I'm Positive

Posted on: April 7, 2015

You deserve this.

After countless days and nights spent scouring every byte on your external hard drive for the most pixel-perfect representations of your photographic eye, you deserve this.

After staging sit-ins in all of your teachers’ offices until they agreed to write you a glowing letter of recommendation, you deserve this.

After considering your competition–Shelly, the Sepia Queen; Oscar, the Overexposer; Lauren, the Lighting Illiterate; all the other hacks who call themselves photographers just because they own a DSLR–you definitely deserve this.

Then you get it, the envelope you’ve been checking the mailbox for every day since your submission. It’s thinner than you expected, but hey, how many pieces of paper does it take to say YOU’RE ACCEPTED?

You can’t answer that. All you know is it takes one to say you’re rejected.

You’re speechless.

You check the envelope to make sure it doesn’t say Shelly or Oscar or Lauren. All you see is your name, a name you’ve never been that fond of, and in this moment you absolutely fucking hate it.

You hate your parents: for giving you that name, for not giving you a camera until your freshman year of high school, for getting divorced.

Whoa. You’re spiraling.

This isn’t about them. This is about you. You suck. You failed. You should kill yourself.

No, no. You shouldn’t kill yourself. You should go back inside, your neighbors are watching.

You need to turn over the letter. Maybe it says PSYCHE on the back, and you’re actually accepted–those kooky artists types. Nope.

You get a text. Did you see Shelly’s Instagram?

You didn’t, but you will now.

SHIT! Why’d you do that!? Couldn’t you tell by Sam’s syntax that you were walking into a trap?

Guess who’s going to be posting a ton of pictures from RISD? This girl!

No shit, Shelly. We could infer from your stupid, sepia-toned selfie and that giant Rhode Island School of Design envelope you’re holding in your non-dominant hand that you are This Girl! You WHORE! You should kill yourself.

Not YOU, you. Shelly you.

You should find a distraction. Video games? TV? Pornography?

No, no. You should lie down. You should stare at those fan blades until they suck up all your pain and chop it into teeny tiny little pieces. Never mind. It’s summer, which means they’re moving counter clockwise. Which means you should stare at them until they blow your sorrows out the back of your skull like Marvin’s brains in Pulp Fiction.

You hear that? It’s a car. Your mom’s car. You should hide.

No, no. You shouldn’t hide. You should just tell her. She’s going to find out sooner or later. She’s going to know something’s up when fall semester rolls around and you’re still lying on her couch, staring at fan blades.

“Any news?” she says, every syllable drenched in hope.

You should lie. Tell her no. Buy yourself a little time.

Too late. She knows. She knows if the answer were no, you would’ve said so by now. She knows if the answer were yes, you would be flipping your shit like when you were a onesie-wearing, teeth-missing little brat and she asked, “Did the Tooth Fairy pay you a visit?”

“I’m sorry, Sweetheart. Mommy’s here when you’re ready to talk.”

You wish you didn’t feel that tear hit your forehead when she leaned over to give you a kiss. You wish your pain was yours alone, and that it didn’t pile on to the heap of hurt she’s been carrying since her marriage toppled over like a crumbling wedding cake, but empathy is at the heart of every great parent.

You wait until she leaves the living room and grab her keys.

“I’m going for a drive,” you say.

“Whatever you need,” she answers from the kitchen.

You fire up the engine and promptly turn off the Sheryl Crow CD she’s had on heavy rotation since the day she and your dad finalized the divorce papers.

You pull out of the driveway with no destination in mind. You just know you have to steer clear of your favorite coffee shop. Beth is working, and she can’t find out what a shitty photographer you are. Not yet. Not until you’ve helped her put together her modeling portfolio.

Sam. You should try to find Sam so you two can talk shit about Shelly until you’ve convinced yourself that the only logical explanation for her acceptance is that she must’ve blown the Dean of Admissions.


Shelly has never been anything but nice to you. Shelly has never been anything but nice to anyone. Maybe that’s why she’s going to be a huge success, and you’re going to die a miserable piece of shit. You should try being nice for a change, starting with Shelly.

Shelly, what’s something nice you could do for Shelly? Oh! You could like her Instagram post!

You scroll to the photo and hover your finger over the empty heart while trying to drain the dangerous mix of envy and spite from the one in your chest. You go against your wicked nature and press the button. A giant heart eclipses her post and another photo pops up on her feed. It’s her camera lense, shattered across the pavement like your hopes and dreams.

This celebratory photo shoot is not off to a good start :(

You smile, but quickly wipe it off your face. You’re nice now, remember?

You text her.

Hey Shelly. Congrats on RISD! Bummer about your lens though. You can borrow my extra for the summer if you want?

Thanks Gareth! That would be amazing! Are you sure?

I’m Positive.

You’re my hero! I’ll be sure to drop it off at your dorm ;)

I’m afraid that’s not possible. I didn’t get in :(

WHAT!!!!!!!?????? But you’re like, the best photog in our entire class! Maybe even the entire WORLD!

Ha! Well, now I guess you are.

Ha! I guess so.

Fuck it. You still hate her.

Written by: Mark Killian
Photograph by: Josh McGonigle

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