“Unplugged” – Josh Elyea

Smoke circle

When I was a child, my father would rake leaves in the front yard and when the pile was big enough, he’d pick me up and throw me (almost callously) into them. My father was wild in his younger days; he rode a motorcycle and played bass in an underground funk band. He settled down though, when he married my mother. He had a daughter, and found work as a cashier in a record store of dubious structural integrity but impeccable cultural acumen.

He killed himself when he was sixty-one.


There’s something slyly atavistic about the way the leaves, dried out now since they’ve fallen, feel against my hands as I rustle them gently. From behind the mountain, a small line of smoke stretches thin across the setting sun. Smoke signals at sunset, he says.

We’re quiet after that, for a long time. Uma Thurman had it right; you know you’ve found someone really special when you can just shut the fuck up and sit comfortably in silence, if only for a minute. Silence is a rare thing, and people don’t bother to make time for it anymore. How could they? There’s too many distractions, too many addictions. Screens everywhere, and sitcoms and internet dating websites, reality TV shows and political debate shows and the horrid, overwhelming cascade of contemporary pop music. There’s education and employment, no alternatives, and you’re left to choose between an outdated, meritocratic institution or the dreaded 9-5, an existence that’s so alarmingly mundane it’s turned an entire generation into alcoholics, assholes who waste their weekends on outrageously priced booze and horrific hangovers so as to forget that they owe their time, their lives, to companies who speak only in terms of profit. There’s internet pornography, advertisements and an endless supply of empty entertainment, assailing our senses and undermining our character, our concentration and our connections.

It’s all a joke, a joke with a vicious punch line that relies on the inherent irony of a situation whereby the most connected civilization in the history of humanity is destined to die alone, each and every one of us connected to the internet and nothing else. Where in this hilarious chaos can one be expected to sit and think on the endless potential of the universe, or even the endless potential of the self? I look again to the man beside me, and I tell him I’m afraid that not even the autumn leaves can save me from my vices, from my addictions both good and evil.

Don’t worry, he says. We’ll take refuge in the wilderness.

Don’t worry, he says. Once you’re unplugged, everything will be alright.

these words by Josh Elyea were inspired by the work of Daphne Boyer

“View From the 20th Floor,” by Jo-Ann Zhou


content warning: abusive relationships

When the tiny rays of light were desperately grasping at the sky, when almost all the lights in the city beyond had turned black—that was when he came alive. His wine-stained teeth, the colour of dried blood caked into the crevices, would start to quiver as finally his lips moved at a rapid pace. At last, I would think. At last he is here. Here was the version of the man I liked and knew: interesting, articulate, prone to philosophical rants about metaphysics. He shone so much brighter than the version of himself with clean teeth—the version that only appeared when the sun was up, when the sky was too blue and bright—timid, uncertain, unwilling to express much more than the occasional nod by way of emotion.

I don’t know what drew me to him. Maybe it was because he was smart in ways that I wasn’t, and a few years older, and so completely unlike anyone I had ever met. I might never have met him if we hadn’t lived in the same building. He was funny: witty funny, laugh-out-loud-and-snort-with-laughter funny, but only in private when his teeth were stained from wine as we watched the sunrise from his window on the 20th floor. Sometimes when we were with his friends he was funny, but that was after three pitchers of beer, when the bar floors were sticky. As everyone else’s words began to slur and grow fuzzy, his would grow sharp.

In the daylight, we didn’t talk. He avoided me. He didn’t know how to talk to me without a glass in his hand. I don’t know what the view looked like from the 20th floor under blue skies. He would message me after his first glass in the evening, still not quite the version of himself that he would become a bottle later, but loosened up enough to ask for my presence. I probably should have known then that the bottle wouldn’t just make him funnier and louder and more confident.

I probably should have foreseen that after the first bottle, his hand would start reaching for the stapler, or the lamp, or the phone—knuckles white, hand shaking—as his wine-emboldened voice told me to get out or else. I don’t remember fighting. I just remember feeling utterly bewildered as we went from one moment chatting calmly and looking at the view of the sunrise to another where I was running out the door, wondering if the stapler might make contact with my head once my back was turned.

I’m glad I didn’t stay. We never really talked about why. Sometimes, after it was all over, I found myself back on the 20th floor. I would stand in the doorway with a million unasked questions—but then I would turn around and take the elevator back down to my apartment on the 5th floor. His door remained un–knocked upon and my questions all unanswered. Then I stopped going to the 20th floor entirely.

After I moved out of the building, I would look up to the 20th floor every time I walked past. I would think about how happy I was that I never found out what the view looked like from that window over the city when the sky was blue. A few years later, they built a new, taller building right in front of his window, so I suppose that view is gone. No one else will ever see the way the lights twinkled just so when the sun was coming up, glinting on his teeth stained the colour of dried blood.

these words by Jo-Ann Zhou were inspired by the art of Marcin Wolski

on Nikoladze’s video: “Filling the Glass”


The glass stands tall. Still. Sure. A foil to the thundering chaos in your mind—crash. A few straggling fingers of feeble winter sun clamber through the window, bouncing delicately off the clear vessel. It is entirely transparent, down to the liquid within. Pure.




A resigned hand stretches toward the glass, slipping effortlessly into an old action so long suppressed. Soft fingertips alight on flawless glass—how is it that the union of such smooth surfaces ends in such a crash?


You roll your head back. It lands heavily on the scratchy couch cushion. Your eyes are trained on the ceiling above, pocked with all sorts of nicks and notches. They’re multiplying as you watch, so you shut your eyes, allowing the third glass’s contents to trickle through your thoughts unimpeded. The sadness comes in crashing waves—you will the drink to hasten the ebb of the tide.


The slam of the front door tears you unceremoniously from a fitful doze. Your head swims thickly. The sea hasn’t ebbed; it’s just become murkier. You can no longer see the sand beneath. That used to be comforting—now it only adds to the chaos.

The sun is disappearing now, and none of its final rays manage to cross the threshold of the window. The glass looks different now, empty in the early wintertime twilight. Small. Weak.

You struggle to pull it all together—your disobedient limbs, your weak eyes and lips—to muster up an impression of control. But before you manage to focus your sight and orchestrate a warm smile, he’s already shutting the door to his bedroom. The only sign that he was there is the mail strewn on the doormat.

A new wave wells up, merciless, fueled by whatever placidity you mustered while you slept. You feel its crash resonate through every part of you. You fill the glass again.




His tread is mechanical. His body could walk him home blindfolded. Music is playing loudly into his ears as he turns the corner onto his block, backpack swinging from one shoulder.


His hand reaches into the mailbox and meets several envelopes. He doesn’t have to look to know they’re bills, warnings, notices. His jaw tightens.


It smells like home: air freshener and gin, one a pathetic attempt to mask the other.

A drunken pile of limbs on the couch. Unsurprising. He drops the mail where he stands and shuts the door with a crash, much harder than necessary. He’s done being sympathetic.

much harder than necessary.

words by Kate Shaw, “Filling the Glass,” were inspired by Koka Nikoladze‘s “INFINITELY SUSTAINED GLASS BREAKING WITH GRANULAR SYNTHESIS” (shown above)

From the author: “Recording glass breaks creates the sensation of a process of shattering that doesn’t end. It defies time, moving backwards and forwards, generating a feeling of chaos that can’t be controlled. That feeling of a lack of agency in a situation spinning out of control spoke to me of alcoholism at its true root. The belief that there is agency in a case of alcoholism—depicted here by the son of an alcoholic parent figure—plays into a dangerous stereotype that allows alcoholics to be blamed for their “choices” instead of helped to overcome their addiction.”

on substance abuse: “after the nightmare”

rive t 2

word by Leah Mol

colour by Stephanie Rivet 

I used to have nightmares. The kind of nightmares you never really wake up from. The kind where you think you’re finally awake and then everything starts to melt. I started seeing a psychiatrist who asked me about work and relationships and my parents. I work a lot, I don’t have relationships, and my parents are divorced, which is just more work. The psychiatrist told me Relax, take a bath, have a glass of wine. I tried baths, but my nightmares were flooded. I spent my nights trudging through basements filled with water, swimming towards nothing at all, and I woke up soaked. The wine worked, so I don’t see the psychiatrist anymore.

The first night I drank, I finished two glasses and then passed out on the couch. I woke up with a headache and the vague feeling that I’d dreamed something terrible. But I couldn’t remember what terrible thing it was. The next night, I managed three glasses.

Now when I get home from work, I pull a bottle of wine from my purse and drink a glass while standing at the kitchen counter. The tile floor is cold on my bare feet, even in the summer. I refill the glass, leave my clothes in a pile, and shower until I’m done the second glass, which is when I stop thinking so much.

I grab the bottle of wine and place it beside my bed with my glass. I put on yoga pants and a sweatshirt many sizes too big, forgotten by someone I think I almost had a relationship with. I open Netflix and I watch a documentary about Mount Everest or a comedy about women who don’t know what they want.

I think about dinner but I’m not hungry for food.

I fall asleep quickly and I don’t dream about anything at all. When I wake up in the morning, I’ll know I’m awake and alive and I won’t be thinking about all the ways everything is horrible. I’ll think about drinking instead.





From the author: “This piece reminded me of these old drinking and driving commercials, where everything gets blurry as more and more glasses are placed in front of the driver. I think that’s such a perfect metaphor for addiction. Even as everything gets blurry— and often because everything is getting blurry—you keep going. And then finally, inevitably, you crash, but that can take forever.”

See more colour by Rivet