AIRPORT ROAD www.electrastreet.net/airportroad NYU Abu Dhabi 19 Washington Square North New York, NY 10003 Send inquiries to: Publisher Airport Road NYU Abu Dhabi PO Box 903 New York, NY 10276-0903 firstname.lastname@example.org ISSN 2312-1777 Â© 2016 Electra Street
Cover Image: Spinning, Alyssa Yu
MANAGING EDITOR DESIGN EDITOR
Dana Abu Ali Gabrielle Flores Viviana Kawas Nikolaj Nielsen Hannah Walhout Benjamin Hackenberger
Deborah Lindsay Williams
Cyrus R. K. Patell
Issue 03 Spring 2016
Contents POETRY Supriya Kamath, The Beginning 9 Isabella Peralta, Hide and Seek 11 Ayah Rashid, Sea Me 12 Prasant Adhikari, Life 14 Prasant Adhikari, Self 14 Kristina Stankovic, Water 28 Thirangie Jayatilake, Fort Weddings 31 Hannah Taylor, On the Metro 42 Hannah Taylor, Dismantling the American Dream 44 Hannah Taylor, Lessons 47 Hannah Taylor, Homemaking 49 valentina vela giraldo, this is where i love you 58 Riva Razdan, The Piano Man 63 Megan Eloise, Unemployment Haiku 66 Isabella Peralta, Upgrade with Some Fries 70 Supriya Kamath, Something 78 Christine Dah-In Chung, Walking on the Seasons 85 Krishan Mistry, Excerpt from “Week 4 Attempt 8” 103
PROSE Joey Bui, Horizon 16 Hurbert Henrico Shauri, A Guest from the 2090s 33 Kristina Stankovic, Pearls 73 Shenuka Corea, Thangachchi’s Yaka: A Children’s Story 81 Zoe Cook, Guilt & Rain 87
VISUAL Alyssa Yu, Head in the Clouds 10 Alyssa Yu, Invincible Invisible 13 Anastasiia Zubareva, View from My Window, Saadiyat, Abu Dhabi 15 Karma Gurung, On the Beach 27 Alyssa Yu, Smell the Roses 30 Alyssa Yu, Pinatubo 41 Anastasiia Zubareva, Daily Gratitude Mantras 50 Yunbo Wu, FRAME 60 Yunbo Wu, frame 61 Alyssa Yu, Sake to Me 62 Luis Carlos Soto, City Lights 64 Karma Gurung, Fishing 65 Ahmad Yacout, Beast 68 Karma Gurung, On the Train 72 Luis Carlos Soto, Creek Afternoon 77 Alyssa Yu, Tibidabo 80 Karma Gurung, Monkey 83 Alyssa Yu, Camouflage 84 Alyssa Yu, Summer Blues 86 Alyssa Yu, Deserted 102
TO OUR READERS We are incredibly excited to present the third annual issue of Airport Road, the NYUAD journal of creative work by students and alumni. To bring you this issue, we had to face the daunting task of combing through a huge number of impressive submissions. Many thanks to the community for submitting so many extraordinary works of visual art, poetry, and prose. The version of Airport Road currently in your hands is a product of the cumulative creative energies of NYU Abu Dhabi students and Global Academic Fellows. It has been a labor of love and of hard work. We hope you enjoy reading.
Dana Abu Ali Gabrielle Flores Viviana Kawas Nikolaj Nielsen
INTRODUCTION “Airport Road” was an everyday experience for the seniors who are graduating this spring from NYU Abu Dhabi, as well as for the some of the faculty and staff who are now starting to think of themselves as "oldtimers." Each day, sometimes more than once a day, we would leave our residential building, Sama Tower, and cross Airport Road by foot or by shuttle bus on our way to the Downtown Campus where our classrooms and offices were located. Back then, one of the first pieces of advice that we would give to incoming students and “new joiners” among the faculty and staff was to warn them about the green light at the free right turn from Airport Road onto Electra Street: the light was for cars, not pedestrians; be sure to make sure the coast is clear before entering what looks dangerously like what the British call a “zebra crossing,” but really, really isn’t. For this year’s entering class and for all those new joiners among the faculty and staff who never knew the Downtown Campus, Airport Road is a pretty long cab ride away from the Saadiyat Island campus that we now call home. Type “Airport Road, Abu Dhabi” into Google Maps, and your red pin will appear somewhere near the airport, which makes sense, I suppose, though to the old-timers that highway is the “International Airport Road.” What we used to call “Airport Road” was the first “Airport Road,” nicknamed “Old Airport Road” by the time the first NYUAD faculty, staff, and students began to arrive, in order to distinguish it from the “New Airport Road” that ran parallel off to the east. Search for “Sama Tower” now, and you’ll see that it sits near “Rashid Bin Saeed al Maktoum Street” (formerly “Sheikh Rashid Bin Saeed al Maktoum Street”), which is also known as “18th Street.” It used to be known as “2nd Street” when we
lived there. In fact, it was known as “2nd Street” when the last issue of Airport Road was published a year ago. The times, they are a changin’ in Abu Dhabi. The city is inventing and re-inventing itself, mapping and re-mapping itself. It's hard for Google to keep up. At this writing, their map has our old “Airport Road” correctly listed in English as “18th Street,” but the Arabic is still ﺷﺎرع اﻟﺜﺎﻧﻲ. NYU Abu Dhabi is changing too, as we leave behind the start-up phase and move into, well, the next phase. (We’ll know what to call it when it’s over, I suppose.) The move to the new campus has reminded us all that change is hard and often haphazard, that things go wrong in unexpected ways despite the best of intentions and the most detailed planning—and also that things sometimes go right in equally unforeseen ways. Change entails both gain and loss: NYUAD has gained a wonderful new facility, but has lost a little of the vibrancy that comes with being in the heart of a city in the way that its home campus is in New York. This issue of Airport Road maps some of these changes, translating them into an imaginative realm of regret, loss, trauma, hope, growth, and sometimes joy. Some of the pieces meditate overtly on the difficulty of creating art, but all of them embody the human need to render our experiences of the world into artistic forms that can help us to feel, cope, and approach understanding. Change is hard but unavoidable. This issue of Airport Road is all about mapping the present to find better routes to the future, while not losing sight of the past. Cyrus R. K. Patell
The Beginning Supriya Kamath Thirteen years ago, shoelaces were tied for the very first time, Hands fumbling, rabbits leaping in and out of Wonderland, Excited cries echoing through two perfect loops. No more Velcro. Hands move deftly now: calcium-collagen cogs practiced in their ways Again, and again. Looking left or right or up or down is so passé— Red is go. Green is go. Yellow is go faster. Don’t stop. Don’t feel the wind driving the pink to cheeks and the thrill to throat. Exhilaration is not for you! No, you shall not have it. See them? With the nervous eyes and brave new license? Theirs to feel. Their first time – and their final beginning. Poetry. Remember that very first rhyme? A stray word. Then two. Just like this—just in time. Rising in song as you found that you could, Teach thoughts to sound just as they should. It feels like nothing anymore. No bests, no worsts. Sensitized. Second chances don’t come with firsts. Beginner’s Luck, they call it. I call it Beginner’s Joy. Eager beavers building dams but it’s just the force of habit. Going, going, gone. Watch it fly away, backwards. It will never come back for you. No more first chances for you, or me, or them. No more delight in the first ride, first walk, first rhyme, In first sunsets that awe as they whisper “I do” Nothing but nuts, and bolts, and that one moment Going slowly, fading, from the machine that is you.
Head in the Clouds Alyssa Yu
Hide and Seek Isabella Peralta I dream of writing bad poetry and sharing whatâ€™s on my mind without sounding poetic and I long to write how I feel without having to use metaphors or hyperboles and I want to say goodbye to similes throw double meanings out the window care less about voltas iambic pentameter onomatopoeia! Then I will watch as you try to find them anyway.
Sea Me Ayah Rashid The sea is lapis lazuli My eyes absorb the sun Open like a seashell Stranded on the coarse sand Life getting in my pores Frustrated Can’t clean you out of my skin From under my nails Always picking up pearls Leaving them in the indentations of my toes Looking over my shoulder To see if you watch the sea-flowers on my hips Stare at the salt crystals on my lips You can’t have me Not my sea spirit Not my crashing voice Not my foaming imagination Not my azure hair You can’t bottle the ocean You can’t be selfish with the sea And you most definitely Cannot Have Me
Invincible Invisible Alyssa Yu
Life Prasant Adhikari From Ephemeral To Permanent Damage
Self Prasant Adhikari Was (it) the deconstruction of self (or) the construction of self?
View from My Window, Saadiyat, Abu Dhabi Anastasiia Zubareva
Horizon Joey Bui After the exhibit went down, people asked me how did it feel to be an artist and they always said the word in English. Buwa didn’t say it without laughing. He stared down over his white moustache, he was that much taller than me, and smacked me on the head before I could answer. I wasn’t going to talk to him about it, but Aunt Heena told him what I was saying to the other students: it was a real honor to show people how the civil war hurt us, it was an emotional experience, couldn’t have done it without my family, et cetera. I told him, “Forget it, Buwa,” and his laugh would dry up into a sneer. In a week, we received a magazine from Julie. Roshan drove it down to our house. He already had the magazine rolled up like a scroll. He must have been clutching it the whole drive here on his bike, and it was soft all round the middle from his sweat. I peeled open the magazine, thinking of Roshan’s palms and felt the sores getting hot on the inside of my thighs. “You are famous, Mister Artist,” said Roshan. I looked up quickly to catch his tone. He opened the magazine to a page with my photo, the one I had taken for the exhibit. Roshan pointed to the small print underneath the photo, saying “Ngodup Thapa.” “It is an art magazine from America,” said Roshan. “How do you know?” “Miss Julie wrote it on the card,” he said. He gave me a yellow card, and I moved over to the window to read it. Julie also wrote congratulations, it is important to show how the civil
war hurt your people, very emotional, et cetera. The card had curly lines embossed on it like English vines and made me itch. *** Julie first came on a day in March at 6 pm, before the electricity went out. I watched her walk down from the road with Roshan and changed my shirt to open the door, calling to Buwa that someone was coming. A white woman, I said. He was in the study, measuring our chairs for new cushion covers, and said, “What, at this time?” Roshan was sent to accompany her from the university and he flourished an introduction: your family is honored today by this American lady, she is very important and so beautiful. I went to find Manna before she left for the day and asked her to make us some chai. “What, at this time?” Manna said. I told her yes and that we would be waiting in the living room. “You think you can take an American lady to the living room?” she said and sent me to make chai while she cleaned the living room. “At this time?” Years ago, Buwa used the living room to talk to professors and activists. It was furnished with embroidered cushions that Aama ordered from India, a red rug with gold curves, and cabinets full of old books. It was just long enough to fit a table for the professors to put down their cups of tea. The colors of the cushions were fading when Julie sat in March, cross-legged, and I was embarrassed that Manna didn’t get the dust out. I saw Julie move her knee to cover a dark spot on the rug. She was in all white. Beneath her long white blouse, she wore a beige singlet.
“I really love your photos, Ngodup,” she said. The professor had shown her my pictures and she wanted to have one for her art show. “I’m interested in how you show the real face of the civil war,” she said. “What does my son have to do for the show?” said Buwa. He was also in a new linen shirt and had his arms stretched out straight, holding each of his knees. “It is not a show,” said Julie. “It is a space featuring some works, tied together by the real pain of Nepal’s Civil War.” “It is an exhibit,” said Buwa. “Yes, a space for art.” She smiled and reached for her cup of chai. Her rings clinked against the china. I recognised them from the stalls by Durbar Square, copper bands with colored glass, 500 rupees apiece. “I’m thinking about calling it, ‘Woman,’” she said. “I think it says a lot about gender and feminine pain.” “What do you mean?” said Buwa. When Julie left, she bent down to reach the first step of the staircase, the steep one. Up close, her yellow hair was so fine that I could parts of her scalp, pale and glistening. Her blouse fluttered as she dropped down to the step and yelped a little.
*** Some nights I went into Kathmandu, thinking about how Julie was staying at the Hotel Yak and Yeti and that I was driving by with Shabnam behind me, her crotch pushed against my back. “I’ll show you a secret road,” I said on the first night. “What?” The bike leaned to the right because Shabnam was reaching down for her shoe. She had been fiddling with it since we got to the gravel road. “Stop it, I’m showing you a secret road,” I said. I stuck out a foot to turn the bike around, and it hurt my knee because the bike was so much heavier with her on it. Her hair brushed against a branch on the way in. It was a long inroad off Hattisar Sadak, and it was tight, but I had to go fast because I didn’t have as much balance as usual. I thought I was going to tell Shabnam that the American woman was staying there. Everybody knew about Julie and the exhibit. In conversation I secretly waited for someone to bring it up, and they always did. Buwa said that Julie had a nicer house for the art works than he had for his children, although I was his only child and our house was bigger. Aunt Heena complained that Julie was too skinny and her hair was too short, like a boy’s. I thought of the blouse and how you’d have to catch her inside it. “The Shangri-La is nicer,” said Shabnam. I knew immediately that she was jealous, though neither of us had ever stayed at either hotel.
We were looking at the facade of Hotel Yak and Yeti, with the stone walls that I knew were yellowing and curving around to a pond out back. All the lights were glowing yellow, electricity was off except at the hotel’s 4 stars and above, and I felt like backing our bike into the tree shadows, but it wasn’t as fun to be there with Shabnam as I thought it would. I turned around again and drove half an hour all the way back to Balkot and the trees out there. I didn’t have to catch Shabnam, whose pink shirt stuck to her stomach but peeled off easily. The mounds of grass were dry and prickled every time I leant over. She had on this bright pink lipstick. At one point she was beneath me, and I stared out at the bike parked nearby, the highest silhouette on my horizon. In the dark, everything lay low and lumpy: dry grass, old trash lining up along the bank, rubble on the road and unfinished cement houses where the electricity was out, and even when I was inside her I felt like I could just get up and walk away. Shabnam didn’t say a word until long afterward, when she had been silent so long that I had to ask her what was wrong, and she relished taking a long time to say: “You know you’re never going to be better than this.” She had such a dirty look, and I thought of some different things to do, like hitting her on the face or driving away and leaving her there or telling her that she didn’t know what she was talking about, I didn’t care about the art, but I said: “That’s not what this is about,” and I drove her home. Afterward I thought that I should have asked her what she thought it was about, but she probably just said that to get under my skin.
*** On the morning that the photo exhibit opened, Manna stood behind me as I looked in the mirror and made me feel skinnier than usual. She picked at the sleeves of my shirt, showing how it bagged around my arms and how her hands were meaty and sure and covered in gold rings. That morning I noticed where my skin was dark and shiny, on my forehead and below my neck, and that pimples were forming there, so many that they seemed to be bubbling beneath my skin. I yelled at Manna for using too much gel in my hair. There were a lot of white people at the exhibit, including students from Trinity and a university in Abu Dhabi. Julie mostly talked about a white photographer, one that had been printed in National Geographic. Most of the pictures were bloody and taken on the battlefield. I wondered if Julie knew I had never been anywhere like it. Not even seen someone die. My photo was of Aakar’s mother crying at his burial. He was a friend of my friend from the university and it was in the week that I had just gotten my camera. Aakar’s mother had the sort of face that I had seen in some National Geographic photos: sagging dark skin, sharp chin, and big sad eyes. She didn’t notice when I trained the lens on her, which made it a better photo than the other ones I had taken. Her face filled the whole shot and her mouth was dripping from the corners. Other tears were stuck in this very deep crease on her left cheek. “So full of life,” Julie said to me. “What do you mean?” I asked. She looked startled, or perhaps it was only because of the color of her eyes, so light and blue it seemed like an accident, and going to be filled
in later. Then she described the photo in ways that I can’t remember now, not even a single word, but I remember the way her face was so tense like she was trying to remember this same conversation she had already had in a past life, and she wanted to do her best to get it exactly the same again. She was disappointed with me, maybe. She told me about things in the photo that I didn’t recognize, I was only looking at her anyway, and she looked at the photo like it came from another life. Buwa got home before me and I finally asked him what he thought. “What did you say to her?” Buwa said. “Who?” “The woman in the photo.” “I didn’t talk to her.” I waited to Buwa to respond, but he just did a little hiccup and walked away slowly. Maybe he was embarrassed. I went to bed feeling like everyone was not talking about the same thing. I thought about the word ‘emotional’ and that maybe the photo was good because it made everyone feel something, it seemed, and I started growing lumps on the insides of my thighs that night. *** Julie didn’t sleep with me but with Paresh, and then she went back to America. Paresh is another student at the university. He was five years older than me and studying economics. He was not really more
handsome than anyone, not richer nor smarter, and we didn’t know why Julie would sleep him and not us. Every time I thought of Julie I felt anxious, but it wasn’t love. One day I asked Shabnam: “If you had to describe me and tell people who I am, how would you do it?” We were outside the classroom of her next lecture. It looked like she was about to answer, but she burst out laughing instead. She laughed so hard that she couldn’t speak, though I knew she was faking it, and in between breaths she said: “That’s not what this is about.” I was so angry that I wanted to walk away. I didn’t, in case she had something more to say, but Shabnam just went inside the lecture laughing. The lumps on my thighs were growing bigger and hotter. They hurt when I climbed the bike or even when the top of one thigh brushed against the other. I hadn’t had sex with Shabnam for weeks. I was thinking about the placard under my photo at the exhibit that described the screaming woman, who she was and what had happened to her: Tirtha Kumari Bhujel, widower and mother of three, grieves at her eldest son’s funeral at Naubise village near Kathmandu. I really wanted somebody to do that once for me, about anything, and I would believe them maybe. I was going to ask Buwa once and also wanted to tell him that I said sorry to the woman in the photo, although I didn’t. The day I went to talk to him,
he was on his knees in the study, measuring a chair for cushion covers again. I was sure he would hear my footsteps coming, but he never turned around, and then I just walked away. I thought about writing a list instead. It would be titled, things that are making me sick, and it would follow: Julie didn’t sleep with me, Buwa seems sad, I was guilty for taking the photo of Aakar’s mother, the way Julie talked about the photo, the dirty look that Shabnam gave me, that feeling I got while I was inside her and just wanted to get up. That one felt the worst of all, though I could forget it easily most of the time. But I didn’t want a list. I believed I was going to die the same way that Aama died. I didn’t say that to anyone because it was a woman’s disease, so I knew it was not true. *** But I didn’t die, and then it was Baje’s death anniversary and my turn to clean the shrine. I woke up early and went out to Durbar Square to check the roster and receive the bucket and scrub. The shrine was off the main road and through a series of courtyards, the path getting dark and then light. Prayer flags hung from window to window, I would have to fix them later, and above them the clotheslines. I kneeled down and spread my thighs on either side of the Buddha’s foot. It was cold from morning dew and soothed my sores. At breakfast, Widow Dhital came down from her apartment to give me a bowl of chiura and poured in dahi that she made herself and kept in a large soda bottle. I still thought I was going to die, and it made me so anxious that I wanted to ask her about it, though I usually didn’t speak to her. She had always been nice, and maybe she would understand the question, or what I was supposed to do, but she spoke first.
“Is your father getting better?” I didn’t know that Buwa was sick. Perhaps Widow Dhital asked this about everyone’s father, for the elders were always complaining about a cough, a scratchy throat, or not being able to sleep well whenever there was a change in the weather. Maybe she knew something was wrong and wanted to pry for gossip. I chewed for a long time. “He seems better,” I said. When I was done, she scraped the last wet flakes from my bowl, packed up and swatted me on the head. “You know, Ngodup, you shouldn’t reuse plastic bottles if you don’t wash them regularly. Bacteria grows inside and it gives you stomach ache,” she said. I felt like crying when she left. I tried to imagine the last time I saw Buwa’s face and wondered if he was any happier when Aama was alive. The courtyard filled up at the time of the ceremony and everyone came to lay candles on the newly swept cement before the Buddha’s feet. I looked at each flame popping into life and the sores in my thighs throbbed. I stood in shade at the back of the ceremony and spread my legs wide so that the sores wouldn’t touch. Shapes of light cut by the prayer flags were coming down to the courtyard and I watched them playing on a girl’s black hair. Her name was Vani. She was shy and soft-spoken, she was very unlike Shabnam. That was all I knew about her. I wondered if it would make me feel better to marry someone like Vani but then my sores grew hot again at the thought of making children.
When the bells started ringing and everyone bowed their heads in prayer, I strung sentences frantically in my head. I thought of the easiest prayer I knew. And I thought this could be true: that I could feel the vibration of humming and bell sounds, and it made me tingle everywhere, not just on my sores, and I think that everyone could feel the tingling too, but I was probably hoping it more. I looked up and a quiver of light shook above me through the flags. I imagined staying so anxious forever, that my sores would keep throbbing, the light keep shaking, that everyone would keep talking about different things, that one day I would get used to it, and I thought, how could Julie think that anything could not be full of life? Everything was full of it.
On the Beach Karma Gurung
Water Kristina Stankovic Oh the salty tears of the Danube! You have promised to wash away all The pain And hurt And despair! Then why every time a raindrop falls Does it viciously expose all those holes? In these caves a parasite still lurks, Ready to inhibit us with Cynicism Rancor And defeat Make us go back to the days of war Even if to love and peace we all swore. The transparency of your surface shouldnâ€™t lie But every droplet grows spikes instead of being Pellucid Clear Bright. This is why fear still visits me at night. The tears of the Danube might have washed away all The pain And hurt And despair.
But with every bead of sweat that falls into my eye I wonder: My Dear Lord why? But my question got lost in the Danubeâ€™s flow. It left me here, on a lonely bench Wondering, Hoping, Praying.
Smell the Roses Alyssa Yu
Fort Weddings Thirangie Jayatilake Multiple brides, An auspicious day, it seems. Sari potas with windfull rustles, In white, crimson and peach. Front of the maritime museum, In a popular background of anchors, And I with my camera, Looking at the foreigner with his camera, Looking at the official wedding photographer with his camera. How much space was I invading? How much of their privacy was I shooting? Multiple weddings. Fort style. The cobblestone streets. Dutch buildings of mustard. How much privacy did they ascribe to themselves? Photographers , hand-picking The same building At the exact time Weaving their way through the Bridesmaids and grooms And fidgeting little Flower girls and page boys. Would they mind? Multiple brides and grooms,
Passing by other brides and grooms, Comparing Colored saris, Flower petals and BoutonniĂ¨re. The walls see plenty. The streets know plenty. As the wind dances Through and within The fort walls.
A Guest from the 2090s Hurbert Henrico Shauri About a week ago, I happened to be sitting in the school garden around the football pitch, watching a match that would end in a couple of minutes. The sun was burning orange as it sunk and would soon be replaced by the master of the night. On the pitch, the striker maneuvered his way past two defenders. He dashed between them and was now facing the goalkeeper who was just a few yards away. None of these players had an advantage over the other, at least from my point of view. The striker curved the ball towards the bottom left post of the goal. It was such a clever move. For a moment, the crowd was in suspense as the ball rolled smoothly towards the goal line. Suddenly, the goalkeeper reacted. He dived for the ball. His minimal thrust was enough to change the course of the ball completely. What seemed obvious a while ago was a completely different story now. On the final whistle, everyone turned towards the dining hall with a hint of disappointment. The garden was almost empty now. Few people still lingered around. “He was slow,” someone nearby said. “Was he?” I replied rhetorically. “Last time, he took the shot as soon as he got past the defenders.” “What? Last time? What do you mean?” On a reflex, I turned to see who it was before I asked those questions. Time froze for a second. I could hardly believed what I was seeing but
I managed to keep my composure. His hair was all gray but his haircut was quite familiar. The wrinkles on his face gave away his age. He was older than what his voice suggested, probably in his late nineties—no less. But to find a man of his age nowadays was not easy. It was like I was standing before a mirror, except this time the mirror was old and partly cracked. Normally, I would have asked for the name of his son or grandson, and I would run to the dormitory to call that student. But with a flash of insight, I couldn’t ask for a name—not today. I realized this was my own call. “How much longer do you have until your graduation?” he continued promptly. All this was happening very quickly, and I was still struggling to make sense out of it. Questions were flooding my head, but I decided to rest them for a while. “I have seven months. Then I will finally have to decide about my career,” I managed to reply, still enthralled. “Don’t worry! It is possible.” He was very calm and assured as if he knew what I was concerned about. “It is possible,” he insisted. “All you need is strength and history will be rewritten when you make that decision.” He gave me a reassuring look. But how could he see through me? I was concerned about my career because I wanted to pursue my dreams in both sciences and arts. I had no idea how I would do it but here he was, a stranger talking to me about my career with such assurance as if he had done it himself. As if he had been down the same road at some point in his life. My adrenalin pump was high at this moment and I wouldn’t waste any more time. More questions were popping up but I fought them back.
“Tell me about … tell me about yourself.” Of all the questions I had, I wondered, how I even gave this one a chance. “I thought you’d ask about that.” He replied with such ease. “Did you?” I quizzed him. He shrugged aside that question. “Well, whenever I have had a chance to pursue my dreams, I have always taken it. I haven’t let any opportunity slip by.” “But sometimes you get pulled back, I mean …” “Yes! That is bound to happen. The road to success is always under construction so you can be sure to divert from the main road sometimes. Just believe that you can make your dreams a reality although taking the first step might be the most challenging thing you will ever do. You know this saying, ‘What we think, we become’?” “Yes, I read it somewhere recently.” “Good. Think of yourself as an achiever and you will always get what you dream of. The universe will conspire and work in your favor. That’s the law of nature.” The Alchemist. I still remember it very well. “So many people live for tomorrow instead of today. They live like they have a guarantee to see tomorrow to the extent that they forget their whole purpose on this life trip.” He stopped to look at the last flock of birds flying west for the day.
Then he started again: “When I was about your age, I learned about manipulating the most treasured item in the universe. Time. There is no time like the present and that’s all we can brag about—nothing more. So every day I wake up knowing that today’s goals are today’s business. I put myself in a position that if today were my last, I would be ready—no unfinished business.” There came a moment of silence. I was contemplating this spark of realization. I wanted to get more of this elixir of life from this knowledgeable man sitting beside me. I took a guess and decided to go with it. “It has been almost a hundred years and counting,” I started, “and I have barely reached twenty. How did you make it through?” I was not sure where this would lead us but I asked anyway. He stared at a point in the distance, as though he were trying to figure out the right words to say. “Imagine you are going to climb Mount Kilimanjaro a week from today. Being the highest spot in all of Africa, you would expect to experience the harshest of all weather conditions during your climb.” I nodded silently. “The pressure drops to its minimum as the cold sweeps in, and the wind blows the ice and rock particles on your face ferociously.” He paused to allow me swallow this in. “Preparing a number of heavy coats, gloves, boots, and the like would just come instinctively. These things are necessary to help you persevere and push on during your climb. And you need not be told about that. It
is all natural. Life, too, is no different. Except in life, you do not know for sure what tomorrow will bring you albeit you are of what you invest in today.” I felt like this was too deep for me, but I decided to listen even more attentively now. “You see, in life too, just like before you go mountain-climbing, you need to prepare yourself. You will always have to pick the right ship that will survive all the thunderstorms. You will need to know which route will see you through even if it is the narrowest and full of thorns.” He paused. His pace was slow. He articulated each word so clearly that it reverberated in my mind before the next one registered. All that he said was sinking into my mind word by word. The message these words carried was far more convoluted than I could imagine. I started to wonder if I could get a chance to sit beside him, to talk to him again. Then I remembered what he had just told me: no time like the present. There might be no next time, so this is it. “You will need knowledge—knowledge and belief, my dear.” He said this with all his energy. He made sure his message was crystal clear. Somehow, he reminded me of my mom. “When mom brings us to school, she always says: ‘Study, my dear ones, study.’ After I spent two years in school, I realized there was more to study than just academic stuff. That’s when I understood what mom had always been telling us.” He nodded and allowed me to continue. “Then I started to go beyond my studies. The first thing I learned about was the arts. The power of expression through art always fascinated me. I wanted to understand more about it, see more into it. I wanted to
learn about the secrets that Da Vinci encoded into The Last Supper and more importantly why he did that. I wanted to know the truth about the delicate matters woven intricately into Dan Brown‘s novels: the secret organizations, the rituals, everything.” He was listening very attentively. “Life presents us with options and it is all upon us what we choose. The choices we get come natural to us, like the way you know you need a heavy coat to climb a mountain. Now whether you will decide to carry a coat or not is your decision.” He shifted his gaze. “There are many things that you will not be taught in school but you will be obliged to know. Some things are self-taught, while some are beyond our limits thus some knowledge is locked away from us. Take the last book in the Bible, for example. Everything is laid flat before our eyes, yet only the knowledgeable will ever see the real revelation. Deep imagery and symbolism put together, spread over the entire human race’s timeline. That calls for symbolic knowledge, history, mastery and intellect so as to decode and draw a relation to our contemporary lives.” I was drawn into contemplation, once again. He continued. “It is written, ‘Ask and it shall be given to you; seek and ye shall find; knock and it shall be opened unto you. “That is Matthew 7:7.” I said. “It goes on to say that all those who ask, receive; who seek, find; and who knock, doors are opened for them. That means we can get all that we want in our lives. But then, what do we say of people with unanswered prayers and questions with no convincing answers?” He was silent for a while. When I looked at him, he was smiling. “It is only when we ask the right questions that we deserve to get the right
answers. When we say our prayers, we shouldn’t give conditions on how they should be answered; that is not up to us to decide. We should not make up our own expectations; rather, we should be ready to receive what we are given.” “God give me strength.” I knew I needed it. “Ask, believe, and you will receive,” he uttered rather quietly. He was now standing. We had been sitting there for an hour since the match ended. He was stretching his legs, and I understood that, given his age. “Our maid has gone for a weekend so back home. Christine is alone. I told her I’d be away for a while.” There was a hint of concern in his voice. I was about to ask who this Christine was when something crossed my mind. Throughout our conversation, he had avoided tapping into my future, although he could have, had he wanted to. I think he, too, perceived life as a mystery that should be full of adventure. I was convinced, therefore, that he would not mention anything that I did not know yet. With that in mind, I decided to probe my head for this name. I was almost drifting into my thoughts when I realized he was saying something. “... can be a very charitable man all your life, earn all the respect this world can offer and even succeed on moving mountains. But only when you set out to do all this for the people, from the bottom of your heart, will you be rewarded eternal happiness that none of us can speak about.”
He paused dramatically, gazing at a distant cluster of stars that started to appear on the far north. Several things were still crossing my mind, and I felt more and more full of suspense. He had noticed whenever I stopped short of speaking my mind. Still gazing at the stars, he added: “Keep love in your heart, always; be good to everyone, wherever you go. A life without all this is like a sunless garden when the flowers are gone.” Then I remembered her. I first met her when I was around eighteen. Not so long ago. I was a little amused to learn that she existed in his timeline too. I knew I couldn’t keep him any longer. He had to go. “You need to understand that even the wise cannot see all ends, but there are things that will never change. That boy on the pitch made his decision, so you can count on a completely new storyline.” “I understand.” I replied. I still had a feeling that my eyes had been playing a trick on me for this whole time but I shrugged that thought away. I was not sure if this was what films depicted as time travelling. Nonetheless I was happy. I felt blessed to have all this happen to me. He had already started for the main gate. “Please pass my earnest regards to her,” I tried not to shout. “Son, she is in my timeline. You have yours.” I was amused. He had not lost his sense of humor over all these years. “But I will. She won’t be surprised much to hear about one of these days of the future past.” He managed a smile and disappeared into the darkness.
Pinatubo Alyssa Yu
On the Metro Hannah Taylor The back right corner of this wobbly tram A little cubbyhole partitioned by smudged and grafittiâ€™d yellowing plastic Smells like my father. Tin and stale beer, a tinge of sweat, Blatant. Shameless. I think of him. His exhilarating and frightening smile and the mix of intrigue and fear Triggered inside me whenever I saw his lips move to form words Would they fly out like mosquitos this time, Finding the warmth of my skin and pricking Sucking me lifeless? A plastic bag crinkles under the feet of the Legs coming from the navy-blue-so-sensible-pencil-skirted woman next to me Why would she ever sit back here? I cringe feeling her intrusion on my moment with my father. I wonder what is in store for the thin, dull bag now properly squashed beneath her heel My father used to throw plastic bags, too, Out the side of his navy-blue-not-so-sensible-pickup truck The windows didnâ€™t shut, enabling him
I fear I enabled him too, Allowed—at least—with “Yes, I love you daddy” and nervous, misplaced giggles when I sensed an attempt at humor I see my smudgy reflection in the smudgy plastic It’s been a humid, smudgy day and I don’t look as infallible as I’d intended when buttoning my blouse that morning. I don’t see your sharp eyes, your nose, your dark hair But I see you within me Blatant. Shameless. I smooth my hair, sit up straighter and sigh. Farragut West emanates from the speaker in a sleepy, Too-many-cigarettes voice and Navy-blue-so-sensible-pencil-skirt lady adjusts her shoulder bag and stands When she rushes out, onto the platform, I see the tan bag trailing behind her Looped on her heel. And I know just how she’ll feel when she discovers it; I hope she doesn’t trip.
Dismantling the American Dream Hannah Taylor My country is made of immigrants. The walls of our palace are a mosaic splashed in the colors of a million infinitely intricate pieces of tile To represent all of the hands, the minds, and the love that sewed together a nation thread by thread. A woman sits on a train every morning On her way to her 9-to-5, cubicle-enclosed American dream The seat next to her is never occupied because She covers her hair and is subject to glares, stares, and Ignorant fear I was soothed by my grandparents’ thick accents and swaddled in tales of their chase for a brighter tomorrow and boarding a boat with a few crumpled dollars and snapshots of a recent wedding. I was told that the desire to be better is the love which unites us all My grandmother in a rented white gown, Her lipstick-toothed wide smile Renewed my hope in this place and I grew to be painfully aware of the double standard imposed by their well-off dinner party friends who complained of the terrible danger of “letting Mexicans across the border” At the supper table of immigrants.
My mother was raised by a black woman Not born, no, but formed Who was then thrown out of her home Because of a white womanâ€™s insecure scorn We are all strangers in another land at some point, to some degree and I certainly was born one and I certainly am now But I grew up in an America afraid open its eyes thinking sand may fly in. I grew up in a place where I am afraid to walk alone at night because I am a woman and I am told that the fear it is my fault as if I carry a weapon between my legs and dress myself in the morning to threaten. I grew up in a nation which assumes the ill intentions of every other And every unknown, including a hundred peaceful religions But refuses to fear itself A country whose walls are falling as hands fall away, one by one, allowing them to crumble A country that denies its vibrant fabric in every small act of discrimination. My president is black, But the house he lives in is white. I live in a country plagued by every ism there isâ€” Classism, racism, sexism
All denying the hands that once raised it Pushing them down until they crumple into fists But still empty, still begging. A country which equates underprivileged with undeserving rather than systematically, purposely oppressed And which only fears the sound of a gunshot When it is in the hands of a young non-white-assumed-miscreant Rather than the white man who walks into a black church on Sunday and plays God
Lessons Hannah Taylor I want to teach my daughter not to love Coffee cigarettes and tall stoic men With tempests swirling within. I want to teach my son Not to cast his triumphant smile in the face of danger, but to smirk, turn his neck and pass by. And I’ll teach my daughter That calling herself ugly is inhumane, profane, Sacrilegious and wrong And to never let a man say her name with the taste of reproach lingering on his breath and to never kiss a man twice when she tastes malice on his tongue. And I’ll tell my son to never use the word woman as an insult or with any intention other than reverence And I’ll tell her to be careful with whom she shares her body But never her spirit and I’ll tell him to Only to seek what he is offered and to always be grateful Gentle And honest
I want to teach my children to never accept the burden of someone elseâ€™s regret and to never cast their own onto those they hold close simply out of convenience I want to teach my children to always remember that Restlessness is temporary but so is toe-tingling infatuation and above all I want to teach my children not to be like their parents
Homemaking Hannah Taylor Your voice drips like molasses out of your mouth, Swirling off of your candy tongue and every word you say Makes me want to do mundane things. Your laugh makes me want to pop corn on the stove And smother it in yellow butter and salt ignoring cholesterol, the holes in my belt, and old age Your smile makes me want to rearrange the furniture and change the color of the couch with every season Your arms make me want to watch black and white movies and nap during the dull parts Your legs make me want to walk in the park Your whistle makes me want to adopt a dog To walk with in the park Who would come when youâ€™d whistle Then youâ€™d smile And Iâ€™d rearrange the living room once more Yes, you make me want to indulge in mundane pleasures And I hate you for taking my attention from building a better world For myself and diverting it For making me want to build a life, a home situated around you and I hate you even more for not wanting to live in it.
(overleaf ) Daily Gratitude Mantras Anastasiia Zubareva 49
this is where i love you valentina vela giraldo
in the crease where your ear meets the back of your head on your middle toenail, every night before we went to bed under the rain, walking your bike under the rain, running towards you under a picnic table, touching your hand on your right eyelid drooping over your eye while you read on your fresh cut fingernails across a table, drinking martinis at the airport, in our graduation gowns on the big round freckle at the bottom of your foot on the skin between your big and middle toes on the rooftop of your motherâ€™s house on your couch, drinking tea and crying, as you fell asleep on the phone, when you answered, before you knew it was me on a bus, drinking whatâ€™s left of my chai after I spilled most of it on your lap crossing the bridge, on my birthday reading milan kundera while you slept after you left, looking for you
in our kitchen, as you cried, before I hugged you in the kitchen, looking for that cap in my kitchen, watching you cook in a hotel room, eating cake in bed on your bellybutton on your moustache in my bed in your bed in the morning, while you brush your teeth wearing your clothes falling asleep while you read eating oreos next to you on the grass, eating grapes on a plane, watching you sleep drinking hot chocolate on valentine’s day getting coffees and croissants on new year’s day walking along 32nd street, the only time you’ve held my hand
FRAME Yunbo Wu
frame Yunbo Wu
Sake to Me Alyssa Yu
The Piano Man Riva Razdan The worries evaporate from his mind as his fingers rest on the keys. However tiresome the world around him got, this came to him with ease. Magic poured out from his palms in the form of a melody. Passersby stopped to marvel but it was not them he wished to please. His eyes became calm yet childlike, the years fell off his face. He laughed in the soft moonlight as he changed the musicâ€™s pace. She watched on adoringly from amongst the crowd at the unrestricted happiness he exuded. Her heart was brimming with love and pride but perhaps she was deluded. In that moment she prayed for his happiness and health. As she opened her eyes she realized the melody had come to an end. He had disappeared into the shadows, Never to be seen again.
City Lights Luis Carlos Soto
Fishing Karma Gurung
Unemployment Haiku Megan Eloise 1 Have a thesis due.
All tasks are peripheral
to Haiku training.
Wore business casual
Queer indigenous capstone
Looking professional! Yet
Why no job for me?
No job to go to.
Should I GRE?
Printed business cards
Looking for a PHD
In lieu of networking, a
A word with five syllables.
I am proficient in Word
Danm you, Haiku form.
2 If I list “Haiku”
Maybe I’ll gap year,
Under skills on my LinkedIn
Mask job disappointment with
Will employers smile?
“Time to Find Myself.”
Not all hope is lost
I am Graduate.
I’ll write an ethnography
I am Serial Intern.
Of my parents house.
Somebody hire me.
“Go into HR,”
At least without job
Says mum. “You’ve experienced
I’ll never experience
a lot of races.”
A modern romance; One night stands transform into LinkedIn connections.
Beast Ahmad Yacout 69
Upgrade with Some Fries Isabella Peralta Just a dollar ninety-five for this quick, tasty poem. But wait! There’s more about it that you need to know! Juicy and crispy, don’t worry about the grease. Extra bacon, extra cheese, but hold the onions please. We use the finest, healthiest oil for our cooking! Lettuce organic and fresh although not so good-looking. Come smiling and let our special sauce drip right down your chin. Low-calorie, reduced fat, and of course our bread’s vegan! We have treats for the kids, your darling girls and boys, your loved ones whom you taught to go crazy for free toys. Meals to make them happy and sugar-filled drinks, but don’t be shocked if they vomit into your kitchen sinks. You know what goes in our poems that are prepared much too fast: additives, preservatives— they’re cooked built to last. But you say while you feed our poems to the people you know: “It won’t hurt us, junk’s addicting, we can’t seem to let go. Our jeans barely fit but it’s not obesity! Every day more and more people look just like me!
Let’s spend our cash to support billion dollar business capitals! More branches ‘round the world, more fast poems, go international! We’re being killed slowly but these corporations are lenient— drive-thru and delivery to my door, how convenient!” So here’s your poem, wrapper about to burst from all the fat. Would you like an upgrade? Would you like some fries with that?
On the Train Karma Gurung
Pearls Kristina Stankovic Consider all the unsent letters of the world for a long moment. How many do you think there are? Try to imagine all the words of anger laying somewhere hidden in our drawers. Give a number to all the apologies we were too proud to send. Enumerate the heartbreaking love poems that never saw the light of day. A few billion? More? I have hundreds of unsent letters at home. I keep them all around the house and sometimes I accidentally find them when I least expect it. Yesterday, I found one in my left high-heeled shoe. The softness of the Florentine paper. Yes, a love letter. The copperplate handwriting on the back confirmed my snap judgment—the name of my high school sweetheart was written on it. It starts with: “My dearest love, don’t worry, I am doing fine. I live happily, though I know the real living will start once we reunite.” A sigh and a smile. I know I will never find him again. He is now an ocean away, sleeping in some other woman’s arms. So why would I even write such nonsense? If I would have said out loud what I wrote I would have told a lie—not even I believe we’ll reunite. The echo of passion in my words would make me sound pathetic. I would jeopardize the image of the strong woman that I am. I wrote for myself, the hopeless romantic no one can see. I had to make sure that I still feel something, that I still have this crazy belief that pushes me forward. I had to give a voice to hope that hides in my body. When I see that letter now, I feel empowered. I will never put a stamp on it. In the kitchen, in the drawer of my cupboard, there is a soft pink envelope with golden birds on it. In a graceful script I wrote an apology letter to my
grandma. She died a few months ago when I was not speaking to her. I had never imagined I wouldn’t have enough time to tell her: I forgive you, though it is my fault. The paper on which I wrote is full of coffee stains, has many words crossed out and a few postscripts. I was a mess when I wrote it, and naturally, the letter could not have been ruled by order. I wrote to her so that she could stop visiting me in my dreams, in which I was unable to say a word, though I tried hard. The soft, pink paper was an exit to this agony, and I said all those things that I needed to. I told her that I miss her strawberry jam, which I still sometimes find in the kitchen, her smell of Chanel N°5, and the pearls around her neck I used to count when hugging her. I could almost feel her presence when I finished the letter, and I felt relieved. She heard it, she knows it and she forgives me. If I could, I would send this letter, but there is no such thing as Fed Ex to the afterlife, so I keep it in my drawer instead. I cry every time I read it. My hand was obviously shaking when I wrote a letter I will never send to my father. He forgot about my birthday again. Seven days later, he sent me a card congratulating me on my eighteenth one, despite the fact I just turned seventeen. At least he balanced being late with being early. I was disappointed, but more importantly, I was angry with myself for letting me believe that my father could change. The sentences that I’m reading now are long, the words are repeating and concepts are changing and there is no way anyone would get what I’m trying to say. It is an angry letter, like those that Churchill wrote when he felt the urge to tell someone off. I constructed a perfect speech that I will always be afraid to say out loud. “You are always exaggerating, Kristina!” I can see my father in front of me saying that. Still, I felt less angry about it once I wrote it down. The fervency of my bitterness cooled down. I accepted things the way they were, wrote a poem or two, and made a decision to be a better parent than my father.
Under my bed, a red envelope hides. A letter to unknown lover. I needed an outlet for my wild imagination. I needed hope that there was someone out there who would understand me. I wrote in print, just in case he doesn’t understand strange, cursive Serbian: We, my love, are complete strangers, and we will never be introduced. We do have a connection, but I fear that we will never meet each other and we’ll never know what could happen between us. I have never met you, it is true, but I know you are there. Oh, how much I laugh when I read this now! Consider, for a long moment, what unsent letters do to their writers. Don’t you see how they crack them open and put them together at the same time? Writing a letter that will not be sent is a selfish process; it is done for the sake of the penman. What I wonder is: Why don’t I put those dreams and hopes and anger in a diary? What makes a letter a suitable form? It is fairly simple. When we write a diary we write thinking that no one will ever read it. This gives us freedom to write things that we’d never say out load. However, when writing a diary, many set themselves as the imaginary reader. You would never tell yourself how desperate you are. You always want to make yourself stronger. Writing an entry about how guilty the fight you had with your grandma made you feel is not very efficient either. You need to tell your emotions to the person you have the emotions for. The second reason why a diary is not an efficient way of expressing your deepest thoughts is the fact that you are set to re-read them at some point. Diaries come with these cute covers and it is not as simple to throw them away as it is with a piece of paper. Letters are simple. If you want, you can burn them with ease. You can tear them to pieces and flush the
left overs down the toilet. Diaries are bulky. They cannot be destroyed easily. One day you will reread them. And when you know that you will reread something, you subconsciously censor yourself. At least I do. Sure, there is something interesting with both diaries and unsent lettersthey represent our human need to produce an artifact. Consider pearls for a long moment. They are produced in a living being, but are inorganic. We donâ€™t need just the organic world. Humans are creators; they need to change the landscape around them. Like pearl shells, we produce unsent letters.
Creek Afternoon Luis Carlos Soto
Something Supriya Kamath There is something about inspiration or the nurture of it— or the nature, perhaps (the geneticists like to write letters) that compels it to strike like an ageing cuckoo clock, at the most ungodly hour and like that bold keeper of time often ventures to awaken those eager to protest the hour’s blasphemy until they realise that it’s just a mad old bird. Until they realise that it’s just me. There is something about pen and paper, that makes them prolific when one looks to cull the herd. But in times of dire necessity when a recently de-cluttered desk (an object of maternal pride) begs for evidence of wear and when inspiration strikes a mad old bird the scribe’s tools master the fine art of absconding leaving behind traces of tissue and red crayon, a carnivorous eraser a mantis wouldn’t prey on. But we will do anything for love. There is something about a good idea that makes it so hard to shape into words, and sentences,
and the 101 Proverbs Used In The Right Context. My thoughts are not born as compound sentences (apologies to the geneticists) but this is what they must be nurtured into because all the best ideas follow the â€œi-before-eâ€? rule and something will be lost, the same something you lost when you drew a red-roofed home with two windows and tried to fit the world into columns and rowsâ€” they call it inspiration, and it still comes back to haunt me.
Tibidabo Alyssa Yu
Thangachchi’s Yaka: A Story for Children Shenuka Corea Thangachchi was four years old when the water came in. Now she was five. She lived with her parents in the village of cloth houses. She missed her real house with its hard floors and walls. Here she had only the soft sand between her toes. While she skipped behind her mother, who was gathering firewood, she heard a child crying. The sound led her to a patch of shade under a palmyrah tree. There sat a very odd looking child. Its eyes were too big for its face. And its teeth were too big for its mouth. It looked up at Thangachchi, its enormous eyes magnified even more by its tears. Thangachchi asked it what was wrong. “Where’s my tree?” it snapped, suddenly looking bigger and more fierce. Thangachchi was not afraid. ‘What would you do with a tree? You’re already in the shade,’ said Thangachchi, who knew that that was what trees were for. “No,” whined the creature, “I want my tree, my home. It was right here a week ago.” “I’ll help you find it,” Thangachchi said. So Thangachchi and the odd little child began their search. They wandered from one end of the village to where the cloth houses ended and the beach began. Thangachchi stepped carefully over a clock with a
cracked face, half buried in the sand. She was used to finding odd things on the beach nowadays. Suddenly, the child gave a cry of joy and rushed towards a clump of battered mangroves. “My tree,” it cried. “My home,” it cried. “It’s somewhere nearby. I can feel it in my bones.” There, half-hidden in the mangroves, lay a little white boat. The child hugged the boat in glee. “But why is it this shape and color?” it cried. “My tree was nice and brown and rough and big, big, big.” “But that’s not a tree. That’s a boat,” said Thangachci, “a boat made from a tree.” “A boat made from my tree,” said the Yaka child. “Which makes it my boat!”
Monkey Karma Gurung
Camouflage Alyssa Yu
Walking on the Seasons Christine Dah-In Chung It’s snowing. I’m on my way home and it’s snowing. It’s winter and cold and slippery but it’s okay because I don’t care and I’m all grown up now and I can handle it. The ground is icy and slippery but I won’t fall if I’m careful. I fell anyway. There’s a scratch on my cheek, but it’s okay because I can handle it. It’s spring and it’s raining and I think I’ll catch a cold but even if I do I can handle it because grown-ups are strong and I’m a grown-up. The rain stopped and flowers are blooming. The flowers smell good. I have allergies and now I’m sneezing all over the place until my eyes get red and it hurts but it’s okay because I’m not gonna die. It’s summer now and it’s hot and the sun is burning my face. My skin is peeling off. I’m all sweaty and tired and hot but it’s okay because I’m an adult and I can handle it. I’m dehydrated but I’ll drink water and rest when I get home. It’s windy. Fall leaves are flying everywhere. Squirrels are running around collecting acorns. The acorns fall everywhere, but it doesn’t bother me. I like this weather because nothing bothers me. I tripped over an acorn and I think I broke my right arm but it’s okay because it’s not the squirrel’s fault for having a small mouth. I’m finally home and I collapse onto the floor and can’t move. It’s snowing again.
Summer Blues Alyssa Yu
Guilt & Rain Zoe Cook Being thirteen is like having a paper cut, and then pouring lemon juice on it, over and over again. You’ve just barely figured out you can do what you want, and that’s all you want. You say mean things more often than you say nice things, and you can see it. I’m walking past shops, past people, to the gate listed on my ticket, where I’ll have to wait another millennium for the plane, but I feel like everyone is staring at me because I’m alone. It’s irrational, but it still makes me feel nervous. I don’t like calling attention to myself. I reach the gate, number six, and strategically find a seat surrounded by other empty ones. Everyone criticizes human unfriendliness, but I understand. I ease my suitcase against the seat next to mine as I sit down. I try as hard as I can not to look alone; so I take out my kindle. I pull out my headphones and plug them into my kindle and start to look more like a teenager. I lose myself in the book, tuning out the music that’s playing through the headphones and for a while, living in another time. The story swirls through my mind like a pale fog, sweeping cares away and letting me wonder about other things—things like top hats and cathedrals. An hour later, I look up from my Kindle as the flight lady at the front starts listing off sections of the plane. When she calls my section, I get up and walk quickly to the end of the already long line. I watch the lady checking everyone’s tickets and try to gauge her mood. I don’t know why I care, but I try to see if she’s happy, -ish.
She’s young with black hair pulled up in a bun, wearing the American Airlines uniform. She looks grumpy, and I wouldn’t be surprised if she’d been working through the night. When she gets to me, I try to give her a smile. She looks at me and gives me her fake, attendant smile. I inwardly deflate before rolling my suitcase down the hallway leading to the plane. I keep close to a family of three so that the flight attendants will think I’m a part of it. When I get to my seat, I fight the urge to fold down the tray table, knowing that I’ll just have to fold it back up. I lift my suitcase into the overhead compartment and shove my bulging backpack under the seat in front of mine. I sit down and groan when I realize I have to get my backpack out again. And then I laugh because I really don’t care. I try to read so no one will talk to me. I’m not antisocial; I’m just avoiding human contact, there’s a difference. I watch the plane fill up over the top of my kindle, looking down at it whenever someone comes too close to looking at me. Twenty minutes later, the bald man next to me is reading the New York Times and I’m painfully listening about how to “fasten” your seat belt, and put your chair in the “upright position.” I try to ignore the speech and read through it. The plane engines roar to life and push us forward. That’s all I remember. *** At least, that’s what I tell people. But it’s not the truth. How are you supposed to explain, to your family, to your friends, that if you had just
been braver you could have saved someone? If I had been brave enough. If I had put aside my own life. They put me through counseling. They say that eventually I might remember. The problem is, I do remember. I remember everything. Every thought, face, and event that took place that day is scorched into my memory, the stark contrast making it achingly obvious what I did wrong. My “condition” is getting worse: tip toeing between depression and whatever is less bad but not normal. I’m scheduled to meet one of the people who survived the crash today. I’m supposed to “relate” to them and all that mumbo-jumbo. It’s supposed to help, but I doubt it. I stare out the car’s window, feeling like the whole world is inside the car. The windows are covered in rain and small glimpses of the world outside are all we get without windshield wipers. Trees flash by, part of the ever shrinking expanse of trees that cover Indiana. We’re almost to the counseling center, and naturally, I’ve brought a book. Sometimes I feel like I should leave my Kindle. Live in the moment. Try harder. And then I remember what I did. I remember that I had a choice, and I made a mistake. So I hide. I hide from the world, inside of my book. By the time we pull into a parking space, the rain has lessened to a calm drizzle. I open the car door, holding my book to my chest as I get out. I take my time walking toward the doors, the steady white-noisesilence of the rain making my world sharp and beautiful. My feet stop, out of my control, and I stand for a while, forgetting the world around me and watching the rain fall. It reminds me of tears. The tears of heaven. Melodramatic thought though it may be, I kind of like it. The steady dripdrip calms something in me, something I didn’t entirely know was there.
The peace shatters as I hear a goodbye accompanied by a shut door. I drag myself away from the rain, through the glass doors. The secretary doesn’t even look up as I pass; absorbed in some new cheesy novel she seems to have added to the trove under her desk. I walk down the familiar hallways until I get to her office, where I find a note on her door. Sorry for the late notice. We’ll be meeting in 205 today. —Katy 205’s her room for “cheering up.” If anyone cared what I thought, I’d suggest the bench outside in the rain. Despite what the general populace seems to think, rain is happier than a lot of other things. I turn on my heels and nearly run into someone. A boy, his hands stuffed into his pockets and his hair spiked. He wears a black t-shirt, and when he pulls his hand out of his pocket his wrist has a small black bracelet on it. For a moment, all I can do is curse myself. A small amount of emotion pierces through my own personal bubble of depressing, and I stare for a split second. I finally mumble a sorry and make to step around him. He turns with me. “Are you Aria?” he asks. I stop. “Yeah, why?” I answer stiffly. “The counselor sent me to get you, said you might be lost.” More likely she meant this to be part of the therapy. I glower. He laughs. “Obviously not.” He starts walking. “Were you on the plane?” I ask. He stiffens slightly and nods his head. We walk the rest of the way in dead silence.
When we get to 205, Katy smiles broadly. For a counselor she seems so oblivious. “Glad you could make it Aria, David. Have a seat.” Her enthusiastic smile makes me want to scream. Whatever his name is, sits down on the sofa next to me, and I try not to scoot further away. We go through the whole routine of counseling, me staring at random objects in the room, a chipped mug with three pens and a lonely pencil. A dingy, painted-on whiteboard with colored smudges surrounding it because they weren’t smart enough to realize that when you erase stuff it’ll smear on the wall without a frame. A few posters, carefully taped to the wall, announcing the different emotions, including some I’ve never heard of. Another poster screams so much pink I almost can’t make out the words. I grimace. The whiteboard is driving me nuts. After finishing my examination of nearly every object in the room, we finally make it to the point where she explains what’s going on. “Aria, you and David will be visiting me at the same time from now on. We will be doing the normal routine weekly and I will, as usual, send you homework.” I zone out for the rest of her speech. I sneak looks at David and wonder why he’s so close to my age. For some reason I had been expecting an adult, someone who had been able to get out of the plane faster than the families. Though I suppose because we are smaller than adults and bigger than children we would be able to get out faster. Morbid? Not at all. Plus I bet they’d sent someone my age on purpose. I survey the room once more, the sound, the color, the stupidity all building to a crescendo and suddenly I just can’t handle it. I mumble something about the bathroom and half-run out. I take the corners sharply my frustration and annoyance quickly dissipating to mental exhaustion. I don’t think I can go back in there. Or rather, I really don’t want too and am
almost to the point where I can’t. I walk to the bathroom, because that’s where I told them I’d go, and look into the mirror. I grimace slightly, I don’t put a lot of work into my appearance, and I’m not very pretty, but I look bad right now. I don’t know what to do, so I wash my hands. My body finds its way out of the bathroom and slowly down a random hallway. My mind glued on my reflection and something tugging at the back of my mind. When I snap out of it, my feet have guided me to the back entrance. I press my hand against the cold glass of the window beside the doors. The rain is falling harder again and I can hear it, but I’m safe from it, safe from the falling water. Almost like a tiger in a zoo. You watch it from a distance, safe but able to observe the beauty. Softening it. Taking away the predatory killer inside. I open the door and step into the full blast. It’s cold, quickly soaking my hoodie. I walk through the silver waves, across the street, to a small bus stop, equipped with an overhanging roof. I sit down and shiver, my mind feeling alive with the cold for just a split second. I watch the rain fall down in sheets, each one falling after the next and turning everything dull silver. I stare off into space, looking at the counseling center wondering why Katy chose to be a counselor. It doesn’t seem to fit. Counseling is full of stigmas; if you go to a counselor, something is wrong with you. You aren’t normal, you must be depressed, and if you’re depressed then people can’t treat you like a normal person. You’re fragile.
Maybe it’s true I need help, but not from Katy. Or maybe I need help from her but I just don’t want it. I don’t go back to class; instead, I wait for someone to pick me up. About forty minutes later an old green pickup truck with a blue tarp over the back pulls up and a man steps out slowly. I recognize him immediately. I run to him and wrap my arms around him. He returns the embrace with a laugh. And then, for some reason, I start crying. I don’t know why, but I do. I tell him what happened in counseling and about how I left, and somehow, I manage to cry almost the whole way. But he listens. He doesn’t laugh or tell me what I did was wrong, he just listens. He has a way of making people feel safe, and he’s one of the few people I didn’t grow further apart from after the crash. He doesn’t treat me differently. He doesn’t ask questions about how I am or how I feel or pity me. He just loves me. When we get home, I go downstairs to my room, telling him I need to go get something. I open the door to my room and look inside. It’s a disaster. Too bad. I dump everything off the bed and flop down staring at the ceiling. I sit in my bed feeling like I am in some sort of dream. But the familiar emptiness has returned. I feel like I don’t deserve to be alive. Sometimes it’s like trying to breathe while drowning. It doesn’t work, no matter how hard you try. But no matter what I do, no matter how many
times I go to counseling, I will always know that I could have saved someone. If I had just saved even one person. *** A week later we take the ten minute drive back to counseling, where I have to explain why I ditched class. I almost lie but I stop myself. David shoots me a mischievous grin during my explanation and I half-smile back. I spend the rest of the time staring at my hands, drowning in whatever it is you drown in when you’re depressed. Probably your own tears. I carefully answer the questions Kate asks me, blisteringly aware of David sitting next to me and worrying about how he probably thinks I’m an idiot. When we’re done we both wait outside. *** Over the next few weeks, David and I become friends. I’m not sure if this is because we have to, or because we would be friends anyway. It also turns out we go to the same school, but he’s three grades above me. Because of the grade difference, we don’t see each other at school often but I’m glad. He’s more alright then me, and because of that, he expects me to be normal, to laugh and have fun. But that’s harder than it seems. So I stay alone. Underneath all the things he does that seem to set me off, he’s kind and funny, he makes me laugh as best I can and doesn’t seem to care that I’m not the same as everyone else. And I can see that he is still healing. He stops to think too long when people ask him how he is, as if he’s not sure.
As if the “good” that comes out of his mouth in answer, skillfully attached to a grin, is a lie. *** I wake up with a start. I fell asleep doing my homework. My phone’s ringing. I grab it off the desk and look at the number. David. I answer it. “Hello?” “Aria, I’m outside your house, can you come out?” his voice is funny. “Why are you outside my house?” “Just come!” And he hangs up. I open my door quietly. I walk upstairs, passing the small chaos of dinner making and out onto the porch. I step outside into the cool evening air. He stands with his back to the door, leaning against the pillar of the porch. “David?” He turns around and I can see the mixture of emotions in his eyes. He looks at me for a moment before he decides to talk. “What do you remember about the plane crash?” He sounds slightly crazed. “Nothing,” I say quietly. Anger flickers in his eyes and I can tell he knows I’m lying. He turns away from me. We stand like this until he starts speaking in a monotone, matter of fact way. “There was fire everywhere. I got out of the plane and I realized that people needed my help. But I didn’t help them. I ran. I ran until I couldn’t see the plane. I saw the people. But I didn’t do anything, I ran away like a coward.” He turns around to face me. Self-hatred burns in his eyes
and tears streak down his face. He holds his hands out in front of him, looking down at them. “Why didn’t I do anything? So many people died and I didn’t even try to save them.” His eyes meet mine, and I realize how perfect his armor is. He is more whole than me, but he also hides the cracks better. “It’s not your fault. Even if you had made it back to the plane you would have died trying to save them.” It’s a terrible answer. I’ve already tried to convince myself that it’s better I survived, but I can’t. “What do you remember?” This time I know he wants the truth. I stand paralyzed, looking at him until I gather the courage to tell him the truth. All the emotions, memories, and truths I have kept. It’s dangerous to tell people the truth. It’s dangerous to tell people what you went through. It only ever adds a traitor to your own army. I take a deep, panicked breath. I can’t lie. “Everything.” I say it in the same dead voice. “Only sixteen people survived. I didn’t save anyone. I didn’t run, I just stood there. I watched, but I did nothing.” I hold back my tears with all my will. “I did the same thing as you. I remember seeing a little girl on the list. She died. She passed my seat when I first got onto the plane. I remember her little pink dress, but I let her die. Just like everyone else.” I’m staring down at the floor, blabbing, and silently crying. I’m good at it. “Even if I had just saved one person, anyone, it would have been one less person’s family with a loss. I wouldn’t even care if I saved a criminal, I just should have tried.” Arms wrap around me and I tense. I reluctantly let myself relax because I can’t stop myself. Suddenly, the pressure of almost a year of secrets gets through my selfcontrol. I let out one half-suppressed sob and then I can’t stop myself.
I break down into tears, my brain flying wildly through all the ways I’m making a fool of myself, my emotions spreading like wildfire, and my tears running streaks down my face. I step away from him as soon as I can, trying to salvage as much of my pride as I can. I wipe the tears away and look up at him. I try not to run but every muscle is tense, waiting for rejection. “I should probably go back for dinner,” I say quietly. “Ok, bye.” He turns around, seeming almost as eager to get away as I am. “David?” I say hesitantly. “Yeah?” “Thank you … for talking to me and … listening to me.” I internally smack myself at the lame attempt at a thank-you. “You’re welcome, and thank you.” “Good night.” “Good night.” I step inside and go downstairs to my room. I lie in bed trying to find something to do. My phone buzzes. I grab it and open the text. It’s David. You there? Yeah Me too.
Hard to text if you’re not there : ) You never know. Our conversation wanders as far away as it can from anything of importance. Anything that will remind us of the crash. *** I eat breakfast slowly, almost lethargically, until my mom tells me that Katy rescheduled my appointment to today. Dread curls silently in my stomach. What will I do when I have to face him today? Thank you for listening to me cry, it was such a relief to let someone else know I’m a big fat liar. Oh, wait, I haven’t told anyone else, because I have no other friends. I grimace. Smooth, so very smooth. Everything until then passes in a haze as I walk through the day, feeling scared and hopeful at the same time. I have a chance at being accepted for me, for the me that has made a dreadful mistake; it feels good to have a tiny bit of hope, however feeble. *** I sit through counseling where the grass is always greener outside the window, and where I go through a special kind of purgatory meant only for the strongest of souls. But I cannot even focus on the movements of counseling, as the time simultaneously rushes past and goes as slow as honey. But standing outside waiting for my mom to pick me up proves harder. “So, what’s up?” He pushes through the doors and outside into the cool
air. But it’s the kind of question only people who have gone through as much as we have would see the weight in. “I’m, good, I guess.” It’s partly a lie. I pause. “I just wish this never happened,” I whisper. “I don’t know. I think there has to be a reason why this would happen. Maybe one of us will grow up to be some sort of phycologist. Maybe we’ll need the knowledge of what people hate to be asked, to be better. I don’t know, but nothing happens without a reason.” Cheesy beyond cheesiness but I smile anyways. At least we’re still friends. “Yes it does.” I say testily. “Fine, maybe there is no reason, but are you going to let it ruin your life?” I grind my teeth. These are the kinds of conversations I try not to have with him. He’s right of course, but he’s a little too right. “I guess not, but why you? Why me? Why of all the people in the world?” My voice is rising slowly, my heart going fast. I desperately try not to yell, but my sadness has fermented during its long stay in me and has become something bitter. “Why could more people not have survived?” “We can learn from this if we choose too.” His voice is quiet. But he’s still too right. “You’re right.” I pause, still annoyed, but wanting to talk about something else. “Want some chocolate?” He laughs and I smile too, realizing how random the question must sound. “Yeah, sure,” he says. I grab my bag off the ground and dig through it for my chocolate before handing him a square.
I don’t want to talk anymore. The rain starts up again. Not hard, but wet. I sit there, looking up into the sky. A drop falls and hits my hand. I want to say something, just to point out everything is not alright, but I can’t. I look down at my hands, fiddling with the hem of my shirt and glaring slightly. I glance at him and watch as he stares up into space, his mind far away. He opens his mouth and I have to strain to hear him, his voice coming out softly, his words meant for himself. He’s tried way harder to convince himself than I have. “You just need to realize it’s over, that it wasn’t your fault, and you’re still alive. You have to live your life. If looking back at an event you couldn’t change ruins your life, you will never live.” Philosophy, philosophy, philosophy. *** When I get home I run to check the mail. I flip through everything from ads to bills before finding a letter addressed to me. I dump everything else on the counter before running downstairs to open it. I tear at it and a little necklace falls out onto the floor. I bend down to pick it up as I read the letter. Dear Aria, We hope you like the necklace! We just want you to know how beautiful and smart you have become. You watch the world and see everything! We also want you to know that we love you more than anything and we’re glad you’re here. You have made our life a happier place!
We hope you come to visit sometime and we hope you bring some of your mom’s bread! Tell her if she doesn’t she’ll have to come visit us twice! Tell everyone we miss them! Make sure your dad gets a break, Love, Grandpa & Grandma Small tears run down my face as I sit down on the bed, and everything seems to come crashing down on me. My past self, my now self. The person I used to be who was all laughs and sarcasm, and the broken person that I am now, even after healing. *** According to my counselor, I made rapid recovery over the next weeks. And, a few months later, I’m declared sane. Or as sane as someone’s supposed to be after a plane crash. But I feel like something’s missing. My weekly schedule seems empty. I feel like I’m almost out of the deep pit I dug myself. Not quite out, but close. I can see the lights, and they’re so close. I can see all the missteps I took trying to get out. I can see how I almost fell so many times without realizing it. Twenty-twenty hindsight. Too bad you can’t ever look forward with such perfect vision. I wish I could go back to where I felt content and happy. But I can’t. And part of me knows I wouldn’t be the person I am now without the trials I’ve been through.
Deserted Alyssa Yu
Excerpt from “Week 4 Attempt 8” Krishan Mistry my eyes
my eyes don’t
between the walls where I got a job as a cleaning boy where I checked prices
I have no idea why and 7 and 8 unsettled or boycotted makes 9 and 11,000
thought at the end of all of it 1 pound in my pocket owned by an American this handwriting made half a crown a week which was fine because I wasn’t married I live in a shared room in Primrose Hill now a really expensive area although the heat from the propellers worries me
I came on a small plane and he came via steamer at the shop in Kensington where the stakes were slightly different I arrived in London in 1962 and we just had paraffin heaters on school holidays on your great grandfatherâ€™s sisal farm outside of Nairobi the fields where he stepped and then I escaped along with you other places where we finally exist on dates heads look and follow and reply often repeated by dismissive and everything including the wood dust fills up the seams in the floor the seams
near the meaning
exhaustive bodies and definitive zeroes I spoke enough to get by
you know because hands
bodies alone and prepared and dissected tired
for memory delayed
Iâ€™m a pot
or spun in place spun
Iâ€™m a kiln
I am wood
placed on a pot
I am a kiln