Joni Mitchell was right all along: we don’t know what we’ve got till it’s gone

He sits in the dark in the corner, clutching a book he bought today he didn’t need and can’t afford, listening to Independence Day crackle from her phone speaker across the room because it helps her sleep, which he likes, but it doesn’t make a difference to him because he can’t sleep no matter what he does or doesn’t do – tuck into bed early, or crouch on the couch puffing his too-expensive two-piece airplane steel hitter while eye fucking the Criterion Channel till the sun arrives again in his alley, a trick that might’ve worked not long ago: bleeding days into each other for a single scratch and win card chance but it’s a one dollar throwaway, the kind where a jackpot still doesn’t buy a sandwich but he so badly needs it to learn to live outside the inside, not outside the outside because realistically there’s only so long you can exist there before your insides turn outside like that old Treehouse of Horrors he thinks about more often than he’d like to admit, which he’d also admit, in a candid moment, feels a little more like a dream every time he remembers it again, humming the tune the chorus line of inside-out dancers belted while high-stepping a showstopping finale he isn’t even sure was invented outside his own brain sometimes thanks to years of ecstatic self-abuse catching up prematurely, maybe, or hereditary atom bombs deployed by a tiny, hungover man in his skull who passed out at the controls and mashed the LAUNCH button with his tiny little drowsy aching forehead, the usual options to explain his outsideness that reduce the unavoidable solution barking an inch from his face – leave the light off, drop the book he doesn’t need and can’t afford and crawl into the perpetually cold side of his bed because before all else, he needs some sleep.

Stephen Ground is a prose writer, poet, filmmaker, and picture-taker based in Treaty 1 Territory (Winnipeg, Manitoba). He’s also a mandolin/harmonica hack, a small business owner, and a little too invested in his favourite sports teams.

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