Echoes Fall 2016

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ARTWORK & PHOTOGRAPHY Avery Ponce...........................................................................1, 8, 20 Lily Arzt.........................................................................................2 K. Elizabeth Hanson.......................................................................3 Chloe Kim...........................................................................9, 21, 25 Omaymah Al-Harahsheh..............................................................24 Jennifer Bi...............................................................................30, 42 Aliza Amsellem.............................................................................34 “Many People” cover illustration by Anna Kaplan


How We Remember Anabèl by Stephanie Frescas..............................1 Boat by Katia Ariyan........................................................................2 Thunderstorm by Michelle Xu..........................................................4 Erosion by Noa Kattler Kupetz........................................................5 little, hungry by Eleonor Botoman...................................................9 Drowning in Ellipses by Alex Parisi...............................................11 Buyer and Seller by Juliana Kaplan.................................................23 21, Oceana, Comfort Zone by Radhika Shah..................................26 Thought for Food by Allison Yeh.....................................................27 Scandinavian Trees by Vanessa Holyoak........................................31 formless by Mya Alexice.................................................................33 Dust by Elizabeth McMenamin....................................................35

Avery Ponce

In the days when Anabél was around, stories abounded. Many were contrived by her, but just as many were contrived about her. Of course, she left ten years ago (to help a team of scientists in Switzerland finally eradicate racism, most say. But if that’s true, I think we could have used her more back home. Others say she left to pursue a man—a lost love from her childhood—but everyone knows she worships Artemis, so I think that’s unlikely. The most imaginative of them say she was never here, that she was simply the result of collective wishful thinking. But she was the one who taught me what cicadas are, and how to jump double Dutch). STEPHANIE FRESCAS 1

i am thankful for the gates
 but the daylight does not reach the ground here and
 Home was sun-bleached orange.
 The cool of blue tiles under my heels is not matched by hot concrete and my flag waves not half as proud
 being so far from its soil and fig trees. (i watched as the soot crept up the walls of our whitewashed house and our vines died for the first time in thirty-five years.)
 Home was sun-bleached orange
 but i am grateful for the gates that put five oceans between us. KATIA ARIYAN



K. Elizabeth Hanson


the sky pulls down its shades like something secret and prickly pears dot the banks, yellow with anticipation. in the middle of it all, you touch the insides of my wrists and behind my knees, soft and alert. Shakespeare’s Garden, the air wet, a contained breath—I open my eyes and you tell me about layers, then draping trees, then fountain mechanics. The stars vanish before I think to breathe— MICHELLE XU



HE LIES ON HIS SIDE, head on pillow. His back is

dotted with constellations of acne scars, in theme with his Star Wars sheets, which, youthful in taste for a college dorm room, had been on sale at Kohl’s. Chewbacca’s face is tucked near his chin, and is growing damp with tears. His pulse pounds in his left eyebrow—a rough, painful buzzing. He closes his eyes, but instead of being soothed by black depth, he sees his father standing above him. He tries to be as tall as his father. He stands on his toes, he stretches through every vertebra in his spine, but the top of his head reaches only to his father’s knees. He is a child, and his father lifts him in the air, then places him down on the grass, and his young legs, gangly from having just lost their chub, begin to chase his father up the mountain behind grandma’s house. There is a pile of rocks forming in his chest. He opens his eyes. He thinks of her. He thinks of her red teakettle. He thinks of lying beside her in this bed, of lying beside her in her bed, of the first time he told her he loved her. It had followed a long look they’d shared, after which they’d simultaneously said, I know. And then, lying beside her in her extra long twin dorm room bed, he actually said the words, and she’d paused, and he’d rushed into telling her she shouldn’t feel obligated to say them back, but of course she said them. He knew she’d say them. She loved him. He thinks of her offering him a cup of tea. He imagines it to be chamomile, and he hears her laughing, remarking that tea is the adult version of breast milk. The rocks, sharp and cutting, sink towards his stomach. His head throbs so he tries closing his eyes again, only 5

to find himself back on the mountain. He is chasing his father upward, his calves and lungs aching with the joy of play. He is running, ignoring his untied shoelace, now almost caught up to his father, when then he begins to hear the buzzing. There are screams, and he feels nothing but his father's arms picking him up, and then the sound of his father's heart thumping, fighting to get them down the mountain and back to the house, as far as possible from the bees. When they reach the bottom of the mountain, his father doesn’t hold him closer, doesn’t tousle his hair or throw him toward the sun. Instead, he is quickly passed into his grandmother’s arms, and behind him he feels a whoosh of wind, the momentum of his father’s large figure falling. Craning his neck around his grandma’s hold, he can see his father’s skin is swelling. There are countless numbers of welts forming on his arms, already pussing, already an angry red. He has never seen anything as hideous. His father's face begins to turn purple. No. No. He opens his eyes and lifts his forearm to wipe his face, a mess of sweat and snot and tears. It’s happening again. Artificial light from the building across the street sneaks in through his window’s plastic shades. It’s happening again, and all he wants is black, is silence, is a space between the mountain and his dorm room, a calm nothingness. The shades don’t even block out light. The window trim and plastic molding of the room is a blue one finds only in a nursery school, pediatric waiting room, or psych ward. It’s happening again. I am sad, she says. He knows this. The way she sat across from him at dinner, shoulders slumped, fork picking at but never picking up food. He worries, when she’s sad. She doesn’t eat. She avoids eye contact. Piles of rocks fill his stomach when she is sad. They leave the restaurant holding hands, and and he notes the delicacy of her fingers. How safe he feels with her palm resting in his. They walk, their steps sounding lonely on a dark Bushwick street. She won’t look at him. The rocks begin to slide in his stomach, tectonic plates crashing into each other, shockwaves emanating from his core. Without thinking, he has stepped in front 6

of her, he has swallowed her into a hug, and he feels the fragility of her fingers extend through her entire being. He holds her and they cry, shaking like the leaves of Aspen trees, moving grips tighter and tighter until their shadow becomes a single figure on the sidewalk. His lips press onto the top of her head, and he tastes her rough brown hair that always smells like soap. He cannot breathe. In, and out. In, and out. He forces intention into his breath as he turns onto his back, fighting the rocks from piling into his lungs. They begin to gather between his ribs, nails against bone, making each inhale jaggedly painful. It’s happening again, and he doesn’t know how to make it stop. He sometimes screams in his sleep. He once woke up to her crying, and he held her, and felt the second saddest he ever had in his life. He wants her here, even if he wakes her up with his screams. A loud buzzing grows in his ears. Will Daddy be okay? Amidst the chaos, his question goes unanswered. Grandma ushers him inside, and he tries to look back, but the grass hasn’t been cut in so long that his father's body appears buried in it. All he sees is an arm, swollen and limp. He is left alone at his grandmother’s for a few hours. He has never really been alone before, so he walks toward the television set, pressing buttons on a device his parents forbid him to play with. He pushes one button and static forms on the screen. A voice talks loudly about war, about a bomb, about things that happen elsewhere. He cannot figure out how to turn it off, and is nervous he’ll be scolded when they’re back. He wonders if his father will be coming back, and if he’ll come back swollen, or his usual peachskinned self. He is exhausted. No one will notice the television, and the static will roar for three days. He is exhausted, and he stares up at the broken fan above his bed. The rocks are no longer gathering, and are now just a heaviness in his body, a force crushing his spine deep into the mattress. Everything is damp with sweat. His cotton t-shirt, his briefs, even his black socks. The communal shower down the hall feels too far to get to, and his body too rooted to move. She would make him get up to brush his teeth. He thinks about standing next to her in the east side of Prospect Park. He watches her watching a toddler slide down a play set. She leans into him, and comments 7

on imagining the toddler being sucked in by a sinkhole. He is surprised. She used to surprise him. He takes a rock from his chest, and throws it at her. Midthought, he makes the rock miss her, makes it so she will never know he was aiming it at her. She smiles at him, and he feels numb. He lies in bed, and suddenly, like changing channels on the television, he is able to shut it off. There is no more buzzing. There is no more her. He turns over in his sheets.

Avery Ponce



Have you ever met a girl who was Made of antler velvet? There’s an oldness in their faces, count up their wrinkles for age And you’ll find them old as forests They are snow, they are yellowing Broth, hot throats strained by cold air Laughter soaked through boiled bones all Mountain sounds with joints that never thaw 9

These girls are flowers dry on the windowsill An Open belly hanging in a small house soaked in salt The calcium white of dowry lace, the strength of blankets locked inside a wooden box When you press your face into her hair you smell smoke, animals skinned for drum membranes, a rooster spasming Above the slosh of blood in the bowl and your grandmother Drawing a small knife across the squished neck with leathered palms While you watch, containing your breath between the fence-gaps It’s the blood slick between her thighs, the blood of the spring slaughter, I have seen girls made of beast hours under nights that half-whimper out in blued sputters of Campfire, thinned fingers pull the furs close Somewhere, there are teeth snapping at the church door You are supposed to name your daughters after saints But these are women born with rifles tied to the spine Snow-clots between the toes, these are girls of a hound pack of fever, wombed in the stories of wolves, mouths so argent-heavy that lap at your eyes like beaten iron You are the beast she would like to cut open, to crawl inside and occupy the shelter of your organs These are practiced hands with grave dirt under fingernails In my dreams winter is a hungry sister Jaws slick as honey, fastened around the kiss of your throat ELEONOR BOTOMAN




T HIT ME IMMEDIATELY, the drop. My cold fingertips left the screen and brushed my lips as I drifted, settled softly on my bed. I froze. Eyes closed, I drew a shaky breath and held it, felt it writhe in my chest before leaving my body. Leaving me, hollowed. Tomorrow. The weight of the word, its finality—it latched onto my heartstrings and tugged, beckoned me to respond. With every ring came a tremor. It reverberated down my spine and rocked me, quite violently, as I lay untouched by the muted moonlight. It was slipping through the papery blinds in thin streaks of silver, just missing the foot of the bed. I realized my throat was very dry. “Hello.” “Hi,” I exhaled into the phone. In one breath I strung together an apology, a send-off. All generic really, but what else was there to say? “Oh I wish I’d known! I’m so sorry I didn’t realize, gosh, you’re—well good luck; you’re going to have the most amazing time, meeting new people, all those cool classes you, um, you told me about and, um, it’ll… it’ll be great.” “Thank you.” “I just—I thought it was next Wednesday. I didn’t realize, I thought w-what time are you leaving?” “Early morning.” “Oh. I wish I’d known, I wish I’d seen you again, said goodbye—” “I don’t do goodbyes,” he interrupted, flat and definitive. 11

A pause. “We never finished the book—” “I know.” “You didn’t get to recite the poem to me.” I really wanted to hear that poem again. I needed him to hear it again. He sighed, or scoffed, I’m not quite sure, “I don’t remember the poem. And I never liked it anyway.” “Okay,” I whispered, at a loss. “Well. Good luck…with everything, and I hope… I hope we keep in touch. You’ll do great.” “Thanks, Alex.” I let it suspend for a while, the goodbye. I held out as long as I could. But I knew. “Goodnight, Dan…” That ellipsis? It was audible, like a rope thrown out into— Snip. “Buh-bye.” Shedding layers of shock and white sheets, I sprung out of bed, to the window, and slid my way down to the floor. I gnawed at my cuticles. Hugging my knees to my chest, then quickly letting go, then tucking them in once more, I processed our underwhelming exchange. I snatched my phone. Uncharacteristically fueled by trembling indignation, I collected all of the words left unsaid and gathered them up in a final, bitter bouquet. They were never delivered, though. “I felt bad for leaving you hanging like that,” he said as soon as I picked up. “On the poem. So, um, I’ll read you another one by cummings.” “Okay,” I murmured. I could hear paper rustling. The red book vaguely materialized somewhere in my head. Then his thin fingers, sifting through its odd contents, before he paused, cleared his throat. He began. And I heard the words “balloon man.” 12


“He whistled far and wee,” he said, but felt so far away from

I might have uttered a few words about the poem, or wearily asked about the collection as a whole, I don’t remember, but the stretch of silence that followed seemed otherwise infinite. It wasn’t the sticky, suffocating kind, though. Or maybe I was just used to it. Somewhere in that vacuum I managed to release any and all lingering scraps of inhibition, and for the first time, asked him why. “—I don’t understand. Again. You did it again and you had to have known how much it hurt me before,” I said to him, strangely calm. I paused. “And then, when I finally gave in—you reappeared. Why is that?” “I don’t know,” he said, as if the thought had never occurred to him before. So casual, so callous. I waited. “I think I know how you feel…” “You do?” “A similar thing happened to me a couple of days ago.” I waited again, for him to elaborate. “W-will you tell me about it?” He cut through me, quick and precise, “No.” “Why do you do that?” He sighed. “You know I always try to be honest. And brief. I would’ve told you already, if I knew...” he said. I could sense it, the distant sincerity embedded in the silence, as he sought to put things together in his mind. “I’m used to it,” he said after some time. “What do you mean?” “I’m just used to it. People…ignore me, and I’ve learned to live with it. And be okay with it.” His words, their quiet implications— “But Dan,” I implored, softly. Reaching out blindly in front of me, I lit up the room with the turn of a knob. “How can you just accept it?” “What else is there to do? I don’t really…share. It doesn’t solve anything. I’ve learned to think about a situation,” he paused, 13

“find a way to fix it, and then fix it.” “But,” I looked down at my hands, searching for the right words, the best words, “you can’t just internalize everything…that’s not—” “It’s not, it’s more like, an inner monologue, that—” “That’s the same thing!” I said. He faintly protested, before letting me continue, “You’ve got to talk about it, at least once in a while… I mean, it may not immediately solve anything, but it might get you there. And you’ll feel relieved.” I hesitated, for the briefest moment. “I learned to talk about things… I care too much to just ignore it, I mean,” I let out an odd little sigh, “you know I’m more than willing to sound pathetic, feel pathetic…” I lightly shook my head, stumbled, drifted off… “You have no reason to feel pathetic, Alex,” he said, gently. I pictured him then, murmuring those simple words into the phone, into the quiet, lofty alcove of reality in which we existed. Given the ethereal nature of our exchange, the way I perceived it anyway, I must confess some transitions have dissolved, in such a way that slices of time have blurred together, pieced themselves together in a digestible sequence without my knowledge. But I’m trying, trying to cling on to as much truth as possible. “Remember,” he started, slowly enunciating the word, “when you told me about writing in your journal, and reading it later, and feeling embarrassed?” “Yeah,” I said, “of course.” “I feel like that every day. I think of all these little instances, from now, from my childhood, and I just feel so ashamed.” “What do you mean?” I almost whispered, but he suddenly sprung up. “When I was a kid, this house on my street got robbed; and everybody, all our neighbors were outside. I remember being all shaken up—this sort of thing never happened in our neighborhood. Someone asked me what happened, and I told them, you know, ‘They got robbed!’ and this old woman turned to my mother and said to her, in harsh Vietnamese, ‘Children shouldn’t know about 14

these things.’” I parted my lips— “—but my mom didn’t care. She doesn’t take shit from anyone. Yet I still, I remember feeling ashamed. Another time, in middle school, I was playing the piano for my friend—the only person who genuinely enjoyed listening—and I remember getting annoyed at him for the smallest thing. He was shaking his leg, probably in tune with the music, and I took offence and snapped at him. Why did I do that?” “I know I’m not one to talk, but try, try not to dwell on it. We all feel that way, I think, when we look back.” “I know but it’s different. It’s constant,” he insisted. “My biology teacher has a video of the Na—” “The Napoleon Dynamite dance! I love it, I keep telling you!” “No,” he groaned, “I’ve watched and analyzed it and it’s all wrong… the movements too exaggerated, too silly—” “What are you talking about you looked just like him!” “—too much of the hips, and the hands—” “No one will remember it that way.” “Okay but,” he said with a tinge of frustration, “someone at a party once told me I could be a stripper, the way I danced.” “That’s terrible, gosh. But I like the way you dance… You know Steph complimented you on your dancing Homecoming night? She really did, she said—” “You don’t understand…” A thick lump surged up in my throat. I stared at the bulb on my nightstand and watched it expand, swell into a watery, luminous orb. That’s all I was trying to do, after all. Understand. “I used to cry, every lesson. I remember being twelve years old and my teacher telling me I was playing too fast, and I’d slow down, then too slow, and I’d speed up, too fast, too slow—again and again till the tears welled up and blurred the keys.” My voice disappeared, and his—he stayed even, resigned and unflinching. 15

“I should’ve written about piano. On my app, not the moon. It was too abstract. The lessons, failing…” But it was beautiful, I whispered in my head. “But it was the only way. I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished and I think, my teacher is proud of me.” A paralyzing ache suddenly seized me, followed by a deep wave of commiseration. I drooped and sat in the deafening stillness of his misguided acceptance as the minutes slid past. A sleepy blink, a sigh… we simply existed, together. In a fragile bubble we let ourselves be enveloped and floated off in comforting silence. “Did you ever watch the video I sent you?” “No. I turned it off after five seconds.” “Dan…” “I didn’t care for the song.” “It wasn’t about the song. It was about the visuals,” I sprung up, “the metaphors of war, the colors—I love it. My favorite part, it—he’s holding a grenade, uncaps it—and it turns into a melting strawberry with strawberry blood and the strawberry bombs…” I sank back down. “Anyway. I thought you’d appreciate it.” There was no use expecting a response, expecting anything, for that matter, ever. “I hope you don’t think it was rude of me to turn down lunch that day,” he said after some time. “I was thinking about it, and it was rude. I really was tired…” “What do you mean?” “Remember when I confessed—gosh that sounds too dramatic,” he laughed an odd little laugh. “That, I’m lonely?” “Yes,” I whispered, the word barely passing through my lips. “I—have you heard of FOMO?” “I don’t think so, no.” “It’s an acronym. For ‘fear of missing out.’” A static, dewy silence pressed into my ear. “Alex,” he said, “you’re the only person I talked to all summer.” I had no words. It just hurt, sensing the hurt. My jaw opened 16

and shut, opened and shut, but nothing tumbled. No word vomit, this time. “You can always talk to me, you know,” I said, my voice tentative and small. “Like this, I mean.” “But this kind of talk is heavy.” He let out a light chuckle, then a sigh. “And I feel narcissistic. I’ve been talking at you, not with you.” “Dan,” I shook my head in bemused frustration, “do you think I’m narcissistic?” “No…” “Exactly. It’s okay. It’s good for you once in a while.” We traded stories. Middle school stories, mostly. His, mostly. “—since this is turning into a confessional.” The clothes he wore, the way I slicked back my hair, the ensuing comments thrown our way… “We deserved it, though,” he said. I only shook my head, unable to verbally counter all his misconceptions. All the while I longed to transport myself to him, to touch him, to see his face when he said, “—but I’m making it sound like a tragedy. Worse than it is, and it’s not.” He said it twice. In a strange way I knew all of this. I knew freshman year, the day I saw him sitting alone at a bench, with his glasses and bowtie and spiffy shoes—the ones that I love? When my table, a group of loud, vapid girls, asked him if he wanted to sit with us? See, he smiled. Smiled and said no. And I believed the feigned comfort behind that smile for years. I always sensed his detachment but was under the impression that it was contentedly self-imposed. As I sat there, though, listening to the stories… “I ate alone, in Commons, for the longest time.” The nonchalance… “I never really found a group.” The passivity… “Asians don’t fight back.” 17

I wanted to cry. “I got into art school. Sophomore year I almost went, but came here instead. I had friends there, I knew I’d fit in there… but I thought academics would be more important,” he said, his voice dripping with regret. He laughed a hollow laugh. “Prep school is the opposite of art school, when you think about it.” “Well I’m, selfishly, glad you didn’t go to art school,” I said as I drew slow, loopy patterns on the carpet. With a yawn, I pulled back the covers and nestled in bed. “I’m going to miss you. But why, why did you let these last weeks slip by? There’s so much we didn’t do… the deal… the book, the movies—I wanted to make you a key lime pie! Do you think I can send it? Would it make it?” “No, that’s not a good idea,” he said with a laugh. “Dan… I just don’t understand. I thought I gave you what you wanted, a goodbye. And then you text me and bring up the book? How was I supposed to ignore that?” “You need to be more cruel.” “I can’t! I—” I exhaled into the phone. “You know, I was with—” the words slid out before I could stop them, “never mind, I—” “What?” “Well, I was with Mel—” He laughed. “I knew somehow Mel had something to do with it.” “—when I got your text. ‘Don’t answer,’ she said. ‘Or lash out. Tell him it’s not right what he does to you.’ And I almost did! But I couldn’t, of course I couldn’t, it wouldn’t make me happy. I would regret it immediately.” “Tell Mel I’m not a bad guy.” “I did. And I know that too.” As I turned to the side, I felt him sigh a long sigh. “What did you mean, when you said we have different conceptions of love?” I finally asked, my voice cracking. I could feel my heart start to thrash. “I know myself pretty well,” he said slowly, “and I think—” He paused. 18


“I LOVE you, Alex,” he gushed all at once, “I do, I’m just

My breath caught in my throat. “IN love with you.” I switched off the lamp, hoping somehow the darkness would shield me. “I guess that’s why I was pulling away.” Biting down on my lip, I suppressed the deluge for as long as I could, but the tears soon trickled down in bitter defiance. “I mean, I can’t make you love me… it’s okay,” I said, my voice thick. “But I still want to be friends with you, if you want that too.” My words were met with silence. “Or not,” I sniffled. “That’s okay too. If that’s what you want.” “I just don’t want you to miss out on opportunities because of me…” “I wouldn’t! I—I just want to keep talking, that’s all I’ve ever wanted.” The silvery moonlight snuck in as my eyes slowly adjusted. “Can I ask you something?” “Of course,” he said. “Have you ever been in love?” He pondered a great deal, before deciding, “No.” Quiet droplets slid down, down in luminous streams. “Maybe…” I smeared them into my skin. “Desire? Yes…I think—” He paused. “It starts out with interest, then a relationship, and then it grows into love.” “But that sounds like a math problem…” “It’s not a formula, Alex. It just takes time.” I stared out blindly, vacantly. “I’m sorry if I’m being so confusing,” he said. “Or rather, that I’m being so confusing.” “It’s okay…” my voice trailed off. We tottered and stopped. The stillness between us got thicker, left space and more space until all that was left was a flicker 19

of breaths suspended like dust motes in air. I exhaled. “Do you think, will you be out of school by November? November 17th?” “Hmm, that’s going to be tough…what’s the 17th?” “My last show…I just thought, it was so nice that you went last year. No one ever comes to the shows and it meant a lot to me that you did. I might choreograph a piece again, maybe. I don’t know. Anyway I’m rambling again…” “I’ll see if I can make it,” he said. He sounded tired. I imagined him smiling then, for there is no one better at deluding herself than I.

Avery Ponce







The sewing machine was banged up, he thought, looking out at the array of knick-knacks laid out so lovingly on the old garden table. He should throw out that table. There was a lot that he needed to do. A little girl, no older than twelve, skipped up to the table. She glanced at some of the aprons, the spatula that had never made it out of the box. Her eyes finally settled on the sewing machine. “Um.” She bit her lip. “How much is this sewing machine?” He snapped out of his haze. He hadn’t put a price tag on it. “Well, little lady, how much money do you have?” He bent down and examined the scratches on the once smooth plastic, and ran his fingers over the GE logo. “I saved up all of my money and I have, like, seven dollars, but this is a classic! I’ve only seen them in books—they stopped making these in, like, the 1970s!” The girl exhaled and smiled. He

noted her enthusiasm. “You certainly know your stuff.” The old man picked up the machine and held it out to her. “Why don’t I just give it to you for free? It’s certainly been well-loved. Lord knows it would just gather dust in the basement if I don’t give it away.” “Wow, thanks so much mister!” She grinned and jumped up and down as he handed it to her. “You should think about sewing a dress,” he said as she walked away.

Omaymah Al-Harahsheh


Chloe Kim



I am leaving; I want to curl myself around the tree That refuses to choose between my building and the petrol pump. I am leaving; I want to feel the fat, dumb pigeons flutter on my face Leaving their obtrusive, indelible droppings on cars, ledges, window panes, trees, drivers, and me, eight years-old on the way to school, hair neatly tied into two braids with a dropping neatly splattered in the center of my crown. I am leaving; I want to feel the itch of the bamboo shoots plunging out of the dirt desperate for air. I am leaving; I want to be the cobblestones leading home, especially that damned broken one that tripped mom, taking me along with her, while running for the school bus. I am leaving; I do not want a life of adulthood, decisions and indecisions, I do not want the time for a hundred revisions. I am leaving; I want my father’s heavy hand on my face, my mother’s sweaty, perfumed hug, the roughness of home-cooked, slow-boiled love that unconditionally simmers on a stovetop, much like the generously ladled cups of chai with too much masala. I am leaving; I want to burrow into my chewed-up blanket. I am leaving; I am afraid. I am leaving; I want to stay. RADHIKA SHAH


Beginning of my street address in Bombday, India




E WERE IN BOSTON for the afternoon when Julia suggested we get cannolis from Mike’s Pastry Shop. I was the first to say yes because it was food and saying no to food would mean I’m that insecure girl who doesn’t want to sound like she loves food even though everyone loves food and whoever doesn’t love food doesn’t love themselves. Luckily, my alacrity was in good company. Julia with her oversized camera lens attached to her iPhone was the foodie queen. She had 10k followers on her food insta: FeedMeYouFatty and slept in a tent to get a picture with FoodbabyNY. Her line limit: None. Next on the food scale came me, who knows neighborhoods based on Yelp reviews and reads out of state menus as a hobby. Line limit: Around the Block. Margaret followed me for her willingness to spend $7 on ice cream and go to a restaurant based off a nicely focused picture. Line limit: Three People Out the Door. Dead last came Lindsay who was there to make us feel gross when she ordered a salad or said things like “ice cream is too heavy for me.” Line Limit: Pay Someone Else. 27

Julia led the way while I took to my spot as second man, frantically reading off the highlights from Yelp—White Champagne Cookies! Coconut Ash Cannoli! Pistachio Butter Green Tea Merengue! Margaret made groaning noises. Julia patted her stomach. Fuck whatever Lindsey was thinking. Once we reached the shop window, I watched as a woman in her mid-thirties took a messy pornographic bite of a cannoli. My drool formed a puddle on the sidewalk. “You ready?” Julia said, nudging me back to life. Entering the shop, we weren’t prepared for the short line and eager customer service. Quickly, we scrambled for what to order. The place was known for its cannolis, however Instagram blogs suggested there was cake and pie and cookies too. All of us, except fucking Lindsey in the corner acting like the lunch we just ate made her “full,” were torn. In the end, Julia got the most talked about Oreo Cream Pie, Margaret got a face-sized Yellow Coconut Cookie, and I settled for their signature Big Mike’s Cannolo. They placed my pastry in a to-go box like a nurse caring for a newborn, putting it in the crib, wrapping it in blankets. I paid for my baby with joy. We all agreed we would eat our goodies later when returning to the dorms—Julia had to rush over to an interview, I had yoga, Margaret’s parents were in town, and Lindsey “eats meals only for survival” so who cares where she went. The way to the Bikram Yoga studio was a simple one from the pastry shop; I had time. Waiting on a bench with the box rested on my lap and nothing to do but stare at it, my temptation to eat the cannoli heightened. I tried my best to resist, to avert my eyes, to make up stories for strangers instead. I poked my stomach flab and squishy sides to remind myself I could wait. I channeled my nutritionist and fucking Lindsey who made it sound so easy to be healthy and not give in to food peer pressure. But even when I got up and walked around looking big and gross in the glass reflections of stores, the cries of Big Mike’s Cannolo to let him out, to get him over with and just eat him already were still audible. That’s when I walked by a man sitting in a nook on the street. He had a sign up—homeless, hungry and someone please 28

help. It was perfect. Leaving no time to second-guess, I gave my baby away, handing him Big Mike’s Cannolo still tucked away in his box. I imagined this man, probably starving, taking the first bite, like the woman in the window. It would be wholesome, luxurious. I could have changed his life, opened up his eyes to the world of quality food. No more dumpsters no more scraps. He was eating Big Mike’s Canolo! He took the box in his twitching hand, looked at it like it was an alien. There was no thank you, no tears of emotion, no drooling. “It’s a cannoli,” I said. The decadence of the word against his grunge appearance, the fact that I gave him a pastry and not a sandwich or a couple fives sent me running. I could see Julia and Margaret confused and shaking their heads, I could hear fucking Lindsey snickering. I ran before I could build the nerve to exchange it for ten bucks.


Jennifer Bi


VANESSA HOLYOAK (with quotes from Walking by Henry David Thoreau)


E ARRIVED at the campsite just before twilight— the perfect moment to stop and also the last possible one before the shadows begin to leak into the light. The kind of last-minute, just-on-time-ness that fills you with relief, grateful for those last, fading rays which make it possible to locate a new, temporary home; a patch of softness among the miles of softness you’ve just traversed, the precise site that you’ve selected—based on nothing other than a sense of natural magnetism—for your body to inhabit when the lights go out. Your home, tonight, extends as far as your vision, across the sloping mountains and the low birch trees; yet this patch of earth, just large enough to pitch a tent, beside these waving trees, has pulled in your aching form—sharing itself with you and inviting you to sink in, eyes closed to the vastness, for the ephemeral hours between the walks of yesterday and tomorrow. I believe that there is a subtle magnetism in Nature, which, if we unconsciously yield to it, will direct us aright. * * * We decide to go for a walk in the early evening. In this part of the world, the forests are lush with moss and tiny blueberries hidden in the bushes. We throw on sweaters and shoes and thrust ourselves into the remainder of the day, which seems to stretch on and on into the next day, the night chiming in for an hour or two until the sun completes its shallow path back up to its ethereal nest. We pass many private properties, paths from the main road leading up to the hidden wooden frames of cozy homes. But, continuing long enough, the cabins recede, the distance between them multiplies, and the road gives way to nature’s dominance, grassy spots sprouting up all along it. The forest, likewise, grows more wild in the absence of its possessor—the floor is overtaken 31

with moss, which blankets everything and heightens the thickening silence, softening the thud of any falling debris. The trees have free reign, become more real; we walk slowly through this kingdom without a king. Nothing governs here, nothing claims its presence—much less its ownership—but the autonomous matter of the ferns, bark, the soft-spoken stones. We enjoy this landscape immensely precisely because it does not care to be observed, it is not there for any one pair of eyes, and so all eyes can revel in it. To enjoy a thing exclusively is commonly to exclude yourself from the true enjoyment of it. * * * This journey is by way of vehicle, because we only have a single day to see as much as we can. The Icelandic landscape is desert-like in the most alien of ways—the grayish green and the blackening browns of its rocky, mountainous surface evoke a planet with which we are vaguely familiar but which we are cannot exactly call Earth. The vegetation is sparse, the trees fragile and rare; it is a country of rock and gravel and volcano and ash, destruction abounds and the land has adapted itself to the temperamental whims of its molten underground. As we drive, the mountains fall and rise with astonishing randomness and harshness, their shapes do not seem to belong to our world, they are jagged and gnarled; a flat surface turns sharp at unexpected angles; the pale, rugged forms appear to have been crafted by different forces of nature than the ones we know. We get out of the car and explore on our own legs—the sky is wide over the seemingly infinite valley, void of human presence or alteration. It feels like walking through a crater whose vegetation—never again to be fertile—has slowly regrown over the course of the past million years. The ground is ancient and idiosyncratic. One of us walks with a blanket wrapped around herself to cast-off the winds, finds a lone protruding rock, and deems it fit for a chair. Balanced on her new throne, her gaze stretches toward the horizon, contemplating the wild. So I would say,— How near to good is what is wild! 32

I wish I was still afraid of the dark. that I didn’t know what rests in swirling cloaks of black, that I didn’t remember where the hard hip of the kitchen counter was, or the swinging dress in the doorway. I wish it was a ghost again. I wish I hadn’t named everything in the dark, hadn’t constricted potential into language, had taken all of the demons out of my bedroom before I even played with them— hadn’t had tea at their everchanging tables, hadn’t let the darkness swallow me like water, until I was formless, myself— something some child somewhere is still afraid of, waiting desperately to turn on the light. MYA ALEXICE






Old Mike Mullin was slipping. All his children could see it. He shuffled when he walked, and he no longer looked where he was going. Marie, his eldest daughter the teacher, afraid that he would fall and hurt himself, finally got him to carry a cane. It all began the year the War ended, his family thought, the year Mike began requesting the government to send his son’s body home. Sometimes he sat in his chair for hours, with an absent look, as if his mind were far away. You never knew whether he would answer you or not when you spoke to him. He forgot most of the scores of lines from Shakespeare that he used to recite at the drop of a hat, and now he got angry when anyone asked him for them. Claire, his youngest daughter, was in tears over the way he began to spill food on his ties. She scolded him about it until one day he went out and didn’t come back until long after dark. Her oldest brother Michael, the one with the three children and the sick wife, threatened to kill her if she ever mentioned it to him again. It’s hard when you’re a girl of twenty-four, with young men coming to call, to have someone like old Mike sitting in the best chair near the radio, ready to turn up the volume if he doesn’t like the visitor, or switch it off and launch into a series of one-sided anecdotes if he does. The worst thing of all about old Mike was the way he kept pestering the government. It was a terrible day in December 1944 when a telegram came from the War Department, telling Mike that his son had been killed in Belgium. Soon after the fighting stopped, the government announced that families of soldiers might ask to have

their bodies sent home. Mike made his request at once, and kept right on making it, but something had happened that the body of Jack just couldn’t be found. Two or three months might pass, and then Mike would get on a bus and go down into town to call at the Veterans Administration office and ask if anything new had been learned. He would shuffle through the hall, past the information desk to the counter at the back of the barn-like room. There he would wait his turn and finally address the shirt-sleeved official behind the counter with the utmost formality, as if they had never met before. “I’ve come to inquire about the body of Private First Class John Mullin, Ninth Battalion, Twenty-first Regiment, Company A, Serial Number 108743,” he’d say, “killed in action in the Battle of the Bulge in December 1944.” He never said “my son,” or shortened his question in any way, not wanting to leave anything to chance. “I’m sorry, Mr. Mullin,” the government official would usually reply, knowing Michael, Marie or Danny or one of Mike’s children. “We haven’t any news as yet.” That is, the later V.A. men would speak politely. There were some after the first few years who would become annoyed at Mike and his perpetual request. “Thank, you, God bless you,” Mike would say, no matter how they spoke to him. “I’ll stop in again. They might be turning him up.” This had gone on for five years, and two or three times a year Mike wrote a letter to the War Department in Washington, reminding them that he still wanted the body of his son returned. Each time the letter was answered with bureaucratic courtesy, assuring Mr. Mullin that every effort was being made to locate the body of PFC John Mullin and that his father would be notified immediately if anything new was learned. Several men in Private Mullin’s company had seen him fall, and medical corpsmen verified the death, but sometime between that bitter retreat and the final identification of bodies, his had gone astray. Mike accepted these assurances, as he accepted the unvarying reply of the V.A. office, with quiet resignation. It seemed almost as if he were making the request for a friend, and merely 36

had to report the result to someone else. His children were at first indulgent of what they thought was a whim. Then they were amused, and when it went on too long, distressed and scornful. They tried every way they could think of to get him to stop, but with no success. Marie, who wrote the first two or three letters for him, finally refused to write any more. That didn’t stop old Mike. He remembered how she used to address them, and then began writing letters himself, in his fine hand and original spelling. To tell the truth, even though they missed a few commas, Mike’s letters were better for heartfelt expression than anything Marie could turn out. Tom and Eugene, when they came out of the Army, assured their father it was better to let Jack stay wherever he was. It was his body only, they reminded him, and the men in the War didn’t mind the thought of being buried where they fell. After you fought in a place for a while, they told him, it becomes something like your home. Catherine left her ten children and came all the way across town to see if she could jolly Mike out of it when Marie told her the obsession was making him queer. Young Michael talked with him too, tried to reason with him, and then gave up. Carmel telephoned from New York to find out if it was really as bad as Paul in his letter had said. Most of all, it embarrassed Claire, who was afraid some of the young men in the V.A. office, whom she had to face every day at lunch and out on her dates, would think that her father had taken leave of his mind. It wasn’t as if Jack was Mike Mullin’s favorite child at all. Eighth in a family of ten, Jack really hadn’t made much of a mark. He was a good boy, quiet, kind. There was still a question, when he was drafted at twenty-five after a series of jobs, whether Jack would turn out to be a good, steady man like his older brothers Michael and Tom, or a ne’er-do-well like Danny. Certainly, he would never be a flashy talker like Eugene, or have the fine intelligence of a young Paul. Jack was just Jack, and to the other Mullins, though they loved him and cried at his death and approved, opposed, debated and finally agreed to the original request for his body’s return, he 37

was scarcely the real reason for his father’s irrational importunity. It must be at seventy-eight senility was making Mike queer. Should they let him go on making a show of himself ? Or should they band together and think of some way of making him stop? Apparently, he would continue making his request to the government until the day he died. One day, the doorbell rang and it was a telegram from the War Department, telling Mike that his son’s body had been found, and was already on its way home. Catherine’s young Ellen, who had been doing some cleaning, opened the telegram and knew that this was big news and might upset Mike. She decided to put it away and show it to her Uncle Tom first, but the old man had heard the doorbell and he came shuffling into the room with his cane. “Is it a telegram from the government, girl?” he said. “Have they discovered my Jack?” Then Ellen couldn’t stop herself from showing it to him. She expected he might break down or cry and she was getting ready to run next door and get young Mike’s wife, Marie being at school and the younger two at work, but her grandfather just read the telegram over and over again, as if he expected the spaces between the lines to tell him as much again as the words themselves. “Here, girl, give this to your Uncle Tom,” he said at last. “Let him be the one to convey the news to the others. We don’t want any faintin’ women on our hands.” One by one, as the children heard it, they hastened to Mike’s side, or wrote, or telephoned to find out how the old man was taking it. There were clucking discussions and shaking of heads and everyone advising Mike to be calm, but to tell the truth Mike was the calmest of the lot. Wasn’t he the one who knew all along that Jack’s body would be found? The telegram said that a letter would follow and it did, telling the date when Jack’s body would arrive and how it would be sent from New York by train. A package would come first, containing Jack’s identification tag and a few personal belongings. Mike was asked to arrange for someone to meet the train. 38

The package contained the discovered prayer book Marie had given him before he left, an Elks pin, and a broken rosary, in addition to Jack’s dog tag. By the time it arrived, however, Marie had already arranged for a requiem mass to be said on the day the body would be buried, and young Michael had spoken to O’Brien, the undertaker. Somehow, no one needed these mute witnesses that it was really the body of Jack that was coming home. The morning of its arrival was one to remember. Mike, for several days, had made it clear that he expected each and every one of Jack’s brothers and sisters to show up at the station to meet the train. “Has anyone notified that blatherskite in New Jersey?” he asked, referring to Gene, who had a good job with one of the big corporations after the war. Paul assured his father that he’d sent word to Eugene and Carmel. Catherine protested that she couldn’t leave her two youngest alone in the house with all the others at school. “School?” sneered Mike, as if the word were a curse. “Ah, why would they be in school on the day Jack came home? There’s no law against children at railroad stations, provided they behave themselves.” So Catherine was there with her ten and her husband took the day off from work as well. Danny, who hadn’t been around the house for a couple of days, not being able to stand the tensions because of his sensitive nature, was wakened by his father that morning, and propped up in bed. “Danny, do you hear me?” Mike said, giving him a shake. “Danny, you can’t drink a drop today. Danny, do you hear me? Don’t drink.” Marie called a substitute for school, even though she wasn’t at all sure whether the circumstances qualified her for three days off without pay on account of death in the immediate family. The uncertainty worried her audibly. Eugene flew in the day before from New York, wearing fashionable clothes and winning Claire’s excited admiration and Paul’s offended disgust. Carmel, driving in from New York with her husband, was 39

almost late for the arrival, causing Catherine to make remarks about women with no children who still can’t get anywhere on time. The family was all there when the train’s monotonous roar was heard far out of town. Marie, the oldest, gray haired and forbidding, stood with her father. And Michael and his pale wife and their three almost grown children. Catherine, her husband and their ten. Carmel and Maurice, looking citified in this gathering. Danny, lazy-eyed and shaking. Tom and his young wife, proudly pregnant with their two little ones. Eugene in his fine clothing. Claire, with her attentive young man, and Paul, scarcely older than Michael’s oldest, solemn, not smiling. They all clustered around their father, who stood there, erect, his hand grasping the cane, his head high, his eyes fixed on something far away. Father Flaherty had come down to meet the train, partly because of the article in the newspaper, and Neddo O’Brien was there to direct the men from the undertakers. There was a handful of strangers waiting to board the train or to receive their own relatives. They stared curiously at the Mullins, wondering what sort of dignitary might be arriving to bring out this crowd. The train’s purr came closer, and then the bright diesel appeared around the curved fence alongside the tracks. Everyone who knew what precious burden that train carried felt tremendous throbbing hearts, as the huge cars roared to a stop under the glass shed. The others there moved to greet their guests, and a few passengers alighted from the train. Still, the Mullins stood in a strange group, an impassioned tableau, watching where, far down the platform, a baggage car opened and something heavy and red and white and blue was passed out and into waiting hands: Jack. Jack drafted and feeling like a swell in his uniform. Jack, telling his father he didn’t intend to finish high school. Jack, sitting for months on Mae Ryan’s porch, and then going away without saying anything to her. Jack, coming home tired from work, sitting in the kitchen in his undershirt. Jack, crying and his mother kissing him. Jack, lying in the mud in Belgium. Did he get time to say an Act of Contrition? Jack, in his blue serge confirmation suit. Jack, 40

coming home punished from school. Jack, running from the police sirens, caught swimming naked in the reservoir. Jack, all sticky from a lollypop. Jack, smiling with his blue eyes. Jack, soft, with tender pink head and curled limbs. Jack, entered by fifteen machine gun bullets. Jack, in the blaze of his father’s heart the night of his conception, and his father’s father’s before him. Jack, in a flagdraped coffin, coming home. The group around old Mike stood watching, even the youngest child quiet in her father’s arms. Down the length of the platform, the undertaker’s men and the priest were doing things with the red, white and blue burden, far away. Carmel, the one from New York, was the first to break. She turned to her husband with a shuddering sob and pressed her forehead against his chest. “I can’t stand it,” she whispered softly. “I can’t stand it.” “There, darling,” her husband tried to comfort her. “Don’t take it so hard. It happened long ago.” “It’s not that I’m crying about,” she said, raising her head, surprised that he’d misunderstood. “It’s him,” she said, pointing to old Mike. Everyone was looking at Mike by this time. He stood in the midst of his brood, his head raised, his eyes proud. His flesh and blood. He cared nothing for the others at that moment, nor indeed for anything but the dust in the coffin down the platform where the men were lifting it. He watched it disappear toward the street and the waiting black car. Everyone looked at Mike and some of the women were crying. The men cleared their throats and they would not have been ashamed to cry either, but they were long out of the habit and the tears wouldn’t come. Michael went over to his father and said, “Pop, Jack’s home. We can go.” His children followed Mike Mullin out of the station, walking behind him. No one hurried or tried to help him and it was strange, no one had to scold the children or tell each other what to do. Paul, toward the end of the line saw Claire, her eyes 41

streaming, oblivious of the embarrassed boyfriend at her side. She doesn’t care, he thought. Now she knows what it is to be loved.

This piece by Elizabeth McMenamin, Class of 1938, was presented to the Echoes board after being discovered by one of her daughters in a pile of papers she was directed to discard. Elizabeth, a retired reporter and English teacher, wrote this never-before-published short story in 1953 for a Harvard Summer School seminar. Her family wanted it published before her 99th birthday, which is on December 7, 2016, so she could appreciate the achievement. Ms. McMenamin, thank you for your never-ending contributions to the Barnard community!

Jennifer Bi




Victoria Campa

Alina Siddiqui



Francesca Butterfield

Aurian Carter



Sara Hassan

Nora Foutty


Sponsored in part by the Arts Initiative at Columbia University

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