GAUGE SPRING 2018 / BLOOM
CONTENTS issue 33
3 Letters 4 Ode to the Revolution Sara Barber 7 POETRY 8 Tadpole Charleigh Triaga 9 Who We Were on the Highway Kelsey Pereira 10 the honey trap Kira Compton 11 Mul’s Diner, June 2017 (For Jack) Sean Dever 12 Red Owen Elphick 13 Mother Tree Owen Elphick 14 man on the train Isabel Kingsepp 15 Dandelion at Twilight Owen Elphick 16 atomic tangerine Emily Hillebrand 17 Any Given Thursday Gabrielle Martin
18 Blood on the Urinal Owen Elphick 19 NONFICTION 20 Attack of the Invasive Species Libby Sweeney 23 Gardening Me Kamryn Leoncavallo 26 Like a Virgin Kenna McCafferty 29 Let it ‘Fro Sara Bastian 32 You Don’t Have to Be a Mind Reader to Have Consensual Sex Rebecca Lane 36 A City in Bloom? Bonnie Kwong 40 The Pursuit of Plastic Renee Esteban 45 FICTION 46 The Diner Jocelyn Pontes 49 Sunflowers Ximena Delgado 52 You Should 54 Etymology 3
Co-Editors-in-Chief Sara Barber Renee Esteban
Sara Bastian Bonnie Kwong Rebecca Lane Kamryn Leoncavallo Libby Sweeney
Photo Editor Ayo Oladeji
Staff Photographers Ron Auer Sam Branch Fiona Cheng Dylan Foley Ruth Secular
Copyeditors Fiction Editor
Fiction Readers Sally Greene Elle McNamara Victor Morrison Erin Sherry Hannah Wolfe
Lydia Albonesi Emma Campbell Melinda Fakuade Victoria Nagy
Olivia Carey Kyle Eber Melinda Fakuade Colleen Risavy Talia Santopadre
Head Designer Laura King
Ron Auer Andy Caira John Corredor Brittney Eisnor Victoria Nagy Alessandra Sy
Marketing Team Kelsey Allen Nikki Baptist Danielle Finelli Erin Nolan Tess Rauscher
With the beginning of 2018 still feeling as chaotic as our issue’s theme this time last year, I’m choosing to ground myself in positivity. I’m attempting to avoid naivety by asserting control over what I consider negative. For me, the positives of this life include writing, which has been foundational in the development of my wildest imaginations. Publishing, then, has become a radical act for me in terms of building a community, where I am able to share that knowledge and continue learning from those around me. Above all, positivity is the Gauge staff, who meticulously make this magazine beautiful. I am consistently astounded by this team’s diligence in crafting a publication that we can all be proud of. I think no matter the wreckage, there is always hope for growth. I invite each of us to sit with this issue for some time and ponder what is preventing us from blooming, either as an individual or as a society, and determine how we can do better.
Lately, when I think of Bloom, it takes the form of seeds of doubt. I don’t usually have expectations for each new year, but somewhere in the back of my mind I guess I formed some for 2018. I thought I might be getting enough sleep and staying on top of classes and work. I thought I might be smarter about time management, and above all, I thought that I might have a plan. For pretty much anything. But it’s March, and I still don’t have a clue what I’m doing. And I’m still trying to motivate myself to do anything at all when everything seems so pointless. But I’ve been thinking about something that one of my closest friend told me. The lotus flower blooms in mud. It grows in a dirty pond and keeps itself above the water. I’m trying to keep my head above the water. I think we all are at this point. Everyone I speak to seems to feel on edge, and I think this issue is so important because it reflects that. There’s some of the lotus flower; you’ll read a You Shoulds designed to give you hope and an Ode to a 2018 utopia. There’s also mud. You’ll read articles about fraught consent, damaging invasive species, and racism. Bloom is beautiful and ugly and clean and dirty and so is everything else. All there is to do is keep our heads above water and see it. I hope you’ll start with this issue and the lovely, painful, moving work of those who contributed to create this comforting, uncomfortable interpretation of Bloom.
I wonder how many versions of Earth there were before us. And how the Earth begins to shed its skin. I imagine it to be a scratch—Earth’s smooth hands rubbing out dead skin until new skin surfaces to replace it. Cell by cell, moving with a methodical inconspicuousness: where change appears like a new mole on old skin. To me, there is no old and new Earth, but pieces of each of Earth’s stages freckled across Her facade. This, to me, is blooming—the collective process of elimination we undergo on a pathway to change. Where each being may form their own flower to be condensed and atomized by atmosphere and bear one fruit on the vine of the universe. And the universe always picking and sorting, pulling bad apples, taking bites ripe with the worms of original sin, drooling rain on dry land and feeding energy back into our vines for the next buds to bloom. It is an honor to be sewn into the seed Gauge has planted this semester, and I invite you to grow with us, wilt with us, and bloom with us as we stretch petaled palms out to the universe.
ODE TO THE REVOLUTION By Sara Barber Image by Dylan Foley
In my utopia, every person enters the conversation with good intentions. My definition of good means internally and externally working toward beneficial growth for everyone. This intention is opposing the exclusion of anyone from the discourse. Language for healthy change becomes accessible without becoming a buzzword for unspoken ambiguity, like peace or social justice. We all have our own ideas of what these loaded words mean, but in order to fully comprehend their potential impact, we must ensure we are all flipping the same pages, that the framework we are resting on is communicable. To put it simply, to be good, I mean acknowledging that the world has been bad, and that we are capable of doing better. In my brief lifetime, I have seen catastrophic traumas that could have been avoided through structural revolution. A global acknowledgement would allow us to reexamine the power imbalances detrimentally present in the world. Hierarchies have routinely existed, but for what purpose? To meet what ends? By coming together as a worldwide network to innovate a sustainable, mutually agreed upon system of existing, itâ€™s possible to unwind some bleating suffering of humanity. It is possible that class, race, and gender structures give people a purpose, either suggested or enforced. People of marginalized communities endure the brunt weight at the end of this purpose, which is shamefully inflicted by the people mongering wealth. By reevaluating the systems at play, we have the opportunity to enact positive change. As students, we have access to an abundance of literature and attainable knowledge. This provides us with the means to impact power imbalance, resulting in institutional and cultural oppression. We are capable of holding people in positions of power to the truths they came to hold, specifically against the american government in the moral values they have indoctrinated but
refuse to uphold. As my utopian revolution comes to fruition, the rich will not exist. The greed that shelters wealth will be appraised for redistribution so that there will be no more poor. Big banks will cease overdraft charges in attempts to dig deeper ditches for the already impoverished. Food and shelter will be guaranteed to every human being regardless of their geographic location. We will acknowledge that resources are abundant enough to avoid dehumanizing the worth of some lives over others. Health will be valued for more than a profit. Drug companies will stop exacerbating poor people, hooking them on painkillers which too often resorts to other opioids, like heroin. Big companies, instead of being rewarded with power, will face consequences for their massive greed and funneling out poison to the general public. Treatments for people who have fallen ill will be determined as necessary, and medication will not be exorbitantly expensive nor unnecessarily prescribed. Drugs will not be criminalized nor punishment racialized, but rather, those struggling with addiction will be provided with resources to rehabilitate. Laws and the policing of such will be reconstructed so that is it no longer dictated by who has the lightest skin, and the means to afford legal assistance, like taking time off work. We will study the origins of policing, such as how in America it originated with the intentions of catching runaway slaves. Policing was developed as a blunt exertion of prejudiced societal control, which continues to disproportionately harm black people under the guise of protection. Punishments, if deemed absolutely unavoidable in pursuit of keeping everyone safe, will be agreed upon a societal consensus which include the voices of all communities. Assessing social disorder will be determined within the context of power and in acknowledgement of how and why certain
communities have been criminalized for existing thus far. Our media and news outlets will be structurally mandated to see from every side. Accountability will be the priority, so bias and reporting discrepancies will be at the forefront of the media we consume. We will hold our entertainers and politicians to distinguished yet comparable standards, seeking values in leaders and influencers that we solicit from ourselves. Values will be reconciled to elevate our moral consciousness. We will say no more to rapist celebrities and racist politicians. Education will not teach simply America’s truth, but broader perceptions of truth. History class will no longer spew whitewashed recalls of having arrived in foreign land and “Indians” shaking hands nonsense. Our classrooms will foster academic rigor across all disciplines, while providing a setting to learn and grow as members of a society that want to see the best in humanity. Teachers will be paid livable wages and given the resources to encourage contributions to oneself and one’s community. This list of demands could be endless, but it is feasible while only being the beginning. It is worth acknowledging the way our present structure of disparaging greed damages humanity. The dominant ideology of white supremacist heteropatriarchal values does not need to persist, and absolutely should not continue. What I’m asking for is not simple. We need to rethink the entire way we exist and imagine something that has not yet been achieved: some sort of peace. Everyone should feel safe and content, yet we continue to reject this notion out of what could be called laziness and compliance. A revolution will not come easy, it will take time, patience, and strategy. But what I want is not unachievable. My utopia is not impossible.
by Charleigh Triaga You are cherry blossom. I am rose thorn; I was always reading In the dark Until you showed me Chandelier, Swinging on it Like some vine. I respond like circus mime; Neglect to thank you for teaching me What it's like to eat, How it feels to breathe When I once believed I was but a starving fish, Drowning.
10 â€œself-preservationâ€? by Sara Barber
Who We Were on the Highway by Kelsey Pereira
Stale booze and black cherries tasted like moonlight, I thought. He laughed, something sweet, a thick elixir. Hitting eighty on fractured pavement. I caught his gaze, electric eyes watching mortality vanish in the rearview mirror. Don't look back, I answered. He laughed and we were out. In abandoned parking lots, under starless skies, I thought, this is where I belong, and told him so, words tumbling from my mouth into his, tasting anticipation in his reply. With sticky summer skin and a highway drenched in neon, we led a backseat rebellion. Against time, against doubt. Revolution staining our lips red. Youâ€™re impossible to forget, he said. And we wereâ€” two people who were out mostly so we kissed.
Photo by Dylan Foley
the honey trap
by Kira Compton
y trap. get caught up in this hone you can see how people r neck you g sin kis ky-sweet scratch of him ward for it would be easy, the stic you g stumblin could be misinterpreted, be. to nt wa nâ€™t to somewhere you do you can see it now ck on top of each other in the way your knees sta ce. like bricks sliding into pla s. eye d tire , ary softly with ble the way he stares at you h ug tho as you of the way poetry leaks out . ing nk dri n bee you had you can see it now, how
12 photo by Dylan Foley
s honey trap. people get caught up in thi no you will t, you think, his lips. as you lick the sugar off you will not.
Mul’s Diner, June 2017 (For Jack) by Sean Dever
We became fast friends over a love of shotgunning Keystone Light and rapid-fire Jim Beam.
to four a.m. talking about hopes of marriage, family, season tickets to the Patriots, the shared promise
You reminded me of myself: loud-mouthed, too slow to think, too quick to act—
to grab breakfast at Mul’s Diner in Southie once every summer, for the rest of our lives,
except for your signature, toothy grin. Nights of getting blackout drunk together and waking up
regardless of where we were living, because expensive plane flights are nothing to see your best friend
facedown, breathing in cold tile and cigarette butts became what we knew as a night well spent.
and who can really put a price tag on stuffed french toast? I poured whisky down my throat as you puffed
After midnights, we pissed on cars parked illegally outside Moody’s Falafel Palace in Cambridge,
Pineapple Express and we both laughed about the first time we met: You came up to me,
declaring it our brand of justice. You thought I was too hotheaded on shit that didn’t matter,
asked if I had a little brother, and when I said no, you just smiled, “Let’s change that.”
like when I chased two guys down River Street for shattering empty bottles
I always said I believed you’d outlive me, that my diseases would come to collect,
against our front door. But those times we found ourselves
and you would be left to set my sins and ashes free over Duxbury Beach.
vulnerable, like when my grandfather’s deep sleep became his last and when your girlfriend
I never thought it would be me at your funeral,
of six years left you for that guy who said he went to Harvard, were when I knew you best.
hiding tears in the shoulders of my suit, so I could still be the big brother you always wanted.
“I swear, if you guys tell anyone I’ll deny it.” Yet, you remained unfiltered to me in the nights we stayed up
I won’t see you back at Mul’s this summer, but I’ll keep a seat open for you.
“Reduced” by Simon Luedtke
Red by Owen Elphick
You didn’t break my heart, not really— just ignored it, kept yourself oblivious to its unfurled petals, its openness, and left me to do the breaking. Every time I see you now, every time you shift your gaze away from mine, embarrassed, or maybe just disinterested, I let my hopes for solace click their teeth against the concrete, and curb-stomp them to a cracked oblivion. I watch red seep over the sidewalk, red like a flower bursting to life, red like the top you wore the first and only time we kissed, meaningless to you, probably already forgotten, but I remember, remember approaching you in trepidation, terrified by possibilities, saying I was fine with it if you were— and then you pulled me to you, the red of your top filling my vision, and all I’d ever wanted to do was kiss you, to feel your bare arms against mine, and I’d never felt anything softer than your lips, the idea of your lips, red petals expanding all around me, this red moment blossoming in my mind forever, and the red, the red fills me even now, I can never
be free of it, of wanting to nestle in the open flower of that kiss again, and pretend, just for a moment, that you loved me back.
Photo by Jady Ojiri
by Owen Elphick Like an acorn grown from your oaken heart, you cradled me in wooden arms, my dear mother. You gave me books cut from your side. Each page was a slice of you, every word a drop of your black sap. You would laugh, and scatter sticks for me to play with. I laid in your lap. Fruit swelled from your remaining branches, ripped off and devoured when ripe, me making a harvest of you. You are my life source, and I always come back, no matter how sharp your bark stings me, or how much it hurts to hit back. At least you have no bite. You do not need one, being always right, rooted by logic that woodsmen hack at, your trunk too thick for them to ever chop down. You remain there, always holding your ground. Truth sprouts off you, drops like leaves in autumn; and when birds pass overhead, you watch, wonder what it is to fly. But you are of the earthâ€”it was your womb, and will be your tomb, will reclaim you in the end. But you do not bend, or worry about that, just spend your time on what you haveâ€”dirt and birth and the sky. And I know you will always be there for me, rooted in that spot until you are not.
Photo by Jady Ojiri
man on the train by Isabel Kingsepp every morning at 7:40 a.m. this guy on the train reminds me of your dad he’s got the big, swollen nose of a former alcoholic and bumps on his cheek like curdled milk he looks like the type of guy who would drive me places without you and calm me down when you got angry “just take it easy” “come back to it tomorrow” “it’ll be ok. you’re young” is it weird that riding the train has suddenly become cathartic? that sometimes i even imagine him apologizing over and over again “i’m sorry” he begins, “i never meant to turn on the bathroom light… to drown out the noise… i just didn’t want my wife to hear from downstairs… she’s sick, you know? but i never meant to leave you alone… he didn’t push you though, right? right?? you’re both just 19 brash, loud, obnoxious, in love… it’ll be okay...” i imagine during the ride we come to the conclusion that maybe he shouldn’t have ignored empty beer bottles or holes in walls or the sound of the staircase creaking at 4 a.m. but still, we reminisce about the drives home the cured panic attacks, the breakfasts, the idle small talk we’d share when i had nowhere else to go and i say “it doesn’t matter now. i understand” so thank you, man on the train i forgive you
Dandelion at Twilight by Owen Elphick It was one evening in August when, strolling up my driveway past flowerbeds rich with fading colors, pink lemonade seeping across the sky and becoming blood at the horizon line, I came across a dandelion sitting there at the edge of the grass, its white, feathery head hanging to the skin of the earth by a thin, green stalk. As I reached down carefully to pick it, struck by its structure, drawn to its nucleus, from which each tuft, quivering with energy, radiated, I remembered what I was taught as a child—to make a wish before blowing on the little flower and watching the tufts spin off through the air. How did it start, this wishing on dandelions? The roots of tradition are lost to the hungry earth, to time’s thick soil, and I cannot know for sure. But I like to think it comes from the human instinct to gather our hopes and dreams about us as electrons to the atom of our being, generate them from the stalks that tie us to the world and allow them to sit, humming with power, before we suck in a rich breath and release it, scattering our wishes into the wind, watching them spin before finally coming to rest on the ground. And I like to think that soon, after our long winter of cold minds and empty hearts, which yields no flowers, dandelions will start to appear again with fresh aspirations bristling on their stalks; and we, still children, really, unable to resist, will blow on them, and watch to see where the little tufts of our desires land.
“Time Got Away” by Simon Luedtke
atomic tangerine by Emily Hillebrand
orange runs anxious, expanding past the well of neuronic impulse humming between brain and sole. oh, angerâ€” softened by pink core of calm, you burst into cauterizing color when shadows flit across closed eyes, body risen too quick. blushing toward waking hour, calamity cracks open, film of yellow after-blood coloring morningâ€™s edge as if from discarded shell. and yet I want to cradle you under my tongue when seen, small hard-heart, flowering outside my window.
photo by Ron Auer
Any Given Thursday by Gabrielle Martin
Call me indigo and take me to the river so I can feel the world exhale as it wraps itself around me.
blood on the urinal by owen Elphick
Small red flowers blooming against the white, speckling the surface of my mind, the tiniest dots, damned spots, still drying, recently scattered over this enamel rim. I splash into the basin of myself and wonder who has bled here, whose liquids now mix with mine in the swirl, who dripped scarlet, and why, and from where. And are they still bleeding? And does the wound go on dripping, still trickling against the white of the world, staining its surface, soaking into it before being washed away by the next personâ€™s piss?
Attack of the Invasive Species by Libby Sweeney photo by sara barber 22
here is a verdant green all around you. Above you, the bright-blue sky is streaked with clouds, ranging from deep purples and grays to wisps of white. The sun still shines through them and tumbles down to the trees and plant life that surround you. The flora flourishes; you can see it devour the sunlight and transform it into energy, which translates into beauty — the trees are tall and thick, the leaves a glowing green, and the plants wave around your ankles, pressing buds or flowers that hold aromatic rainbows inside their bulbs. The critters that call this place home are abuzz with the satisfaction of a pleasing, thriving ecosystem. Life will continue, productively, in its predictable pattern of give and take, life and death. You can feel the magnificence of a fully- fledged forest, an ecosystem that has existed cyclically, wreathed in a splendor that was crafted through stunning simplicity. The cyclical nature of the world’s forests is what keeps their simple world enduring. There is no room for the unexpected in a timeless circle, so when it arrives, it can break the circle apart. While mankind has directly done a great deal to interrupt many ecosystems, there is another factor that can inhibit and even destroy ecosystems: invasive species. Invasive species are an insidious threat to any ecosystem and its circle of balance. They can come into regions where they are not native and throw the entire dynamic within the area off balance. When a nonnative species enters a region that is unfamiliar with it, it is left unchecked due to its newness; none of the native species are equipped to handle an interloper. The types of invasive species can vary widely, from aggressive, ornamental plants such as purple loosestrife, to voracious beetles with disease, even to the Burmese python infestation in the Florida Everglades. The pythons are now beginning to usurp the top of the food chain after being constantly released by intimidated owners into the swampy region. The threat of these interlopers depends greatly on the rate at which they grow. Invasive species that can grow and surpass other life in the area, by either directly or indirectly killing or limiting other species, are known as aggressive. Aggressive invasive species are those that threaten to destabilize and even dismantle regions and species because they are more adaptable to a diverse set of environments, can grow faster, and can outcompete and strangle the other life around them
when they have nothing to keep them in check. In the United States, invasive species are a constant happening, though it is only recently that there has been attention given to the damage they can cause. While many invasions cannot always be stopped, such as the traveling of seeds along winds, humans are also greatly responsible for the migration of invasive species to new regions. Many times throughout history, a lack of awareness would bring a new plant, insect, or even animal to a new region, and it would begin to entrench itself. At Harvard University’s Arnold Arboretum, the nearby botanical garden at the end of the orange line that spans 281 acres (nearly twelve times the size of the Boston Public Garden), almost 4,000 different types of plant species live and thrive under the watchful gaze of researchers, workers, and volunteers. While many of these species are from all around the world, they still are enclosed in areas that ensure native environments similar to their regions of origin. The Arboretum’s assistant manager of horticulture, Rachel Brinkman, says that threat of invasive species impacts work at the Arboretum, enclosed as it is. “We’re constantly removing invasive species,” Brinkman said. “If you’re not constantly caring for an area, then invasive plants will come in.” Even in the form of seeds on the wind, possibly from other areas of the arboretum, invasive species can travel into nonnative regions and begin to grow. These organisms—ranging from the python to the weed—cause havoc, unbalance the predator and prey dynamic in their ecosystems, and can also cause a domino effect with a much wider impact. One example is the Asian citrus psyllid. Though the bug feeds on citrus trees, the real threat it poses is the disease it carries. Huanglongbing, also known as citrus greening disease, is destroying nearly half the orange trees produced in Florida (which produces nearly eighty percent of the country’s orange juice), as well as in California. Citrus greening disease eats away at the trees infected and has no cure. Since the beetle and its disease was found in Florida (1998 and 2005, respectively), orange juice production has dropped from its 2003-04 high of 291.8 million ninety-pound boxes to the 2016-17 low of 68.7 million boxes by volume. As humans continue to move and mesh more across the globe, so does the environment. While
we are aware of the impact we have on the environment directly, the movement of invasive species is another great factor in changing the stability of the world’s ecosystem. Orange juice production is just one example of a largescale impact. Only in the last few decades has awareness of invasive species and the harm they can inflict spread across the nation. In 1999, then-President Clinton signed an Executive Order mandating that a council of offices be made to deal with the threat of invasive species. Since then, more laws have been enacted to curb the threat, including channeling resources and building departments. Brinkman says that this isn’t necessarily because the issue has become worse as of late, just that we have become more aware of it. “I think that, as we understand the environment and ecosystem more, we can better identify these problem [species] and notify the population of what to keep a lookout for and what not to plant or encourage,” Brinkman said. “It seems like people are more aware of these plants and their impact on the environment and the ecosystems,” she admits, but adds, “I might be in a bubble, because being in an arboretum I might be surrounded by people that care more for plants than the typical population.” Since she can’t be too sure, Brinkman reminds people that “you can never educate people too much.” The battle against invasive species can never fully be won; it would be impossible to eradicate all invasive species from non-native areas. However, Brinkman says, that isn’t the aim; there still is a battle to fight. “The goal is to preserve the native species—to control the invasive species in a game of balance and [keep] them from overrunning the other vegetation.” It is the hope of her and every botanist at the Arboretum and beyond that the rest of the population will fight this good fight. And the rest of us do not have to be botanists to help. From being aware of the “no plant” list to plucking out weeds that creep into a garden or sidewalk, there are ways to prevent invasive species from disrupting ecosystems. Just as recycling and watching our carbon footprints help the environment we live in, so too does being aware of invasive species and how we may prevent their takeover. This is just another way to protect and preserve the harmony of that verdant forest and ecosystem we all know. Because we as humans have greatly contributed to the mess of entangled invasive species in our own backyards, it may only be right to heal the wrong.
photo by Dylan Foley
by Kamryn Leoncavallo
photos by Ron Auer
â€œMy mom knows weeds are weeds because, you know, you can just tell.â€?
"I think it all has a lot of potential," she says to me and it's all very hopeful. There's a lot of potential for a lot of things, and potential could refer to anything. My parents just bought a house with seven acres of grass and woods and blackberry bushes and a swampy pool and garden plots with lots of weeds. A lot of work needs to be done on the house itself, and there are men with hammers and stuff constantly going in and out, but it's so nice out, and I'd like to be out. "I think if we really work on it, we could have a really beautiful yard, truly." I agree. It's a good summer temperature, not too warm, and my mom has visions of everyone happy, our family frolicking through the grass with Frisbees floating around us and lilies blooming and hummingbirds flying and the pool crystal clear. But the pool is mud black and the lilies are buried by crabgrass and other kinds of grass and wild strawberries and these really painful plant things with a lot of thorns. The hummingbirds, though, are ready to go. My mom decides we have to grab all these weeds and hold them tightly and pull and pull with our hands. I put on a pair of dirty, matted, oversized garden gloves and grab a spade and darken my light-wash jeans with soil. This grass looks kind of annoying; is it also a weed? When you really get down and close to it, really all the plants are weeds. This excessive ivy, is this a weed? My mom doesn't like the look of it on that rock so, yes, tear it all up. The ivy's easy, but the spiky,
painful plants have huge roots, impossible almost, and I have to dig a lot, disrupt a lot of burrowing, earth-turning insects to take out networks of roots the size of my head, just more dense and complex. "What if they just grow back anyway? Like when I grab these dandelions, their seeds get everywhere. What's the point?" I ask my mom (another one of those existential questions), tugging at the stale-feeling grass. "What even is a weed? Who really decides this?" I think some of the plants that my mom tells me are weeds are still beautiful anyway. Dandelion yellow and dusty and bright that go so well with green summer grass. And I can't walk through a yard for more than a few minutes without finding a four-leaf clover, and those are good luck, right? And my mom even says daisies are weeds. What's really the difference between wild strawberries and regular strawberries when you get to think about it? Queen Anne's lace is beautiful and so are carrots. I'm sure there's more; it's just hard to draw a hard line. My mom knows weeds are weeds because, you know, you can just tell. I accidentally touch a lot of bugs while down in the garden soil. Praying mantis (multiple), and later I was maybe almost killed by brown recluse spider? We find a snake by accident. Then another on a different day, but we just hang out with that one and decide it's probably some kind of whatever garden snake, since it's just sitting there. Apparently the brown
diamond pattern and triangle head means that these reptile friends were actually copperhead snakes, venomous and plentiful in our gardens. So I was almost killed x2 and all for the sake of beauty in the garden, tidying the soil. Last and most fatally, shortly prior to deciding never to touch the gardens ever again, I briefly brush up against something that causes me EXTREME pain, which turns out to be a stinging caterpillar. I did not realize caterpillars could ever sting. I develop a small rash, feel feverish the rest of the day, and soon leave this potentially cursed home for the fall semester. When I think about home, I still imagine everything the way it was like when I was three years old, ten years old, and sixteen years old. I can, in my mind, move through rooms and feel the textures of the wood panels, the thickness of the paint, and the couches that didn't make the move. Where I felt rooted into the earth, I put myself down into the ground. Can't be pulled out so easily, â€™till you are. My mom asks if I miss the old house; I say I don't. I don't miss it. I think I miss something else. Iâ€™ve been uprooted. Came back for break. Everything's dead anyway for winter, but my mom informs me that the weeds came back. The house is still potentially cursed, men with hammers and stuff still going in and out Fixing more and more stuff. Things don't feel so right. Feels like we are treading water and getting nowhere. Doing things that get undone as you do them. The pipes freeze
in the December subzero; as soon as they unfreeze, like crazy people, we leave all the faucets slightly dripping so the water keeps moving, not frozen. We burn through piles of firewood. Sweep dead leaves out. Some thingâ€™s different at home and part of it's me and my new attitudes and proclivities and things I like, things I'm used to, and things I'm, like, used to. My mom and I don't dare to touch the gardens, or look at them. I do a 500-piece puzzle, then put it away and do a 1000-piece puzzle. Pipes freeze again with snow and ice coming down. I wonder about the copperheads and what they do in wintery sleet like this. Pipe-specializing hammer man comes to let us know that our pipes keep freezing because they're in the attic, which isn't properly insulated. Pipes should never be in an attic, and whoever built this cursed house thirty years ago must have been some kind of maniac. So, leave the faucets dripping, move the pipes somewhere else, or leave the cursed and cursing house... which shall it be? And a heat wave comes through; snow and cold are gone. I go back to college again. Won't be uprooted anymore. "I don't know when you'll be back again," my mom says and I don't know either. Maybe not this summer, but maybe next winter. But I don't know when I'll be back again, for a long time, and ideally I won't ever be back to live with my family, to stay for a long time, for a month or more. So I put my clothes away in the closet, don't leave anything out when I pack to leave, and don't put roots down here, now.
Like A Virgin by Kenna McCafferty Photography by Ron auer
I had my first kiss at age sixteen. I got my first period a couple of weeks later (I like to think that the syrupy, champagne-coated first kiss that left a ring of bubblegum-pink lip gloss and chafing around my mouth sent my eggs running for the hills). I had my first relationship at age eighteen. I lost my virginity a few months prior, but also at age eighteen. My childhood friend had her first kiss at eight and got her first period at twelve. Her first relationship spanned ages nine to eleven, with a series of on-again, off-again twists characteristic of any “Kyle told Danny that Kyle overheard Jason telling Lucy that he liked you” elementary school relationship. I don’t know when she lost her virginity. We don’t really keep in touch. Though the difference between my friend’s sexual awakening timeline and my own created some angst-rich insecurities for me at the time, I have since come to understand that each individual’s sexual experience unfolds in unparalleled and unique ways. However clear this mantra is to me now, the reasoning behind these differences remains as messy and confusing as the acts themselves.We view virginity as a binary, but — just as with the sexuality it involves — virginity is a spectrum. In examining all the possible factors at play in the experience of an individual’s virginity, I have given myself the brain equivalent of a chaffed, pink lip gloss ring, without any of the fun of the egregiously far-reaching tongue of an adolescent male. The word “virgin” itself can be traced back through Old French “virgine” to the Latin root of “virgo” which literally means maiden, a sexually intact or inexperienced woman. Even in its earliest form the term was gendered. In modern usage, it has evolved to encompass anyone who has not engaged in sexual activity. Which begs the question: what defines sexual activity? We’ve heard the the term “sexually active” in everything from sex ed in highschool, to Juno, to the awkward illustrated book about sex our moms made us read in third grade — oh was that just me? Ok… never mind. Regardless of where we’ve heard it, sexually active has come to define the non-virgin end of the sexual binary. The virginity end has traditionally been defined through a heteronormative and gendered lens and characterized by the presence of a hymen — a thin layer of mucosal tissue located at the opening of the vagina. When the vagina is penetrated by vaginal sex, the hymen stretches open, usually resulting in bleeding and soreness for the next twenty-four hours. The operative word in the description of the hymen, however, is thin, meaning that, depending on the individual, it can be stretched open by any number of things: a penis, a dildo, a particularly aggressive sport, or even an especially bumpy bike ride. And often, hymens do not break upon the first instance of penetration. Some people are born with hymens so thin that it seems they have no hymen at all. Some are born with hymens so thick that they must be surgically removed. Though the hymen holds very little biological weight, it has somehow become the cornerstone of virgin culture — the VIP pass to virginity. So much importance has been placed on it that people pay to have theirs restored. (*louder for the people in the back*) People pay money (on average $2,325) to have their hymens (which mean virtually nothing) restored in order to maintain virginity (a socially constructed illusion) after they’ve already had penetrative vaginal sex. It’s called hymenoplasty or hymenorrhaphy. There are three ways the procedure can be performed: sewing together the torn skin that makes up the secondary layer of the hymen to make the hymen appear intact; placing an artificial membrane in the place of the hymen with the option of adding a gelatin capsule containing a substance made to resemble blood, and using a flap taken from the lining of the vagina to create a new and functional hymen with its own blood supply. Regardless of which type of reconstructive surgery you undergo, the fact remains that there are no medical advantages to having a hymen, so what is the real importance of this flimsy film?
For a lot of people, the significance of virginity is tied to religion. The presence of virginity in religion goes back to Ancient Greece with the goddesses Artemis, Athena, and Hestia who pledged eternal virginity, or parthenia. However, the Greeks’ understanding of parthenia centers around womanhood rather than celibacy, further grounding our understanding of virginity as the fragile flower (and burden) of the female sex. This association has been further strengthened by Christianity, the channel through which my understanding of virginity has been most definitively formed. Within it is the sect of Mariology — the study and worship of the Virgin Mary. It dates back to the fourteenth century, when theologians believed Mary to be at the center of the cosmos (along with baby Jesus). Advancing into the Middle Ages, she became celebrated as the “New Eve” — her perpetual virginity negating the sin of Eve and, consequently, all mankind. This seemed like a liberating step for women. We were no longer the source of all evil and Mary was finally acknowledged for her contribution to the creation of our Lord and Savior (I mean, she I Didn’t Know I Was Pregnant-ed out a shining star baby into a pile of hay, round of applause please and thank you). However, her power was still deeply rooted in her “purity” and the use of her body as a vessel for God and Jesus’ power, feeding her newfound agency back into the patriarchy pipeline. This contradictory relationship between the power and pitfalls of purity came into the spotlight again under the reign of Queen Elizabeth I of England, otherwise known as the Virgin Queen. When I first happened upon this epithet, I thought it implied her subjects’ reverence of her. I mean, If virginity is holy and the queen is the holiest woman, her intact virginity ought only to make her more holy, logically speaking. Logically speaking, it should bolster her piety, but (plot twist) nothing about virginity is logical, and Elizabeth’s brought about a milieu of rumors about the Queen’s supposed promiscuity. That’s right. The Queen of England was slut shamed for being a virgin (or rather for being childless at age thirty-four and thereby subverting the priorities of the patriarchy). The Western understanding of virginity is so deeply rooted in the ownership and policing of women’s bodies that it contradicts itself constantly in order to confine women further. Virginity and our understanding of it has been shaped and molded primarily by outside forces, but when it comes down (and dirty) to it, your virginity is yours. It is shaped by your cultural experience, your sexuality and your identity. If you feel connected to it and celebrate it, by all means do. It can be empowering and liberating. It can help you explore yourself and others in new ways. But don’t let others’ perceptions of virginity define you, because ultimately it’s identity that shapes virginity, not the other way around.
Photos by Sam Branch
o r F ‘ t i Let
Growing Out of Eurocentric Beauty Standards
I was about eight or nine when I got my first relaxer. So many other girls in my class had chemically straightened hair. All my favorite Disney Channel characters had straight hair. I wanted to look like them – everyone did. Straight hair was beautiful and DIY relaxer kits were easily obtainable. It didn’t matter if the creamy substance burned your scalp – that meant it was working. That meant your hair would be be pin straight. A little burn was better than being teased for having kinky hair. A little burn meant classmates fawning over my hair the next day. We all craved beauty. When I was eighteen I decided to let my natural hair bloom. After two years of protective styles (extension braids and twists), most of my hair was natural. The stringy, straight ends were clipped away in a matter of hours. For the first time in over a decade, my hair was in its natural state. I was in awe. I was in love. To me, my hair is a revolution.
1700s - Stripped of Culture
When slavery began, African culture was ridiculed. Slaves were no longer allowed to upkeep their hair in cultural ‘dos, which included cornrows, braids, and elaborate styles with beads and shells. Slave owners forced Eurocentric beauty ideals on African slaves. They were told that straight hair was “good hair.” Eventually, Black people began to see their hair as “bad hair,” in desperate need of “fixing.” This mentality set the tone for the way people viewed Black natural hair.
Post-Slavery – Undoing the Kinks
Despite the emancipation of slaves, Eurocentric beauty standards still held them hostage. Black Americans sought after ways to undo their kinks and their curls to assimilate into White American culture. When Sarah Breedlove began losing her hair in 1905 , she eventually developed a line of hair care treatments marketed towards Black people. Breedlove, widely known as Madam C.J. Walker, gained experience from Annie Malone, a hair-care entrepreneur. Walker was employed by her to sell hair products, but years later, Malone became her competition. This new line of treatments - scalp preparation, application of lotions, and use of iron combs -
by Sara Bastian Photos by Sam Branch
became known as the Walker System. The hot comb was invented by Francois Marcel Grateau. It became one of the most popular straightening tools in Black culture when Walker made hot combs with wider teeth to cater to the fragility of Black hair. Madam C.J. Walker’s business skyrocketed because her products catered to the needs of Black hair at the time and because of the comradery between her and her customers. She was the first self-made female American millionaire. In 1909, Garrett Morgan invented the perm. The perm/relaxer is a product used to chemically straighten Black people’s hair. To keep the perm looking “fresh” (no natural roots showing) – these treatments had to be done every six to eight weeks. Perms became popular, despite their damaging effects to the scalp and overall hair health.
1960s & 70s - Black is Beautiful “The reason for it you might say is, like, a new awareness among Black people that their own natural appearances, physical appearance, is beautiful, is pleasing to them. For so many, many years we were told that only White people were beautiful” – Kathleen Cleaver. During the Civil Rights Era, revolutionaries like Angela Davis, Kathleen Cleaver, and Huey P. Newton rocked their natural hair in afro styles. As Black Americans fought for their right to be Black without repercussions, the phrase “Black is beautiful” became a political statement. Hair was a symbol of self-acceptance, strength, and rebellion. Natural hair made its way into popular culture as well, worn by icons such as The Jackson 5 and Diana Ross. But chemically straightened hair remained popular during this time.
1980s - The Jheri Curl
In the late ’70s and into the ’80s, the afro trend reduced into the jheri curl, invented by Jheri Redding. The jheri curl was another chemical treatment. It required a two part application made
Models: Jennifer Steele, Brenna Gomes and Rita Depina
up of a softener to loosen the hair and a solution to set the newly formed curls. The process allowed tightly curled and kinked hair to fall into a loose, S-shaped curl. This is a step backwards from the Civil Rights Era. Although the curly look was embraced, Black people were still taking steps to change the texture of their hair to fit Eurocentric beauty standards. Because jheri curls are looser and closer to the texture of straight hair, the style was viewed as superior to kinky hair. Looser curls meant good hair, acceptable hair. Jheri curls were well documented in popular culture. They were sported by Ice Cube in Boyz n the Hood, Michael Jackson during the Thriller era, and by Samuel L. Jackson in Pulp Fiction.
1990s & 2000s - Making Progress
Straight hairstyles dominated the 1990s and 2000s. Pop icon Aaliyah’s signature straight, long, and sleek look with a swoop bang influenced many to get relaxers. Others might’ve chopped their relaxed hair into a short style to emulate Nia Long’s style in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Weaves and wigs were used during this time to recreate popular styles. Despite the domination of the straight look, different natural hairstyles were being worn in the pop culture scene as well. Lauryn Hill wore thick dreadlocks and was deemed one of the most beautiful people by People magazine. Janet Jackson starred in Poetic Justice with TuPac and wore box braids: long braid extensions recognized by the distinct square parts. And Brandy wore microbraid extensions in her hit show Moesha.
Although these styles were appreciated by many, the natural hair trend didn’t catch on until the 2010s. In most work environments, natural hair was (and sometimes still is) seen as unkempt and unprofessional. Getting a perm every six to eight weeks was better than dealing with disdainful stares from co-workers. The Eurocentric mentality that Black people were working to erase was oozing into their scalps - straightening their roots and damaging their strands.
2010s - Black Girl Magic
Natural hair is a common occurrence in today’s society. Between 2012 and 2017, relaxer sales have decreased by almost forty percent. Thanks to social media platforms like YouTube and Instagram, more and more Black people are eager to give up the “creamy crack” and embrace their natural hair. However, that does not mean the abandonment of straight styles. Wigs and weaves are still worn when Black women are itching to switch up their hair without damaging it. The most vital difference is the fact that the number of women proud to wear their hair in its natural state is increasing. Black Girl Magic is the idea of Black girls embracing who they are and flaunting it unapologetically and happily - together. After I chopped my hair off, people complimented my hair - saying that it suit me. All I could think was - of course it does. It’s mine. It doesn’t need to be altered and straightened into something more acceptable. My hair is a revolution. Kinks, naps, curls, and all.
You Don’t Have to Be a Mind Reader To Have Consensual Sex By Rebecca Lane Photos by Ruth Secular
“The insidious attempt by some women to criminalize awkward, gross and entitled sex takes women back to the days of smelling salts and fainting couches.” - Bari Weiss, “Aziz Ansari is Guilty. Of Not Being a Mind Reader.”
Model: Lillian Steinweh-Adler
Most of us have read the letter. Published in online magazine Babe, it tells the story of “Grace,” whose date with Aziz Ansari went off course when he spent the night pressuring her to have sex with him. Reactions to the letter have been mixed. Some respondents — like New York Times opinion writer Bari Weiss — accuse Grace of trivializing the Me Too movement by construing “a lousy romantic encounter” as rape. Weiss dismisses Grace’s experience as the failure of an adult woman to stand up for herself, not the failure of an adult man to respect his partner’s boundaries. Grace’s letter exposes a widely accepted power dynamic — a man tries to “wear a woman down” instead of backing off after the first “no.” This asking and re-asking, often coupled with physical overtures, culminates in sex that lands somewhere between “yes” and “no,” in the grey area between consensual sex and prosecutable assault. This is a space women occupy when they are unwilling to assert themselves — because the threat of physical violence always haunts the edges of coercive situations, and because there are countless scary words for women who make men angry. I don’t know if Grace’s experience, which most adult women can identify with, counts as rape. No one does. I only know that there’s a big difference between bad sex, which is occasionally inevitable, and reluctant sex, which shouldn’t be. Sexual violence is so common that a “normal” level of sexual pressure is easily dismissed as a “bad date” or “bad sex” (Weiss 2018). We’re able—and eager—to argue about what “counts” and what doesn’t, as if “at least it’s not rape” excuses predatory behavior. Sexual violence is so normalized that women don’t feel empowered to advocate for themselves in coercive situations. We are conditioned to be accomodating and sweet. We don’t get to be angry when we’re catcalled on the street, or harassed at a party, or pressured by a boyfriend. After all, it happens to all of us. Why ruin everybody’s night by making a scene? Most sexual violence isn’t random or explicitly violent — it’s coercive. It’s the guy at a party who won’t take no for an answer, or the boyfriend who pushes until you give in, and pretends he didn’t know any better. And you pretend too, because what’s the alternative? The alternative is getting loud. Aggressive. You have the right to your body, and the right to decide the who, what, when, where, and why of sex. If a man yells at you, yell back—louder. Advocate for yourself and defend yourself when necessary, both verbally and physically. Harassment isn’t a compliment; it’s a way to gauge your weakness, your quietness, and how much you’re going to tolerate. Don’t let the little things go, because little things become big things — and why is the man who grabs a woman’s ass normal and the woman who gets pissed abnormal? You get to be angry. You have the responsibility to be angry. Stop taking shit — give it back instead. Stand up for your friends, too, and women who are strangers, because the only way to stop being victims is to fight for each other. Women have to stop feeling guilty for asserting their sexual boundaries. We have to stop seeing sex as a transaction, or a way of appeasing an angsty date. Men are not entitled to sex, and we are not obligated to “just give in” or “get it over
with.” A man who expects to have sex, but does not have sex, will jerk off in the bathroom after his date leaves and go to bed. Will he be disappointed? Maybe. Disappointment is a part of life. His boner won’t kill him, and you don’t have to make it go away. There’s a taboo against talking about sex in our society, and it means that we have only a vague picture of what consent looks like. Recent attempts by feminists to define consent as a willing, enthusiastic, and ongoing “yes” have been dismissed as radical—because it’s radical to believe that sex is a communicative, wholly consensual activity. Everyone needs to start caring about their partner’s willing, enthusiastic, and ongoing consent. If you’re a man, you have to understand that women expect the worst from you, because we get the worst so often. Yes, a woman should be able to explicitly and aggressively defend her boundaries—but she shouldn’t have to: a man should respect those boundaries first, out of his own basic sense of morality. No, men can’t read minds, but the nice thing is: humans have ways to communicate besides telepathy—like talking. Sex should be all about asking questions: before, during, and after, especially if you’re confused by your partner’s nonverbal cues; but even if you’re sure you’re both on board, it never hurts to ask. Being extra respectful and extra careful is the kind thing to do, and it’ll make you a better partner. The flip side of taking care of your partner is taking care of yourself by advocating for both your boundaries and your pleasure. We need to be vocal with our intimate partners instead of hoping they’ll take a hint. If you’re comfortable enough with somebody to fuck them, you should be comfortable enough to say “a little to the left.” Unfortunately, a huge amount of our sexual behavior is an emulation of porn sex. Porn sex is not good sex. Don’t feel the need to play a part, or be into something you’re not. Have sweet sex, have kinky sex—just clear everything with your partner before you get started. You should discuss your sexual preferences and boundaries before having sex—the first time, and every time. It’s a conversation to have constantly throughout a six-month relationship, or in the Uber on the way to your one night stand. No, you won’t hurt any feelings—and if your partners don’t care about your pleasure, then you won’t enjoy fucking them anyway. Being honest about sex is a great way of building trust and mutual openness; besides the obvious benefit, which is that talking about what you like means that you’ll get more of what you like. It’s time for everyone, especially women, to be vocal about sex: when we want it, and when we don’t. And to be vocal about enjoying sex. It’s time to stop feeling guilty for not being in the mood, or ashamed because you hate deep-throating. Sex is not a consolation prize. Sex is not an exchange of services for goods. Sex is not a means of appeasement or an exercise of power. Sex is not predatory, or masturbatory. Sex is a partner activity—we need to make it safe, fun, and absolutely consensual every single time. We need to start having these conversations in the bedroom, and everywhere else. We need to stop looking at examples like Aziz Ansari and saying, Well, at least it’s not rape.
A CITY IN BLOOM?
By Bonnie Kwong
Photos By Ivy Fung
Hong Kong: the “International City of the East,” the “Pearl of the Orient,” the “World City of Asia.” Hong Kong: the must-go international shopping and dining hub for tourists, the fast-paced alternative to cities such as New York, London, and Tokyo, the city that fights for its rights in “peaceful protests” that are anything but. Hong Kong: the place of my birth, the home that I see in my dreams, and the city that is in an undeniable state of decline. It’s easy to mistake Hong Kong for just another part of China, but its history as a former British colony makes its reality much more complicated. After being ceded to the British in the aftermath of the First and Second Opium Wars in 1842 and 1860, a result of the British Empire’s attempt to increase their trade influence in Asia by selling opium to China, it was returned to China in 1997. The handover, which took place on the 1st of July, 1997, marked the official beginning of the “one country, two systems” legislation that declared Hong Kong as a Special Administrative Region. What this meant to the general public was that Hong Kong’s capitalist system and way of life would remain largely unchanged for an estimated fifty years. Its citizens would be subject to the Chinese constitution, but have added rights in the form of the “Basic Law,” such as the right to freedom of speech and religion. When those fifty years, or an approximation of an appropriate amount of time has passed, it will be subject to the socialist system practiced by the People’s Republic of China. After the handover, the Hong Kong government was quick to capitalize on its unique position as one of the most vibrant and cosmopolitan cities in Asia, and hoped to capture the attention of a wide range of international audiences. Cut to present day, and you’ll find more criticism than praise for Hong Kong’s status as an international city. A scathing opinion piece in the South China Morning Post, one of Hong Kong’s local English newspapers, is headlined: “Asia’s world city? Hong Kong is mediocre at best, if we’re honest.” With high poverty levels, unfair treatment of ethnic minorities and the elderly, and congested traffic and horrible air quality, all the good food and shopping in the world couldn’t offsaet what’s become of Hong Kong. While the South China Morning Post touches on some issues close to my heart, such as the unfair treatment of the mere eight percent of ethnic minorities in Hong Kong’s population of 7.3 million, it offers a view of the city from the comparatively privileged Caucasian writers
that it employs. These writers are likely to be part of the superior group in the internalized racial hierarchy invisible to those at the top, so it’s no surprise that they don’t recognize one of the major problems plaguing the city. What the South China Morning Post fails to reflect is our peculiar worship of Caucasian culture, and the prestige that we place upon English. Residents of Hong Kong — known as Hongkongers — are in stark contrast to other past colonies. They seem to love and glorify their colonizer and shun their home country of China. As part of the new generation, brought up by parents whose childhoods were subject to colonial rule, I was exposed to American cartoons, movies, and books; I acquired a vaguely American accent and a near-native English fluency. Until the age of seven, I was forbidden
from watching any Cantonese children’s television programs, and spoke strangely accented Cantonese for the first few years of my life. To this day, I believe it was through a combination of luck and strategy, not skill, that I managed to pass my Chinese entrance exams for university. Due to a complicated mix of reasons, I was never able to fully connect with my Chinese heritage, and shunned the Chinese side of me until I reached high school. But I might be one of the few people in my generation seeking to reconnect with their Chinese roots, where the majority of people seek to cut themselves off instead. This worship of Caucasian culture and English is reflected in my classmates, in how English tutorial classes are in high demand, and in how thos e that have the means to do so choose to send their children to the U.K. or to the U.S. — never to mainland China — to further their education. This love and adoration for our colonizers is reflected
in our stubborn opposition to the learning or teaching of Mandarin, the Chinese national language. This complicated distrust for our mother country is reflected in our not-entirely unfounded animosity towards visitors from mainland China, and how we vehemently oppose the Chinese government in our peaceful protests. But most of all, I see how this deeply impacts our people, and how it leaves them chasing after Western ideals with a fervor that borders on fanaticism. I see how it instills in us a dangerous arrogance; we believe everything and everyone from the mainland is inferior, and act accordingly no matter the situation. I see how it molds us into the close-minded, venom-fueled people we are today, and how outside forces attempt to manipulate this odd veneration and exaltation into something much more sinister. Despite being pure Han Chinese in descent, my upbringing somehow marked me in appearance as one of mixed blood, leading staff at department stores, restaurants, and even convenience stores to address me in English. This has spawned several drinking games (performed with either alcohol or bubble tea, both of which are readily available around town) that have not actually been played. Players are encouraged to take a shot every time someone from my own racial group addresses me in English instead of Cantonese. This aspect of my life continues to have a growing influence on me as I reflect on what makes me me. It’s true that I enjoy a certain amount of privilege that friends, who are less proficient in the English language, have had no experience with. But at the same time, my poor Chinese and oddly structured Cantonese makes me a target of silent ridicule. What no one talks about is the odd in-between space where I’m awkwardly disconnected from my peers, my friends, and my family as I navigate the spaces and the yawning gap between the Westernized side of me, and the Chinese side of me. With the two halves of me separated, I find myself fighting to define who I am, and fighting for the right to be who I am. Just as I hope for the two sides of me to one day be fully integrated with each other, I hope that Hong Kong will someday be able to truly claim its mixed heritage with both Eastern and Western influences. Instead of laying claim to one and rejecting the other, it’s time for us to open our eyes and stop this unhealthy idealization and perpetration of Western culture. It’s time for Hongkongers to see the truth, and the world, for what it really is.
THE PURSUIT OF PLASTIC By Renee Esteban Photos by Sam Branch When was the first time you encountered plastic surgery? Maybe it was “before and after” pictures of Michael Jackson’s face, or tabloid headlines speculating about Kim Kardashian’s butt implants on magazines in supermarket checkout aisles, or even a high school bully telling you that not even surgery could fix your face. But what is plastic surgery? While we might have been conditioned to ignore the “surgery” and fixate on the “plastic,” the procedures performed by these doctors go far beyond just breast implants and Botox. Dr. Sean Doherty, a board certified plastic surgeon who owns his own practice in Boston, MA, began his definition by emphasizing “the manipulation of tissue,” explaining that plastic surgery can be both cosmetic or reconstructive. This distinction is one that often decides our opinion. Reconstructive plastic surgeries include several procedures that are often praised: cleft lip or palate surgeries, post-mastectomy breast reconstruction, and even gender confirmation surgeries for transgender patients. Cosmetic plastic surgeries, on the other hand, include procedures that we aren’t as accepting of: tummy tucks, face lifts, and liposuction. To us, these conflicting feelings seem perfectly warranted – but are they really? Can we blame cosmetic surgeries patients? On one hand, they’re contributing to unhealthy beauty standards. On the other, it’s making them more confident in themselves. Is it possible that their appreciation and acceptance of themselves may come only after a procedure? Or should these people have just spend more time trying to appreciate and accept themselves? Body positivity is a blooming movement, right? For every Instagram post of an airbrushed, overly edited model, people are trying to post photos depicting “real” bodies, “real” faces. There is so much effort going into normalizing the presence of acne, fat, balding, uneven skin tone, stretch marks, and body hair. There are so many people who are attempting to encourage both themselves and others to love themselves exactly the way they are. But anyone who has an Instagram knows that there are more flat stomachs than love handles. Dr. Doherty notes that he has experienced an uptick in young female patients who are interested in “improving” their lips or buttocks; he attributes this to social media images. While he likes “how social media has increased awareness” of plastic surgery but admits that “styled and filtered photos of reality TV-based celebrities are not a great standard to compare oneself to.” This seems to me like a pretty hypocritical and unsteady point of view. He believes that “one person’s aesthetic doesn’t define beauty standards,” rejecting the need for conformity in appearance. But he can’t denounce those Photoshopped pictures because they help him gain business, and those same pictures are responsible for setting beauty standards, which defines plastic surgery,
at least in part. In 2014, The International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery cited the United States as having performed the most cosmetic surgical and nonsurgical procedures, with over four million procedures done. Brazil was second with over two million, Japan was third with over a million, and South Korea following with almost one million. These countries all have their own standards of ideal beauty, which means that different surgeries are done more often in each. That year, eyelid surgery was the leading cosmetic surgery performed, with almost one and a half million procedures done. Interestingly enough, eyelid surgery is the most popular procedure in Japan, South Korea, and other Asian countries, where “double eyelids” are considered more appealing than “monolids.” In Brazil, liposuction was the most performed surgical procedure. In the US, it was breast augmentation, which isn’t surprising considering our own standards. According to the American Society of Plastic Surgery, eight percent of procedures done in 2016 were performed on men. That means that of the 15,584,872 procedures performed in total, men accounted for 1,315,592. Dr. Doherty has a “diverse patient population” – seventy-five percent female and twenty-five percent male. While men are quite obviously becoming more interested in maintaining or changing their appearance, societal standards for them aren’t nearly as pervasive. While some of the most popular procedures for men are the same – neck lifts, rhinoplasty (“nose jobs”), and liposuction to shape the body – there is a disparity in the value that these surgeries hold. In traditional two gender discourse, men live relatively free of societal pressures focused on appearance. That is, we all know about sexism and its enduring presence. We know that women are so often reduced to their looks, becoming a face and a body instead of a person. But in our ideal world, would the plastic surgery rates be the same for men and women? Maybe that’s why we find it so upsetting when people get cosmetic surgery. Maybe it makes us think of women constantly being pressured to conform. Maybe it reminds us of our bullies, or the insecurities we’re fighting to love. Maybe we think that people who get plastic surgery failed in some way, that they’re somehow less than because they couldn’t just accept themselves. They must be doing it because they feel pressured to conform to the bodies that our society celebrates. How could they possibly be objective about these changes that perpetuate beauty standards? Aren’t they having these procedures done for the wrong reasons? But what are the right reasons? And do we have the right to judge someone for the decisions they make about their own body? In some cases, we seem to. We wouldn’t overlook it if a friend showed signs of having an eating disorder. We wouldn’t look the other way if we noticed signs of self-harm. Those are unhealthy actions, both physically and mentally. But is plastic surgery unhealthy in the same way? Plastic surgery can certainly cause physical harm from poorly executed procedures and low quality materials, but is that really why we disapprove of it so much? I’ll admit that my first instinct would be to talk a friend out of plastic surgery for cosmetic reasons. If they mentioned wanting a procedure done for a body part that
makes them self-conscious, I would try to convince them that they’re beautiful the way they are. But I would also be the first one to encourage them to get a piercing or tattoo to “cover” a physical feature that makes them unhappy. Why do I react so differently to a needle inserted to inject Botox and a needle inserted to deposit tattoo ink? Why am I okay with one but not the other? Where is the line between shaming someone for their choices and celebrating them for it? Dr. Dougherty’s opinion is that “everyone has the right to look their best, and no one should be
shamed for that.” It seems so obvious, but it doesn’t feel that easy. I’m still not sure how I feel about plastic surgery, but I know that I have to confront my own hypocrisy. If I’m going to preach acceptance for all bodies, why not those who have been altered by plastic surgery? Why not agree everyone is free to change themselves for their better, whatever it may be? Why not fight for healthy mindsets and self-love in conjunction with plastic surgery, instead of condemning it altogether? Why not support each other in the pursuit of their happiest, most beautiful self, plastic or not?
Models: Wyatt Strate, Tate Knapp, Kayleigh Khanna, Juliette Budin and Ren Cummins
photo by Dylan Foley
By Jocelyn Pontes
“Rustic on Robertson” by Laura Cafasso
“I’d like to order… take-away,” I announce, then silently congratulate myself for remembering how people say it here. Not “togo.” All the years spent religiously watching British television shows is paying off now, on this trip that I have been yearning to take my entire life. Other clichéd British expressions begin floating through my tired mind, and I nearly miss the cook’s quick, heavily accented response above the din of the bustling kitchen. “Alrigh’ what’ll it be, love?” Behind the small counter, he hasn’t looked up, but continues tending to the overload of orders in progress on the grill, his face drawn and haggard, distant. The diner is tiny, just one narrow rectangular room, markedly European underneath its Americanized furnishings. People are packed into blue leather booths, their tables cluttered with ketchup bottles, salt shakers, and plates of fried food. The booths line the tiled walls to form a tight pathway to the check-out counter and kitchen at the back. The kitchen is more like a cubby, open on one side to the seating area, and consisting of two grills, a deep fryer, and a milkshake machine, all folded economically into the tight space. The seating area and kitchen merge uncomfortably, as if they don’t like being so close together, but don’t have much choice in the matter. They are only partly divided by the counter where I stand feeling awkward in my walking boots and bulky travel bag. Steam unravels from the cooking food and pools around the hanging lights, dimming them into a warm glow that bounces off the tin-paneled ceiling. The damp air is thick with energy and smells of grease and ground beef and beer. I tie my long hair into a ponytail, to keep it from sticking to the moisture that is beginning to collect on my forehead. I find it ironic that I’m ordering dinner at an Americanstyle diner. In fact, that is the restaurant’s name: The Diner. It would seem fitting to eat something more, I don’t know, British. Like fish and chips. Or maybe beans on toast. But no, at this point I am too exhausted to avoid falling into the role of the typical American abroad who desperately clings to the familiar. So I order a cheeseburger and a chocolate milkshake in London. After placing my order, habit compels me to check my phone, though I know I shouldn’t be wasting the battery. According to my fitness app, I walked nearly twelve miles today. Although, crossing Westminster Bridge three times searching for a place to eat was a major contribution to this distance. Having wandered around for the better chunk of an hour, I had eventually figured out that it was impossible to find an open table on a Friday night in the most tourist-congested part of central London. So I had abandoned the venture and decided to return to my
hostel, hoping that I would be able to find a granola bar squirreled away in my suitcase. The memory of my journey to The Diner begins playing before my eyes like a noir film. It had grown late, I realized from the soot-colored sky. As I walked over Westminster Bridge yet again with an empty stomach, shadows tore across my view of Parliament, which stood distant and luminous. The gold light reached me in snippets, shattered shapes like stained glass gleaming through the crook of a silhouetted figure’s elbow, past the nape of another figure’s neck, around the brim of yet another’s hat. We ricocheted off each other on the shadowy sidewalk, and a panic formed at the back of my throat as I realized I would have to find my way back at night, in an unfamiliar city, by myself. This was one of the less glamorous aspects of solo travel, I was learning. Somehow I eventually got through the crowd and found a Tube entrance, got on the Jubilee line then transferred to Piccadilly, and was finally deposited at Russell Square Station near my hostel. Then all that was left was the walk home, in the dark, alone. Spotting the cheerfully glowing diner along the way, I felt like I’d stumbled upon an oasis. Noticing that I am still awkwardly standing by the counter, the cook tells me I can sit at a booth while I wait for my take-away, nodding to one behind me with a brief glance up from the food-splattered grill. I turn around. An open Mac laptop is resting on the table, making the empty booth’s faux-leather seats shine with blue light. All the other booths are full. “Tha’s the manager’s laptop,” the cook says, noticing my hesitation. “She won’t mind if ya sit there.” My blistered feet thank me endlessly once I scoot into the little booth. My eyes sting with fatigue. More images from the day flash across them: 10 Downing Street, Buckingham Palace, red phone boxes with faded stickers proudly displayed like tattoos, Look Right, school children in caps and ties hurrying along the sidewalk and singing “Shape of You,” Westminster Abbey, umbrellas for sale emblazoned with the Union Jack, Mind the Gap, caravans of red buses, strangelooking ducks with orange eyes, magic, and flowers. The flowers blanketed St. James’ Park. They enveloped everything in sight, from the park’s gentle hills, to the blossom-heavy tree branches. Pale blush petals sprinkled like confetti through the neatly trimmed grass, formed floating sheets along the surface of the narrow lake, clung to the damp feathers of pudgy black ducks. I could spot purple smudges and golden bursts everywhere. Even the collars of spring blazers and the brims of felt hats displayed delicate daffodil pins. The flowers shone like gems in the late-March light, and the sunny day was a sparkling rarity in ordinarily drizzly London. The images fall away when I hear someone in the diner give out a booming laugh, and I’m brought back to the present moment. My gaze settles on the wall beside my booth, where a battered, rust-fringed sign reads “Pepsi-Cola: Refreshing and Healthful” in curly red letters. I can’t help but laugh at the advertised price: five cents. It is probably from the 1920s. Probably from some run-down gas station in Arkansas. There, it would have been ordinary, just part of the scenery. Here though, observed by different eyes in a different place, it becomes an art piece, a glorification of old Americana that the rest of the world seems so intrigued by, yet also averted to. The display, in fact the whole diner itself, seems to ask: What is that huge, strange country over there that churns out culture like a machine and exports war on an endless conveyor belt? That assembles stars and murderers, leaders and autocrats? What is that country that obsessively creates such great and terrible things? It is then that I begin to feel the severe distance between where I am and where I came from. Beside the antique Pepsi sign, a door suddenly swings open, breaking me out of my weary trance. The woman who strides through the door is in her thirties and is no more than five feet in height, yet she conveys an unmistakable air of authority. Observing her slight, thin smile and brown eyes that appraise the state of The Diner, I know she is the manager. After saying something to the cook, she turns to the booth where I am. Sitting down across from me and closing her laptop that is still sitting on the table, she says hello with a weary smile. “Hi,” I say hesitantly. “Um, the cook said I could sit here while I wait for my take-away.” “That’s fine. You’re from America, aren’t you?” she says. Her voice is kind, lacking the tone of either mystique or dismissiveness that I am expecting. I’m surprised by the intensity of her stare, seeming genuinely interested in what I have to say. “Which part?” “Boston. I go to school there. I’m actually visiting here for spring break.” I prepare myself for the next inevitable questions. What’s America like? Have you been to New York? Why did you elect Trump? But she doesn’t ask any of these, to my relief. Instead she says, “Ah, I’ve been there a few times, lovely.” Then she adds jokingly, “Well, it’s good to know people still want to visit us, what with Brexit and all.” Her voice dips down with the last word, betraying what sounds like bitterness beneath her airy tone. I smile politely, not knowing how I should respond, but suddenly feeling a wave of some unnamable emotion. It is mournful, but tinged with an unusual sense of comradery—an acute awareness that both of us live in places which
are being woefully misrepresented to the world. Her next few words pin down the odd emotion: “Don’t worry, not all of us Brits are against foreigners.” I nod and say, “Neither are all Americans,” feeling it is a sort of duty of mine to, in any small way possible, redraw the image of America that has been shown to the rest of the world over the past year. I am surprised by the amount of relief that floods through me when she responds with an empathetic smile and the words, “I know.” There is a pocket of quiet amid the din of the restaurant. Then she changes the subject, saying more cheerfully, “Well, seems like you’ve come here on a perfect day.” I agree, and tell her how awestruck I was by the flowers, by the springtime beauty of St. James Park. “Now, believe it or not,” she says with sudden ardency, “just yesterday none of the flowers were in bloom. None of them. Each year they bloom all at the same time, and we never know what day it’s going to be. This year it happened to be today. Everything just aligned perfectly for your visit here! What luck that is for you, eh?” She smiles again, then stands, saying she has some work to do in the back office. Before disappearing behind the door, with her laptop tucked under her arm, she calls over her shoulder with a rare sincerity, “It was nice meeting you. Enjoy the rest of your visit!” I smile back, in that instant realizing that she is the first person with whom I had had a full conversation all day. Solo travel has turned out to be more isolating than I anticipated, and this encounter was a nice reprieve. “Here’s your take-away, love.” A moment passes before the words register in my mind, but I soon spring up from the booth onto my protesting feet, and gratefully reach over the counter to grab the brown paper bag and milkshake from the cook’s extended hands. “Thanks, hope you have a good evening!” I say, meaning it. He just smiles and turns back to the steaming grill. Sipping from the white cardboard cup, the chocolate milkshake sustains me for the rest of the walk along the shadowy, vacant street. The glow spilling from The Diner’s windows fades behind me. I pass by storefronts, all of them darkened and shuttered for the night. On the other side of the street a hunched woman shuffles into the stale light of a lamp post, pushing a stroller that looks empty. I realize that I’ll never know who she is. Shadows move across her angular face, then she disappears again into the dark. I make it back to the hostel, crawl into my bed, and devour the hefty cheeseburger in a few bites. Later, when I begin organizing my things for the next day, I remember the single cherry blossom that I had plucked from a tree in St. James’ Park and pressed inside my folded-up Globe Theatre ticket. I pull the ticket from my coat pocket and gaze in fascination at the preserved flower that has become plastered to the paper, realizing that it contains a greater meaning than anyone else will understand. My eyelids grow heavy amid the sound of my roommate from Lyon who is agitatedly speaking to Siri in rapid-fire French. I think vaguely to myself that maybe one day I’ll learn French, and I’ll be able to understand an entirely new little bit of humanity in a way that I had never been able to before. Maybe I’ll ask her to teach me a few words tomorrow. But for now, with a cloud of exhaustion surrounding me, the sound of her voice fades into a shimmering stream that I don’t understand, and try my best to ignore.
Sunflowers by Ximena Delgado illustration by Laura King
“Hold my foot,” I said through gritted teeth. “Uh, ok,” Bram answered, reaching over to grab it. One of my arms holding on to my bra, the other stretched back, leaving my rib cage exposed. The sunflower he had bought me twenty minutes before lay on the couch staring back at us as the sunflower on my body came to life. Ink and blood spilling. Ink and blood mixing. Ink and blood as one. Bram stared at the needle as it stabbed into me. Flinching every once in a while, his hand still holding my foot. He seemed to be hurting, almost as if he was the one laying on the chair. I clenched my teeth every time he sucked in air. But I felt no discomfort, no ache of any type. Where does the pain go? When you’re upset. When you get better. Do the ink-saturated needles pull it away, replace sadness with physical pain? Physical pain healing the emotional one, using one to erase the other. But where does it go? When you wilt, fall, rise, bloom. Does the sun reveal the way, illuminating the darkness? The darkness you love, the one you carry deep inside of you, like a child, the one you protect at all cost. Where does the pain go? The demons used to live inside of me. They built a home out of my hollow bones and from there they grew. I was too young to understand what was happening. Too young to realize that cutting my arms open would not make the demons leave. Would not scare them away. They rejoiced in that chaos. It became something I loved, something I cared for. I was too young to 51
The pain doesnâ€™t go anywhere.
We simply learn to follow the light.
recognize the helping hands that stretched out around me. My mother, my sister, When I get better. my therapist, all of them holding flashlights, trying to find me inside the darkness. But it became a part of me. So every chance they had to get me out I would slip It took an hour and a half. Less than I expected considering the size. I stood in away. Finding comfort in the absence of light, in the misery I had created. front of a mirror, my arms and legs shaking. The sunflower permanently on my skin. I smiled as I got dressed. Thanked Dick, the artist. My mother, for loving me. That darkness had roots. Roots that were too big for me to plow away. Roots that Myself, for saving me. festered in the very core of my being, so that when I tried to pull them away I would lose pieces of myself too. The voices were born from those roots. Loud, Bram and I stepped out into the streets, knowing that our friends waited in some fierce, demanding. They screamed at me to stay away from the things I once loved. random bar. The city was waking up as the sun disappeared; we could hear the They tormented me day and night, I could not escape them. They displayed of all rambling voices of drunken teenagers playing along at being adults. We made our my flaws and insecurities so that when I looked at myself in the mirror I had no way through the flickering lights as Bram turned to me and asked, “Why a sunchoice but to hate the face that stared back at me. Reminding me over and over flower? What does it mean?” that there was no way out. That the labyrinth of pain which my life had become had no beginning and no end. It was a cycle that seemed to go on forever. And then I told him a story that I hadn’t told anyone in at least three years. Not They became my best friends. They walked with me during the day. They held my since I was forced to talk about my emotions during therapy. I told him about the hand at night. They sat next to me on the bathroom floor when the world crum- sadness, the scars, the feather. And then I told him about the sunflower. bled down and the blood seeped through my arms. They held the razors, they welcomed me in. They made me feel less alone, less afraid, less broken. “In my house back home,” I said to him as we walked, not wanting to see his face, “my mom used to put sunflowers in every single room. So that even on the bad I made a home out of the scars. days we’d have something beautiful and bright to look at.”
My eyes adjusted to the darkness.
Where does the pain go? When I get better.
On a Saturday morning, my mom drove me to get my first tattoo. For three years, she had told me there was no way I would ever be allowed to get one, but here she was, taking me towards recovery, holding my hand. It was smaller than I wanted, small enough for her to be okay with it. But it covered the scar. The long vertical scar on my wrist. The one I made thinking it was the end. The one that should have been the last. The needles stabbed into my skin. The ink oozed into me. It reaped out the darkness, the demons, the voices. It poked in seeds. For growth, for beauty, for light. My mother cried, my sister held my shoulders. At the end they asked if it hurt. I told them not as much as the pain I had been inflicting on myself. Not as much as the tears that burned down my cheeks. Not as much as the hands that choked me. Not as much as wanting to die. A feather stood on my wrist. A black feather symbolizing so much more than I could put into words. A feather for my home, my culture, my Mexico. A feather for writing, for breaking, for healing. A feather for rising, for flying, for surviving.
He grabbed my hand for the first time and pulled me to a stop. We stood under a bridge of dangling lights, colors flickering in and out. They almost looked like stars. “It took me about ten years to realize that the flowers were fake,” I continued with a smile, my eyes now meeting his. “But even then, the feeling of safety that they gave me was real.” We stood in silence for some time. Eyes locked, hands holding each other. The lights kept on changing color. We could not pull away from one another. And so I told him about the sunflower on my ribs. I told him about choosing life. Choosing pain. Choosing light. I told him of rising and falling and breaking and loving. I told him of those days I thought would be my last and the ones I wanted to relive forever. I told him that sunflowers follow the sun. That’s how they grow, that’s how they bloom, that’s how they survive. I could still feel the darkness inside of me. Still dancing around from limb to limb, muscle to muscle. I felt it when the sun set, when the rain fell. It was in the corners, in the bad days, in the nights. It followed behind me, slowly, always keeping its distance. It was no longer strong. It wasn’t powerful enough to control me and I didn’t miss it enough to go searching for it. I grew tall and brave, strong and free, passionate and bright. I stood so high, you might have thought I was a sunflower. Bram grabbed my wrist, his index finger tracing the black lines of the feather. I could feel my skin tingle a little where the sunflower now stood. Fresh. New. Real. I could feel my legs shake from his touch. The excitement and fear of being with someone. The choosing them, the opening up, the working. I knew in that moment that we would be great one day. That he’d become part of the light inside of my darkness.
When I got back home I showed the rest of my family. I sent pictures to my friends; I opened the second drawer of my bathroom and from the very back grabbed the razors that had hurt me so many times before. I held them in my hand. There they looked so small. Almost harmless. The physical weight was nothing, but the emotional weight was everything. When I threw them into the trashcan, they made no sound. I sat on that same bathroom floor and cried. A small smile on my lips. My mind an unusual silence. My hands for the first time steady. I could feel an empty room inside of me, the area where all the darkness used to gather. Where it would mature and sprout. I wondered where it had gone. From my chest to my toes. The strands of my hair, my nails. Maybe it was gone. I wanted it to be gone. I missed Still holding my wrist Bram leaned down towards the fading scars, smiled, and their company already. gently kissed my skin. “You’re beautiful,” he said, “scars and everything.” 53
YOU SHOULDS FROM PAST EDITORS: TIPS FOR BLOOMING NOW AND AFTER GRADUATION YOU SHOULD AVOID UNPAID INTERNSHIPS OR WORKING FOR “EXPOSURE” ALONE
(unless it’s for truly incredible opportunities or causes). Sure, we’re all just starting out, but no pay is no fair start. It’s one thing to justify unpaid work (if you can afford to take it) when you need to learn skills in your industry, build a resume/portfolio, or get course credit while you’re in school. Once you earn that diploma, it’s a lot more unethical for an employer to deny you at least minimum wage. And being in a creative field doesn’t make it okay for someone to use your art for free — you have a degree in this now, and your art is work and has worth. You can’t eat exposure or experience!
Rachel Cantor, ’17
YOU SHOULD HANG ON TO YOUR EMERSON ID
Don’t throw that out when you throw out your old, fermenting notes from Fundamentals of Speech Comm. Does it list a year of graduation anywhere on that card? No, it does not! Thus, once an Emersonian, always an Emersonian—at least, in the eyes of any museum/store/event that offers a student discount. Rachel Cantor, ’17
YOU SHOULD LET PEOPLE KNOW WHEN YOU ARE FEELING VULNERABLE
This is tricky because it does not always look the same. Sometimes it is as easy as looking your tough-as-nails friend in the eye and saying, “hey — don’t. I am feeling vulnerable right now.” Sometimes it is showing somebody your poem. Sometimes it is writing the poem. It could be telling somebody that they made you upset or angry, whether they did it on purpose or not. Sometimes it is asking to initiate the first kiss. But almost always it is telling the people in your life exactly how you feel about them. It is never an inappropriate time to say “I love you” if you mean it. So when you mean any given thing, you should say it — while the people you wish to speak to are right in front of you. Too soon there will be a day when you will feel too busy to be vulnerable, when your people are too far away to hear your feelings and have it be convenient. Train yourself to keep these truths at the ready on your lips so that everyone always knows who you are. Rachel Fucci, ’17
Y G O L O M Y T E 56
BY KENNA MCCAFFERTY PHOTO BY DYLAN FOLEY
Chrysanthemum - optimism, joy, loyalty // lamentation
I think I’d like to have a fish. I might even get three. Red. Yellow. White. Those seem like the right colors for a fish trio to have. I like fish for pets. I like fish for pets because you don’t have to touch them. But, more than anything, I like fish for pets because I wonder what the world looks like from inside a fishbowl. I wonder if it would make me any happier--to see people the way that fish do. If I had a fish I would run experiments. Fun experiments. Psychological experiments. Nothing-to-tell-PETA-about experiments. I would put my fish in a different fishbowl every month. One yellow. One red. One white. Those seem like the right colors for fishbowls to have. Each fishbowl would have a different shape and style, a different material and texture. I would examine what type of fishbowl makes for the happiest fish. Which lens takes the best picture. Which eyeball makes the optimal human. I’m sure there is much to learn from fish. So far, I’ve learned that a fishbowl must have an opening. I have also killed twelve fish.
Chamomile… energy in adversity
Peering out from chamomile eyes I watched a young boy and girl in their garden, leaving traces of familiarity like a bread crumb trail across the grass. I tried to follow it, but the dust in my eyes hadn’t cleared and I lost the way. So instead I laid my head down in a ring of rosies and hummed to the breeze of their movement. They were whispering, or crying. Hugging or unravelling. Their wind whipped, brushing the teabags from my eyes and I saw them, standing directly above of me, and peering past me -- through me to look at the mark my head had made in the weeds. I pressed down, digging chamomile tea bags deeper into my eye sockets and felt teadrops falling from my inner eye. But still I saw the young boy and young girl, in the shapes the darkness had formed around my fingerprint. I poked chasms in the flesh of my eyes and the girl grew like vines from every opening, etching herself in rainbow scratch paper across my eyelids. She metamorphosed, from chrysalis to caterpillar and fell like ashes, blew like dust across my lashes, before stopping to look at me, like she had peered into my most private moment, reaching a hand out to me and pulling the teabag off of my left eye. “Your eyelids are pruning.”
Marigold - grief, despair, jealousy // creativity and the drive for Lily - death, sorrow // fertility, eroticism There’s a sensuality to suffering— the way the spine of the roly poly bug rolls into success itself and around the body of another. I saw that in us. In how we poured out eggshells and I can feel the ground when I walk up stairs. I don’t seem to notice it otherwise. I’ve lain in the grass of the ever-brown Commons and looked up at trees to try to feel small, turning my head sidewise to pick pretty weeds, eventually picking myself up to look at the imprint of my body on soil. I guess I’ve made a mark. But I only feel my own roots when I watch them stretch. When I stand on the steps between self and success and wonder whose story I’ve pressed into the dirt; whose bare-boned body I’ve buried to build my soap box. I know most people shoot up stairs with clicking heels to drown the ground’s gravity. But I often find myself stuck on the stairs, looking down at the ground, trying to remember its touch.
coals across the floor to point out the place where we should meet. In the middle. Where two stomachs touched, two legs locked, two heads rested on shoulders that could hold back the force of an avalanche, but couldn’t curl around my jawbone the way that snow would. At least we kept each other warm-- your hot head pressed against my hot heart. We learned. It was easier to keep a distance, than to bask together in the coughing afterglow of a fevered embrace--exchanging soft touch and parasites. And still I miss the tepid embrace of two souls grieving, both knowing the truth in they love me; they love me not. Both knowing the gravity of thorns: a petal pulled cannot be replaced, only scattered behind brides and over dead bodies.
Gauge Magazine is produced twice a year by undergraduates at Emerson College. Copyright of all materials may be reproduced without permission. G33 was set in Adobe Caslon Pro, Andale Mono, Arial, Astigma, Avenir, Cicle Gordita, De Valencia, Gloss and Bloom, Juicebox, Lemon Milk, Minion Pro, Munich, PT Sans, Reckoner, SF Movie Poster, Sign Painter, and Times New Roman. Front and back covers: Photographer: Ayo Oladeji Models: Hanna El-Mohandess, Mike Figueiredo, Yona Dervishi, Kyrah Warren Special thanks to Gauge Advisor Lise Haines and Joe Oâ€™Brien at Shawmut. Want to know better and bloom together? Follow us on Twitter @GaugeMagazine, Instagram at Gauge_Magazine, or visit issuu.com/knowgaugebetter.
Photo by Fiona Chang Model: Ruoqi Li