-invested myself in another fucking game some not-rad dude was playing.


And while I was riding my bike this Thursday, a silent and poignant line struck me in the dark: “You hurt a lot.” It wasn’t really about me or someone else hurting in general — it seemed to be more about how the mere existence or memory of another person can cause physical pain and spiritual anguish. Like, instead of saying “the blade hurts a lot” or “the fire hurts a lot”, YOU hurt a lot. You are, intrinsically, an instrument of great pain.

Maybe this makes sense, maybe it doesn’t — but here’s a weird little poem I wrote about it.


you hurt a lot
aun aqui


I rock back and forth, you go side to side
you hurt a lot
cutoff shorts in frays like tassels
you hurt a lot
“the first sip’s the best,” ha-ha
you hurt a lot
hot air on the neck, some soul in its castle
you hurt a lot
“tell me when it changes,” yeah… yeah
you hurt a lot
“i can’t properly say this,” yeah yeah 
you hurt a lot
coffee breath and dirty finger nails
you hurt a lot
some stupid cut on your stupid elbow
you hurt a lot
“so granola,” you’re shaking your head
you hurt a lot
“so let’s go to nola,” please — please… 
you hurt a lot
Still here,
Aun Aqui