On Masculinity and Relationships: “When I’m Alone”


I’m pretty sure she fucked her ex at a wedding once. I mean I can’t be sure but I think that’s probably what happened.

When she’s away I wear the same pair of underwear at least two days in a row. I throw a little party for myself in the kitchen with a bottle of wine and I cook food that I know I won’t have to share. I always thought, Why does dad make spicy food when mom’s gone? Why does he cook steak?

            When we first got together (yes it was summer, and yes it was humid, and yes the light on her face through the lace curtains in her room was dappled and soft) we would talk about how we’d never cause each other any pain. We would talk about how we should never leave the bed and we would wish we never got hungry or thirsty. We would scrunch up our eyes and wish we never had to get up to go to the bathroom.

            She goes away on business sometimes or to visit her mother in Vancouver. I don’t know what she does while she’s there. I send her text messages and ask her what she’s doing. But I don’t tell her I’m sitting by the kitchen window eating a whole pizza, getting drunk and chain-smoking to reruns of Seinfeld with my laptop on the table.

            The two of them went to this wedding together and it was no big deal because we’d just spent a whole week in bed wishing we didn’t have to go out to buy milk. Now that we live together, I think about it. Some time I’m going to ask her, Did you sleep with Bryan at the wedding? (I won’t say fuck him, I’ll ask if she slept with him.) Or I’ll say, I know you slept with Bryan at that wedding. 

            I always clean the apartment before she comes home. She brings it up when we fight, that I don’t ever finish cleaning the place. I’ve always got laundry to do and it takes a long time to vacuum the carpet. I’m usually hungover so it takes more time than I thought it would.  

            Once she’s back, I apologize. I ask her how her trip was and I make a salad or pasta for dinner, then we eat in front of the TV.

              When she’s home I go out for walks by myself.

these words by Sandy Martin were inspired by the colour of Alex Andreev

on depression: “the red door”


word by Kate Shaw

colour by Joe Hengst

It has been several days since I’ve left the house. In a significant way, at least – I’ve left to take out the garbage, to buy eggs, to remember that I owned clothes that weren’t pajamas, but it has been several days since I’ve gone anywhere, done anything.

It’s cold. Not northeastern U.S. cold – worse. Wind chill down to thirty below zero. It’s amazing, how cold it can be. Every time I walk outside I re-hear those news broadcasts about Canadian citizens suffering severe skin injuries from five minutes of exposure to extreme cold. Is it cold enough to be dangerous right now? My cheeks feel like they’re turning to putty.

Hour after hour passes by and I pace, I sink into the torn, velvety couch, I heat oil in a skillet but forget what I was planning to make (did I have a plan?). I sit on the ledge by the window and look. See. It doesn’t look so cold out there, I think. There are people out there, walking around, and they’re not collapsed or clutching at their putty cheeks. They’re living despite all this, despite this unbelievably-wind-chilled air.

And then I pace again. Sometimes I pick up a book, but usually the words just end up dancing out of my consciousness before I can understand them and I just read the same lines over and over, absorbing nothing. As hard as I try to focus on the little letters, they blow away.


I haven’t been seeing anyone. My roommate is gone and I tell other people – friends, I guess – that I’m just overwhelmed with school, just trying to catch up on reading, thanks for saving me a seat but I’m actually not coming to campus today, oops!


It actually looks lovely outside. If I force my eyes through the grayish haze hanging over the street, I can nearly unearth the image of the bakery with its little orange sign, or the barbershop with its red front door. They were colored once, lovely shades, I know they were. The colors are distorted now. I hope the originals come back.

I’ve decided to start sitting on the floor instead of on the couch. From down here I feel small, and maybe that will make me feel overwhelmed by how big everything is around me, or amazed by how much this new apartment feels like home, or pitiful of what a pathetic spectacle I’m making of myself. Maybe sitting down here will make me feel something.

I lean back against the couch – I think it was green once, but the colors in here are distorted too. I don’t know how long I’ve been sitting, and now that it’s dark outside it could be 5:30 or 9 or 2 in the morning. Now, even if the colors hadn’t disappeared, I wouldn’t be able to see them anyway.





from the author: “The shades present in the visual art piece have an eerie tint to me, which is underscored by the dark tunnel in the center that disappears into nothingness. It made me think of the distorted way one sees the world through the lens of depression and other mental illnesses, so this piece deals with that distortion and the inability to pull oneself out of that dark space that burrows its way to the center of everything against your will.”

On breakups: “Almost”

rivet 1
word by Hannah Chubb
colour by Stephanie Rivet 
I don’t care what anyone says, it’s the almosts that hurt the most.
It kills me to watch this go down the drain.
You must have dipped your tongue in ink before you said those three words because I can’t find anything strong enough to erase those eight letters. My mind is black and blue with thoughts of you and my sclerae scream red because I can’t categorize these feelings I have for something I may have just created in my head.
You were almost there.
I have no label for you and it hurts because I need to know that I’m not delirious and that my feet were on the ground. I swear to god I remember yours being there next to mine because your shoes were too-white and the left one was always undone and I just wanted to tie it back together for you but I didn’t know how to say it.
I almost told you.
I swallowed a different brand of turquoise pill than you did and I never knew why but maybe that was the problem. Mine came on a shelf and killed the pain while yours was handled by grimy hands crusty with tangerine-tinted drugstore lipstick and made you feel anything at all. You always swallowed more than you should have but I let you because I didn’t even know that version of you and maybe you never wanted to know me anyways. I guess I’ll never know if you wanted me to stop you.
You almost felt like reality was enough.
We never held hands but we spoke in colours and sometimes you walked me home at night. Your mother never knew my name but your roommates sure did because your yellow walls were thin and your voice is loud when you drink enough to drown the monsters in your skull. I swear I could have slayed them but our time ran out too soon.
You almost asked me to stay.
I almost did.
Your mother should have named you Almost because I think that’s all you’ll ever be. I can’t stand you and your stupid razorblade tongue of promises slicing down my already raw throat. I think I belong up North because my head is a messy Aurora Borealis of the colours you used to turn my skin before you left and everything around me turned to black. I tried to be your fuchsia sky but you never told me you were colourblind.
I am a catastrophe of colour aching for the comfort of canvas, but darling, almost is just never enough.


9 Ways To Get Your Groove On

middlebrook 2

word by Charlotte Kidd

colour by Jason Middlebrook

1. Meet a guy who builds things. It’s refreshing because he can get out of his head. Now, you can be in Sex and the City (rather than a looped Woody Allen movie, as has recently been the case).

2. Realize that refreshing is a reductive way to describe a person. On the second date, he takes you dancing. As if he existed in opposition to all previous men. As if he was made to fill a gap in your life, like water. Realize this when he is just as funny and charming and soft with you on the second date as the first. Realize that the way he handles the world is gentle, and kind, and generous.

3. Spend a day in bed with him. Listen to all the sad songs. Be cushioned by happiness, sensitive to the songs but never touched by them. Wonder why you’ve never listened to sad music when you felt light.

4. Ask him to build something. Not just dinner (he’s done that already) but one of the things he really makes. Something to hold.

5. Write him a song of gratitude for the thing he made; a perfect painting on an imperfect round of wood. And for the story he tells you, about recovery.

“Idle hands are the devil’s tools,” he says, in all seriousness. Where you would have once scoffed, you instead take his un-idle hands into your own.

6. Dance to your new story, dance to the details, get down to the grit. Marvel at how much you can enjoy something so pedestrian as a slow dance; you didn’t ever think you could love someone you weren’t competing with. Dance to nothing really being extraordinary and nothing being truly ordinary.

7. Keep grooving. Find that it’s easy to bring him flowers if he’s had a bad day. Make him laugh. Plan special things for his birthdays. Not so easy to wash his beard out of the sink, un-dog-ear the pages after he’s read your books. Hard to convince him, after another sale goes south and another one of his pieces ends up in a half-born graveyard, that he does not need to go out and find something to make it easier.

8. Dig out the thing he made. Blare music, emotions of the song intruding your feelings so that there isn’t enough space for them. You are not sure how big they could get if you let them expand. Wonder when he’s coming home. Wonder if he’s coming home. Say he is.

9. Dance to the sound of a door closing. Get down to his footsteps. Feel the rhythm of him coming back to your arms. Dance for the boy who makes things. Groove to the people whose lives are complicated but who touch the soft and fleshy walls of the world with the least pressure possible. Get down to him, in bliss and imperfection. 

When the lights go out


word by Josh Elyea

colour by Jason Middlebrook

What do you do when the lights have gone out? 

You take a walk. Not outside, where the autumn has turned leaves red and a familiar chill has crept into the Montreal wind, but rather inside: you take a walk through the desolate hallways of the mind. It’s best to ignore the part of your consciousness that tells you this is just your mind imagining itself – you can’t know what the inside of your head looks like – and continue to press deeper into the increasingly detailed world of your brain.

The further you walk, the more you notice the darkness; it’s not apparent at first, but before long you can’t help but see that in all these rooms, in all these wrinkles and rooms and chambers and palaces and dungeons that are dedicated to the things you cherish, the lights are out.

After wandering the halls for a while, you begin to wonder whether your brain works the way it used to; you find yourself pondering whether  these rooms can still light up in the way they did when you were young, when things were simple and you didn’t feel so used and so jaded.

You might make an effort to stop in each of these rooms and flick the small switch that hangs precariously on the darkly-papered walls; you might find yourself taking note of which lights shine bright and which bulbs now seem dim, and what this says about how you value the things stored in each room.

You’ll wonder what all this has to do with your addiction to entertainment, and whether there’s irony to be found in the fact that the room dedicated to Friends shines brighter than the room dedicated to your friends. This might be coincidental, but you can’t really know because you’ve never taken the time to understand irony.

You’ll begin to wonder where all the colours of your mind went, and what it says about you as a person that you don’t even have the requisite neuroelectricity to power the bulbs in the rooms you deem essential, those dedicated to creativity and personal fitness and Bob fucking Dylan.

You’ll ignore the advice of the people closest to you,  who tell you to pull yourself up by your bootstraps and focus on getting ahead by doing what you can. You’ll try and tell them it isn’t as simple as flicking a switch; by this point, you despise the colours of your mind, and you’re used to life without the lights on.

It’ll start small. You’ll find a room, somewhere deep in the right hemisphere of your brain, where a bright yellow light burns from behind a tightly locked door. Inside will be a book or a movie or a song, maybe even a person  or a pill that’ll walk with you, to remind you that there’s still vivid colour to be found, if you only take the time to turn on the lights.*


See more art by Jason Middlebrook





Never been here before

joehengst 2

word by Jacob Goldberg

colour by Joe Hengst

The flight attendant looks at my carry-on like it’s got four heads. ‘It’ll fit,’ I tell her confidently as she lets me pass through jet bridge, windowless and quiet. A considerable gap between the walkway and cabin has me thinking that there should be a warning sign somewhere. So, I watch my step. The stewardess, black and shapely, smiles at me. I have to walk with my right shoulder toward the tail of the plane so I don’t hit those already settled with my bag.

            It fits in the overhead compartment above my seat, which I share with a woman of about 25. Her nail filing looks like she’s playing a small violin and we exchange smiles when I sit down. The stewardess over the intercom welcomes us to American Airlines and asks for our attention as we prepare for takeoff. I remove my headphones but mostly hear my neighbor and her nails. At the stewardess’ direction, I open the In Case of Emergency pamphlet located in the pouch in front of me. The pamphlet’s spine feels fresh. Inside, images accompany the text. One picture, detailing the protocol for a water landing, has people fastening their life jackets; their cheeks are loose, their eyebrows steady, and their mouths unopened. I quickly put the booklet back in the pouch.

            The plane stops at the takeoff hash. I look out the window and make eye contact with my neighbor.

            ‘Hi, I’m Calvin’ I say.

‘Stacey, sorry about the nail filing. It’s a bit of a nervous habit,’ she adds with an uncomfortable smile.

‘Don’t like flying?’

‘Rather be on the ground,’ she says as the engines crescendo.

‘I’ve never flown before, actually. Are you afraid of heights?’ I ask, immediately wishing I hadn’t.

‘Never?’ The plane jerks forward and she grabs the armrest between us. ‘I just don’t really like takeoff is all.  Why now?’

‘My brother lives out in Seattle and he’s getting married.’ Outside, I see LaGuardia flitting past us, and I wonder how long the runway is.

‘Oh, you’re getting married?’ She asks, her eyes closed, hands gripping both armrests, body frozen to the seat.

‘No, my brother is.’

When the back wheels come off the ground, I feel the plane’s tail swing underneath and Stacey says, ‘Oh.’

            Stacey is busy grabbing the back of the seat in front of her. We pass through some clouds, which from the ground I’d never imagine would be so dense and unwelcoming. The plane feels like a rickety train. Before this flight, I’d think of overcast, opaque skies in terms of an absence of sun. But on this side of the clouds you realize that it’s just the presence of clouds; the sun is always shining. The view from my window looks like what I was taught to believe Heaven looks like.

            And so the plane continues to climb, and the blue of the sky turns from baby to turquoise, climbing higher to navy, and now stars pepper the sky and I look at my watch and it’s only 3pm.

From the author: “I guess the question to ask is: How do you deal with people who are scared?  Do you let them fall deep into their phobias?  The artwork moves from mimetic to surreal, vertically, in the photo, and I thought it would be fitting if the plane that Calvin and Stacey were on flew right into space.”

See more colour by Joe Hengst 

“Everything Will Be Great”


word by Kate Shaw 

colour by Micheal Ward 

spinnign no, spinning how long have i been here thirty minutes? an hour? i think it’s been hours

Stop counting the seconds and try – just TRY – to act like a normal human being and enjoy yourself.

 it’s so loud here and i think i’m going to fall over why am i lauhging

That happens. Things are funnier when you’re drunk. Just calm down; most people take laughter as a good sign.

 i want to leave

            You’ll regret it as soon as you get to your room.

 but i’m not having fun i want to go tobed

It’s not even 1. Hayden won’t be home yet, and then how will you feel?

 i don’t um, it doesnt matter

You’ll feel like an idiot for leaving early and being home hours before your roommate. It does matter.

        Why didn’t you talk to her? She was being friendly.

i don’t…i can’t! i can’t think and it is is so loud

You don’t have to think, just talk to someone. Standing mute by the wall is a shitty way for you to start the best four years of your life.

i can’t do this alone

So find someone to talk to!

 no no i can’t be here alone, at this school

Well you are. And everyone else is dealing with it without any problems.

 i know

            Have another beer.

i dont want another i want to go

            You’re being ridiculous.


[At this point you push off the wall you’ve been clinging to for what has only been, in actuality, about forty minutes. Your senses are shocked by the rush of gravity that pulls you side to side, lower and lower; your body has become a pendulum and you have no control. Someone helps you stand and you just laugh. Once you’ve collected your swinging limbs and whatever scrap of composure you can find, you start a determined march out the door and down the stairs (you only trip once).]


[Getting across campus to your dorm takes five minutes or maybe thirty, and there are silly slobbering messes of students strewn across the paths like litter. You laugh at them too, although you don’t know why.]


[Climbing the stairs to your floor appears to be a seemingly insurmountable task, yet somehow you find yourself curled up (giggling) on your bed so you must have accomplished it somehow. It’s this moment when you finally stop laughing. In the dark, Hayden’s empty bed comes fuzzily into focus.]


i dont know how todo this

I don’t know how to do this.



From the author: “There are two kinds of social messages I wanted to address with this piece: The belief that alcohol necessarily leads to “a good time,” as depicted by the artist, and the fallacy that everyone at university is adjusting to their new lifestyle immediately (and better than you). For me, the Bud Light ad on a random street corner spoke to the omnipresence of the belief that life is more fun when you’re drunk. I thought there was a dissonance to be captured here: the true experience of a first year student at university versus the societal messages he or she has internalized about what the experience should be, which ultimately break down.”


On the painter: “Phyllis Lutjeans, Museum Educator and former curator, has said of Ward’s work: “Although Michael Ward may be called a neo-realist painter his work can ultimately be described as abstract realism. The picture image is photographically realistic, but within the context of the painting his compositions are complex and almost abstract. Deciphering the work section by section one sees how a multitude of individual complete compositions are put together to form the entire work. For me the viewer is confronted by a realistic image that puzzles us and clearly tells the story simultaneously.”


On Travel, Identity: “Try being your own friend”


“Try being your own friend”

word by Annie Rubin

colour by Kosisochukwu Nnebe

“Try being your own friend.”

It was an exhausting job; he shook his head and hung up the phone.

The plane ride had felt long and treacherous, with each dip of the wing he was certain they would nose dive through the sky, be compelled to grab for their yellow life vests stored either directly beneath the seat or above you in the overhead compartment.

He would search frantically for the flight attendants out of the corner of his eye, secure. If they were still passing through the aisles with a variety of drinks and Skymall paraphernalia, he’d have no reason to panic.

The streets were shimmering with a blue-black slickness as he marched with conviction in the direction of the hotel.

The streetlights were flickering in and out of view. There was an unsettling echo of footsteps that he couldn’t swear were his own. Perhaps this was part of the adventure. Perhaps he was en route to be mugged. In either scenario, he found it best to focus his gaze on the road ahead, calculating the distance between fear and safety. Two hundred meters, now one-ninety…

In the lobby, he smoothed the lapel of his suit. It was one action in a whirlwind of unfamiliarity that brought him a moment closer to home. He couldn’t understand the startling sense of discomfort he experienced, surrounded in the idiosyncrasies of this place. The country felt oddly reminiscent of something he’d seen once in a dream, or maybe it was just that things felt so cartoonishly similar to images he’d stared at for months in preparation for the journey.

This recognition was stained by the fact that everything was just vaguely different than what he was used to. The water faucets, the scent of the stagnant air, the accents, of course a language he had never learned as his own.

Should this culture have been a piece of him, imparted by nature, somehow inherent in his blood? He wandered into a pizza joint out of habit or homesickness.

This was not his home. This did not remind him of the meals cooked by his grandmother; this was nothing reminiscent of his college chants or practiced habits or the inside jokes, memories collected into phrases and images that composed his true identity.

Maybe he was searching for something profound; maybe he wanted inspiration—confirmation that he had a home, a country, a culture that reflected his unique self. Instead, he was left in a state of flux: what was truly his? The room had fresh floral wallpaper and he felt nostalgic for a place that had until now, never truly understood him.



From the author: “I was inspired by the juxtaposition of the poised human look and the fragility of nature reflected in the vibrancy of the flowers. This led me to question identity, especially how to maintain a sense of self against a backdrop of an ever-fluid environment. The concept of identity raises questions about the significance of cultural background, and exposure, where the protagonist explores his familial history by visiting the country where his family comes from, realizing that he has little to no connection with a place he has never been, himself.”

Waterlogged Love


Waterlogged Love

word by Keah Hansen

colour by Tomasz Kartasinksi

16 minutes left of class. The seconds drift onto the floor, clustering like fallen leaves or crumpled love notes around her converse shoes.  Laughter seeps sideways from her mouth – I inhale her sounds. Filling the blank spaces on the corners of my notebook with cryptic doodles.  Inside jokes nestled on the pages, shading in the loopy curves with tenderness.  She slips me a mint, like any other day, under the roaming eyes of the teacher and spinning discussion, which floats to the florescent lights in a hazy, vapid way. I follow the din upwards, over her curly hair and alight on the fire alarm, with vague notions of apprehension and pensive yearning.

Today, the mint is imbued with significations, defining our comfy closeness on her worn yellow couch and clandestine ice cream escapades (alternating spoons of chocolate ripple and gossip) with flaming gravity. We snicker together over something trivial, then with giddiness I alone levitate equidistant to her forehead. The bell sounds and the class streams out. We tumble to the water fountain together and pause. She splashes over me with her usual locutions while I take a long sip of water.

The water is icy and clarifies my thoughts.  6 months of uncertainty.  6 weeks of contemplation. I’m bobbing here, staring at the grandeur of the stars from this makeshift raft. Her crocked elbow is my mooring.  The water ebbs unceasingly. I feel seasick (or is it butterflies?).  She’s never had a boyfriend.  We’ve held hands in the hallways. Oh to hell with it, I dive in.

My statement, a small confession of love, comes to her in small timid waves. We are the last ones in the building. I’m fixated on those worn converses again; her feet dance nervously while I’m a shipwrecked mess, letting the waves pass through my lips. The rocks hold me steadfast on the hopes for our relationship; they are sharp and make my voice waver more than I’d like.

Her features are catatonic. She contorts her face into a sympathetic smile. I surface into the glaring sunlight. Her face is burnt; she doesn’t understand my watery, viscous existence. These mermaid musings mean nothing to her. My ears are clogged. I feel the palpable pressure of her discomfort; my skin is cracking as impressions of my declaration sink into her body.

Another bell sounds. I slink back into the water, my element. Half coherent and murky, I don’t need to define myself or reveal my pinings to anyone.  I’ll cry tonight, alone, but gather my tears as jewels. Later, I’ll string them together and wear them on my neck, something beautiful and brave.

For now, I drift away.  A current pulls her brisk minty existence away from my waterlogged love.



From the author: “I was inspired by this artwork to write a story about an experience of revealing your romantic affection to a friend of the same gender.  The blue material at the bottom of the piece expressed to me both bed sheets and water.  I interpreted the water as a symbol of renewal and rebirth, which I related to coming out with your sexual orientation. 

The positioning of the legs also gave me the impression of figuratively “diving in” to a relationship or a new experience.  The opaqueness of the blue inspired me to think of the colour as a form of protection, which I developed later in the story.  Furthermore, the vertical tiered nature of the piece affected the progression of my story, while the Facebook friendship sign symbolized the ambiguities of relationships, especially during adolescence as we have a tendency to question our sexuality.”  


On Heteronormativity, High School: “Easy”

word by Alisha Mascarenhas

colour by Tomasz Kartasinski


The bend in her legs is relaxed; easy.

She folds one beneath the other, waiting for the night to set in.

The loop in each clean, white hightop precise and dangling with that quiet anticipation that comes after sucking back the frenetic bubbling of the first beer. Giddy elation that rises to the sternum.

From where I stand in that hot pit of a parking lot all I can read on her body I feel in my hands: blunt fingers softening into the pinch of polyester jacket pockets.

All my life taught how to be seen by men, I don’t know what it is to look at a girl. I never gave myself permission. I want to know how to look without inhaling her; to let my gaze settle on her whole being; the space she inhabits and the retreat of a sleeve that licks her inner forearm.

She won’t look at me. At home with the other queers I’ve found ease in a different norm. Ambiguous friendships warmed by late night snuggles on that long, blue couch in my apartment, kisses on the mouth and other quiet affections. Sometimes sex.

But to her, I’ve decided, I’m someone to compare haircuts and outfit choices with. She might squeeze my hand later, or borrow my jacket as we walk home. We might share a cigarette and she won’t give a second thought to what’s passed between us. To her, I’ve decided, I’m another girl and she won’t ever look at our intimacies as anything other than sweet, dry and easy.

If she calls, it will be easy. The gesture only half thought through as she decides what to do with her Sunday afternoon. Not the tense thrill of an inhale that catches at the throat. Not the fleeting imagination of all the ways our bodies might move against one another. I’m a girl. We are girls. She’ll talk about boys. Girl talk. Girl love: not a boy-girl kind of a thing.

She won’t need to think about what to wear or how she smells. She might take a shower just to clear her head of the day; show up at my front door with her hair disheveled to eat ice cream at the kitchen table as I shrink into the wall across from her, afraid that if I get too close I might feel her breathing.

When we part, she’ll give me a little squeeze. Like a friend. Like girls do.

From the author: “I wrote this as a commentary on how systemic narratives of heteronormativity seep into the ways girls are taught to relate to one another and to their desiring selves. It is a response to how friendships between girls are mediated by romantic relationships with boys: constricting the kinds of intimacies that are permissible. I chose to use the words “girls” and “boys” to speak to a process of revisiting an adolescent self: a critical time during which heteronormative scripts can be particularly forceful.”