Cardboard City


Sarah said I needed exercise.

She said that if I thought the sun was trying to eat me, then okay, I could go out at night if that would help, but that I needed exercise. She said endorphins would be good for me.

I don’t suppose I’ll be releasing endorphins any other way any time soon. She closes up around herself when I’m near her.

I was not expecting a reply to the pen pal form.

Hello, Jasper.

ugh writing is so hard

What parts of yourself are you covering up with Shakespeare quotes and the old chestnut about the finger and pointing and the moon?

I think that the part of Sarah that she’s covering up with her cooking is the part that doesn’t know why she stays with me. I think that the part of me that I am covering up with my silence is the part that couldn’t exist without her.

I am sorry. I never have been good at social niceties. That was probably not the best way to start a relationship, was it? Let’s try again.

I don't know what I'm doing

I see you think you know the ancient relationship secrets of the rats. I am sure that your Johnson enjoyed his super ball. I hope that he did not feel that New Cardboard City was just another cage.

That is a very apt name, I think. New Cardboard City. Tell me, did you make a little cardboard populace for your Johnson to terrorize?

Sarah sent me out of the apartment with a ball to play with. I am out here in New Cardboard City. Playing away. Thinking about possibly terrorizing the local cardboard populace.

OMG Seth is so savage

The moral of the story about your students is that I am supposed to listen to other people, I know. If I just listen to others, they will understand and not be cardboard anymore, and then I won’t be alone in the hungry light of the sun.

That’s a very cardboard sort of thing to say, don’t you think? I can see one of the little cardboard people in New Cardboard City saying it right now.  A cardboard teacher, perhaps, standing over a small cardboard student, saying “You must play the games that the other children like and you must talk about the things that they are interested in. You must stop with your talk of transmuting waffles into gold and finding the paths between universes. That frightens the other children. You must be a proper cardboard child who does proper cardboard things. Or else.”

I do hope your Johnson ate such people.

lol, Johnson

I am sorry for the loss of your wife. It sounds like you were happy together.

I am not very good at playing with this ball Sarah gave me.

ugh words are so hard

I am taking your advice. I am listening to the cardboard people.

They say things like, “That will be twelve of the imaginary numbers that we have collectively decided to base our worth on, sir. Thank you.”

It doesn’t seem to be helping.

all you need is your fire

You speak of Nothing as if you know it. Perhaps you do. Perhaps we have different Nothings, and you know yours, and your Nothing is a warm and welcoming place.

Mine is not.

Have you ever wondered what it’s like in universes other than ours? I did, when I was a child. I could not seem to live in this universe as others did. My cardboard suit did not fit.

So I set it on fire.

yeah he's still my sweet Seth baby

I am sitting on a bench in the plaza, eating tajine from the Moroccan food stall. Watching the other people in their cardboard suits.

The bit of the planet that I live on is turned away from the sun right now so it can’t get me, but I am not sure that I trust the electric lights that much either. They are very cold and bright, and they buzz loudly in their hunger.

My Nothing is a dark sharp place, with shadows that writhe between leaping licking flames. What is your Nothing like?

The elephant fountain burbles endlessly. I watch the water for a while. Maybe that’s what your Nothing is like. Water falling and getting sucked back up in pipes and falling again, over and over, and it’s all very peaceful and calm and burbly.

I think I will go back up to the apartment and take a bath now. Releasing endorphins is sweaty business.

The buzz and crackle of fluorescent light follows me all the way home.


When I step out of the bathroom, Sarah is there. She is dressed in her pajamas, she is holding a glass of water, and she is angry.

I try to figure out what I did. I went out and played with the ball. I released endorphins. I thought I was supposed to do that.

I see the dishes on the dining table, and I realize. She expected me to come back for dinner.

why are words so hard???

I could walk past her and go to the computer in the bedroom and type all this out to you.  I could go back out the door and down to the street. I could get defensive and blame her for not reminding me.

But I am trying, so I pick up the dishes and take them over to the sink.

She still hasn’t said anything.

I am skipping a progression raid for this

I think I am confusing her by washing the dishes. Maybe that’s why she’s not talking.


That is her very serious tone of voice.

“Your therapist’s office called today and left a message.  You haven’t been to your last two appointments.”

writing grind, writing grind

I put the dishes down in the sink.

“Do you want to tell me why you aren’t going? We still have to pay for the appointments, you know.”

I listen to the water falling from the faucet. It splashes down on the dishes. One of the forks clinks against a plate.

“Is this not important to you? Am I not important to you?”

I turn the water off.

god Seth always makes me work for it

I could say, “Yes, you are important. I’m sorry. I should have told you.”

I could say, “The endorphins didn’t help.”

I could say, “Whenever I go to sleep the fire comes, and I can’t get away from it.”

I don’t say any of those things.

I say, “I would appreciate it if you wouldn’t go through my phone.”

I hate my writing and I suck at it and it's bad and I should feel bad

She sits at the table. I turn the TV on, so I have an excuse for not looking at her.

She says, “You are going to go to therapy. You are going to come home for dinner. You are going to talk to me.”

I hate everything I have ever written and none of it has ever been good enough

She takes a swig of her water. I hear her swallow. It’s a very fierce sort of swallow.

well, some bits of Surreal Darkness are okay

She slams the glass down on the table.

“Or I’m going to leave.”

none of this is okay though

After that, she went to bed. She stayed awake for a while, reading. I heard her crying.

I didn’t come in here until I heard the snores.

I hope I haven’t scared you off, Jasper. Writing these things out and being able to pretend that someone out there heard them helps. It does.

Tomorrow I will call the therapist’s office. I will figure something out.

I think that the part of me that I am covering up with my silence is the part that couldn’t exist without her.

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11 Responses to Cardboard City

  1. cathytea says:

    Oh. I hope Jasper is brave… I think he is? I wonder if he’s brave enough to actually explore what Nothing is and to consider what he’s hiding behind acting as if he knows what he’s talking about…

    Liked by 2 people

  2. “I think that the part of me that I am covering up with my silence is the part that couldn’t exist without her.” Love this line! Love that you ended with it. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Wow! This was powerful, scary, and touching in a way all at the same time. He has a point about cardboard people living in Cardboard City. We’re expected to act a certain way in order to conform and if we don’t, we’re shunned and called crazy. I hope Seth can eventually come to terms with everything he’s dealing with.


    • medleymisty says:

      Thank you! And yeah, as a person who doesn’t act a certain way most of the time, I get it. *hugs for Seth*

      We’ll see! I’ve been writing him for seven and a half years and he hasn’t yet, so…


  4. Wow… this was intense. Seth’s got a lot going on. I can understand not going to therapy. It’s hard to sit and talk to people who don’t really know you, but the point is we try. Isn’t it funny how in retrospect we know exactly the right words to say but we never say them in the moment? I think this is what is happening to Seth. I hope he and Sarah can work things out.

    I liked how Seth took something simple like cardboard and made it into this existential commentary on reality and how we’re all supposed to behave a certain way. Reminds me of the line in the movie, Elizabethtown, where the protagonists are talking about the “they” and the “them” who decide what is and isn’t okay. And if someone doesn’t want to conform, they’re deemed odd at best and labeled “wrong” otherwise. I know that kind of pain. I love the authenticity of Seth.

    Liked by 1 person

    • medleymisty says:

      I was thinking that the therapist would bring up the thing where he knows what would be the best thing to say but he doesn’t do it, but he ended up cutting things short before then.

      I’ve been writing him and Sarah for seven and a half years and they haven’t worked things out yet, but we’ll see. 😉

      Actually my best friend and I have been using cardboard as our own little shorthand for years now, to signify socially constructed things and when people aren’t being authentic.

      I don’t think Seth knows any other way to be. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • You write that you were thinking he would… and then he didn’t… can I take that to assume you do what I do and let the character/story write him/her/itself? Sometimes I have it in my mind, this is how it’s going to go when I’m in game, and then… poof! The Sims have a different idea and I love trying to incorporate that into my stories.

        Cardboard is a good metaphor for social constructs. It also signifies how fragile we are when these “cardboard social constructs” are torn down because we feel exposed to the “elements.” That’s when things get ugly.

        Good for Seth. I like the way he is – flaws and all. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  5. audreyfld says:

    These letters are so powerful. And I echo that the last line was telling.
    I think Seth might scare off someone other than Jasper. So happy he is able to talk to him openly and freely without fear of judgement. It will be better for him than any amount of therapy. He talks about fire. So I am assuming he has experienced something traumatic that he can’t deal with or maybe I am reading to much into and this is just Seth.

    It seems like Sarah is trying so hard to ‘help’ him be her idea of what he should be and recover from whatever happened. You said you had been writing them for a long time but I haven’t read that so my only perspective is this letter. But just the fact that she cried makes me know she loves him and is hurting because she can’t ‘fix’ him. I think it is sort of like what Jasper said about taking away his wife’s cares. When Jasper figured out it didn’t make her happy he left her with them and she was happier. Maybe she will figure out what to accept about him that will make them both happy together.


    • medleymisty says:

      Yay thank you!

      Heh, yeah, Seth is a bit scary. 😉 And you’re right, I do think that writing letters to Jasper and Anya is much better for him than traditional therapy. He doesn’t do too well with the verbal IRL talking, but he can write out his thoughts and emotions.

      You’re also right that yes, Seth has PTSD. I do too, and well – writing his letters is therapy for me. Lettertherapyception! 😉

      Sarah does love Seth, very much – and gosh, you’re all so perceptive. Yeah, I think…like Sarah really does love Seth, but to some extent she also loves her idea of him, you know? So she’s going to have to learn to see the actual person in front of her and not her ideal imaginary dude, and she’s going to have to let up on the ultimatums. But she’s stressed and anxious right now, so hey, you know, she’s doing the best she can with what she has at the moment.

      Yeah, maybe she will come around to accepting that Seth’s sort of PTSD isn’t the type that gets cured, but the type that gets managed and dealt with and learned to live with. I think she’s capable of that. 🙂

      *hugs* Thank you so much for being so awesome! 🙂


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