In between the shatter world headaches and brain splinters and mildew and dry heat on Sundays and the gum-slathered concrete on third street and everything I hated I felt like I couldn’t find anything but picked apart bones and littered daffodils. I was born into the city the same year the Mars Polar Lander landed. I started to exist in a corkscrew cacophony of pleasant damnation. The torched pavement promised me everything, the threads of carnage dripping, soggy underneath the lighter fluid of happy-go-lucky cinema and shiny, star-speckled hotels.

I lived like a princess unaware of her shitstained royalty. I grew out my hair and let it drip down my skin, against constellations of dull acne and timid hazel eyeshadow. Los Angeles became a headache, a throbbing, hulking stone attached to the interiors of my gut, a sunshine knot in my throat. I cowered alien and hostage in the clogged malls and stone-faced pretty girls. I spent my nights inside of my crater in the chaos, the bedroom with its dream lights and faded posters and books clumped up amongst my shelves and closets and carpet like the thick curl of moss in a humanless woodland. It was fast and sad, who I was. I taught myself to shrink. I taught my head to imprison.

It all happened so dizzily, first the sugary gargoyles of high school smiling and cracking their teeth underneath plastic pores. I tried to romanticize everything, poured licorice Coke into my sink, bathed the thin sheen of my skull in the crayon marble and flushed all of the hair down the drain. I liked to taste her, him, them, their crashing treasure chest smiles and fits of delicate, unidentifiable laughter at things I never meant to be funny. A galactic sadness swelled in the greenhouse cavern of my being and I threw up butterfly meat and their half-lipped smirks.

I missed everything about her, the way she slit my palms open with her carnivore lips, her skittering tongue against my cheek, holding me to her spattering, jigsaw chest. She told me I would be okay, that I would stop feeling like every flicker of freedom alight in the turpentine brown of my moony pupils created new cracks in my head. I ached too much, felt too much, I knew it. I screeched into the void, asking her to hug me again, asking her to explain why every day smelled of brain sweat and cold tears.

I sat next to her and we watched a quiet-eyed boy breathe in the ashen escape of cigarette smoke, his willowy fingers drifting up his hips. We threw ourselves into wanting him, imagining all he could be, what he ate for breakfast, what songs made his heart hurt, how he would brush his hands along the sides of the spiny, wet tunnels of the underpass. We made up stories here, in the city we believed in. I knew how to be without and within.

I touched him and it stung. I bit back the spurt of want I felt stumbling dazedly in the pit of my insides. He was so pretty and vile, so gentle, so unconscious of everything I ever could do to him, how I could destroy his hands with mine and how I bit my own skin until nothing but bone fell lamely from my wrists. He would tie my ankles together with decaying barbwire and spin me into frostbite need, I wanted everything his fingertips could give, but he didn’t want to touch me.

I could not blame him.

The sunset drags along the concrete and filth, the artificial gore of the Santa Monica Pier and the tourists climbing into unsteady cages, rocking themselves to sleep in the city you are forgetting how to love. You are told you should be happy here, in the place where aluminum dreams get caught in the throat, caught in the throes of the litter, the failure, the heat. Nothing tastes like Los Angeles but you do not want to drink it, do not want to asphyxiate in the shine and dryness. It grows fickle. The streetlights will hurt your eyes when you are shuffling home, with your fingers picking at the crusted lipstick on your chin, when you feel struck by the recollection of the girl who played with your eyelashes and counted your birthmarks. You will know she is not real here. This airtight city purrs with the atoms of solitude. The street corners, homeless shelters, tattered sky all remind you of the smallness you will always feel.

The smallness never subsides. The lions flitter through your backbone, your spine, into your stomach. I am worried, upset, drained. I am lost in what I am supposed to be here, in this city. Yet the starlight is the quiet; the noise dies with the pale glow of strawberry sky. The mild sea thick with contamination, you forget what exists other than the stars. You remind yourself to ride the bicycles and tie your shoelaces and go back into the city.

Sofia Sears is a student, political activist, writer, and expert rapper on matters of the Founding Fathers. She is interested in the intersection of the art and political action, and is working unrelentingly to redefine gender through establishing the female gaze in her work. She is the founder of Project Femme, a progressive political organization, and editor-in-chief of the Odyssey Zine, an online zine for queer and marginalized youth. Sofia’s work can be found in Rookie,, Cry Baby Zine, Unfurled Magazine, OpinYoung, and several other publications. She is also often times labeled “the angry queer” or the “girl who thinks she is Alexander Hamilton,” both of which are quite accurate.

Vagabond City Literary Journal

Founded in 2013, we are a literary journal dedicated to publishing outsider literature. We publish art, prose, reviews, and interviews from marginalized creators.