COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY NEW YORK, NY
MASTHEAD EDITORS-IN-CHIEF Bindu Bansinath & Issie Ivins DESIGN EDITORS Karen Cha & Eleanor Stern
MANAGING EDITOR Kelly Zhang
WEB EDITORS Justin Woodbridge & Richard Zhang
EVENTS & OUTREACH EDITORS Emma Arett & Noa Gur-Arie
READING EDITORS Alana Solin & Gina Yatsenko STAFF EDITORS Nicole Blackwood, Anna Hennigan Sebastian Mazza, Nihal Shetty Chelsy Jiayi Wu, Stacey Yu Olivia Erhardt © 2017 4×4 Magazine All rights are reserved and revert to authors and artists one year after publication.
CONTENTS 4 WELCOME
7 GREENHOUSE Michelle Xu
8 TIPS FOR THROWING: A BASIC POT Michelle Xu
10 SNAIL MOUTH Glynnis Eldridge
12 THREE OLD WHITE MEN CLOSE THE GATE OF IJTIHAD Omar Khan
16 ROOM WITH NO LIGHT Anurak Saelaow
17 ADVICE FOR QUEER GIRLS Perry Levitch
18 1043 STEPS TO, 1035 STEPS BACK Perry Levitch
20 DIASPORA BLUES Mitali Desai
24 BODY SAYS WOAH Mitali Desai
28 WHEN YOUR HOMETOWN BURNS DOWN Perla Haney-Jardine
31 TRUE HERO Megan Wicks
32 HALF-LIFE OF A JET STREAM Amanda Liu
34 ABROAD Viviana Prado-Núñez
38 BROKEN Olivia Erhardt
THIS YEAR, 4X4 TURNS FOUR YEARS OLD. We’re four-cubed, a magazine in three dimensions. In a year that has trialed and transformed us, we’ve held fast to that additional dimension—both shelter and starting block. Walking sidestep with old rituals, we moved to seek out new terrain. With love we welcomed new editors to the 4×4 family, building a board that is more academically diverse than ever before; with love we watched others go. November, the world left us speechless, yet in this sleek volume you hold in your hands, the words and the voices come back. Over our weekly editorial meetings in Dodge, we’ve curated the best Columbia undergraduate writing in a time when language and art matter more than ever. This year’s authors are as diverse in style as they are in background, and we know you will find reading their work as joyous and restorative as we did. During our time at Columbia, over the course of our tenure as editors, the Columbia writing community is growing stronger every day, and we are proud to present you with a magazine that’s growing in tandem with it. From the intricate rigor of Perry Levitch’s “Advice for Queer Girls” to the eerie elegance of Michelle Xu’s “Greenhouse,” we feel the work in the magazine exemplifies the transformative power of literature—its push to a politics that embraces contradiction, that centers difference, that is comfortable being uncomfortable.
We are deeply honored to include in this issue a piece from Olivia Varley Erhardt, one of our luminous staff editors, who passed away last year while volunteering in Honduras. Her name is featured proudly on our masthead, where it will continue to remain for the duration of the time she would have spent on the board. This magazine you hold in your hands might feel slim to the touch, but donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t be fooled. Turn the page and there is a real thickness waiting to speak with you. As always, our sweat and tears, our literary labor of loveâ&#x20AC;&#x201D; Yours,
BINDU BANSINATH & ISSIE IVINS EDITORS-IN-CHIEF 2016-2017
WHITE RICE NO WOLVES GREENHOUSE MICHELLE XU
strange to think of the same salt volcano we came from, and strange to think that i wish it had stayed quiet, and strange to think that we need a mountainit smelled with vast shoulders All afternoon like ablack greenhouse. and aunderfoot, pangaeic the mind to keep asleep. Blackness flapping of us geese, strange to white thinkand of starving this house. The earthworms at our this ankles. white rice no wolves house. this wet combin cold finger chair house. this house I climbed the rocking like for a leaf sinkingtointo Searching an opening push dirty into: water. lord i a want milk, lord i want A greeting, rustle warm above the rocks. your fat ringed fingers skittering thislifted wooden tabletop, Onceacross the porch up to the wind lord i wantundid youmytohair stop laughing circles And you me. gathered lord i think yours was the Witharound fingers that like mice. voice i lurched toward when i was only a swab of dark hot cells keening for light.
TIPS FOR THROWING: A BASIC POT say good morning to your familyâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;ignore the usual criticism, the emotional debt to your children, the president on tv. search for an excuse. escape. the basement fan still spinning from yesterday, counterclockwise and hits the table, a thump. plastic on plastic: a brief union, pause then restart
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like your wifeâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s stutter. eye the wheel run your fingers down the length of the disk. metal so cold it blinds. move to the tub and wallow: native, wet, undemanding, heaven in a handbag. cutting wire bottom up, larger than an orange, smaller than a grapefruit. slap it in the middle, a thump. flesh on flesh: an appointment. the wheel rolls away from your body. sweet relief. counterclockwise and resist by squeezing down and in, like your gullet after a heavy meal: your stuttering wife topped with seared wagyu tenderloin. walls thin out and now a pot.
SNAIL MOUTH You ask me about the weather after one night in the trunk, a selfie and a week of feeling normal like he is back in full. Six months of split and it’s hot muscled again, soft like new home leftover mildewed laundry. I let you swell me to try to stitch back four hours of mirroring, “what”s, and waiting, three years of marinating in how to see it differently now
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I dry palm salt face around the block, smear muck on smartphone. Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s nothing to get wet without explanation, he cannot read emotions like I cannot watch reruns. My window makes the cut in every home movie of the airplane crash and aftermath instead I fixate on cats and mom, halloweens and sandwiches. I got freaky faced and gap toothed, but less gummy than her. When they update the software you blink at me faster. He says itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s either goodbye or embodiment. In simplest terms, my slouch is worse.
THREE OLD WHITE MEN CLOSE THE GATE OF IJTIHAD
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AND I SERVED CHAI TEA IN PORCELAIN cups imported from the orient to the orient imported of course being a liberal and whitewashed way to describe the blood sweat and tears behind old white men ripping into a land that they do not know. the cups are necessarily fragile, these lands are easily shattered like the social systems they reorganized, playing cards stacked so they always win and the cards always bleed. of course, we are still in a land they don’t know—a cultural capital impressive but intrinsically inferior, sitting on ottomans, sitting on tired dark bodies contorted for their convenience. “hey,” says one of them putting down his cards, i probably know his name but i don’t want to give them that dignity, his name is schacht. “i’ve read a bit on islamic law and i think i know the subject really well and i’m using know liberally here the way us old white men do because of years of just really entrenched confidence. but i’m an academic and by academic i mean i really kind of make shit up as we go along but i’m pretty sure the gate of ijtihad is closed.”
“what’s the gate of ijtihad,” says another probably because they’re making shit up as they go along. “well it’s this gate in arabia and all new islamic legal thought comes through it and that’s how the islamic world changes but i’m pretty sure it closed in 900 in the year of our lord because i don’t think the islamicate has really changed since then.” they pronounce 900 in the year of our lord like spat bullets with rapid fire precision and a kind of awe they don’t even notice but honestly calendars are really impressive especially when they’re right in that western way of being right. “that really explains the long history of the islamic world which we are intimidated by and also fetishize but the backwardness we need to make sure everyone believes so no one looks down and realizes we’re sitting on people,” the third old white man contributes. “oh okay cool do you want to find it and double check that it’s closed and then write about it,” says the second old white man. “yeah i’ve got nothing more interesting going on right now,” says the third,
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so i pack their bags and get them their camels and i just generally wonder what is up with academics i mean really. “would you like me to bring the chairs, sir,” i say looking down watching my toes sink into the sand because the other option was making eye contact with their chairs, eyes open mouths in silent screams. “oh no boy we can just buy new chairs,” and i don’t say that they’re people not chairs and we’re off. we’re trekking over sand dunes and passed scorpions and other things which you can probably think of when you think of ‘backward desert,’ ‘brown people’ and we find a small gate no more than five feet by five feet made of dull metal and pretty enthusiastically swinging open. the three old white men are visibly disappointed that it’s simple and metal and there’s no exotic calligraphy with words they don’t know but for which they have made up newer, more appropriate definitions. “oh the gate of ijtihad is not as nice as i thought,” says the first old white man but the second old white man wasn’t really paying attention because KHAN
he was trying to set up a new chair and lounge and sunbathe and instead he bumped into the gate and it swung shut. “oh shit,” says the third old man, but then he narrows his eyes and thinks allegedly. “i mean we’ve been saying the gate’s been closed since nine hundred in the year of our lord anyways… no one’s gonna really going to know the difference,” and they all turn to look at me and i am forgetting forgetting and reshaped and crushed crushed crushed and an old white man is sitting on me sunbathing pontificating masturbating and i see a world where the gate of ijtihad has been closed since nine hundred in the year of our lord and a special type of violence begins to creep around me and brown bodies lie in rows, chairs like lounge chairs at a beach resort, but bodies on a beach, lounge chairs washed up trying to float from a burning land where a small gate lies jammed with gross orientalist negligence and there’s metal and blood and islamic extremism. when you think
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about it its unbelievable that three old white men thought that brown people couldn’t logically reason and more incredible when that three old white men could convince everyone else. when you think about it, violence doesn’t matter if we are all just chairs.
THREE OLD WHITE MEN CLOSE THE GATE OF IJTIHAD
ROOM WITH NO LIGHT I tried to grasp it but the screen kept shuffling concept and cornflour. My lenses were falling out. Back in the room you said the lotion burns and drew the blanket across your thighs. I threw myself at your ear and missed the prying sun pressed against the window pendulous and white. Onscreen a carnie gulped down loose change, a billiard ball. Everything coming up scrambled and bright. Before each swallow he thumped his chest and you said turn it down. One of us fell asleep after jacking off. I think it was you.
ADVICE FOR QUEER GIRLS Mistake not the ectopic thrills of partyboyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s lips for a raw end of the yarn. He does not weigh enough to press you into that substance solid. I know the nauseous ache to pin yourself to the chalk outline of his body. Mistake not the geode in your gut for a rock.
1043 STEPS TO, 1035 STEPS BACK Adapting the etiquette of a gentle, I walk her home, a ritual ill-tailored to the matching breadth of our shoulders. Returning I am swooped up Riverside Drive with the park detritus and the gristle, beneath and between the hooves of the wind. Passed between the orange patches warmed by the door-menâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s watch, I tense myself for a hate crime that never lands, that has yet to sink talons into my shoulders.
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My big naked face, mounted atop the bobbing stick of my spine, paraded for an alien pleasure. On the walk over I had been layers deep into the peach of us, untouchable, with her hand shelling the hermit crabs at the ends of my wrists. Our doubleness swung easy. Our twin bounce our own. Retracing, I monitor every inscrutable window. The streetlights multiply my shadow into slices unmoored, flat enough to steal.
4Ã&#x2014;4 AWARD WINNER: PROSE
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THE AUNTIES IN KERALA do not eat onions. Onions and garlic increase lust and ignorance. Brahmin women are not supposed to marry either, but the aunties did anyway. Then their husbands died. Now, the aunties only wear white saris that match their white, braided hair. In July, the aunties come to Boston. They sit in my grandparents’ home, filled with baby Krishnas, old Christmas ornaments, pictures of us in all stages of life. The aunties recline in three chairs while we, the children and grandchildren and someone’s brother who is passing through, sit across from them on the velveteen couch. Naina Auntie is ninety two. She is blind— her eyes are pale blue from untreated cataracts, pupils so large they look like pools of coffee sitting in sky-colored china. Lakshmi Auntie is her younger sister, and has gone slightly deaf, mostly in her left ear. Usually she is smiling and nodding, head moving almost imperceptibly side to side as if in her deafness she feels some kind of rhythmic vibrations we cannot. Chandan Auntie is the middle sister. She is only four feet and five inches tall because she
inexplicably stopped growing at the age of eleven. We form a line so the aunties can stroke our hands and smooth our hair with their soft, flat palms over and over, the way I smoothed down the walls of my sandcastles as a child. When I reach over to hug Naina Auntie, which turns into an awkward semi-embrace of her neck, she reaches out to feel my height and width and says, approvingly, “big girl, big girl.” My grandmother translates—“she did not realize how old you were.” I cannot tell if this is her way of protecting my feelings. These brief and rare encounters with the aunties, who have always been imbued with a vaguely mythical power by my family’s tiptoe-ing around them, leave me feeling slightly off-balance. I grow clumsy under their gaze, tripping over my feet. I wonder if their presence in my hemisphere somehow disrupts my world’s magnetic poles so that every step is slightly too far to the right, each stair a little shallower. Sometimes I feel such profound sadness I wonder if the only explanation is
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the rupture from when my grandparents and father crossed an ocean fifty years ago. Like I am unknowingly wearing a knapsack full of all the stray buttons and certificates and boxes they lost on the way. My first year in New York is devoted to battling the sadness, so I seek out people who will tell me about myself, an invaluable service. In Chinatown, I sit on a metal box and a man uses a large rusting camera to take pictures of me that develop rainbow-hued and overcast. He explains the significance of the colors with a laminated Ayurvedic diagram of the chakras, which is taped to the counter on which he eats cold chicken in a thick, gelatinous sauce. In Greenwich Village, I visit a Romani woman in a red velvet room full of pictures of Jesus and the disciples and large breasted women offering flowers to deer. The woman inspects the dead leaves at the bottom of my teacup while her infant son cries and teethes on a box of Tarot cards. I see a therapist once, but I know all of her tricks and she has seen lots of girls like me, so there is no excitement
in the arrangement and I stop calling. Both the man in Chinatown and woman in the red room tell me I have energy in my hips. It seems like nearly everyone Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve met has had something to say about my hips. They appeared over night when I was twelve and were mottled with bruises in the months that followed because I was not accustomed to considering their width when I walked past tables and bookshelves. In Jamaica, a woman whose face was riddled with vitiligo tells me I have birthing hips and will bear many sons. My father pulled me closer to him and we walked away quickly. A past lover once wrapped his hands around my hips, their soft, stubborn flesh, and laughing, breath thick with brandy, whispered that my body looked like that of a cartoon character. He drew an hourglass figure in the air with his hands, still chuckling, and promptly fell asleep, head against my chest, still holding on. Later that year, the doctor at Mount Sinai explained to me by vaguely gesturing at a plastic model of the pelvis that the width of my hips had
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made me slightly pigeon-footed so that when I walked my pelvic floor tightens like a guitar string turned sharp. This is why every time that lover, and those that came before, pushed inside me it felt like a knife. Now I rock my hips against strangers in dark rooms and wake up satiated but sore in curious apartments that I investigate as their owners lie sleeping. It still hurts, to be filled, but the hurt functions well as a metaphor so I disregard it. Maybe if I did not eat onions or garlic or stay out late or wear black or watch movies or listen to the radio I would not feel so much or crave touch before falling asleep. Maybe I would not keep strange nighttime company or seek comfort from spiritual scammers and the horoscope section of old magazines left behind on the subway. Maybe if I wrapped myself in white cloth, swaddling my quarrelsome hips I could bury all those feelings, push them into a place where they would lie dormant save for one Final Moment in which truth would pour out of me like a geiser.
The aunts tell me they love me in English, voices sweet and childlike as though to utter these words in another language erases the depth behind them. They pack their bags and my grandfather, crying, drives them to the airport. The world tilts back into proportionality but the sadness returns, at least for a day, like a different kind of relative.
BODY SAYS WOAH
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1 AFTER THE ACCIDENT, I have to spend twenty minutes a day lying on my back doing exercises. It’s funny to call it the accident, to name something by the lack of intention behind it. Sometimes I listen to meditation cassette tapes. The tapes are meant to be listened to over one month and they alternate—Day 1 is Daniel, Day 2 is Joan, etc. Daniel has an Australian accent. I imagine him with full lips and soft red hair. I don’t like when people tell me what to do, but when he says “now, refocus your mind if you’ve found yourself wandering” I willingly comply. Joan speaks like someone taught her how to a second time, the proper way. Daniel and Joan tell me to notice the thoughts that enter my head, acknowledge them, let them go. Sometimes I imagine making love to Daniel, or to Joan although less frequently and with less specificity. Or the three of us all together but only our voices. Sometimes instead of Joan and Daniel I listen to recordings of old radio shows, the ghostly laughter of the studio
audiences. There is no need to do the exercises nude but I do anyway. I used to want to be a person without a body. Now I take walks late at night, unconcerned, and pick up shards of broken bottles to save in case I ever undertake some kind of art project that would require them. 2 THE RAIN STARTS SLOWLY as the sky goes purple, light captured in water. In India rain is blessing, people kiss the ground as the streets begin to flood. It rained at my parent’s wedding, islands tide growing swollen as they said their vows. Here, everyone has umbrellas. Love is the word today. A man stops me at the crosswalk. I will shove my hand up your cunt, he says, and strangle you from the inside. Something deep in my womb aches for violence. For a moment I understand why people have the urge to hit their children. I want to strike him, beat his body as if this could release some hidden self, a version of the same man that does not yell obscenities at women on the street or have eyes red
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from cheap alcohol. Instead I tell him, try it and it will be the last thing you ever do. It’s a movie line, a silly thing to say, an imitation of life. He grins but looks startled. I follow ten thousand other people into the street, tears meeting rain, arms linked, throats sore from prayers and protest chants, and try to remind myself that I am human.
its moral—pragmatism—when I find the emails that Carrie sent you, her long dancer legs wrapped around your waist like shoelaces in the blurry picture of you fucking her in front of our mirror. You snore gently next to me each night as I choose between the bag and the floor.
3 OVER COFFEE, SHAN TELLS US, in the voice she uses for stories like these, that once in college she had to go to the bathroom so badly and was waiting her dumb fucking roommate to get out of the shower for so long she gave up and shit in a grocery bag. “There I was,” she sets the scene, “and it was like—I had to go, and it was going to be on the floor or in the bag. So I made a choice.” We are all shocked and delighted, ask for more logistical details, the disposal of the shit. “You’re bagshit crazy!” someone cries out proudly. The book club sitting next to us glares. I think about this story and DESAI
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BODY SAYS WOAH
4Ã&#x2014;4 AWARD WINNER: POETRY
WHEN YOUR HOMETOWN BURNS DOWN
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I left my body where brush is scattered across fields in shallow breaths of growth. Wheat tendrils rise and fall like hair on the back of a neck. Dayâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s last sunlight licks space between every vertebra. Beetles slip through the tall grass, glowing teacups. Dogwood blossoms open all day in ecstasy; now they are at their fullest. Smell when the day ends as slugs know it will rain before it rains. The dogs have been out all day and are getting hungry. I have run the arched back of a hundred hills and never tired. I think about my body where I left it.
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At this moment, the cows are coming home. Every cow except the wormed calf, whoâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s going to heaven. I miss. I miss the chapels and the pastors, the chins lacquered with sour chewing-tobacco spit. I miss the uncompromising phallus of the rifle, I miss my mother. I used to dream that no matter how far I walked, there was always another piece of thatch to put in between my teeth, always another calf to shoot. Now I dream of the subway heaving through black underbellies like panic.
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WHEN YOUR HOMETOWN BURNS DOWN
TRUE HERO Two children rode in an elevator. The first wore socks with sandals. The second was sensible. “Wow,” said the second, looking at the first’s feet. “Yeah,” said the first. “I mean, just—” said the second. “I know,” said the first. “—wow,” said the second. “You know this is actually very brave,” said the first. “Yeah,” said the second. “Wearing socks and sandals takes courage,” said the first.
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“No, no, you’re right,” said the second. “Some might even say it’s the mark of a true hero,” said the first. The second shook their head. “No,” said the second. “Too far?” asked the first. “Too far,” said the second.
HALF-LIFE OF A JET STREAM there’s a storm I lost in the folds of the drapes and windowpane. it is irretrievable, I’m afraid. at night the wind flicks my thoughts into flighty ribbons that pillow-dance like dying fish. the morning’s apology simply states “all of our injuries rhyme,” because it’s never about cracking teeth on Sunday caesuras. the blood runs like strawberry jam, sweet and quivering to the touch.
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but that means little now. neon trimmed adverts outside theaters switch off in a farewell to summer, to the same tune as the exhale of a melting orange creamsicle— sweet and losing. this—and love too—is also irretrievable. this and the syncopated flash between brown eyes and highway signs. “who hasn’t looked at the birds and dreamt of throwing themselves at the sky?” I ask almost out loud if not for a sorry mouthful of rain. it’s a balance of probability: between the clouds and the wind— the clouds devour us every time.
Cows eat algae and lakes are mirrors.
Meanwhile, the mango tree at my grandmother’s house stands as self-righteous as a skyscraper. Where there are clumps there are fuzzy red bombs.
If I punctured one with a tooth the juice would pop like a blister and flood the world in a counterfeit shade of sun.
Cows would be yellow. Lakes would be ponds of golden urine. Algae and mirrors would disintegrate from existence.
The mango tree drowns in a fit of bubbling branches. Into the blue I stare at myself. I stoop near cattle and wedge chlorophyll between my ivories. I snuffle around gloriously and stir earth from the deep. And even here the sun shines.
In January of 2016, 4×4 mourned the passing of one of our own staff editors, Olivia Erhardt. Since welcoming her onto the board in 2015, Olivia was a warm presence who offered careful insight into each piece discussed. A year later, we honor Olivia’s memory by publishing one of her previously unseen pieces, courtesy of Joan and Mark Erhardt. “The value of a piece is entirely subjective—hearing different views and opinions can bring a whole new meaning or purpose to the work, and expressing your own view can help solidify what made a piece so exciting to you in the first place.” – Olivia Varley Erhardt
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FRIDAY I’M BROKEN, SHE THOUGHT. I stopped working how I’m supposed to. It happened so casually and suddenly, a Friday afternoon on the sagging living room couch, that she almost didn’t realize it, but some inevitable shuddering deep inside her chest told her that the gears had finally grinded to a halt. Maybe it was rust from the onetoo-many times she had been caught in a rainstorm, or maybe the metal had simply worn down. They had warned her of the effects of overuse, but at the time even that feeling of fear was wonderful and new, and by the time she had learned other emotions that were even more wonderful, she had forgotten. Now, there was nothing but hollow realization in her mind and stillness in her chest. Of course, she knew she couldn’t feel anymore, but something was empty inside her. She gripped the arms of the couch, the material slightly rough but cool under her palms, and remembered. We bought this together, three months ago, from that used furniture store where
we got the kitchen table. He didn’t like the color, but I did and he relented with that sigh that makes the ends of his hair flutter slightly. She swallowed mechanically and closed her eyes, listening as she heard the door rattle open and shut, the clink of keys on the counter and the warm thud of shoes on wood. That sound makes me happy, she told herself. “Hey,” he said, and she opened her grey eyes and looked at his green ones, made half-moons by his smile. The tiny freckle that lay like a fleck of paint above his left eyebrow was just visible through the brown strands that fell across his forehead and over the tips of his ears. Her eyes traveled down the curve of the cartilage to the small metal earring. I wasn’t sure about the piercings at first, but now I like them. “I broke,” she said, and watched as the half moons became full. “What?” “I broke,” she said again. “How do you know?” His voice seemed thick, frantic.
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“I could feel it stop. In here.” She tapped a finger over her chest. He stared at her a moment and then leaned forward and wrapped his arms around her. She made herself move her arms, fitting herself to him. His breath tickled the fine hairs on the back of her neck. This is comforting, she thought. “It’s ok,” he murmured, “I’m here, so it’ll be ok.” She nodded and tightened her arms, staring at the peeling wallpaper as she fought not to move away. SUNDAY
for eight hours.” But she still stepped closer. He snagged her arm and pulled her down for a kiss. His lips were warm and dry against hers. “Come on,” he pleaded with that half-moon smile. “I’m going out,” she said, straightening and turning so that she didn’t have to see his sad eyes. She didn’t feel guilty and somehow that made it worse. “Where?” he called, voice cracking slightly. She let the door fall shut behind her without replying. MONDAY
She stood in the doorway and looked at the blinking clock. 7:17 am. He was sprawled on their bed, hair rumpled slightly, body only half hidden by the dark green comforter. He has bedhead. I think he is cute right after he wakes up, she told herself, but her stomach remained horrifyingly hollow. “Come back to bed,” he mumbled, “we can just sleep all day.” “I don’t need any more sleep,” she said automatically, “I already rested
She ran her finger over the frame, collecting the thin film of dust that had settled on the scratched plastic surface. The photo was from four months ago, at a friend’s birthday party. She was sitting, leaning into him slightly, and his arm was slung casually over the back of her chair. They were both grinning, him so hard that his eyes were shut. She studied it, tried to remember what she had been feeling. It’s called happiness.
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The door opened. “I’m back!” He called and she heard his shoes clunk to the ground and the thud of bare feet draw closer until he was behind her. “Hey,” he whispered, sliding his hands onto her shoulders. He’d been whispering a lot lately, as if she was sick. His palms suddenly felt suffocating and she shuddered, stepping away. “You okay?” He asked, letting his hands fall. “Fine,” she said. She didn’t meet his eyes, and instead looked at his hands as they twisted tentatively around each other.
“Goddamit!” He jabbed the off button and let his arm drop to the table, head falling so that his forehead rested on the scratchy green fabric of his sweater. You should hold his hand, she thought. But she just sat there and stared at the dingy foot of wood that stretched bigger with each tick of the clock on the wall. “They only made one of those parts,” she said. “Then they can make another one,” he said, head rolling to look up at her. She didn’t reply. THURSDAY
WEDNESDAY “You can’t just—no, but—there has to be some way to fix this.” She watched as he rubbed his temples with one hand, the other holding the phone up to his ear. His earring clinked gently against the cheap plastic. It was his fifth time calling. “Please, we’ll—I’ll do anything.” His eyes were covered by his hand, but she was pretty sure they were closed.
You have to remember, she told herself. The moonlight came in cold through the window, drawing sharp white blue angles over her body. Beside her he rustled, turning towards her. “Hey,” he whispered. She looked at him and forced herself to smile. He moved so that his head lay on her chest, ear flat over where a heart would be. His hair tickled the bottom of her chin and she swallowed.
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“It doesn’t tick anymore,” he said. He sounds sad, she thought. “Remember the first time I heard it? That was so cool,” he continued. “It was like a clock, but warmer and deeper.” He tipped his head up and kissed her softly. I love him, she thought, but she didn’t say it. Instead she lay there, telling herself to remember with a blank mind.
crossed his arms, hunching into himself. She stared his hands, clenching on the thin material of his t-shirt. “Please… please don’t leave.” His voice broke on the last word and she looked away. “I have to go,” she said, turning. I love him. It echoed through her empty tin head and her empty tin heart.
SATURDAY “Where are you going?” He asked with full moon eyes. “I’m leaving,” she said again. He stood slumped against the door frame. She could see the goose bumps on his arms from the night air. She rubbed her thumb absently against the corner of her suitcase, staring at him for a moment. “Soon the rest of me is going to break, too.” “Listen, we’ll get them to fix you— they can make new parts, repair things. I don’t care how expensive—” “It’s too late,” she cut him off. He BROKEN
BEHIND THE SCENES OF 4X4, A SHOWSTOPPING STAGE CREW. We feel enormous gratitude to everyone who helped make this year’s magazine possible. There’s truly too many thank-yous to fit in these square margins, but here are a few: To our senior staffers, Emma and Kelly: how will our hearts go on in your absence? We love and look up to you. Your warmth and wisdom make this Magazine the publication it is. We are so grateful to you both and wish you the world in your journeys ahead. To Karen and Eleanor, our visuals matriarchs, we thank you for your endless patience and dedication to our brand and layout. You make us look so beautiful! To the Gatsby Grant at CU Arts, the Activities Board at Columbia, and the Graduate Writing Office at Columbia’s School of the Arts: without your support, this volume wouldn’t have been possible. We are proud and endlessly grateful to be a part of a University so committed to art and undergraduate writing, especially in times like these. An enormous thank you to Colm Tóibín and Saskia Hamilton for judging our respective new prose and poetry 4×4 Awards. We are so appreciative of your time and thoughtful consideration for the creatives of this campus. And although we can only publish a select few of the hundreds of submissions we receive each year, we are warmed and privileged by the students who submit their work to us, who attend our events, and who graciously and attentively read our magazine. Reader, thank you! Finally to our staff, old and new, we want to say thank you for every Wednesday night spent in Dodge. For the stubbornness of your persuasion, your prowess and precision in selecting pieces, for filling the room with family, for going wildly with our wild flow, thank you.
MICHELLE XU studies English at Barnard College. In addition to writing poetry and personal narratives, she dances bachata, eats more eggs than the recommended daily intake, cares about the visibility of Asian American women in the current US climate, and is a strong feminist. GLYNNIS ELDRIDGE is a cross-genre creative writing student in the School of General Studies. OMAR KHAN is a junior in Columbia College majoring in MESAAS and concentrating in chemistry. His family often ask him what Middle Eastern Chemistry is.
ANURAK SAELAOW is the publisher of the Columbia Daily Spectator and a former managing editor of Quarto Magazine. His work has been published in the Haydenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Ferry Review, Eunoia Review, Ceriph Magazine, and the Quarterly Literary Review Singapore. He is the author of one chapbook, Schema. PERRY LEVITCH is a sophomore in Barnard College studying English and WGSS. MITALI DESAI is sophomore in Barnard from Boston, MA. She is majoring in Anthropology and Comparative Literature, and aspires to be a novelist/
professor/human rights lawyer/professional ice cream taster. PERLA HANEY-JARDINE was born in Brazil but grew up in North Carolina. Her poetry has been published once before in her high school’s literary review. The poem was a half-assed one about her mom, who, upon reading it, grounded the author. Perla has been recalcitrant ever since. MEGAN WICKS is a junior in Columbia College, studying philosophy and visual arts.
AMANDA LIU is a freshman in SEAS from Long Island, NY. She can clap nine times a second. VIVIANA PRADO-NÚÑEZ is a freshman in Columbia College, born in San Juan, Puerto Rico in a hospital with a 4.0 Google review rating and a view of the ocean. Other publications include The Best Teen Writing of 2014, Synergy, and her novel, The Art of White Roses, which is one of three finalists for the 2017 Burt Award for Caribbean Literature.
Sponsored in part by the ARTS INITIATIVE at COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY. This funding is made possible through a generous gift from The Gatsby Charitable Foundation.
NO 4 2017