literary and arts magazine
literary and arts magazine
A publication of the Liberal Arts Honors program The University of Texas at Austin 2017 - 2018 3
editorâ€™s note Everyone who steps foot on the Forty Acres looks for a place to belong. I am so lucky to have found my home at UT in Echo. For the past three years, this magazine has been a creative outlet, a labor of love, and a common ground for dedicated UT undergrads. Though I have been involved with this magazine and its design since 2015, it is with great pride that I present my first edition of Echo as Editor-in-Chief and designer. Echo has always prided itself for its diversity of content and growth in scope. This year, these two things are especially true. We are honored to feature pieces of a wide range of topics from creatives of diverse backgrounds and perspectives. Achieving this magazine would not be possible without a large amount of people who deserve thanks. To the other leadership - Daniel, Emily, and Christina - who helped keep me sane and kept the magazine on track; to my dedicated staff for their hard work and enthusiasm all year long; to all of the talented writers and artists we published, whose work you see in the pages before you; to the people behind the Liberal Arts Honors program for your support and championing of our endeavors; to all of these people, I say thank you. With that, I hope you enjoy what lies on the pages ahead as much as I enjoyed putting them together.
staff Caroline Rock
Daniel Hrncir Production Editor
Emily Saunders Publicity Manager
Christina Lopez Copy Editor
Submissions Review Board Members Samantha Babiak Kayla Bollers Booker Naomi Brady Sarah Brownson Mary Margaret Burniston Chandler Crates
Annie Daubert Anna Dolliver Kate Drosche Sarah Ferring Sabrina Garcia Rob Gomulak Emma Holt Caroline Kinnamore
Oliver Lupa Michaela Lyons Dylan McKibban Carol Metzger Ekta Suri Sidra Vohra Kylie Warkentin Savannah Whitmer
Plastic Presence large format color film Erika Casales
Al Amarillo Amor Mío: To My Yellow Love Sahara R Khan
Santa Rosa Ashes Sophie Corless
17 Aubade Cerena Grace Ermitanio 18 Motherland Cerena Grace Ermitanio 21
On Vermillion Way Sophie Corless
í I Want to be a Tree / Quisiera ser un Arbol Maritza Ines Ramírez
Visiting the Mosque in Mexico City, Mexico Zoya Zia
Mother Tongue Nour Al Ghraowi
Good Mourning / Subah Bakhair Zoya Zia
Prophetic Streaks Hayden Hans Baggett
Reading Atwood’s Lovers Jacob Lundquist
33 Harvey Kevin LaTorre 35
Mother Goose Nora Greenstein Biondi
5 Love Poems: Valentines for the Sex-Repulsed Nora Greenstein Biondi
39 Yikes. Andrea Tinning 40
The Fool Norman Made Kevin LaTorre
42 Mice Jenny Ezell 45 SUV Abby Escobar 47
I’m Full Nora Greenstein Biondi
Holding Hands with a Rabbit’s Foot Anna-Kay Reeves
Tlatelolco, 1968 Max Pearce
My Neighbor Craig Cole
The Absence of Fangs Anna Dolliver
Planes, Trains, and Telephones: A 12-Step Process of Falling In and Out and Back in Love over 1600 Miles Elizabeth Werth
A Price Too High Sean Winn
自食其果 Reap What You Sow Katia Krupa 9
art and photography cover
Modern American Gothic Linda Li
Plastic Presence Erika Casales
12 Olamide Ekta Suri 19
Nature vs. Humans Arabelle Bermann
20 Climate Ekta Suri 26 Allegro Ekta Suri 31 Lost Macy Hartman 32 Soles Linda Li 41
Looking Up in Wonder Jared Bordeaux
43 Time Annie Daubert 44
The Descent. (Ljubiš, Serbia) Milena Đorđević-Kisačanin
Block Party Jared Bordeaux
48 Ian Anna-Kay Reeves
57 Madison Abby Raffle 62 Informada Sergio Tellez Noguez 75 Passerby Michah Harrison 84
Dreams and Nightmares Abby Raffle
96 Forgotten Linda Li
Olamide oil on canvas Ekta Suri
Al Amarillo Amor Mío: To My Yellow Love Sahara R Khan Love me the amber sol1 that burns against the smoggy Lima skies. Love me pineapple as the citrus mists from the roadside jugaría2 And—among the fragrant basil and Yerba Luisa3 of the market stalls—love me the medallion centers of fresh and bitter manzanilla4. Love me the glow of Playa Hermosa5, where I sit cross- legged on hot sand and imagine your diaper-clad legs waddling into the receding waves as toddler in Venezuela-- when I wish I had met you-then running back to me as the tide rises again. Love me the color of my misshaped arepas6 over the flickering gas stove as they golden--imperfectly and earnestly. Love me the buttery pat of my laugh as I eat the arepas and remember the day you first made them for me: crispy and oozing with cheddar and raw yolks. Love me brighter than anticipation, than the highlighted hour on my return ticket, 5 months and 5 thousand miles and 5 million tears from today. Love me burnt caramel manjar7 of alfajores8, who’s sweetness always nauseated me too much finish, because we’re so used to splitting dessert. Love me lemon and cream when I am pale and plucked as the chickens and cuys9 hanging in the gnat clouds beneath discount signs, because I will need you then more than ever. 14
Love me yellow as the morning sky is grey, and I will find you scintillating in the midnight stars. Love me, sometimes, so brightly it blinds me.
Sun; the name of Peruvian currency juice vendor 3 lemongrass, a culinary and medicinal herb 4 chamomile flower 5 â€œThe Handsome Beachâ€? 6 Pan-fried Venezuelan corn patties 7 thick icing; Dulce de Leche 8 traditional Peruvian dessert 9 Guinea Pigs; Peruvian delicacy 1
Santa Rosa Ashes Sophie Corless
I can show you where I grew up. I can show you the ashes. Where in California? I donâ€™t know where anymore exactly. The ashes are blowing around, and Santa Rosa is no longer in Santa Rosa. Itâ€™s in San Francisco, in the news, and in my memories. It used to be a town, then a fire, then ashes. I can show you where my friends lived. I can show you the ashes. I can walk you through the rubble and explain.
Aubade Cerena Grace Ermitanio
the dawn peers over the horizon, beginning its burning of mist in a glow tinted orange. radiating like the salt lamp upon the bedpost, a candlelight vigil drenched by deep blue sheets and sea foam irises. the loversâ€™ flesh fused overnight, harboring dewy eyelids and fresh pulses of the heart. a finger traces across the gully of a chest. inseparable as the sun kisses the horizonâ€™s other shoulder.
Motherland Cerena Grace Ermitanio
sunlight flickered past leaves, projecting a green kaleidoscope upon my eyelids. the road bent through the mountains, swallowing cars into its peaks and lulling its passengers to sleep. a distant echo of the archipelago was etched into valleys as rice terraces, and the old gods loomed where the clouds scraped the grass. upon the earth lived people of skin as tan as mine, waxed calloused from the emergence of something alien. to this day the ground whispers of brown feet adorned with beads and shackles, of tongues that have tasted tinola and blood, of prayers to goddesses disguised as saints.
Nature vs. Humans digital photograph Arabelle Bermann
Climate colored pencil on bristol Ekta Suri
On Vermillion Way Sophie Corless
Remember the man that used to drive by? He slithered by us in a white van. From my window, his eyes were a glowing yellow. He whispered to me, and I could never hear. If he just reached out, he could grab me. One time he pulled my elbow. He wanted my arm, and he missed just barely. After he missed, I ran off screaming, he disappeared in a puff of tobacco. We saw him one last time on the 4th of July. He drove past our block party. He reached out and grabbed my neighbor. She disappeared with him in a puff of tobacco.
I Want to be a Tree / Quisiera ser un Árbol Maritza Ines Ramírez I want to be a tree. A tree like the one that grows at the edge Of the meadow. Who has had hearts carved into it, And it covers the scars so well. A tree who roots itself proud and strong And as its surroundings change with The whirlwind of life, Never asks, “Was I wrong?” I want to have a trunk three feet in diameter That will withstand the rage of fire, The tantrums of hurricanes, The words of society… I want to be a tree. A tree like the one that grows at the edge Of the meadow. That looks down at me And smiles.
Quisiera ser un árbol, Un árbol como el que crece a la orilla del río, que he tenido corazones tallados en el Y cubre las cicatrices tan bien. Un árbol que se arraiga orgulloso y fuerte. Cuando sus alrededores cambian con El torbellino de la vida Nunca se pregunta, “¿Me equivoque?” Quiero tener un tronco de tres pies de diámetro Que va a soportar la furia de fuego Las rabietas de los huracanes Las palabras de la sociedad. Quisiera ser un árbol, Un árbol como el que crece a la orilla del rio, Que me mira y sonríe.
Visiting the Mosque in Mexico City, Mexico Zoya Zia First traced along a thin map, then etched clearly in memory, daily trips left Pereferico for Tasqueña, switched to take Chabacano a Tacubaya and head to Polanco in the lengthy commute, extended by a breezy walk through avenues near 25 Calle Euclides—past two open front doors, women turn left into their shared prayer and community space, a place of soft buzzing and windows beaming with light from sunny skies on June afternoons, moments briefly interrupted by trickling downpour until calm can be restored among visitors—whether their journeys began at Pereferico’s station or oceans away in a distant decade, open hearts at this three-story mezquita sit as
equals on the patterned red carpet, exchanging Salam y saludos with bright smiles—cultures
flow in harmony, exposing visitors to different countries through the jingling bells on Indian 24
clothing, enticing smells of Arab food served to all during Ramadan and overlapping chatter in Arabic,
Spanish and other tonguesâ€” as Mexican Muslims knock on cultural barriers like doors, minds soar far
above routes taken on the Metro and direct new paths that blend what it means to live in Mexico
City and follow Islam, learning to do both and shake hands with unknown as they carry their open hearts
beyond an inviting space on 25 Calle Euclides.
Allegro mixed media on bristol Ekta Suri
Mother Tongue Nour Al Ghraowi
Dancing nimbly like a ballerina trapped in an ivory cave It moves on a Do Re Me in an arid orifice Sea anemone so soft like goose-flesh on a sponge Colored by God’s hands pink, like the end of a sunset Released upon orders from a brain not its own. They demonized the tongue! The scariest muscle according to their western ears It can wage a war Muster peace and calm a child. Alif Baa Taa Thaa Allegros until they were terrified “Ainma woujeda el Houb Woujeda el Salam” Simply, “Where there is love there is peace” Do not let the ear colonize the tongue Protect our mothers’ tongues.
Good Mourning / Subah Bakhair Zoya Zia Rays of light shine in rebirth while night falls in Karachi, leaving those rays for distant stars in the same sky—I fall asleep dreaming of day, I wake up searching for night in a constant tug of war between life there and life here, never gaining complete certainty of who I am and where I belong—tolls of traffic ring with life as day beckons in Austin, accompanied by quick scrolls through the voids of technology that shrink gaps between night and day in 140 characters or less—I wake up to lives becoming numbers in tweetable death tolls and calls for blood donations a world away, I fall asleep thinking of better tomorrows, never expecting tragedy but always living in fear of unknown—unevenly divided over the Atlantic, this dil cannot rest soundly.
Prophetic Streaks Hayden Hans Baggett
Last night The Virgin Mary came to me In a dream And rhetorically asked â€” where is your faith? Her pulpit crumbled and fear overcame me She calmed the waters and grunted We resolved the issue over cold coffee.
Reading Atwood’s Lovers Jacob Lundquist I am reading words not mine the sun is setting, aptly, and I think of you. You, like Atwood’s lover, whose history is invented, you who has no truths and whose lies are more interesting, anyways. And me, the lover too, living in closets, only coming out at night. But my coming out is a different one, years in the making, an endless reiteration of myself. And you ask for love without mirrors But we both know that this is an impossibility. If your lies are interesting, your history is more so, and it is like mine. Atwood said, “My love for you is the love Of one statue for another,” for us this is true. If one statue me was crumbling and one statue you was standing, resolute, above. 30
Lost digital photograph Macy Hartman
Soles graphite Linda Li
Harvey Kevin LaTorre
She’s reading this over my shoulder Clucking with approval Because while I’d like to go out We’re in this room here together I find her monotonous Enough to write here Cold enough to be a sodden blanket Every time she pins me down Though she doesn’t let me out for walking She’s hardly disruptive company Just pushing branches away from windows Tousling my hair Drawing the blinds against the sun And so sketching me surrounded by slate light Here in this room with the heater She looks harmless, if boring Yet, out there, further inside She wreaks destruction, havoc, fury Upon the shores of my unconscious And drags herself further inland, scraping, So that my psyche cannot feel serene Ah, she’s hissing now, with irritation She’d like to snatch my pen But it is mine
For all the windows she shuts The places she denies me The people I could be This is still not hers to snatch For this pen alone is mine.
Mother Goose Nora Greenstein Biondi
My hairs may prickle like knives in your flesh But I will not tremble. I will pluck at my leisure. In your mouth Women are brave And smart And strong. I am too. I am not a woman. Your eyes say women are modest. They dress for men When they should dress for the world. I dress for myself. I am not a woman. Sometimes there are no words Just an eyebrow cocked like a pistol. Sometimes there are only words leaving eraser shavings in the space under your nose. I choose guns over hiding. I am not a woman. One cup of your smile is enough. But you fill me everyday Only freckled skin
Could be that precious I bloom with acne. I am not a woman. Hips means hate Tracing the lines of your curves Like an imaginary surgeon’s knife I hold my stomach in two fistfuls. I am not a woman. I cannot say your breath is what I need. In the end we char as much as we bleed. History’s twine And love’s arrows. After years in your hands I am a woman.
5 Love Poems: Valentines for the Sex-Repulsed Nora Greenstein Biondi I. Lovers Unite! —Over there so I don’t have to see it. II. Love blossoms in every field. Plant it there, grow roots in a darkness far from me. III. Light a candle in your lover’s throat. Breathe into orange, and out to blue, blind to waxen pain. I will bring the black in a pinch. [The Floating Poem, Unnumbered] Call your lover “more than a friend” one more time. I dare you. 37
IV. A sidestepped groan will be my fate if you wish to plant it on my lips to soften the bees in my Easter bonnet You will find my rosy hand a fist V.
If the space between my legs my my pillars bones can
I will till my garden in a happy hat, with a cheerful hoe and sow the ground with salt.
Yikes. Andrea Tinning
I still can’t believe all he said was, “sorry.” I smiled when he first pulled me into bed. How trite— a girl confusing love with “giving head.” I’d never fallen so fast or gone so far. He still made le petit mort feel more like harikari Don’t call me easy, just easily misled Like when you want to watch a movie but take your clothes off instead I still can’t believe all he said was, “sorry.” Sometimes I wonder if I’ve gone insane Nothing he could say will make it okay But it’s like a record on repeat inside my brain That plays the same song three, four, five times a day It hurts to wonder, but I’m addicted to this pain. I wonder if he realizes “sorry” was a shitty thing to say.
The Fool Norman Made Kevin LaTorre
With all the blindness before and behind I’ll go to a circus when I turn twenty-one For the hallowed ground we circle around The heights of wiry daring The flashes of cameras as they whip forward The three-legged stool balanced on the nose Also, the free popcorn which Butters me up Yet most of all The day I turn twenty-one I want to see The foreshadowing act, the future The bumbling clown spectacle of Humanity mocked for chortles Though I can guess one clown will Not participate He’ll sit with his paper Stool wedged firmly under his puffy rump Vivid red lips a Thin, flat line And dangling his cigarette like a prayer He’ll give me a look Backlit by the spotlight But no wink A droopy red nose, firm red line and A hell of a circus all around him
Looking Up in Wonder 35mm photograph Jared Bordeaux
Mice Jenny Ezell
Did I tell you about the girl With the big house That’s tastefully decorated- is a shrine to southern living And hospitality The girl opened all the drawers And choked mice gasped for air Packed so tightly, they are just fur and beady eyes She looked at me and shrugged, they came with the house, she says. Package deal. They aren’t bad to live with, She says They don’t like to come out, anyways.
Time digital photograph Annie Daubert
The Descent. (Ljubiš, Serbia) digital photograph Milena Đorđević-Kisačanin
SUV Abby Escobar
I am looking for my voice but my eyes Have fallen in the crack between The passenger seat and the middle console I cannot drive because my feet are kicking against my hips I do not listen to the GPS lady anyway I am reaching for the light but my elbows are stuck between my teeth I miss every highway exit I do not think I have a voice My eyes are dirty with yearsâ€™ worth of salt and ant carcasses I see nothing but metal I feel nothing but glass I must have found my skin, My toes busted the windows open And I can feel them on the barricade
Block Party 35mm photograph Jared Bordeaux
Iâ€™m Full Nora Greenstein Biondi
Iâ€™m full tonight of glow. It bubbles like endless circles on a summer day, wand swinging, it echoes like shouts on a Sleeping Giant. And when my cup fills it spills and turns everyone yellow glitter gold. Maybe this is what it means to be a ray, sunshine folding out.
Ian oil on paper Anna-Kay Reeves
First Place in the Liberal Arts Honors Creative Writing Prize
Holding Hands with a Rabbit’s Foot Anna-Kay Reeves On Fruth Street, there’s a homeless woman who I suspect is the heiress to something grand. That’s why she doesn’t care to work, I think, because she grew up with the idea of birthright rather than wages. It could be she’s an offshoot of the Rockefeller family, or the daughter of a dairy mogul out of Wisconsin. She may well be the Grand Duchess Anastasia; she is that old. Or looks it, at least. I brought her a bag of Cheetos one time, because her palate, which used to be disdainful of anything but smoked salmon and caviar, has been dulled by the street, and she now adores unnaturally colored, hyper-fatty, finger-staining type snacks. Her wrinkles are so deep and so many that the Cheeto crumbs around her mouth were caught in the lines of her smile. And like a drug spreading through veins, I watched as the network of her wrinkles worked in different expressions transporting the dust to all parts of her face. Mixed with the grime, it became, incredibly, the exact shade of burnt orange I myself was wearing; a ratty UT shirt I’d had since freshman year. I looked from her face down at myself and took care not to mistake us as matching. I, in my college shirt, was in the burnt-orange of upper middle class, tie-wearing-dad, lipsticked-mom privilege, while she, in her dirt and Cheeto dust mask, was in the burnt orange of American warpaint. She says cocaine like “kuh-cane” and pedophilia like “peedohfil-ya.” Those are the sorts of things she talks about, usually: social ills, the unjust, sin. “It’s all that’s worth talking about,” she says. “All that’s good is good and should just be left to be good.” Today she looks better than usual. She’s wearing a silk scarf tied around her head, smoking a cigarette. From a block away, I can 50
see that her eyes are locked on me. She doesn’t bother to drop them, which makes me feel awkward. There’s a discomfort that’s peculiar to holding a person’s gaze as you approach from a distance. That we as humans have created a world of air-conditioners and iPhones yet still waver when meeting someone in the middle of a long stretch is bizarre, but true. Still animals, despite the chrome shine of the modern world. And this animalism is something she embraces. She lets her body stink and gives in to her pleasures because she’s an animal; she’s alive. Part of what draws me to that is the fact that I myself would never live that way. Could never, out of fear. I like to stand by her and absorb her unashamed vitality by osmosis. We became friends as I stood on the corner in front of Juiceland, digging in my purse while I waited to cross the street. She held the chapstick that I dropped hostage, inspecting the label. I remember she stood peering down her nose as if she were looking through a pince nez instead of just her own bloodshot corneas. “This shit is fancy,” she said. I mumbled a response meant to brush her off, and she looked at me blankly for a long moment. Then she launched into a lecture about bees, and how their wax that goes into fancy-shit-chapstick is made. Something about the way she let the facts fill her, laughed at them, and gasped at them, charmed me despite my social conditioning to ignore the existence of people like her. It was so different from interactions on campus, where students and professors alike try to dominate facts, pummel them, hold them in a half-nelson ‘til the face of the fact turns blue and says, “I give up. You know me.” “I’m feeling verifiably lucky today,” she tells me now. “Verifiably?” “Ver-i-fiably. If I were soil, I’d be the sort that sprouts fourleafed clovers. If I were a horse, I’d have all my shoes and then some. If I were a rabbit, I’d have all my feet!” Her mouth opens and her eyes close. She wheezes a laugh. “What about you, if you were a rabbit, would you have all your feet?” The rabbit’s foot is lucky, but the rabbit the foot belonged to is not. Some days I feel more like the quadruple-amputee rabbit. Like today, which has been one of those days where nothing feels good enough. No approach to the essays in my honors course makes 51
a difference in my sub-par grade. I’ve met with the TA, I’ve done citations even when they’re not required, I’ve prayed. There’s nothing left. Not one foot left to stand on. But I look at her face, spare of teeth and still smiling, and I choke on my privileged complaints. “I think I’d have at least two of them,” I tell her. “Well! Let’s go off and see whereabouts to find those other two, heh?” “Where to?” I ask to entertain her, having no intention of going anywhere with her. “Off, off where the misplaced things are and the girls lose their shoes all night long, like Cinderella. But the girls down there don’t fear the stroke of midnight and they don’t keep company with princes. I think if you were looking for a foot of any sort, as we are, it’d be there. Yes, 6th Street is the first place a young person trying to get lucky should go.” She winks at me. I hear the tower chiming the time, only the first quarter of its song. Fifteen, something fifteen. “What time is it?” “Not so very late, not so late.” Her eyes are pleading, and I’m feeling soft from strain, feeling like it’d be nice to walk with this woman who will neither criticize the barcrawlers with intellectual jabs or strain to join their ranks. “Do you have money for the bus?” She beams the whole ride there, chatting with the 801 bus driver about his dog’s parvo recovery. She knows all the drivers that run the 801 and 803 routes, which pump up and down Guadalupe Street day and night packed with mostly students and the homeless. “Well I hope Ashley gets to be ok,” she says to the driver as we step off. “I know Sebastian would be lonely without her.” “And I’d be too!” the driver calls over the sound of the bus giving recorded instructions to passengers. “He just dotes on those pitbulls he’s got. I’m so glad Ashley’s pulled through.You’ve got some dogs, don’t you?” “Not here,” I tell her. “I do at home-home, though.” And a white-hot flash runs through my head at having said home twice to a homeless woman. 52
“I did have an old thing called Banjo.” She’s quiet for a moment, then laughs loudly. “You never saw such a dog! Had one blue and and one brown eye, and was dumb as a post. I’d like to have another dog someday, as soon as I get enough together for a place.” “Have you been looking at places?” “Oh, yeah. For years practically. The thing is, I’ve got a bad eviction history and bad credit and a record, so there’s not many places willing to rent to me. That’s how it is with a lot of us. Sure there are dope-fiends and people who’ve lost their minds, but a lot of us are just pounding our brains out all day every day trying to get things together. It’s not anything we chose to be. But we’re making the best of it.” A shiver runs through me and I wonder if this friendship is part of a long-game to get help. And another shiver of guilt that asks me why I’m being suspicious and why I would begrudge her help. “I’m sorry. I —” I’m saved from answering as she turns into a storefront abruptly. Primary colors shout at me: yellow walls, red trim, electric blue posters. And a more subtle set of colors, too, the cool green of liquid in glass jars and the bloodless white of the flesh things within. I scan the shelves and wrinkle my nose. Beaver fetus: white and grimly sleeping. Animal spleen: ambiguous. Teeth of all sorts, and around all of them jars of glass clean and cold. I smell the smoke and sweat musk of my friend, and turn around to see her worshiping a line of mutants. “Look!” she says. She’s in front of a two-headed calf with a bubble-lettered sign in front of it that reads “BORN ALIVE.” The signs in front of the other mutants, the two-headed turtle with its monstrously bowed shell and the two-faced piglet with both snouts gaping, say the same. “I see,” I tell her. “These poor animals.” She dips her eyebrows but says nothing, only continues to oggle the taxidermied animals. It’s my instinct to hush things like these up, not just these mutant animals, but everything like them. All life’s failings should be quiet, should be secreted away where the only hint someone could have of them is downcast eyes and uneasy laughter, not on 53
display. Is God offended by the Museum of the Weird? Is this place an exhibition of every crumpled up piece of paper God ever chucked in the trash? I’d be pretty mad if I created a great big beautiful world and my little people decided to dedicate an entire building to the things that went wrong. “Pst!” I hear from the far end of the room, and move down the aisle lined with gargoyles and circus trinkets. She’s standing at a velvet curtain, her tobacco-stained fingers pulling it aside. “I think there’s more stuff back here.” The hallway is dim and I follow her white hair around sharp curves past more oddities. Two-headed this, eight-legged that, but she goes past them. She’s moving toward the noise of yelling, a man loud and desperate around some corner we haven’t yet turned. I can hear his voice lilting in question after question and claps and shouts in response. Louder and louder until we come to a wooden door. The air is cold and feels wet. She turns to me, puts a finger to her lips, crinkled like two earthworms left in the sun, and jerks her head to the door. A man in a tutu stands under a spotlight in the middle of the room. He’s yelling, his voice with a strain like metal on metal. I can see other people dimly behind him, the glint of glasses, a flash of a pale hand moving. And I hope we are as dim as they are because facing them makes me feel as though I’m part of the display this man is making of himself. “And! Sometimes! You have to FIX!” he brings a hammer down onto a gloved hand with a clash, “things yourself!” The people on the other side of the room jump and gasp, and I hear their sneaker feet shuffling. “Oh, don’t worry,” the man says. “You all thought I hurt myself? No!” He sets down the hammer and pulls off one glove, then the other. “No,” he says, “See?” I can’t see at first, but can only hear the strange silence of the people. Then he turns a bit and I see his hands with no finger where he hit. An elongated thumb curves as he talks, and webbed pinky and ring fingers flex. Where the middle and index finger should be is the abrupt end of his palm. “See, my friends? I have Ectrodactyly, also known as Lobster Claw Syndrome!” His tone is identical to my fourth grade science 54
teacher when she’d show us some squirmy thing and say “Keep back, it’s dangerous,” or “Waft the smell, don’t sniff of it, WAFT.” By my side, her eyes are glazed over and a contented smile is on her lips. Is that the reaction this is meant to produce? I’ve been conditioned to hate what highlights the differences in people, but respect differences I can see. This man is highlighting his own difference for profit, and I am socially conditioned to be at a loss. Behind us, a purposeful pace echoes around the sharp turns of the corridor. I look back to see two women marching toward us. One is small but gaunt in a way that is very stylish and makes me afraid of her. “You two didn’t pay,” she says. There’s not a question in her black eyes. “You can get tickets at the front,” the other woman, larger but with soft features, offers. “Oh, I’m so sorry,” I say, “We didn’t know.” I look to my friend, expecting a supplemental apology, but it’s clear from the insolence on her face that she did know. In the open light, I hear the larger woman say to the gaunt, “Thanks.” And the gaunt woman, the type who would ask if there were any kale dishes in a gas station diner, throws back, “You have to get the next ones yourself.” A feeling of dirtiness creeps in on me. Sometimes life feels so unclean, and so disappointing. When I was a child, it was always plastic pools and popsicles, and a Band-Aid stuck fast and painful was the worst thing that could happen. In those days, I would make my dad give me a quarter for the gumball machine full of tiny toys. The best one was a plastic hand, stretchy and sticky and gleaming. And I’d slap the table with it, and the floor, and the sidewalk, watching with delight as it clung, stretched, and slowly released. Inevitably, I’d look and see small pebbles stuck in it along with blades of grass and general grime. And it wouldn’t stick anymore. And when I held it up to the light, it didn’t glow like stained glass, but instead gave x-ray vision of its grit. And that’s what life feels like sometimes. A used up sticky hand. I’m stiff with shame as I push out of the door, carefully avoiding all eye contact. 55
“Hey, now!” I hear behind me, and I turn sharply. “Are you kidding me?” I shout. “That’s the place I’m supposed to get my luck? That place is exploiting the misfortunate. That man was on display like an animal at the zoo! And you were so impressed you were willing to steal a look!” Her brow crinkles up, and I watch as her face blooms into a laugh. “Exploitative? Honey, that’s a haven for the bizarre. You know why people go in there? Because they want to know they’re not alone, and that the weird and the lost and the downtrodden have never been alone and never will be.” “No! People go in there to gawk and feel better about themselves.” She considers this. “Maybe some. But if so, they’re the ones doing the exploiting. If people use it to stroke their ego, then they’ll have to explain that on Judgment Day. Or call God the exploiter. Tell him to lay off easy targets and go pick on someone his own size. No, see, it’s meant to bring the oddballs together and give them a place. Like the little girl with one arm who threw us out. She’s a victim of nature or circumstance just like those animals, and the man in the dress, and near every piece in that museum. She’s not weird in the Museum of the Weird.” I hadn’t given the girl not having an arm a second thought. I remember now her suspenders-and-skirt outfit and how she had traced the length of a suspender with a hook braced on a stump that began at her elbow. “And neither is that man.” She holds her hands over her heart, saying, “They didn’t dream of this life, maybe, but they’re making the best of it.” Her face is soft with honesty, and with empathy. But more than empathy, soft with the understanding she has from her own life of what it means to be at the mercy of the world. And so I see that the glass between her and those two-headed animals was a mirror, and that she didn’t feel the need to pay the fee to watch the lobster-clawed man because no one needs to pay to watch themselves. Her eyes meet mine, and I see what she’s seen in her lifetime there. Disappointment. Shortcomings. Hope. And I see myself. In the mir56
Madison digital photograph Abby Raffle
ror of her eyes, my face is reflected, but my deeper self as well. And here I have found my lost luck. Here among what the world pushes away and casts aside. She is my link to this world of the low and the weird, in which mistakes are treasured because they’re at once what we are and what we are afraid to be. And I feel that it’s not my polished self stroking its ego by comparison to these victims of nature and circumstance, but my natural self taking the hand of everything that hasn’t gone quite according to plan. Because that’s the only way it ever goes, and I have to forgive myself for it.
Second Place in the Liberal Arts Honors Creative Writing Prize
Tlatelolco, 1968 Max Pearce October 2, 1968. 6:16 p.m. Red smoke consumed the air above Evita. One of the helicopters hovering over Mexico’s Tlatelolco Plaza had dropped a flare, and it had landed only a few feet away from her. Confused, she scanned the faces of the thousands of student protesters surrounding her. They all possessed a similar look of fearful uncertainty as they stared at the growing cloud of crimson. The crowd, now paralyzed, held its breath in unison, anxiously awaiting an explanation. Fearing the worst, Evita lifted herself up on her toes, craning her neck to search the crowd. Abruptly, a white flash struck at the edge of the Plaza, followed by a rapid series of deafening cracks. Screams and panic shattered the hesitant silence. An erratic pulse shot through the crowd, and Evita, still on her toes, was knocked to the ground by fleeing students. As she tried to return to her feet, the crowd devolved into a frenzy, crashing into her and making her task all the more impossible. No, she thought. No, no, no. Everything was wrong. This demonstration—her first rally as a lead organizer—was designed to be peaceful. No laws had been broken, and unlike earlier demonstrations, not once had chaos been encouraged. Furthermore, the location was a public plaza, so public assembly was permitted. Another round of thunder brought Evita’s thoughts back to the growing danger. This round had been louder than the first. The threat was advancing. Javi! Regaining her composure, she began to race against the tide of the tumultuous crowd. I need to find Javi! October 1, 1968. 8:47 p.m. Evita sat in a red chair at the end of a long row of students. Captivated, she stared forward at Javi as he stood addressing the 59
crowd before him. He was reviewing logistics for the following day’s rally, ensuring that every student knew their role. “For those of you who don’t have a role yet, you’ll join Evita, Ronaldo, and me as part of the crowd control team. We’ll be scattered throughout the Plaza to make sure no disruptions occur.” After finishing his speech, Javi turned to Evita. Blushing, she smiled and nodded her head. “Ok, everyone,” Javi finished. “This meeting is officially adjourned. See you all tomorrow!” The university assembly hall had been crowded with student organizers, barely accommodating the hundreds in attendance. At the call of adjournment, the group let out a collective sigh of relief, pleased to vacate the room. Evita, after collecting her books, moved towards Javi who remained at the front of the assembly hall, now speaking with Ronaldo. “We’ll have about thirty organizers working on crowd control, so I think it’d be best for the three of us to spread out amongst them. That’ll guarantee that a lead organizer is always close by.” Javi’s eyes, an earthen brown, lit up as Evita approached. “How does that sound, Evita?” “That makes sense. I’ll just be bored, though, without you two next to me.” Javi and Ronaldo laughed. For a few minutes more, the three continued to talk. Eventually, Ronaldo, sensing a lull in the conversation, glanced at his watch. “Alright, you two. It’s already past nine, and I need to be heading home. I’ll see you both tomorrow.” After a final farewell, Ronaldo exited while Evita and Javi loitered a bit longer. The room, once overflowing, had become empty, with only a few pockets of students remaining. Javi checked his watch and took Evita’s hand. “Are you ready to go, mi amor?” “Sure, although, I doubt I’ll get any sleep tonight. I’m too anxious.” Javi snorted a soft chuckle. “Oh, Evita, I know you’re always anxious, but I promise you tomorrow will be great! You’re an amazing organizer—the best I’ve ever seen—and I know the rally will be a success!” Evita looked at her feet. “You think so?” “I know so. Everyone knows so. We’d be lost without your 60
organizing skills. Half of the people in this room were here because you personally recruited them!” Evita’s cheeks felt warm. “Stop it. You’re just saying that. You know you’re much better at all this than I’ll ever be—” Javi, with a sigh, pulled Evita close to him. She returned her gaze to his, pacified by the familiar expression of genuine endearment. “Evita, would I lie to you?” “No.” “Then believe me. You’re the best organizer I’ve ever seen.” Evita smiled. Javi, returning the gesture, took Evita’s hand, and together, they departed. October 2, 1968. 6:17 p.m. Evita struggled to push through the frantic crowd. The rapid bursts of gunfire continued to pierce the air, with the intermissions between the ear-splitting rounds growing shorter. She looked over her shoulder, attempting to use her distance from the red smoke as a way to measure the ground she had covered. I’m running out of time, she thought. Where are you Javi? As Evita continued navigating the crowd, still unable to locate her lover, she began to feel tears gather in her eyes. Where is he? Shouldn’t we have crossed paths already? Her anxiety had transformed into a sense of panic and dread. The crowd was thinning out, and between the clusters of fleeing students, she could see military forces approaching. Soon, she’d have to flee, but she couldn’t imagine doing so without Javi. She began to feel lightheaded. How could the movement survive without him? How could I survive without him? Evita, now overwhelmed by a foreboding dizziness, lost her footing. A fleeing student crashed into her and knocked her to the ground. She shrieked as her hands and knees scraped against the jagged bricks of the Plaza. Pain overtook her body, and tears began to crawl down her face. I’m going to die. Struggling to find the will to stand up, she stared down at her palms. They were blistered and cut, slowly becoming warm with blood. Defeated, she surveyed the chaos surrounding her. Bodies littered the ground in every direction, and the bricks beneath her had been splattered a dark crim61
Informada digital photograph Sergio Tellez Noguez
son. Her thoughts drowned in the roaring mayhem as the dry scent of smoke and blood overwhelmed her senses. Resigned to her fate, she closed her eyes. Almost instantly, Evita felt a hand touch her shoulder. “Evita! Oh my God! You’re okay! Hurry, we’ve got to leave now!” October 1, 1968. 10:44 p.m. The compact, one-bedroom apartment Evita and Javi shared was modest but sufficient, affording both a small living space and a kitchen. The living space, where they spent most of their time, was inhabited by a variety of furnishings. A small couch sat along the back wall, flanked by two end tables, one of which was black, the other brown. Both adjacent walls were lined with bulging bookcases, and a small, wooden table sat in close proximity to the kitchen. On it sat a variety of books, papers, and other sources of clutter. Rarely, if ever, would they consider their apartment presentable for guests. As both students and activists, their busy schedules had forced them to convert their home into a temporary storage space, but with time, temporary soon became permanent. The mess made Evita happy, though, as it represented an active household. Javi, who had dozed off the moment they returned home, was still quietly asleep, but Evita could hardly lay still. What if something goes wrong? What if turnout is low? Uninviting apprehensions and concerns raced through her mind, and she struggled to find peace long enough to sleep. Rolling over once again, she turned towards the ceiling. For a few moments, she traced the pattern of rough grooves that covered it, distracted by its resemblance to an endless mountain range. What if tomorrow is a failure? What if I’m not good enough to be an organizer? What if I’m not good enough to be a leader? Evita, taking careful precaution to avoid waking Javi, climbed out of the bed. She slid on a pair of sandals and walked into the kitchen. The pantry, packed with boxes and cans of food, drew her attention, but nothing seemed appetizing. In truth, she didn’t feel hungry. Her mind was in a frenzy, and she was desperate for a distraction. Weary, she surrendered herself to a chair at the table. For a while, she sat motionless, attempting to ignore the penetrat63
ing thoughts of self-doubt and uncertainty, however, she soon felt tears in her eyes. Her anxiety overwhelmed her, and she dropped her head into her hands. “Mi amor, are you okay?” Javi rested his hand on Evita’s shoulder, seating himself in a chair beside her. The gentle whisper surprised her, as his footsteps had been silent, offering no warning that he had awoken. Evita looked up at Javi, wiping away the tears that had streamed down her face. “Yeah…” She sniffled. “Yeah, I’m okay. I’m just tired.” Javi leaned forward and wrapped Evita in his arms. Consoled by his warm embrace, she hugged him back. For a moment, they sat together in silence. The noise of the outside world, usually intoxicating, seemed to take a lull, and a feeling of tranquility descended upon their apartment. Evita, slowly leaning back, returned her gaze to Javi, who was looking at her with eyes more sincere than any she had seen before. “We’ll do this together,” he promised. “For the movement.” The motto brought ease to her mind, and she smiled. “For the movement.” Javi delivered a soft kiss to Evita’s lips then rose from his seat. He stretched out his hand, and she took it. Together, they returned to their bedroom. October 2, 1968. 6:18 p.m. Evita, shocked to hear the familiar voice, immediately raised her head. Her eyes focused on Javi, who stood above her, the lower half of his face covered by a scarlet bandana. He bent over, wrapping an arm around her. Mouth agape, she winced as he took her hand, causing him to hesitate. Affection illuminated his eyes, and he lowered his mask with a sweaty, dirt-covered hand. “Evita! Can you walk? We’ve got to go! They’re coming!” Javi’s frantic plea snapped Evita out of her astonishment. Processing his question, she nodded her head. Lending his shoulder for support, Javi helped her rise to her feet. Once standing, she shuddered. Her knees seemed worse than she had imagined, laced with vicious cuts and plastered with mud. Blood trickled down her 64
legs, staining her white socks. She felt stiff like a tombstone, but she could stand. With tears in his eyes, Javi pulled Evita into an embrace. “Thank God you’re okay! I was so terrified!” Javi’s voice sounded muffled against Evita’s hair. She could feel tears drip down his face. “Let’s go. This way!” Javi took Evita’s hand, and together, they raced into the chaos. Now fleeing, their steps fell in line with the rhythm of the crowd, and Evita felt secure. The gunfire, growing distant, seemed to dissipate as Javi guided her through the herd of scrambling students. Her hands and legs, although still aching, had new life in them, and she pressed forward alongside her lover. “Javi! Evita! This way!” Ronaldo’s call pierced through the commotion, and Evita searched for its source. She found him a few feet away, cowering behind a parked Chevrolet. His eyes lit up, and he waved his hand. Noticing his friend, Javi altered his course, directing Evita alongside him. Still moving, Javi turned his head back towards Evita. “We’ll grab Ronaldo, and then—” Evita felt a spray of red liquid slap her in the face. Immediately, Javi’s hand went limp in hers as he fell to the ground before her. Evita froze. The sound of the fleeing students around her seemed to grow inaudible, their screams increasingly distant. “Javi, get up!” she begged. Evita dropped to her knees and began shaking Javi’s still body. He didn’t respond to her touch. “Javi, please! Javi, please, get up!” “Is he injured?” Ronaldo rushed to Evita’s side, but she didn’t notice. “Javi! Please! Get up! We need to go!” Tears began racing down Evita’s face. A thick, red fluid had started to accumulate under Javi’s head, and it soaked the bricks beneath him. His eyes glazed over, as he remained motionless. Covered in the blood of both her lover and herself, she brought her hand to her mouth. Her breathing felt short, her vision cloudy. “Evita… We’ve got to go…” Ronaldo’s plea was weak, barely stronger than a whisper. “I can’t…” Evita couldn’t turn away from the lifeless body of 65
the man she loved. “Javi…” Ronaldo’s voice cracked. “Javi can’t die in vain. We need to stay alive.” Evita, still kneeling, slowly nodded her head. Without taking her eyes away from Javi, she rose to her feet. This time, the pain in her knees felt unbearable. After a final moment, she closed her eyes, turned around, and began racing down the brick streets alongside Ronaldo. She tried to cry, but she had no more tears to spare. She had wasted them all, it seemed, and now, as Javi lay on the ground behind her, she had nothing to offer. October 2, 1968. 7:32 p.m. Evita could not remember how far she had run. Once she and Ronaldo had fled the Plaza, they sprinted through a puzzle of narrow side streets and alleys, careful to avoid detection by the soldiers prowling through the city. During the strategy meetings, the organizers had decided to designate a “safe house,” preparing for any potential backlash from the government. Hostility towards student activism had been increasing, and a contingency plan seemed necessary. Now, as Evita and Ronaldo arrived at the rendezvous point, a dirt-floored cellar underneath a dilapidated nightclub, they were met by only a handful of grim faces. Darkness permeated the room as Ronaldo shared the news of Javi’s death. With downcast eyes, the organizers mumbled amongst themselves, deciding to delay further discussion half an hour longer in the hope that more survivors would arrive. Evita, despondent and dejected, sat alone in a corner. Initially, Ronaldo had tried to console her, but she remained cold and aloof, isolating herself from those around her. Time seemed to elapse quickly. A few stragglers managed to arrive, but in total, only about a fifth of the organizers were present. The half-hour mark hit, and the soft murmur of the room ceded to silence. Evita, hoping for the impossible, stared at the cellar door. She would have given anything to see his face just once more. I failed you. She stared down at her hands. Coated with dried blood, they looked a dark maroon in the dim candlelight. I failed everyone here. 66
Evita remained still until she heard a slight cough in front of her. She raised her head and found Ronaldo looking at her. “Evita… I think this is everyone.” Solemn, she remained expressionless. “What…” Ronaldo’s voice hesitated. “What do you think we should do?” “Nothing…” Evita responded. “Without Javi, we have nothing. The movement is dead.” Ronaldo paused for a moment. “I don’t… I don’t believe that.” Evita’s eyes grew hostile, but Ronaldo’s gaze remained firm. “Look, I loved Javi, and he was like a brother to me, but you can’t say that. You just can’t. Not now. He, alone, didn’t make ‘the movement.’ He was a leader, but so are many others. And so are you.” Evita, her agitation rescinding, lowered her eyes, ashamed. “What do you think Javi would have done?” Ronaldo exhaled a soft sigh. “I don’t think that matters now. Instead, I think you need to ask yourself ‘What will you do?’” What can I do? Evita felt powerless, but as she examined the room, she noticed the eyes of the other organizers focused on her. Their mournful looks revealed a desperate hopelessness unlike any she had seen before. They needed a leader, now more than ever, and Javi came back to her. We’ll do this together. His words ran through her head. For the movement. Evita rose from her chair and marched to the front of the cellar. The anxious faces that littered the room now seemed to hold their breath in unison. “Friends, we all lost something today.” For a moment, Evita slipped on her words, but she quickly regained composure. “And nothing will ever replace what those monsters stole from us.” She trembled as her voice started to rise. “But that doesn’t mean that we can surrender.” Evita closed her eyes and pictured Javi speaking to the student organizers in the assembly hall. She could see him smiling. Believe me, he said. You’re the best organizer I’ve ever seen. She reopened her eyes, now bright with a glowing rage. “The government stomps on us! They beat us, over and over again, hop67
ing to break us, but they shall not succeed!” Her voice remained strong, and she no longer trembled. “We must not let them win! Our fallen comrades shall not die in vain! Javi-” Her voice cracked for only a split second, “-did not die in vain!” The other organizers, who had previously been hushed, now began to murmur in support. “We are not just individuals here! We are a team! We are a family! We are a movement! And no force, no matter how powerful, can ever break our unity and strength!” The other organizers, reanimated with zeal, started cheering. Evita, overwhelmed by the support, was forced to raise her voice to a shout. “When we remember today, we shall not only remember the sacrifices of our dearest comrades, but we shall also remember the revival of a movement stronger than ever before! A movement strong enough that it shall bring justice and democracy to this country! For the movement!” The motto rang in the air. She raised her fist. “For the movement!” The other organizers, answering her call, raised their fists as well. Evita felt herself smile. Tears swelled in her eyes. The movement would continue to live, and in her heart, so would Javi.
Third Place in the Liberal Arts Honors Creative Writing Prize
My Neighbor Craig Cole I’m almost to the point where I don’t notice that I’ve grown up. It feels like some fading and unimportant memory — what I had for dinner a week ago. My life still hasn’t found its purpose and I haven’t solved any of the problems that I thought I’d have worked out by now. The only reason I got up anymore was to pay for my half of the apartment that I couldn’t afford. The complex was nice, erred on the side of sterile, but was clean and well-groomed. The walls were surprisingly thin, though. I had befriended the woman I share a wall with. She seldom left her apartment and ordered packages every day. We had this routine of getting the mail together and passing off a “‘hey, how was your day” before throwing our mail in the recycling bin. But we never walked back to our floor together. She took the stairs and I took the elevator; the stairs were always quicker because they let you out much closer to our doors. I heard her have sex every day. My roommate and I have been in love with each other for years but will never mention it in conversation. We blame the hookups on being too drunk or high or something. We were two dudes trying to hang on to the last bit of control that we had in our lives. And, somehow, it worked. We lived together because it’s what we’ve been doing. We’ve been friends for something like ten years now and the first few months after getting your undergrad isn’t the time to start disrupting a routine. I worked at a restaurant that I’d been on and off with throughout college; the managers loved me enough to take me back every time, but sometimes I wish they didn’t. The exhaustion from the constant 12-hour work days permeated itself into my body until it was inseparable. With that work schedule, when you get home, 69
all you want to do is watch a few movies with your roommate, get stoned, and not mention the sex the both of you will probably never have again. My roommate stared at his phone when we watched movies. I’ve never asked what he looked at, but I’m sure it was a relentless search for existence. He tried new hobbies and jobs every month, waiting for something to stick. That early twenties angst held on to him, too. We’ve seen the same movies so many times now that we no longer have to watch them. While they played, we read articles and let our reconstructions of each scene cycle in our subconscious. Neither of us spoke. I used this time to develop short-lived obsessions. The obsession I had before my current one was telling people that I’m going to law school. While my roommate stared at his phone, I laid in front of my computer and researched law schools. I examined the pictures of the buildings, and compared the architectures and landscaping. I thought about buying a ‘Duke Law’ sweatshirt and wearing it home for Christmas. I thought about what my roommate would think about me moving away and becoming successful. I wondered if that would be when he finally apologized. He would stand in front of me, eyes wide, and say “I’m sorry for costing you a lot of friends.” Would we be happy after that? Recently, however, I have pretty much forgotten about what he did. He’s become quite affectionate in his nonverbal and diminutive ways. He made me coffee. He vacuumed my room. I knew the guilt hung over him, but there wasn’t any reason he would bring it up after all this time. Whenever I thought about this, I looked over at him and wondered if we thought the same things. When we retired to our beds at the separate ends of the apartment, that’s when I heard my neighbor having sex. She screamed and screamed. Not in a pleasurable, release kind of way, but in the way I pictured phone sex going. It wasn’t malicious on the guy’s part. She wasn’t screaming for help. It just seemed forced, like a part of a daily routine that was losing its excitement. I listened and listened until they wore themselves out, and then I nudged myself into a deep sleep. I used to use the screaming as an excuse to get in 70
my roommate’s bed. I’d send him a text like “Hey, the neighbors are at it again,” and then act like I fell asleep on his chest by accident. That tactic was short lived. I often wondered about how I could tolerate their noises. I came up with a few theories but nothing that I really liked. I first thought that I listened because it was wrong; I felt like a little boy hearing his older brother get into his girlfriend on a school night. I then thought that it was a way for me to have an intimate connection with someone since my love life was now barren. I haven’t met anyone new in years. I mean, I’ve met new people, but none that I wanted to bring home and make my roommate jealous with. And getting to hear the intimate, carnal sides of someone is special. When you hear this side of someone is when you know you’ve met them. The man who made love to her seldom showed his face. I felt like I was violating his privacy by seeing him walk into my neighbor’s apartment. He was executive, astute. He held himself straight and was always dressed well. He looked like he did business. Sometimes he wore leather gloves and I’d have to think, “Who the hell wears leather gloves anymore?” I honestly couldn’t tell his age. My neighbor was maybe late-twenties. I don’t think I’ve mentioned how beautiful she looked on those walks to get mail, but even for someone like me it was noticeable. She flipped her thick, black hair over one shoulder as if it was a fox fur. I never saw her dressed up; she was always in pajama pants and a tank top, but even then she looked refined. The clothes adhered to her body as if not wanting to let go. Her pursed lips gave her an intellectual demeanor, and when you spoke to her, she never moved her head nor broke eye contact. I think she’s the only person I’ve met who knows what her life is. There isn’t any uncertainty in her stare. The man wasn’t out of her league, but that wasn’t obvious. He was weathered but refined in a similar manner to my neighbor. I’d never spoken to him, but he seemed like someone who tucked his chin to listen to you, nodded often, and said ‘uh-huh’ after every completed thought. I never asked her how she knew him. You know the feeling when it seems like you would be intruding, even if the 71
question isn’t inherently weird? “Hey, who is the man that comes over every day and never talks to me?” shouldn’t be creepy but it was in this situation. Somehow I knew too much. But, I figured I had to say something once my roommate started bringing a girl home, and I didn’t have anyone else to talk to. My roommate waved this new girl in front of my face. He even had her throw a foot on me one night while we all sat on the couch. I cried in my bed that night but found solace in my neighbor screaming herself to sleep. My roommate stopped making me coffee shortly after he met this girl. A few times after getting home from work, I parked in an empty section of the garage and waited for the man to park his car next to mine. It started by wanting to see what he drove and how he carried himself when he thought he wasn’t being observed. But now… I leaned my seat back to where I wouldn’t be noticeable and thumbed my phone until I saw headlights. An Audi, black and executive, drove through and parked two spaces down from me. The man got out of his car, closed his peacoat, and closed the door with a bare hand. He put on his leather gloves before walking towards the door to our hallway. I thought he would reveal more to me with this event, but he didn’t. I just watched someone get out of his car and walk away from it. My heart pounded. After a few moments, I decided to walk behind him until we were both out of sight. I didn’t want anyone seeing us, and I knew he didn’t want that either. His heels hit the pavement and filled the hallway with a rhythm that I unconsciously followed. He was on a mission. He was going to see his woman. I’m not sure if he saw me; I was quiet and put distance between us to where it wouldn’t seem like I was on his tail. I was just a guy getting home from work. He held nothing in his hands. Apart from his legs, the only movement from his body was an unknotted scarf that swayed near his knees. I felt myself getting in-tune with that rhythm as well. Back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. He halted. 72
He heard his echoing footsteps and knew he wasn’t alone. He turned around. I stopped and stared back at him. My heart felt like a water balloon ready to be thrown. “Can I help you?” When I walked into my apartment, my roommate was sitting there with his girl. Giggling. They both looked up at me and smiled. I could tell you the last time he giggled. It was while we were at his lake house when we were seventeen. His parents invited me over for the weekend. It was a weekend of drinking — our first time with adults — and swimming and sleeping in the same bed together. The house was perched on a grassy knoll, the boat was large and white, and the water was reflective. It was one of those weekends that made you understand where movies came from. My roommate and I liked to play small pranks on each other. So, one night while we were eating dinner as a family on the dock, I thought it would be a good time to screw with him. It started with his parents asking me to get everyone another beer. The cooler was, for some reason, behind the bar, so it couldn’t be seen from the table. I walked over, and when I bent down to pick up a few beers, I shook a can of Shiner so hard it almost slipped out of my fist. I made sure to hold it in a separate hand so I gave it to my soon-to-be roommate and not his mom. I gave his parents their beers first and after they opened their cans, I gave my roommate his. He didn’t squeeze it nor tap the top with his finger and the moment after he pulled the tab, it detonated. I immediately lost my mind. I was crying. It didn’t make physical sense how much beer got on his face and enchiladas. It happened so quickly that the only thing he could do was stand up, but it didn’t stop him from getting soaked. After the spraying abated and we were all laughing at him, he stood there for a moment. He didn’t laugh, he chuckled. Giggled. It was a moment of pure embarrassment that he couldn’t escape. He was a kid who said something so stupid that it made the adults stop and look at him. He giggled and looked at me the entire time. He gave me his side eye that, in his language, meant he was home. His parents told me they were glad he picked me. 73
And now, he was giving that same look to this girl after she told him about her crazy friends and who she slept with. He played it up. My heart was still beating from the hallway, and now it was worse. But, I tried to keep my cool. I figured I would hang out with them so he didn’t win this moment. I sat on the other side of the couch and asked them how their days were. She told me about hers and they both giggled. My roommate just asked me how mine was. I told them about work and about how I hate people who order hot tea at dinner because I have to heat the cup up, go to the back to get the specific teabag out of the box that we put away after brunch, and then wait for the tea to steep for a moment before carrying it all back to the table with lemon and sugar. She giggled. They were watching the same movie my roommate and I watched last night. She didn’t understand it, of course. But, it was one of my roommate’s favorites so we both mouthed the words and acted out the gestures. It felt odd not to be reading articles about law schools while watching a movie. I got lost in how the scenes compared to my reconstructions and how different they were. Then, we heard the knock at the door. We all leapt and turned our heads towards the sound. I think I said something like “‘That’s for me,” and walked over to open it. When I did, there stood the man in his peacoat looking down at me. “May I come in?” And I think I said something like “Please do,” and walked him over to my half of the apartment. I saw the look my roommate gave me, and I wondered if we would still be living together next week. I also wondered what my life had become and if this is what people did when they grew up.
Passerby film Michah Harrison
Honorable Mention in the Liberal Arts Honors Creative Writing Prize
The Absence of Fangs Anna Dolliver Rarely did she step outside the mine. She had what she needed in the stalactites, and the bats and roaches kept her company enough. Though her winged companions spoke another language, she told herself that their chirps and clicks sang a more truthful tune than any that left a human’s lips. The girl with uneven teeth did not trust people. They tried to correct and hide their mistakes with wires and rubber, staunching blood with cotton balls and reality with white lies. Nature was honest and unguarded; if someone disappeared, you could follow the tracks. If an animal bled, it recognized that the wound meant something was wrong. There weren’t mysteries out in the woods; life buzzed overhead and tickled her ankles, murmuring the truth to those who listened. When she was younger, her father had worked with silver tools in rooms stained with white, pulling pearls from the mouths of visitors. He brought her to his practice every morning, inviting her to play with the forceps, chisels, and mirrors that gleamed silver beside trays of teeth. It wasn’t until she watched her father treat a patient that she realized white could fade into yellow or grey, and even the brightest stones could hide a cavity deep within the enamel. The girl’s mother lived in the dark, only seeing her daughter in the shadows of the town. Her father called that woman a lady of the night who slept too deep underground for the light to touch her. She was never to speak with that creature, he said as he dusted flecks of rubber and bone off his apron. The little girl lived with him because he corrected his mistakes. Her mother wore black when they first met — black dress, black lashes, red lips. She brought her into the alley behind a library, hugged her, and gave her an old book and a new name. 76
“My Milla,” she whispered, handing the ten-year-old child an old book as frayed as her dress and as red as her lips. “It’s so good to see you again.” The girl had seen her father’s white, a color of correction, erasure, and omission. Her earliest memory was her father erasing her mistakes, telling her that you can’t draw an “s” like that, you’re doing it wrong, just let me show you. Her mother used a black pen as she drew a bat on the book’s first page. “So you can’t erase your mistakes,” she told the child, inviting her to draw a bat beside her own. “They become part of the masterpiece.” Her mother led her back to the father’s house, guiding her through the kitchen window as the dentist snored. She repeated her name and hugged her before the child carried her book back to her room. The girl never saw her mother again, but Dracula slept beside her bed three years after, hiding under her bed for three more after her father found him. Her father preferred books of monochrome meaning, factual texts that told him the Latin name of a freshly pinned butterfly or promised him new methods for procuring teeth. The girl’s fangs came out every night, slicing through her starved gums the moment her father left the room. She knew they were not truly there — she checked before brushing her teeth every morning, hoping that her incisors had grown sharper overnight — but the book made her jaws ache all the same. She read the story of the beast again and again, dreaming of castles and gentle demons until she started to see through a monster’s eyes. She smiled only at those with wayward teeth, wondering if the boy begging for braces was hiding canines behind his lips. One day, a fanged child entered her father’s practice. She wouldn’t have noticed had she not been looking, checking the mouths of every patient for signs of kinship. “I’m one, too,” she whispered as the girl walked by. “One what?” Her father locked her in her room that night. He asked her 77
to explain her behavior, and she hissed. “Melody, you can read your story, but remember that it is only fiction. The moment it crosses into my work is the moment you lose your book.” She didn’t respond. If he refused to call her by the name her mother had chosen for her, if he refused to embrace the unfettered truth of the darkness, she would silence whatever Melody remained. Her father hid the keys in the potted fern by the door. As she pulled them out, she remembered the time she had tried to quench the plant’s thirst. Her father had shaken his head, cursing just loud enough for her to hear as he wiped the discarded water off the floor. “Melody, you don’t water fake plants.” It was midnight, and the moonless sky beckoned to her as she pulled out of the driveway. One rare benefit of her father’s practicality was that she had learned how to drive. Now she was storming toward the realization of her dreams. She brought only a candle to light her path through the office, for she feared the glare of her father’s electric lights. Besides, if she completed her metamorphosis, perhaps even the lights of humans would devour her new skin. She had seen her father create veneers to perfect the teeth of his patients. When she asked, he had let her try crafting them, helping her mold the composite to the rebellious teeth. Deep in his work, he had not caught the glint of anticipation in her eyes as he helped her discover how to become her own Dr. Frankenstein with every critical remark. Now she assembled the tools to forge her new life, stumbling around the dentist’s office as she tried to flit like a bat. The embryo of her future glittered back at her, flickering in the candlelight through resin. She whispered her favorite lines from Dracula as she shaped the material, deciding to adopt the book’s namesake as her new father. She returned the next night and for weeks after, perfecting the two petite pearly gates to her second life. After countless nights of flitting, reciting, and crafting, she held her creations up to her candle, admiring them in its glow while knowing their true beauty 78
would surface in the dark. A daughter of the night and of Dracula, she thought, applying her fangs to her gums. They stung at first, heightening her sense of the cold office air, but she embraced the pain as the increased sensitivity typical of vampires. She left the town soon after her fangs grew in. She tried visiting her mother, but another woman who lived in her neon tower said she had wandered into the shadows one night and remained a silhouette. The girl, her teeth now idyllically imperfect, brought Dracula out of hiding and took all the raw meat in the house. She threw spare tubes of toothpaste, cases of floss, and red toothbrushes into a bag, knowing her transformation would require constant maintenance. The dentist had not realized his daughter was dead — she kept her lips closed, and he never asked her for a word. The child was like his potted plant — pretty, mute, and false. The abandoned mine rested ten miles outside the town city limits, but she knew it was the only place for a creature like her. She needed the purity of darkness, no matter how long a journey it required. She ventured back into the town every full moon to replenish her stockpile of food. The girl with crimson gums and pearly canines would break into the butcher’s shop to fill her backpack with organs and slabs of raw meat, pulling pieces from the garbage and counter alike. The man only saw her once, mistaking her for a demon as she crawled out of a window with a pig skull. The more she dined upon flesh, the better it tasted to her — her initial reservations about the lack of variety in her new diet had vanished, replaced by a disgust for anything other than what rotted in her backpack. She soon learned that she liked the smaller skulls best; she would pull out the meat and suck on the bone, leaving animal teeth scattered around her cave floor like popcorn kernels. After too many nights of sleeping in their dens, she had realized that humans blurred more than the boundaries between light and dark. They promised themselves everything and yet remembered nothing, always guiding their decisions with emotion’s wandering eye. They called discretion cold, but they did not recognize 79
that it was the absence of heat. Humans, she considered, were the absence of fangs. They were the absence of animal instinct, the absence of animal rationality, even as they chased perfection. They sought status over safety, fame over food, perfection over practicality. She had escaped their twisted logic, embracing the mistakes of reality instead of drenching them in light.
Planes, Trains, and Telephones:
A 12-Step Process of Falling In and Out and Back in Love over 1600 Miles Elizabeth Werth
Step One: Voice The lilting dance of your accent is one with which I am unfamiliar. I could dedicate hours to tracking how sincerity and heartbreak and laughter alter the choreography, how one dancer can be so fluidly adept at performing variety. I have yet to see the way your lips come into play as a setting – a vehicle – upon which your uniquely-you east coast, half-Philadelphia, half-New Jersey accent comes into its own. How do downturned lips and teeth ground together and curling-ivy smiles change the way you pronounce your ‘a’? How does nature give way to nurture every time you say my name? How many pages can I fill with its every quirk and detail? Step Two: Value I am not a good person, but I am trying my best to learn how to be the kind of person you can love. Step Three: Silence I’ve settled comfortably into the spaces between your words. Living alone, its intimacy is as familiar to me as the moments I align together to make up my every day. Grandiloquent declarations of affection strung next to uninspired chatter has always made the latter pale in importance in my eyes. Let me hear your laugh, your stories, your testimonies, your thoughts – but let me share the authenticity of your silence. 81
Step Four: Fool I’m a fool – for you – about you – before you – because of you – with you – around you Step Five: Stop My life is a process of leaving. Perpetual transience. The unstoppable force without an immovable object, I’ve existed in pasttense terms as I left destination after destination in my wake. It doesn’t hurt to leave when leaving is all you know how to do. You’re just a force without an object to give you a reason to stay for a while. I never thought I’d find anything to make me want to stop leaving things in the past and start living in the present. I’d been committed to my suitcase being my permanent residence, to friendships being as fleeting as a tree flying by outside the window of a speeding car, to a life best lived in the process of moving. And then I flew to see you and realized I’d be content to never set foot in an airplane again. Step Six: Beat I flatten my palm on the center of your chest, five fingers splayed wide like roots in a fertile garden. Your heart beats a steady rhythm of the most beautiful music I’ve ever heard against my palm. I spread my fingers a little wider. Maybe, if I try hard enough, your heartbeat will fill the spaces between my fingers. Maybe, if I try, I’ll never have to let you go. Step Seven: Bleed The words drip from my lips drenched in tetrahydrocannabinol, palliatives, and dopamine. I’ve waited for the moment, planned for it, imagined it, tested out the weight and heft of these words in various settings, with different inflections, with every possible reaction – and then they slip from my lips with the ease that 82
sinks ships, and I can’t bite my tongue fast enough because it’s not the right time or place, because I’m drunk and high and half out of breath, buried in a dark night wrapped in humidity, but it’s too late. I love you. My heart misses a few of its quick, steady thumps in the silence that follows, and somehow I’m still sure of my choice – because of course it would happen like this, of course it wouldn’t be the beautiful planned moment turned robotic from all the times I ran it through my mind, of course it wouldn’t be the perfect fairytale hopeless romantic unrealism I’ve dreamt up, of course it would happen here, of course it would be this simple, of course it would be messy and rough-around-the-edges and imperfect and spontaneous – because that’s who I am. My heart misses a few more because of how positive I am that I’ve made the right choice. And you ask, “Really?” And I breathe, “Yeah.” And I wait. And in the space of the seconds where I wait, I begin to dream up grandiloquent responses and declarations and echoes of my words, where you seal the letters with hot-wax kisses pressed onto my enveloping thighs, where star paths cross and everything falls into place, and I fit that last piece into the puzzle and it’s like all the books told me. Because maybe it can be a mess, and maybe it can still be a fairytale hopeless romantic ending, and maybe it can be the story I’ve always wanted to write, and maybe it can be modern day American realism. And I wait. And wait. And I hesitate. And you breathe. And I wait. And. And and and. And nothing. And the heart I’ve torn, bleeding, bruised, broken from my chest, the heart that’s tumbled awkwardly from a cotton-thick tongue, the heart I’ve sewed to my sleeve to bare to the world, that heart withers, ashamed and defeated and distrustful. And that heart pries open my clenched teeth to slip past my tongue and bury 83
Dreams and Nightmares digital photograph Abby Raffle
itself in my throat and dig its claws into the tender flesh there. And that heart chokes me every time I open your mouth so that it will never be made to feel so foolish again. Step Seven: Return Legs tangled up in yours, I never liked sleeping next to anyone until your body was sprawled next to mine. Too close, a breach of personal space, I should have pushed you away and I didn’t. Legs tangled up in yours, fingertips finding meaning in the faint lines and creases of your skin, draped over you tied up in me, I waited to hate the way I could feel your breath tickling the hairs on the back of my neck. I waited and changed decorative finger paintings to movements with meaning, to quicken your breath, to wait for the moment I could no longer stand it, and I didn’t. Legs tangled up in yours, skin sticky with the day and the hours and the city and the rain, skin sticky because of the way your skin moved against mine – legs tangled, I close my eyes and fall asleep to the rhythm of your heartbeat, hoping to claw my way just a little bit closer. Step Eight: City A pier. New York City at night. New Jersey waiting on the other side of the river. Lights over the city dance like incandescent fireflies, halogen fairy lights, fluorescent candles – light pollution hanging like a haze of possibility. We’ve been awake for twenty-one hours, walked as many miles, lost ourselves in corporate consumerism and dead midnight streets. There is exhaustion, first and foremost, a filter that every other sensation must battle through to be felt. I hold your hand, tangle my fingers with yours, let my body fall heavy against you, drape my legs over your own. The city makes my eyes heavy with dreams, the cool wind curls me into your sphere like a tendril of wayward wispy smoke. I want to sleep, but now is not the time. Not here – not in the city, not on the pier, not next to you, not when the seconds tick closer to my leaving with every breath that I wish I could so desperately hold, because maybe if I hold the breath in my lungs I can hold the clocks at bay and hold you in my arms for just a little longer. 85
Step Nine: Sphere When you inhabit two distinct planes of existence, how do you decide who compromises theirs to join the other? Step Ten: Falling Love. Noun. A profoundly tender, passionate affection for another person. A feeling of warm personal attachment or deep affection. Sexual passion or desire. Love. Verb. To need or require; benefit greatly from. In love. Idiom. Infused with or feeling deep affection or passion. Hopeless romantic, I fall in love indiscriminately and with ardor. Love disingenuous, love passionate, love enthusiastic, love pretension. I have always known my particular brand of love as thoroughly as the skin stretched uncomfortably over my bones. As consequentially inconsequential as the word has become. I have never known love pure, love authentic. Given love is disgust, love is being despised. Given love is cold and love will always hurt you because love is inextricably labyrinthed with hate. Love is for me to offer, not for me to receive. I want to love because I do not want to be loved. I am not sure how to define what I feel now. It is not ephemeral, it is not unresponsive. Distant in distance only. Not a weapon, not quite a cure, but something that spans far beyond the militaristic frame I give my language of love. It is a need to consume and be consumed, to dig my fingers deep in the fabric of your soul and memorize its patterns and its texture and its scent and its taste; it is wanting you to do the same. It is a dialect of possession and ownership and jealousy, and a vernacular of unity and selflessness and I-can-do-better. Not beautiful, not ugly, not pure, not dirty, not anything in between. It is yearning to mortar my fractures and empty spaces with you, a craving to blur lines between one and the other until two are indistinct. It is a smile through heartache and not-my-homesickness and anger. Well-defined and incomprehensible, I want to write odes every time you make me feel something I never knew possible, and I choke on any of the words I could try to find. 86
I know love, multitudinous and various and unfathomable, so I do not know love. But I know you, and somehow I think that is enough. Step Eleven: Rainbow The rainbow hues of the world drain to black and white when you leave my apartment for the first time. It feels wrong, strange. This is not your space and yet when you’re gone, the holes in your wake are gaping, as if you’d been there since the beginning. It’s quiet, uncomfortably and strangely and achingly quiet. You aren’t there to shift the blankets in bed next to me, to run the shower while I’m in another room, to type away at a laptop while I lay on the couch pretending to read and just listening instead. My apartment is small, capable of fitting one but filled with enough to make it suitable for maybe a half a person at most. Three years to come to terms with the silence of an independent space. But having you slot into the spaces felt right; never claustrophobic, never overtaxed, just right. In the span of just a few days, you became as permanent a fixture as the hum of the dehumidifier, or the washing machine that beats out strange rhythms when it gets a little too full. You fit in so well that it’s easy to forget that you are not designed for this this space, that it is Mine, that you are a Guest, that you have a home and that this is not it. I had never known what it was like to miss someone, body and soul, with every single atom of my being until I got to hold you here and then had to give you back. Until I wanted to clean out half of my dresser to make room for you. Until I wanted one of the empty spaces in the toothbrush holder to be filled by yours. I had never known what it was like to fall so hard that someone could take colors with them. Step Twelve: Self They say you can’t love someone until you love yourself first, but I’ve found that’s not true. You can love someone deeply and fiercely, love them with every ounce of your soul and heart, love them with an intensity you’ve never felt toward anything in 87
your life. You can love them, love them, love them, until the world stops turning and the stars stop shining and the sun dies away, until the universe is dark and cold and warmed with nothing but that love. They say you canâ€™t love someone until you love yourself, but thatâ€™s not true. You just canâ€™t let them love you back.
A Price Too High Sean Winn
Sweat was starting to bead up on the skin despite the box fans blowing nearby. It was a stifling summer day, and they had come onto the screened porch to catch what little breeze there was. The box fans hummed away, and the rocking chair creaked as it eased back and forth. A mosquito that managed to slip past the screen door buzzed around the boy’s ear as he swatted at it. George was 11 years old, had short ginger-red hair in a #3 buzz cut, and a sunburn. Despite the heat, he wore jeans to reduce the effects of grass burrs and skinned knees that robust country boys were wont to end up with. He was fidgeting to get outside and run through the creek area behind his grandmother’s house. His dad was taking a break from the morning’s labors and had asked him to help repair a fence in the afternoon. They would sit for a spell and visit with Granny before heading back to the fields; the fence wasn’t an urgent task, and it could wait for a bit. Besides, his dad had reminded him, Granny wasn’t getting any younger and he should spend more time with her. She was the boy’s great-grand mother, though a couple generations, including some cousins, simply called her Granny. She was approaching 90 and frail, but she still had her wits about her and didn’t like too much assistance. George’s mom, Mary Johnson, wasn’t with them that afternoon as she was making the weekly grocery run into the city. She used to go every two weeks, but since they had recently traded in her old truck for a crossover SUV, she was keen to make the trip more often. George’s parents were both from the area, and had known each other since they were in high school. Practically the only thing they ever fought about was the choice of radio stations. A shot had been heard about 15 minutes earlier. Being in the countryside, that was not unusual, and no one had paid much attention to it. They continued their chit-chat, pursuing a belabored inquiry about what George liked and didn’t like about school. A second crack had just come, followed seconds later by two more 89
shots, one on top of the another. The last pair were of two different calibers. George’s father, Nate Johnson, stopped talking and tilted his head, listening intently. Nate was a stocky man with calloused hands who enjoyed working the land. George found him strict, especially in making sure the family went to church on Sundays, but not mean by any stretch. His dad didn’t say a lot, but enjoyed a good chuckle when someone else was telling a story. His shirt had sweat stains and his boots were practical and well used. George loved summertime, not just because he didn’t have to go to school, but also because it gave him the chance to spend time with his dad. His dad said that he was teaching him the value of hard work, but they also did fun things together. George especially enjoyed their fishing trips. The easy movement of a river or openness of a lake was great bonding. They could spend hours together. “What you make of it, Nate?” asked Granny. “Probably nothing. I hope someone got a couple of those feral hogs that have been tearing up the hay meadows. Most likely, though, it’s just Eddie Sutton on another bender.” No response from Granny, but the rocking chair stopped moving. George stopped fidgeting and was watching the two of them. “I heard Gurnton had another one of those attacks last weekend,” Granny continued. From listening to the adults talk, George had gathered that sporadic racial attacks had recently dotted East Texas. No one had claimed responsibility. Since the election, three black businesses had been trashed, some graffiti scrawled, and even a cross burned. The previous week, George and his dad were having burgers at the café when a couple of other farmers slid into their booth and got to chatting with his dad. Something of a ‘who done it’ discussion ensued. He didn’t follow all of it, but apparently, there were quite a few theories making the rounds. George liked how his dad tried to include him in the adult conversations, at least a little. Dad had asked him if he knew what the Klan was. (Yes, they were the guys with the sheets on their head.) The consensus at home seemed to be that the Klan was just the smallest number of wackos, the kind that would have fallen over themselves to leave a signature on the 90
attacks, either to call attention to themselves or through incompetence in covering their tracks. The better part of a year had gone by, and it was still a mystery. At the moment, though, George was trying to get the drift of where Granny was going with her comment, as this was a topic that usually made the adults turn serious. He kept quiet and waited for what Granny would say next. “Nate,” she continued, “Lester’s place is not far from Eddie Sutton’s cabin.” Lester was well liked by everyone. He was black, and his family had been farming the area for generations. “I know, Granny. I was just listening to see if anything else came from that way. Seemed further east, though.” His dad was quiet for a moment. Then he turned to George with a change of expression. “You aren’t in the mood to go fix fence right away, are you?” “No way.” George was attentive to what might come next. “Up for an adventure, then?” he asked with a conspiratorial grin. “Scurry over that ridge and check out Eddie’s cabin, would you? You know where Eddie’s land backs onto Granny’s, right? Come up through where he stacks his hay, and see if he has any tin cans set up or anything like that. Your phone got juice?” George nodded several times. It was probably a mile roundtrip. “Nate, I’m not sure that is such a great idea,” noted Granny. But her rocking chair resumed its motion, and she looked like she was about to start in with more questions about school, which George wasn’t exactly excited about answering. “I’m sure it’s nothing,” said Nate. “All those incidents happened at night, and it is broad daylight now. Besides, the kid is wiley,” he said, winking at George. “I give him better than even-odds against any group of baddies.” Nate turned toward George, “No kidding, though, George. Call me on the cell if you see something strange. As always, watch out for snakes.” The screen door slammed shut behind George as he took off. George loved an adventure, and his little legs carried him as fast as he could go to the back side of Granny’s land. He fell and skinned his elbow, but hardly noticed. Eddie Sutton’s farm was 91
one of two that bordered to the north. Eddie was poor and white. George’s dad had said that being poor was no sin, and that it had no bearing on whether you were a good person or a bad person; what mattered was the way a person conducted themselves. Eddie’s wasn’t much of a farm, though. There were a few rangy cattle that showed their hip bones protruding for at least part of each year. George felt sorry for them in the winter time. The property’s one redeeming feature was a fine pond that was shaded at the crescent end near the cabin and sparkled in the sun at the longer end. George would’ve loved to have come over to fish in that pond, but visitors weren’t welcome. Eddie wasn’t that pleasant, or even safe, to be around at times, so his place was generally off limits. George lay still for a while between two rows of hay, but Eddie’s truck was gone and there was no sign of anyone around. He was starting to trace his steps back over the hill towards Granny’s when he thought of the Burlsons. Hadn’t Granny mentioned something about them? A smile crossed George’s face as he turned west. He ran along the ridgeline for a spell, then hopped a second fence into the back of Lester’s farm. George liked visiting the Burlsons. Lester’s wife, Henrietta, had an infectious laugh, and had planted flowers all around the perimeter of the house. Pride of place showed in sharp contrast to Eddie’s cabin. Some of the flowers that came up in the springtime smelled lovely, and she had given him some in the past to take back to Granny. ‘Narcissus’, she had called them, and said that they came up from little lumps like onions under the soil that were much older than him. Their kids, a daughter and a son, had moved off to the city as so many from the area did. There was a grandson whom George enjoyed playing with when they visited from time to time. As he came through the woods overlooking the house, George heard voices – angry voices, but he couldn’t see anything yet. He considered stopping there and pulling back to call his dad, but where was the adventure in that? So, he crouched low and crept ahead, then got on his belly and shimmied his way forward using his forearms. The leaves crunched and the muskiness of the earth filled his nose, slightly dank from a rain. It had been three days prior, but in the coolness of the shade the forest floor had not yet gone dry and 92
dusty. Some old pine needles provided a bit of sponginess. When he made it near the front of the tree line, his eyes bugged. There were three trucks in front of the Burlson’s house, including Lester’s. Four men were milling about and shouting at a figure perched on a stump. Two of them had guns. Eddie Sutton was the only person he recognized. The figure on the stump had a gray, square-topped hood on his head that looked like a flour sack, or possibly a pillow case. They were making him stand on one leg, shouting and pointing every time he wobbled like he was losing his balance or went to put his other foot down. George’s heart raced. Scoot back, then run, his mind was telling him, but he was having a hard time catching his breath and processing everything. That’s when the phone rang. His mom just wanted to check in on him and say hello. It blared a high pitched dee-de-lee-doo-didoo as George fumbled trying to get into his pocket to shut it off. He had to roll onto his side to get into his jeans. It was ringing a second time when he yanked it out, which only made it louder: deede-LEE-DOO … the phone flew from his frantic hands and landed on the ground a couple feet in front of him … DI-DOO. He was on it before the next ring when another sound rang out, several cracks from a semi-automatic rifle. Amidst them was the thud of a bullet into a tree next to George, a hiss near his ear, and a thwack of a bullet tearing through his collar bone and into his chest cavity. He could not so much as feel it as hear it, but he knew that something was wrong, even though he didn’t seem to be in pain. Pointing forward as he was, and propped with his left arm as he lunged with his right for the phone, the bullet had entered him as if straight down from the sky. Still gotta get to the phone. He could see Mom’s face amid the pine needles, smiling from the caller ID. “Mom,” coughing, spluttering. “Hey, kiddo, I’m just …” “Mom, listen.” Blood was splattering as he spoke. There were more cracks of rifle fire, but faint now, as if far away. Flat on his back now, he was out of view and could see nothing except the canopy of trees above him. “I … I’ve been shot.” She could hear the cracks sounding off as well, and was shrieking, though George couldn’t make out her words. He was whimpering and tried to curl 93
into a ball. “Burlson’s,” he said faintly. “Burlson’s … call Dad.” The phone slipped from his hand. One more spluttering cough as the pines seemed to grow taller, rising up above him, their canopy becoming splotchy and fading darker before his eyes closed. The black Lincoln carrying Nate, Mary, and Granny rolled slowly down Main Street on the way to their church and family cemetery a couple miles outside of town. There was another route, but the arraignment of the men caught at the Burlsons’ farm was today, and this road, besides being the most direct, took them past the court house. A cloud of tension had settled across the county. The trial would be weeks away, this hearing being only an initial formality, but the prosecutor was pressing the case as fast as he could. Not knowing that the boy’s funeral was today, crowds had come in from as far away as Dallas to attend the arraignment. Rough looking men were on one side of the courthouse steps and scattered across the left section of the square. Some had shaved heads and jack boots, others handlebar mustaches and leather vests. The Stars and Bars was displayed prominently on flags as well as a number of T-shirts and dirty caps. Another flag showed the League of the South’s black ‘X’ on a field of white. Fists were in the air amid the chanting. Flanking the other side of the steps and in much larger numbers were a motley mixture of men and women ranging from what looked to be college students, soccer moms, hippies, and regular Joes. They were also shouting and thrusting accusing fingers at the other group. Between the two groups, both of which spilled out onto the street, were lines of law enforcement. The tension and stress in all three camps was palpable, but they were separated, at least for now. Nearly everyone was from out of town; there weren’t even that many people that lived in town, for that matter. Some locals milled about at a safe distance, mostly gawking. Several state troopers’ vehicles were dotted around the edge of the square. They weren’t blocking the road, but it was not passable either. There were some sawhorse-style orange and white barricades set up, behind which the crowds overflowed. “Can’t get through, sir,” the driver said, looking in the rear 94
view mirror at the family. “Just ease on up,” Nate said. Reporters had called, and a couple of the most nettlesome had even found their house in the country. He wasn’t going to make any comments, but he did feel the need to do something symbolic to let people know that a young boy had given his life stopping an act of extreme racism. The Sheriff spotted them as they approached. Shit, he said to himself, and walked over to the car. Nate slid down the darkened window. Rusty Grills leaned forward so that he could see into the vehicle, placing his hands on top of the door. “Mrs. Johnson. Mary. Nate,” nodding to each. “I can’t get to the funeral today. Got my hands full. Wanted to, of course. I’m real sorry for your loss.” “Thank you, Rusty.” “What are you doing here, Nate?” “On the way to the church.” “I can’t let you pass. You must know that. Just go around.” Nate shook his head. “I aim to go through.” A tear slid from under his wife’s oversized sunglasses. The Sheriff was tapping his thumb on the window sill. He was perturbed and weighing matters as he looked at the family. Mary looked out the opposite window. Granny turned her attention to the crowd, lifting up a little to see better. Nate stared at the Sheriff, not menacing, but matter-of-factly, like that was just the way it was going to be. The Sheriff looked back at the crowd, then back at Nate. His tongue ran between his upper teeth and his lip as if he were dislodging a piece of stuck lettuce and smacked as he opened his mouth, shaking his head slightly. He wasn’t going to fight Nate on his way to his boy’s funeral. Silence for a moment. Rapping twice with his right hand on making a decision with an exhale, he stood up and gave a sharp whistle to get attention, waving his hat to one of the deputies. “Let them through!” The deputies moving the barricades attracted the crowd’s attention. As people noticed the black Lincoln with its wreath on the grille, a murmur went through the crowd that it was the dead boy’s family. The shouting subsided, upheld fists came down, and thrusting fingers came to rest at people’s sides. The evening nation95
Forgotten marker Linda Li
al news would carry images of separating wave of bodies, shuffling quietly to the side as if waters were parting. It would be replayed over the upcoming months as milestones of various trials were met and verdicts read out. Often that day’s footage accompanied a photo of George taken from the school yearbook, and sometimes one of him in a Little League outfit that had been taken from someone’s Facebook page. Outside the church, people shook Nate’s hand and spoke words that did not register with him. He mumbled responses, but wasn’t sure what he had said. The one exception that pulled Nate out of his fog was Lester Burlson. Henrietta was giving Mary a hug a few paces away as Lester approached Nate and extended his hand. “Nate, I … I’m …” His face was pinched. “I know, Lester, I know.” There was a silence of mutual sympathy for a moment as the two men looked at the crowd milling about. “How are you managing?” “I’ve just been holed up at home, afraid to go to town … not afraid of something like the other day. More like … like I’m afraid that I might look at people differently, wondering what they might feel in their hearts.” Lester reflected for a moment. “Eddie was never much of an individual, but he was also a neighbor, you know. Makes you wonder about other folks too.” Lester looked towards the horizon, shaking his head. Turning back to Nate, “Henrietta is going to say some words after the preacher speaks. I can’t. It’s too soon.” The majority of the black community had come out to pay their respects. The church would not hold everyone, and some of the men ended up on folding chairs outside under an old pecan tree that provided some relief from the sun. There was no sound system to hear what was being said inside, and there was sweat dampening the inside of their long sleeves and dark clothing. Many of the men outside had to remove their coats, but no one would leave out of respect until the service inside was over. The building itself was white clapboard on a pier and beam foundation, steeple, no stained glass, and no air conditioning. It was almost indistinguishable from any number of similar churches of a variety of denominations that had dotted Texas farming communities since the late 1800’s. People 97
were starting to move inside. Nate offered his arm to Mary as they approached the steps. She did not take it, and left him with his elbow extended at an awkward angle as she walked in. She had not spoken to him since he had had to explain how George came to be in the woods outside Lester’s place. Come to think of it, she had barely looked at him since. Whenever he tried to console her, she would shrug off any embrace and walk away. The ceiling fans turned slowly overhead while the preacher spoke. The voice was soothing, but none of the words registered with Nate; they sounded as if he were under water, garbled and far off. Mary was on his left, but not close enough for their arms to touch. She leaned the other direction onto Granny, who had her arm around Mary. He noted that the ceiling fan on the left was turning more slowly than the one on the right. Why was that? Neither one was turning fast enough to make much difference in cooling anyone. He wondered what speed the four behind him were on, but being in the front pew, he couldn’t see them. While trying to focus on ceiling fans, he broke down. Tears began streaming down his face and his nose was starting to run. Things would never be the same. The attackers from Lester’s farm had been caught, and their trail had led to arrests in three other counties. That was certainly a good thing. And yet, his boy was gone. There would be no more fishing trips. He would never be able to sit in the stands and see his boy play football on Friday nights. No sending him off to college. How would he live with himself for his hand in the loss of George? And Mary … What was to become of their lives?
自食其果 Reap What You Sow Katia Krupa ‘“According to your logic,” Qiu Jun fumed, “if I hit you, do I actually love you? If I don’t hit you, do I not love you? In order to show my overwhelming love for your company, I must hit you! I hope you understand!”’ -Ru-Ping Chen Mama was an amazing actress of the worst kind. She would never admit that she used her talent to exploit others, for she believed that life had deprived her of her dreams, and she deserved compensation. No, she was a storyteller. She was a medicine woman who learned herbal remedies from the hermits in the high mountains of Nepal. She was a tiger tamer travelling with a Chinese circus in Mongolia. Once in Ulaanbatar, she told me, she was almost raped by the ringmaster, but her tiger, a loyal blue-eyed beauty named Raj, broke out of its cage and bit the man’s arm off. Mama felt bad for him because of his arm, but the company benefited when he started selling his act as the One-Armed Ringmaster of Shanghai. I, Feng Ying Xiong, Mama’s first and only son, loved these stories. She would tell them to me every night, first under the canvas that sheltered us from the monsoon rains. We would move around the city, following the ebb and flow of people. Then, in the small apartments of the men she would sell herself to, she would weave together her life that I, seven years old at the time, would believe with all my heart. During those nights, she would settle me down in front of the TV, turn the volume up high, and resign herself to the back room with the man. I would usually watch whatever drama was playing, and sometimes an American sitcom would come on, but I never paid attention to the plots. Rather, I imagined the brightly dressed characters on screen acting out all the amazing lives my mother had led. When we would watch TV together, after her lover 99
fell asleep and she showered off his stench, I would watch her lips as she repeated the actress’s lines, mimicking the emotions hidden beneath the character’s love confession or eulogy. I would demand from her when she turned off the lights, “One more story, Mama,” and she would flick me on my forehead, each time replying, “What kind of son does not believe his mother’s every word. Of course I was a tiger tamer, but did you know I was also a lost princess?” I vividly remembered how Mama could cry on command, and at first it frightened me. I once stood petrified as Mama crumpled to the ground, begging the principal in my first school for my admission. But after many occurrences when my mother would often kow-tow at the feet of another, I was able to discern when the tears falling from her long eyelashes were sincere or really meant to capture another in her narrative. When I was ten years old, Mama had already been three years into her most successful side business. She had found her calling in what she told the women in her mahjong club was her “acting business.” About six American families had fallen for Mama’s trap, giving us almost five thousand American dollars altogether, most of which Mama spent on our living arrangements and then my education. The Johnsons, the seventh family, came to us as hopeful and curious as all the previous families had. Like the previous families they were jetlagged and sweaty after their journey from the United States. They had to maneuver themselves through the convoluted streets to our apartment unit that was identical to every unit in the building, in a city with identical buildings. The Johnsons, by the time we met them, would believe anything for the effort they exerted getting to us. The attentive Caucasian father with failing eyes and big bi-focals hovered behind a nervous Caucasian mother holding onto the shoulder of their stone-faced Chinese daughter, Sofia. All those stoic emotions changed in an instant when Mama introduced herself to them. “I’m your mama!” she exclaimed in heavily accented English as her eyes and nose dripped with tears and mucus. It caught the Johnsons by surprise, and Sofia began to cry as well as she embraced Mama. “And this is your brother,” Mama said as she motioned for me to reveal myself. I was hiding be100
hind a curtain partitioning our living space from our sleeping space, reluctantly waiting for my cue. My appearance helped release another floodgate of wails and crying. The five of us then huddled around the small kitchen table, a single lamp hanging overhead, as Mama would tell more of her extraordinary stories, these related to the birth of Sofia. She came up with an elaborate Chinese name for Sofia, having to do with luck, or nature, or Chinese morals., I forget. This tied Sofia and her parents to a Chinese identity. Because my English language proficiency had surpassed hers at the time, I had to listen carefully to every word said, and keep the details consistent while helping her translate, or else the whole plan could go awry. I nodded obediently and listened to every question the Johnsons lobbed in my direction. I would answer, made nervous by the sharp pinches Mama would administer to my thigh if I she thought I answered incorrectly. Early in our subterfuge, my thigh was riddled with nail markings. And Mama, sensitive to human emotions like a butterfly is sensitive to the nectar under her feet, would punish me with lashes after a family left if she felt they did not believe enough. By the time the Johnsons were ready to leave, they had offered several hundred American dollars to Mama, a staggering amount when exchanged to the Chinese Yuan. This was an amount that could move us to a new apartment, pay for my tuition, and prepare us for another family she would find months later. I received two lashes that night. How Mama was able to find these families, I vaguely understood. Her day work included selling cigarettes and gum at the kiosk while factory workers made their way to the stacks in the morning. In the newspapers that the kiosk sold, Mama would flip through and occasionally find an advertisement of an American family searching for a birth family. Mama was always able to contact them first, taking the time and money to call them directly. I heard her on the phone one night as I pretended to sleep, how she would demand to speak to the daughter and sometimes the mother of the American family, never the father. “Men are dogs,” she would say, “you can only trust women.” Her face would soften, as I would look confused. “Except for you, son.” 101
She would coax the young girls to become her daughters with all the outstanding origin stories, and it wouldnâ€™t be long until families would cross oceans just to meet Mama. I would never come up in any of their conversations over the phone; Mama would intentionally save me as her greatest surprise. Later, I would learn that Mama had some contingencies put in place in case the officials ever came for her. She opened up several accounts across several banks in China. We never stayed in one place for longer than four months. That meant I transferred schools often. Though, I was always able to maintain my grades because Mama insisted I never work until I had to. Some of the men Mama previously slept with later became her contacts for obtaining fake IDs. She was always pulling favors from these men, and they would comply, hoping to gain something from her, but she was not in that business anymore. But by year five of her acting business, they somehow owed her money. I remember how one of those men was the husband of one her mahjong friends. There was surprisingly little drama there, but his debts were how Mama roped his wife into expanding her business. Mama taught this woman the art of gaining sympathy from strangers. Information flies. So, when the rest of her club found out what she was doing, they flocked to Mama like hungry geese, displeased with their useless spouses, and pleaded to be let in on her business. Mama became a matriarch and was able to double her money within a year. I turned twelve as the summer waned, and the Lawrences were the next family to come to China for Mama. She went through the motions of contacting them and was able to conduct her regular spiel. It was easy enough gaining a healthy amount of their curiosity, so by Christmas time, they had sent a friendly e-card to our email. Mama turned white and screamed when she saw their photo. In the picture, standing in front of a festive suburban-home door, were two Chinese children; a son and daughter sandwiched between their white adoptive parents, all wearing ugly Christmas sweaters. They smiled elvish smiles at the camera, happy to be together. The son was younger, and his small eyes and round face hinted at a chromosomal deficiency, but the older girl in the photo 102
stared eerily at me with the same eyes that Mama and I shared. Mama changed after that. As I worked on my homework, from the bedroom I would hear her constantly oscillating between grunts and cries bemoaning her situation and periods of silence. In those quiet moments I knew she was staring pensively at the photo, and I wondered where Mama’s imagination was taking her. I never asked, because I knew she would never tell me. It wasn’t my place to question her. The Lawrences ultimately came to China, although it took them a year because they had to save up the money. I was never around when Mama called them—I was either at school or at one of my evening clubs. Looking at our phone bill, I knew she called them often. I wondered which story she used to finally convince them to come over. At this time, we lived in a two-room apartment a grocer leased out to us behind his store. We were lucky because we received all of the store’s spoiling vegetables at weeks end and saved money to buy extra meat for our table. We hadn’t had one of those special meetings since Mama found the Lawrences, and Mama had started talking with the grocer for a position in his shop on top of taking odd jobs around the neighborhood. Mama had just finished passing her acting business and most of its assets to her most trusted friend, but not without some resistance. They were afraid where the business would go without her leadership. I was worried that she was turning into a reputable woman, and that we would have to return to the streets. On the day the Lawrences came, I had gone to school in my old uniform, the one that did not fit me anymore, because Mama once reasoned that when a family sees me, they must think that we could not afford one in my size. I had thought at the time that Mama had come to her senses and was resuming her old ways. When I returned to the apartment in the evening, I smelled Mama’s cooking passing through the tight aisles of the store. I could tell it was a complicated dish, a duck dish that she only prepared for holidays and special events. I entered the room, and the five of them were sitting around the table eating the feast. The Lawrences stood when they saw me, but Mama motioned that everyone sit and continue to 103
eat. “This is my son, Feng Ying Xiong. He is your brother, Taylor.” I looked at Mama. She refused to make eye-contact with me. She had already cried. The other two women had cried too, and the father had a softened gaze like Mama had disarmed him. Their son was still sitting in his chair and eating, unaware I had arrived. “What does your name mean?” asked Mr. Lawrence. “Hero,” I replied, and Mama smiled, pleased. I watched Taylor as we all sat down to eat. She fumbled with her chopsticks in her left hand. I was left-handed as well. “How old are you?” I asked. Mama pinched me hard under the table. I did not flinch. “Wo shih shih leeiu sway.” Taylor answered in Chinese. She was sixteen years old. I looked at Mama and she was giddy with delight. Mama answered in rapid-fire Chinese, but Taylor’s face went from a look of triumph to a look of confusion. “Ma, she is probably still learning Chinese. Sorry, Mr. Lawrence, Mrs. Lawrence, Taylor.” I listed their names politely, but I did not remember their son’s name. “How many years have you been studying Chinese?” Another pinch from Mama. I had embarrassed her. Mrs. Lawrence spoke up. “Oh, this is our son, Ryan. We actually adopted him back in the States. Taylor has been learning for a year now, haven’t you dear?” Taylor nodded shyly from behind her bowl of rice, her mouth full of Mama’s delicious food. “Your mother mentioned you many times in our phone calls, Ying Xiong, am I saying that correctly?” I looked at Mama, surprised. Observing her observing Taylor, I answered, “Your pronunciation is very good. I am a second year middle school student. I have studied English all my life.” My gaze shifted to Mrs. Lawrence. She was slightly pudgy, as was her husband. In comparison, Taylor was like a sapling, slender with still years to mature. Her skin was a shade darker than Mama’s, and I guessed that Taylor must have played outdoor sports. Had Mama been twenty years younger, could she have looked like Taylor? Taylor had another look to her; in her face I saw a man whom Mama may have once loved. 104
Mr. Lawrence exclaimed, “Smart boy! Stay in school, young man.” “Thank you, Mr. Lawrence. It is hard, though, because tuition is not chea- “ Mama’s pinch was uncommonly hard this time. Mama told me in our dialect not to mention money. “Ma just said Taylor is beautiful, but she needs to eat more.” I falsely translated Mama’s words into a common saying. This made Taylor retreat further into her bowl. From her timid demeanor, I did not understand how this girl could possibly be my sister. How could this shy girl be Mama’s daughter? “It’s so nice to finally have someone to directly translate for your mother.” Mrs. Lawrence nodded to Mama. “We could understand most of what she was saying over the phone by context, but your English is impeccable. So I need to ask, do you know anything about Taylor’s father?” Mrs. Lawrence was bold to ask. I straightened in my chair at this question and translated it to Mama. She sat for a second, chewing her duck bone. When she spit it out, she answered slowly and in English, “Father died while I was pregnant. Ying Xiong father was different man.” Mama had never talked about my father before, so I was taken aback by what she had revealed. I wondered which man she had loved more. We talked about all aspects of Taylor’s and my lives. Taylor was doing track and field. I was a top student, hoping to get into the top high school in the city. Taylor and Ryan loved skiing. I had never been, and the Lawrences invited me to join them on their next skiing trip to a place called Utah. I respectfully declined. Taylor, once she finished eating, asked in her rudimental Chinese if Mama liked watching movies. I almost fell out of my chair when Mama began crying into her hands. Real tears and all, she sobbed at the table. “Yes, she does very much,” I answered for Mama. “And I do as well.” The meeting lasted late into the night, and the Lawrences had to leave to catch the last bus back to their hotel. They offered us money, like all the previous families had. Customarily, the Chinese refuse any gift three times before accepting, but Mama refused profusely until I took the envelope of money from Mr. Lawrence when Mama wasn’t looking. They promised to stop by the next evening, after they had explored the city. I had classes, but I offered to take 105
them around on the weekend after my morning cram school finished. The Lawrences said they were leaving that Friday. After the Lawrences left, Mama scrambled to clean the apartment for the next night they would visit. In the morning, she was up early, before the sun rose and before my alarm went off for me to get to school. She rushed out of the apartment to go shopping for ingredients for our meal. My school day ended early for a national holiday, and I was able to witness Mama preparing the shrimp and meat and vegetables and rice. She had an uncharacteristic jump to her step. She had also bought a movie, probably bootlegged, for all of us to watch together on my second-hand computer when we were done eating. The movie was her favorite that she named me after, Hero. When evening came, the knock came later than when we were expecting. The knock was also loud and aggressive. I was in our bedroom, studying with the desk lamp on, when I heard the crash and scuffle. The local police barged into the apartment, almost tackling Mama. I ran out of the bedroom, yelling at the large uniformed man to get off of Mama’s frail body. His partner instead tackled me, and I was also pinned and handcuffed. The rice boiler was bubbling over, and several plates and their contents had crashed to the floor. The Lawrence’s envelope of money was at the edge of our counter, left unopened and ready to be returned, but one of the officers picked it up and tucked it inside his jacket. “What did I do? What did I do?” Mama screamed as she was lifted easily into the air and placed back onto her feet. The officer pushed her roughly towards the door. “You are under arrest under the suspicion of fraud and tax evasion. Resist, and you will face the full force of the law.” “I didn’t do it! I didn’t do it!” Mama struggled against her restraints, but it was no use. As we came out of the building, a crowd was standing by. It parted to let the officers and Mama through, and behind some barricades were Mama’s mahjong friends with an officer. They recognized Mama, and I saw they had tears of remorse in their eyes. I spit in their faces as we passed. Then, suddenly, we saw the Lawrences. Mama halt106
ed in place. They looked frightened and small in the blinking red and blue lights. Mr. and Mrs. Lawrence were tall and foreign in thea sea of curious onlookers. Ryan was struggling in his parent’s grasp, frightened by the noise and crowd. Taylor stood on her tiptoes to see what was happening. Mama had ignored her friends, but when she noticed Taylor, she could barely shout to them before the officer urged Mama forward. Her words were screeching and desperate. “I am your mama! A mother knows! A mother knows!” And she and I were shoved into the back seat of the patrol car.
biographies Nour Al Ghraowi, born and raised in Damascus, Syria and been in the US for five years. Writing has been a mean of escape, books are my best friends that I get to carry wherever I go, and poetry is my future. Arabelle Bermann is a 2nd year fine arts student at the University of Texas at Austin. She has been passionate about photography since she was only 12 years old, when she bought her first camera. She now takes pictures for her friends, for fun, and for her business, Photography by Arabelle. She hopes that she can inspire people to look at the world from multiple perspectives, for the better, through her photography. She continues to pursue photography and practices combining her photography with graphic design, as she aspires to become an art director or graphic designer. If you would like to contact Arabelle about her photography or other works, please email her at email@example.com. She would love to hear from you! Jared Bordeaux Film, photography, jazz, glasses, walking on curbs, whistling at night, guitars, jokes, hats, a beard, asthma, cuffed pants, mismatched socks, a pet rock, vinyl, soul, a keen eye, a love of eggs, climbing cranes, lemonade, Kubrick, city streets, adventuring at night, thrift shops, belching laughs, standing in corners, looking at the sky, looking at the ground, restless legs, a skateboard, sleeping in the cold, mountain climbing, warm brownies, cold milk, and an appreciation for the little things. What do these all have in common? Jared. Erika Casales Hey! I’m Erika Casales, and I’m a third year studio art and advertising major with a business minor. I’ve always been infatuated with the ability of us as humans to create, and in turn, share ideas, memories, and feelings. In a world of constant 108
communication and innovative technologies, I find it important to stay up to date with contemporary trends and occurrences, as to continue to explore new ways of doing things. I enjoy observing the world through many fashions,- from sparking up conversation with owners of local food trucks, people watching at crowded events, and through travel. Craig Cole has no idea what he’s doing. Oftentimes, he writes down his thoughts to later write a novel; what “later” means is enigmatic. He does not care that he splits infinitives. He studies philosophy and humanities to decrease his employability and increase his smudgeness. He has watched The Office 14 times through. He is a communist and is focussing on Marxist literary theory to write his undergraduate thesis; what any of this means he is also uncertain about. Additionally, he started overusing the semi-colon when he found out how to correctly use it; he thinks Young Dolph is the greatest contemporary philosopher. Sophie Corless is a junior writing and rhetoric major at the University of Texas at Austin. After she graduates, she hopes to attend graduate school to receive an MFA in poetry or creative writing. She loves writing about places she has lived in her life, and these pieces are a reflection of some of her childhood in Santa Rosa, CA. The recent wildfires in this area are a major component of these poems and she is honored to have her memories of this beautiful city published in this magazine. Annie Daubert loves stripes and the color yellow. She is a museum studies major (through the Humanities Program) and, thus, also loves museums. She likes to take photos of the people and places that mean a lot to her. Her favorite celebrity is Keanu Reeves. 109
Anna Dolliver is a junior studying Chinese and English at the University of Texas. She enjoys learning languages, talking to animals, and using her writing as an excuse to research everything from ice skating to dentistry. Her stories often incorporate animals, dreams, fiber and fabric, health, and memories. Milena Đorđević-Kisačanin’s imagination is filled with rainy forests, winding deer trails, dusky mountains, and stone-built Balkan villages. She probably gets her wild side from her rebellious great-great-great grandfather, who (according to legend) assassinated a Turkish warlord and hid from the authorities in a cave. In the summer, you can find her climbing waterfalls in western Serbia or editing some of her newest photos. She currently studies the cultures of Eastern Europe, and dreams about using photography to document this part of the world. Cerena Grace Ermitanio is an international relations major with a minor in dabbling in poetry. She fell in love with the magic of Shane Koyczan in middle school and later became the apprentice of Plath and other lexical wondermakers. Cerena is proudly Filipino-American and intends to continue sharing her stories for others to (finally) find company. Abby Escobar is a first year public health student at the University of Texas. Though she loves science and is an aspiring doctor, poetry is her passion and she believes artists can save the world. Some of her greatest inspirations include Paige Lewis, Hanif Abdurraqib and George Harrison. Jenny Ezell is a sophomore RTF and Philosophy major at UT. She likes to read and write, and loves corgis and Adventure Time. Nora Greenstein Biondi is a Plan II and Women & Gender Studies major. She is currently working on her creative writing certificate and writing a book of poetry for her undergraduate thesis. She is a self-described weird poet who enjoys writing about feminism, LGBT issues, mental health, and flowers. If you would like to con110
tact her she can be found at firstname.lastname@example.org Hayden Hans Baggett likes persons, places, and things. He sees providence everywhere and never fails to stay hydrated. Michah Harrison is a photographer trying to tell stories through my images. She is constantly learning and will always be working to improve. She enjoys talking about how art functions as a medium of self expression, and is always eager to hear educated opinions and criticism. Cameras are not accessories Macy Hartman is a freshman advertising student at the University of Texas at Austin with a passion for photography and capturing life’s sweet moments. When she isn’t studying, you can find her watching HGTV, drawing up hypothetical road trip plans, walking her corgi, or rooting for the Longhorns at DKR. Macy also loves meeting new people. Catch her at the PCL, floor 3. Sahara R Khan is a junior Spanish major at the University of Texas at Austin imperfectly pursuing the art of compassion. If you don’t spot her cooking up a mess in the kitchen, she’s probably around campus quietly admiring the turtle pond, criticizing the patriarchy, or laughing too loudly in public (preferably, all three). email@example.com Katia Krupa is a self-published children’s book author and is working towards her psychology degree with a creative writing certificate. In her spare time she plays for the UT women’s competitive ultimate frisbee team, Melee, works on her photography, plans how to build her future tiny home, and dreams of improving her Chinese by going to Taiwan after she graduates. She considers herself a multipotentialite. Kevin LaTorre is a junior English major, who spends a little too much time awake, not enough time reading, and hopefully the right amount of time with friends. He’s thankful for the chance to be read, and hoping God will let him keep his pen. Also, if you 111
have book suggestions, he’ll take them all shamelessly. Linda Li is a currently a second year design student. Interests include funky condiments, skinny dogs, pairing songs to movie scenes, pairing songs to real-life scenes, silverware with perfect proportions. If you converse with her, she will probably think you’re really cool. Jacob Lundquist only does three things in life: sleep, read, and think of one of those two. Nevertheless, Lundquist is an unceasing idealist who writes only of love and yet has never been in it (to borrow the words of Jeffrey Eugenides, I have my thesis to write.) Lundquist’s writing owes infinite debts to the poetry of Margaret Atwood, and hopes to one day pay them off. Max Pearce is a third-year government, history, and urban studies student at the University of Texas. He is a dedicated student and labor activist, and he has worked with United Students Against Sweatshops and UNITE HERE!. Inspired by the 1968 student movement in Mexico, his featured piece offers a glimpse into the risks and dangers of student activism. Abby Raffle loves painting, photography, button making, and sleeping fourteen hours a day. She likes to take her dog Sasha for walks, cook spaghetti, and do lots of yoga. Maritza Ines Ramírez is a proud Latina. She is the second to youngest of five, and is a first generation college student. She has a double major in human development and family sciences, and Mexican American studies, with a minor in sociology. Poetry helped her take pride in her identity and she hopes to be able to move people with her words. She loves reading, writing, puzzles, and passionate people. One day she is going to make a difference in this world. Anna-Kay Reeves is a tall blonde with a weird sense of humor. She’s a sucker for aesthetics and wouldn’t be caught dead in 112
sweatpants. Superpowers include identifying the type of food a person would be if they had to be a food and experiencing irrational, but deeply felt, emotions. Ekta Suri is a first-year student at the University of Texas at Austin. A self-taught artist, she aims to evoke a sense of vitality through a focus on texture and heightened realism. You can visit her at www.ektasuriart.com. Sergio Tellez Noguez was born and raised in Querétaro, on the other side of the southern border. I am deeply passionate about politics, economic development, and social policy. I use photography to convey stories and social problems that scientific literature sometimes fails to illustrate. I am a social scientist at heart, but I value art for its enormous power of communication and its necessary role in humanity. @stellezn Andrea Tinning is a no-good dirty pirate with a hook for a hand and a stone for a heart. She takes no prisoners and rules the seven seas with an iron fist (just the one fist since the other one is a hook, duh.) Elizabeth Werth is a senior English major and creative writing honors student who plans to study creative writing in [insert unknown graduate school here] after graduating. She’s often found traveling, wearing heart-shaped sunglasses at a motorsport event, and channeling her hopeless romantic ideals into words. Sean Winn is a new writer currently seeking a history degree and creative writing certificate from the University of Texas at Austin. It is a second act for him, following a career in banking and investing. Originally a native son of Texas, Sean is recently returned after 20 years of living in Asia. He is happy to be back home, using the other side of his noggin for a change. “A Price Too High” is his first short story; he is also working on a novel. Zoya Zia is a third-year trying to educate herself on just about 113
everything. As an International Relations & Global Studies major, she has an affinity for learning languages. With minors in Latin American studies and Arabic, she enjoys cultural studies and connecting past with present. As a Pakistani-American, she never feels quite at home in either country. However, she hopes to make the world a more welcoming place for all through an undivided emphasis on human rights. Whenever sheâ€™s not criticizing the ways museums are constructed, you can usually find her drinking some chai and watching a Spurs game.
to the Liberal Arts Honors Program
Dean Marc Musick Director
Monique Payne Pikus Associate Director
Assistant Director, Admissions
Senior Administrative Associate
Senior Academic Program Coordinator