COMMA P R E S E NTS
MAY 4, 2017 THE OBSERVER
HELIOCENTRISM BY MEGAN CR ANE When I was six I picked at the scabs on my knee. I pretended I was a clementine. My fruit was the raw July rug burns and the late grass stains of June. If I tore my skin deep enough, I could be sweet. When I was six I fell off my bike on the daily. When I was six I pricked my finger on thickets in the forest and made a blood oath with the pretty oaks and waving leaves: I will always be yours. Soil seeped into me, ladybugs crawled into my cuts, and bees deposited pollen into my bloodstream. This summer I lay down in the grass. I lay in my backyard at midnight and listened to the owls around my house. They asked the forest questions I was too scared to answer myself. I was born with a skin tag on the left side of my neck. At age seven I tried to cut it off with a butter knife. At age eighteen, laying in the wet moss, I cut the skin with blades of grass, peeled back my humanity and bled out two caterpillars and a
luna moth. hurt you. like the kid at a party who didn’t The owls cheered and the forest I think I was grown in a garden, drink, I felt like the kid who didn’t fell asleep. tended to with care by an elderly know anyone. I felt like the kid I I stopped identifying with peowoman. She pruned me, fed me, was in high school. I felt human. ple when people became associated watered me, wrapped a trembling I breathed in damp moss while with pain. The forest was a warm weathered finger through my leaves my bones turned into a family of embrace, the bending branches, and passed away holding my hand. snakes and my blood turned into mother’s cradling the water from my arms. I lay down creek outside. The forest was a warm embrace, the bending The firefly in the grass, an infant in the body brought his friends of an adult. I sunk branches, mother’s cradling arms. I lay down and they danced into the earth and in the grass, an infant in the body of an adult. I by my ears and found memories around my breasts. like buried treaThe snakes had left sunk into the earth and found memories ... sure, old toys and to find drier land. rubber band balls The luna moth was and my first failed fanning its wings homework assignment. Worms My brothers and sisters follow the under the full moon. A spider wove chewed on my nostalgia. I compossun. I follow the sun. We leaned webs between my collar bones. ted the dirt with my past. latitudinally. I leaned with the day When I sneezed dandelion seeds and withered into a human. plumed from my mouth. A lightning bug crawled out This summer I dug my toes into I watched my eyelashes blink of my right ear and flew onto my the ground and rooted myself with into dusty moths; they smelled like nose. It blinked morse code and the outside, moved with the sun. old memories and beat into the told me: You are here, you are as I pressed my ear against the earth night like loose papers. real as the clouds in the sky and the and listened to the other side of the My capillaries wriggled and leaves in the trees. We will never world drink in the sunshine. I felt pushed out of my skin like little
sprouts. Silkworms plucked themselves from my goosebumps and threaded me a blanket of moonlight. They painted me the colour of the cosmos, they painted me pure. I think I regained my virtue that night. I was baptised by nature. I left my immortal soul in a clump of wildflowers and thorn bushes. Sometimes late at night, I can still hear the owls above the traffic. Sometimes I exhale little bugs and watch them circle my head. The moths don’t leave any more, they stay with me at the witching hour when the silkworms wrap me in moonlight and let me glow. The moths rest on my heart. The lightning bugs blink me to sleep; they tell me that they’ve found a light in me that they flock towards. This is how I learned to lean on myself. This is how I learned to be my own sun.
NOT-SO-TERRIBLE TWO’S BY A DR I ANA BA L SAMO - GA LL INA It’s breakfast time. She’s eating her cheerios, with a spoon now, because she’s a big girl. The spoon is hers. The cheerios are hers. The chair she is standing on is hers. The terrible two’s are in full effect. My sister comes downstairs. She gives her daughter a kiss on the cheek and then gives me one, too. At that moment, her daughter slams her spoon down and declares, “That’s MY Zia.” I beam. “That’s right, I’m YOUR Zia,” I say. She finishes up breakfast and heads to the living room to claim further land. The couch is hers. The teddy bear is hers. She picks up my copy of The Feminine Mystique that I left on the coffee table. She holds it gently in her two tiny hands a little above her head as she squats to the floor. She lays on her tummy and begins flipping through the pages, staring intently at the pages. Yes, I think to myself. That’s MY niece.
ALEXANDRA RICHARDSON/THE COMMA
Documenting History, taken at the 9/11 Memorial, in Manhattan, New York.
SOMETHING NEW She looks up at him over her steaming cappuccino. The air outside the tiny coffee shop is cold and biting, but inside, it is warm, almost stifling. Cups are clinking and voices are murmuring all around them, but where they sit, there is a bubble of silence. The silence is so palpable and so thick that it’s almost impossible to get through. But she does. “I could have written a novel of all the things I wanted to say to you today.” The words are cracked and raw, as if she hasn’t used her voice in days. It feels that way to her. She feels as if she has never really spoken to him before right now. “I have so
BY SABR INA POLKOWSK I
much to say to you, but I can’t remember any of it.” He chuckles. He looks up at her through his eyelashes, in that way she fell for when she first met him. “I know,” he says softly. “I don’t want to think about what happened before this. I want to move on to something new,” she admits carefully, gauging his reaction as she says it. The thought of losing him aches in her heart like the cold aches in her bones. His eyes are guarded. It’s a moment before he speaks. When he does, his voice is pained. “It wasn’t right. It’s never been right before.”
“But it could be,” she says, thinking, like she knows he is, of all the near misses and botched connections that had plagued them for the last three years. They had been orbiting each other forever, never once meeting up on their paths. They’re headed toward each other now, she can feel it. She can see the point where their paths will intersect, and she doesn’t want to miss it. “We’ve been waiting for this for years, you know that. It’s right. It’s right now, I can feel it, can’t you?” He looks at her for a long moment. The hesitation and guardedness in his eyes ever so slowly melts
into warmth and affection that takes the breath from her throat. “Something new,” he says with a small smile. Her face blooms like a sunflower. She can feel the exact moment that she and him crash together like a collision of meteorites, sending reverberations out into the atmosphere around them. The magnitude of this moment is staggering for the two of them, yet anyone else can only see two people staring at eachother, lovestruck, not saying a single word save for the novels passing between them through the looks in their eyes.
THE OBSERVER MAY 4, 2017
ABUELO, CERCA 20 0 2 , FOTO B / N BY HE ATH HAMP TON
A silhouette, He Rumpled, absolutely still, skin picked with age, He shushed me and again quiet held the long of a knife, He was conspiratorial, “There were vampires in the restroom,” his body creaked out as he stood, He quick blinked and again and his hands were writhing into their composite snakes, they un-bit his knife in a flurry of spit and fire and flung themselves at him, He looked to me and again, Hands clamped to hands and the throb of his vein deep hell where dragons and must gutter into the gush of agony, His mouth squirmed itself into lines and open circles, His words were lost, his feet echoed, He sat, In the fluorescent dank of the kitchen of fly-buzzed fruit, He
ALEXANDRA RICHARDSON/THE COMMA
and trash, and again, there, said unicorns grazing, with sleep grit in their eyes, He could not see, Their manes were matted deep into his gruff voice, “the Keebler’s made us all sandwiches” sloshed and spoken out in this his crystal clear smack of hooves, I struggled to lift my eyes from his suffocating dense of living, and, and, and, said, and held in my hands his sacred shame of bread and disparity, He sat.
Photographers in New York, taken in Manhattan, New York.
There was a fascination in moving my hands from the table, I eat and eat and was loosely chewed into a spittle, like his Tobacco made dissolute in decades of sweat, poverty perhaps, mine, His that reek rose to the puff of chests, cheeks, His eyes shook with a glassy pride, In them the unicorns made black porcelain reflections, his eyes broke into the canted swathes of linoleum, Elves clambered over all his broken things, They trussed and gang-banged a vampire, He covered my eyes, They ripped each other screaming into tree branches and roots he pondered, they made a deep cushy, churning moss, The sky fell into mumbled lyrics, He and Words made nothing of me, He stood and wandered and hid, Glasses whisper-wrung out their own empty
A MISUNDERSTANDING BY S TEPHEN K IPP “For the rest of my life I’m going to play.” His plump curls shined in sun under the trees. His mother smiled down at him, down on one knee. “Ok, but you’ll need to work one day.” “I won’t work like daddy, I’m going to play.” He worked up a pile and jumped in the leaves. Mother laughed lightly and wiped off his jeans. “But you’ll have to work before you can play.” “Each day of my life I’m going to play.” He took off his shoes, too small for his feet. She put them back on to keep his socks clean. “Everyone works, I’m sorry to say.” “How do you think you can play every day?” She noticed him losing his front baby teeth. One hand on the earth and crossed at the knees. “‘Cause I will make working and playing the same.”
PASSERBY BY ELLE ROSE I didn’t assume anything was wrong when the uptown express D-train suddenly became more cramped than usual in the midst of its journey to Tremont Avenue. We collectively realize something is wrong when a woman, her belly a swollen crescent moon, falls to the ground. A samaritan keeps her head from colliding with a pile of forgotten fast-food wrappers and soda cans, cradling her as she drifts in and out of consciousness. “She’s pregnant, someone call an ambulance!” the samaritan calls out, a handful of strangers now kneeling beside the woman. I pull out my cellphone and make a vain attempt to call anyone for help — the police, my mom, who always seems to have the answer in these kinds of situations, but we’re too far underground to call for help. As news of the fallen woman travels through the car hands begin to reach
for the Emergency button — firmer hands reaching out and pulling helping hands back. “Don’t pull that shit, it’ll stop us in the middle of the tunnel and I got places to be,” a gruff man, six feet tall and built like a bull, barks in warning. A murmur breaks out amongst the crowd of packed passengers. Whispers of “I gotta go pick up my kids,” “I just wanna get home,” and “I just worked an eight hour day,” come together, becoming one resonating “Don’t you dare stop this train.” The ailing pregnant woman has been reduced to sobs, one hand clutching the upper swell of her stomach, the other clutching her phone, her bloodstained finger-tips painting her rose gold phone case the darkest shade of red. The pool of blood at her feet grows larger, soaking the soles of my own shoes as I shift nervously, at-
tempting to get close enough to help, but constantly being pushed away by someone more helpful. The knees of those beside her become stained with dust, forgotten gum, and blood. They try to talk to her, ask her where she’s from, how many months along she is, but all she can do is continue to sob, choosing only to speak the language of the heartbroken. When the train finally pulls up he Tremont station, a riot begins. Weary travelers and 9-5ers begin their chant, demanding that the woman be removed from the train before their commute can be further delayed. I remain silent, sheepishly hiding within the crowd. I feel sick, my head spinning and throat tightening, as people berate the woman for holding up their commute as though it was her decision to lose her unborn child that night. The good samaritans delicately take her into their arms, helping her to stand as
they slowly begin their procession off the train, their arms shielding her from the sharp, biting words of the disgruntled passengers. “Due to an ill passenger, this train is being held at the station. A B-train will be arriving shortly on the opposite side of the platform,” the intercom announces. The crowd, more disgruntled than ever, begins to stampede off the train and across the platform. Along the way they nearly trample the woman and her small group of saviors, gathered at the base of the subway staircase, her propped up against the lowest step, sitting in a newly formed pile of blood. The Btrain pulls up to the station and I remain frozen, wondering if I should stay behind with the group. Instead, almost instinctively, I continue across the platform and head on to the new train. The doors close behind me, but I keep my eyes trained
on the woman until we’re surrounded by the darkness of the underground. The sound of the woman’s sobs echo through my mind as I walk back to my apartment. I wonder if I’ll be able to think about anything else that night. I get home and wash the blood off my shoes. The sinking feeling in my stomach slides away with the blood down the drain. I make dinner, laugh with my roommates over glasses of wine, whisper sweet nothings to my significant other on the phone, coo at a photo of a puppy, and fall asleep that night with ease. I wake up in the morning guilty, realizing that even though I wasn’t cruel to the woman, I wasn’t kind either. At the end of the day, I kept on with my life, forgetting that another life had ended during my commute. I was no better than any of the other passersby that night.
MAY 4, 2017 THE OBSERVER
CHECK IN / CHECK OUT Check in at The McKittrick Hotel begins promptly at 7:00pm. The guest advisory email which they send to all guests attending “Sleep No More” has graced my inbox 15 times, so I know the drill. Being in the know, I always plan to be in line at the hotel at least half an hour before then, if not earlier. *** When I check into the McKittrick, I always visit to the Macduff suite. Despite its peculiarities—a room filled with headless baby dolls suspended from string, an erratic shrine to the Virgin Mary covering one wall of the living room—it’s downright homey compared to my dorm room. The children’s bedroom is just off of the living room, where the small bed is always perfectly made with a porcelain cat doll propped against the pillow. If I’m able to lose myself completely in the space, I can be found sitting on the bed, gently breathing in the peculiar, musty air, and petting the porcelain cat, never wanting to leave. *** “Once upon a time, there was a little boy. And he was the happiest little boy in the whole world.” The room is dark, and a woman in a red dress has me pinned against the wall as she whispers a dark fairy tale into my ear. “One day, he wandered deep into the forest, even though he knew he shouldn’t, and he never came back.” She grabs my shirt and slams me against the opposite wall. “He became lost and started to cry, choking on his own tears.” As her story and the boy’s life come to an end, I’m pushed through a trapdoor, into an apothecary lined with charmed objects. This experience, which truly got me hooked on “Sleep No More,” happened with Hecate, the ruler of Macbeth’s three witches. My one-on-one encounter with her happened within minutes of entering the hotel for my second time during the second semester of my freshman year. Like the little boy in her story, I felt hopelessly lost, unable to find help in the forest I’d gotten myself into. Being in the dark with her, just the two of us, wasn’t exactly comforting, but it was highly resonant. I’m still looking for that ring, trying to maneuver my way out of the forest. I playfully think that Hecate placed a spell on me. It’s fitting that my “Sleep No More” obsession began with a private encounter with the goddess of witchcraft. Regardless, the spell came when I needed it. *** “Sleep No More” is performed on a loop which repeats three times. A creature of habit, I
BY A LE X MERR I T T
loop certain characters more than others. The Porter is a mashup of Shakespeare’s Porter and the charm and vulnerability of Anthony Perkins. A loner, his most touching moment comes as Glenn Miller’s “Moonlight Becomes You” plays in the lobby, and he presses himself against his reflection in the lobby mirror, gently swaying back and forth, his eyes closed. It’s a scene that, no matter how many times I’ve seen it, makes me misty-eyed. We’ve both fallen back on the solitary company of ourselves too often. At the end of the night, when it has all become a bit too much for him, he hides in the phone booth, his feet poking out from underneath the curtain pulled in front of him. He’s unable to get away from everything, and perhaps certain that the reality behind the curtain is better than the one in front of him. I’m likewise anxious by the end of the evening, sometimes sure that the reality behind the hotel’s doors is better than what awaits me on the other side. *** One of the scenes which I always make sure to see when I visit the McKittrick is Hecate’s lipsync to “Is That All There Is?” The pinnacle moment of the lip-sync is when she says, with bleary eyes and a lopsided grin, “I thought I’d die. But I didn’t. And when I didn’t, I said to myself, ‘Is that all there is?’” When my friend asked me to respond to the hashtag #freshmanyearinfivewords, I created a truncated version of that verse. It continues to be an honest summation of my college experience, being helplessly unsure if I’ll make it through each day. The McKittrick has allowed me to feel comfortable with not having any answers or to always understand what I’m going through. I thought I’d die. But I didn’t. *** Once I’ve passed through the doors of the hotel, into the dark corridor leading to the check in desk, I smile at whoever’s behind the counter that night and give them my last name. “Alex?” they ask. I respond affirmatively. “Is this your first time staying with us?” I laugh and say no. “Welcome back! Enjoy your stay.” Let’s break out the booze and have a ball. If that’s all there is.
MY ONL INE YARD L IS T ING BY ABBY WHE AT Money is tight. I’m having a rough time maintaining my 7-day-a-week burrito schedule, a lifestyle I am accustomed to. Please consider purchasing one of these items. Prices are nonnegotiable. BIRKENSTOCK SANDALS, SIZE 37, HEAVILY WORN - pair of sandals my grandparents gifted me for my 16th birthday, received nearly constant use for upwards of two years, bottom of the left sandal has watermelon-flavored gum permanently attached, suspicious black goo on the soles, peculiar stench that won’t go away - $54.82 SINGLE FAKE PEARL EARRING, NO PARTNER EARRING, LONELY - found this in my play jewelry box from my youth, the back of the earring is falling off, this thing is pretty much useless, not even a real pearl - $20.00 BOSE WIRELESS HEADPHONES, NEVER USED - these were a gift but I’ve never used them, people look stupid when they wear them, supposedly good sound quality but that doesn’t matter because I only listen to experimental grunge EDM, tried to give them to my mailman but he thought that was too weird - $5.00 HAWAIIAN SHIRT, MYSTERIOUS ORIGINS, SIZE MEN’S M - ugly short-sleeved button up shirt, yellow with surfing men and palm trees in recurring pattern, found in the trunk of my car in May of 2016, bloodstains on sleeves and collar, top two buttons have popped off in what appears to be an effort to fight off an attacker, could probably use a wash - $17.35
ALEXANDRA RICHARDSON/THE COMMA
A Former Brooklyn Dodger, taken in Brooklyn Heights, Brooklyn, New York.
PAIR OF OLD NAVY BRAND EXERCISE LEGGINGS, SIZE XS - pants purchased for my brief track and field career in the winter of 2010, hole in the left knee from when I was unfairly slidetackled during a soccer scrimmage in 9th grade gym class, probably stretched to a size M after years of simultaneous use and weight gain - $27.37 DOLL THAT WATCHES ME AS I SLEEP, MISSING ONE EYE, POTENTIALLY POSSESSED BY A DEMON - please, take her - FREE COMPLETE VHS SET OF THE GILMORE GIRLS SERIES EXCEPT FOR SEASON THREE, USED CONDITION, FILLED WITH GOOD MEMORIES - couldn’t bear to part with season three (the best season), all other tapes are in good condition except for certain parts being taped over with the final scene from “Footloose,” but no important plot points are taped over I promise - $66.77 TRAVEL COFFEE MUG, CERAMIC WITH A BEAUTIFUL MERMAID PATTERN, HOLDS 10OZ OF LIQUID - this thing has been sitting in my car for over a week, there is still some coffee left in it, I am too afraid to open it and wash it out because it may be icky, potential mold - $11.23 Please contact me with any questions or inquiries.
DAMN DOG BY SAM MI LLER The dog is starving, skinny to the point that his ribs are not only visible but prominent. His ears are too big for his head, which in turn is too big for his body. The car’s headlights are reflected in his eyes, and he is unaware of the brush with death he’s just survived. Around him, drivers blare their horns, barely avoiding accidents as they all skid to a stop to accommodate the woman who couldn’t keep her foot on the gas when she saw the mongrel in the street. The dog doesn’t move. The car doesn’t move either, traffic piling up behind it. In the driver’s seat, my mother twists to look at my father sitting next to her. “What do I do? He won’t move.” My father doesn’t answer, but undoes his seatbelt, opens the door, and walks into the street. The dog’s tail begins wagging, and by the time my father reaches him, his whole body is shaking in excitement. There’s a collar on his neck, but, as we will later discover, no tags with information about his previous owners. My father takes him by the collar and guides him back towards the car, then picks him up and sits with the fifty pound pooch half on his lap, half on the car’s floor. My mother’s mouth hangs open, and she glances between my father and the dog several times, before my father tells her, “You can keep going.” In the backseat, I can’t contain my squeal of excitement. “We’re getting a dog!” Mom spins around, nearly jerking the car off the road in her haste. “We are not keeping him!” We keep him.
INTELLIGENT, AND PROBABLY NEUROTIC
THE OBSERVER MAY 4, 2017
ALEXANDRA RICHARDSON/THE COMMA
Window Box Flowers, taken in DUMBO, Brooklyn, New York.
BY A SHLEY R I VER A When I go to school, I leave behind a toddler. A toddler who yells at the top of her lungs when she doesn’t get her way. I leave behind the you don’t understand me’s, the I hate it here’s, the temper tantrums, and the fits. I leave behind the irrational 2-year-old trapped inside a woman’s body. She’s irritable, selfish, and sometimes plain mean. She’s frustrating and will make anyone who’s unfortunate enough to cross her path want to pull their hair out; like a printer that runs out of ink five minutes before an essay is due. She believes every word that comes out of her mouth; she’s never wrong. She’ll slam her brown wooden bedroom door, collapse onto her bed, and cry until her eyes are red and puffy. Her throat becomes itchy; her voice squeaks as she utters they don’t care about me to herself, over and over, just because she was scolded for coming home late. At home, she is alone. At home, she feels free to be a whiny toddler because she’s mastered her title: daughter. Outside, she wants to build her own castle, and master her life on her own. She’s her own princess; she’s the only one who’s allowed to control her.
THE WARS OF THE 21ST CENTURY BY GR ACE THOMPSON Imagine showering in blood letting the warmth wash over your face run down your back soak into your hair Would the stench ever fade?
As she walks out the door on her way to school, she trades in her Regina George-esque persona for one that aspires to be like Athena. She is reasonable, intelligent, and graceful. She is open to intellectual discussion, and even disagreement. She understands that others’ beliefs and opinions are worth consideration. She’s been hurt, stabbed in the back, taken for granted, and abandoned at school many times before, but instead of crying like a toddler, she reasons through all of her experiences and uses them to help her grow as a person. She tries to hide all of her anxieties, obsessive worries, and fears behind a large wall that she constructed with all of the red bricks, born from dishonesty and insincerity, that have been thrown at her; she often suffers in silence, because at school, she doesn’t want to be alone. For now, she’ll settle for Monica Geller: intelligent, and probably neurotic, until life inevitably throws her a curveball again, forcing her to learn how to hit anything that comes her way out of the ballpark, because in the words of Taylor Swift, life is just a classroom.
Imagine drinking blood when the scorched earth dries up when its veins have run dry Imagine bleeding into that parched earth slicing open your arms draining your life into the ground to feed your own thirsty food. When the water runs out, we will draw blood instead. Imagine that blood that you bled being bottled up, shipped off, taken. Stinking up some supermarket. Why does the stench fade?
In the hardcopy version of this issue, the text for Alex Merritt’s “Check In/Check Out” was featured twice. The second printing of the text was mistakenly attributed to Ashley Rivera, and her selected piece was omitted. Above is the correct text for “Intelligent, and Probably Neurotic,” Ashley’s piece that was originally intended for publication. Our sincerest apologies for the error. - Erika Ortiz & Elodie Huston, Editor-in-Chief & Executive Editor of The Comma
*“If the wars of this century were fought over oil, the wars of the next century will be fought over water.” -Ismail Serageldin
MAY 4, 2017 THE OBSERVER
A SAT IRE
WHY YOU SHOULD DATE A GIRL WITH AN EATING DISORDER BY CAT REYNOLDS The perfect woman—a theme through history Does the perfect woman exist? It’s no longer a mystery! A girl with an eating disorder is the girl for you! Here’s some reasons why it must be true— Single friend, never again will you see a day Where for an extravagant dinner you’ll have to pay She’ll order a small dish, if anything at all Take a bite, and ask you to finish it off The easiest way, to keep her from getting fat, Just suggest, “Are you really going to finish that?” She’ll rub your back with her perfectly manicured nails That she keeps in pristine condition as to not scratch her throat when she wails She’s also designed to be perfect protection With collarbones that cut like her razor, you can use her as a weapon You know what they say—crazy girls are better in bed! And what’s crazier than a girl who keeps herself unfed? Better yet, starving girls can’t menstruate Which means you can make love no matter the date Derived from her insecurity, her eagerness to please Can help you overcome her crippling fear of intimacy Feed her the knowledge, but nothing excess That the best way to burn calories is by having sex! Before you know it, going down Will be her new favorite work out. Tastefully insecure, you can craft her as you please, Take her and shape her, make her into art for the by the world to be seen Tell her to put her feminism up on the shelf That some lipstick and lace will help her feel better about herself More than ideals and confidence ever can Because being smart and individual is no way to attract a man Because witty rarely includes pretty And books seldom come with looks You were told never to judge a book by its cover, But when her pages are crisp, it will be easier to love her You can flip through her pages, admire the arch in her back But don’t read her words or listen to her, oh no, none of that. Her neurotic obsession with her weight Will fluently and beautifully translate, Into her appearance, and she’ll be Constantly thin, with tremendous upkeep Never mind that her hair will come out in tufts in your fingers That her skin will yellow, and that when you kiss her The stench will be enough to knock you down, The smell of body eating itself inside out You won’t have to struggle to comfort her or relate, Because she won’t have any problems on her plate. She’ll seem lighter, each time you hold her in your arms She’ll never ask to hold your hand, embarrassed by her sweaty palms Her bones will break, her body will shake, She’ll purge the cake, use her nails as a rake She’ll be an artist, a painter, a perfect Monet She’ll paint on her smile, who cares if it’s fake? No, not you, because, no—there’s no need. As long as you remember to never feed The girl who is crumbling with your every touch The girl who has no concept of love It’s true, she’ll never get too attached Because she can’t love you, no, not like that Not with her heart, that fails with each breath That’s slowing, and slowing, until her death When she’s out of lipstick, she’ll use the blood from her wrists And when she’s out of luck, she’ll hide Prozac and Paxil in her fists Because the best part is—no commitment involved! Don’t want forever? Consider your problem solved Because, truth be told, when it’s all done and said— You don’t have to break up with a girl who’s dead.
ALEXANDRA RICHARDSON/THE COMMA
Windows Inside Out, taken in DUMBO, Brooklyn, New York
KINGS IN THE SNOW BY BENNY REGA LBUTO A gentle wind wove its way through stands of crops, passing as if it were silk slipping through a lady’s smooth, delicate fingers. As this wind wound its way in the maze of stalks, so too did a lady – although, she was not the kind of lady with hands smooth or delicate enough to allow silk to filter between them. Indeed, she was not the kind of lady to own silk, for she could not afford it, and even if she could, she would have no use for it. She was not even the kind of lady to call herself a lady; she had met ladies, knew she was not one of them, and had no desire to be. Her name was Plea, and she was looking for her husband, Nathan. Or, rather, she was going to him. It was a ritual she practiced every night – had practiced every night since the day they wed. She would find him sitting on the cliffside at the edge of their property (called Cliffside, unsurprisingly), his feet dangling over the precipice in their shoddy shoes, which were coming apart at the seams but otherwise no worse for wear. He would hear her approach; his ears would perk up, his shoulders would lift, an invisible but unmistakable aura of love would coil around him – yet he would not turn. Plea would admire the scene for a moment, and then hunker down beside her love, their gazes trained forward as the eternal lovers – the sun and the horizon – shared their long, passionate kiss, which would of course inspire Plea and Nathan to share one of their own to celebrate a hard day’s work. Not a word would be shared until they returned to their little cottage on the other end of Cliffside, not a quarter of a mile away, and even then, they might decide to let silence continue to say everything. But not that night. That night, the sacred ritual of Cliffside’s residents was interrupted. That night, as Plea made her way past the last few stalks of tomato, she heard the sound of hooves and clanking armaments. That night, they had company. She saw from between two stalks that Nathan was not anxiously awaiting her arrival – or he was, but he had no time to enjoy it as the ritual prescribed. He was being surrounded. Those who surrounded him did not do so menacingly, but their authority pervaded the air as much as it was evident in their garments. They were
the king’s men, no doubt, donning the colors and bearing the standards of the immortal kingdom of Lyneria. The time it had been since they had last been to a property as small and unimportant as Cliffside had been… immeasurable. Nathan glared at his wife – Stay hidden, turtledove – and Plea glared right back – Not if my life depended on it – which it might. She came forward, beating the surrounding party to their destination, and wrapped a protective arm around Nathan. He did the same, but the other arm moved comfortably towards that which his buckskin sheath concealed: the Gringham family dagger, an old but well kept tool. The equestrians called for a halt to the beasts they rode, all of which complied with the loyalty of sheepdogs. One man dismounted, taller and more snobbish-looking than the rest. The clank, clank, clank of his glistening armored boots (polished to appear as if he had never stepped in a muddy puddle in his entire life) on the granite echoed and tumbled down the rocks to the lush forest below. Nathan gripped his wife tighter as the man strolled closer, but he passed without paying them any mind. He planted himself at the cliff’s edge – the spot normally reserved for Nathan and Plea’s nightly ritual – tracking the sun’s slow descent. The light beyond him made him appear a silhouette, a knight’s shadow standing upright. For moments on end, the man retained this position, and for moments on end, Nathan and Plea waited for him or one of his men to do something. It was not that they were afraid, but unwilling to make the first move. These men had encroached upon their property; it was clear who was in charge. Finally, as the sun and the horizon made celestial love like always, the man rotated his head ever so slightly towards the couple, the purple plume atop his silvery helmet bobbing as he did, expectant. When he got nothing, he completed the rotation, proudly displaying Lyneria’s emblem, a great hawk, emblazoned on the surcoat draped over his armor. “So?” he asked in an accent that unmistakably marked him as a man of the capital city of Eames, high and proper sounding, but not pretentious. “Are you going to invite me in or what?”
THE OBSERVER MAY 4, 2017
DOOR BY MAT THEW APA DUL A The door to my old house
HE’S NEVER BEEN TOLD NO BY CAT REYNOLDS
When the word slipped my lips As he slipped his hands down my hips, He did not understand.
I never said yes.
the evaporated dew of the summer morning. I spent years sliding my key into the lock and
Since the first “no” slipped my lips Desires have been overwhelming eclipsed, I do not understand.
listening to the tumblers snap their little doo wop as I trudged over my threshold, but
I never said yes.
He’s never been told no.
A single word to rescind an emotional blockade That feels like an assaulting tirade, I do not understand. I never said yes.
He’s never been told no. A theoretical concept that is taught, But never practiced is all for naught, And he did not understand.
How can I trust that what has been taught, But never practiced will not be all for naught, I do not understand. I never said yes.
He’s never been told no,
Yet he read my body demoralized, Already preparing for my virginity to eulogize, I do not understand.
Yet I have been religiously advised, To never go out in hemlines above my thighs, Because he will not understand. He’s never been told no, Though I wonder if he ever imagines a replay, When I crossed the line between his lover and his prey, How could he understand?
cloudy with fingerprints and when we moved out
He’s never been told no.
A single word erected a language barricade, An erection unfazed by a prudish palisade, He did not understand.
when we moved out was still white, but had chipped and warped with the years. The gold paint on the handle was
I never said yes. I accepted there was nothing to this predator that I could say, So instead I turned my pleads to God to pray, Why did He not understand?
when we moved out I didn’t give a second thought to the fact that I would never use this door again. Now years have passed since that summer when we moved out and I am furious at myself for not spending hours sitting on my lawn, staring at my door like a kid at a fireworks show and I dimly remember, through the haze of myself I built out of letter blocks and books and spoken truths I forgot the next day the hard feel of the wood under my palm, the whorls and spirals etched in the wood like a fingerprint I’d feel when I came home, barely registering on winter days when the key would stick with cold pressing into my hand when 3 AM curved my shoulders into a drunken hunch flinching from my index when I knew my last fall in this house had already passed I wish more than anything when we moved out that I had touched the door one last time, just to remind myself this was real, at some point. I don’t like our new door. It’s too smooth, like frozen frowning marble. It seems to laugh as I
TWO SECONDS BY K AMI LL AH BR ANDE S
touch it, like it tricked me. The door to the first place I lived on my own was sanded, functional. It didn’t have time for my sentiment. I was next on the assembly line.
I understand now why you only hug me for two seconds Two seconds is not long enough to squeeze my love into you But long enough for me to show you that that was what I was trying to do.
I stopped reaching for doors a while ago. My fingers are playing across the hillocks on your leg, the ones you keep asking me if I think
Goddammit the elevator doors are closing “Shit, I have to go!” “NOPE!” And he swings his leg into the space where the doors will close.
they’re ugly and there is not enough time in the universe for me to say no to that. You’re warm
“Oh, I’m going to miss you!”
where my old door was cold, and there is nothing on the other side to dread or be disappointed
And then the tears. I hugged him for too long
They’re too tall I can’t get out They probably looked like weeping willows The last thing they saw of me was a packing label for a face surrounded by a halo of hair I/You really fucked that one up I/You realize why you like that scene so much The one where he covers her eyes I/You like to think that she always knew that it would end I/You like to believe that in the dark She saw the future hurt And that it mixed together with the present happiness Until it was so tainted She knew it could not last That is why you/I cry all the way back to your/my room Future hurt and present happiness It all fades One Two
More trees and green than I’ve seen in years hurtles past us as you drive. You’re focusing on the road, but when I move my hand away, you forget your post and jeopardize both our lives just to guide my hand back to you. I trace familiar whorls, striations, gives and rises under my fingertips. It is not this way to replace something else, it is this way because something was made here, something was raised. I watch the side of your face glow in the lazing sun, and your mouth ribbons up as you catch me doing it. The funny thing is, ten years with that door, it never ribboned up the way you do.
THE END Editor-in-Chief Erika Ortiz Executive Editor Elodie Huston
Social Media Editors Annamarie Nistico Alexandra Richardson
Nonfiction Editors Adriana Balsamo-Gallina Ashley Rivera Grace Thompson
Layout Editors Adriana Balsamo-Gallina Elodie Huston Abby Wheat
Fiction Editors Kamillah Brandes Benny Regalbuto
Contributors Matthew Apadula Tatiana Gallardo Heath Hampton Stephen Kipp Sam Miller Sabrina Polkowski Elle Rose
Poetry Editors Megan Crane Cat Reynolds Humor Editors Alex Merritt Abby Wheat Stages & Screens Editors Kamillah Brandes Alex Merritt Arts Editors Annamarie Nistico Cat Reynolds Alexandra Richardson
Faculty Advisor Prof. Elizabeth Stone
COVER PHOTOS BY: K YR A CONROY DESIGNED BY: A DR I ANA BA L SAMO - GA LL INA