Volume 13 Issue 4 November 2013
The Style Issue
VOLUME 13 ISSUE 4 NOVEMBER 2013
Style is knowing who you are, what you want to say, and not giving a damn. GORE VIDAL (1925 - 2012)
Within the Shudder
Fabric of Time
Trying To Be Me
All Together Now
Her Style is Killer
The Awesome Ones
JANET KWON KATIE MCNAMARA ANTHONY BAKOS
Je ‘Anne Pris
FIORELLA MORZI ROXI NICOLUSSI
Front Cover DIEGO JERI
BRENDAN FARDY SARAH RANA TYLER MILLS
Back Cover DIEGO JERI
Forms of Attraction
The Double Patty Deluxe
Point of View
FIORELLA MORZI JANET KWON
Inside Back NESS LEE
EDITORIAL Editor-in-Chief Fiorella Morzi
THE STYLE ISSUE
Production Manager Jessica Groom email@example.com
Literary Editor Janet Kwon firstname.lastname@example.org
Art/Photography Manager Roxanne Nicolussi email@example.com
Promotions Manager Stephanie Lesdow firstname.lastname@example.org
Radio Manager Virginia Tremaine email@example.com
Interns Joshua Howe, Carina Rampelt
CONTRIBUTORS Andrew McNamara, Ness Lee, Anthony Bakos, Diego Jeri, Brendan Fardy, Emma Clare Lang, Katie McNamara, Chloe Stanois, Sarah Rana, Matthew Montopoli, Matthew Smith, Riley Sullivan, Tyler Mills, Ethan Elliott-Kilgour, Je ‘Anne Pris, Carrie Snyder, Shannon Figuereo, Onvit Kwon
ADMINISTRATION President, Publisher & Chair Allison Leonard Executive Director Bryn Ossington Advertising Manager Angela Taylor Vice Chair Luke Schulz Treasurer Thomas Paddock Director Kate Turner Director Shelby Blackley Corporate Secretary Alexandra Abbiento
I surrender to style—to the grease in my hair, the calculation in my bite, the heart of my poetry, and the weight of my sweater. I represent myself, so I become myself. What do we mean when we talk about style? Is it what we wear, write, cook? Do some people ‘have’ or ‘not-have’ it? Is it up for grabs? What if we threw away all the trendy lists and considered style like we consider power? If we think of style less like a thing and more like an action, maybe our poetry can live outside any preexisting standards of measurement. Maybe our poetry is untouchable because it is necessary for us to exist. Style is choice, no matter how insignificant that choice may seem to others. If style in particular is reflected in the clothes you choose to wear, it isn’t superficial. Clothing is personal, woven (pun intended) into our expressions. How does eating corn you helped grow make you feel? What came over you when you finally got the words down on paper? From where did you summon the bravery to leave, or say no, or say yes? Style is resistance. I surrender to style—to my instincts, to my learning.
Fiorella Morzi Editor-in-Chief
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NEXT ISSUE On the theme of “Transnational” Submissions due January 10 On stands January 22
COVER Art by DIEGO JERI The cover illustration is not just a study of human muscle structure, but a blueprint of a human being. It is a statement towards raw imagery that makes you wonder, what does this have to do with style? It is humans that define what style is, and style cannot only be defined by our sight, but with our entire being. We evoke a sense of style in everything we are, think and do; it makes us unique. My intention with this illustration is to express that style is deeper than flesh.
Within the Shudder JOSHUA HOWE
Who am I? Wouldn’t you like to know? So would I. I’ve never known. All I’ve known is tendrils that wind and confuse, permeating space with authenticity that threatens disbelievers to succumb to the unnatural. It’s sickening and gorgeous. I wish I knew how to love others. But how can I? I don’t know how to love myself. I don’t even know if it’s possible. Sensations are ever prevalent, surfacing and bubbling at every angle, every crevice. I hear them rumble. Yet, I feel none of them. I fill everywhere and nowhere with myself, regretting leaving anything untouched, unfiltered. Once dampened, I expect to realize something from it all, something that never comes. But I shall continue to frost wherever I may, to experience it all. Can sentience alone be enough? I would like to know. Wouldn’t you? w
Fabric of Time ANTHONY BAKOS
Worn out worn to pieces pieces of mind peace of mind mind and matter mind over matter does it matter do you mind mad early on madder as time times itself forward forward in time timely answer. Recover the time time doesnâ€™t matter this time overtime the summer x love lovely summers the sum of the days is greater than whole hole in my chest hologram holograph showed lack of bulletproof bullet proof vest against raging bull. w
JANET KWON When we finish, you roll off the bed and pull on a wrinkled shirt. It looks soft and I catch a whiff of clean laundry. I like that you put on pull your boxers second. Always second. You lean against the wall. I ask if I can light up and you always say no. You run your hand through your hair. I smile. You ask if I want some water. I always ask for a diet Coke. You tell me that I know better. “How about coffee?” I nod. I get up and pull on my own clothes. Slowly. Always achingly slowly for you. You sit back down on the bed. I bend down and whisper against your ear. “I’ll be back.”
Forms of Attraction FIORELLA MORZI
I’ll go into beekeeping if librarianship doesn’t work out,” said Marla. “Sweetness either way.” “Dude, you’re totally bonkers,” scoffed Sam. Staring at the cloudless sky, Marla lowered her head to meet Sam’s gaze, genuinely perplexed. “What are you talking about?” she asked rhetorically, “I put honey on everything I eat, plus I could watch bees for hours. They remind me of a sunrise, or magicians—maybe executive chefs.” Sam gave her best wide-eyed stare and flicked her Pall Mall cigarette. “You’re not very persuasive.” With a shriek, Marla contested, “Listen! All I know is that I want to do something meaningful, something like igniting sparks, greasing gears, that kind of thing.” “Right. It all makes sense.” “I want to offer, guide, subvert—am I dreaming too much?” “If I understood your dreams, I could tell you. Maybe you should see one of those flea-market women with the crystal balls.” “I don’t care. I’m holding onto my bees and books.” Sam shrugged as they headed back towards the school. It was beginning to spit. “I remember my first batch. I wrapped it in rich gold paper— maybe that was overdoing it, but I was so excited,” replied Marla. Simon and Garfunkel—her favorite—drifted merrily through the house, singing the kids to sleep, even though it was morning. The reporter’s coffee kept spilling every time he hurried to scribble in
his notepad, leaving milky halos on the wooden table. “I’m sure it must have been an especially rewarding moment. Did you know that you were onto something big?” “Not really. I had no idea folks were going to love my honey so much, and that I would eventually combine it with terrible prose.” The reporter laughed loudly. “You’ve managed to integrate art with agriculture,” he grinned, “Your work has not only bridged fields, it’s challenged boundaries.” “I guess it has,” Marla chuckled, “I feel free when I can dip a spoon into a fresh jar of the creamed stuff, or somehow imitate my favorite authors by tackling word projects of my own.” “Is this your latest project then? Writing through the perspective of bees?” “Yep. Honey-makers are a generous muse.” At the hospital, Wynne remembered her mother’s tranquility, yet the eagerness with which she kept writing. As usual, they brought candied honeycomb to curb her fatigue. She became electric those times, as if a thousand-bee choir were humming in her stomach. “I think it’s time. I can feel it,” said Miles. “She’s beautiful,” replied Wynne, “Yellow.” Outside, dandelions rustled, filling the air with sugar.
EMMA CLARE LANG
Trying To Be Me CHLOE STANOIS
You know I’m trying to do it right I went to high school, I got the grades, I was on student council. You know I’m trying my best I go to University, I’m working to get the grades, I ask for help when I need it. You know I’m struggling to be on top I volunteer for Charity Ball, WLUSP Events Committee, Radio Laurier and The Cord. You know I’m being the best I can be I’m a roommate, a friend, a girlfriend, a sister, a daughter, a granddaughter. You know I’m looking two steps ahead I’m writing a portfolio, applying to graduate school, applying to full-time jobs. All that I am, and all that I want to be And the only thing that’s holding me back…is me.
You know I’m trying to do it right It was hard to make friends, work hard in school and figure out who I am. You know I’m trying my best Countless sleepless nights, many early mornings, trying to manage my worries. You know I’m struggling to be on top Feeling inadequate, but persevering through it all. You know I’m being the best I can be Listening, talking, giving and sharing. You know I’m looking two steps ahead Making decisions about the opening door to my future. All that I am, and all that I want to be, And the only one who can get me there…is me.
All Together Now, One at a Time BRENDAN FARDY
We’re all piecing bits together in the puzzle of life, But I am an individual, and so are you too Gemstones of sparkling glory in what they call our collective cultural mosaic We each shine with our own unique qualities You don’t melt into my pot, Nor do I assimilate into your bowl There’s no proverbial spoon, mixing us up Creating a homogenous solution to the chalice, from the cup No solutes to dissolve, because no solvents are present We are independent entities capable of original thought and opinion So let’s act like it. It doesn’t mean we can’t come together into cohesive units Using our differences as adhesives, to glue us together It just means we bring ourselves to the table, and sit at our own respective chairs Because together we are nothing but a redundant blob If we all think alike and buy into the same values Our differences set us apart, and bring us together in the process Since combined we can conquer all which may be thrown our way We’ll collectively catch All the bullshit that’s heaved at us, and hurl it right back In an aggregate effort, a conglomerate attack So unite through the dissonance, that imposes disparity But think clearly with reason and encroach upon clarity For the lens is the sharpest, when we each have our own Viewing the world through our own eyes, on each person’s respective throne And the crown that sits at the top of my head Is the style I bring, though it pales to the Ged And the other two members, of rock’s holy triumphant trinity Who need not be named as their legends precede them On bass guitar or on keys, and even the mic Geddy stands with his brothers, night after night As he’s done for nearly four decades through no small plight And if RUSH can play, right up to this day, Then there’s no need for us, to slow down or delay You can like RUSH too, In fact I’d even encourage it As long as we both reached our own conclusions By traveling our own paths And dividing our own maths While devising our own wraths So don’t copy my style, And I’ll not duplicate yours. Relative and respective, Is the light from our cores.
Her Style is Killer SARAH RANA
Her crimson lips red she is an invitation, to your sure demise.
JE ANNE PRIS
Gummy Bear TYLER MILLS
Gummy Bear’s weight defies gravity as if too much sugar actually gives you a whole body lift/tuck. Gummy Bear’s height remained short maybe a little more maybe a little less than the average frame could take but bear looked like nobody but bear and Gummy Bear is colored. So when people compliment bear’s confidence or the style that comes with loving yourself, Gummy bear gets insulted and rightfully so, height and color and girth are measurements for the few. Gummy Bear knows that eye candy is only as good as the gooey centre or the open arms and legs or being themselves. We love them even when they are full of vodka.
JE ANNE PRIS
Accessories KATIE MCNAMARA
What will you wear today? Your butterfly hairpin can be used to remind someone of the delicateness of nature, or it can be used to stab a friend in the back. Your diamond earrings can glimmer the sunâ€™s hope, or they can pierce unkindness in a strangerâ€™s ear. Your frilly pink scarf can provide warmth to your neck, or be used as a tool for the strangulation of ideas. Your glowing rings can display the status of your heart, or act as brass knuckles in an assault against someone. Your silver bracelet can hang elegantly on your wrist, or cut off the circulation of thoughts, beliefs, and love. Your leather belt can keep your composure in place, or harm others and strap them to a pigeonhole. Your running shoes can protect your feet as you perform good deeds, or they can kick the poor and downtrodden. What will you wear today?
Meet Carrie Snyder
INTERVIEW BY FIORELLA MORZI
Blueprint had the pleasure of sitting down with a Waterloobased author Carrie Snyder to discuss style through the eyes of a wordsmith. BP: Since our theme is Style this month, I thought I would start by asking you what your immediate feelings towards it are, if any? What comes to mind right away? CS: I think of myself as not having a strong sense of personal style. That said, when I look around my house and in the mirror, it’s clear that I do have a particular style, and that it skews toward simple, functional, and classic. My style does not rock the boat. I choose clothes that flatter without causing me great discomfort, and I keep only a few key pieces in my wardrobe at any given time. My favourite jewelry is a necklace made of three unpolished stones – literally gravel, elevated to decoration. With four children in the house, I generally choose function and efficiency over beauty. A clean surface is beautiful to me (and rare)! What does “style” mean to you in the world of all things written? Every writer has a voice. That voice may change over time, and some writers experiment with form and genre, but ultimately every memorable and lasting written work is grounded in its authenticity. That’s what style is, to my mind. It’s an expression of self that exists outside the self. There is something artificial about style, because it has to be made or invented, and yet when style comes from genuine creative impulse, it transcends its artificiality. I suppose that’s art. How would you define your personal style of writing? Does it change from project to project? Or is there something you never fail to bring with you to the page? I’ve definitely experimented with voice and style during my writing career. In my first book, Hair Hat, I deliberately stripped away as much metaphor and description as I could. I wanted the story to stand out, not my interpretation of what the story was supposed to mean. I wanted the reader to decide. In my second book, The Juliet Stories, which was published eight years after Hair Hat, my style had developed to embrace a richer descriptive palette, although again, I tried not to bias the reader with my own presumptions. My goal was to make every sentence in the book interesting, to give the reader something to unpack and enjoy, a series of small surprises or unexpected juxtapositions. I embraced the technical challenge of building and sustaining suspense. In my third book, which will be published next fall, I let the story take
over, and trusted the voice that emerged. The writing felt free. I’m unable to read my own work in a way that would allow me to recognize a distinctive voice throughout my projects, including my blog and non-fiction writing, but I suspect it’s there. I love my characters, flaws and all. I have great trust in the reader. I think that comes through. How did you develop this particular style, and in retrospect, is there anything you would change? I developed my voice by writing. It’s really as simple as that. I’ve written daily since I was a teenager. I’ve also written for a variety of purposes and I think that helps to develop both confidence and craft: academic writing, journaling, newspaper articles, book reviews, stories, poems, novels, essays, blogs. These all require different skills, and take practice, and all feed into the ability to craft and shape a story in a way that is both unique to one’s voice, while staying within the confines of the given structure. I also read and continue to read all the time. I read anything and everything, but I do recommend reading what you want to write. I can’t think of anything I would change in my own development, in all honesty. I’ve been extremely fortunate to have the time to develop my voice over many years of practice. It takes a lot of work, that literal grind of sitting in front of computer screen and writing and revising, writing and revising, writing and revising. One thing: I’m relieved that my first novel never got published, even though it was crushing at the time (I was 26). I think the right books have gotten published along the pathway of my career so far. I never took rejection as failure, but as a reason to continue improving and learning. Your academic background is in English Literature. Are you familiar with different types of writing styles? I read widely. I read contemporary literary fiction by men and by women, often CanLit. I belong to a poetry book club devoted to reading and discussing collections of poems. I read mysteries, memoirs, essay collections. I subscribe to Macleans, The Walrus, and The New Quarterly (a local literary magazine that I highly recommend), and The Globe and Mail. I read blogs. I read children’s literature, often aloud to my own children. I’m drawn, generally speaking, to writing that seeks to be clear, understated, and emotionally profound. I like learning new things. I appreciate the hard work behind clarity of expression.
You got the idea for your debut collection of stories, Hair Hat, from catching glimpse of a man through a steamy coffee shop window in dimly lit November. Unsure of what you had seen, it looked as though his hair might be shaped into a hat. How did the stories grow from such a seemingly incidental moment? Did style play a part in their development, their form? Hair Hat is quite a deliberately styled collection, much like the hairstyle adopted by the character who is known throughout the book as “the hair hat man.” As you say, he wears his hair styled into the shape of a hat, something which the other characters in the book remark on or notice or don’t notice, as the case may be. Each story is told through the eyes of a different character, and in each, the hair hat man makes an appearance. Depending on who is looking at him, he seems frightening, or laughable, or strange, and through their eyes, his story gets told as the book unfolds. The style was informed by the subject, and that’s been the case with all of my work -- formal style matches subject. I couldn’t get at the hair hat man’s story directly, so I needed to tell it in a fragmented and almost accidental-seeming way, from a variety of perspectives. As a writer, is style something meant to be cultivated, inherited, or felt? Probably all of the above. There are no new stories to tell, but there are new ways to tell the fundamental stories that we all long to connect to. Reading widely, understanding the traditions we’re building on, learning the technical skills and practicing the craft, all brings us the confidence to experiment and develop our own unique voice, or style. I’m a bit older now, and I probably experiment less, and instead give a lot of thought to what I want to put into the world. What am I adding to the conversation? What am I offering? Is it what I want to be offering?
I will drop projects or change direction drastically if I feel that it won’t ultimately share something that is worth giving. Are there any writers whose style you admire? If so, how come? Alice Munro. I’ve been a fan and a reader since I was 12 years old (and I wrote about her for the National Post last fall, if you’d like to look up that article). Mavis Gallant, another Canadian short story writer whose complex and understated style I’ve studied and admired since undergrad. Ann Patchett’s Bel Canto has been a big influence on my writing: she writes literary fiction that is utterly compelling and does not ignore plot. I loved Mordecai Richler’s Barney’s Version for the same reason. Grace Paley, Eden Robinson, Jhumpa Lahiri, Aleksandar Hemon, Hilary Mantel, Colum McCann: all so different in their various styles and stories, yet all with the strength, confidence, intelligence, and emotional depth that I admire. Carrie Snyder is the author of two collections of short fiction, including The Juliet Stories, which was a finalist for Canada’s 2012 Governor General’s Award for Fiction. Her debut novel, Girl Runner, will be published in Canada by House of Anansi next fall, and in 2015 by HarperCollins in the US and Two Roads in the UK, as well as in translation in Germany, Italy, Holland, France, Spain, and Sweden. Carrie lives in Waterloo, Ontario with her family. She blogs as Obscure CanLit Mama.
There are no new stories to tell, but there are new ways to tell the fundamental stories that we all long to connect to.
In what ways does your everyday life or experience contribute to your style? As I’m considering your questions, I’m beginning to recognize that my own style, from home to personal to writing voice, is really one and the same. I appreciate functional beauty. I appreciate the effort that goes into making something that looks effortless. I appreciate understatement. I like when the ordinary is elevated to art. I want to be moved. I want to be comforted. But I’m not afraid of disruption, either. The surfaces aren’t always clean around here. I don’t mind a bit of rawness to my style. I’m actually deeply moved by imperfection.
Part Two: The Double Patty Deluxe JANET KWON
The stench is awful, like crusted bleach and... something else, something I don’t even want to start thinking about. It was the ugly side of humanity, alright, because animal shit didn’t come anywhere near it. Ever think about that? The ugliest animal is nothing compared to an ugly person. Think about all the murderers, the rapists, all the psychos out there... There’s just something unnatural about them. I start poking at the stall doors. There are six of them, three rusty ones on each filthy wall. I make a note of a line of small windows, near the ceiling, on the left hand side. Exit Plan A. Five doors swing open without a problem, but the last one clinks against its metal hold. I freeze. I can’t breathe. I just want some fresh fucking air, for Christ’s sake. “Hello? Is anyone in there?” Silence. “Uh... Look, I’m the uh... Manager! And uh, I need to see to that window behind you pal, so if you could, uh, vacate the premises, as it were, I’d really appreciate it.” Silence. “Well, just great.” For the first time, I notice that my voice is echoing off the tiled walls. How loud was I? I lean down and crawl under the stall door. Feet encased in dirty blue sneakers meet me first. My hands come up dusty; there is dried mud on the floor. Wait a minute, why isn’t he saying anything? I look up and the awful stench has me ducking my head. “Holy hell! Phew!” I gag. And then it hits me: things are different this time. It was then that Dee realized: this guy had already died. As she would have put it, he had died taking a shit. His bloated gut was filled with a double patty deluxe from at least a day ago. Jeez, a little class might have gone a long way with this guy. I mean, that KFC “Winner!” T-shirt says it all. Eat me and have a 1 in 100 chance of winning a free heart attack. Plus ten other lucky winners will find themselves with a free stroke AND high cholesterol! I catch myself grinning. I’m becoming way too cynical here. What’s happening to me?! What’s happening to Dee?
Meet Je ‘Anne Pris
INTERVIEW BY ROXI NICOLUSSI
Blueprint caught up with leading Toronto-based fashion designer Je ‘Anne Pris to chat about fashion and art-making. Since our theme is Style this month, I thought I would start by asking you what your immediate feelings towards it are, if any? What comes to mind right away? Our generation lives in a modern society flooded by media’s constant reminders of what we should look like and how we should act- in that sense, I think style is crucial. Its a way to express your self identity and embrace the freedom to be who you want to be, not who you’re told to be. What does “style” mean to you in the world of all things fashion? While some may see “style” as a broader aspect, I see it as more of an individual thing. My mind set is on street style; instead of looking at international runway looks I find myself looking at fashion on the streets. To me, style is what makes my head turn to look back at someone head to toe. How would you define your personal style? Does it change from day to day? Or is there something you never fail to use, wear, channel? It’s hard to describe my style because it changes everyday. I tend to stick away from brand names and mainly wear warm, earthy colours or just keep it simple with black, white and denim. One thing I never take off is my bracelets- I’m not big on jewelry but bracelets are a different story. They each have meaning behind them and when I don’t wear them I almost feel naked. Your background is in illustration. Are you familiar with different types of fashion styles? I’ve been drawing for as long as I remember and growing up I was exposed to art by a family friend who designed bridal wear. In that sense I learned a lot about different fashion styles because I taught my hands and eyes how to create these various styles through illustration. In what ways does your everyday life or experience contribute to your style? I’m currently in my third year at Ryerson for fashion design which is definitely a huge contribution to my style. I come into class everyday and am surrounded with other students who breathe and live for fashion. When you see everyone else embracing their own sense of style on a daily basis it inspires you to do the same. It also motivates you to never, ever wear sweatpants to class. Ever.
I developed this style through doodling in class! It started off in the corner of a lecture note, moved onto a regular sheet of paper and now I’m working on 20” x 30” pieces such as this one. Its my favorite style of illustration because I can just let my hand go crazy and personally I find its the best way to express myself. Which I guess is sort of what this piece is about; freedom. A woman breaking loose from society’s manipulating hands that deny her of who she wants to be. How would you describe your personal style and your style of art? If I had to choose one word it would be free. I don’t like putting a label on my style because it changes all the time, just like my art. My personal style is influenced by either the late 60’s Woodstock phase or the 1940’s film craze on Film Noir- depends how I’m feeling that day. Growing up I watched a lot of Sailor Moon, so my style of art is strongly influenced by anime which is why all my female figures always look like cartoons. As a fashion designer, is style something meant to be cultivated, inherited, or felt? Style is meant to be all three- it can be influenced by the culture that surrounds you, inherited from a particular style within a culture you were raised in or it can just depend on how you wake up feeling one morning. Regardless of what it’s influenced by, everyone’s style should be an embodiment of themselves, hopefully as a fashion designer I can help others find the right clothes/accessories to do so. In fashion, what role does style play in the growth, and assertion, of a designer’s voice? Well, if you’re a designer who wants to stand out from the rest then you need to get the industry’s attention. If a designer has a unique yet recognizable style that others crave, then it can really help their brand grow because people will always want to see more. Is there anyone in the fashion industry whose particular style you admire? If so, why? Two particular people I admire are Bobby Raffin and Elle-May Leckenby. These two individuals are huge on Lookbook with over 10,000 followers on Instagram. I absolutely adore their style because they are always going for new looks and know how to embrace street style perfectly with products from underground brands. One of my goals in life is to get one of the two to wear something I’ve made to one of their shoots.
Your most recent work is a woman’s body with multiple hands covering her hips and legs, similar to a skirt. Since your background is in illustration, do you find that there is one particular style of drawing you lean most towards? If so, how did you develop this style? Also what is this piece about? Recently I’ve been leaning towards the really graphic black and white look with loose strokes and extreme detailing. To be honest JE ANNE PRIS
Tendonitis is Caused by Overuse ANTHONY BAKOS
My pants ripped. Right between the left buttock and the crotch area. It was a lovely pair of 1969 GAP jeans I got on sale for 20 bucks. It’s my landlord’s fault. When I moved in early September, she posted a note on the fridge - ‘The machine broke, I’m trying to get it fixed’. Then she waited two months for her father to come do it. Her father lives in Kenya. So I had to do laundry at my brother’s. It’s my brother’s fault. Our mother never used a dryer, at home we air dry or hang on the line. But my brother machine-dried my things and now they’re not like they used to be. Too tight, less stretchy, shrunk, whatever you wanna call it, just not like they were three months ago. When I was hiking and dicking around nature, rock climbing and running through rivers. Man, I wore the shit out of those pants.
JE ANNE PRIS
Spirit, Seized RILEY SULLIVAN
I don’t think I really understood the severity of the situation when I was admitted to the hospital. I knew my suffering, as intimately as a wretched second skin, but still in some ways I was disconnected, disjointed. I retreated into my bedroom increasingly often, eventually living there full-time, unable to move myself to class or work without immense struggle. I don’t remember much of my self-confinement, what I did or didn’t do in my bedroom alone, how I might have passed the time, but there is one night I remember sharply. It was bedtime, but I couldn’t remain in bed. As soon as my back hit the mattress, I would jerk up, perturbed—not laying down right, in the correct way. I spent a long time lowering myself, jerking up, lowering myself, jerking up. It was exhausting, but I couldn’t stop until I had done it properly. Is there a proper way of lying down? It’s 1am—why can’t I just let myself rest? Why do I stop myself, though I am exhausted and weak with torment? I began to shrivel, like a raisin left in the sun. Physically, I was beginning to slip away, skin stretched over near-exposed bone. In my mind, I was consumed with catastrophic thoughts. How do I cope with these bizarre images, these nasty ideas that no one should ever be thinking, ever? I’m eating cereal, for crying out loud. I spit out my Cheerios, milk spilling over my chin. Madness. Am I a bad person? I must be. I must be. I must be. It’s amazing how a thought can leave you hungry, uncomfortably widening the black space, empty with longing, between you and nourishment. How do I begin to nourish my stomach, hollow, accustomed to bare walls secreting the foul stench of lack? How do I begin to nourish my mouth, long silenced by confusion, unable to recall words it had known in a past life? How do I begin to nourish my heart, stiffened with fear, doubtful of even its best intentions? How? Like I said, I suspect it hadn’t occurred to me that first day in the ward how sick I really was. Had I looked in the mirror long enough? Had I cried enough? The first thing I noticed was a piano in the recreation room. I wanted to play it, and eventually I taught myself a Pixies song. My roommate was 74 years-old, suffering from depression for the sixth time in her life, set to receive electroshock therapy in hopes this would be the end of a lengthy battle with episodes of pain. I came to love this woman. She was the first person I opened up to about my experiences, and she had also saved me from the corridor where I was sitting with my head down, feeling out an overdose of antidepressants that left me in a drunken stupor. My best friends were 50-year-old men suffering, too, from depression, with daughters my age who visited them. I ate at scheduled times, and before bed, we gathered around a table of nighttime snacks—peanut butter and jam with toast, orange juice, and crackers. I made sure to stock up for the evening. I was getting better. The medication was working. As time passed, I also noticed the atmosphere of the unit changing with every admittance and release, echoing the personalities and conditions of the patients: one week was calm, another week chaos. By the time I was deemed healthy enough to make the decision for myself about whether or not to stay, it was a mixture of both. Was I ready to leave? My friends and I exchanged emails, and we never kept in contact. I recently saw a man who attended the same group-therapy session as me at school. We smiled at each other briefly as if partly in disbelief, mostly in recognition. At that moment, I knew we shared something important. We were both here.
Point of View MATTHEW MONTOPOLI
“The lone cellist pulls a long, shimmering chord out of the wood and strings as you pass, and he is looking down at his scuffed shoes, beard covered mouth strung tight. One hand works up and down, quivering and rolling over itself as the other holds the bow that bobs atop the lines like a lone sailboat, slowly sliding across that lake or ocean. You turn a corner and his sad tears fall away to your shoes which sound across the wall at your side and, on the road, a car all but silences the man behind you as its pistons pump and spew, tires spinning. Another one goes by, a deep rumble full of clicking and explosions.” “There is a café at the corner and you pass a couple sitting outside, speaking to each other in another tongue, legs crossed, and the words chime crisp to you, like the crackling of a fire, before they both laugh and the sound goes ringing across the tables and into the woodpaneled coffeehouse where the hiss of mist and low chatter circulates in and over themselves. A man is playing a piano in the corner, the slow taps bubbling in that room, head down and hands caressing the keys and flying away to another octave.” He stops. “Can you hear all this?” “Where is this going?” you ask. “Answer the question.” “Yes.” You twiddle your thumbs over your chest and he continues. “From the cafe walks a bearded man, grizzled and grumbling, carrying a bag over his shoulder. You follow him—” “Why would I do that?” “You tell me.” You do, and he goes on. “You follow him to a corner where he sits, pulling a dirtied white mug from his overcoat, setting it down in front of him, and taking a dull flute from his bag sets his lips to it and begins to play. You—” “Another beggar?” You feel him looking at you. “Do you have a problem with this?” “Well no, but there was already one of those.” “And so there is one again. Stop interrupting please. You drop a few coins into his cup and listen to their ringing on the porcelain, and the flutist stops to grin at you before pushing a reedy tone from the metal, fingers pausing and rapping on the pockets, head swinging from side to side with each movement. Up and down goes his flabby throat, and his one foot taps on the thigh of a crossed leg as his tune plays out, floating on the coat-tails of men walking by, until the metal makes a raw whistle and he has to stop and clench his jaw. But before he plays again, he looks up at you and you walk away. How do you feel about this man?” “I don’t know. I suppose I pity him.” But you’re not sure. “Ok. Now, there is a long park ahead of you, wide and low trees beckoning for you to sit under them, and the cries of children flow out from these trees like a bird-song or a siren. The trees have a tough grain feeling; it reminds you of ridges in a spinal cord, and knocking your knuckle against the bark makes a rough sound relaying the layers and layers of stuff that resides inside that tube of life. Further into the park is a lake… Do you see it?” “Yes.” “Couples are paddling in it, ripping the thin cloth of sky into curls and bends. A group of neat musicians are playing next to the lake, a quartet maybe, and the rustle of a low cello is strung out for a long moment before a high whistle pours out of a violin. The fore of their faces are woven close to their instruments, like a face on a tree, slowly moving from side to side, and then faster and faster, a mournful tune
sprouting from these pieces of nature, as if they were always meant to do so, and the four lines all glow together, waving around each other, four spindles of cotton winding and coiling into a wire of vibration and, perhaps, life. Eventually these musicians pack up and start walking the way you came and you follow them. They are quiet, content with the racket surrounding them. They come upon the flutist and drop coins for him and make comments before crossing a street and into an alley. Still you follow them. They exit onto the street where the old man plays and they stop to talk with him before clicking open their carriers and they all start playing together. You watch from afar, and suddenly the old man—who the quartet allows to solo over their own enchanted melodies, a rolling of coals underneath the heat—cracks his face and a smile appears, his brow quivering as the music winds out and through them. This continues until it grows dark, and the quartet hugs the old man and departs, handing him bills which he declines and hands back. Eventually you decide to walk forward and shake the old man’s hand but he is walking away, wooden piece cradled beneath his arm, and he gives you a low glance from behind his shoulder and you want to say something but he turns and disappears.” He stops for a long time. You turn on the couch to see him. “Is that it?” He glances at you. “What city were you walking in?” “I don’t know, a European one, Vienna maybe.” “Hmm, not very many see that…and what time period?” “I hadn’t really thought about it.” “Think about it.” “I saw the early nineteen-hundreds.” Silence. “What is it supposed to mean?” “That’s for you to decide,” he says. A clock goes off. He scribbles something down. “That’s it then.” He pats you on your shoulder. “The meaning to my little spiel can only come from you. And was our usual rate $110, or is it $120? I forget.”
The Awesome Ones SARAH RANA Not very long ago was witticism considered an unruly and inappropriate approach to life. In other words, you werenâ€™t getting paid to be a smartass. But it was soon realized that if clever individuals ceased to exist, then making individuals unwillingly smile would comprise of no originality, and the many trains of thought that went â€˜choo-chooingâ€™ in the minds of humankind would all be traveling to the same hot and boring destination (with no pit stops, mind you). No charming remarks would be conjured, and few people would have the ability to spew out intelligent (and also very impolite) words in a highly respected and timely manner. These individuals pride themselves with their ability to cause harmless trouble and, without a single thought crossing their mind, would take a bullet or scarf down a concoction of duck tongues and Sasquatch snot, if the occasion called for it, to protect all that they love. These are the awesome ones. It is their bravura, their energy, and nerve that define who they are. They have gained, and they have lost, but have found within themselves luminosity, a way to hold on to themselves through the most troublesome of times. For as long as they can remember, they have known who they are, and have never changed for anyone or anything. But alas, they are withering away, simply because they were so minimal to begin with. A simple glance in their direction tells you more than words ever could. With the utter silence that follows the victory of a war, they echo like the aftermath of a million bullets being fired. They share with the world what it means to radiate self-worth and contentment. This is their identity, and they have never questioned it. This is who they are, edging daringly into self-being, and forever adhering to their beliefs. Are you an awesome one?