current issues

Rock City

“This is rock city,” you say. But Cape Cod is no city and no one here plays rock—only salt and pepper bluegrass and the kind of jazz that has the aftertaste of failed dreams. But I smile because this is my home too and I love it and it would be nice if we lived in rock city. You love it more than anyone I know—our little peninsula stays with you always, its arm-shaped outline tattooed across your back.

You say you have to hate a place before you can ever love it. 6A is littered with your landmarks—here, the baseball field where your front teeth got knocked out. There, the place you smoked pot the first time, with a bowl one of your friends fashioned from a Coca-Cola can. Here, the clam shack you were fired from in high school for losing your temper and calling a customer a cunt. There, the ramshackle house your parents rented the year of the divorce.

You spent most of your middle school years outside the Mobil, among blue bottles of anti-freeze and old cases of Snapple faded by the sun. Banished from the beaches (teeming with tourists) and the one café in your town (which kept loitering kids at bay with a high-pitched soundbox meant to repel anyone under the age of 25), you and your friends watched the stoned high-schoolers move in and out of the store, carrying bags of Twinkies and Hot Pockets and slurping on half-melted green cherry Icees.

When we left and went off to school or Boston or New York or anywhere but here, people would ask, like people always do, Where are you from?

We would hesitate before saying Cape Cod, because the reaction was always the same: Oh, that must have been a nice place to grow up. And it was. Not because it was beautiful, not because of the beaches, but because it housed our childhood, all its moments.

*     *     *

Eight years ago I was nearing the Sagamore Bridge with my life stuffed in my car. Having lived on Cape Cod my entire eighteen years, this was my first return home from months away at college. I had spent most of high school dreaming of my departure from that tourist-trap peninsula (as I often called it); but as the bridge became visible in the distance, I was flooded with feelings of nostalgia, hit with a barrage of memories. Not specific memories I had actually experienced, but a montage of images that suddenly felt like “home”: summer days on the beach, excursions on some anonymous sailboat, dusky evenings at the drive-in; my friends and I salty, sunburnt, passing around a bottle of Jack.

Since then I’ve lived in the Latin quarter of Paris, in one of the last pensions left in the city. I’ve lived through the harsh cold of three Boston winters, writing for a second-rate daily and feeding my landlord’s two hungry cats. I’ve lived in Southern Vermont and Western Massachusetts in autumn, hibernating in cozy cafes with plush couches and overstuffed armchairs and big ceramic mugs. I’ve lived in Akron, Ohio, where there’s drive-thru liquor stores and brown sugar in hamburger patties and a serious shortage of decent pizza.

You live in Brooklyn now, working as a moderately successful tattoo artist, but you’ve missed this life—this life of sleeping in your clothes wherever you end up, of small-town adventures. You want to be productive, but you are happiest like this: sneaking joints on the beach at night, falling asleep on a couch with your friends around you, talking and drinking and watching TV. It’s how you sleep best. Sometimes it’s how you’re able to sleep at all.

You love coming home, you say, to the crash of the tides and the swell of tourists, to midnight bonfires on the beach, your big black boots digging in the sand. You’re up there making a pit for the fire tonight and I’m down by the water trying to coax out whatever it is in me that goes hiding when I’m far from the ocean.

current issues


Look at yourself in the mirror. Get close enough to the glass that you can see right into your own pupils. Now look. Keep looking. Imagine you aren’t looking at your own reflection. Imagine you’re looking into the eyes of an untamed animal. Look. Keep looking. See your pupils dilate, see them open, become black holes. See your skin, the pores, the tiny blond hairs, the small scar you’ve never noticed on your right cheek. Watch your jaw clench involuntarily, cheeks become pink with blood. Alive. See an animal in its living, breathing state. And as you see this living, breathing animal, as you watch this creature you knew so well as “I”, understand—as you stare through a film of tears at the furrowed brows, the freckled skin, the gracile nose, the sea-blue eyes riddled with red cobwebs—that none of it ever belonged to you to begin with.

current issues

Reading of “Entropy”

Hi everyone!

On Wednesday, August 3rd @ 7pm I’ll be reading my short story, “Entropy.” The reading itself will last about 20 to 30 minutes. Details and an excerpt below:

Entropy, a Reading by Ariel Dreyer

Wednesday, August 3rd @ 7pm

A Gallery

192 Commercial St.

Provincetown, MA

“THE SPEED OF THE W AKING WORLD runs me off the tracks. I was born deaf to rhythm, dumb to numbers, and blind to all things quantifiable. I clap on the up, confuse five and six, and, without realizing, will spend an hour on something that should take ten minutes.

Chris, my fiancé, says I have an erratic heartbeat. When we’re lying in bed, after I’ve finished writing for the night, he’ll sometimes put his head to my chest and listen (because, he says, I never tell him anything). The thumps that resound from that mass of muscle are always unpredictable: they speed up then slow down, go legato then staccato and flutter away at hummingbird-speed.

Some might say I’m overanalyzing myself, but I think I have an abnormal resistance to the progression of time. If you were to access my entire Google-search history, you would find, among Toll House cookie recipes and links to free movie downloads, the map points on my vain net-quest for immortality. To wit: the quasi- scientific health benefits of spirulina (a type of algae said to grant the consumer eternal life), articles on Aubrey de Grey (a geneticist racing to offer humankind biological immortality), and a Wikipedia page on various views of the afterlife. Somewhere along the way I stumbled across a book called The Selfish Gene, by British geneticist Richard Dawkins. Genes, says Dawkins, must be selfish in order to replicate, and thus to continue to exist; and we are mere “survival machines” for our genes, the vehicles by which they launch themselves into the future. Individuals, he points out, are transient, but genes, if successful, can last forever. In his book, Dawkins coined the term “meme”–a cultural transmission passed on from person to person. Memes, like genes, are passed on through natural selection, they are immortal, and they can mutate. They are ideas, trends, religions, languages, stories, vestiges of a fundamental desire to propagate, to perpetuate; traces of our legacies.”



“This was the best short story I’ve read in a long time.”

“This was beautiful. I think I now need to go do something completely absurd and wonderful.”

“This is a stunning piece… You’re ahead of the game with this one”

“You seem influenced by Proust and an obsession with Time and Memories, and a rolling rhythm like waves from the ocean lapping at your feet brings Virginia Woolf to mind.”

“Reading stuff like this makes me excited about new writing. This has substance and tension. And depth. And your language is riveting too. Very engaging… Thanks for this enlightening read.”

“In George Orwell’s Why I Write, he says something about good writing being something you feel connected to automatically because you could have written it– you have had the same thoughts in some form, and you feel automatic empathy– Or, shit, maybe that was Jack Kerouac. (Henry Miller?) I can’t remember. Anyway, that was the thought I had when I was reading this. It’s something intrinsic.”

current issues


Do you remember Physics class, those problem sets you’d have to solve? About the train whipping past you on the tracks at 50 miles per hour towards the East and someone is throwing a ball inside the train at 20 miles per hour in the same direction that the train is heading?

They were supposed to illustrate how time is relative depending on where you’re standing, and if you’re inside the train, the ball would be going at 20 miles an hour. If you’re standing alongside the tracks, looking into the window of the train, the ball would be going at 70, because the ball, in addition to travelling at 20 per on its own accord, is also being carried inside the train going at 50.

The only exception here is light. Light travels at 186,000 miles per second no matter where you’re standing. This is why, when you look up at the stars, you’re actually seeing them as they were in the past. The light from Proxima Centauri, the closest star besides the sun, takes 4.3 years to reach our Earth-bound eyes.

I’m not entirely sure why, but I find some strange sort of comfort in knowing that time is slowed by great distances. When the thought of my own death creeps into my brain and jabs me in the gut, as it does from time to time, I remind myself that Einstein’s theory of relativity says that the past, present, and future are all playing out in tandem, that the so-called “flow of time” is just an illusion.

Did you know that each living creature has about two billion heartbeats to spend in its lifetime? And the expected lifespan of the creature doesn’t matter—that our hearts can thump out those two billion beats slowly, or they can trill and fizzle out in a matter of days?

I keep trying to find ways to slow time in my own life. I keep having to remind myself that, with any luck, I still have about 65 percent of my life ahead of me.

My greatest fear is Nothing, with a capital N. The sights and sounds and smells I register are comforting reminders that I am somewhere. I don’t want to give them up, ever. I want to stay here and see the white paint chipping on my windowsill, to smell the tired, gray scent of lingering cigarette smoke, to hear the clicking and sledge-hammer banging sounds my radiator makes when it begins to heat up. I want the sun in the morning and the moon at night and chocolate-flavored tortilla chips when the mood strikes. I want the kind of love that keeps me up at night, then trapped in bed way past noon. I want to slow the beats. But I also want to feel like I’m part of something larger, some big grand Human Story. I want us to be happy. And sad. And really fucking angry. I want people to fall down in the dirt and wake up in the middle of the night to their loud, obnoxious ancient radiators, to make love and make mistakes, to wonder and marvel, to believe stupid things, to catch tadpoles and spend money and read the paper. To get caught up in soap operas and cry when they’ve had too much gin. To empathize and sympathize and get really really jealous.

And I don’t know why. To exist is to fall prey to the intoxicating prospect of eternity. And we become its slaves, finding Forever in art and ideals and ideas and offspring. But why? Why do we live to live? Where’s the fear in not existing?

I am the grandchild of the restless building blocks of the universe, the residual dust of cosmic bodies. I want to build, to create, too. To build a small universe of my own. And I’m not religious, but one time I bought 99 cent prayer candles at the back corner of the CVS among old bottles of witch hazel and elephantine tubs of Spanish hair gel. And I lit them when I got home, and asked an open-ended Why? to no one in particular, and waited for an answer.

But there is no answer as to why. The universe exists because it does. It doesn’t share our obsessive need to find meaning in itself. I am trying to become comfortable living in the dark. I am trying to soothe my constant state of questioning. Why am I afraid to stop asking for a while? Am I afraid to lose the questions altogether? To forget to ask? The truth is, once you quiet the question, you know why. You can’t articulate it, but there are moments when you know. Like when the weather’s perfect and you have nothing you have to do that day, or when you finally finish writing a twenty page paper, or when you have a really good conversation with someone about time, because of course you can never get enough time, or enough of said person, and if they were on a train going by at 50 miles per hour towards the East relative to the tracks, and you were standing alongside those tracks, you’d run as fast as you could to hear their stories about falling down in the dirt and catching tadpoles.


God of Moving Parts

You triumph this one moment, this tiny piece of eternity, or what a Zen Buddhist would call Eternity.

You call it a syncopation of stars, an elephant on the train tracks of your brain.

You feel thick, like you are encased in layers of cardboard or fleece—you’ve accepted that the present moment also contains the past and future, like those wooden Russian dolls that fit inside each other, so you’re in all kinds of tenses, but you feel… well… cemented. Like a statue. Like a pillar, like cinderblock.

But is this moment of enlightenment (as some may call it) some misfiring in your very human, very animal brain? And so what if it is? Would that fact, that crude, biological fact, de-value what feels like a cosmological awakening? Because, the thing here is that the instant you begin to feel immortal, the second all of your boundaries begin to blur and your awareness fills the animate and inanimate objects surrounding you and you begin to breathe and beat with something you couldn’t describe using the letters on this keyboard, your temporal body beckons you back with an itch from a mosquito bite, and suddenly you feel profoundly small and breakable and fleshy.


The Chase

God knows why I’m back here, living this life I’m living. I’m caught up. I can’t move, can’t plan for what’s next. I stutter through the days on caffeine and too much nicotine, try to spread the world out on the floor so I can get a bird’s eye view of all that’s going on, but my scope isn’t broad enough, will never be broad enough. But when I hitch something, some craggy part of the rock, I go forever. I write through till sunrise and the bleary buzz that accompanies a night of no sleep.

The hitch usually comes when I’ve exhausted myself. It must be a certain state of insanity that turns me into a whirlwind.

You get into a rhythm. You maintain it with coffee and cigarettes, with clips to keep your hair out of your face, with sweaters so you don’t get too cold and a fan so you don’t get too warm. You follow it into the grocery store, onto the bus, chase it down your street. You search frantically for it when it goes hiding for a few seconds, because fuck, the last time it came to you was seven months ago and who knows when it will be back next time.

You keep your hands at the keyboard in case they want to put more words together.

You take your cues, you watch for signs, you hold your breath. You try not to get your hopes up.


current issues, time

On Learning to See

It is against this white wet screen that I define myself. This windy, rainy city in winter. Against the blank canvas sky, my trench coat is bright red, bordering orange. I am in Boston, and I have come here to color parts of myself that are still left untouched by pigment. I have come here to work at a paper, to be a reporter.

I never quite understood the phrase be yourself–a phrase that haunts the teen magazines I devoured as an adolescent, the after-school television specials, and the tongues of every well-meaning parent giving advice to their angst-ridden children. Perhaps even more unfathomable is the phrase don’t stop being you–words scribbled countless times in my high school yearbooks, as if I were to, at a moment’s notice, somehow transport my consciousness into another body, another mind, and resume my existence there.

That winter in Boston, I became someone in order to escape the hollow hunger the city brings. I had a job. I dressed the part. I thought the part. When I came home from reporting, I turned on the news.

Why do we feel such an overwhelming need to define ourselves, to understand who we are? We look to our past for an explanation as to why we are the way we are, why we drink too much, why we have an attention span the size of a poppy seed, why we craft wars with those we love.

Getting to know yourself is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, once the cause of a problem has been discovered, it can be untangled, maybe, a with greater ease. On the other hand, because a reason for its existence has been found, some may allow the issue to rest unresolved. We play the victim who must shoulder our beautiful burdens in all our chinked-armor glory.

I pass insanity every day on the sidewalks. The clowns, the schizophrenics, the psychopaths. Men that mutter. Men that shout out tourettic poetry, who plead and bend and grovel, who leer and loom, who hoard, who have no home. I pass by, closing myself off from them like someone whisking through a carnival crowd, the caricatured voices of the carnies entreating you to sit down and take your best shot with a water-gun to win an oversized toy animal bursting at the seams with styrofoam beads. Hello, Chloe, one man says to me as he holds out a Dunkin Donuts cup. He raises it out to me, a toast; my name is not Chloe.

There are days when I catch myself staring at strangers with tears in my eyes. The man at the Barnes and Noble who speaks to an invisible man about his acquaintances in 18th-century Russia; the boy in the park teaching his St. Bernard to play dead; the woman and her child at the market putting their hands all over the mangoes, in search of the perfect one. They all carry their deaths inside them. They are all already dying. I watch them all like bits of the universe that have come to life for a short time, sculptures of stardust that have been put under a spell of sentience, of animation, of the in and out rhythms of breath and water and fuel.

Two billion heartbeats–that’s the allowance we’ve been granted. Two billion, then the beats run out.

“I am learning to see,” Rainer Maria Rilke writes in The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge. “I don’t know why it is, but everything enters me more deeply and doesn’t stop where it once used to.”

You remember when you first began to see. You were ten years old and you came home from school and put in the mixed tape your best friend left in your room and you dug the worksheets your teacher had given you out of your backpack and you smoothed them out onto the desk and, for the first time, you wondered why you were doing what you were doing. So you began your search for truth, you began looking. You thought that maybe the world was a big trick that was being played on you, that if you looked hard enough maybe you would see something everyone else missed. What was it though? You knew, but you couldn’t get a clear picture of it. It was a hunch, a sense, an unspeakable inkling of understanding. You understood it as a frequency, a vibration, not a concept to be explicated.

I went to Paris eight years later. When I stepped into the reconstruction of Brancusi’s studio I forgot, for a beat, how to breathe. There it was: what I had begun to feel eight years earlier. Those white, undulating figures. Yes, I thought, this is what the world is like beneath the veneer our pattern-seeking eyes have built. These lovers, this muse, a bird in space–they were all suggestive of form, though never explicit, never obscene. They were stripped down to the essence of the thing.

We are reactive things, responsive, reflective. We take in and we put out. We take in the air and the water and the fuel and we put it right back into the world. We take in art & knowledge and twist it to our liking and let it spin off in its brand new form for someone else to swallow & spit out.

At the end of August you drive to Nova Scotia with a stranger and lose your sense of self in the vast blue sky stretching out over the empty highway. There is literally no one in sight for miles and miles at a time. You become an echo in the passenger’s seat, a shell that has evicted its tenant and now has the joy of tumbling through the sand and sea because it is light enough for the wind and water to carry. You sleep in the car, in little enclaves off the side of the highway. At night the sky is riddled with stars, more stars than you thought the sky could hold. And you look up and remember that the closest star besides the Sun is about 25 trillion miles away, and that you’re actually looking at that star, Proxima Centauri, as it was four years ago. You will never see a star as it appears in the present moment, in your present moment, not while you are on Earth. Even light, the fastest thing in the universe, is slowed by great distances. The thousand-mile drive is suddenly nothing. You are suddenly nothing.

What is it that keeps us alive, I wonder? How do we stay alive for so many years with such frail bodies and so many ways to die?