The Year of the Hedonist

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It’s the Year of the Hedonist and though my expat friends tell me that the “lost generation” phenomenon is an American one, it looks to me like the whole world is filled with volcanoes and people dance on them everyplace. Out here there are more scotches than sheep and more sheep than books and more books than people, which should make everything more boring but in fact it makes everything especially volatile. In the night the lava runs hot.

Last year was the Year of the Rabbit. Leon tells me that in the Chinese zodiac, the rabbit represents calm and hope. He tells me that last year woke up gray and then it stayed gray until finally it went to bed and everyone cheered. This doesn’t sound hopeful to me, I say, and he tells me yes, there was plenty of calm but almost no hope. You could barely see the sun or the moon, Leon says, because everything was gray on gray. So we spend our days under heavy wool and heavier blankets, waiting for the gray day to leave and the gray night to come.

I was there for all of this, but Leon tells me anyway. And I let him, because I like hearing the stories.

Habib, let’s call him, he was always the closest to me. He was my favorite. He had the most brains and the most fear and almost no hope. I call him Habib because it’s short for Habibi, which means “my baby” and “my darling” in Arabic. It’s what he used to call me, and he said it in both languages. Habib was strong and I loved him. He loved me back, I think, though I didn’t see it then. He was the one I wanted to keep in my pocket everywhere I went, but he seemed to keep digging holes and falling out, and then I’d have to be careful not to step on him. Although he could dig deeply and with vigor, he was so fragile in the end. I never thought he’d be that way. With some people you just never know.

I’ve loved some of these people – my friends – but I’ve learned that love is never enough. We’re matches made in hell, most of us. We dance and we dance and we hold each other’s hair but never each other’s hearts.



Leon and Habib and the rest of us danced into the colors of the dawn, all of us together like a sparkler. (The dawn, even when stained slate, is still the dawn, you just have to feel it from the inside.) It was a six story club in the center of town, with one entrance at the top of the hill and another at the bottom. Stone archways framed each stairwell. Each floor we descended grew rougher and rougher. The metaphor was so heavy-handed that it embarrassed us, I think, so we never talked about it. By midnight we were always down at the club’s core, ice and fire all reflecting off of the stainless steel demons in our chests. We’d take strong sips of scotch and feel the quick rush of burnt amber racing down our throats. Then the numbness would sit in. The best part. Wiggle your fingers: nothing. Toes: nothing. We’d stay until morning. Habib was my partner. We weren’t really meant to be hedonists. He did, actually, hold my heart, and he did so quite well.

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I dig too much. Oh, did I forget to mention that I am a digger, too? Of course I am a digger. I’ve been told this many times. Habib is gone now, my blankets have worn thin, and still I am a digger. Every night I climb into his pocket and every morning I dig through, slip down his pant leg, and creep like lava underneath his feet. I like to fill the crevices of his shoe with bright orange. I like to make myself as bright as I can be.

I’m so fragile in the end. I never thought I’d be that way. With some people you just never know.

Leon says this is all normal in the Year of the Hedonist, that it happens everyplace. Sometimes when you dance, everything catches on fire, he says. And then he hands me a scotch and asks me to dance, says it will help. I know it won’t, of course, but I oblige.


by Emma Harper |Artwork by Jennifer Lauren(1st) & Kira Leigh (2nd) | Feature Image by Wellington Sanipe



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Emma Harper

Emma is a San Francisco Bay Area-based writer and editor with stories previously published in Blunderbuss Magazine (online) and The Flexible Persona (online and audiobook). More information and a link to my published work can be found on her website,