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a note from the editor Time: Continuous and forward No pause No intermission Movement: Bodily and flowing No position Only positions Tempo: Time and movement Faster Slower Mundane Momentous Always changing Always forward Always experienced


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where are YOU

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FOND 16 | EM SPRING 2021

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I COME FROM A PLACE EVERYBODY WANTS TO VISIT, but nobody wants to stay for very long. My town is rural and deeply embedded in the fractures of a small valley in northern New Hampshire. Even when it pours, the mountains seem to peer out from underneath an overwhelming sky. I drive up and down the locus still, just to see the way things have changed — sometimes the days were clearer. This time the hillside snow laid flat against its endless peaks, covered in white. But, it was always the same. I’ve seen them in every single state — now their beauty appeared even more mundane to me. How automatic it was and still is. Fast then slow then fast then

slow again. Our lives put on pause and go — an autopilot mode when not many people knew about your home. There were so many tourists. People from the Westside, the South, but mostly the Northeast. New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Vermont, Maine. So many license plates, coming and going and coming and going. I only found one person that wanted to linger. I grew fond of him in the countryside. This is where I discovered my first love. It felt like a retreat — in the woods of my heart. I adored where I lived because I fell in love with him. We would do this all the time, and from time to time the cool ravine air felt

especially bearable. With the windows down, he would hum to its natural steady rhythm — hand in mine. There was nothing else to do there, but devote ourselves to each other. You always told me absence makes the heart grow fonder. When you were gone, I hated the way you liked Long Island better than North Conway. Even you would take a vacation away from there. It was your reservoir to rest in, not mine. There was so much more to do, like shopping, dining, and most importantly, highway driving. You inhabited two places at once, miles and miles apart. A life torn in two, moving to New Hampshire was a sign of defeat. Perhaps

driving by yourself was peaceful. The way the car lights bent through the busy roadway, blurred against the shining paint of the brand new vehicle you got to ride in. I think you loved the car more than you loved me. Here, you could steer all night long, under trees that morphed

into an upcoming city. You knew I never stayed up late. But I still begged you to come back often. We would talk on the phone everyday, still — letting me know how much you missed it there. One time you left for a week, and it felt eternal. On Christmas Day, we cried because

it was our first holiday away from one another. But true distance makes the heart grow fonder, you would say, muffled beneath a sob I could hear only in my nightmares. Shattered. I wrote you back to life — every voicemail you left stained my memories. We did this for months, and

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every passing year, it seemed that the heart grew less fond. In the last few seasons, we were detached. A trip to Boston was meant to mend a link that began gradually breaking. I thought the city might have made him happier. It was always sunny here and hot in the summers. Buildings scratched the open blue instead of enormous summits, with reflective glass mirroring the crowded

streets. It was Saturday, the locals and tourists were out. Except this time you didn’t want to hold my hand anymore. Thousands of people were laughing and dancing — but it felt like everybody knew. I didn’t want to accept the deterioration of a bond I thought would last forever. So we decided to try on rings downtown that vowed for something real: You expressed to me we’d get married

someday, and that’s almost just what we did. I’ll never forget the way you looked at me with a silver band on my left ring finger. Maybe there was hope. That in the future we could be united like husband and wife. That our relationship could survive despite a dying, dim spark. A flame burning low, yet the ring still sparkled and shined all over the room as everybody was staring. They’re too

young. They’ll never last. There’s something wrong about this. But I smiled, it’s beautiful. I felt it in my chest, peering up at you. The eyes of the child inside me wished you could see into me. You didn’t. They didn’t fit you the way they fit me. Your rings were too big. You didn’t want silver. You wanted gold. And after that day all I wanted to do was go home. He didn’t want to stay, either. Now I reside in this city. North Conway never felt so far away. I don’t really drive anymore, nor ride the passenger. I hit the brakes as soon as I finally moved here. I needed something more for myself. I recall all the other places I could have lived.

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New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Vermont, Maine. He grew fonder of someone else. A part of my soul died when I told him it was time to choose myself. I couldn’t give and take and give and take and keep on giving. When I close my eyes I still envision our wedding day. But leaving you was the best thing that ever happened to me. Now I move my own mountains. The city is my own special haven. I clear my own atmosphere — reminding myself that healing takes time away from an existing life. I am nobody’s ex wife. There was never a proposal. No alter. But I’ll always remember how much you loved Long Island. How you cherished each of

our phone calls. How you still think I don’t forgive you. How you just couldn’t get out of your own head, and I’ll admit that I can’t either. That diamond still glistens in my dreams. Shimmering still in my mind. I promise, this is how it feels to be less fond.

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I CAN NEVER MANAGE TO PROPERLY ALIGN my ankle above my toes so my pump fully wedges between the driver’s seat and the gas pedal. I keep a sensible boot on the passenger side for here to there. ----In the critically acclaimed 1994 hit The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert,¹ drag queens Mitzi Del Bra and Felicia Jollygoodfellow and transgender woman Bernadette Bassenger traverse the Australian terrain in their tour bus “Pricilla,” slowly making their way to a summer gig. When first presented with the idea of accompanying the men across the outback, Bernadette is immediately hesitant; she worries

about the drive, the conditions, and, most notably, the company. Though Mitzi tries to encourage her to use the opportunity to “get out of town,” it is drag novice and thorn in Bernadette’s side Felicia who explains the true magic awaiting the queens in the desert: “Ever since I was a lad, I’ve had this dream— a dream that I now finally have a chance to fulfill...To travel to the center of Australia, climb Kings Canyon, as a Queen, in a full-length Gaultier sequin, heels, and a tiara,” Felicia confidently enumerates. “Great. That’s just what this country needs. A cock in a frock on a rock,” Bernadette slickly replies.

Though Bernadette cannot yet understand Felicia’s strange and unusual desire, she and the men load the bus and head into unknown terrain. However, once Mitzi takes Pricilla off-road, the queens slowly begin to interact with their environment, some more eagerly than others. As the film progresses, Bernadette unexpectedly takes a hike through unmarked canyons and up random paths, eventually reaching a cliffside. She stands in white linens, the entire world below her. Meanwhile, Mitzi rehearses the group’s signature number “I Will Survive,”2 bumping and weaving her way through the desert.

The red-hot sun beating down, she stands— in the middle of nowhere— center stage. And, floating angelically above Pricilla as she races down the unpaved road, Felicia, enveloped in silver lamé, soars across the setting sun. Mitzi drives fast. She does not speed. Through these strange, surreal, almost disillusioning moments, Bernadette and the queens reconnect with themselves, entranced by the heat or the landscape or maybe just the feeling of the wind in their gowns. ----The first time I drove in drag I wore a pink headscarf, square sunglasses, and Kiss press-on acrylic nails. Overdressed, I sped down San Fernando freeways, shuffling through my

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“Ladies of the ‘80s” playlist. You’re taking me to the point of no return.3 Though there is power in pedal to the metal, stoplights are always the most exciting. With a gentle sway, the car slowed to stop, my foot resting but ready. I looked to my left to see a man in a truck staring down at me from his elevated seat. I gripped the wheel— not in fear, but in fantasy. I let my fingers dance on the edge of the window and rolled my neck in thought of Thelma and her partner. I could feel my head thump and my palms sweat. Something’s crossed over in me and I can’t go back. I mean I just couldn’t live [before].4 At A and B I am “Sam.” But for the time in-between, for the journey, I am whoever I

damn well please. I turned my gaze to my rearview mirror, then back to the road. To the trucker, then the road again. Green. I floored it. My drag character, at the time in its infancy, is inspired by the freedom inherent in those moments of transition. And though at the time of that car ride I knew I had unlocked a well of power, I did not yet understand the depth of that well. I only knew to take advantage of the moment as Felicia, Mitzi, and Bernadette do so fervently as they traipse across the outback. ----Joni Mitchell sings of a “Calfornia”5 where everything is warmer. A sudden “Urge for Going.”6 Sorrowful, she

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recounts journeys east and west and east again. I am on a lonely road and I am traveling, traveling, traveling, traveling, looking for something, what can it be?7 20 years before Joni sang, my grandparents made their cross country trips from New York and Nebraska. They settled in Los Angeles. In the city, then the suburbs. Sitting together in their modest San Fernando home, they reminisce about gas prices and ice cream flavors as their children and grandchildren grow and grow. Orange light glows from the dimly lit family room and memories flood in. Marilyn recalls the feeling of sitting behind the wheel. Marty remembers the friends, long since passed, who helped him make the journey.

Empty Halls and beveled mirrors. Sailing seas and climbing banyans. Come out for a visit here to be a lady of the canyon.8 I have never driven cross country. I have never known the open road, a map, and a destination, “yes, Mom, I’ll call when I get there!” Yet Joni’s lyrics tug me toward the keys and the ignition. ----“The Mother Road,” Route 66, is one of America’s oldest cross country highways, established in 1926 and stretching 2,400 miles from Chicago to L.A.9 Proving essential as a means of escape for those living in the Great Depression Dust Bowl, the road has come to represent more than a journey west.10 28 | EM SPRING 2021

“66 is the path of a people in flight, refugees from dust and shrinking land, from the thunder of tractors and shrinking ownership, from the desert’s slow northward invasion,” John Steinbeck writes in The Grapes of Wrath, 1939.11 “From the twisting winds that howl up out of Texas, from the floods that bring no richness to the land and steal what little richness is there. From all of these, the people are in flight, and they come into 66 from the tributary side roads...66 is the mother road, the road of flight.” ----My heart beats along to the rhythm of the yellow markings running beneath my car’s underside. Hot wind sweeps across my

browbone. There is a low rumble beneath my feet. It shoots through me, sitting in my stomach and warming my chest. I feel it fill my lungs. The in-between is mystical, hypnotic, alive. Shutting the car door on one life, you decide how fast you go to reach the other. How fast is too fast? ----I named myself Joni 66 after the Mother Road and her favorite traveler. Haunting and desolate, She provides for the lonely wanderer and sustains the tired soul, those lost and weary, drifting from here to there, dreaming of abundance. You wake me up, you say it’s time to ride. In the dead of night. Strange

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“how fast is too fast?”

canyon road, strange look in your eyes...You say, “go fast,” I say “Hold on tight.”12 I have grown infatuated with finding those precious moments when the world feels completely open and I can breathe along to its natural rhythm. Who can I be as I prepare to leave and just before I arrive? In my peripheral, hills woosh by. But just ahead, they wait for me.

Endnotes The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. Directed by Stephan Elliott, performances by Hugo Weaving, Guy Pearce, and Terence Stamp, Polygram Filmed Entertainment, 1994. Thelma and Louise. Directed by Ridley Scott, performances by Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon, MGM, 1991. Ryan, Michael. “Recovering LGBT History Along Route 66.” National Trust for Historic Preservation, 17 July 2018, https://savingplaces.org/ stories/recovering-lgbthistory-along-route-66#. YDqbOpNKg6U “The History of Route 66.” National Historic Route 66 Federation, 16 May 2016, https://www.national66.org/ history-of-route-66/ Steinbeck, John. The Grapes of Wrath. New York City, The Viking Press, 1939.

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THE RED HOUSE is located on Snowberry Circle, that was my first home. A one-level red house located in a cul-desac in the suburbs of Tacoma. It had a pine tree in the front yard. My mom hated that tree in our yard, she had it removed. The red house was the perfect house in my mothers eyes. It was the house I was brought home from the hospital to. It had different colored carpets in every room, 44 | EM SPRING 2021

not just any ordinary carpets either. There was pink carpet, beige carpet, yellow carpet and the furniture was burgundy. And no, it wasn’t a fun house though I imagine we did have a lot of fun. My siblings used to walk to school, something I never experienced. I was in my first and last earthquake in this house and I don’t remember it. Did you know that they document your first home when the hospital sends

your social security card after you’re born? And I already know your next question. What’s my last four digits, haha, very funny. I moved out of this house when I was two years old and the only documentation I have of it is the address attached to my social and the memories my mom relays to me.

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My second home resided in the next city over, Puyallup. I’m going to let you figure out how to pronounce that on your own. This house is my real home on 165th Street or it will always be the default in my mind. I would compare this one to the cookie cutter neighborhoods that pop-up everywhere now, but it’s better than those. You see it’s built different, and therefore is very different. I like to think it’s better

because you couldn’t pass a roll of toilet paper to a neighbor through your window. It had space even though everyone shared a room. 165th was a two story house on point two-five acres. It contained six kids, two parents, and a poodle/shih-tzu named Muffin. I hated sitting at the dining room table. It was long and had six place settings. My mom sat at the head of the table, and my father at the other end. That left four spaces and

six kids. I enjoyed the bar counter situation, and put up a fight when asked to join the rest of the family at the dining table. Being the youngest in the family as the older siblings grew out of our home meant there was space for me, and I didn’t want it. I liked eating at the counter, it was basically right next to the table. And sometimes mom would take the spray hose from the sink and randomly jut it at us across the counter and

we would all squeal. Now this burgundy furniture I remember. We also had carpet, and I rarely have seen homes with hardwood out and about in these neighborhoods. The walls were mauve and that was normal, even in my room. The second floor deck, attached to the kitchen, only had enough room for a chair and a grill eventually expanded to hold a patio set, a hot tub, and a gazebo. I was only allowed to stick my tiny feet into the hot tub, Mom was afraid our tiny bodies would overheat if fully submerged. It was cold outside but I couldn’t 46 | EM SPRING 2021

tell. And then my damp feet would run down the carpeted hallways. Here the shadows are longer and for that reason alone my heart races. I was sixteen when we left this house. It contained three kids, one parent, a bearded dragon, and a poodle/ shih-tzu named Coco. The apartment complex! It sounds like it should reside in a dystopian young-adult novel, but it doesn’t. It was a gated community that had a roundabout and loved dogs such as my social poodle/shih-tzu named Coco. Everything was khaki colored though,

the apartments, the walls, it looked kind of robotic. Coco would fake a limp if she didn’t want to walk up the three flights of stairs after our walks. For being thirteen years old, yeah, I expect her to be this smart and so I carry her up only for her to prance around the apartment perfectly fine. I liked not having mauve walls, I liked having a brown couch rather than a burgundy couch. I hated the ottoman though, it was green. I liked that this carpet was less of a bright off white, it was brown. It had the smell of the new home appliance section in Lowe’s. And though I loved this home, I would have nightmares about home invasions. I would have the same dream three times in one night. Waking up at the end of the dream in the middle of the night, and at the time I didn’t consider it a nightmare so I would just go back to sleep. Only for the same dream to happen. I could remember what had happened in the last dream; and I could change how I reacted but I couldn’t change the outcome. It happened again and again. A blonde man in a red flannel pounding on the door, and I’m alone in the apartment. In my dream there is no furniture save for the dining room table sans chairs. The result was me scrambling to find a hiding spot as I heard him checking rooms throughout the apartment. I truly loved living here and in the

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real world I had nothing to be afraid of. College never felt like a home. I never look at it that way, it’s more of a buffer. My first year at college my home was outside the four walls given to me. I had chicken nuggets in the open air of a rooftop that a concierge desk receptionist told me what not to-do and then keyed me up. They stopped ID-ing me after my third visit. The world is truly made of glass. It might not yet be fully formed glass, but it will get there eventually. On the rooftop, my rooftop (I claimed it since I visit so much) the water shines exactly like the glass buildings, the I’m standing across from and on top of. Water is really only liquid glass. This home though always smelled like a trip to Wendy’s. Frosty run anyone? My last real home was 40 Marion Street here in Boston. It was intimidating but you get over it. And everytime I came home it smelled like Storm, the candle my roommate and I jointly bought. I stopped noticing the smell after a while though. Malcolm in the Middle was constantly on in the background, and I was constantly devouring egg and cheese bagels. And of course we did own food utensils, but looking back 40 Marion Street was a place for eating with your hands. I learned how to crack a crab in this apartment, and my roommate said he was only going to show me

once. It’s very similar to snapping pencils. And then there was the goodbye cake, the most disgusting cake I’ve ever had not because we ate it with our hands, it just tasted like too many sticks of butter. Here is where I learned adulthood truly has no rules. Right now I am back to buffering. These places have given me the ability to see what I like and don’t like. One of my favorite questions in my art history class is “But do you like this painting?” And it really makes me think about why I like things. Do I like them how I just like the color blue? Or is there a contextual reason? And that’s something I try to put into my

daily thoughts. Do I like the painting of how I’ve structured my home, or myself? And you have to give yourself the ability to say no. I’ve done it. I didn’t write about it here, but I’ve lived in plenty of places I didn’t like. However, I’ll probably never visit any of these past homes again. Before I left Washington my family and I did one final drive by my childhood home on 165th Street. I hated seeing the changes they made to our yard, they had repainted the house, and someone else’s car was in the driveway. For me there is only forward and out.

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Lento (40-60 BPM) Nina Simone - “I Put A Spell On You”

to yank at my pigtails and I chased you around the playground.

WE’RE ON TWO SIDES of the same phone call. Your mother knows my name now. Every night, right before dinner, I lay on my stomach and dial your home phone number. We’re children. And we have childish dreams of happiness and hope. We don’t know how much a house costs yet,just that one day we’ll be wildly famous and wealthy like the characters in our favorite shows.

“What if the main character was a spy?” You scream into the phone, excited about your emerging genius.

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We’re in the middle of writing a novel. A new but exciting passion of ours that we’ve spent the past two weeks dedicating every minute to, much to the dismay of our parents who have to force us to go to sleep despite our begging. We disagree about almost everything. “No. I don’t want it to be about a spy. Why can’t it be a soccer player or a talking

dog?” I respond. I hate you. Sometimes. I hate the things you say and the stupid screech of your laugh. You’re never ending chatter and the chips you pack in your lunchbox. You hate my hair and my best friend at school. We fight about the protagonist, threatening to dissolve the novel entirely. For a second, there is silence. I can hear you breathe, the soft inhale and exhale. You don’t hang up. “I like soccer players,” you say.

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Adante (76-108 BPM) The Beatles - “If Fell”


Something about being an upperclassman makes walking out of high school less embarrassing. Ished a small sliver of adolescent awkwardness, leaving just enough anxiety to keep me grounded. I see you in the parking lot. A smile spreads across both of our faces. You call me your best friend, a title I relish in like some sort of Olympic medal. I like the validation that comes from someone loving you enough to label you their greatest companion. It’s platonic. It always has been. Except for occasional intoxicated

contemplations of what it might be like to love each other in that new, unexplored way. We never did it. Mostly, I’m afraid of you. Like a small child, shaking as she hangs her toes over the deep end of a pool only to run back to the shallow side where it is safe and harmless. We’re walking. Presumably towards home. But who knows. Our feet move at the same pace. Right and then left. Our shadows dancing on the cement a sort of waltz. They look in tune and in love. And if one fell I think the other might catch it, gracefully.

Allegro (120-168 BPM) Billy Idol - “Rebel Yell” We’ve spent every night of this summer at the community pool, young and obsessed with feeling anything. The security guard smokes hand rolled joints in the parking lot and trades us freedom in exchange for our silence. We whisper rumored scandals and lie about our virginities. Steal liquor from our parent’s cabinets, carefully transferring the liquid into cloudy water bottles before we learn that water freezes and vodka, like blood, stays warm and alive forever. We will all be grounded by fall. Everyone is sitting in the jacuzzi, except us. I’m not going in the water. I didn’t bring a bathing suit. “Just swim in your underwear.” You tell me. Your eyes different, more more desirable.

look drunk,

Something about my body feels less bare in a bikini than it does in underwear, the only difference being the fabric. My skin is flaky from spending hours in greedy chlorine which robs all the moisture and leaves me gasping for air. My forehead, peeling from a sunburn that I wished would turn into a tan but instead, ran off with the redness and any hopes of a summer glow. I do it anyway. I wrap my arms around my stomach and sit on the 58 | EM SPRING 2021

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edge of the pool while you dive in head first. It’s warm and breezy but the hair on the back of my neck is standing up, tall and alert.

we showed up separately. I see you across the room, contoured by the dimness of the house. You won’t look me in the eye.

I’m not going in the water. The chlorine turns my hair green, a mess I’ll have to deal with in the morning.

You text me later in the evening. I know you’re doing this because you can’t look me in the face when you break my heart. At least you love me that much.

It’s quiet for a second. You reach for my arm and pull me into the pool. I let you. Suddenly, the world excellerates like a heartbeat, time tripping over itself as we entangle our bodies beneath the water. We’re spinning in the contorted blue. Eyes burning and red but open. We come to the surface, gasping for air, emerging like a baptized baby being pulled from holy water. “I’m in love with you.” Vivace (168-176 BPM) Avril Lavigne - “My Happy Ending” It’s been a day since our confessional. I’m still high off whatever drug the brain releases when you feel like you’re in love. When you feel like you’re loved. I’m hopeful, excited for the future, envisioning what’s to come. When you told me you loved me, I didn’t respond. Instead, weary of diving in too quickly, I asked you very clearly, “Are you drunk?”. I was afraid of you. I always have been. You said no. I believed you. We’re at a party now and

It’s a long explanation that you chalk up to confusion and sadness and alcohol. You’re saying lots of things but, really, you just mean to say that you didn’t mean it. I wish you loved me enough to be honest. I’m so sorry that I caused all this. And I really hope this won’t affect our friendship. This won’t ruin our friendship. I couldn’t hate you even if I wanted to. We both know the second part is true. Presto (168-200 BPM) Judy Garland - “Over the Rainbow” I think I always knew it would end like this. That sad, sad suffocation of something so beautiful but so fleeting. A spark so big it had no choice but to explode. We loved each other. I believe that. Sometimes, I like to imagine how perfect we would have been. Polaroid photos of our smiling faces at a festival, on the beach, sticking our heads out

of car windows. I think about what it would be like to tell the story to our friends, explaining how easy it was. How we always knew, even when we were small, restless children on two sides of the same phone call. We loved each other then. We stopped talking after it ended. I put in a good effort to stay friends but our interactions eventually flatlined. It was a natural death, like falling asleep and never waking up. We knew it was coming, no matter how hard I tried to stop it. Sometimes, I think I still love you. I probably do. But mostly, I think the lingering feeling is a result of a lifetime of falling only to never be caught. I’m somewhere in the universe, floating in space. Waiting for something to happen. We never even kissed. How do you recover from the unknown? I’m home from college for winter break and I drive past the community pool and the elementary school where we first met. At the time, the years dripped by like thick honey, taking its sweet time. In retrospect, it all feels fast and out of breath. Sometimes, I can’t even keep up with the memory of us. And sometimes, it all seeps through me, slow like a flesh wound turning to a scar.

Theorems on the Process OF Detachment


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ABSTRACT. SOULMATES. It is as simple and convoluted as that. Can a platonic friendships’ love equate to the love shared between such-close knit partners? Something about us made me believe that the answer had to be yes. How are you left to detach from someone that decided to leave you? That decided what you provided and gave to them was no longer enough? No longer healthy? Answers are left unknown; conversations with myself drive me crazy, and the absence of you weighs on my heart so heavily. Every day equates to heartbreak. It’s a heavy feeling, one that I would argue the human heart has no capacity for. I dive deep, reach with-in, but I am left wandering and grasping out for any semblance of closure that can not be felt. The only thing I am left trying to construct now is the process of letting you go. This feels impossible.

Introduction There’s something intense about reading stories of harrowing heartbreaks. A relief of pressure knowing that you are not the first or the last to get a relationship swiped, cruelly away from you. However, reading in between the lines never works out. Stories shared in between and about the situation never entirely make sense. What’s even more difficult is finding solace in these pieces of words jumbled together, only to explain how you are feeling, not what you are supposed to do with the emotions you are feeling. Thesis Statement Achieving detachment from someone is a result of riding through the loss and the pain that entails. Terms Loss : I no longer have you in my life. Pain: Indescribable. Confusion: I know why? But, why? Why, still? Why, now? Anger: I can’t keep doing this to myself for you. Body Observation research done to conduct the study of letting go of rebuilding again. Test subject arrived back to the environment and began to begin again. Test subject entered new apartments and befriended strangers 62 | EM SPRING 2021

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with names that still feel a little unfamiliar in her mouth. Test subject dove deeper into her relationship because she needed someone to fill the gap that exists within her. Test subject now has a deeper tolerance, she pours more drinks than before and she feels increasingly incomplete. Incomplete without the familiarity, incomplete without the space that she had grown accustomed to calling home, incomplete without the person she used to call home. These observations were collected at phase I of the study, when emotions were fresh and the situation was incomprehensible for the test subject to fully understand. Phase II is

now underway as the test subject conforms better to her environment. The test subject is growing accustomed to her new normal, she is able to do so as she continually pushes away residual aftershocks of what occurred. She is growing into her new relationships, taking active participation in the way she controls her own feelings towards every situation. Test subject is disturbingly comfortable with the loss that used to drive her crazy. Test subject is still noticeably incomplete though. Maybe, she always will be. Observation is still being conducted.

Conclusion There is none. Because it’s not over. This doesn’t feel over. The process of detaching from you seems impossible to complete or I am in a severe place of denial, denial that in some way there is still an us for me to return to. I miss you. You miss me too, I have to believe that you do. Friendships like ours don’t end or maybe they do and this entire piece is ridiculous. You have to answer those questions for yourself everyday and I don’t know how you do it, because I am dying here. Expect I am not, I was, but not anymore. I guess maybe that’s the conclusion I can come to and the one that you need to know-if

they ever is a day where we sit down to have a conversation together. I am no longer miserable without you. It was incredibly hard and the worst hurt I have ever experienced. This still fucks me up, but not how it used to. There are so many things I want to say to you and this is just a vehicle, I guess, to do so. I want you to know how much I love you, I want you to know how sorry I am. I want you to know that however you are feeling about it all is something that I understand I can never change. I want you to know how much I want you back. Or at the minimum, how much I want to have just one conversation with you. 66 | EM SPRING 2021

The funny thing is I don’t think I would talk to you about us or all this. I would be so excited to see your face and feel you in my space again that I would tell you everything you missed. I would tell you that I feel happy againthat it’s not always like this-but for the most part, has been. I would talk to you about the person I am seeing, how much I genuinely care and love him. I know you remember him, we’ll fix the first impression. I would update you about my friends from home and talk to you about how much I missed being around our friends together. I’d show you pictures and videos of Levi. But, most importantly, I

would ask about you. I want to know everything I’ve missed, I want to know that you are happy and healthy, and doing well. I want to know if maybe you are none of those things, if this is the case I would do everything in my power to support you, making up for lost time. But, I hope this isn’t the case. I hope that you are well and that you feel loved. I hope that you have been having fun this entire time and doing you-in whatever way you see fit. I do hope that when we talk again you will say that you’ve missed me. That you still love me. That this detachment process should’ve never been necessary.

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ctrl That is my greatest fear That if, if I lost control Or did not have control, things would just, you know I would be… fatal I ALWAYS SEE SILLY TWEETS about a minor inconvenience occurring in someone’s day, and the various items they cling to, that immediately bring them comfort. It’s been an ongoing conversation, specifically on Twitter and TikTok, about people playing their favorite tv shows or movies to bring them comfort; especially amidst the pandemic. According to psychologist Pamela Rutledge, rewatching a favorite tv show, movie, or replaying the same music provides a feeling of nostalgia and helps sway people’s emotions when the rest of the world feels out of control. Music is at the top of that list for me. When I play one of my favorite albums, or listen to one of my favorite artists; I instantly feel at home. All of these artistic forms that bring us comfort, have the ability to ease stress and anxiety because of their familiarity and certainty. I can admit I fall guilty to rewatching all my favorites shows from The Real Housewives to Broad City; however, music has had an extremely more powerful impact on my life and mental health compared to any other 78 | EM SPRING 2021

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content I’ve been exposed to. My music taste ranges: I like everything excluding country music made after the 90’s, and most intense EDM. I would say one of my personal favorite comfort albums and artists, if not the favorite, is the iconic Ctrl by SZA. Sit back, relax, just ease your mind, just ride Ride, ride, ride, ride You are now watching MADtv When SZA dropped her debut album ‘Z’ in 2014 it featured a new sound in R&B, paired with an array of notorious male artists on the track list. Ctrl, released in 2017, showcased SZA’s ability to refine her sound and enhance her message to it’s clearest yet. The album seemed like a musical gift for a lot

of twenty-somethings, as well as the Gen Z teenagers that were just starting high school. Since then, the album has gone double platinum, produced multiple hit songs, and remained on the Billboard top 100 since it’s debut. SZA’s latest single ‘Good Days’, has already reached platinum level after selling over a million units despite it only being released this past December. Since 2017, SZA has shifted the vibe of the music industry by taking a sound that would typically be written off under the R&B category and incorporated rhythm and blues, while creating a combination of hiphop, neo soul, and trap while staying authentic to Alternative/

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Contemporary R&B. Her angelic voice mixed with hard beats, and beautiful lyrics with at times vulgar (yet relatable) topics, landed her a seat as one of the queens of pop culture. I could be your supermodel if you believe If you see it in me, see it in me, see it in me I don’t see myself SZA dominates pop culture, as her style and aesthetic inspires millions, and her social media presence continues to rise and slaughter. She completely revamped the modern “fairy girl” look and reshaped what it means to be ‘indie’ in the twenty-first century. Modernizing masculine and feminine

looks -baggy clothing, butterflies and sparkles, sneakers, and of course the muted pastel palette. She was able to incorporate intense streetwear looks with a softer girlier undertone, allowing different fashion borders to be broken. You came with your new friends And her mom jeans and her new Vans And she’s perfect and I hate it Anything SZA posts about or that is posted about her almost always goes viral, as young people can’t wait to see what she creates next. Over the summer an original leaked version of Love Galore was on the scene, which was eventually

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replaced by the Travis Scott feature. The sound went viral on Tik Tok for weeks, because the community fell in love with the original version. The recording was only about thirty seconds, but it was all about focusing on creating the best version of yourself, in the most empowering way. The motivation we all craved mid summer. I be looking good, I’ve been feeling nice Working on my aura, cleaning up Working overtime, you be getting boring so Skrt skrt, give me room room Her ability to captivate a whole audience and get them hyped for a new album off a thirty second unreleased verse from her 2017 project demonstrates her talent and how powerful she is. There’s not a day that goes by online where someone isn’t tweeting or hashtagging for SZA to drop her new album. She’s one of those artists that can quite literally feed people’s souls and take them out of whatever negative headspace they may be in. Whether you’re a SZA stan or not, ‘Good Days’ is the best quarantine related release, as it just focuses on how to remember and hold on to happy moments.

All the while, I’ll await my armored fate with a smile Still wanna try, still believe in (good days) Good days, always (good days) Always inside (always in my mind, always in my mind, mind) As a college student, I think one of the most prevalent emotions among my peers and I, especially right now, is stress. With the world we’re living in today, all of us are just trying to navigate our society and how we’re supposed to live in it. For me at least, it seems like everytime I really sit down and plan something it all goes to shits. Some days it just

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feels like nothing is going right and it could all come crashing down at any moment. I don’t think any of us expected our college experience to look like this. Even though most of us are having a good time and making the best of the current situation, this was supposed to be the time in your life that you look back on forever and “find yourself” or whatever. It almost feels like we’re being robbed of one of the most exciting times of adolescence. I just want to walk down Boylston with my girls, and sometimes guys, in my cutest outfit just ready to take on the day and adventure. Recently it seems like my anxiety has definitely been trickling in more than

usual. I’ve been all over the place this past year, and I feel like all I do is my silly little routine, go home and sit in my room, bored, thinking about what a movie this life has been. I get so lonely, I forget what I’m worth We get so lonely, we pretend that this works I’m so ashamed of myself think I need therapy-yy-y If I’m being honest, music like SZA’s, is one of the reasons I’m still here today. People listen to music when it’s relatable to their lives and SZA is the kind of artist that has the power to trigger emotions in everyone, regardless of your

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identity. However, her experience as a black woman is what sets her aside from so many other artists and is crucial to be shared with society. Black women are made to feel like they need to censor their opinions, and can’t express a lot of their emotions and frustrations out of fear of being labeled in a certain light. SZA was able to break that mold by being shameless in her emotions whether they are negative or positive, which evidently resonates with a large audience. Her music advocated and gave a voice to so many women of color that was absent before. I’m sorry I’m not more attractive I’m sorry I’m not more ladylike I’m sorry I don’t shave my legs at night We had a fairy princess come on the scene who had no shame in beautifully singing and preaching on how it feels to be cheated on, experiencing depression and anxiety, feeling broke, and what it means to be a bad bitch. In a way SZA normalized and made it cool to talk about your anxieties through the power of music. In her song ‘Normal Girl’ she sings about various social constructs and pressures that young women are put under. I really wish a was a normal girl How do I be, how do I be your baby? Normal girl, ohhh I wish I was a normal girl, oh babe

I’ll never be, no never be, uh-yeah The moral of the song is that there is no such thing as a “normal girl”. We are all just looking for a place to belong, and if sometimes that means you end up alone… so be it. If someone doesn’t want to be a part of your energy, or vice versa, that’s fine, but it’s important to always treat others with respect no matter the situation. I think she is trying to emphasize that being happy with yourself is the most important moral. Fearin’ not growin’ up Keepin’ me up at night Am I doin’ enough? Feel like I’m wastin’ time Although I enjoyed my high school experience, I would not have made it without music like Ctrl being released. I was acting like I was older than I really was, bouncing through friend groups, and just looking for the next cool thing to do. My grades were good, but emotionally I was on airplane mode for most of it, and I was never really able to get out of that headspace for those four years. I’ve been hanging out with my high friends And we too stoned to pay attention, now (Much too cool for 7th grade) Ctrl is the album that has been with me throughout all the major moments of my young adult life. It was there

when I was crying down the California coast after a breakup, or screaming the lyrics with whoever was in my passenger seat. When I need a boost of main character energy it never fails, and the album continues to guide me as I go farther into adulthood and change my perspective on the world around me. I turned 20 in February, so getting to blast 20 something for real… I knew I had made it. I think right now it’s really easy to lose sight of who you are, because of the tempo of our society. However, music is so powerful in the sense that you can always go back and find yourself within it. Thank you queen SZA, for being my, and this generation’s, inspiration. Hopin’ my 20 somethings won’t end Hopin’ to keep the rest of my friends Prayin’ the 20 somethings don’t kill me, kill me

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CHANCES ARE IF YOU’VE SPENT ANY EXTENDED PERIOD OF TIME IN THE ROOM OF A FILM MAJOR, or a pretentious art school attendee of any kind, you’ve been made to sit quietly and appreciate their Criterion box set of The Before Trilogy. I say this with full humility and self86 | EM SPRING 2021

awareness as my own copy stares back at me from across the room. Well, maybe not full selfawareness, I still own it. But, why is it that we all seem to collectively own and agree upon the sanctity of this particular trilogy? There’s the obvious: critical acclaim, Ethan

Hawke and Julie Delpy are a bisexual’s dream cast, and I think we’re all a little obsessed with the idea of love at first sight. However, there’s also something inherently attractive about pieces of media, films especially, that take place over just one day.

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I won’t make some broad sweeping statement about these oh-so-very unprecedented times, but I will say that every day feels like a year and months pass by faster than some of the more memorable hours of my childhood. Part of this is what it’s like to be trapped inside with so few options, but more than that I think it might just be growing up and experiencing the passage of time in a new way. When we put on a movie we get to live through days, months, and sometimes years of a life. The most boring and mundane parts are omitted and we’re left with only the truly special, shining moments that make for the best one-liners. So, I guess it’s natural to want to take those perfect moments and distill them into an hour and a half to two hours. But, films that take place over a contained amount of time get to be even more particular about the moments they portray. It could be a conversation and meditation about life that never ends, or it could be a neckbreaking anxiety nightmare of the worst time of someone’s life. However, they all have one thing in common. One thing that is what draws us to them. They’re relationship-driven. So, let’s take a look at Before Sunrise, a film all about people wandering around looking for someone to connect with. In his 1995 film, Richard Linklater does not put up a front with any particular premise

or have a countdown to a terrible fate, outside of the lovers parting, to frame his story. Two strangers decide to get off a train in Vienna and spend one night together wandering the streets and having the kind of conversations that make you wonder if Linklater ever really said that to someone in real life. However, they’re the kind of conversations most of

IT'S THE kind OF night PEOPLE WRITE SONGS ABOUT us wish we were having. The film is unashamedly romantic, and while the characters spend their time being selfaware and dissecting their self-awareness the film is not overly critical or embarrassed by its goal and how it’s perceived. It’s the kind of night people write songs about, and that makes for a compelling reason as to why we all own it on DVD. Time is limited, they only have until sunrise when Ethan Hawke’s character must catch a plane back to the U.S. and they may never see each other again,

but that’s half of the allure. There is something so safe and comforting about opening up to someone you never have to see again. The way time is experienced by the viewer throughout the movie is heightened, of course, but simultaneously rings true. The audience is not made to live through every minute of the night but is still allowed to sit in prolonged shots with few to no cuts of the two characters simply talking. This patience is not typically what people come to the movies for, but it’s one of the more accurate ways I’ve seen the passage of time portrayed on film. The film has a unique opportunity in that it can be extremely life-like and skirt documentary territory in its quest to show what it’s like to watch the minutes of a day ticking by. On the other hand, sometimes the most accurate reflections of time are those few seconds before someone kisses you for the first time that somehow feels like years. Before Sunrise gives us an entire movie full of moments just like that. It walks the line between soliloquy and love story which is how most people experience most of their lives. Thus far this has sounded as though I am simply singing the praises of a movie that has already had its praises sung by people who know more about it than I do. So, don’t worry, there is a caveat coming. While I love this movie and

oftentimes wish I could curl up inside it and live there, it did not do much to help my hopeless romantic tendencies. My tendencies that tell me love at first sight exists, and that spending your life carrying the hopes of the night you meet someone is a sustainable course of action. Unfortunately, it’s not. Obviously, it was not Linklater’s job to curb the misguided ideals of my childhood, but it wasn’t just him, it was almost every piece of media I’ve ever consumed. Everyday narratives of destiny and soulmates and one perfect night with

someone are shoved down our throats, and it begins to feel that if you’re not experiencing these life-changing moments with strangers then there must be something wrong with you. Single moments are so precious to us because they don’t carry the weight or pressure of an entire relationship, and it’s further romanticized by movies. People become convinced that real love and connection are found in short unsustainable bursts. That unless every night is as profound as walking down the streets of Vienna in

the 90s it isn’t real love or understanding. Both, fortunately, and unfortunately, that isn’t really how time or people work. Maybe films can sometimes get the feelings right, but they still end up messing with our perception of reality. You cannot know a person in one night, and they cannot know you. It’s harder and it’s scarier the more you know someone. There’s a chance that they won’t like you as much as they liked the idea of you. That they’ll get tired of you, grow to hate the things you can’t control, or, even worse, grow indifferent. But,

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be something wrong with you.

to be eternally looking for someone new, and never get farther than surface level with someone is exhausting. I do not doubt that I, and most people like me, will continue to seek out media like The Before Trilogy. Media that is essentially strangers coming to realizations about themselves while talking and falling in love with each other. It’s comforting to watch and pretend for a little while that someone will come along who you can pour your heart and soul out to, and that person will listen when you talk. I’m not saying that isn’t possible, but I also know that placing those expectations on someone you’ve just met isn’t fair to either of you. So, we can have our movies about our perfect nights, as long as we remember that they’re movies and that they can’t really show us how time passes. We have to experience that one the long way.


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A FEW WEEKS AGO, I decided to start following Paris Hilton on social media. I’d always had this sort of disdain for her growing up. To me, she was nothing but a controversial magazine spread at grocery store checkouts, doctors’ offices, and airport convenience shops. But things are different now. She’s back in the spotlight, this time as the revered voice of a generation. Unlike other celeb-turned-influencers, Paris avoided the money-grab phases in her climb back to fame. There were no Sugar Bear Hair or Curology partnerships, no nostalgia posts of her old career, and no overpriced makeup lines. She became an ambassador not of a brand, but of a social movement: Breaking Code Silence. This fringe campaign to raise awareness of the Troubled Teen Industry saw a massive flare in popularity once Paris joined in. It started with a video she posted in October 2020. Her face was solemn, her voice sounding deeper than usual. She detailed the unseen trauma of her teen years, beckoning others to come forward. “I see you, survivor,” she said. My stomach dropped. What she’d described here was my life only a number of years ago. If you’re wondering what it’s like to live in the simulation that is the Troubled Teen Industry, here’s your crash course.

A MONTAGE OF MY LIFE AS A FIFTEEN, SIXTEEN, AND SEVENTEEN-YEAR-OLD AT A RESIDENTIAL TREATMENT CENTER IN SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH 7AM – I wake up. My roommates and I clean feverishly, racing to finish within fifteen minutes. But the vacuum is being used across the hall; we go over time. We’re punished — first strike of the day. 7:15AM Breakfast. Just like every meal, my food is measured out precisely before me. We couldn’t do it ourselves; we were greedy, gluttonous. Staff watch my every bite like a hawk. Elbows off the table, no messy eating. My stomach rumbles when I’m done. I clean again. To my relief, I’m on time. 8AM We work out. Today, it’s at the public pool. My skin crawls as I put my bathing suit on. The girl next to me is on her period. They force her in anyways. She’s embarrassed, trying not to cry. Later on, I notice a pain in my knee. Once we’re done, I ask if I could see a doctor. Staff says no. I’m probably faking it. (A year later, I had to get surgery on it.) On our way back home, we see our neighbor standing in his driveway. An old man, crotchety and full of anger. He’s got these signs in his front yard: “TROUBLED TEEN MONEY MACHINE! BECOME DISABLED FOR ONLY $10,000 A MONTH!” He gives us the finger. In retrospect, I’d do the same. 9AM I shower. 10 minutes max. I hurry into the classroom, passing my roommate being reprimanded. Her hair is too nappy, too unkempt. Staff brings out a hair straightener. 12PM Lunch. Same shit as before. At random, a girl bolts out the door in a desperate attempt to escape. It doesn’t work. She’s grounded for a month. 1PM Group therapy. Today’s is special: a surprise intervention, just for me. I enter the room to see every single therapist, program director, and staff shift manager. I’ve been secretly relapsing, causing too much trouble in the house, my private journal — which staff could read to at their discretion — is filled with profanities and angry rants, and to quote them, I’m being a bitch. To be perfectly honest, I kind of was. But boy, did they put an end to that. The program’s executive director/founder looks me dead in the eyes for an entire hour, foaming at the mouth as she hurls insult after insult. The rest of the room stares on at me. All of my housemates — my only friends — eyes are filled with fear. I’m utterly drained once the hour’s up. I sob for an hour. I’m grounded for a month, and not allowed to speak to anyone without permission. An extra punishment for missing school. The following day was probably my worst birthday ever.

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3PM Art class. I happen to be sitting a *little* too close to another openly queer student/patient. Staff REALLY doesn’t like this. Truth is, I really did have a thing for her. But this is Salt Lake City — I picked up from the predominantly Mormon staff team that queerness can only be tolerated to an extent. My crush is grounded for a month. 5PM All of the student/patients tally up all of the punishments we’ve received that day. Too many and you’d get what was basically detention: no talking to others, only writing essays about our mistakes from earlier. As the staff team helps verifies our tallies, one realizes she didn’t meet her quota for punishments-per-day. She hands one out to an unsuspecting student for their messy handwriting. 5:15PM We’re allotted a brief journal entry. I’d been teaching myself morse code for this; after all, nothing I say belongs to me anymore. I write more profanities in dots and dashes. 5:30PM – More cleaning. After a half-hour, I’m covered in sweat and dirt. I get in trouble for a patch of dust in the corner of the room that I’d failed to wipe up. 6PM Dinner, cleaning. As I’m mopping the floor for the third time that day, I start to have an allergic reaction at random. Staff says I’m faking; I’m not allowed to stop cleaning. I throw up. 7PM The rest of the night, I’m curled up in a ball on the floor. I get in trouble for faking it. 7:15PM – Down the hall, a girl is breaking down in tears. She’s in trouble for processing Trump’s recent election — but political conversations are forbidden here. She’s grounded for a week. 7:30PM A brief phone call with my parents. No more than fifteen minutes. Staff sits five feet away, making sure I don’t say a single bad word about the program. 8PM A house meeting, and for those who were not grounded, dessert. My friend takes an extra portion, winking at me. Staff sees the fun-size M&Ms tucked into her sleeve, and she’s grounded for a month. I’m punished for not ratting her out. 9:30PM Bedtime. As the nighttime staff arrive, we’re not to bother anyone. My hallmate asks to use the bathroom, getting in trouble for leaving her bed. They say no. She can’t hold it. Another punishment. I’m still having trouble breathing, so I ask for my inhaler. “Not right now,” they say. I’m in trouble for leaving my bed.

10PM - 1AM After the pain subsides, I’m drifting off to sleep. Just like every night, I fantasize about the day I leave. In the program’s advertisements, our stay usually lasts around nine months on average. But they always seem to stretch that into eighteen. 7AM The next day, I wake up to a staff member scowling at me. Another grounding — this time, for talking in my sleep. This is good for me. This is good for me. This is good for me. This is good for me. It had never occurred to me that this thing I’d gone through was problematic. Like, at all. My family and I would speak highly of it, even going so far as to recommend residential treatment centers to other families in crisis. In my mind, these allegations of abuse were merely melodramatic cries for vengeance. I turned my nose up. I was special, different…or so

I thought. In reality, my denial was informed by internalized distrust of myself, and my fellow survivors. The damage went deeper than I could comprehend. When I tried to access the memories, I hit a wall. I’d unknowingly forced them into an impenetrable vault. I looked inside; what I was able to recollect felt foreign to me. These memories belonged to a stranger. The realization that I was still under the influence of Stockholm Syndrome hit me like a ton of bricks, despite the trauma being in such plain sight. For years, I’ve had frequent recurring nightmares of my life in 2016-2018. I feel it when I wake up, too: the constant sensation of being watched at all times; the compulsion to ask permission before entering or exiting a room; the wariness I feel when lowering my voice. I couldn’t break my rule of suppressing my emotions at the risk of being reprimanded, resulting in a two-year period of being physically unable to cry. Most of all, I chained myself the belief that I can never be more than a reprobate. A troubled

teen. Memories can only stay locked up for so long. I willed myself to look deeper into the hidden well of guilt and embarrassment around this incomprehensible tangle of memories, eventually recognizing the abnormality of it all. This period of “self-exploration” wasn’t the unique, empowering opportunity that staff and directors made it out to be. Behind the pomp and frill, it was outright captivity. Thanks to Paris, us survivors have started to speak out. There’s a Change. org petition to take down the program, and even a burgeoning lawsuit against them. I’m still too ashamed to help garner attention, but it helps to know I’m not crazy. That I’m not selfish for feeling robbed of my teenagehood. That I deserved better. I doubt I’ll ever stop wondering what would’ve been — though I know finding the answer is a wild goose chase. I never thought I’d say this, but I from the bottom of my heart: I really, really hope I’ll be like Paris Hilton someday.

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MY BED IS THE PLACE WHERE I FEEL the incessant tempo of time most vividly. Not even within the confines of my own sleeping sanctum am I able to escape the whirring, omnipresent ticking of time. When I was five, I found myself suspended in a nightmarish dreamscape. I was trapped inside an antique clock store where the ticking sound was synonymous to blaring sirens. It was a noise that refused to be settled, causing my mind to do the same. I wanted to navigate the seemingly infinite maze of timepieces, all united by their ability to monitor the infinite seconds that compose daily life. The grandfather clock looked at me, its large, flat face was staring at me — or maybe it was reflecting the spiraling horrors of my own mind, the thoughts that are beyond my control. I was sequestered inside a kind of sanctuary whose spirituality had been replaced by the temporal echo of ticking clocks. My gaze was interrupted by the soothing sway of a pendulum. Its momentum continuing on unchallenged, the only threat it faces is a sludgehammer, but I was never one for violence. Oh and then there’s the comical chant of the cuckoo clock — how delectable, its humorous cry in the face of my trauma, how unconcerned the face of time always appears. But not the face of the ominous black cat who was looming over me, he was the reason why I was paralzyed. No, no, it wasn’t one of those clocks with the want-to-be cheshire smile — not the battery powered, plastic encased kind whose wagging tail and eye movement are the markers of the time. The cat I saw was not a tchotchke plastered on the wall, but rather it was flesh and blood. There was something twisted about my inability to move in this moment. My static posture was a cruel curse to face while surrounded by tacit manifestations of never ending movement, time is always moving forward yet I cannot take a single step. But

I can’t remember if the cat’s piercing gaze saw through me in the same way that the grandfather clock did because in a matter of seconds, the scene was gone and so was I. It was as if an amateaur magician had just performed their most evocative escape plan because with a puff of smoke, my personal dreamscape, scenery that could only be equated with the cluttered chaotic set of an “I Spy” hidden picture’s book, had vaporized into nothingness. This liminal space is where I have been suspended, the place where imbolity takes the place of time’s constant dynamism and the habitat where nothingness thrives. As the sand ran out of my dream’s 108 | EM SPRING 2021

hourglass, the debris formed the foundation of a future nightmare. I was never held captive in an antique clock store, but there was a store like that in my hometown, the kind you can only help but wonder how they stay in business. However, the lack of reality behind my experience does not change the fact that I continue to be haunted by the minatory tempo of time. I suppose that this dream I had when I was five was a portentous prophecy for events that would ensue over a decade later. But my relationship with time was not always so strained. I used to cherish time and my misguided belief that I could wield some kind of control over it.

I spent countless hours huddled over a planner, parsing out my spare minutes into neat little boxes. I took pride in my leather bound planner, a small book that had been imbued with the same emotional weight one might ascribe to a diary. When asked what super power I would most desire, my answer was always to control time and I could channel that ambition through the pages of my timetables. Perhaps I merely overinternalized my father’s wise words, “I’d rather be an hour early than a minute late.” But I relied on time to monitor the daily occurrences of my life. I always rush to the next event, never one to be marked tardy on attendance, or miss an important meeting —

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not because I was so eager to engage in the activities of my often monotonous life, but because I was simply following the orders of time. Matters of the future were not in my control, but I could pretend I had a say in the matter by living my life tethered to the revolving hands of time. Although I loathed the reactions of my friends when they chastised me for insisting on an early arrival or acted incredulous when they discovered my use of military time, the methodical approach to time keeping allowed me to feel grounded. When the pandemic began, I still felt safe as I tucked myself in between the neat squares of the calendar I drew onto my chalkboard wall. In an attempt to introduce a sense of normalcy into my newly quarantined lifestyle, I etched my apprehension into my wall as I methodically drew chalk lines to create the guise of order and control. With a color coded key to manage all of the many tasks I once

was responsible for, I thought I knew what I could expect. I suppose I found an escape through my false sense of power. Thinking I could control time, I was lulled by what I believed was its rhythmic melody. There was a sense of relief ushered in by the first stay at home order that served as the impetus to a series of quarantined months that stretched into a year. The number of tests that I no longer had to take and classes I no longer had to go to appeared to be the perfect cure all for my progressive case of senioritis. After years of stress and careful calculations I now had the time for nothingness. Time appeared to stop and a part of me felt like I had finally achieved my superpower — but in reality, my desire to control time was slipping farther and farther away, like sand falling through a bottomless hourglass. I really tried to maintain my calendar, but soon my coveted systems of time management became like the bug infested succulent I abandoned outside: a neglected thing that was a reminder of what could have been.

For the first few months I took my time drawing and redrawing the calendar’s grid, watching the excess chalk coat my floor, as I desperately searched for events I could plan or something I could look forward to. But eventually, this practice became too disheartening for there wasn’t anything to plan and there was no reason to carefully contemplate how I will divide up my time. I had lost the typical cadence of my daily life and I felt out of touch with time, who was once one of my closest companions. I felt betrayed. The days turned to weeks which simultaneously felt like months and single seconds. Somehow months metamorphosed

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into an entire year and yet each minute drags on and seems to repeat itself, as if time is progressing nowhere. But that is the worst part, that time has persisted and is entirely unbothered with my temporal reality. I feel as though I have slipped out of time and I don’t know how to get back into it. Even now that the idea of a pandemic has become commonplace, I cannot seem to rejoin time’s rhythm. My calendar now lives on my laptop screen, not my wall, where I am free to manipulate it with a simple click-drag maneuver, but still I feel disconnected. In some ways, life has returned; my daily schedule is now filled with classes, assignments, and obligations, but nothing feels right. No matter how many ways I rearrange my schedule or attempt to find a glimmer of normalcy, I wake up to relive a day that I have already lived countless times. I once could not seem to escape the time’s incessant, ticking tempo, but now I long for the days where I felt close to the looming presence of time. I struggle to hear the lulling rhythm of time and I crave to feel the security of its seductive flow. I have lost track of time, but not in the sense that I am enjoying myself or blissfully sweeping through the hours of my day. Instead, I am trapped by something that I no longer feel close too.


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SICKLY-SWEET MEMORIES of my Midwestern childhood summers are drenched in the syrupy golden sounds of Phil Collins’ soundtrack for Disney’s animated feature Brother Bear, which my mother often played on the tape deck of her beat-up Chrysler minivan. I haven’t seen the movie recently, nor do I plan to revisit it anytime soon, yet I’m enveloped in nostalgic fondness for the warmth of my adolescence whenever I’m reminded of the existence of cassette tapes. Neither cell phones nor auxiliary cords existed to my mother or I during our Brother Bear era, and the thought of audio streaming was, at that time, unthinkably out of reach; my toddler feet, while strapped into a car seat in the back of the Chrysler, couldn’t even reach the floor. Mom and I kept our best-loved songs in cracked jewel cases and on scratched CDs, and we’d read their lyrics from stained and torn booklets we’d cram

into the glove compartment, or lose beneath the minivan seats. As I got older, I’d sneak into my older sister’s bedroom to steal glimpses at her collection of middle school mix-CDs and would, if I was feeling especially cheeky, slip them under my shirt as I skittered across the upstairs hallway to the darkness of my bedroom closet, where I’d listen to them on a portable player and Radioshack headphones. There was an affectionate, naive inefficiency in how I listened to music in my early childhood, and it’s something for which I’ve desperately searched amongst the chaos of my young adulthood. The purposeful feeling of conscious deliberation fastened to the intimate process of fingering through physical editions of my favorite albums is one I deeply miss. In this contemporary digital age, dominated by media streaming and material minimalism, I’m grasping

for something tangible— perhaps magnetic tapes and the plastic casings of my favorite old compact discs—to bring me closer to any memory of that intimacy, that deliberate ownership of the media I care about, as I possibly can. I haven’t quite found it, but in recent months, I’ve been getting closer. … I’ve spent most of my young adult life, distinct from those late-stage years of my adolescence and then teenagehood, trying to downsize my belongings. Just before shipping halfway across the country to college at the age of eighteen, and increasingly conscious of the fact that for the next decade of my life I’d be moving in and out of cramped living spaces, I decided to reduce my personal clutter down to the bare minimum. All in an attempt to make my impending cross-country move a bit easier, I halved my closet, purged the plastic containers underneath my full-size bed of childhood sports trophies or elementary school artwork, rid my bookshelves of anything I hadn’t read or decided I wouldn’t read again in the next year, and cleared my medicine cabinet of any expired or excess luxuries that would demand too much space from the impending reality of my student living conditions. This process of possessive expulsion proved to be especially bewildering for a shamefullyprofessed maximalist like myself, as I 128 | EM SPRING 2021

spent my teenage years overconsuming nearly everything— food, cosmetics, cheap clothing, shitty network television shows— yet felt particularly tied to none of it. Instead, it was those physical reminders of my social existence in my youth, like fourthgrade art projects and middle school t-shirts I hadn’t worn in years, that provided me with a sense of security and connection to the world around me. I knew I had to get rid of those objects at some point, and eventually, I did. …

Do you need this entire box of CDs? I thought this to myself as I packed my mother’s shiny midsize SUV—an upgrade from her red Chrysler minivan—to move from my parents’ home in Ohio into a four-bedroom apartment in the heart of the Allston neighborhood of Boston, Massachusetts. Along with a hardshell suitcase full of clothes, a box of kitchen utensils, and a nightstand I’d found on the side of the road, and my mother, I drove my box of CDs twelve hours across the American northeast. I had purchased the Ben

Folds Five album from a family-owned record store a few summers prior, stolen the Regina Spektor CD from the tower in my older sister’s bedroom, and found the Dixie Chicks record in a shattered jewel case outside of my most regularly frequented Goodwill. The rest, I acquired in equally sundry ways. In this latestage of my adolescence, I clung to the sounds of my childhood as I rid my physical spaces of extraneous fashion items and expired lotion bottles. I knew that I had to let go of the the souvenirs, the snowglobes, and the participation ribbons in order to thrust my adult life into momentum; I let the music that scored my childhood remain in a physical form, unifying the past and the present, the youthfulness of my mind, and my hopes for the future. I should’ve packed a CD player. … My collection of CDs collected dust on the lowest shelf on my bookcase until three weeks ago. They were difficult to load in and out of my mother’s midsize SUV, difficult to haul up the stairs of my Allston walk-up, difficult to keep alphabetized, and difficult to look at. They take up too much room, I thought, cluttering a space that could otherwise be completely empty. Totally bare. Full of possibilities.

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“I couldn't even listen to them, so they did nothing but sit there, seemingly stare at me, and make me miss my mom.”

Open to future opportunities. I thought about taking the CDs down from my shelf, one by one, and pitching them, then throwing their plastic jewel cases and lyric booklets into the recycling bin and leaving them out by the road on trash day. I couldn’t even listen to them, so they did nothing but sit there, seemingly stare at me, and make me miss my mom. I loafed down the rickety stairs of my dilapidated Allston apartment and grabbed a garbage bag from beneath the kitchen sink. Then, from the kitchen window, I saw a red Chrysler rumble down my city street. I bought a CD player at the thrift store for $9.99 the next day.

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off key

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the fashion industry has a fatphobia problem. WORDS JESS FERGUSON

Too often, mid- and plus-sized fashion creators on social media are shamed by commenters for supporting fastfashion companies. Fast fashion, motivated by capitalism, is the mass production of clothing sold at cheap price points at the expense of workers. Some examples of fast-fashion brands are Forever 21, SHEIN, H&M, Primark, and Urban Outfitters. Their focus is to produce trendy, cheap clothes that will often go out of style quickly, prompting consumers to buy more clothes to keep up with the ever-changing

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trends. Naturally, these pieces are appealing because they are so inexpensive, allowing shoppers to participate in trends like cow print, puffer jackets, and corsets without breaking the bank. Once the style inevitably goes out of fashion, they won’t have to worry about wasting their money. However, this perpetuates a damaging cycle in which buyers are constantly purchasing and discarding clothes, contributing to a massive textile waste problem, which in 2018 alone totalled 17

million tons, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. As much as I try to avoid fast fashion whenever possible, I—like many others—am guilty of buying it, too. When not shopping second-hand, some of my go-to stores include American Eagle, Old Navy, and Target because they I know what the sizing is like and don’t have to worry about getting something that doesn’t fit. Since many in-person stores closed their fitting rooms due to COVID, it’s easier for me to buy a pair of jeans from American Eagle that I know will

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fit, in comparison to a pair of jeans from Savers that may not fit and that I won’t be able to return. I do, however, try to avoid the more problematic brands like SHEIN, Forever 21, Zaful, Fashion Nova, and Zara. It makes sense that some may be disappointed in creators for promoting these irresponsible brands; however, the attitude toward thinner creators does not seem to be the same. Instead of being considered problematic, they are fashion icons who viewers aspire to be like. Midand plus-sized creators are constantly silenced, criticized, and even shadowbanned (meaning their content is taken off users’ personalized ‘for you pages’) for speaking out about issues affecting bigger people. And although we all can be doing more to

shop sustainably, there are often other factors at play. A black turtleneck from SHEIN costs $7 and runs from XS-3X. However, a comparable top from the more sustainable Everlane costs $38 and runs from XXS-XL. The Everlane top is more ethical and would likely last longer than the SHEIN top, but SHEIN’s is more accessible because of its price and size range. For many lowerincome individuals who are struggling to make ends meet as is, they may find it difficult to justify shelling out the money for the more expensive piece, even if it is the overall better option. And for others, if the sustainable brands don’t carry their sizes, then they are forced to find a brand that will, even if it does not align with their personal values.

Ranging from a size 1214, I’m forced to juggle ethics, sustainability, money, and sizing every time I want to buy clothes. Recently, I wanted to buy one of those tie-up cropped cardigans. I first searched Depop, an app where users can buy and sell their secondhand fashion items. However, as is often the case, most of the options were XS and S, which don’t fit me. I searched the internet for better brands and even kept my eye out when I went thrifting with my sister; however, the only place that I could find something that I wanted, and that was within my size and budget was H&M. For the past few years, I have avoided shopping from H&M because I know they’re a problematic brand; however, I genuinely wanted the

item and could not find it anywhere else. Sometimes, other factors stand in the way of shopping sustainably. Thrifting is a strong option for sustainable, often inexpensive clothing. Arguably, this would be the best option for those who are able to because as ethical as brands like Reformation and Everlane are, they are still creating new pieces, which does have an impact on the environment, whereas thrifted pieces already existed and would otherwise get thrown away. If you’ve ever been to a thrift store, you’ll know that it’s a big ordeal. There are racks upon racks of clothes, and some items are damaged, dated, or unappealing. To find good pieces, you have to be willing to devote a decent amount of time to individually go through each hanger, in comparison to an in-person retail store where there is a more clear, organized layout. Thrifting is a privilege. Many people don’t have the time to

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take out of their day to find viable items that fit them and suit their style, especially those working long hours, or those who need to care for their families. Furthermore, bigger people on average earn less than thinner people do, according to Forbes, further demonstrating the inequity these groups find when trying to find clothes. So while it is one of the best forms of supporting slow fashion, we have to understand that some people just don’t have that luxury. I am lucky enough to be able to thrift, and even I have my qualms with it. There just aren’t the same options for sizes L and upward. Many brands have the misconception that bigger people shouldn’t or don’t want to dress in the same styles of those who are thinner, leading to the overuse of tired fashion tropes. I find myself having a harder time finding items that both suit my style and fit me, in comparison to my thinner friends and family members. Even

though I’m mid-sized, I do find thrifting a difficult task, despite how much I enjoy it, and I can’t imagine it being any easier for those who are bigger than I am. The average women’s size in the U.S. is between 14-18, according to the International Journal of Fashion Design, Technology, and Education. So then why doesn’t popular fashion reflect that? Why, then, is a size medium generally considered between 6-10, if that does not represent the average woman? If so many women are this size, why do many stores not carry this size, and if they do, it’s within a limited “plus size” section? And shouldn’t these clothes cater to these body types and their proportions? Do these consumers not deserve to find pieces suitable for them? All of these questions remain largely unanswered, despite years of research and outspoken action from individuals directly affected by fatphobia within the fashion

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industry. Even though spending $40 upfront on a sustainable top may seem unrealistic, if you have the means to do, it is an investment that will last you a lifetime. Although in the moment, fast-fashion items are cheaper and more accessible, they often quickly fall apart because they’re poorlymade, and if they’re more trendy items, they’ll eventually go out of style. It is imperative that, whenever possible, we adopt a slow fashion mindset, where we prioritize buying our wardrobe staples, like jeans, turtlenecks, sweaters, and T-shirts, sustainably, and only buying new items occasionally when needed. Over time, the cost of fast fashion items that you continue to purchase every season will be on-par with, or even surpass, the cost of pieces from a sustainable company. We have to adjust our attitude toward these content creators, and people in general, who buy fast fashion

out of necessity, not desire. And if you feel compelled to point out the ethical issues with fast-fashion companies, be motivated to do so for educational, not shameful, reasons.. For instance, instead of saying, “I can’t believe you’re supporting child labor,” consider saying, “I just wanted to let you know about the ethical issues with companies like this, and I encourage you do some research into what goes on when these clothes are made.” Another way to be more conscious of the types of companies you support, you can search the companies on websites like goodonyou. eco, which assess both the sustainability and ethics behind many popular brands on a scale from 1 (we avoid) to 5 (great) and explain why the brand received that rating. Some companies, like H&M, try to ‘greenwash’ their products, meaning that they mislead consumers into thinking they are more ethical and environmentally

conscious than they actually are. So, websites like Good on You can be helpful to cut through the deception that many brands feed us with. We can all be doing more to reduce our carbon footprint. Even the most sustainable people may use a plastic straw or shop from an unsustainable store. However, we need to prioritize being sustainable wherever we can. If it’s not feasible for us to fully incorporate sustainability into our wardrobe, then try to implement it in areas like food or beauty products. Fast fashion is in no way acceptable or ethical, but that does not make it okay for people to shame bigger people who are often disregarded or considered an afterthought among the fashion industry. Do your part, and encourage others to do the same. But don’t conceal your fatphobia with a feigned attempt at educating someone.

hey kid,

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wanna melt?


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THE FIRST FEW WEEKS of January were blue. I was nineteen and all alone in a foreign country. I had only just recently started drinking alcohol and all of a sudden I could do it legally. This might be bad for me, I remember thinking the first time I purchased a bottle of fruit flavored vodka. The Italian cashier didn’t even ask for my ID. I pretended like I was an experienced drinker to my new friends even though I could count on one hand the amount of times I had ever been drunk. Though I’m sure they weren’t exactly naturals, either. My hair was pink, and the mountains were so familiar, like I was at home in Seattle instead of in a tiny Italian town 152 | EM SPRING 2021

in Switzerland. I would go on walks behind the school and just stare at the backdrop that looked like a movie set. I used to think I would never leave home, and then I went to school in Boston. Then I thought I would never leave Boston. But somehow I had gotten on the plane amidst the messy student visa process and ended up in Europe. Sometimes I thought I might wake up and this might all be some obscure dream. Like I made up this sleepy little town on the hill, this picture perfect school that made promises of a semester long traveling unlike anything else.

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My dorm room was minimalist though I am a hoarder at heart. A single bed sat pushed up against a bare wall. I was conservative with how many clothes I brought abroad, so the cupboard hung staple pieces, like a single winter coat. I had always shared a room or had a sister who would be right next door, and I didn’t know what to do with myself or my time without someone to pester 24/7. As it turns, it just meant I let all my clothes form into piles on the floor because I didn’t have to worry about someone else being bothered by them. I bought a duvet with no cover because I didn’t want to splurge and laid my head on a single throw pillow. I would curl up on my side and try not to get lonely, though I spent a lot of the first few weeks thinking about my friends, my parents, about how badly I wanted a hug. I had never felt so alone before despite having so many new people surrounding me. My window looked out at a backyard and a church up on the hill which rang every morning at seven a.m. I can sometimes still hear the chime of the bell when I close my eyes. The dorm I was placed in, which I shared with five other girls, was nicknamed The Garden. Ironically, my very first apartment in Boston would be nicknamed this as well. “In the spring,” one of my roommates leaned in to tell me,“you won’t believe how beautiful this place is. You won’t want to miss it.” I never got close to these roommates. We often lived in pregnant silence, as if the next plesanstory conversation was on the tips of our tongues but never actually occurred. I listened to Phoebe Bridgers for the first time on a train

ride to Milan. I had made friends to travel with, which had been one of my biggest fears, that I would have to go through all of this alone. The four of us sat on our own table, giggling and planning out everything we wanted to see. We had made it our goal to try McDonald’s in every country we went to, as we were convinced every place would be different. A man tried to sell us bracelets the second we left the station and we were equally as convinced they had a tracking device in them. We were naive. We must have seemed so young. We got lost looking for the cathedral. A girl sang La Vie En Rose so beautifully that people would stop and stare, then smile, then turn to tell the person next to them about her. They were speaking Italian, but I got the point of it anyway. February course.





We went to Prague, and Budapest, and Spain. I packed everything I would need for a weekend into my school backpack, never paying for a carry on. We flew budget airlines. They were always short weekend trips. We’d go to class on Friday, run to the train, get to the airport by dinner, have coffee as our meal, and arrive at our Airbnb by midnight. Gotta see everything you need to see in three days, then back home for school by Monday morning. Not a single second of these weekends was anything but go, go, go. There was a rush to it that I never had before, even after spending nearly two years in the city. Saturday’s were always club nights. We faked British accents and asked for fancy cocktails we had never heard of. (“Two Sex on The Beaches, please.”) 70’s night, screaming Abba so loud our throats hurt in the morning. Thinking this must be what

happiness feels like. My friend Sophia and I kissed the same guy. I regretted it for a long time. A cat cafe in Prague, a nose piercing in Madrid, a runaway bride in Budapest. The weekends blur together in my mind and when I try to seperate them I only see overlapping memories. I fell in love with every city I went, claiming each one as my next favorite, the top of my list. Everything was so different from home. My hair was no longer pink. I got sick, really sick, right before the 14th. I called my parents with a fever of almost 101, and spent the day burning up inside, and was told to sleep it off. And I did. On Valentine’s day we made Shirley Temples and boxed cake that tasted of plastic. We watched Call Me By Your Name and I cried. We vowed to go on a road trip to the locations they filmed in, in the spring, when better weather would be upon us. I learned about Scottish literature in preparation for a two week trip in March that I would take with my class. One of my lectures only had four students, so the professor made us tea and snacks twice a week for our meetings. I used to hate tea but I learned to like it for her. Had an Irish history professor who rolled his eyes at us Americans for thinking history revolved around us. Spent ridiculous amounts of money on a dining hall that made you pay extra for ketchup. Took a bus to the shops in the neighboring Italian town and bought dresses for summer in Greece. We were going to the town where the Sound of Music was filmed for my birthday at 156 | EM SPRING 2021

the end of May. We had a lot of plans. Most of them never happened. March was yellow. At least for a little while. We knew about the virus, knew it was seeping into our lives, but didn’t want to think about it. We had trips planned to Amsterdam, Berlin, maybe we would go to Rome. We felt invincible. The class sponsored trip to Scotland was canceled and I cried about it for an entire night, my empty, dull dorm room not helping my mood. But I pushed away the feelings of despair. This would only last for a few weeks, then April and May would go on as planned. I was so sure of it. We scrapped the plan for the northern Italian road trip due to the Zeitgeist of the time and decided to drive down to France in a rental car instead. All of us were from states that touched water and we missed the ocean so much in this little landlocked country. We were the characters of Little Women, and we were going to the sea to get better from our illnesses. I was Amy, dubbed as the youngest and possibly most immature. The south of France in winter was just as depressing as you think it might be. The beaches were desolate, the cities were ghost towns. Leonardo Dicaprio reportedly takes his newest, youngest girlfriends to Saint Tropez every year, and

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we looked eagerly for him. We walked the red carpet where the Cannes film festival is annually held and watched the sunset on the sand, dancing by the water. We listened to Fleetwood Mac, then the B-52’s, then Paul Simon in the car. We screamed along to music we all loved from childhood. Jack Johnson plays in my mind whenever I look out the car window and think I see a landscape that reminds me vaguely of Nice. We crashed the car on the way home. It was probably the first sign things were not going to get any better. France was the last trip we were able to take before the university president forbade us from leaving the school premises. The four of us moved into the same apartment when those who had the resources too started fleeing the country. We made forts with blankets underneath the kitchen table, sleeping there like we were twelve at our first slumber party. I dyed my hair pink again. Questions of Travel by Elizabeth Bishop. (“Should we have stayed at home and thought of here?”) We took too many Polaroids. I don’t know where many of them are now. I remember how lonely I felt in January and wanted to shake myself for ever wasting a day being upset. How lucky was I to be here, to live here, to have parents who were anxiously wanting me home, to have friends who wanted me around? Mimosas that tasted like sunshine. A stolen television to watch Sunday morning cartoons. Reliving childhood in those fleeting moments of freedom. I drank in every golden sunrise over the mountains, scared I might never see them again, knowing I probably wouldn’t. Eventually we were sent home. Nothing that good ever lasts.

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The rest of March was dull and grey. I was picked up from the airport at eleven at night after the longest travel day of my life. Zurich to New York to Chicago to Home. I kept thinking about my empty little dorm room, how barren it looked when I walked out the door for the last time. I never got to see the garden in spring. Did the church bells still ring every morning? Did everything freeze when I left, or was the sleepy little town moving on without me? I didn’t want to know the answer. Seattle is always a little gloomy, but it felt especially so those first two weeks. Feeling sorry for myself, pretending as though I was the only one drowning in disappointment. My selfish 19-year-old brain. Maybe I still am that girl. It’s hard to know if I’ll ever grow past it.


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Copyright © 2021 em Mag. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission from em Mag except in the case of crediting both em Mag and the artists. Should you have any questions pertaining to the reproduction of any content in this book, please contact emmagonline@gmail.com. Cover photo by Keely Martin Book design by Reagan Allen & Daria Shulga First edition printed by Flagship Press in North Andover, MA. 2021. Typeset in Antarctican Mono by Adobe and Misto by Katerina Korolevtseva Website: www.em-mag.com Instagram: @emmagazine Issuu: em Magazine 170 | EM SPRING 2021

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