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You may not break the rules.

That’s the first thing they teach you when you enter this world in a stream of blood, guts, and bright overhead lights. Don’t throw your rattle. Don’t throw your food. Don’t cry. Put on your socks. (No, darling, like this.) Don’t color outside the lines—then put your crayons back into the box where they belong, just like how you belong in line where everyone else has been placed, pushed into a crooked, confused formation that They hate but do not fix. And who pushed you there? They did. We all listen to the omnipotent They. They told us to stand us line. They told us to color inside the lines. They told us to cut nice squares and glue them to our uniform sheets of construction paper in straight lines, left-right top-bottom no overlaps no gaps, and we listen because that is what he have been taught ever since we entered this world in a stream of blood, guts, and blinding overhead lights.

And the lights don’t stop. Welcome to a new world, this innocent heaven, with all eyes on you. Listen to the cotton candy compliments, grab those sugar canes, but only until you reach that cherry tart age where your baby fat becomes just fat and your small limbs become scrawny; your crooked teeth stop being cute and get caged in by braces, your questions start to sound like a shelling. And that’s when the sugar cane becomes just a normal cane for bad comedy gags, a cane that loops around your neck and yanks you from Candyland and onto a different stage. The spotlight becomes ultraviolet—you’re no longer visible to the world.

We all talk about the final Judgment, that moment when God puts us on the weighing scale and tell us the heaviness of our sins, as if this is all that matters, but we are judged for our entire lives, every moment, every suffocating second where the angel on your right shoulder says people are a-changin’ but the devil on your left says you’re ugly, that people are not changing, that they’ll always have an opinion that you say you can not care about but care about regardless of whether or not you care...

Welcome to the world swathed in ultraviolet. Free admission, refreshments provided. All you need to provide is proof of a tainted spirit.

Now this is the real, all-American experience. The lights are on you; don’t freeze. Smile at the cameras, the audience, the lights. Make sure They are happy. Put on a show, make Truman Burbank proud. Exercise your rights, but don’t cross the line. Don’t use verbs. (Don’t use verbs unless they’re “will do,” “will succeed,” “will obey.”) Stay in line, but make sure you toe it to give the audience a dash of suspense. They like that sort of stuff. Toeing the line is freedom, dignity, and all-American, but don’t cross it unless you want to be on the cross for others like you; then you’ll really be burned by the ultraviolet. Conformity is your sunscreen; don’t let it run out.

Wave your flag. Go around and call people ‘darling.’ Let honey run from your words. Listen, listen, listen, and never say no. Say “yes,” “all right,” “lovely.” Don’t forget the ‘darling’; it makes you look happy. Devour poetry, sip 24-Hour Energy, eat gluten free, live a zero waste lifestyle. Be a contributing member of society. Get up at 6, come home at midnight because your boss told you to stay overtime in the form of a question.

And in all of this, stay in line. Toe it to give a show, but never cross it. Because you came into this world in a stream of blood, guts, and deafening overhead lights just to be bombarded by the blinding sounds of disappointment. Don’t cross, because what lies beyond is the Midway Judgment with many more to follow before finality.

So stay in ultraviolet; just do not forget your sunscreen.