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EASTERN EXPOSURE 2013


Eastern Exposure Eastern Exposure, Eastern Connecticut State University’s student literary magazine, is published annually by the Eastern Writers Guild of Eastern Connecticut State University, English Department, 225 Webb Hall, 83 Windham Street, Willimantic, CT 06226. E-mail: easternwriters@my.easternct.edu Phone: 860-456-4570 Fax: 860-456-4580 Faculty Advisors Dr. Daniel Donaghy, Associate Professor of English Dr. Christopher Torockio, Professor of English Eastern Writers Guild Executive Board President: Matthew D. Prifty Vice President: Jennifer Mouland Secretary: Angela DiLella Treasurer: Chelsea Griffin 2013 Editorial Board Bryan Mitchell, Mikayla Zagata, Cody Dolan, Nicholas Cecere, Alexis Viola, Sean Richmond, Kelsey Haddad, Sabrina Scott, Joshua Shedd, and Matt Guire Eastern Exposure showcases the literary work of Eastern Connecticut State University’s student writers. In doing so, it promotes the university’s mission to be “the state’s public liberal arts university” and “to be a model community of learners of different ages from diverse cultural, racial and social backgrounds.” SUBMISSIONS: Eastern Exposure accepts submissions of student poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction from the beginning of the fall term until 4 p.m. on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. All Eastern students are invited to submit their work (up to five poems, one short story, and one piece of creative nonfiction) as a single Word attachment to englishclub@my.easternct.edu. Each student should also include a brief (15-word) biographical note with his/her submission. Eastern Exposureis distributed free to members of the Eastern Connecticut State University community. Current issues are available in the campus bookstore, the Student Center, Smith Library, and the English Department Office. Back issues may be available through the English Club Faculty Advisor and the English Department. All print rights for individual works revert to contributors upon publication. However, the editors of Eastern Exposure reserve the right to feature work printed in journal on its website. Special thanks to Miranda Lau (English Department), Kevin Paquin (University Relations) and Chris Ambrosio (Student Affairs), Karyl Bulmer (Fiscal Affairs) and everyone associated with BAM for their guidance and support. © 2013 Eastern Connecticut State University. All rights reserved.


“Fiction reveals truths that reality obscures.”

- Jessamyn West


CONTENTS Samantha Mikolajczak

I Am

6

Nicole Wright

Eyes

7

Angela DiLella

Creation

8

Emily Story

How God Chooses

9

Amanda Goode

For-Never Friends

10

Madeline Cobar

Heart Out of Order

11

Lauren Madison

The Last Call

12

Sean Richmond

Prayer for the Burdened

15

Chelsea Griffin

And Begin Again

16

Mikayla Zagata

Come Back From Across the Ocean

18

Bryon Hardt

Untitled

28

Lauren Panno

A Higherpower

29

Jennifer Mouland

The Last Time

30

Christian Scandariato

The One

31

Jordan Thompson

A Life’s Marathon

36

Cailin Breen

Yellow and Grey The Basement

37

Elizabeth Pelletier

A Cup of Tea

38

Samantha Figueroa

Memory

39

Rebecca Vogt

No One Else

41

Nicole Loranger

Never Fear the Night’s Cold Kiss

45

Emily Story

Wasteland

46

Sean Richmond

You Bring Out...

48

Stephen Lukaszewski

C’est Compliqué

49

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CONTENTS Caitlin Breen

Persephone, Cornered

50

Emily Story

Jealousy

51

Eric Cerino

Love at 85 Years

52

Chelsea Griffin

Two to Tango

53

On Beauty Contests Katherine Claps

Where To?

54

Emily Story

Inhumane

57

Madeline Cobar

Fall Away From Here

58

Samantha Figueroa

In the Absinthen Glow

59

Rachel McLeod

Yang to Yin

60

Sean Richmond

There Goes the Nieghborhood

67

Angela DiLella

Your Dead Eye Covered

68

Rebecca Vogt

Etching in Time

69

Samantha Boyle

Daddy

70

Michelle Patenaude

A Family Affair

71

Madeline Cobar

Strive

78

Amanda Goode

The Game of Life

79

Meena Roy

Smoking in Lörrach

81

Nicole Loranger

Will You Remember Me

82

Angela DiLella

Solidity

83

Miles Wilkerson

Dry Ice

86

Madeline Cobar

Dance on Edge

87

Jordan Thompson

Wake

90

Contributors’ Notes

92 Eastern Exposure

5


Samantha Mikolajczak

I Am I am the rustic colored leaves falling off the dying, withered trees. I am the worn-out playground behind the abandoned church. I am the bitter coffee beans, strong but tasteless. I come from the garden-trash; Plucked and thrown out dandelions. I come from the thyme, the relentless weeds. I come from a pretty house, sitting on fresh-mowed grass – But I am the rustic colored leaves, Falling off the dying withered trees. I am the shattered mirror In my now-empty childhood bedroom. I am the past that comes haunting, The history that they used to love. I am the writing, bitter and sad Ranting in my journal. I come from sun-dried Grass and droopy autumn trees. I am the rustic colored Leaves falling from the dying withered trees. I am the pile of leaves Left to shiver In the rain. I am the rustic colored leaves, Dying on the withered trees.

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Nicole Wright

Eyes Days past whittled away at our waists and expanded theirs. Flesh full of filthy flood baked five days over. Zora lied. Theirs eyes were not watching God. The swollen shut slits void of expression or searching were lost in the folds of inflamed faces. Unidentifiable to splashers by too preoccupied with churning empty acidity to acknowledge her sacrifices. Earth rejected the plethora of flesh and fluid, mocking those in need of such sustenance. Shouted Psalms withered to a whisper not to compete with the hum of imagined engines. Zora lied. Their eyes were not watching God. Their eyes linger longingly for too long on fresh frolicking flesh. Crowded crevices muffle vanishing virtue when maternal eyes, red with surveillance, succumb to slumber. Victims shut tight in prayer. Don’t dare peer at the heavens with questioning eyes; portals to the festering accusation plaguing their souls. The foodless, faithless, black faces heaped dung under the boot of his jet. The privileged gape at open wounds, spouting muddy puss from splintered lesions we use to call home. Our Big Easy was easily forgotten in the midst of a guitar strumming good time elsewhere. Our pain only punctuating the lives of unflooded fools.

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Angela DiLella Creation Bronze, copper, iron, steel Springs, cogs, levers, gears— Wondrous shining toys for building and creating. This is my skill, creation, taking the cold artifacts derived from the earth’s belly and carving them and bending them into something beautiful. Stretching steel springs and flattening soft golden plates, I continue my work. Cutting gears from paper-thin copper— I fix pocketwatches and music boxes in my spare time, but my true gift is creation and on the shelves in my workshop stand the testaments to my genius. Tiny clockwork worlds, forests, towns and villages, complete with a clockwork citizenry, perfection in the palm of my hand that will not age or rot or be afflicted with the cancer you get just from being alive. This world’s beauty is something, better coloured, full of sound, but it is not a beauty that can be wrought with my own hands; it has already been wrought by someone else. —And its beauty is merely transitory, a split second to ten thousand years. I cannot love it as my own failing flesh and blood, or perfect cog and lever— My gift is creation and I am a demigod creating an imitation world that far outshines an actual god’s original world.

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Emily Story How God Chooses With his life an emotional mess, he stood on the bridge. A rope noosed around his neck; eyes closed, knuckles white from the grip. Then he jumped and plummeted to his death. That’s when the devil stole him. She sat drunk at the wheel her hands at ten and two, not knowing how to get home. A sudden crash and the blood started to stain; her body lay dismembered. That’s when the devil stole her. Twenty-three and he was bed ridden, rotten to the touch. His cancer spread like wildfire throughout his body. He gave up the fight. And that’s when the devil stole him. She was walking innocently in a crosswalk, three feet from safety. A car sped to a stop inches away from her, the jolt of the car’s stopping pulsated through her body. She lost her balance and took a mere tumble. That’s when God saved her. She stood up and the car sped off. She smiled and looked up. Why did God choose her to be the invincible one?

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Amanda Goode For-Never Friends It was hidden in my dad’s CDs, somewhere between Zeppelin and Skynyrd, a lipsticked pop star smiling on the cover. I don’t know how it got there, but when I saw it on the lawn, a red sticker on its face proclaiming four dollars and fifty cents, I realized I never forgot you. I thought childhood, with its melting popsicle summers and overstuffed winter coats, would last forever. I thought growing up was for quitters and you and I were better than that. But blacktops and playscapes weren’t built for broken hearts like mine. The last time I played that disk was the day you sent me away. You left me behind with used popsicle sticks, cherry syrup stained fingertips, and the clothes we outgrew and passed on. I slowly shook free of you, the hope I clung to fading with each unanswered telephone call. And yet I wasn’t surprised to see you, five dollar bill in hand, paying for my last piece of us. When you walked away, pinching our memory between your manicured fingers, I resisted the urge to call out your name. 10

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Madeline Cobar

Heart Out of Order I feel so sick It’s not fair I can’t tame This reckless

Heart

I wish I knew How to control What I feel What it calls

Out

With a head like mine One could only find Pure chaos No order to be heard

Of

It’s maddening Why can’t I just Love like most everyone else No, I am of a different

Order

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Lauren Madison The Last Call There are so many moments in our lives that go unnoticed, unobserved, disregarded. So much time we spend nonchalantly existing in our fog of indifference. The dull ride to school, the required trip to the grocery store, the tiresome hours spent studying; all of it - most of it- utterly useless and insignificant. Then there are those few seconds of a vivid memory once lived, a snippet of a dream, a morsel of your past that you clamp onto and try to preserve. Amongst all your billions of other experiences on earth, there’s always that one that torments you for eternity; replaying and reiterating to assure every detail is maintained and conserved. For the last 100 years it’s all I’ve thought about. Those eyes. Over and over again I see his eyes, every flicker of light illuminating a beautiful serenity combined with a mysterious depth of integrity. They had the modest tranquility of Colorado’s white snowy mountains- refreshing and pure, yet the overwhelming lustful power of a tremendous black hole, pulling you in deeper beyond reason and liquefying all rationality. One glance into those green eyes and I might as well have been enveloped by a black hole- absent, lost, lingering- desperately waiting to look into them once more. And they weren’t just any green eyes. They were luminescent, literally glowing with radiance; like a blade of grass lit up in the summer sun, they were wild with life yet exquisitely elegant. They had a golden-yellow rim around the pupil which diffused into infinite depths of green, causing a rippling effect of deep emerald and profound gold. I’ve always hated it when people describe green as a “sea green” but his eyes really were like the waves of an ocean. There’s always that nonchalant mesmerizing rolling of the waves, in and out, a general pattern engulfing a predictable amount of shoreline. However, every once in a while there’s a larger irregular wave that crashes against the shore, impulsively ebbing away more sand than usual; a break in the pattern. These rare discontinuities caused a brief disturbance in his composure, revealing the complexity hidden beneath the surface, beneath the sand of those sea green eyes. I witnessed one of these rare discontinuities once; it was the day of The Last Call. I alone witnessed the light in his eyes dim, not to reveal his usual fragments of complexity, but an uneasiness that that made my stomach quench. He swept his dark brown- almost black hair out of his eyes and took my hand. We were sitting on my back porch on July 13th 2110; the shadows of dusk starting to unfold and spread. He looked at the ground as he spoke so that all I could see was his long dark eyelashes fixated on an ant mound nearby. His tan summer skin turned pale as he described to me the meaning behind The Last Call. There had been an international broadcast explaining the detrimental effects an asteroid, Chimera 713, would have on earth in just two weeks. It seems NASA had only been able to detect roughly 83 percent of the estimated near-Earth asteroids and Chimera 713, somehow slipped by unnoticed. We were internationally warned that Chimera 713 was indeed going to enter our atmosphere which would bring with it sun-blocking dust and radical climate change even if the impact was survivable. Chimera 713 was 8 kilometers in diameter which made surviving quite unlikely considering the collision between Earth and an asteroid just a few kilometers in diameter releases as much energy as the simultaneous detonation of several million nuclear bombs.

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Lauren Madison The Last Call was a desperate attempt to keep order amongst citizens and maintain what little hope was left. The Last Call was the last and only chance for survival and yet it was treated as if a game. In all seriousness, it was essentially a lottery. Anybody who wanted to pay $500 could buy a lottery ticket for a chance to win a spot to go to the underwater refuge called Soteria. Soteria had been built about 25 years ago in case of any epidemic that broke loose or any reason for evacuation. It was at the very bottom of the Pacific Ocean and was built over a thermal vent to supply a continuous natural power source. The money spent on the lottery tickets went into preparing Soteria for sustainability. Of course selected scientists, politicians and high ranking military officials were guaranteed refuge, but there were 100 other spots for anyone to win. Anyone. I consciously became aware of my inner eyelids. They were clamped down so tight that for a while I just lay there, almost convinced that they would not open. Where exactly I was lying, I wasn’t sure. With that realization I forced open my eyelids, or at least I thought I did. It was still so dark I could not tell the difference. I blinked repeatedly until different variations of black shadows started to form shapes. I tried to lift my arm, my hand, my foot-anything. They were all immobile blobs of Jell-O. My fingers frantically searched for meaning in this realm of obscurity only to find that I was lying on some sort of smooth cold surface. I wiggled and writhed, squirmed and twisted until the blood was flowing to all my limbs and mobility was restored. Now that I was able to move, I became overly aware of the small confinement in which I was enclosed. I felt the walls surrounding me, only inches away from my body. The top of this containment was only about a foot away from my face, if that. I felt like I was in some sort of glass coffin. I had never previously been claustrophobic but this was unlike anything else I had ever experienced. My heart raced faster as I tried not to panic, how was I going to get out of here? I could feel the sweat beginning to form on the back of my warm neck, the thought of moisture only making me unbelievably thirsty. It was an understatement to say I was dehydrated. It felt as though my mouth was so dry it would just disintegrate and wither away, literally shrivel up and turn to dust. Anyone could have gotten picked, and it was me; just an ordinary twenty two year old middle class Caucasian girl with long dark hair and bright blue eyes. How absurd that out of the 8 billion people on earth I would get picked. “It’s a miracle!” my parents would claim, but is it really a miracle to be randomly selected to carry on, to endure alone, when everything you know and love is lost? It is almost a burden to know that I will linger on with nothing but memories of my family, of Adrien and his tormenting green eyes. Being faced with such a shocking situation is almost surreal, it takes time for the mind to accept such a colossal concept and time wasn’t an affordable luxury. Trying to say goodbye forever to everyone you love when you haven’t even begun to grasp the concept of what’s occurring, is inconceivable. Even on a smaller scale I’ll never get to play tug a war with my dog ever again; never look into those big black watery eyes and kiss the little freckle on her snout. I’ll never be able to force my cat, Blackie, to cuddle with me again or eat my refreshing mint chocolate chip ice cream, or listen to music or smell the freshness of lilies. It’s the little things in life. I hastily searched for some sort of lever or button. I now recalled I was secured inside a hibernation pod; the plan had been to hibernate for 150 years and Eastern Exposure

13


Lauren Madison then return to the hopefully inhabitable surface. Had I really been asleep that long? Was everyone really gone? With that thought I felt a cold chill crawl up my spine and raise the hairs on my neck. I don’t think I had ever really comprehended the feeling of complete utter loneliness until now. I was alone. I took a deep breath as my eyes filled with a sad warmth and began to swell with what little water my body had left. I urged myself to calm down and began my blind pursuit for a lever once again. There had to be some way to get out of this hibernation hell. I finally found a pedal-like mechanism down by my right foot but instead of pushing the pedal down, I had to use my foot to pull it up. I heard the lethargic grinding of gears as the top of the hibernation pod gradually started to open. Even the low groan of the sluggish gears startled me in this word of sheer silence. When the pod had finally fully opened I sat up and squinted to see what other objects lingered nearby in the surrounding darkness. The air was a freezing mix of heavy moisture and a pungent salty scent. I kept blinking until I could distinguish faint outlines of other hibernation pods all around me; they were positioned about 4 feet above the floor. It reminded me somewhat of a crematory. I then dangled my legs over the side of the pod until I could feel my feet touching the ground and gently began to stand up. I felt like I had Slinkys for legs as they uncontrollably trembled and wobbled all over the place. I held onto the pod for balance and sense of safety as I cautiously started to walk through the ambiguous shadows. My eyes were becoming progressively more adapted to the dark as I examined the pod positioned to the left of mine. The hibernation pods were shaped like giant pills and made of what looked to be glass and titanium. How they kept our bodies preserved for so long is beyond me. I decided to look inside the pod. I put my hands on the outside of the pod as I slowly leaned in to look through the glass. As I strained to see, I was still shocked to discover an anticipated face. The face itself was unrecognizable but peaceful looking, still in a deep state of hibernation, I presumed. I repeated the same process with every pod in the room, every human obliviously dreaming away. I approached the last pod in the far right corner of the room and carelessly leaned over to look inside. My eyes widened in panic as an icy shudder rapidly shot throughout my entire body. A scorching feeling of dread filled my heart as the tiny hairs on the back of my neck stood up alert and panicked. It was empty. Completely empty. No decayed body, no bones, nothing. That could only mean one thing‌I was not alone in this room.

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Sean Richmond

Prayer for the Burdened -For “Doc” Giuffre and all the Combat Medics (68W)Praying to the sky. “Lord it’s another day here, Me and my buddies In a God forsaken hole Called to cross a field Steel rain pours down Among our friends. Now we medics Have our jobs to do again; With only our blood-red Crescents and crosses, And our bags at our side We go amidst the violence, Please meet me halfway. My Comrades in arms, My Brothers, my men Need me to be Calm and Cool As a tranquil stream. Help me to keep them here And to stop their searing pain. But most of all God, Pad my shoulders From the tons that I bare. Lift a little of this weight Let me look on my broken friends And not vomit at their sights ‘Cause I’ve seen it all. Help guide my shaken hands Away from the shock of The Crimson River. Let me patch up my men So they can go to the Rear, To be seen by the best Fixed up right, Good as new And, in a week, be back here Again.” Eastern Exposure

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Chelsea Griffin

And Begin Again Mange-ravaged snake-bitten festering, infectious, illusive words underneath the flesh like burrowing tape worms searching for something to eat. The red meat of living cooked medium-rare on a grudge blackened by bitterness tender with hurt feelings slaughtered like a lamb with no pretense of innocence. ‘You got to draw the words out, kid,’ said a cowboy on his way, off to find the plains of many colors where his bride awaited him, feathers in her hair. ‘Give it mouth to mouth and then let it breathe.’ but somewhere I’d lost my lips and there’s only one kind of hole you can make love to and my tongue, it did not serve to fix this. And I thought, well you’ve got a nice pair and a little something extra between the legs a surgeon must have the right tools and yours are exemplary. A quick smile and an empty bottle, you said ‘my minds not half so sharp and I’ve got other things to do, we’ve grown apart.’ But time doesn’t run like a clock in rhythms and in patterns and poisons work in seconds and in fevered hours 16

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Chelsea Griffin where I dreamt that you’d come and taken away the pain but the pain persisted in static as you hid behind the screen neither remembering nor caring to venture beyond the haze of a fire inside a tents many folds that the medicine woman fueled with her delight, laughing as it trailed blisters along the brilliance of her skin and never once did she reach for water to stop the flash-fire rage she’d built up inside her home.

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Mikayla Zagata

Come Back From Across The Ocean Cast List (in order of appearance) Scott Kennedy: Charlotte’s husband and Nate’s father; very devoted but also is dangerous to himself and others when he becomes too emotional Announcer: newscaster who lets the audience in on certain information on Charlotte’s whereabouts and status Nate Kennedy: Scott’s and Charlotte’s son; seven-years-old at the time of the flashback and eight in normal play time Charlotte Kennedy: Scott’s wife and Nate’s mother; sergeant in the United States Army who is serious about her job Valerie Thompson: Scott’s best friend and Kyle’s fiancée; she’s very concerned about Scott’s mental stability and Charlotte’s whereabouts Kyle Wilson: Valerie’s fiancé; he tries to keep peace and calm within the group of friends Liam Edwards: newspaper reporter and a bit of a pessimist; he brings rationality and some anger due to his personality, being blunt and wanting to know everything Alexandra Ford: a school counselor looking for her doctorate; she is the exact opposite of Liam, but also has rationality in her optimistic statements Warrant Officer Robert Hamilton: He is in the unit trying to infiltrate Al-Qaeda First Sergeant Lisa James: She is in the unit trying to infiltrate Al-Qaeda, sent in as a replacement specialist; she tends to be very (more than the norm) cautious when on and during missions Sergeant Omar Hassan: He is in the unit trying to infiltrate Al-Qaeda; he is an American Muslim working for the military as a soldier and translator Private John Mandela: He is in the unit trying to infiltrate Al-Qaeda; he is nicknamed “Brooklyn” for his accent and is a jokester Captain Diane Ramirez: She is a commanding officer at a nearby military base who responds to the unit’s “distress call” that she picked up SCENE 1: What Life’s Like Without You (The stage lights up to SCOTT KENNEDY who is alone, sitting at the dinner table, reading the newspaper. SCOTT has been awake for the past two hours, reading and watching the news for the developing story of a bombing in Afghanistan.)

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Mikayla Zagata ANNOUNCER: (offstage) In other news, the spotlight is now in Afghanistan where a terrorist attack has taken place. (SCOTT walks over to the television and sits at the couch) The number of casualties is continuing to rise at an alarming rate, reaching to approximately four hundred from our latest reports. NATE: (offstage) Dad? Is Mommy coming home? CHARLOTTE: (offstage) I’ll Skype as often as I can. I will see our son turn seven. VALERIE: (impatiently knocking) Scott. Hey! Scott! Scott—open up! It’s the middle of winter out here! (SCOTT runs to the door and opens it to find VALERIE THOMPSON, looking quite cold and teeth chattering. VALERIE is SCOTT’S best friend from middle school.) SCOTT: Sorry bout that Val… didn’t hear you over the TV. VALERIE: You’ve already heard then? ANNOUNCER: We are live in Afghanistan with reporter— (There is a moment of silence where SCOTT turns off the television. VALERIE clears her throat uncomfortably.) VALERIE: But, um, that wasn’t the reason I came over at seven in the morning. It’s actually, uh, very different from that. Very different… it’s happier. SCOTT: Wait—you mean he—you can’t mean— VALERIE: (shows him her engagement ring) Yeah, I’m engaged! (SCOTT hugs VALERIE.) SCOTT: Congratulations Val! Is that why I haven’t talked to you in days? VALERIE: Ah-huh, we’ve been trying to get everything organized before he left, and… just try and get used to the fact that we’re going to be calling each other husband and wife. It’s so frightening and amazing at the same time! SCOTT: That is, spectacular news. You two definitely deserve each other. I’m so happy for you. VALERIE: Thanks Scott, and—of course, Kyle’s in Berlin on business—but he, wanted me to show you this. (VALERIE pulls out her camera and finds the video clip of KYLE WILSON, her fiancé. KYLE is in Berlin with his business partner, making final business arrangements for his glass company. KYLE is in his hotel room, talking into his webcam.) KYLE: Is it on? Am I good? Okay. Hey man, how are you? I hope everything’s going well over in the States. I should be back soon from Berlin; my partner and I are going to sign papers and contracts tomorrow, but Val and I couldn’t wait. So, watching this, I’m assuming she’s told you we’re engaged. Scott, we want you to be the best man. Now, don’t freak on Val when I ask this okay; this was my suggestion, and she thought it would be nice, however improbable. SCOTT: He can’t mean— KYLE: We’ve chosen Charlotte to be the matron of honor. SCOTT: No. No, no, no—no! (stops the video and walks away from her) Eastern Exposure

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Mikayla Zagata VALERIE: Scott, please. SCOTT: Val, you know I love you both like family—but you know how impossible that is?! I don’t even know if she’s still alive, never mind if she can come back to be your matron of honor! VALERIE: But, Scott, hear me out for a second, please? SCOTT: It’s been two months, Valerie. Two months. No letter, no phone call, not one thing. I know it’s a week or so before Christmas, but miracles like that? The miracle of Charlotte walking back through that front door from the living hell of war that every soldier has gone through—with these circumstances? No, Val, miracles like that don’t happen. Because you and I both know she’s more than likely dead. SCENE 2: Reminisces with a Cup of Concern, Please? (Stage now transforms into a coffee shop where KYLE, VALERIE, LIAM EDWARDS, and ALEXANDRA FORD are drinking and eating their breakfast. LIAM, a journalist for a local newspaper and ALEXANDRA, a part-time guidance counselor at three schools in the state, are friends of VALERIE and SCOTT from college. It has been two days since the news of KYLE’S and VALERIE’S engagement. They’re all catching up on each other’s lives and discussing KYLE’S and VALERIE’S wedding plans.) KYLE: So, Scott didn’t take it well? VALERIE: Not at all! He was absolutely furious. You know he rarely yells, and I know him the best of all. I could tell he was trying not to yell at me. LIAM: That is completely understandable if you ask me. I mean, you’re asking the most devoted husband in the whole world to believe that his wife, who hasn’t sent him so much as a letter since she was deployed to Afghanistan, would or can come back—for a wedding?! For all we know, she’s lying in a ditch with some terrorists laughing at her crumpled, bloody bod—! ALEXANDRA: You over exaggerating pessimist! This is what happens when people like you fill Scott’s head all of the worst case scenarios. Of course he’s angry, but it’s not “completely understandable” to assume she’s dead! She’s obviously still alive; the government would’ve sent soldiers to the house. For God’s sake—we’re talking about Charlotte here! Our valedictorian! She’s smart, and you know very well that if she was going to do through with this— KYLE: “She would’ve researched it every day for an entire year to make sure she completely understood what she was getting into. Besides, her father was a war fanatic; if she didn’t retain of his ‘golden words of information that was vital to the nation in its darkest hours’, she’s even crazier than we imagined.” Yes, Alexandra, we know. ALEXANDRA: How did you know I was going to say that? KYLE: I think I’ve heard that speech one too many times, if you catch my drift? (ALEXANDRA looks away in some embarrassment) So, anyway, how have you all been? I just got back from Berlin approximately (looks at watch) one hour ago from business, and it’s been a while since I’ve been here with all of us together. I know Liam at least has an excuse for not coming to lunch all the time. (ALEXANDRA and 20

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Mikayla Zagata VAL ERIE are confused by that statement.) LIAM: (proudly to the women) Since neither of you read The Current Carrier, my most recent article took me up to upstate New York to question the remaining victim in the double homicide/house robbery incident. (to KYLE, and the girls make some type of disgusted or disinterested notion to which KYLE laughs.) So… the glass company thriving in Germany, eh? KYLE: It’s a pretty good business, even with this economy. How’s the guidance job coming along Alexandra? ALEXANDRA: My appointments with several different teachers and students have kept me quite occupied along with a paper I’m writing for my doctorate. So, is everyone at work already aware of your engagement? VALERIE: Of course, but you know Sullivan caught my ring. ALEXANDRA: How did she take it? VALERIE: She immediately asked me if she was the maid of honor. KYLE: Is that how rude this woman is? VALERIE: Yes! Isn’t that awful? I said to her who I actually chose, and she gave me a look like I was joking around or something. I mean, some people are just—ugh! LIAM: To make life easier for more than one person, why couldn’t you just choose Alexandra? VALERIE: As much as I love Alexandra, you know Charlotte and I are much closer, you know? (to ALEXANDRA) No offense meant. ALEXANDRA: None was taken. LIAM: Yeah, but you have to take into consideration that Scott is, well, you just— have to be cautious. KYLE: Liam has a point. We can’t have another issue with him. LIAM: There was an issue with him? VALERIE: Weren’t you there? At last year’s Thanksgiving? LIAM: Last year’s Thanksgiving, I was in California… I hadn’t met any of you yet. VALERIE: Oh, that’s right. (shrugs) Well, I think we were all there, but I think at that point with what activity had happened in Afghanistan and what the media kept saying about the war, it was getting to Scott. Nate was curious, and obviously, Scott wasn’t telling him what was really going on. So, Nate asked the question. (enter NATE, at the time of the flashback, seven-years-old, and SCOTT enters talking with VALERIE. The scene changes back to the living room of SCOTT’S house, “Mulan” is playing on the television.) NATE: Hey Dad, why is Mom fighting bad guys? SCOTT: (speaking gently, kneeling down) Someone has to fight the bad guys. She’s with a lot of other Moms and Dads, fighting the bad guys. It’s to keep us all back here safe.

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Mikayla Zagata NATE: Why can’t some other Mom go in place of her so she can come home? SCOTT: (trying to explain, but having some difficulty) …Well… VALERIE: (kneeling down to NATE) Because not every Mom is your Mom. Your Mom is really brave and courageous; not all Moms and Dads can be like that. Besides, she loves you and your Dad so much, that she wants to kick those bad guys’ butts, and make sure that they don’t come here. NATE: (thinking about it for a moment, then a look of realization comes over her face) …Kinda like Mulan! VALERIE: Exactly like Mulan. (SCOTT gives VALERIE some form a “Thank you” before he exits with NATE, and the scene returns to the coffee shop from the memory.) KYLE: That insistency could’ve led to so much worse than his attempt at suicide, and that’s why Nate is now with Charlotte’s brother and his wife. ALEXANDRA: How is Nate doing? KYLE: He’s getting along. I mean, as best as he can. LIAM: Can you explain your rationale behind telling Scott that Charlotte is your matron of honor, knowing that? VALERIE: (becoming somewhat angry) You know what— KYLE: It’s time to go home and work. Bye guys. (The group exits, saying their own goodbyes, carrying and eating the rest of their food). SCENE 3: Waiting for the Go (Lights up to a small, tight-fitting room with WARRANT OFFICER HAMILTON, FIRST SERGEANT JAMES, and PRIVATE FIRST CLASS MANDELA, at the table or sitting on the ground. There are different handguns, rifles, and grenades on the ground, and MANDELA is cleaning a M-4 while HAMILTON is reading over reports, surrounded by different folders. JAMES is working with different maps of Kabul and Qandahar, the two most targeted cities in the country in the past few months. They’re all working diligently until there is a knock at the door. All four immediately stop what they’re doing and grab for a nearby weapon and wait. There was a second knock and a two quick knocks, and they lowered their weapons; MANDELA opens the door and lets CHARLOTTE in.) CHARLOTTE: (handing him a folded piece of paper) Sir, message from Major Schmidt. HAMILTON: (reading over the note) For once, some decent Intel. JAMES: “Good,” sir? HAMILTON: I said “decent” First Sergeant James, not “good.” MANDELA: It’s good that we at least have some Intel. We haven’t heard from HQ since the beginning of the month. (quieter) Since they dropped this paranoid woman in our company. HAMILTON: We have movement on Naser. Last seen by a patrol squad stationed in 22

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Mikayla Zagata Qālat, heading our way. From what one of the translators picked up from a conversation between him and the man he met up with by the name Rais Almasi, he’s coming to Qandahar to, I quote, “make sure his packaging and people are to ready to go” … It’s perfect. He’s walking into our hands. JAMES: (standing up) Sir, of course you realize that those translators aren’t always trustworthy. 2nd squad walked into an ambush last week due to their translator. MANDELA: Of course—more people out to kill us! HAMILTON: Yes, I am aware of that James, and I will take that into account. (JAMES sits back down.) Brooklyn—please try to keep that vociferous hole of yours closed from unnecessary commentary. You know it pisses me off. MANDELA: (making fun of JAMES) Sorry sir, I thought this was supposed to be an easy detail! Mission change… CHARLOTTE: (turning to MANDELA) Eh, Mandela? Shut up. Did you hear your commanding officer? She’s only been out here for a month. Do I need to remind you that you acted like a stupid soldier in the movies every time a good opportunity came around that could’ve been interpreted both positively and negatively? (turning back to HAMILTON) You were saying, sir? HAMILTON: I wasn’t, but I might as well say it now: we have to take the chance. MANDELA: (looking out the window) INCOMING! (ALL rush to grab weapons before a bomb goes off and JAMES’S screams are heard.) SCENE 4: The Phone Call (Lights up to SCOTT’S living room. SCOTT is sitting by the television watching the eleven o’clock national news to see if any progress has been made on the Afghanistan bombing.) ANNOUNCER: (offstage) The official number has come in for the casualties for the Afghanistan bombing a week ago. Now that all of the rubble has been cleared and bodies have been found and identified, there are one hundred and fifty three people dead, twenty one injured, and many others that weren’t injured or killed in the bombing, have been displaced. But also to add to the totals, we have just received word of an attack on a military outpost in Qandahar, killing seven. The bodies have yet to be properly identified by specialists who are removing them from the debris of the building which was blown up and completely destroyed. (The phone begins to ring. SCOTT turns off the television and goes over to the phone.) SCOTT: (looks at the caller ID) Who the— (answers the phone) hello? (SCOTT leans on the table and listens to the voice.) Yes, this is Scott Kennedy. May I ask who’s calling? (SCOTT continues to listen.) Yes, First Sergeant Charlotte Kennedy is wife… Sir… h-has something happened to her? (SCOTT sits down slowly, eyes widening.) W-what—h-how—how is she missing? (SCOTT leans his head upward, massaging his face with his free hand. SCOTT then nods his head and sits up straight, trying to regain his composure after the voice has finished.) Thank you sir. Goodbye. (SCOTT hangs up and bends over, ruffling his hair. He goes back to look at the caller ID and get a piece of paper from the table. SCOTT writes down the number and where it came from. He puts the phone down and sighs heavily. SCOTT shakes his head.) Eastern Exposure

23


Mikayla Zagata Sorry Val. I told you. Miracles like that just… don’t happen. SCENE 5: Is Anyone There? (Lights up to the outpost in Afghanistan where CHARLOTTE, JAMES, HAMILTON, and MANDELA are lying on the floor, immobile. Papers are everywhere, and most of the equipment is destroyed. However, there is a buzzing noise, which causes CHARLOTTE to stir under the broken table. It sounds like a woman’s voice, but it is distorted. At the same time, at a US military base not far from Kabul, LIEUTENANT RAMIREZ is trying to reach the unit. She heard the gunshots when she was scanning through all audio from the radios that were active.) RAMIREZ: —I repeat: Warrant Officer Hamilton, do you copy? (CHARLOTTE crawls and stumbles to get to the radio and fumbles with it, trying to fix it before talking.) CHARLOTTE: Ma’am… we were… found out. Naser’s men… stormed… place… (coughs) RAMIREZ: Who is this? Is anyone else alive? CHARLOTTE: First Sarge… Charlotte… Kennedy. RAMIREZ: Kennedy, is anyone else alive? (CHARLOTTE crawls slowly and with some difficulty to the others who are lying on the floor in different positions. CHARLOTTE goes over to each member of her unit to find they are all cold, pale and dead due to pieces of shrapnel and the explosion. CHARLOTTE looks down at her own body and sees that she has a fairly big piece of shrapnel in her leg. CHARLOTTE goes to back the radio.) CHARLOTTE: …No… ma’am. RAMIREZ: Kennedy, how critical are your wounds? CHARLOTTE: I don’t know… there’s shrapnel in my leg… it’s bleeding… (CHARLOTTE coughs again and tries to tie her belt around her leg. She leans against the table, breathing heavily.) RAMIREZ: Kennedy. Stay with me, here. We have a MEDEVAC inbound. Just hold on. CHARLOTTE: Captain… help! (CHARLOTTE sinks to the floor, leaving the radio dangling.) RAMIREZ: Kennedy? Kennedy! Can you hear me? Kennedy! Kennedy! (calmly, but with authority) GET THAT MEDEVAC OUT NOW! DEPLOY 1ST AND 3RD SQUADS TO THE STRYKERS! I WANT MAJOR SCHIMDT ON THE PHONE NOW! SCENE 6: Who Said Miracles Couldn’t Happen? ALL: (to SCOTT as they come in the door to his house, shuffling in with presents) Merry Christmas! SCOTT: Merry Christmas, just put them all under the tree. Hey Nate, wanna put on some music? Go put on that CD of yours. (NATE goes over to the stereo and plays some Christmas music. The phone begins to ring.) 24

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Mikayla Zagata SCOTT: Merry Christmas, just put them all under the tree. Hey Nate, wanna put on some music? Go put on that CD of yours. (NATE goes over to the stereo and plays some Christmas music. The phone begins to ring.) LIAM: Oh, Scott, do you want me to get that? SCOTT: Yeah, thanks, go ahead. (LIAM goes over to the telephone and answers it.) LIAM: Kennedy residence? …Sorry, you have the wrong number… Merry Christmas to you too. (LIAM hangs up and finds an opened piece of paper as everyone begins to sing a Christmas carol. LIAM reads the paper and confronts SCOTT.) LIAM: Scott. (holds up paper) Care to explain? (SCOTT snatches the paper from LIAM and moves away from the rest of the group.) SCOTT: Now is not the best time Liam. (KYLE comes over, overhearing the conversation, and he takes the paper and reads it.) KYLE: Wait, that’s the… oh no, Charlotte? What happened? SCOTT: (on the verge of tears, but quickly tries to hide it) She’s MIA. I got a phone call, then I had a unit come to the door. She had to have been near the bombing, and they probably haven’t identified her body yet. (takes the paper back from KYLE and stuffs it in his pocket) LIAM: My God, you haven’t told anyone, have you? (SCOTT glares at LIAM.) You haven’t told Valerie or Alexandra. You haven’t told Kyle or I, obviously… you haven’t even told Nate, have you? SCOTT: (lowering his voice) You think I would be that heartless and tell my son that his mother is missing?! Possibly dead?! LIAM: He has the right to know! How long have you known already? (SCOTT is reluctant and keeps his mouth shut. LIAM moves in closer and is more serious and angry about the question.) Scott—how long have you known? SCOTT: …Three days. KYLE: Three days?! LIAM: You haven’t told anyone—and it’s been THREE DAYS! (all of the others lower their voices and look over at the three men.) How long were you planning on keeping it secret? ALEXANDRA: Everything alright you guys? SCOTT: Did you want me to be the downer on Christmas? NATE: Dad? LIAM: I expected you at least not to be liar. ALEXANDRA: Liam! What’s with you? SCOTT: I am not a liar! LIAM: Then what’s stopping you?! SCOTT: Shut UP LIAM! KYLE: Guys, c’mon! Cut it out! Eastern Exposure

25


Mikayla Zagata SCOTT: Val, get Nate out of here. VALERIE: Come on, Nate. NATE: But what’s wrong with Daddy? LIAM: Come on, Scott. Give a shot. Go ahead. I dare you. KYLE: Enough you two! (SCOTT and LIAM are separated by KYLE who are nearing each other. They glare at each and then walk in different directions, but SCOTT turns back around and grabs LIAM from behind.) KYLE: Scott—DON’T! (SCOTT punches LIAM, and LIAM retaliates. The two men start a fist fight while KYLE tries to separate them with ALEXANDRA and VALERIE trying to hold SCOTT and LIAM back. There is plenty of commotion and yelling during the fight. KYLE and VALERIE bring SCOTT offstage, and ALEXANDRA kneels down to LIAM who has been hit in the face.) ALEXANDRA: Are-are you alright? Here, let me see it. (ALEXANDRA leans in to examine the damage, but it looks like she’s kissing LIAM, and CHARLOTTE enters, in her uniform with a camouflage duffle bag over her shoulders. She walks in on crutches.) CHARLOTTE: (confused and surprised, in an angry tone) What—the hell—is going in my house? (ALEXANDRA and LIAM look up in amazement.) ALEXANDRA: Charlotte?! CHARLOTTE: Yes? VALERIE: (coming back into the room in shock) Oh my God—Charlotte! CHARLOTTE: Valerie! (VALERIE runs to CHARLOTTE and embraces her tightly as KYLE and SCOTT return to the room. SCOTT moves forward at first, but then hesitates.) SCOTT: C-Charlotte? CHARLOTTE: Scott… you haven’t changed a bit since I last saw you. (SCOTT doesn’t move towards CHARLOTTE, which makes her worry, and moves a bit closer.) SCOTT: I thought you were dead—gone—a POW. CHARLOTTE: I’m sorry… there was nothing I could do. Contact with family or anyone outside of my unit was prohibited on the mission. LIAM: You have—a lot—of explaining to do. VALERIE: And we have an equal amount of explaining to do. CHARLOTTE: I’m more than sure… (CHARLOTTE sees the engagement ring and holds VALERIE’S hand in shock) I think just Valerie alone might match what I have to explain. (ALL laugh, and VALERIE starts to cry.) Oh, Val. Are you—? VALERIE: (slightly stuttering) What? Crying? Yes, Charlotte, I am crying. I know— I’m such a crybaby—just get over it, and get over here. (CHARLOTTE and VALERIE hug.) 26

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Mikayla Zagata CHARLOTTE: Oh, Nate. (kneels down to hug him) Hi sweetie, how are you? NATE: Good! CHARLOTTE: Good. Good. You’re so big. NATE: Guess what Mommy? Santa gave me my wish! CHARLOTTE: What was that honey? NATE: He brought you back home. (CHARLOTTE hugs NATE tighter.) How long are you gonna be staying? CHARLOTTE: Forever. I’m not going back. SCOTT: What? CHARLOTTE: I have an honorary discharge. I’m medically retired from the Army. NATE: (happy and hopeful) Really Mommy?! CHARLOTTE: (ruffling his hair) Merry Christmas. (SCOTT moves over to CHARLOTTE finally, and all three hug each other, and the others look on at the happy, reunited family.) The End

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Bryon Hardt

Untitled

The frost upon the ground a freeway for the wind at night, the bitter chill reminiscent of a book that said wolves hunted in packs. Windstorms swim through the trees, an echoing howl. Under a black moon a child seemingly unaware, looking brave. I showed my father a mask of indifference to the wilderness. I stood boldly, holding the bag, looking brave, the dark wind wrapping itself around me. But I was afraid, fearing the dark, the wind, the wolves. Until my father struck match to lantern, the darkness recoiling around us as if the howling wolf packs made it jump.

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Lauren Panno

A Higherpower An Anphora

This time I live, This point of departure, This point I can’t return to or from, This energy I feel, A roundabout, raging energy, This living, breathing, wheezing time, This time I question: “What do I believe?” Some Great Spirit or God or faith that isn’t really mine? Wanting a label, some congregation that I don’t know exists, This uneasy and necessary indecision, This search for belonging, This anger, enjoyment, feeling of fulfillment And not knowing what cross or crescent or torch I “claim” Or what I might be And comfort in the certainty that “I Am”

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Jennifer Mouland

The Last Time The last time I saw you was so long ago. I can’t even remember, We were so young but where you were going Would change you forever. No one knows what to expect when they go. The barren, dry landscape makes you wish You were back on these treed lined streets, The sounds of gun shots remind you of the bottles popping at the corner store, The warm weather makes you Reminisce about these long New England winters. But like I told you you’re different, You are stronger. All I can do is wait and see if you come back, Hope and pray that we will meet again, Till then I’ll remember the last time we saw each other— And hope that’s who I’ll see again.

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Christian Scandariato

The One CAST: JUSTIN – A 20-something male, dressed in average clothing, living in lower New York. TJ – His roommate. A 20-something male, dressed in more outlandish/fashionable clothing. PARK GIRL – A younger woman, blonde. Dressed in feathery fabrics, as well as a sundress and sandals. TIME: Modern day New York. PLACE: A messy apartment building in downtown New York. The apartment is decorated with scarce furniture and band posters, flooded with soft lighting. Focus on the kitchen, STAGE RIGHT, scattered with dirty dishes and silverware, complete with overflowing trash can. JUSTIN sits at the kitchen table, enjoying a late lunch of a sandwich and drink, stoically reading a newspaper. His tranquility is interrupted by TJ, his roommate, entering explosively from BACK CENTER STAGE. TJ: Dude! It happened, it finally happened! You won’t believe what just happened. JUSTIN: [Finishing the last bite he’ll have] You finally found a job? TJ: Better! JUSTIN: [Quietly] Debatable. TJ: I found... the one. JUSTIN: The one? TJ: The ONE. It’s her, dude. I finally found her, and it’s her. [TJ exits STAGE FAR LEFT into his bedroom, disappearing. He begins to throw clothing, as well as other assorted objects, from his bedroom to CENTER STAGE, littering the living room. ] JUSTIN: [Shouting] Based on your track record, this will be the 17th “One” you’ve found this month.

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Christian Scandariato TJ: [Responding as loudly] Don’t exaggerate! JUSTIN: Remember “fitness girl”? The one you bought all that Whey Protein over? TJ: I was trying to bulk up anyway! [TJ throws a Whey Protein bottle CENTER STAGE] JUSTIN: Fine, what about “French Bistro” girl? You bought an entire new wardrobe consisting of berets and stripes. It’s like you were auditioning as “Lonely Mime Seven” for the new Gerard Depardieu flick. TJ: Don’t use my love of French film against me! You’ve got guilty pleasures too. JUSTIN: I guarantee you can’t name a single French film. TJ: I can! I’m just busy! [TJ throws his “mime” wardrobe center stage, piling atop the other relics of past “girlfriends”] JUSTIN: You know trash day isn’t until Tuesday, right? TJ: I’ll clean later. I’m in a rush, and you’re slowing me down! JUSTIN: What about “Dog Park” girl? You adopted three puppies. TJ: They found good homes! JUSTIN: Yeah, after you. Oh, what about “Vegan” girl? I’m still scraping SEITAN off the ceiling. TJ: You’re afraid of new things! JUSTIN: I think my favorite was the Siamese twins. Who knew that “the one” could be two people. [TJ emerges from his bedroom, frantically hopping towards the kitchen while attempting to put his shoes on.] JUSTIN: Hang on. You’re not leaving until we talk about this “one”. TJ: C’mon, I’m in a hurry!

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Christian Scandariato JUSTIN: And I’m paying your rent again this month. Time is money. Sit. TJ: Ugh, fine. [TJ joins JUSTIN at the kitchen table STAGE RIGHT] JUSTIN: What’s her name? TJ: What’s in a name? You know, I don’t think we should confine ourselJUSTIN: Uh-huh. Where’d you meet her? TJ: The park up the street. JUSTIN: “Park Girl”. That’s a new one. TJ: If you weren’t wasting my time, I could be finding her name out right now. JUSTIN: Well, you had plenty of time to fall in love with her, didn’t you? TJ: It happened immediately. Haven’t you heard of love at first sight? JUSTIN: Fine. Tell me the story. [TJ begins to animatedly act out his actions while telling the story, CENTER STAGE, kicking the other props aside for space.] TJ: So I was enjoying my mid-afternoon walk when I came to the corner of fifth and 88th. You know the one? So there I was, and there was this park in front of me. I realized, then and there, I had never, ever been in this park, you know? Like, it’s been there all my life and I never went in it! JUSTIN: You moved here two years ago. Go on. TJ: So I go in, and there I was, walking through the park. Suddenly, from out of nowhere... [TJ drifts off. The lighting shifts to completely darken JUSTIN and the table, as heleaves STAGE RIGHT. Enter STAGE LEFT, PARK GIRL, slowly walking across the stage in front of TJ, not noticing his presence.] TJ: There she was. I was flabbergasted. I was confounded. I was in complete and utter shock. Her beauty was something else, like if Socrates had written a passage that

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Christian Scandariato Michelangelo turned into a painting that Coldplay turned into a song. Her dress was woven of the finest silks made in Thailand. She smelled like an Autumn day in the countryside. I saw more than just her beauty, I saw her essence. Her essence, man! It was pink. You know I love pink. [JUSTIN joins the new setting from stage left] JUSTIN: Pink. Right. Did you talk to her at least? TJ: Did I! I serenaded her with my everlasting charm. JUSTIN: So you didn’t just stand there like an idiot? TJ: I said “Excuse me, miss. I can’t help but notice that you’re the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen, in all of the expeditions my eyes have taken. If you were to stop, just for a moment, so that I may speak with you, it would bring me more happiness than my life has had to offer me thus far.” JUSTIN: Since last week, when you found “the one”. TJ: Don’t interrupt! TJ: She turned to face me, star struck with my charm, and said “Oh! Why, I’ve never been so star struck by someone’s charm in this manner!” PARK GIRL pantomimes the actions TJ describes] JUSTIN: Give me a break. TJ: She was stunning, dude. She looked like the New York sunset sky. JUSTIN: So, dirty? TJ: She was like Shakespeare’s Juliet! JUSTIN: What, thirteen? TJ: Or even Joan of Ark. JUSTIN: Really old, then? TJ: Like the Mona Lisa itself! JUSTIN: She looked kind of pissed? 34

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Christian Scandariato TJ: She said “Your eyes are reflections of eyes that have seen everlasting sorrows. Your clothes are woven of the tears of a broken heart. Your shadow is an orchestra playing an etude to perfect the portrayal of pure emotion. Meet me tonight, and we’ll take each other’s company. We’ll drink to the lonely, and rejoice that we are not amongst their ranks for much longer.” [PARK GIRL exits STAGE RIGHT, as if being pulled away. JUSTIN and TJ move back to the kitchen table, taking their original places] And just like that, she left. I need to go find her, and you’re still holding me up! JUSTIN: TJ, I need you to be honest with me. More than anything, just store your crazy for one minute, and be honest with me. Did any of this actually happen? TJ: She’s real. She’s as real as you, or me, or this table, or this crappy high-rise. I saw her today, I really did. JUSTIN: You’re lying. And I can’t keep paying rent so you can go chase dreams. TJ: Is that all that matters to you, man? Is it money? Is it that table, or this floor? This place is all just a cage to keep people like you and me from escaping and seeing the world. We’re young and we’re stupid, we have our whole lives to pay bills. We only have right now to have harmless adventure. JUSTIN: Listen, I don’t know what they told you in whatever orphanage you were found on the step of, but my life is about careful calculation and saving. Sacrifice now for thirty years from now, I can relax later. You could learn something from moderation, not a new girl every fourteen hours. [PAUSE] TJ: She is real. As real as you or me. And I did see her, I saw her in that park. Everyhing else… I made up, because I prefer my life to have a much more romantic setting than.. this. I’ll see you later; I’m going to go live. [TJ exits CENTER STAGE, where he entered. JUSTIN looks down at his sandwich, and pauses for a moment. He throws the sandwich into the pile of girlfriend relics TJ had created, and continues to leave the apartment.] END SCENE

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Jordan Thompson

A Life’s Marathon The steps that he will never take up the stairs that lead to nowhere. Standing up now is like running a marathon on a summer day. All he feels now is a thunderstorm of emotions. Powerful in his mind but, weak in strength. This is the never ending storm. He thought life was a fairytale and one day a miracle would happen. Wheels and electronic machines consume his life now. This foreign life is home now. One with 24 hour care. One with no magic pill. A battlefield of therapists and doctors. The future can’t be slowed down The race will end with a crash. It will one day be his demise.

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Caitlin Breen

Yellow and Grey My mother visits her sister almost daily, brings her a hairbrush, nail clippers, shampoo, refuses to bring her Xanax. Homeless now, she drifts from hospital to state-run convalescent home and back again, thin body racked by seizures, thin skin gone yellow and grey, blackened at the fingers by her swollen liver, and this is why my mother has not asked me to go visit with her, but it’s not why I would say no if she did. I would refuse because when my father was busy, she taught me how to ride a borrowed bicycle in one afternoon, without a helmet, on the soft downward slope of her back lawn, and because when I was stung by a bee for the first time in my life, at her wedding, she gave me a cold can of Coke to hold to the sting as it swelled, and put my favorite CD on when most of the guests had gone.

The Basement The furnace is on its last legs-we’ve been saying that for four winters running now, when the thermostat cranks up and the heat still won’t rise. Tucked in the back of the basement, it looks apologetic for three minutes of hot water offered to six people who need to shower. This is where my brother kept his drumset, where my mother used to smoke, as if it wouldn’t rise into the rest of the house. This is where my father used to fix broken things, a little workshop with shelves floor-to-ceiling, coffee cans full of screws and nails and odds and ends, scraps of twine, duct tape and mouse traps in the basement of the house where the furnace has been on its last legs for years, now. Eastern Exposure

37


Elizabeth Pellitier

A Cup of Tea Still too hot to drink Paper thin cup Surrounding the quintessence of surrender— delicious—forbidden— burning on the tongue a betrayal of the senses… But when it cools down— If it ever does… Will it be as heavenly?

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Samantha Figueroa

Memory Andrea’s fingers sent up a little puff of ash as she lifted the half charred picture. The edges were brown and bubbled a little. His smiling profile was barely recognizable being right at the burnt end of the photograph although his baseball cap and sweat shirt were still white. Well, that was useless. It was his smile she liked to see. Andrea sighed as her arm dropped to her side. She surveyed the huge mound of ash, charred wood, and black bricks that had been her home, still surrounded by the bright red and orange maple leaves, on and off the trees. Andrea closed her eyes and envisioned the picture of how her home had looked just that morning. A little red brick cottage covered in emerald vines, black shingles covered in green moss, a white door with a brass knocker and white curtains in the windows. Click. The picture came up perfectly in Andrea’s photographic memory. The wind rustled in the fiery leaves about the little cottage. Andrea opened her eyes and the same wind that rustled the leaves stirred up the ashes of what was left of her home. How the fire started or how it consumed even the bricks of her cottage was a mystery. Andrea shivered. She stood alone with the burnt picture in one hand and her small briefcase in the other. Everything else was gone, all her clothes and keepsakes. More importantly all of her cameras and photographs were gone. All but one, she looked down at the useless photograph in her hand. Andrea’s synthetic eyes couldn’t produce tears but her natural heart was breaking. Andrea rode the train to her sister’s house. Arms folded over her briefcase in her lap, her head hung dejectedly. Her cropped burgundy hair concealed either side of her face like curtains. She still held the burnt picture. Closing her eyes, she saw him as he had looked that day. His snow white sweatshirt and baseball cap. The light glinted off his white crystal earring, almost as bright as his smile. There was something about the line of his jaw that she’d always liked. Click. She’d taken the surreptitious shot at just the right moment. It was perfect. But not the one and only picture she wanted to be left with. There were so many other pictures, memories that had been destroyed. Like her parents smiling at their wedding or her ninth Halloween when nothing would be cooler than being a robot. It seemed stupid now that this reminder of her cowardice was the only one left. Nicole’s mantle was full of pictures. One was of Nicole and her husband. Andrea remembered their first kiss. She’d it caught on film. Click. Andrea smiled, remembering even better the furious look on her sister’s face and the bewildered look on Ryan’s just afterward. She’d caught that in memory. She wished to have both pictures in her hands now. Then she could laugh over them with her sister. Eastern Exposure

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Samantha Figueroa “The computer’s over here,” Nicole said, walking into the room. “In case you get bored or need to message somebody.” Andrea nodded and asked, “Is that your new printer?” Nicole nodded. “It does everything.” “Thanks, sis,” Andrea said. Her sister gave her one of those some what sad smiles that are supposed to convey sympathy and support. Then she walked out the door, off to work. Andrea sighed and looked around the room. Pictures everywhere. Andrea sat down in front of the computer. There was a cord to connect the printer to one of those digital cameras. They’d gone out of date a couple years ago but some people still used them. Just like the Andrea’s beloved view camera, now melted into twisted bits of plastic, glass, and film. Andrea picked up one end of the cord and pulled back her hair to reveal a little hole behind her ear. Gently she connected the end of the printer cord to the data plate behind her memory bank. Andrea closed her eyes and the images began to flash. She smiled, giggled, laughed, and sighed as the printer whirred. Photographs from Andrea’s memory flowed through the wire and spilled out of the printer. When Nicole returned she would find memories caught in time all over the floor. She would be furious that Andrea had printed so many. But that would just become another memory. Click.

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Eastern Exposure


Rebecca Vogt

No One Else There was probably about two hours of afternoon sun left. Two girls left the tiny apartment on the upper half of Fourth Street and started down the road. They were going to the dam they had decided after spending a few hours in the house, catching up, drinking coffee. “It’s weird,” one said to the other as they walked down the one way street on the left side of the Church, “I always walk down the other side… I don’t know why, but that’s just usually what I do…” “Very weird,” the other said and they laughed knowing it didn’t matter. They crossed the street and entered an abandoned parking lot, heading for the train tracks. As they approached, a waling moan echoed off the old factory walls and filled the girls’ ears. “What is that?” one said to the other, looking confused. “I have no idea! But it sounds terrible, like a bum screaming,” the other replied. For some reason, though the sound registered in their brains as being a cause for concern, they proceeded toward the train tracks anyway, more curious than frightened. “Help me! Please! Help!” cried the struggling body of a woman collapsed on the train tracks. She attempted to push herself up off the ground before crumbling back onto the rocks. “Oh my god!” The girls said in unison as they quickly walked up to the woman. “What happened?” one asked. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry. Please help me!” the woman said, staring up at the girls, her eyes were hollow and vacant. “Don’t worry! We’ll help you. What happened?” one of the girls said, as the two of them leaned down to hoist the woman up. “I twisted my ankle,” the woman said, “I had a miscarriage and my friends took all my money… I came down here and I twisted my ankle.” The two girls each wrapped an arm of the woman around their shoulders and walked her up into the parking lot. They sat the woman down on the cement wall that separated the upper half of the parking lot from the bottom half. The woman was wobbling, one girl sat with her, keeping her up right. “Should we call the ambulance?” the girl who was standing asked. “No! You can’t!” the woman said sounding a bit panicked. “You can’t. I do drugs, they’ll take me away!” she said, tears rolling down her face. “Please, take off my shoe. I need to look at my ankle.”

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Rebecca Vogt The girl who was standing bent down and untied the shoe, she tried to remove it gently, but the woman writhed in pain. “I think it’s twisted,” the woman said, “I used to be an RN but my license got taken away when the cops found drugs on my friends in my car.” “Oh, that’s terrible…” the standing girl replied. “Please, please help me. There are drugs in my shoe, you have to hide them for me.” The two girls exchanged nervous looks. The standing girl tipped the shoe upside down, little pieces of wax floated out and onto the asphalt. The woman then pulled her tank top away from her chest exposing her small wrinkled breasts as she reached into her bra. The girl sitting next to could see the orange cap of the needle she had tucked into the side of her bra. “What would you like us to do? Do you have anyone to call?” the girl sitting next to her asked. “My mom,” the woman said, “can I call my mom?” The standing girl pulled out her cell phone and handed it to the woman, who pushed it back saying, “I can’t dial…” “Okay,” the girl said, “What’s the number?” The woman began, “It’s---” but mid-sentence her eyes flickered and her head tipped back. “Oh my god!” the girl sitting next to her said, “Call 911!” as she shook the woman’s body. “Wake up! Wake up!” she yelled at the woman as she patted at her cheek. The woman’s eyes flickered back open and she sat up. “We’re calling 911,” the standing girl said. “No! No!” the woman weakly protested, before she lost consciousness again, flopping forward. The girl sitting next to her lowered her to the ground. “Oh my god, please help!” the standing girl spoke rapidly into the telephone, “there’s a woman dying!” “Oooh! Please don’t die! Wake up! Wake up!” the girl kneeling next to the woman said frantically as she slapped the woman’s face and shook her body, “Come on, open your eyes!” The woman’s body contorted and twisted as she wiggled on the pavement. Her eyes opened. “Please, hide my drugs! Please! Take them out of my shirt! Just reach in there and take them out!” she pleaded with the girl kneeling next to her. The girl, nervous, reached her hand down the shirt, finding nothing. She pulled the bottom of the shirt up, exposing the woman’s brown saggy stomach, but nothing else. “I can’t find anything,” she said, “I don’t know what you did with them,” but the woman had lost consciousness again. “Where are we?” the girl on the telephone said, tears rolling down her face. 42

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Rebecca Vogt “I don’t know the name of the street!” the girl kneeling said as she hopped up and ran to the road, looking for anything that would be of reference. “We’re near the dry cleaners in Greenville! Tell them in the parking lot across the street near the tracks.” She ran back to the woman and tried shaking her awake again. This time instead of her eyes opening, she began foaming at the mouth. “Holy fuck!” the girl on the telephone said seeing this. “Oh, god!” the girl kneeling next to the woman said as she backed away, “Oh, please don’t die!” she pleaded with the lifeless body. “Are you coming!? She’s dying!” the girl screamed into the phone, tears now pouring down her face, “Thank you!” she said and then hung up. A few seconds later, the fire trucks pulled into the parking lot. Men stepped out and walked over to the body. They placed apathetic blue rubber gloves on their hands and slowly assessed the foaming, writhing body of the woman. “What happened?” one asked the girls. “We were taking a walk, we heard a noise and found her on the train tracks. We helped her up her and she just started losing consciousness,” one of the girls replied. “So you don’t know her?” he asked suspiciously. “No, we don’t,” the other girl said. “Now, what happened?” the man asked again. “I don’t know, she lost consciousness as she was talking to us.” “So you do know her?!” the man accused. “No, we found her.” “Then why are you crying, if you don’t know her!?” “I don’t know! Because there’s a woman dying in front of us!” one of the girls yelled. “Don’t yell at me!” the man said, raising his voice. “Don’t accuse us of things we have nothing to do with!” The ambulance and the police cars pulled into the parking lot now. The fireman turned and walked away from the girls, as a police officer approached. The girls looked over as the medics pulled out a gurney and scooped the squirming body off the ground. “That’s all we know…” one of the girls finished telling the police officer the story. “Oh,” the other girl added, “she said she had drugs, but we don’t know where she has them.” “Okay,” the officer scribbled on his notepad, “You girls are all set. We’ll contact you if we need anything else.” “I wonder if she’ll live…” one girl said.

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Rebecca Vogt The two walked out of the parking lot, leaving the police cars, the fire trucks, the ambulance, the medics and the woman behind them. They did not look back. They headed down the street. Not towards the dam, not towards the apartment. They just aimlessly and quietly walked. Finally, one said to the other, “No one else would have found her.�

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Nicole Loranger

Never Fear the Night’s Cold Kiss Never fear the night’s cold kiss Though demons tempt you to believe. But do not think that nothing is amiss. Demons lurk in the shadow’s sleeve, But know these secrets I’ve never told. Never fear the night’s cold kiss. Dance under the moonlight - free. Treat the stars like specks of gold. But do not think that nothing is amiss. When the sun, at last, is relieved, And darkness takes its hold, Never fear the night’s cold kiss. A free spirit can gently breathe Even though, all around, bodies fold. But do not think that nothing is amiss. And when the night decides to leave, The demons’ roar is swiftly dulled. Never fear the night’s cold kiss, But do not think that nothing is amiss.

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Emily Story

Wasteland Duty to your country is a great thing, but death tolls are stronger. I can only love my country as much I was told to, Mama always told me I was never able to distinguish the false from true. An order is an order and thus has to be obeyed, always leaving me on the threshold of life. An explosion left me Unconscious Limbless. I’ll often try to look back for an explanation, but never quite succeed. Smells of rot and gangrene, an imaginary pain of legs not there. Your young awakened eyes scream, “She’s only a child, she doesn’t want to die, Don’t let her die.” But my skeleton is already working its way through, my body soon a wasteland.

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Sean Richmond

You Bring Out the Childish Man in Me you bring out the Pete Griffin in me, the Homer Simpson in me, the “Kiss the Cook” apron, the lazy dog dangling day in me. You bring out the burn BBQ chicken in me, the warm heffeweizen in me. You bring out the geek in me, the Data in me, the Luke Skywalker in me, the Battlestar Galactic in me. You bring out the Gamer in me, the Lego Batman in me, the Lost Odyssey in me, the vicious combo in me. You bring out the Sponge Bob in me, the Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy in me, the “Bite my shiny metal Ass!” in me. You bring out the Dave and Busters in me, the Rock In Park in me, the death metal on a summer rain storm in me. You bring out the country love song in me, the Garth Brooks in me, the Keith Urban in me. You bring out the “next step in me,” I’m waiting on the threshold of our first apartment and our lives together and all we need is love.

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Stephen Lukaszewski

C’est Compliqué Sometimes when I wake up in the morning I can taste it. The hot steel, the burning rubber, her face; it would come back when I dreamt about it. But don’t worry, I didn’t love her. At least I think I didn’t. When someone leaves my life, I miss them. But only then. I think the last thing I said to her was “Don’t forget to get gas” as she left the house. I don’t remember if she filled the car up or not. I doubt it, she couldn’t remember the way out of a paper bag. But it doesn’t matter now. I always remember to fill up the car. At least I’m never on empty anymore. I don’t like thinking about the past. It hurts. Like I remember how I used to ride a bike, how I used to think the world was huge and I was small. In reality, I am small, but the world is tiny. I can take a plane anywhere. But before I realized that, I was an explorer, a king, a chef, an astronaut. Until I remembered it was all in my head. Sometimes I wonder if that’s how crazy people become crazy. They realize the world inside their head is a lot more fun than the outside one, so they just slip into the cracks inside their brain and don’t come out. Me? I’m somewhere in between. I drift in and out so much sometimes I forget what’s real and what’s inside my head. I think it’s better that way. I don’t know why, I just do. I’m turning twenty-six in April. I think that’s why I’m so depressed. Everybody thinks all the suicides happen in December and January, but they’re wrong. All the suicides happen in April. I think it’s because in the winter, everyone is cold. The misery is spread out equally. But in April, it’s nice. You can’t stand to live in such nice weather and be depressed. So they kill themselves. I think I read it online somewhere, but probably not. My memory isn’t very good anymore. Sometimes I almost forget what she looked like; the last time I thought about her was when I was making coffee. She bought that coffee maker, and it makes excellent coffee. That’s something I can really thank her for. I think she liked me because I was different. But that could be what everyone thinks when a girl takes interest in them. I thought she was different. She was pretty. All my friends told me how lucky I was, but I didn’t see it. She was beautiful, and nice, and thoughtful. I thought she was going to be with me forever, so I didn’t really mind her during the day. She was a constant. Until one day she got sick of me, and she left. She said she was going to live with her mom to think things over, but that usually means she was done thinking. I guess she was a liar then, too. The first night alone was the worst. When you are so used to having someone there, the void they left creeps into you. Like ice cubes underneath your skin. There was just too much air for me to breathe, my lungs couldn’t take it. So I called her, told her I would change, and she moved back in with her stuffed animals and

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Stephen Lukaszewski coffee maker, and all of her doubts and sadness drifted to another part of her brain. It was nice for a few weeks, for a second I might’ve loved her. But I quickly drifted away, and the doubts that receded to the back of her mind crawled into her mouth and jumped down my throat. So she left for good, and said some things that I can’t really remember anymore. She took her blankets, her stuffed animals, but left the coffee maker. It could’ve been her way of always having a part of her with me, but I think it was because she was really forgetful. She never did have a good memory. People get mad because they don’t understand things. She used to ask me to come snuggle with her, to come shopping or to watch TV. Sometimes I wanted to be alone, and she didn’t understand why. So she got mad. It really wasn’t because I didn’t want to see her specifically; I just didn’t want to see anybody. One time I tried to explain it to her but she got more upset, so I slept on the couch to let her have space. In the morning she looked cold and she shook when I touched her, but it was summer. A week later she filed for divorce. All because people just can’t truly convey what they are thinking to one another; our minds just can’t handle it. You end up staring at them like two warring nations signing a peace treaty; I get the house, but she gets everything else. My lawyer assured me that I’d be getting compensation; I just wanted to leave that room. I hate sitting down for long periods of time; my legs get tingly and uncomfortable, like they’re trying to run out of my skin. She called me the next day to tell me she’d be giving me a week to find a new car before she took the old one. Her voice wavered, and I could tell she was slowly sobbing into the receiver. The kind of sob you try to hold in as best you can but let a little slip, like a sad hiccup. I asked her if she had started to cry, and she said; “Yes, but I’m sure you already knew that didn’t you?” I replied that I did and she hung up the phone. I think she thought I would handle that better. I don’t know why. When a week had come and gone she took a taxi to my house to pick up the car. She seemed stressed and walked into the same rooms a lot of times thinking she had forgotten something when she didn’t. She kept on stopping and looking at me, the kind of look you give to someone when you want them to notice you looking at them. I knew she wanted me to say something important, but what ended up coming out was “Don’t forget to get gas” realizing that I had left the car on empty the night prior. She stopped in the doorway for a second and said something I didn’t hear very well, then closed the door. I could hear her footsteps fade away and then stop in front of the house, as if to say goodbye to it. Then she got into the car and drove off. I remember standing in the same position for a little while, feeling no real need to move. I then got up slowly, walked to my room and took a nap while she stared into the eyes of the man who killed her, and died with her. The doctors said she didn’t feel a thing.

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Caitlin Breen

Persephone, Cornered Huddled in the underground of winter, she leans in over the bowl of pomegranates as if over a chessboard. They all do, every nameless wife who thinks her story is the exception, every hopeless lover with a sad song to sell, they all think they’ve got the move that will have me cornered at last, at their mercy--let me tell you about mercy. Her lesson half-learned, she stares off, and even in this light I can see her skin begin to whiten and buckle up again: Wife, this is what happens when we make exceptions, when we have mercy, you see, I have learned better. The river sounds through the mouth of the cave and she smiles, cracking the salt still crusted on her lips. She begins to speak, a soft voice burnt out, dried up, and this is the part I’ve come to love now, the part where I lean in as she leaned in, as a friend would, hand her a pomegranate, cut her off: “Honey,” I tell her, “you know what they say about looking back.”

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Emily Story

Jealousy You sit there with your backpack sprawled open, chewing on a pen cap; your hair tied back in a loose pony tail, flip flops on your feet when there is snow outside and I know, I think we all know. A salty air escapes from your backpack; the laughter of children splashing in the water can be seen in your eyes. You don’t need to speak, your tan skin and blonde hair tells your story for you. It was two in the afternoon and you had been lying on the beach soaking up the sun for three hours. You stood up and brushed the sand off of your burned skin and began to walk down to the water, the sand rubbing uncomfortably in between your toes. When you reached the water’s edge you waited for the water to run over your feet, the water sent chills throughout your entire body. You looked back to the safety of your spot, something in your mind told you to turn around and go back, but you were never one to listen to your mind, just your heart, and your heart longed to be in the waves of the ocean. So you dived in, leaving the safety of the beach behind you. Seconds passed and you could no longer see the spot you had just left, you decided to swim back. But it was too late. You were out of breath and going nowhere, the current had carried you out too far. You started to get worried, flailing your arms in hopes someone would see you. Then something grabbed ahold of your ankle and brought you under. Seaweed had tangled itself around your delicate legs and pulled you under. You tried to pry it off of you, but it did not work. You stopped trying to save yourself and looked around; there were no feet of other swimmers anywhere around you, you were alone. You saw a school of fish and immediately became jealous of how easy it was for them to frolic underwater while you were stranded fighting just to breathe again. Your head was pounding; you were running out of air. You let out some bubbles and watched them float to the top. You were jealous of those bubbles just as you had been jealous of the fish. Why couldn’t you just float back to the top of the water at that very instant? Your vision began to blur, you struggled with the seaweed once more, but nothing you did was going to matter. All you wanted in that moment was to feel alive again, but you wouldn’t, you were going to die. The seaweed must have felt your fear and let go, because you’re still here minding your own business, still chewing on that pen cap. You must have broken the water’s surface, inhaling the aroma of the ocean that had once confined you. You must have felt like you were being born again when you broke the water, taking your first breath of air of your newfound world that was to come. You were no longer jealous of the fish or the bubbles you had seen; now you were a fish out of water, you were the bubbles that floated to the top. You had gotten everything I’ve ever wanted; you could finally feel life again. Eastern Exposure

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Eric Cerino

On Love at 85 Years I ask myself, alone: How can I describe love now? The span of seas linking lands of mammoth mountains to sleek sands. Can I compare it to the sun, the route so many tend to go? The sun’s soul eternal, yet retiring at its set, bewilders me, though. So close to the surface, I cannot kiss its face. Its descent allows moonlight’s murky conquest – For which I have no comment on or trace. I do know that it is something to be held, I can describe love, I have held her close. I have held it as the green grass grows Greener with each rainy embrace. I have held it as summer’s sun sinks deep, I have held the pillow resting on my wife’s sleep space. A smiling sun frowns through nighttime’s lengthy leap, But this I hold through world’s timely maze.

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Chelsea Griffin

Two to Tango Stationary lovers movable in blackened ink, the lifting of lips defined by a cold knuckling bruise and the ripping of pages consumed in the dying embers of a desperate anesthesia. Traipsing red lashes lying in patterned narration mislaid by Corinthian drops; a malevolent miscarriage, the crucifixion on an abandoned hill, awaiting in perspiring anticipation what winged agent take her next. Striking eyes, brutal in cooling flesh, raised with post-apocalyptic mercy, poised above the pulsing arrogance of those who assumed the choice was theirs alone.

On Beauty Contests Straggling lines of botoxed beauties, white teeth flashing red lips, dyed manes haloing the ultimate cause; “World Peace,� they cried one after another, raising battlements, brandishing diamonds like swords, as if being pretty were enough.

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Katherine Claps

Where To?

The dream

Travis had it all planned out: Goal number one; move to New York City. Goal number two; get a job and apartment in the city, save up money for six months for school. Goal number three; attend New York University to study business part time while getting internships and small jobs in an office in the city. Goal number four, graduate and go on to get MBA. Goal number five, get MBA and have a successful career in business and live a fun filled life in the city. His family was full of successful business people, and he was going to be the next one. The reality Travis is now twenty-two years old, living in a two-bedroom apartment with four guys, working full time as a New York City taxi driver. His apartment was usually littered with Pizza Hut boxes and empty Red Bull cans everywhere. His roommates and him were often watching TV and playing video games. Travis’s career as a taxi driver was usually dull and the pay was not great. He would often overcharge passengers when he can tell they are not from the city and are easily fooled into handing him twice as much as they should. He has not saved much money or filled out a single application for college. The passengers Travis is often entertained or irritated by his passengers. He might get the usual New York on their way to work, or a group of shoppers either from the city or tourists. He often enjoys listening to the chatter of super excited tourists, who are on a New York City high. He loves that they thrived on the fast paced action as much as he did when he first moved here. He had now become accustomed to it, as he had to drive through it every day. Then there were the people trying to get to work, some of them would be in a hectic rush and grateful for his quick service, others treated him as though he was a mule pulling a cart, no please, thank you, just a place and threw the money at him. It didn’t faze him after a month of being a taxi driver. Often people complained about him driving too fast, but he did not care, since he wanted to get as many people as he could. Some passengers, however, were more special to Travis. Beautiful strangers There was one girl, who was around Travis’s age, who used his services when commuting to school and work. During the week days he would try hard to get to where she would be so he could be the one to pick her up. When he saw he was too late, he would punch the wheel, and his next passenger would have the misfortune to endure his reckless driving, which made his normal fast driving look much safer. However, when he did get her, he often tried to ask her how her day was going, butshe was on the phone a lot with family or friends, or worse, a boyfriend. She always said hello, please, thank you, and goodbye and have a nice day. One day, he would learn her name, and maybe come up with a charming way to ask her out.

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Katherine Claps The unlikely friend Besides the pretty girl, Travis looked forward to seeing Mark. Travis met Mark two years ago when he drove him to meet his date at her apartment. The next time he saw him, he found out it did not go well. Mark was the only passenger who had a conversation with him, other than when tourists would ask him for an opinion on where to get drinks or dinner. Over the last two years, Mark kept telling Travis he was worried he would have to leave the city because he couldn’t afford it and was at a dead end in his job. However, two years had passed, and Mark was still here, eating his breakfast from Dunkin Donuts in his taxi, sometimes grabbing Travis a sandwich or coffee, although Travis was not really supposed to really eat in his cab. Travis was not worried, and was sure he would have his friend. Although they never hung out, Travis figured they would eventually, since they had become close. Jealousy It wasn’t easy for Travis to pick up people dressed in their business attire and suitcases in hand. He often felt embarrassed and full of envy. There were people who would throw him a twenty dollar bill without flinching and run out of the car. These people were doing so well; dropping twenty dollars on cab was no big deal to them. Whenever he took the money, he felt his dignity slip away. They were off doing what he wanted to do, what he came here to do. Yet his week had nothing besides work planned for him, no attempt to take a step towards his dreams. Money Money. Always an issue. He was on the tightest budget possible. When he first got a job as a taxi driver, he was so excited to start saving for school, his goal was to save fifty dollars a week. However, after two weeks, he and his roommates would go out and have fun in the city, and that money was used for food, drinks, rides, and entertainment of all types. After three months he tried saving again, but after three weeks, stopped saving. Travis continued to use the money for various necessities and entertainment, causing him to feel less motivated to save for school. Still today, Travis had two hundred and fifty dollars, money he was always tempted to touch, but successfully avoided. Explaining Holidays and birthdays were once something Travis looked forward to, but every gathering of friends or family had become a time for Travis to explain why he is still where he is. After his first year in New York City, people understood him not attending a college yet. However, after four years, he had many rehearsed answers, “It’s hard to save money when rent is expensive”, “I am almost ready”, “People don’t tip well”, “There are no entry level office jobs available right now”, or “I am deciding on an affordable, good school”. Soon, people fell uninterested in him, no longer were his fascinating life in the cities stories interesting, just a reminder he was not doing what he went there for.

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Katherine Claps Pretzels New York City giant pretzels were the best. Travis never got sick of them. He always had two dollars for a pretzel a day. The pretty stranger, Mark, and his daily pretzel were the only things Travis look forward to during the week. Unexpected farewell Travis picked up Mark one day; Mark asked to go Grand Central. Travis asked if he was going home for the weekend. Mark told him he was getting started on moving back home. He could no longer afford to live in the city and was going nowhere with his job. As Mark dropped him off, he said good bye. Two years had gone by; their entire friendship took place in a cab. Living with failure Travis drove around, picking up people. He listened to their conversations; they all had plans, events, and things to do. Celebrating accomplishments and embarking new goals. Travis moodily drove around, not even feeling like grabbing his daily pretzel. He did not feel like he earned it, not today, not ever. The plunge Travis looked at his watch after dropping off a passenger, it was 3:08, in seven minutes, and the pretty stranger would be hailing for a cab. He turned his car and drove as fast as he could, he raced to the spot, she wasn’t there, and people were trying to hail him, but he drove by them, and kept coming back, several people were real mad and shouting at him, but at 3:19, there she was, he drove right up to her. He picked her up and she gave her usual friendly hello and destination with a please and thank you. Travis began to drive and saw her reach for her phone, and quickly struck up a conversation about her day. She put her phone away, and for 10 minutes, they covered each other’s day, people in New York, and loving the pretzels here. Travis drove to the spot where he dropped her off, and turned to her, and told her he enjoyed their conversation and asked if they could continue it outside of the cab sometime, maybe to get one of those tasty big pretzels. She gave him her number, smiling, and said goodbye. He grinned, opened up his wallet, he took the money he gave her, and quickly on his lap, separated the bills by their use, “Date, rent, groceries, college…”

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Emily Story

Inhumane Living here is like serving a life sentence Where you always hear the silence, see the inhumane, and taste the blood of your newfound enemies. You know the white walls that confine you will haunt you when you least expect it, stripping you of your innocence at your most vulnerable point. You’ll always be that river that does not flow, but mistakenly sends people over the edge. In this world people choose to make love, not knowledge and eventually they’ll learn that not everything is supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. When the moon speaks, you’ll thank him; for now inhumanity finally has its’ chance to sleep. The green bag of contraband will always taunt you out of what’s left of your sanity; But you’ll submit to it one day, the day when you’ll realize your tongue will no longer be silenced and your words no longer invisible. Every day the sun’s brightness casts its impending doom on you, but according to your peers your pain never really existed. In the end there will be no winners, only victims and survivors of a thousand sadistic lies pounded in your head. Your writing is a dangerous act, yet to have no opinion is to be an empty void. Writing should be a way for you to claim your voice and your opinions in this screwed up inhumane system of life. But even the clock on the wall will eventually run away, and take with it your pitiful existence.

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Madeline Cobar

Fall Away From Here I wish I could fall Fall away from here Fall away from fear I wish I could fly Fly free away Until the day I die I wish I could fly And I wish I had The strength to run To stop my suffering At the hands of everyone I wish I could run Oh, I can’t bear to hide Locking my entire self inside No I cannot hide You tell me I’m alive Please do not lie How I need to be alive I am afraid to die Can’t cast my fears aside Aren’t we all scared to die I guess we’re all alive

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Samantha Figueroa

In The Absinthen Glow I’m descending the steep and creaking stair as you swagger down the lime light filled hall. You raise that handsome face up to see me while hazy murmurs and cheers rise and fall. Your princely smile gleams in the absinthen glow. Your eyes agleam with the joie de vivre I know. It’s impossible to contain my grin when you say “Hey” with that cock of your chin. The rest of your words are so low, I fail to hear. I lean over the wood hand rail. Leaning in closer, the better to hear your precious words as your face comes so near. The better to feel your rose petal lips with mine, the prickly scratch of your face. Down the steps I skip a reel. The better to twine my arm ’round you. Matching pace, your arm wraps ’round me as I swing into the hall. And we stroll, a three legged beast, to the drunken ball. But you’re gone. Meanwhile I think of this scene, the better to smile at what might have been.

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Rachel McLeod Yang to Yin 1 Rachel stared at the reflection in the mirror. The face staring back was David’s. David with the five o’clock shadow. David with the bald spot on the crown of his head. David with the slightly jutting chin and heavy eyebrows and bulging Adam’s apple. The reflection was a seemingly inescapable reality. The face she saw staring back at her was the face of thirty-seven years of reality. What Rachel wanted was, in her mind, probably nothing more or less than fantasy—a wish for another reality—a different reality where David’s face wasn’t the face greeting her in every mirror. ‘It’s a fight,’ Rachel tells herself, facing David. As she grabs the disposable razor and shave gel, she surveys David’s five o’clock shadow and the scant stubble landscape she finds as she rubs her chin and cheeks. It’s not really a matter of what she sees as it is what she feels. She feels whiskers, she feels rough when she wants to feel smooth. Rachel shaves David’s face every morning and sometimes every other afternoon. No one can believe she is Rachel if they can’t see past David. Rachel can’t see Rachel without first shaving David away. Rachel applies a lather of shaving cream and wishes it was cold cream or make-up or something feminine, something meaningful for feminine beauty. The razor glides across David’s stubble and Rachel hopes to see her face underneath. It feels like she is scraping one face away to uncover another. It is a painful process that promises some relief in the end. True relief though could only come if she didn’t have to shave at all. Whatever she shaves only grows back and a clean shaven face, though smooth to the touch and possibly feminine enough, is only a temporary relief still. She still has testosterone. She will always have that Y-chromosome. The razor and shave cream are only two of Rachel’s tools for transformation. To put David where he needs to be—maybe where he wants to be, really—Rachel has to employ many other tools. Rachel goes into her room to gather these other tools. She locks the door, checks the shades and curtains and gathers her tools under the dim illumination of lamplight. The transformation is a secret ritual—a blend of wishful thinking, fantasy, real emotion, bravery, fear, anxiety, hope, and fiery spirit. Magic is occurring in the shadows and low light. The inner things inside are being summoned up. What is trapped inside is being prepared for the outside. If the magic is good, if the ingredients are blended well enough, more inside things can come out. If the magic is lacking, if the ingredients are in some way deficient or not in ample supply, less comes out and David returns more quickly. The plan is to prepare for ballet class. All her life, Rachel wanted to be a ballerina. She wanted to be pretty. She wanted to be graceful and poised and feel the ultimate in femininity. What could be more feminine than to be a young girl in ballet pink tights and sleek fitted leotard dancing to Tchaikovsky? At thirty-seven, the dream has aged but not faltered or lessened in intensity. David interfered of course but he had to. He was afraid to let Rachel out. He was protecting Rachel. Rachel can see that now. Yet so many years later, Rachel has grown up. Rachel has strengthened herself and feels herself ready to step out and step aside from David. Rachel rolls on her Dove, lavender scented deodorant—a surprisingly essential tool. The last thing she wants to do is smell like a man or sweat like one. A girl should smell nice—not like a barber shop or locker room or musky animal. Rachel combs the hair she has and tries to ignore the hair she’s lost and the hair she is losing. 60

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Rachel McLeod She ties her long hair into a tight ponytail, wishing she had enough to make a ballerina’s bun. A black, knit sequined hat conceals her disappointment. The hat is an essential tool as well. Now come the padded panty and tight body-shaper and breast padding. Rachel tugs herself into the body hugging undergarments and tries to find her curves and settle into them. In the intimate privacy of her bedroom she transforms David’s flat chest into the developing breasts of Rachel. She transforms the flat into something curvy and hopefully feminine. She shies away from the obvious—the Yang to her Yin. It is easier to add padding to form breasts and rounded butt than it is to take away Yang to make smooth Yin. It is hard to conceal what seems so painfully obvious—that bulge that belongs to David but humiliates Rachel. Next come the tights—Capezio, Queen size, ballet pink tights. They feel smooth and soft and Rachel loves them. They make her legs pretty and seemingly flawless. In her tights, Rachel feels more relaxed, more natural, and more feminine. She feels weightless and excited. They are just tights of course—nothing supernatural or magical really—though… perhaps they are. They can transform David’s legs into Rachel’s legs. They can hide some of David and reveal some of Rachel. ‘Tights are wonderful,’ Rachel declares to herself. It is a girly, innocent, youthful declaration she dares not utter aloud. David’s voice would kill this thought the moment it left her head to his lips. The leotard—the foundation of any ballerina—is long sleeved, black, Lycra spandex. As she slips it on and pulls her arms through the sleeves, it becomes her second skin. It becomes a part of her being and essence. It is her soul she is slipping into. Like the tights, the leotard performs a kind of magic, granting Rachel permission to dance, be girly, be feminine, and be bold and expressive. Rachel’s eyes wander and survey the landscape that is her body. She has curves and hints of breasts and hips. She has long slender legs and arms. She has a long, smooth line—and one little bulge between her legs that interrupts that smoothness and that line. No matter how hard she tries to be Rachel, there is still something of David that interferes—David’s Yang to Rachel’s Yin. * * * “Nice tights asshole!” a throaty voice calls out from a hunched over homeless man, sitting on wet grass against the side of a church. “Look at that faggot,” another ragged man laughs to the man smoking a bent cigarette beside him. There are at least half a dozen homeless and hungry people loitering outside a church, waiting for the soup kitchen to open its doors. All Rachel wants to do is walk by and continue her way to Main Street to the ballet studio. She quickens her pace. The last thing she needs is to have these men follow her and harass her. outside a church, waiting for the soup kitchen to open its doors. All Rachel wants to do is walk by and continue her way to Main Street to the ballet studio. She quickens her pace. The last thing she needs is to have these men follow her and harass her.It is bad enough they see her and can stare and follow her with their eyes. It is bad enough they have called her out and seen the obvious Yang to her Yin. They see David dressed as Rachel. They miss Rachel entirely. Eastern Exposure

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Rachel McLeod Rachel doesn’t judge them. She says nothing and walks quickly past the church, focused on getting to her destination as quickly and safely as possible. She knows that if things were slightly different, she might find herself among them—one of the homeless and hungry. Many things can go wrong for Rachel and she is very aware of that. It often seems like she is the only one who understands the risks and dangers. It seems like she is the only one who understands what is at stake. Rachel wants to be Rachel but not everyone will allow it or want it or support it. Not everyone sees Rachel behind David. Not everyone wants Rachel to exist. When Rachel arranged for ballet classes, she was determined to make someone believe in her. She was hoping someone would see Rachel and not David. She was determined to convince someone that there was a girl seeking to be a ballerina underneath the man who shielded that girl for her own protection. Rachel didn’t want special treatment or to be treated as less than Rachel and more like David. David was not a ballerina! David was David. Ballet was for Rachel and she didn’t want David to be involved. David had his own things. For once, Rachel wanted to come out and have something for herself. * * * Rachel walked into the studio, guided by her teacher with a smile. Even though the exchange of emails was lengthy and comforting, everything was still new and unknown. It didn’t matter that they had been trading emails or that Rachel had come out to the teacher and explained herself and gotten a wonderfully welcoming reply. It didn’t matter in the moment that Rachel’s teacher had every intention of giving her everything she had ever hoped for—real, private ballet lessons in a real, private ballet studio. In the moment, Rachel was feeling as vulnerable now as the day she came out to her therapist. In the moment, this was another first for Rachel. This was the first time someone other than herself and her mirror would see the girl she really hoped she was and wanted to be. This was perhaps the first time someone other than her therapist would see her with all vulnerability and body awareness and inner sensitivity exposed. Yet the teacher was understanding and far more open-minded and encouraging than Rachel imagined or considered. She took in Rachel with all her considerations and circumstances and firmly assured her of a kind of reality that Rachel did not expect but secretly yearned for maybe all her life. “The moment you walk in this door, you are Rachel. You are a girl. You are taking ballet lessons as a girl,” the teacher said. “You can wear whatever you feel comfortable wearing for ballet.” “What if I’m already wearing tights and a leotard?” Rachel asked. “That’s absolutely fine,” the teacher replied. “You’re a girl. Girls should wear tights and leotard. I don’t have a particular dress code for adult private lessons, but if you want what the other girls get, then you should come to class in ballet pink tights and black leotard. Your slippers can be leather or canvas but they should be pink too. If you want a dress code, there you go.” A chill rushed through Rachel. It was a chill of nervousness, excitement, and sudden realization. She was actually going to be a ballerina. She was really going to step into this studio in tights and leotard—an outfit that could not be any more 62

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Rachel McLeod feminine by any standard, really—and she would be standing there in this outfit in front of another girl—actually a woman—with all sorts of mirrors and reflections surrounding her. ‘Am I really doing this? Is this really happening?’ Rachel shook. “Get changed and meet me in the studio. We’ll have a look around and then we’ll get started,” the teacher announced. Rachel came prepared. She came prepared to dance in pink tights and black leotard—she anticipated and researched and agonized for weeks looking for what was proper, what was most likely required, and what would be normal and expected of a girl taking ballet classes. She prepared as any girl would be expected to prepare. Yet David was prepared too. David was prepared to see Rachel get rejected at the last minute. David was prepared to see Rachel humiliated and embarrassed. David was almost certain that Rachel would be ridiculed and sent fleeing back into his protection, back into the shell or shadows. “You do understand that I am transgender, right?” Rachel spoke up. “You’re a girl that asked for ballet classes and that’s all that matters to me. Go change,” the teacher replied. Rachel slipped into the Men’s bathroom partly out of habit, mostly out of fear, and a little bit out of concern—if she had gone into the Women’s bathroom, what if girls walked in and saw her changing Yang to Yin? What if another girl or her mother walked in and saw the obvious? The Men’s bathroom was empty and would be empty. Boys and men typically didn’t take ballet. Ballet was generally a girl thing—a Yin thing. The Men’s room would be safe this time around—safe and empty. Alone in the bathroom, in front of the mirrors, Rachel sees more Yin than Yang already. David is hiding but poised to appear at a moment’s notice just in case. At the slightest hint of threat or danger or rejection or humiliation, he would pounce and become her shield, her paladin, or her aggressive defensemen willing to drop the gloves. The skirt slides down with hesitant hands that tremble. The sweatshirt gets pulled off. Rachel stands before the mirror and reveals to herself the ballet pink tights and black leotard she has sort of concealed and kept hidden. The protective layers have come off completely and all she sees now is this timid form standing before a mirror, dressed in tights and leotard, wondering if she looks the part of a ballerina, wondering if she looks Yin enough, worried that maybe the bulge that is Yang is too noticeable, too obvious, too shameful. ‘What would the teacher say? What would she think? What will she see?’ Everything looks smooth, clean, sleek, and pretty, Rachel thinks and hopes. She has no complaints about the tights or leotard or slippers. They are without flaw or imperfection. They are pure. It’s the person who is wearing them that concerns her. Is she the right person for these tights and this leotard and these slippers? ‘Am I really doing this? Am I really a girl?’ Rachel asks the reflection in the mirror. 2 First position, second position, fifth position, demi-plié, grand plié, tendu, rond de jambe, and relevé, and degagé done en croix… the French vocabulary of ballet blended with the Italian of music and flowed through Rachel’s mind effortlessly. Her body however, needed patience. Rachel’s expectations for herself were so high the frustration brought her to a sudden and immediate low. She wanted to be perfect. Eastern Exposure

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Rachel McLeod She wanted it to feel so natural and so effortless—even the simplest things needed to be done more perfectly. In her mind she had so much catching up to do and feared leaving herself behind. She feared she was too old to be doing something this graceful and so often reserved for the young and beautiful. Yet this was only her first class, her first taste of more things to come, better things to come, more dancing, more dreaming, and even more reality for Rachel. The teacher guaranteed there would be more lessons. She promised and signed the application and filed it. She was not going to let Rachel crawl in shame to the shadows nor allow her to retreat into her shell with David. She came as a girl, Rachel, and that was who she saw and who she was going to teach. Rachel wanted ballet and that was what she was going to get. French ballet words, Italian music vocabulary, Russian ballet choreography, Italian variations… it was wonderfully exciting and new. Though the initial shock of seeing herself in front of the mirrors was difficult to overcome—as was the realization of being seen in a leotard and tights in front of someone was too—the movements were the release she always hoped for. Movement was freedom. Dancing and feeling the music flowing through her body was the liberation she needed from years of being bound up, hidden, and held back. Dancing made everything so clear now. Yang was indeed turning Yin. As she walked up High Street, back to campus, it was becoming more clear to her what she had done and what she had accomplished. It became sharp in her mind that she had been freed—if not totally, at least for the duration of her class. In her tights and leotard, she was vulnerable and scared of her body and what it was and what it was trying to become—but this vulnerable body and these frightening feelings she had were being challenged by the knowledge that she had danced—really, truly, honestly danced. Not as a guy, but as a girl. Not as a clumsy, awkward Yang, but as a curious, hopeful, dreaming Yin. She just had to go easy on herself. She had only taken her first steps with this newfound freedom and liberating force. Perfection and transformation was not going to occur overnight and surely not in the span of a forty-five minute ballet lesson. While it might have been a few months since she started counseling, and a few more months since coming out to her mother, these last few months had been only baby steps too. Rachel had to allow things to go their allotted course. While the urge to be Yin was overwhelming at times, the truth was, she was still dealing with David and that which was Yang. She may not have wanted to live like a two-sided coin but that was how things were—not just for her, but for everyone. Yin and Yang were in everything. If she had her way though, naturally she would want to be more Yin than Yang. She walks up High Street feeling that she will get there one way. She took several steps closer to that. Such a feat was worthy of celebration. 3 Walking through the Student Center, Rachel considered the bravery and courage she had mustered to boldly come forward for ballet lessons. She could have just changed her mind and walked away. She could have stayed home and put her tights and leotard back in the drawer of her dresser or go even further and left them in the original packaging and mailed them back to sender for a full refund. She went though. She went and changed in tights and leotard and danced. She gave herself into the hands of a stranger she only knew by email and trusted her with her identity, her 64

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Rachel McLeod vulnerability, and her body. Any number of things could have happened and any number of things could have been said. What she did was extremely bold and thankfully everything turned out better than expected and feared. The teacher listened, she welcomed her in, and she agreed to teach her as Rachel, a girl who would come to class in pink tights and clean leotard. Rachel also considered this new reality and this new sense of identity awareness. She did something David as Yang, could not do. She danced the ballet of girls and women. She was also welcomed as Rachel, not David. She was taught and corrected and even touched as Rachel. Rachel had never been touched. It was a weird thought but it was true. A woman or girl had never touched Rachel—it was always David. Whether it was a handshake or a hug or even a pat on the shoulder, it was David who felt these things. It was always David they wanted to touch. In class though, it was different. In ballet, it was Rachel who was getting the hug that assured her she was welcome and safe. It was Rachel’s legs and arms and torso the teacher held or supported or touched when she corrected. It was Rachel’s name on the class registration forms—that was the name that was wanted. Rachel never thought something so simple could have such a profound effect on her emotions right now. For at least forty-five minutes, she felt like a whole person. On her way to the Pride Room, it seemed so clear to Rachel that she was being watched or stared at by those lounging about and walking by. They didn’t have to say anything and most were silent. Their eyes appeared to speak for them. The eyes were curious, taken aback, startled, or amused. With the eyes came faces and expressions. There were sneers, there were stares, and there were bouts of laughter. Rachel had no way of knowing if the laughter was truly directed at her just as she had no real way of knowing for certain if the eyes focused on her were true reflections of these people’s souls or just reflections of Rachel’s fears. Fear and reality were two forces vying for her attention no different than the Yin and the Yang. She thought she had been brave and courageous and liberated and free to be feminine, girly-girl, and a pretty ballerina. These thoughts froze and became suspended though. This wasn’t the ballet studio or her bedroom or her apartment. This was the Student Center, a public place, a place on-campus where there were far more eyes watching her than her own. Rachel had intuition. She had a sixth sense about things—at least she thought so. She had read Tarot cards for fifteen-odd years. She had a way of seeing things in others that they could not see in themselves. Yet that was out the door right now. Those powers of perception were somewhere else, out of reach. Here she was, in tights, skirt, and purple girly sweatshirt walking through a semi-crowded Student Center, where time suddenly slowed and every face and pair of eyes seemed to turn towards her as the center of attention and gravity. Reality had changed because the setting had changed. It wasn’t fair, it wasn’t just, but that was what happened. The courage and bravery she had only moments ago were looking for a quick getaway. The confidence and powers of perception were knocked off their pedestal. ‘Doubt leads to fear, fear leads to sadness, sadness leads to anger, anger leads to hate. Hate leads to the Dark Side and I’m not talking the dark Yin to bright Yang,’ Rachel’s mind worked. Eastern Exposure

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Rachel McLeod Down the steps and around two corners, in a corner, the Pride Room waited and she could relax, let her guard down, and be assured that David would not have to jump in and rescue her and save her from these critical eyes and malevolent looking smirks and bits of laughter. The Pride Room, a sort of safe, second living room for those that might identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, intersex, straight, curious, questioning, male, female, asexual, dominant, submissive, this, that, or just plain human—or even transgender— waited. It was a calm place. It was a place where she hoped to learn, express, wind down, release, and find others who know, think, feel, and experience as she does. Being there was a first step. Being among a community was another. In the Pride Room, with those that were gay, lesbian, bisexual, asexual, intersex, questioning, straight, this, that, the other, transgender, male, female, possibly all of the above—it was possible to go Yin from Yang. One only had to walk in, look around, be among the diversity and see it to realize anything was possible, everything was fluid, in motion, in flux, always changing, always developing, always growing and adapting. Anything seemed possible and it was all welcome, all encouraged, and all included. So Rachel walked into the Pride Room and there were no critical eyes or sneering faces or malevolent bouts of laughter. There were no hidden, sly little comments, no words or phrases like “faggot”, “she-male”, “sissy-boy”, “tranny-trash”, or “fucking homo” flying about. There were books, posters, flyers, a big screen TV, a rack of brochures and pamphlets, a computer, a leather couch and floppy beanbag chairs, and rainbows. It was a living room, a space to unwind, a place that stole these words from existence and smothered them with other words like “Pride”, “Alliance”, “Tolerance”, “Acceptance”, “Respect”, “Safe Space”, and “Peace”. Rachel sat down, peeled off her sweatshirt, revealing her sleek black leotard and traded her sneakers for her ballet slippers. This was a place where Yang could be Yin after all. It came to her then as she revealed her ballerina self to the Pride Room, that while there weren’t many places yet where she could be Yin and not Yang, it was a sure thing now that she could think of at least two places where she could indeed do so. And while she might still struggle with David and Yang, in ballet class and in the Pride Room, it is Rachel that emerges in the end and David who waits outside with nothing to do, as it should be, Rachel thinks.

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Sean Richmond

There Goes the Neighborhood Swarming form, decaying swamps they came. Drawn to the living like a lily scent on a graveTheir bodies barely there, bones exposed From half-hidden holes in festering flesh Drawn to the living like a scent on a graveA shambling beat in the dark. From half-hidden holes in festering flesh Comes a mournful call of lost life. A shambling beat in the dark, Weak words fall on dead ears-softly Rises a mournful call of absent life. Children huddle sobbing in cold corners. Weak words fall on dead ears-softly Scuffling across blood-spattered floors Children sob in cold corners Crying turns to crunchingThe Dead feast tonight.

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Angela DiLella

Your Dead Eye Covered like a Jewish mirror, a Rosetta stone hidden forever from Napoleon’s troops in the sifting sands. Your living eye is not the Greek third and offers no translations; it lets your brains and thoughts hide like small, frightened mammals tucked away in secret holes staving off the winter’s deadly chill. Your face remains as unmoved as Wilde’s (un)happy statue, perhaps the owner of a holy heart but perhaps only because of suspension of disbelief, we’ll never know, living eye makes status unknown, dry and nondescript as desert sand as it is, while your dead eye, trapped behind a Nexcare bandage, encased as safely as all of Muqattan’s limestone stacked tightly together by countless slaves, fills with tears, drowning it like the residents of a sinking grotto in Atlantis.

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Rebecca Vogt

Etching in Time “You should have told me,” he said dragging his hand through his short brown hair. His eyes were focused intently on the pebble he was rolling around on the pavement with his foot, “Why didn’t you tell me?” The heavy grayness of the sky seemed to loom over them, threatening rain at any moment. Maggie stood leaning up against her car. She pulled her sweater closer around her frail body and took a final drag of her cigarette before throwing it on the ground. She shrugged. “Eddie…” she said softly. She reached her hand out to touch his shoulder, but he moved it back and out of her reach. He watched as her face twisted with anger. She let out an exasperated sigh. “What was I supposed to do? Just call you up and say hey guess what?!” “Yes!” he blurted. “I mean… no, not exactly, but you could have told me…” he kicked the rock across the parking lot, “… I just wish I knew.” She bit her bottom lip and looked away into the distance, the way she always did when she was on the verge of tears. He noticed how stiff she was holding herself and the ghostly pale appearance of her skin. Her bright green eyes seemed to lack the liveliness they used to. “Well,” she said sniffling, “I’m sorry, then. Okay? Is that what you want?” “No…” he said shoving his hands into his jean’s pockets, “I just… don’t understand why you didn’t tell me? I know you haven’t been feeling well, but you acted like it wasn’t anything serious.” He watched as she pulled another cigarette out of her pack and lit it. She took a drag and then let her hand drop to her side. “Should you really be smoking?” he asked, reaching for the cigarette. She jerked her hand back. “See!” she shouted. She threw the cigarette on the ground and stomped on it. “That’s exactly why I didn’t tell you. I knew if I told you, everything would change. You’d start treating me differently. This is the last thing I wanted. Everyone else is tiptoeing around me like I could die any second. I didn’t want you to treat me that way, too. I’m not on my freaking death bed yet!” She kicked the tire of her car then whipped open the door. Eddie stood frozen to the pavement, his mind spinning. He opened his mouth to speak but couldn’t formulate any words. Maggie jammed her keys in the ignition and turned them. The engine sputtered, unwilling to turn over. She angrily wrenched the key over and over until finally she gave up, ripped the keys out of the ignition and threw them out of the passenger side window. “Damn it.” She said quietly, letting the words softly slip from her lips as she laid her head against the steering wheel and closed her eyes.

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Samantha Boyle

Daddy Sitting on the cold bleachers The crisp fall afternoon Is perfect for softball Looking around at proud fathers, eagerly Awaiting their daughters’ chance for success She sees her fathers face on their bodies That feeling hits her again Like a bat hits a ball Sudden and strong. She is reminded of her life Of the reality that is her own. That day Repeats itself in her mind like a movie she can not forget Sitting on the couch Her parents sitting across from her Talking to her, but After the first sentence Flows into her ears No other words seem to matter Cancer. Is the only thing She can think about A million thoughts Race through her mind. What will the future bring And what will he miss? A daughter’s love For the most important man In her life Will never die No matter what the future brings.

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Michelle Patenaude

A Family Affair I turned on the faucet with a hard twist, letting streams of lukewarm water fall to the shower floor. I didn’t wait for it to get hot; partly because I tend to be impatient, but mostly because the copper heating pipes in this tiny old apartment never seemed to do their job. I felt the water trying to soak through my thick, curly hair, and leaned my face towards the few, faint puffs of steam so they could seep into my pores. I moved my hands up my torso and rested them on my shoulders. My fingers traced the mangled mesh of scars that began on the nape of my neck and twisted their way down my right shoulder, stopping just short of being able to peek out of a t-shirt sleeve. With every move of my fingers, my senses relived a moment that my mind wants to forget. My mother screams. A glass bottle shatters. A searing, fiery pain. The metallic taste of blood. I can’t believe I’m going back there. But I have to go; I have to bring my mom lilacs, those were her favorite. I stopped the flow of water, highly unsatisfied with my shower but too anxious to stand still any longer. Wrapped in a towel, I hurried down the hall and began to forage through my nightstand. I scooped out a small plastic bottle and poured a few pills into my hand. “I thought you weren’t taking those anymore.” I whipped around, nearly losing the too-small towel wrapped around my body. Andy leaned against the doorway, the top of his hair skimming the frame that was built for a time when people were much smaller, and apparently didn’t enjoy hot showers. “Just a few. The prescription is still good.” After three years of marriage, Andy had seen me try countless different methods to ease my anxiety: yoga, therapy, massages, even hypnosis, but on a day like today, a day when I would have to re-visit my past, nothing besides the meds would do. I popped three pills into my mouth and swallowed without any water. Within seconds an instant wave of calm came over me, not that they actually worked that fast, but I felt better just knowing they were dissolving inside of me. “You know, it’s not too late for me to call out of work. I can go with you, Aly. I don’t want to be here worrying about you.” I looked up at Andy, his kind blue eyes pleaded with me to let him come. “There’s nothing to worry about, I’ll be fine.” We both knew that was a lie, but I just couldn’t bring him there. That was a different life, he was my new life; I just couldn’t mix the two. “Alessandra, come on…” I had stopped using my full name years ago, in an effort to be more ‘American’, but my Italian roots never seemed to leave me alone. Andy knew that using it would get my attention, but instead of going on a rant about my name preferences like usual, I gave him a kiss on the cheek instead. With a sigh of surrender, he wrapped me in his arms. Those arms, with biceps just barely defined and freckles scattered all over, are the only ones I’d ever felt safe in. I relished in that security for a moment, knowing that I wouldn’t feel anything close to it during my week-long trip. Forcing myself to pull away from Andy, I slipped on an oversized t-shirt and Eastern Exposure

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Michelle Patenaude some shorts before I sat down at my vanity. My eyes, dark as the coffee my mother used to brew every morning, stared back at me, tired and alert, all at once. The gray circles under them begged for some concealer, but I wasn’t planning on talking to anyone on the plane anyways, so I smeared some chapstick on my thin lips and opened my closet. I’d need a black outfit, one that covered my knees. A dress I had found on clearance years ago, tags still attached, would have to do. I stuffed it haphazardly into my suitcase and told Andy I was ready to go, even though I really never would be. … … … I hadn’t slept in over 30 hours by the time I arrived in Pisa. My inability to sleep on the plane was mostly because I couldn’t stop shaking my legs or drumming my fingers, but also because the man sitting next to me, who just happened to be borderline obese, had managed to slip into a coma during take-off, and took to drooling dangerously close to my shoulder. “Dove a?” The cab driver’s deep voice startled me back to the task at hand. “I’m going to Castelfalfi. Oh, I mean, um, Vado a Castelfalfi.” I would have to get used to speaking Italian again, and to people calling me by my full name. As the car zoomed out of the airport boundaries and into the busy city streets, I buckled my seatbelt. The driving here seemingly consisted of no rules; instead, it was a whirlwind of buses, cars, vespas, bicycles and pedestrians, each not willing to stop for the others, only beeping horns and slamming brakes until they got where they were going. When we finally reached the beginning of the long windy road that would take me up to Castelfalfi, I briefly felt relieved to be entering the beautiful countryside. I thought about my mother, kneeling in the garden, tending to her plants with such precision and tenderness. She used to send little cards with dried flowers inside to my Connecticut address, but those had stopped about a year ago, just when the phone calls became rushed and brief. A bump in the road jolted me out of my daydream and I became panicky all over again. I felt sweat beads start to form on my forehead. I reached into my purse and took two pills. Moments after swallowing, I took another. As we wound through the hillside, the cab seemed to become vertical. Even with the new golf courses and hotels, the view was mostly the same: grove after grove of olive trees, the fat and twisted, like a bunch of roots bundled together spiraling into the ground. Other than underneath the canopy of an olive tree, I had only ever seen wood like this once before: on my father’s cane. I really don’t know if my father actually needed a cane to walk, but nevertheless he wouldn’t go anywhere without one. His favorite, and the one that was in his permanent grip for most of my childhood, was twisted, knotty, and crooked, just like the trunk of an olive tree. Even when he was sitting, my father would be holding his cane, ready to whack our dog on the back if he barked. When our dog was quiet, my father’s wrath would fall on my mother, and eventually, on me. Just moments after the road turned to dirt, I saw the little rusted sign that read “Castelfalfi”. I told the driver he could just let me off here, paid him and took a deep breath before stepping onto the grounds of my childhood for the first time in almost ten years. I began to climb up the hill that would take me to my family’s old home. I wasn’t even sure if anyone lived there right now; my father had died several years back, and after my mother’s death a couple of weeks ago, I had no idea what, or who, to expect. At the end of the path leading up to our house were bushes of lilacs. 72

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Michelle Patenaude My mother and I had planted them when I was a little girl. Her hands, always tanned from working in the garden under the Tuscan sun, led mine as she taught me to prepare the soil and gently place the seeds into the dirt. Her arms were covered in bruises that day, like most, and I wondered if the lilacs, once in full bloom, would match the deep purple colors on her skin. “Un giorno,” someday, she’d tell me, those flowers would break free of their soil, “per fiorire” and bloom, “come lei il mio amore,” just like you my love. I picked a bundle of flowers and tied them with a dark purple ribbon that I had brought just for her. After tying a neat bow, I looked up at my childhood home. It was small, so small in fact that it looked like a cottage out of a fairytale, or at least, it used to. Now, the perfectly pitched roof had more than half of its shingles missing. What was left of the pale yellow siding had moss clinging to it. But even though it used to look much prettier, I kind of liked it this way, decaying and chaotic. Now, the house’s outward appearance, perfectly matched how it had felt on the inside. After standing on the edge of the road for a while, I took a deep breath and made my way towards the front door. … … … The living room looked different; there were no more pictures hanging on the walls and there was a tarp covering the squeaky wooden floors. The bookshelves lining the entire left wall only housed a few books now and the wallpaper, once vibrant with green grape vines and violet bunches of grapes, was tattered and faded. The windowpanes, which my mother used to scrub clean every day, were clouded with grime and dust. All of the furniture was covered with large sheets of plastic, that is, except one thing: my father’s chair. I wouldn’t dare sit in it, but I let my fingers trace over the back. I could still see a faint indent on the moss-green colored seat cushion outlining where he used to sit. On the arm was a circular discoloration from where he would position his bottle, and underneath it on the floor, were stains from the constant and inevitable spilling. I continued to circle the room, stopping dead in my tracks when I spotted the brown stains splattered in the corner of two walls, close to the floor. And it all came back again: My mother screams. A glass bottle shatters. A searing, fiery pain. The metallic taste of blood. I put my back to the corner, and slowly slid down to the floor. Entirely against my will, I was back in that moment, sobbing because my father had just beaten our dog half to death, right in front of my ten-year-old eyes. “Mi cuccolio!” I screamed out for my puppy, but the cane just kept hitting his back as he yelped and crumpled to the ground. “No, no! Mi cuccolio, no!” With each of my screams, the dog was only beaten harder. Once my puppy became silent, I ran over to him and buried my face into his fur. I was listening for his heartbeat when, with a sudden whoosh through the air, my father’s cane cracked against my spine. After a second or two of shock and confusion, I let out a scream like I had never screamed before, ear-piercing and animalistic, howling as my spine cracked and snapped. My mother came running in from the garden screaming, “Fermata! Fermata!” Stop! Stop! she yelled. As my father’s rage was distracted, I scrambled away from him, not realizing that I was cornering myself. I thought that maybe I should beg him to stop, tell him I loved him like my mother always did. But I couldn’t make any words come out, I couldn’t even move. I didn’t know what to do, so I just stayed crouched in the corner, frozen.

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Michelle Patenaude As I looked to my mother for some sort of saving grace, my father’s head jerked around in my direction, and his gaze fixated on me. He stood there for a moment, just staring, swaying slightly. This was the only time I can remember him looking me directly in the eyes. His were a light yellow-green, and even though the color was vibrant, there was nothing behind them. They just stared blankly into mine, glazed over and stagnant. He didn’t even blink. Our stare was broken as I noticed his right arm begin to rise; I instinctively ducked, expecting another blow from his cane. But this time, he held a bottle instead. And all of a sudden, glass was shattering against my ear. Once my father had stumbled off somewhere, my mother carried me next door to her sister’s house. They stuck me in a tub of warm water, peeling my bloody clothes away from my skin. When my mother saw all the wounds, she gasped, “Sono spiacente il mio amore”, I’m sorry, my love, she apologized over and over. I almost felt ashamed for crying; when my mother was beaten she never cried, she just waited for it to be over, walked to the bathroom, and shut the door behind her. But that time, my mother was crying, hard, and soon her sobs began to match mine. After hours of wrapping and re-wrapping my shoulder, the bleeding finally stopped. It hadn’t crossed my mind to ask my mother to take me to the hospital that day. Judging by my uneven scars now, it was clear I had needed stitches. But even three months earlier when my mother’s arm had been broken under the crack of my father’s cane, we didn’t go to the hospital, “un affare di famiglia”, a family affair, my mother would say. I never understood that phrase growing up, because the people in my house never felt like a family to me. Just my mother and I getting beat on by an angry drunken man with a cane. A few days later, my mother took me into the garden and opened the doors to our rickety wooden shed. She moved around a wheelbarrow and some garden tools and placed a coffee can in my hands. She smiled at me, her thin lips pulling away from a perfectly straight set of teeth. “Apirlo.” I followed her instructions and opened the can. Inside was a thick roll of bills and dozens of loose coins. For you, she said, “per fiorire”, to bloom. I hadn’t truly understood what this meant, until a couple months later when I was on an airplane alone, bound for the United States to live with my cousins. My mother said I would be safe there, and that she would come visit me someday. But she never came. … … … “Ciao?” I was startled out of my flashback as an old woman opened the front door and stepped in, outfitted entirely in black, with silver hair twisted into a bun on top of her head. “I’m sorry, I wasn’t sure if anyone lived here anymore. Um, oh, I mean, Non ho Saputo...” A smile grew across her face, revealing a straight set of teeth, just like my mother’s. “Oh, Alessandra, you no recognize me?” Her grin began to fade as she waited for a response. “Si, si, of course. It’s so nice to see you!” I moved closer to my old aunt and gave her a hug. She smelled of fresh flowers, just like my mother always did. As we 74

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Michelle Patenaude pulled away, our eyes locked for a moment before she motioned for me to sit on the plastic-covered furniture. “How do you doing my Alessandra? You are well in America, yes?” I nodded but before I could get out much of an answer, she started to tell me about life in Castelfalfi since I’d left; it was much different now, she said, many more loud cars and even louder tourists. But she didn’t mind all that much, they bought the flowers she grew and taught her English. She stopped speaking when she noticed the lilacs I held in my hands. “I suppose you like to know about mother, yes?” I nodded again; I had talked to my mom on the phone occasionally, I usually aimed for a couple times a month. But the past few years we hadn’t talked much. She was always rushing to get off the phone, always telling me everything was “buono, buono”, and right when I would start to ask her when she was coming to visit, she’d make up some excuse to hang up. I had thought about visiting her, but I was always too afraid to offer, thinking that she just might agree, and then I’d actually have to go back. My old aunt began to tell me about my mother’s last years of life. While my father was dying, she took care of him every moment of every day. After he passed, she wept for months, though that didn’t make much sense to me. Then, she died in her sleep one night, from a broken heart, my aunt said. She shook her head from side to side and wiped a single tear from her cheek before pointing to my shoulder. “This still pains you, yes?” My scars weren’t exposed but she must have remembered that night as well as I. “Um, it’s okay,” I tugged at my t-shirt sleeve, as the plastic crinkled underneath me. There was a moment of silence. Without thinking, I blurted out the question that had been nagging at me for years. “Why did my mother stay with him?” She sighed deeply and shut her eyes for a few seconds. “Oh, Alessandra. Your mother was good wife. Her life, it was not easy. But it was filled with joys. You, il mio amore, brought her joy.” That was really no explanation at all; I had wanted to ask this question my entire life, and now, with someone who had seen it all standing right in front of me, I still didn’t have an answer. Twentysix years of pain, resentment and confusion brewed inside of me. “Filled with joy? She was beaten half to death every day! You call that joy? No. You know what? You should’ve said something, you should’ve helped her!” My teeth grinded against each other as tears swelled in my eyes. I was just a kid when all of this was happening, but my aunt, she was an adult, and how could she have watched silently for all those years? I looked down and realized that I had been clenching the lilacs so hard, I had snapped some of the stems in half. “Oh, Alessandra, I could not have done that, it was a family affair.” … … … After my mother’s funeral, I went back to my childhood house and stood in front of it, just looking, for a long time. I thought about the question my aunt had Eastern Exposure

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Michelle Patenaude asked me after the service: “The home is yours now, Alessandra. What you like to do with it?” Her voice rang in my ears. I wasn’t able to answer her right away. I needed time to think, I said. As I stood before the home now, I became angry. Why was this awful gift given to me? What could I possibly do with an old, falling-down house in Italy? I sure as hell couldn’t live in it, unless, that is, I wanted to relive my most terrible memories every day. In an effort to distract my thoughts, I slowly made my way past the lilac bushes, and into the back yard. I spotted our old rickety shed and opened the door, letting light flood in and illuminate my mother’s old gardening tools. I laughed a little to myself when I saw a stack of brand new gardening gloves; she always preferred to let her bare hands feel the soil as she planted, but she graciously accepted the gloves at every birthday and holiday. Just to the right of that pile was the old coffee can. I took it in my hands and examined it for a moment. The red label was ripped in places and the bottom was rusty, not shiny and new like when my mother first showed it to me. I imagined her looking at this can every time she entered the shed, just waiting until she had saved up enough for me, imagining how wonderful and free my life would soon be. I opened it. There was only one thing inside: a picture of me as a baby, sitting on my father’s lap. Next to us was my mother, clearly caught candid, her head turned towards us, her gaze locked on the side of my father’s face, bearing a smile that had just begun to form. I looked closer at my father’s face; his hair was full and his face was not wrinkled. His eyes had life behind them. But most noticeably, he didn’t have a cane or a bottle in his hands, just me. He looked almost… kind. And my mother, she didn’t have any bruises. She seemed so happy standing beside him, so content, not at all afraid. I began to think that maybe my aunt was right, maybe my mother did have a good life, filled with simple joys, and she held onto those good memories even when he beat her. Maybe I was just born at the wrong time, right when my father started to become drunk and angry. I mean, I guess I didn’t really know what their life was like before or after me. What if he stopped beating her and they really did live a happy life? I looked at my father’s face again, but even through the youth and happiness, I still saw that drunk and angry man. I just couldn’t look at him in the loving way my mother had in that photo. I placed it back in the can and shut the lid. Stepping back out into my mother’s garden, I sat down in the grass and took time to look over every leaf, every bud, and every petal. Even though she hadn’t been tending to them for a few weeks, all of the plants were still beautiful and blooming. I imagined her view from this very spot, proudly scanning over her life’s work, growing and flourishing, their roots twisted firmly into the ground. These plants had been here for years, thriving in the same spot, even when there were summers without the relief of rain, or winters with darkness that lasted too long. As I felt the moisture from the grass begin to dampen my dress, I reached into my purse. My fingers landed on the almost-empty bottle of pills. I gripped it for a moment, and then quickly moved my hand around to find my cell phone. “Hi babe, it’s me. I need you to book a plane ticket here as soon as you can.” “Why? What’s the matter?” The pitch of Andy’s voice rose with his concern. “Nothing. I just… the house is mine, Andy. My mother’s house, I mean. 76

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Michelle Patenaude And I… well, I feel like I need to keep it. At least for now.” There was silence on the other end, and I could tell he was just as shocked with my decision and I was. “Umm, okay. If that’s what you want. I, I’ll book a flight right now.” I promised to try and explain further when he arrived, told him I loved him and hung up the phone. I stared up at the house that was now mine. I wasn’t quite sure what I would do with it yet, it really was unlivable in its current condition, but I couldn’t sell it. My mother had built a family here, and even though it didn’t usually seem like one to me, there must have been a reason why she kept our “affairs” private; there must have been something that made her stay.

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Madeline Cobar

Strive To be better in life Free others from unending Strife Never say words untrue Fall once more into the blue Lighten up Brighten up Rise above the pain Remain entirely sane Don’t break others’ hearts Don’t fall completely apart A woman strong A virtuous life lived long No more lies No more ill-begot ties Quell the ugly rage Break Free of the binding cage Live entirely free I will be who I am going to be Wisdom guide me Wisdom save me May illness stay far from here Never more shall you give into fear

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Amanda Goode

The Game of Life Childhood jumped double-dutch with us and helped us chalk hopscotch squares on the blacktop. It had the perfect way of whispering when we played telephone and ran faster than the others during freeze tag— so fast it eluded us all. We never knew it hid in hall closets when we played hide and seek; half the time we had no idea Adolescence played a violent game of tug of war; childhood just wasn’t strong enough and we were jarred from its grasp. With momentum, we spun out of control and found ourselves missing training wheels and the elbow pads that always broke our falls. We no longer made time for Red Rover, now that there were more important things than baseball cards and Barbie dolls. We had no room for fairy tales between History essays and Algebra worksheets. With crappy cars and crazy friends, we lost our way on detours to cross off items on scavenger hunts— Through playscapes, parks, and slip ‘n slides We lost baby teeth, shed our chubby child cheeks, learned to swim and read. We blundered through school dances butchering the Macarena, giggled at parties playing Truth or Dare Eastern Exposure

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Amanda Goode At the end of the course, all obstacles concurred, we walked across the stage in caps and gowns and cheesy smiles, received congrats and words of wisdom— “…now tell them what they’ve won!” The game show host raises curtain number three, revealing under spotlight our well-sought-after prize. We wrap our hands around adulthood and find lackluster pride in cheap, plastic participation trophies.

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Meena Roy Smoking in Lรถrrach Before the days of metropolitan chaos the universe, seemed ordinary and quieter than usual what world is normal to live in? suspend your judgment and recognize pain worse than our own rapid German newscast surreal images writhing in mounds of ash surfing the airwaves faster than fired bullets leftover birthday cake saturated with confusion mostly over destruction and not my age the twins fell deathly ill plagued with feverish flames, that brought them knee-deep in rubble innocents everywhere in misery except here a sudden transformation my plight, secure in hope the narrow country road is all that separated us from English words the imagery failed to translate

an unspoken, sullen faรงade unfathomable to foreign spectators on the downtown tram to Marktplatz for beer and bratwurst smoke, billowing from my lips eyes, fixed on the cobblestone pavement to avoid sun glare camouflaging something in the distance shrines displace the language barrier I faced, on the street beside our own candlelit vigil, complete with flowers and flames commemorating misfortunes of terrorism the genuine spark of humanity and iridescent compassion, a scene I adored more each day how can I return home? my all American candor visible on my sleeve, generated attention and apologies rampant with camaraderie, excusing ignorance and weak foreign policies now, only to be revived again with permission, perceptions change acknowledge suffering and normality to uncover decency Eastern Exposure

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Meena Roy I fear I am needed there, but wanted here amiably dissolving in cultural assimilation, forgetting the rules of my native tongue conflicted, in-between worlds followers, survivors all clinging to an empty paradise herding has led us past the answers to organized religion and chaotic bliss in the city we chose to rebuild

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Nicole Loranger Will You Remeber Me? She hobbles to me, slowly, With her saddened eyes Glued to me. She smiles, and Asks how I am. Did you hear about my son? With water in her eyes, A quivering lip, She tells me so softly, He’s IBMer of the year. That’s a lot of money. She repeats again, And again, Day after day. Nibbling her sweets. Clasping my hands. Shaking. I’m so proud of him. I didn’t see her for About a year. But when she returned, She saw me. She wouldn’t take her eyes off of me. You’re still working here? Joyous, we chat For exactly ten seconds. Our reunion cut short By a pause and I know what’s coming. Did you hear about my son? IBMer of the year. I’m so proud.

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Angela DiLella Solidity “Look.” Maria pointed up, up towards the peak of the Empire State Building. Trying to focus on the end of the antenna hurt George’s eyes. “Look at this whole city.” “Yes.” George looked around at the cars, the people, the buildings, the passages to the subway tunnels below. “This is how far human civilization has come. The lights, the buildings—all of this substance. All of human civilization has led up to this—and Paris, and London, and Tokyo…” “Yes.” George inclined his head slightly out of impatience. He couldn’t see where she was going with this, what her point was. He could hardly ever see what women’s points would be. “So many have died.” George didn’t answer this time. He was impatient, but at the same time not impatient. Women’s points were often painful. “To make this… How many bodies for one building? For that, all the way up to the very tip of the antenna? One brick, even. So much solidity.” “Umm.” George cleared his throat. Maria had nothing interesting to say— just the usual postmodern disappointment with man’s current climax… “You can feel it too,” she went on, unhindered by his boredom. In the middle of the busy sidewalk, she knelt and pet the concrete. “At least five, I’d say, keeping this span of ground under my arm solid enough to support us.” “Eh… What?” George coughed awkwardly. Maria looked up at him over her shoulder. “Haven’t you ever wondered what keeps everything so firm, George? “It’s those who have passed. They press against the boundaries of their plane and ours. Their pressing creates this firmness, it keeps us from slipping through to… to where they are, I guess. They keep us firmly planted here, and there are so many dead—so much pressure—that this whole place can happen.” She had been slowly rising as she spoke, and when she spoke this last bit she spread her arms as if to embrace the whole city and tuck it away in her stylish coat. “Think about it.” George was mainly thinking about how mad she was. “Man originally started out building little… Little huts. Stick huts. Teepees. Little stone boxes. And as time went on and on, buildings exploded—mansions, gigantic chapels, castles—bigger and bigger. The buildings and huts had to be tiny in the beginning—there weren’t enough dead people to keep large structures solid. But as time goes on… More people die, suddenly man realizes that stones are solid, that all stones are solid… that they can even be stacked. They can support their own weight and the weight of others, all of a sudden, and then there is a revolution in creation—on the backs of wars quite literally are the constructs of civilizations. Where would the Eifel tower be without the revolution?” “So…” They had begun walking again while she explained her insane theory, and now they were outside of George’s apartment building. He looked up at his window, high on the third floor. She was cute, but good God, the contents of that head! 84

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Angela DiLella “…That doesn’t explain the earth itself. How could the earth be so solid before mankind appeared and started dying and apparently made elements so—well, solid?” “Cells die, of course. Lower forms of life die. You can’t have expected every virus and single cell that originally formed to have been successful.” “To form in… in lava, though? The earth was originally just a big ball of molten rock.” “Scientists have discovered single cells forming in the murkiest depths of the ocean, right in the darkest and deepest volcanic crags. Eventually the lava cooled after billions and billions of years… Billions of cell deaths. Yup! And eventually—dirt, grass, trees, bugs, animals… and so on. It’s sort of obvious, really. I can’t imagine how no-one’s ever realized it before.” She looked up the building’s front, trying to surmise which window was George’s. “So.” She smiled sheepishly and inclined her head towards the door. George gulped and played with the knot on his tie. “Um, I guess I’ll be going home, then. I’ve got a lot of work to play catch-up on. A—an intern made a stupid mistake that really… really messed up the paperwork. Files.” “But it’s too late for work?” She tilted her head like a confused dog and managed a hopelessly hopeful smile. “Ahhh, no. I really need to get this taken care of. But don’t worry, I’ll get to bed early enough. G’bye!” George slipped seamlessly between the doors and was up the stairs almost before Maria could raise her hand to wave goodbye. George took two advils and washed them down, as was his usual before bed ritual. He flicked the light switch and lay on his bed, not even bothering to get under the sheets. He stared out into the darkness. “Jesus, Maria. Jesus.” Still, he couldn’t help but feel it: the soft insistent pressing of the comforter and mattress, pliant and soft, not quite firm enough to quite keep him out of the notquite-ethereal arms and bodies of fifty dead.

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Miles Wilkerson Dry Ice This poem is a reflection on the time I spent with Occupy Sandy in the aftermath of the Superstorm. I volunteered in Brooklyn and Rockaway, and met a group of brave, heroic people. The weekend I spent in New York was the best-spent weekend of my life. As the hurricane came in, flag poles rang like alarms Klaxons in the bark-stripping night Warning bells like sinister wind chimes And in the night, we partied in the dorm High as a Rockaway Project Lit by a generator run off hurricane fuel The next day It looked as though the storm had run through our dorm room And in Haiti: Parents searched for scattered seeds The ones that would not sprout come harvest season They always warn you not to overwater your plants In New Jersey: The ocean pushed the Garden State that many feet closer to Pennsylvania And houses lost chunks of themselves A hole missing from the foundation Made it look like an invisible staircase held up the whole thing And in the Rockaways, Staten Isle, Long Isle, Coney Isle: Unwashed and jobless hippies Carried hundreds of pounds of supplies up unlit tenement steps Full of blankets

canned food meals ready to eat bottled water candles diapers

coffee

a dry shoulder on which to catch the last of the hurricane which came from many wide and weary eyes And one woman opens her door Thankful But tells one volunteer that her husband is on insulin and must keep his medicine cool: “Do you have any dry ice?� 86

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baby food


Madeline Cobar Dance on Edge If only he knew If only he knew What the world would do What the world did do To those who dared confess the absolute truth It was, in theory Safer than living a live Was he foolish enough to try He was foolish enough Why He didn’t want to lose them He didn’t want the change That would come From unleashing his words Into the world Words are power Words are dangerous They can break Even the strongest of bonds Blood means nothing in the end He simply did not have the means To betray his dear friend His other half His true self He could lock him away It might have been easier To deal with But it became burdensome “Let me free Let me out Let me be” How he longed to lift the latch It would spell liberation But there was a reason he hid Where no one would find him So no one found out about him It drove him crazy It drove him mad It drove him silly It drove him sad Eastern Exposure

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Madeline Cobar That attic was maddening He was growing claustrophobic Dying to find some clean air to breathe All he really needed was to be free Months blurred into years And the lock faded away No matter how ugly the world became He couldn’t stay Stuck up in the attic Dull and gray With no air to breathe Or world to see either way His other half Though neglected Still ran strong He would forgive himself For denying the truth For nearly losing to the madness For giving into the weakness For letting himself hide It was perhaps the loneliest On the inside Of his confused breaking heart Life is never the same Once you are torn apart Once a decision is made You cannot return If the mistake is severe You cannot relearn He knew that day As the rain fell And the sun set That if he didn’t tell His life may be over yet It was a wager he took And a chance he played On the ledge Of a roof ’s edge On top of a building in May

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Madeline Cobar He was already Shaking It could be his last Quaking In fear of his past Balancing In the face of what had come to be Dancing In the hopes of all that he could be He’d live He’d lose He’d love Maybe it wasn’t always For him to choose So he summoned his courage Tossed other’s opinions aside Ran home to where he’d always been Sped up three flights of stairs then He tore off the bolt From the accursed door Embraced himself And found that his fears were no more

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Jordan Thompson Wake The night has come I am scared Will anyone care? I’ve been alone since it happened One moment I wish I take back I accepted the call Unknown is new but scary I am wearing my favorite outfit I’ve worn these breeches and half chaps a million time But this is the final time I will wear them I can’t move or speak So many flowers These strange men have taken good care of me The time has come Doors open People come My family is by my side Lifelong friends are here People I barely know They all talk to me I would tell them I’m okay I would say don’t cry Life is short don’t regret Be fearless They say I was But I am I am here I see you Like you see me The hours raced by I was filled with joy and happiness Not sorrow and regret The night ends My family approaches me They give me Hugs and kisses Pictures and special items They reach up slowly I knew they didn’t want to But they closed the casket for the final time Tomorrow I officially leave this world Tomorrow I have a new purpose Tomorrow I am at peace Tomorrow I’m me again 90

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“Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.� -Scott Adams

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Contributors’ Notes

Not much is known about Samantha Mikolajczak except that she has been published in the magazine. Rumor has it that when she is not studying at Eastern Connecticut State University she is helping Alan Wake find his wife while defeating shadow people from his latest thriller. Nicole Wright is a graduating senior from Windsor, CT. This May, she will graduate with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and a Secondary Education Certification. Even though writing is a tedious task for her she considers it a labor of love and enjoys it immensely. She hopes to one day become a high school English teacher. Angela DiLella is a junior English major at Eastern Connecticut State University. Besides reading and writing, she enjoys drawing, painting, and hiking. Emily Story is a Junior majoring in English and Secondary Education. While not involved in her studies she attends Sigma Tau Delta meetings and performs with the Repretory Dance Troupe. Amanda Goode is a complete mystery to us other than being published in the magazine. It is believed she is a freshman and enjoys writing. It is also rumored that she helps the Winchester Brothers hunt demons in her spare time. Maddy Cobar is a Sophomore. She is majoring in communication and double-minoring in writing and art. She is an active member of Pride Alliance and The Pride Room Committee. In her spare time, She loves traveling, reading, drawing, and creating alternate universes. Lauren Madison: “My name’s Lauren Madison, I’m a senior but will still be at Eastern for another year. I’m double majoring in English and Elementary Education.” Sean Richmond is furthering his English and Women and Gender studies degrees at Eastern Connecticut State University. He is an Ultra Senior (due to obtaining his first B.A in History with Creative Writing minor concentrating in Poetry in 2009 from ECSU) expected to graduate with his next two degrees in December of 2013. He is a freshman of the arcane arts and hopes to construct and fly his enchanted Dirigible as soon as he can; in hopes of spreading the Empire’s greatness to the furthest reaches of the World. He is a member of Eastern Writer’s Guild and a University Assistant in the Womens Center in an attempt to become the best Facilitator for the ECSU Men’s Project. Chelsea Griffin is an English major and a sophmore at Eastern Connecticut State University. She is also a tutor in the Writing Center and Treasurer of Eastern Writer’s Guild. Mikayla Zagata is a freshman and is double majoring in Secondary Education and English with writing and Psychology minors. When she can find the time in her busy schedule she also spends time in Drama Society. Bryon Hardt is a complete mystery to us other than being published in the magazine. Kaeporas Gaebora tells us that Bryan helps Link on his quests and has saved Princess Zelda many times. Lauren Panno is a complete mystery to us other than being published in the magazine. Ezio Auditore left a note under our door saying she is undergoing “special training” and would not be heard from again for some time. 92

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Jennifer Mouland is a currently a sophomore majoring in mathematics and elementary education, and minoring in Spanish. She is the Vice President of the Writers Guild. On campus she is also a member of the Education Club and the Repertory Dance Troupe. Christian Scandariato is a mystery to us other than being published in the magazine. Alliance Command hinted at the possibility that Christian is aiding Commander Shepard in the fight against the Reapers. The files remain classified. Jordan Thompson is a complete mystery to us other than being published in the magazine. A letter was inexplicably sent to us which hinted that he helps Mario and Luigi save Princess Peach from the monsterous Bowser. Cailin Breen is a senior at Eastern Connecticut State University majoring in Elementary Education and English. Elizabeth Pelletier is a freshman psychology major, with minors in English and Theatre. She serves as a Student Government Association Senator. In her spare time, she enjoys romantic evenings at home and long walks on the beach. Samantha Figueroa is a Senior with an English Major and a minor in Theatre. Rebecca Vogt is a Senior at Eastern Connecticut State University. She is majoring in English and plans to go on and obtain her Masters in Creative Writing. Nicole Loranger is a Senior and is majoring in Psychology. Stephan Lukaszewski: “My name is Steve Lukaszewski, I am an aspiring writer/ professor and I’m a sophomore here at ECSU. My girlfriend (Noonz), my friends and family inspire my writing every day, and thanks to them I have improved steadily and hope to continue improving as my college career progresses.” Eric Cerino is a Junior at Eastern Connecticut State University and is majoring in Psychology with an English minor. Katherine Claps is a complete mystery to us other than being published in the magazine. Although, recent news reports indicatge she is an aspiring Pokemon master and wants to be the very best, like no one ever was. David “Rachel” McLeod is a transgender graduate student studying for a Masters degree in Elementary Education. Rachel is a graduate with a B.A. in History and Social Sciences, ECSU Class of ‘09. Rachel is active in Pride Alliance and in the Peace and Human Rights Committee and is a staunch supporter of LGBT equality. This is her first publication under the name Rachel McLeod. Samantha Boyle: “My name is Samantha Boyle. I am a Sophomore and my major is Environmental Earth Science.” Michelle Patenaude is a mystery to us other than being published in the magazine. Legend tells that she is a Blade and travels with the Dragonborn to help defeat Alduin. Meena Roy: “My name is Meena Roy and I am currently a Junior majoring in English with a minor in Communications.” Miles Wilkerson is a mystery to us other than being published in the magazine. Reports are sketchy but he may be a COG soldier and protecting us from Locust forces. Eastern Exposure

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Dear Readers: Thank you for reading Eastern Exposure. We hope you have found pleasure in the contents within. This literary jounral is not just the blood, sweat, and tears of the members of Eastern Writer’s Guild, but of every writer who submits poems, short stories, and dramas every year. If you would like to submit to Eastern Exposure for the 2014 issue, we will be accepting submissions at the beginning of the Fall 2013 semester. With each new year comes more and more submissions and we hope to see more submissions than we did this year. Guidelines for submissions are as follows: t t t

Poems of any length are acceptable. Short stories can be no longer than ten pages. Dramas/plays no longer than one act or ten pages.

If you are interested in becoming a member of Eastern Writer’s Guild feel free to come to our meetings. We will have updated meeting times at the beginning of the Fall 2013 semester. If you have questions about club membership, Eastern Exposure, or activities feel free to contact Eastern Writers Guild at easternwriters@my.easternct.edu. Thank you all again for reading Eastern Exposure! - Eastern Writer’s Guild

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Eastern Exposure 2013