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P U N C H P R O S E & N O N F IC T IO N

SENTIMENTAL MOURNING Olivia Strickland

Author’s Note: Names have been changed to protect the privacy of those most touched by these events. I don’t think I’ve ever understood what it takes to earn the right to a feeling, or what gives you ownership of a story. Too many artists and writers use sentimentality to elicit undeserved emotion from their audiences, and I have always sworn I would never be one of them. I know that there are too many thoughts and feelings I have no claim to and no right to inspire in others, but, to be honest, maybe I’m too prone to self-deprecation. Sometimes it works in my favor, maybe for a good joke or a snide comment, but sometimes it crosses into the much less amusing self-loathing category. Then again, who doesn’t do that? I’m not special for thinking I’m not special. I graduated high school with a few shreds of confidence, but those would be obliterated my first weekend in college. All it took was two randomly assigned roommates and a tragedy a few days after having met them to remind me that I had no idea how to handle anything of importance. Zero real knowledge and very little emotional health left me with only sentimentality and empty gestures when my roommate, almost a perfect stranger, lost her best friend the first Sunday we were at school. All I could think was that I was the wrong person to be there. It should have been my mom; moms just know how to ease pain. It should have been a pastor, someone who perhaps knew the mind of the God I was not sure I believed in. It should have been someone who had known Cassie longer than a week. Instead it was me, the emotionally unavailable, sheltered aspiring writer. Now all I could do was listen to Cassie scream on the bunk above me. A simple phone call had stirred our dorm room from our slumber, a phone call at six a.m. on a Sunday morning. The soft tinkling of her ringtone had roused us immediately into full awareness. There was no question about the contents of the phone call, though I had not actually heard anything or even known who had called. I opened my mouth to say something, but closed it. There was nothing to say. We had gone to sleep knowing her best friend, Emma, was sick, but she was supposed to be okay. She was supposed to be fine. I felt the bed shake as our third roommate climbed from her bed to Cassie’s. Please don’t say anything stupid, I thought. “Cassie,” Hannah said. Her voice was low. She probably meant to sound gentle. I could not see the two of them from the lower bunk, but I imagined Hannah awkwardly putting her arms around Cassie, maybe stiffly stroking the sobbing girl’s hair. “I know you don’t want to hear this right now,” said Hannah, “but everything happens for a reason. God has a plan.” I closed my eyes as though that would block out her words. Maybe I could say something to erase them, something to at least distract from the arrogant insensitivity of the statement. I wondered if maybe I was projecting, maybe my anger stemmed from going to dozens of funerals as a pastor’s daughter growing up. I imagined Hannah as a well-dressed mourner with perfect eye liner and deep red lipstick whispering about God’s plan to a sobbing mother standing over her child’s body. Cassie gave no answer, but began climbing down from her bed.

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Profile for Ivy Leaves Journal of Literature & Art

Ivy Leaves Journal of Literature & Art — Vol 93  

The Ivy Leaves Journal of Literature & Art is an annual student publication at Anderson University in Anderson, SC. The journal has served a...

Ivy Leaves Journal of Literature & Art — Vol 93  

The Ivy Leaves Journal of Literature & Art is an annual student publication at Anderson University in Anderson, SC. The journal has served a...

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