The Gray Issue

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LUCID Dreaming Myself Awake


FROM OUT OF THICK AIR The Science of Fog Collection




PLACES LEFT BEHIND Urban Exploring the Lyman School For Boys


WRITING THE MEMORIES Art and Alzheimer’s


ENLIGHTENED Seeking a Cure for S.A.D.


THE INVISIBLE MAJORITY Health and Bisexual Erasure


tDCS The Benefits of Zapping Your Brain





STRANGE SCIENCE Study of the Paranormal





EDITOR-IN-CHIEF Loretta Donelan

PHOTO EDITOR Courtney Tharp

ILLUSTRATOR Pimploy Phongsirivech




WEB EDITOR Madeline Bilis

FICTION READERS Kelly Young Emily MacKenzie

NONFICTION EDITOR PHOTOGRAPHERS Mary Kate McGrath Becca Chairin Carina Allen STAFF WRITERS Shay Kim Jess Waters Caitlin Rose Stassa Rachel Cantor Liana Genito Pimploy Phongsirivech Soleil Hyland Nellie Prior Zach McLane Marisa Dellatto Charley Karchin

CREATIVE DIRECTOR Kavita Shah DESIGNERS Brooke Kramer Tricia Sullivan FICTION EDITOR Hannah Lamarre

POETRY EDITOR Meaghan McDonough ASST. POETRY EDITOR Melissa Close POETRY READER Alexandra Rich

COPYEDITORS Hayley Gundlach Ben Allen Kaitlyn Johnson Lucy Wildman MARKETING TEAM Laura Cafasso Samantha Stamas CONTRIBUTORS Sarah Heatwole Kira Compton Jordan Goodson Emily Hillebrand


BELINDA HUANG Managing Editor


There are no objective truths; no good and evil; nothing is certain. So much in life is unknowable, so why pretend to have all the answers? This personal philosophy frequently translates into a lack of confidence, which I have struggled with during my term as editor-in-chief and as a human being in a society that seems bent on proving that there is one right answer. In the Gray Issue, I hope I have opened up a space for ambiguity, where our writers, designers, photographers, and illustrators can confidently assert their uncertainty. But gray is a slippery slope. Journalism deals in objective truths, and the denial of them results in something wishy-washy: a gray area. This semester, our writers were able to rise to the challenge and embrace that tension, writing beautifully and accurately about subjects that were (sometimes literally) up in the air, as were the many talented artists who submitted their work. I’m very proud of this issue, and I’m proud of my work on Gauge. It’s been a pleasure collaborating with the many fine artists of Emerson College. There’s very little I know for certain, but I do know that.

It is my belief that living in this world requires the ability to embrace the gray, and the work in this issue has done exactly that. Our writers have explored a multiplicity instead of a binary, found joy in liminal spaces, and straddled strange boundaries. Many of our writers have even ventured into the gray areas of the mind — from Alzheimer’s disease to lucid dreaming— exploring the power that memory and perception have in defining our lives. I am reminded of a little man named Hercule Poirot. This round European detective, a star of Agatha Christie’s novels, used his “little gray cells” to solve crimes without getting out of his armchair. This year has passed in a blur, and although I’m not sure how much I got out of my chair, Gauge has helped me stretch and challenge my own little gray cells in ways I hadn’t imagined. However it happened, I’m glad to have arrived here at Gauge Magazine—I can’t wait to be a part of its very bright future.

I’ve always found color a bit distracting. Maybe it’s the reason I hate the color pink, dress in dark shades, and desaturate my photos. I’m sure my fellow artists agree with me when I say that, as a photographer, everything looks better in black and white. A monochrome image is always visually striking; there’s more contrast and shadow, and ultimately, the image is left up to interpretation. When I pitched the idea of a gray issue to Loretta last semester, all I could think about was how my photographers would interpret these new stories, and they were all as excited as I was. The term gray has broadened to include so many different dimensions. We use it to describe color and moods, purgatory and outer space, old age and confusing areas of knowledge. It’s all-encompassing, yet only consists of tints of black and white. As my time at Emerson comes to a close, I have come to appreciate the stark blacks and whites in my life. And I hope that as you flip through the pages of the Gray Issue, you’ll interpret the grays however you want. My only regret is that the Gray Issue doesn’t include more aliens. See you on the other side Emersonians, and enjoy the murky waters of the Gray Issue.





THE SPACE BETWEEN US WORDS BY SARAH HEATWOLE & ILLUSTRATION BY PIMPLOY PHONGSIRIVECH I wake up when she coughs. She doesn’t even open her eyes, just rolls over, pulling some of my sheets with her. The air is cold. Goose bumps begin to form on my breasts. I don’t mind. Blinking slowly, I brush away the strands of my red hair, wait for the clock on my bedside table to come into focus. 7:53 a.m. I cannot go back to sleep. Instead, I settle deeper into the covers. I stare at her back. Melanocytes scattered, bunched together. Increased melanin production. Freckles. I reach out and lightly run my finger along her skin, right up each knobby bump of her spine. No matter how close we are, no matter what my nerves are telling me, we are not really touching. Nobody ever actually touches anything. The electrons repel each other at a subatomic level, so there is always space between us. When I tried to explain this to her last night, she didn’t think it was interesting that we were an exponential graph: my hands grasping along her small curves, sliding down her skin, pushing between her legs—getting infinitely closer, but never quite touching the x-axis. She coughs again, clears her throat. Carbon dioxide. Expulsion of something, likely an irritant. Possible allergy. I decide that when she wakes up I will offer her a Benadryl. Diphenhydramine. C17H21NO. I flip onto my back and watch the morning rays of sunlight glint off the dust particles floating above me. I speculate that she is allergic to something airborne. I wonder which one of these particles has caused her cough. –––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––– When I was six months old, my mother sat down to practice piano for a recital. My twin brother Shane and I lay in the playpen adjacent to her. Warming up, my mother played a scale and looked

down to check on us. I stared back at her. Then before she could turn away, I sat upright and hummed back the scale. My mother claims that it was the moment she knew I was not a normal girl, different from any child described in her stacks of parenting books. According to the story, she added a sharp and changed key. She looked to me again. I then mimicked the new progression of notes. Next to me, my brother gurgled. By the age of two, I was talking and reading. I told nonsense stories to my brother when I got bored of the three-syllable, nounverb-noun sentence structure in my books. I became particularly obsessed with my brother’s building blocks and constructed dominating towers in our bedroom. At the age of five, I was reading at the level of a child twice my age and talking like one, too. I had graduated to Legos, and the towers had morphed into complex cities. When I was not designing a new skyscraper, I was pestering whoever would listen, trying to attain more knowledge about whatever topic currently fascinated me, whether it was the reason birds could fly or why the sky briefly turned pink, purple, and orange as the sun set. Meanwhile, Shane was learning to read full sentences and color within the lines. His favorite activity was crashing through my cities like a monster when I left the room. It was around this time that my father grew frustrated with my endless stream of questions, presumably because I had asked at least a few that he could not answer. He told my mother that I needed to get my head checked, and my mother argued that kindergarten was simply not stimulating enough for me. My father retorted that Shane seemed just fine, insisted that I had a problem. Miss Marshal, my kindergarten teacher, corroborated this idea, reporting that I was highly isolated from other students, distract-


ed, and insubordinate. I asked so many questions that it became disruptive, and Miss Marshal frequently lost control of the class. At the parent-teacher conference in October, she explained that I demonstrated behaviors indicative of autism and continually pushed to get me tested, to place me in the special education class. Appalled by this notion, my mother actually did take me to a doctor. A child psychiatrist tested me for hours. The results presented two realities: I demonstrated symptoms of Asperger Syndrome, and my IQ was 155. What had originally appeared to be a neurological disorder alone was in fact intertwined with prodigious genius. So rather than not being stimulated by my class, I was hyperstimulated by everything else around me. I grasped new concepts at an astronomical rate, possessed an extensive vocabulary for my age, and could recall information with impressive detail. At this news, my mother gushed about how she’d always known I was brilliant, shaking the psychiatrist’s hand with a grip that made her veins swell under her skin. She did not seem to worry about the Asperger Syndrome, or perhaps she had failed to retain that facet of information in light of my IQ score. It was such a relief to her that I could remain in normal classes, among my peers. When I returned home that evening, I pulled the first volume of Encyclopedia Britannica from the lower bookshelf of my father’s study: A – Bayes. I flipped open to “Asperger Syndrome.” I learned that I had a neurodevelopmental disorder that impaired my ability to socialize, and I understood why I could never make friends. –––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––– We are in the kitchen now. She sits at the table, sniffling behind the front page of the newspaper, waiting for the Benadryl to take effect. I try not to stare from where I stand on the other side of the island counter. I pour two mugs of coffee. I look up at her again, but I only see this morning’s headline: Scientists Discover Distant Galaxy. Below is a blurry image dotted with tiny white specks. The echoes of a thousand burning suns. Likely extinguished by now. Light that has been traveling through the void for years. Stars. I consider how our own sun could burn out this very second, and due to the time it takes for light to travel, we would not know for eight minutes. I check the clock above the microwave. 9:06 a.m. The picture in the paper shows a burst of blue and purple. Hot radiation, a high concentration of young stars. Red tint due to clouds of dust. Too many wavelengths invisible to the human eye to be sure, but conceivably moving at a rapid velocity. I run my fingers through my short, uneven hair and take a deep breath. The paper crinkles. She has folded it back down, and now she stares at me. Her irises are blue; however, there is a hazel blotch overtaking a majority of her left eye. Sectoral heterochromia. A mutation. More common in cats and dogs than humans. Fortunately, I knew better than to have informed her when we met last night that she resembles a Siberian husky. Instead, I kept my lips sealed and bought her a drink.

“I throw the spoon into the sink. It clangs against a metal pot. G#.” “Avina?” She says this to get my attention, but the way her voice jumps an octave and lingers momentarily on each syllable indicates that my name is also a question. I do not blame her for being uncertain; my name is uncommon. “Oh… What?” I blink a few times, shift my weight to my other leg. “I thought you were making coffee,” she says after a second, impatient. She can clearly see the two mugs in front of me. Steam rises from both. I swallow, concentrating on the marble countertop in front of me. “Cream and sugar?” “Please,” she says. “None of that artificial stuff, though. It gives you cancer.” Incorrect. With a shrug, I explain. “No. The idea that it is cancer-causing was propagated by a study conducted in the 1970s, which merely suggested a connection between saccharin and bladder cancer in rats. Recent testing indicates a lack of scientific evidence linking US approved artificial sweeteners to cancer.” She just coughs, clears her throat, sniffs. Says nothing. I sprinkle in the sugar first, watching the white granules sink into the black, like stars finally flickering out in space. Microcosmic. Then I add the cream and stir. A single dark speck rises to the surface. Carefully, I dip my spoon back in and skim the loose coffee ground along the top, coaxing the black speck out. I wipe it off the spoon with a paper towel and then deposit it in the trashcan. “What are you doing in there?” she asks with a sniff, her tone colder. She takes her fingers and presses them flat against the table. With a slight roll of her wrist, she cracks her knuckles one by one against the wood. 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. Pause to switch hands. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. I throw the spoon into the sink. It clangs against a metal pot. G#. I bring the coffee mugs over to the kitchen table. I set hers down next to her left hand, because even though she signed her bar tab with her right hand last night, I have seen her do everything else since with her left. It is dominant. “Sorry, I got distracted.” I drop down into the chair next to her. Her eyes focus in on my coffee. “You drink it black? That’s hardcore.” I shrug. “I don’t like it sweet.” I take a sip. “The misconception about coffee is that the darker the roast, the more caffeinated it is. In fact, it is the opposite. The bolder taste comes at the expense of the caffeine. When the coffee is brewed longer, it actually reduces the amount of caffeine in the drink.” Clutching my mug with both hands, I add, “I only drink dark roast because I do not need to be any more voluble than I already am.” “Clearly.” Nursing her drink, she crosses her leg away from me


under the table. “That’s … interesting.” She does not care at all about how caffeinated I prefer my coffee. Of course she doesn’t. I grasp for a way to engage her. “Why do you take cream and sugar?” Already I regret this inquiry. “Um …” she trails off. “I don’t know. I just do.” I catch a glimpse of my reflection in my drink. I shut my eyes tight and then open them again. I see the clock. 9:15 a.m. The sun did not burn out. We are still here. Obviously—the sun will not die for at least five billion years. I feel a pang deep behind my thoracic diaphragm. Softly, I ask, “Would you like something to eat?” “I’m not hungry.” She stands, pushing her chair out behind her. It scrapes against the floor. B♭. “I should get going. But I, y’know, had fun.” Padding across my apartment, she heads for the bedroom to retrieve her things. I watch her curly, brunette hair swinging between her freckled shoulders, her bony hips switching back and forth as she disappears around the corner. A few minutes later, she is gone, and I am still here. –––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––– On our fifteenth birthday, Shane received a brand new Xbox and three games. The Xbox was from our father, the games our mother. Even though they did not talk much anymore, or even reside in the same city, our parents had managed to coordinate presents for him. Predictably, however, they could not do so for me. Instead, my father gave me a gift card to the mall and encouraged me to go shopping with friends for new outfits and make-up, like a “regular girl.” He pressed it hard into my palm. I grimaced, swallowed, and tried not to focus on the dark lines framing his tight smile

like parentheses. My mother bought me a telescope, told me to discover a new planet. I informed her that the chances of that happening with such a weak lens were highly improbable, but she just laughed and ruffled my hair. She did this when she did not know what to say to me. When my parents made an effort to assemble the telescope, my father found the receipt from the purchase. Tantamount to prior discordances, he realized how much more money my mother had spent on me compared to Shane and became irate, hissed something about the meager income of a piano teacher. In turn, she got defensive, screamed about my potential. They abandoned my telescope, half-finished on the floor of our kitchen. I left the room before the dispute could escalate further. In fact, I exited the house entirely and crossed the yard to our mailbox. College acceptances were coming out, and I expected to receive mine soon. I peered into the mailbox. The bills were piling up, as usual. Buried beneath them, though, was an envelope marked with the logo for Columbia University. Running my index finger under the flap, I opened it. I found a letter, skimmed. There were a few extraneous paragraphs discussing the university, another paragraph noting my accomplishments as such a young applicant, and finally a signature from the dean. Hand-written next to the signature, it read, “Congratulations! We look forward to seeing you next fall.” I knew that I should have been elated; however, I felt nothing. I peered back into the envelope for another paper with mention of financial aid. There was none. I folded it up and tucked it into my pocket. My acceptance was not necessarily a surprise; I had never doubted my ability to get in. My mother

“I opened my mouth, but words did not come out. I did not know the answer to his question.” would be absolutely delighted to hear the news, though. She had always dreamed that I would get into an Ivy League school and do something extraordinary. As I walked back towards the house, my father came storming out. He was red in the face. His hands were balled into fists. I stopped and watched him. He called my mother a bitch, noticed me standing there, muttered some birthday wishes. Then he got into his truck and roared off down the road. I would not see him again until eight months, one week, and three days later, when I moved into my new dormitory at Columbia. I waited for his truck to round the corner, then I went inside. That night I sought out Shane. Ever since our father had moved out, my brother ignored me, unless interaction was necessary. As I had expected, Shane was in the living room playing on his Xbox, gunning down enemy soldiers in one of his new games. I said happy birthday and handed him my own gift. At first he did not move. I realized that he was wearing a headset. Reaching over, I removed it. “Shane,” I said. “Happy birthday.” Once more I held out the gift. The screen began to flash red, and Shane swore, stomped his foot. “No, no! Goddamnit!” He paused his campaign and shot me a look. “What is it, Avina?” He saw the present, grabbed it out of my hands, and haphazardly ripped open the wrapping paper. It had been difficult to surmise what Shane wanted. I had finally settled on a collection of some of my favorite books. I thought he might like them, too, even though he did not read much. I was incorrect. Shane saw the contents of the box and roughly shoved the books aside. He returned to playing his game. I asked what was wrong. He did not look at me, mumbled something about not wanting books. When I asked why not, he paused the game and turned to face me. “Why do you think? Use that big brain of yours.” I opened my mouth, but words did not come out. I did not know the answer to his question. My eyes jumped to his video game’s pause screen; there was a dead pixel in the center. I wondered why it was defective. I closed my eyes so as not to fixate on


it. I looked back at Shane. He stood up, his shoulders squared. There was a small, red cut above his lip. Suggested he was getting into fights at school. Thin hairs were starting to come in around his chin. He was hitting puberty, producing hormones. That would explain the aggression. My stare drifted down to my discarded birthday present. Cosmos teetered at the edge of the box, about to spill out. Shane moved closer. Swore, laughed, called me a freak. He pushed my shoulder. “Hey! I’m talking to you! Are you listening?” I could not summon a response. It had been so long since we had interacted with one another. I touched my shoulder where he’d shoved me. “Yes, I am listening…I just …We need a new TV.” “Are you fucking retarded?” He laughed for a moment. His breath on my face was hot. “Maybe we could get one if we weren’t so poor, ever think that? It’s your fault Mom’s up to her ears in debt! If you weren’t a damn supercomputer, you wouldn’t have been sent off to your fancy, private high school, and we could afford a new TV.” I did not know what to say. Shane was obviously upset, but I did not understand what he thought he could achieve by yelling at me. His logic did not make sense. I stated, “Mom enrolled me in private school.” I had never expressed a desire to attend. “God, talk like a human being for once. And don’t even get me started on Mom!’” Shane scoffed, “She acts like you’re the second coming of Christ just because you know a lot of big words. Get over yourself and be a normal person for once!” I said I was trying. He just laughed again. Told me to fuck off. –––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––– Last night I entered the bar alone. I knew that I would not leave that way; I hardly ever did these days. I sat down, ordered a gin and tonic. I drank it slowly and then ordered another. Absentmindedly, I held my drink above the counter, swishing it in circles, agitating it as if it were a volumetric flask. Four years after dropping out of Columbia, and here I was, still acting like a scientist. Muscle memory, mostly. Unlike other geniuses that left university early, I had not done so to pursue something that would make me millions. I did not

go on to found the next Apple, nor did I pioneer a new social media website. I merely rented a tiny apartment and started building cities out of Legos again. That is to say, I stayed in New York, took some technical classes online, and became a freelance building designer. In a few years I will have enough field experience to take the Architect Registration Exam and get licensed in the state. My mother cried when I informed her of this. She wanted so badly for me to be a biochemist or something equally impressive. Compared to what I could have accomplished with a Ph.D. in physicochemical science, architecture was hardly extraordinary. However, in my two and a half years at Columbia, I learned all that I desired to know about the subject. Much to my disappointment, college was no different than any other level of schooling. I asked too many questions during class, lost interest in the slow pace of lectures, was secluded. I told myself that the reason I could not make friends was because of my especially young age. Internally, however, I understood that I was inherently an outlier, or, as my brother so aptly stated eight years ago, a freak. I watched a translucent bit of lime pulp float suspended in my gin and tonic. The liquid was completely still. Then I looked up from my glass and saw her at the other end of the counter, a half-finished red drink in her left hand. Her dark hair hung over one shoulder. She gazed up at me from under thick eyelashes coated in mascara; her two-toned eyes flashed under the light that swung above her. I took a deep breath, smiled. She smiled back. Drink in hand, I approached the stool next to her. She watched me take a seat, her white teeth sinking into her rouge lower lip. I asked her name, told her mine. Threw in an anecdote about how when my parents learned they were having twins they agreed to each name one. My father chose an ordinary name for my brother Shane, and despite my father’s protests, my mother insisted on calling me Avina—to make me stand out. The girl said it had definitely worked, touched her hair. I inquired about her evening. This was the part that I was good at. I had researched it, tested hypotheses, practiced. It was formulaic. As always, it did not take long for her to start telling me about her own life. I half-listened, simply nodding and furrowing my brow at the appropriate moments. While she talked, I counted the freckles on her cheeks, watched

the way her mouth crookedly turned when she laughed. She was studying acting at Ithaca College, but she was in New York City for the weekend visiting family. When she finished her drink, I ordered another, on me. Coincidentally, the drink was a redheaded slut. Jägermeister, Peach Schnapps, cranberry juice. IQ of 155. Presumably because it was the polite thing to do, she paused to ask about me. I provided the information she wanted to hear—where I was from, what I did for a living, whether I preferred cats or dogs (truthfully the answer is neither, but I said cats). She expressed a fondness for kittens, although she admitted that she did not like them when they matured. She also mentioned that she thought purring was strange. Trying to be helpful, I explained that the frequency of a cat’s purr is believed to promote accelerated healing, particularly with bone density. She frowned, said okay. I finished my drink and told her my place was just down the road. I knew that she was no different than anyone else who I brought back to my apartment. Once inside, I would kiss her lips and run my fingers over the warm sliver of skin between her shirt and her jeans. We would progress into the bedroom. As the night went on, her brain would release endogenous chemicals. Dopamine, norepinephrine, testosterone, oxytocin, serotonin—in that order. She would moan every note of a scale that I would later sing back to her. But in the morning she would weakly smile, her mascara smudged under her blue and hazel eyes. Even last night, I knew that she would leave. –––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––– It has been five minutes since my door shut behind her. I am still in the kitchen. I stare at her unfinished cup of coffee. Another black fleck floats at the surface. I lean down to pick it out, but something falls and lands in the mug. The coffee ripples, pushing the coffee ground away from my finger. A second contaminant rolls down my cheek and plummets into the drink, causes more waves. I reach my hand up to my face. My finger comes back wet. Transparent water droplet, shed from the lacrimal apparatus. Emotional response. Tears. I am crying. Beginning to shake, I push the coffee mug off the table. It arcs over a chair and shatters on the floor. I have made a mess; there is coffee everywhere. I will use the newspaper to soak it up.


short shorts *

WORDS BY TRICIA SULLIVAN & PHOTO BY CARLY WICKHAM Nick pulled me to him and gently placed his lips on mine, tentatively at first, but with growing ardor when he realized I hadn’t pulled away. I remembered this feeling from last summer —the rush of pleasure as I realized he wanted me, the cautious allowance of his pursuit, the curious anticipation to see how our bodies meshed, and finally, the delicious moment when I realized it was far and away the best kiss I’d ever had, setting my whole body buzzing. I let things happen as they had before, but as the kiss deepened, my body remained bereft of desire, unresponsive to the lifeless motion of our mouths. Confused and hungry, I climbed on top of him and demanded what I wanted, and still, I felt nothing. Feeling resigned, I rolled away from him, propping myself up on an elbow to peer at him. “Nick, what do you want?” I asked, hoping clarification of any kind would bring my body back to life. In truth, I didn’t care whether he wanted a relationship or just empty sex; it only mattered that he tell me. He gave a pained groan and whispered “I don’t know” into the darkness. I raised my eyebrows, trying to restrain the harsh words of disbelief that I felt welling in my chest. I let the silence grow and expand, becoming heavy with the persistence of my question. He shifted uncomfortably then murmured, “I wish we could stay like this forever.” “Like what?” I demanded, not quite succeeding at masking my derision. “Lying here...together...” The statement trailed off into a question and I gritted my teeth, turning away from his agonizing uncertainty. What the hell was that supposed to mean? Unable to cope with his frightened need, I trained my gaze on the TV.


A SUN SALUTATION PRAYER by Kira Compton Tadasana, mountain pose The room is dark I cannot see my mat Inhale, and Urdhva hastasana Shoulders rise up Life expectancy is about the same—this is a quality of life disease, not quantity Reach fingers towards the ceiling Exhale, and Uttanasana Air rushes past my ears I almost touch my toes You’ll need to avoid stress… meditation, yoga Inhale, and


Lunge Knee drops slowly Oh my God, is that blood? It wavers but stays strong Exhale, and Plank Arms are shaking We’re looking at management options, here I am no longer strong Inhale, and Chaturanga My face is red It’s six in the morning It’s like knowing your cause of death forty years early Exhale, and Downward Facing Dog You’ll be the youngest person in all the waiting rooms My roommate sleeps A siren blares outside Inhale, and Lunge Thighs are shaking I don’t want to alarm you, but children— The morning light comes in —will be difficult. Nearly impossible. Exhale, and

FEBRUARY by Emily Hillebrand Larraine dies one morning, afraid of death but not as she is of living. I find myself looking up everywhere I go, streetlights, road signs, clouds gray and dented in a melancholic sky. the whole of the northeast cries in the winter. we are all in mourning. the dark nothing between this building and the next is a blackness I could spring from, vault my way into a window on the seventh floor, crash into carpet and mosaic glass. nothing can touch my body anymore. I used to be invisible in this city, but now I feel eyes on me when I step into the tide of the sardines, packed onto the street like Lowell’s fish nosing forward on Boston’s sidewalks, can feel them staring and understand: somewhere there is a target painted over my eyes.

Uttanasana Head pounds There is no known cause. Hold breath and rise to stand There is no known cure. Inhale, and Urdhva hastasana Dark shapes in dark rooms Reach fingers up to nothing Patient is eighteen years old Exhale, and Tadasana, mountain pose Make me a mountain Lord, make me stone Lord, I must be stone Inhale, and repeat.



SELECTIONS FROM “GRAYED EDGES” by Jordan Goodson paris, 1:37 a.m. after puking three times into the Seine, the sourness curdling in my throat, I wonder what is the point— of youth, of liquor, of traveling to a foreign land where I can hardly order a pastry without embarrassing myself. I came here because I wanted a story to tell. I came here because I wanted to get lost in the people, the art, the history, the streets and ignore the constant pulse beneath my skin that reminds me there is still work to do. I came here because I wanted to feel something other than want. a week ago I stood in the Guggenheim Collection in Venice staring at a painting—The Kiss, by Max Ernst. for an hour I tried to find the eroticism, the desperation but I only saw blues and oranges. when the museum began to close, I bought it on a postcard, hoping to unlock it through sheer force of will. at once I remember the Eiffel tower, glaring down at me: steely, disapproving. I look up, and I want to apologize to it, I want to say: forgive me, please; forgive me. the moonlight blinded me, and I couldn’t see until the clouds came. vatican city, 2:03 p.m. they won’t let me into st. peter’s basilica because I am wearing shorts. apparently my legs—which, ostensibly, were lovingly shaped by the lord in his own image—are an affront to the very god that made them.

dachau, 4:32 p.m. it feels wrong to take pictures at dachau—as if I am attempting to commodify the sensation of being ripped apart from the inside.

a guard puts his hand on my shoulder, calloused and rough, the fingers splayed across my bare skin, declaring ownership. before the apple, there was eve: unabashed in eden. now, there is me, and the guard, and his hand—unyielding.

so I stop.

as I sit outside under the desiccating sun I imagine stealing into the basilica sometime late into the night, when even god has gone to sleep. in the shadows, among the tombs of pious men, I strip, until I am entirely naked before the eyes of the dead. I stand in the epicenter of all that is considered holy without a stitch of clothing and I do not feel pure nor shameful: only cold, and whole. this skin is mine, these legs are mine, and I am at peace with my creator.




I flick on my bedside lamp and focus on the dust-covered fluorescent bulb. This is reality. I am in a wakeful state. There is really dust on the bulb, and the lamp turns on when I swipe my finger over its switch. After two minutes of performing this seemingly silly reality check, I make sure that my dream journal sits within arm’s reach and turn off the light for the night. For my last trick, I set an intention for my dreams: to ask my beloved friends why they hate me. Performing these nightly rituals is my first step toward lucid dreaming, the practice of bringing conscious awareness to dreams. Where dreams typically transpire willy-nilly before the backs of our eyelids, lucid dreaming entails a waking up of sorts within the dream, a revelatory moment: oh, I’m dreaming. The practice is most often associated with spiritual seekers who search out spirit guides and ignore those who scoff at their unconventional ways. But alas, the layman can stop laughing, for serious science has

poked its honking objective nose into the practice of lucid dreaming. In an effort to uncover the nature of consciousness, that nebulous term, neuroscientists are studying the practice in an effort to understand the machinations of the brain. If you ask me, many scientists and hippies are of the same ilk, propelled by the desire to uncover such curiosities as “consciousness.” Give a tree hugger a PhD and an EEG machine, and the public begins to listen. A recent study conducted at the Max Planck Institute concludes that those who regularly lucid dream possess a greater ability to self-reflect. This is where the practice titillates me most, that place where science and personal practice intersect, where the implications of understanding consciousness scientifically leads me to understand my own mind. I imagine that if I can attain the wherewithal within a dream to demand answers of my morphed friends, that I’ll learn something about the nature of my own consciousness. However, despite all my practice, I wake up for weeks


every morning to find that my dreams have played on in their same senseless way. My nearest and dearest eat my birthday carrot cake and punch me in the face. My boyfriend breaks my heart over the phone as I cut up a pair of underpants on the edge of a bathtub. Poor me. Poor underpants. That region of my mind, the anterior prefrontal cortex, has yet to grow. I spoke with a Philadelphia-based, brother-sister pair, Lauren and Jon Tsipori, to gain some insight into their own experiences with lucid dreaming. When I spoke to them separately over the phone, they were thoughtful and laid back, a sleepy ease to both of their voices. They told me that they began the practice as a joint effort when Lauren moved to Israel to be with Jon at the beginning of 2014, where they shared a room for a bout. Having time, curiosity, and internet enough to catalyze interest in the practice of lucid dreaming, they would set their alarms to wake early. Together they’d get up, maybe to use the bathroom, and then get back into bed to meditate into a sleeping state. With the intention

set as they drifted back to sleep with intense awareness of their breath, bodily sensations, and surroundings, they would fall asleep with wakeful minds, “waking into a dream,” they called it. They also performed reality checks like I had been doing, counting the number of fingers on each hand, noticing every time they walked through a doorway. “I would do the steps,” Lauren told me. “I closed my eyes, focused on what I saw behind my eyelids, then what I could hear, then what I could feel in my body. Then I’d sort of float out of my body in a dreaming state.” Jon, in his first successful attempt, found himself getting out of bed as if awake, and walking to the bathroom. He took a shower like normal, but when he looked in the mirror his hair was down to his shoulders. Perplexed (his hair was short at the time), he pulled the hair off like a wig. “Then, there was another wig,” he told me. He pulled wig after wig off of his head, but not until he noticed that the wigs were dry


did he realize he was lucid dreaming. If he were awake, he realized mid-dream, his wigs would be wet from the shower. It was his first revelatory moment. The practice of lucid dreaming is nothing new. It’s referenced in Hindu texts written before 1000 BCE. Aristotle writes of lucid dreaming in his treatise On Dreams. Take a look at one of the innumerable websites dedicated to lucid dreaming, and you’ll find reference to a myriad of civilizations and time periods. Seventeenth century philosopher Rene Descartes cited dreams as evidence that our waking experiences are not objective reality. He postulated that if we can flit about in a dream world without awareness, perhaps our waking lives are just dreams too. And it would be flippant to speak of dreams without referencing the father of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud, who posited that dreams are laden with secret messages and desires. I imagine Freud sitting with Jon, attempting to unravel the meaning of a dry wig. However, Allan Hobson, Professor Emeritus of Psychology at Harvard University and arguably the best-known dream researcher in recent history, will tell you that to think of Jon’s dry wigs as a symbol for something else is hogwash. Instead, he believes a dream’s content to be the result of random neural firings, not subconscious desires. It’s a physiological process, not a heady symbolic one. However, this doesn’t mean that Hobson believes a dream’s content to be meaningless. Just because the images in our dreams may not carry specific psychological weight, the act of dreaming itself is worth studying. Hobson began lucid dreaming in 1962 as a fledgling psychology and dream researcher. Having just read Mary Arnold-Forster’s Studies in Dreams, he decided to perform the pre-sleep autosuggestion techniques that she outlined. It worked, and he began lucid dreaming regularly. Hobson is a good example of the inter-

section of spiritualist and scientist. His first email to me stated that he was “no longer lucid but happily enlightened.” He told me, when I questioned him about his studies of lucid dreaming, that “a science of consciousness is in the making. Gone forever is divisive dualism and the artificial division of the two academic cultures.” Even if our dreams are filled with hollow banana guns and dry wigs, the intention to interact with our subconscious lucidly has the effect of brain growth, and this is no small thing. It means, as Hobson puts it in his paper “The Neurobiology of Consciousness: Lucid Dreaming Wakes Up,” “we may have a handle on insight and its enhancement via suggestion. If that is so, then lucid dreaming could move from its marginal and tenuous place at the fringe of psychophysiology to center stage in the emerging science of consciousness. Lucid dreaming may, in turn, help consciousness science to effect revolutionary changes in psychology.” Gone forever is the divisive dualism! As I mindfully walk through doorways, my aim is to lucid dream. I ask my roommate to bite an apple so I can hear the crunch, and when she does I ask her to let me smell the apple. When she finishes, its core sits plainly in front of me. Over the hours I watch it brown the way an apple does when exposed to oxygen. These are the suggestions that will apparently grow my self-reflective capabilities, and in turn allow me to ask my friends to be gentle with my sleeping mind. It occurs to me that in this process, as I bring a strange self-awareness to moments in my day that usually flash by, I’m growing that malleable nugget called the anterior prefrontal cortex. I wake in a sweat, having just made eye contact with a terrifying man riding a bicycle straight for me. He is no friend of mine, and I ask him nothing. As I sleep, I know I’m dreaming, and I wake up clutching for the comfort of my cat.



The Namib Desert is one of the most arid areas in the world, with annual rainfalls as low as 5mm. Located on the coast of southern Africa, the region has been dry for so long—55 million years, in fact—that there aren’t even dry river beds to indicate past flowing water. Yet despite these harsh conditions, life thrives in the dunes of the Namib, supported by the thick fogs that roll in from the Atlantic Ocean. The biodiversity of the region is possible because life has been selected for thousands of years to take advantage of their environment and endure the harsh climate. Two such enduring life forms are the Namib Desert beetle and the Namib dune bushman grass, both of which use condensed fog water to survive in arid areas. The beetle’s textured shell condenses and collects the moisture from the fog, which then drips into the insect’s mouth. Similarly, the grass’s leaves are heavily textured,


trapping water and running it down long grooves to the plant’s roots. For the field of biomimicry, which imitates nature’s techniques and strategies to solve environmental problems, studying life in the Namib Desert is a potential guide to using fog as a sustainable water source. The beetle’s corrugated shell has inspired the materials used to collect fog, including a fine mesh that condenses and desalinates moisture from the air, drawing it into a collection device below. This collection technique has been tested extensively in the Atacama Desert of Chile. There, an arid climate and consistent fog have created the ideal conditions for scientists interested in developing fog collection technologies. One such scientist is Dr. Richard LeBoeuf, Associate Professor of Engineering and Applied Sciences at the University of the Andes, Chile. He first became involved with fog collection when a

colleague asked him to develop a tool that would identify the best locations for maximum water yield. “One of our interests is to understand the efficiency of collection by understanding the design of the collector,” says LeBoeuf. Four years later, the University of the Andes is in the process of patenting his water-flux probe for future applications. Chile has long been of interest for fog collection. Central areas of the Atacama Desert haven’t had rainfall in recorded history, and many rural communities rely on buying and transporting fresh water up the mountains for subsistence. One of the first large-scale fog collection projects in the world was conducted in Chile, run by the Canadian Federal Department of the Environment in the 1980s. The site generated between 10,000 and 100,000L of drinking water a day for ten years—more than enough to support the villages in the

area. But as funding from the Canadian government ran dry, the Chilean project was shut down. Dr. Robert Schemenauer, an atmospheric physicist, was involved in this Chilean project. After seeing the potential humanitarian benefits that fog collection could bring to people in remote areas, Schemenauer became dedicated to making this technology more easily available to people in need. In 2000, he co-founded a nonprofit, Fogquest, to provide funding and expert assistance for rural villages without the money or natural resources for conventional water supply. The organization’s longest-running project is in Guatemala, in which fog collectors have supplied numerous small villages with more than 5000 L per day for nearly ten years. The need for aid is global, and Fogquest forecasts operation in Chile, Ethiopia, and Nepal. “We’re constantly approached


for aid,” says Schemenauer. Unfortunately, fog collection is not viable everywhere. Instead, Schemenauer views it as a final option for people without access to rivers, lakes, rains, or the funds to build the kind of pipeline that could bring water to human settlements. “We’re not competing with anybody,” he says. “But if you have nothing else and you’re really struggling, let’s see what we can do.” Despite this need, the organization’s work is limited by the number of volunteers who are trained and available to travel around the world to evaluate, test, and set up these technologies. More importantly, fog collection still isn’t economically competitive with other water supply options, which makes it impossible to implement on a large scale. This is where LeBoeuf ’s work comes in. “The challenge is to make it economically worthwhile,” says LeBoeuf, especially

for communities that can’t afford the technology. To that end, fog collection draws on expert knowledge in fields as varied as geography, agronomy, architecture, cartography, and different types of engineering. Although it is currently difficult for fog collection to compete with more cost-efficient methods, the search for higher efficiency and yield continues. This search is supported by a global community of scientists and humanitarians, many of whom meet every three years at the International Conference on Fog and Fog Collection. Dr Schemenauer founded the conference in 1998 after retiring from government research in 1997. “I wanted to bring together fog scientists with the people in the development world,” he says, “so that each could learn from the other.” Dr. LeBoeuf attended the 2013 Fog Conference in Tokyo, Japan. For him, the conference was a valuable experience. “For me as an engineer, it was interesting because I got to see what other things people were interested in,” he says, adding that he appreciated the opportunity to see what other types of scientific research were being conducted outside his own field. Although

fog collection is just one facet of fog and meteorological studies, the conference is one way for researchers and developers to find common ground and expand the scope of their projects. As more people get involved with fog collection, the possibilities also increase. “The field is slowly growing,” according to Schemenauer. “Not massively growing, but it’s growing.” Fogquest reaches out to other organizations around the world, offering training on evaluating environments and setting up fog collection in an attempt to widen the humanitarian reach of this technology. “We find a local charity that is there all the time, speaks the language, knows the customs, knows the religion and whatever the important issues are,” says Schemenauer. This focus on local needs and skills is what makes Fogquest so effective. From a more scientific perspective, LeBoeuf also thinks that fog collection is going to keep growing. “If I had to predict,” he says, “I think fog collection will become a significant contribution to the fresh water supply in arid and semiarid regions.” He believes that as fresh water becomes more scarce and thus more expensive, fog collec24

tion technology will become more competitive and widely available. In the meantime, he and his team will continue searching for ways to make fog collection more viable in the short term. This eventuality has also fueled the private sector into investigating the uses of fog collection technologies. One Boston-based company, NBD Nano—Namib Beetle Designs Nano­—conducts research into a variety of fog and water related technologies. With support from the United States Department of Agriculture, the company has set up test sites in coastal areas of the U.S. to develop more efficient and large-scale fog collection technology. Although fog collection may not be the most obvious option in considering sustainable water supplies, its proponents, both humanitarian and corporate, believe in its future. “It’s not just a wacky science thing,” says LeBoeuf. “Fog is basically everywhere—and where there’s fog, we can use this process.” From the Namib Desert to the dunes of the Atacama, the fog rolls on, bringing much-needed support to people living on the boundaries of nature’s hospitality.

ODE TO INFINITY WORDS BY RACHEL CANTOR & PHOTOGRAPHY BY SOLEIL HYLAND For some, the concept of infinity may inspire connotations of a vast universe, of boundless space and time beyond human capacity and comprehension. Infinity might remind others of math class, or of one of those endlessly looping scarves. Theories and language describing the never-ending began in ancient Greek and Indian societies, but it was not until the 1600s that British mathematician John Wallis introduced the now-ubiquitous sideways 8 in his work in infinitesimal calculus. In the nineteenth century, German philosopher and mathematician Georg Cantor expanded upon these prior theories in complex math, but also stressed that his idea of Absolute Infinity affiliated directly with his belief in God. Cantor’s work dealt with untenable immensity. He was eventually committed for insanity and died in a psychiatric hospital. Since Cantor’s time, scholars in nearly every academic field of study have wrestled with the unending challenge of the limitless, whether their version of infinity is found in a sophisticated computer algorithm or between the lines of a poem.


THE COMPUTER SCIENTIST “When they were growing up, I would always tell my kids that infinity is not a number. It’s something that’s bigger than any number,” says Dr. Michael Littman, a professor of Computer Science at Brown University. Littman explains that computer science doesn’t really have infinity. Between the computer’s famous 0s and 1s lies an infinite sequence of numbers, but they cannot be literally represented in the computer itself. However, infinity plays a more theoretical role when working with computers. “Infinity actually turns out to be a really helpful thing to be able to talk about. When we’re analyzing the running time of an algorithm—essentially, how many operations it will take to complete—it’s helpful to have the notion that the program never completes. It takes an infinite amount of time, or it has an unbounded input,” Littman says. “Infinity is a useful name for the condition of something never yielding an answer.” Littman also discusses infinity in the context of ongoing time. “Infinity also raises one of the most important, really significant problems in the theory of computation, which is known as the ‘halting problem,’” he says. “The halting problem asks: is there a way to determine whether one program is going to always stop, or if it’s going to require an infinite amount of time to run? It turns out that that problem is actually not solvable. There’s no way that you can write a computer program that can determine whether any other computer program will halt, will not take an infinite amount of time. A lot of other unsolvable problems trace their roots back to this halting problem. It’s a really powerful concept.”


THE POET “A poet is a time mechanic and not an embalmer,” wrote American poet Jack Spicer. “In twentieth-century poetics, there’s been a shift away from assuming that we can create a document that will be all-enduring,” says Dr. Christopher Hennessy, a published poet himself and a professor in the department of Writing, Literature, and Publishing at Emerson College. He quotes Spicer when discussing concepts of time within poetry. “Instead of seeking to write a poem that will live through the ages, or something to that effect, Spicer wrote that a poet is a time mechanic. What I think he meant is that a poem should create a different sense of time for the reader, so that the poem becomes an event, and not just the description of an event.” Hennessy presents poetry as a conversation, rather than as an end in itself. “When you’re reading a poem, you become in dialogue with it. The language can create a change in how you perceive the world, and in how you perceive ideas like duration and progress,” Hennessy explains. “You come to distrust the concepts of linearity or chronology, these terms that seem like naturalized assumptions of how time works. Linearity, if not a lie, is at least a reduction, and chronology is only one way to tell a story.” The idea of an unyielding linguistic eternity can also be reductive, in Hennessy’s view. “Poetry doesn’t have to be about a way to evoke legacy, or a way to create something that’s timeless,” he says. “It’s a different way of looking at timelessness, of not seeing timelessness as having value in and of itself, of looking at how language can change our experience of time.”


THE ASTROPHYSICIST “In astrophysics, infinity deals with both time and space,” says Dr. James Battat, an assistant professor of physics at Wellesley College. “The current knowledge in astrophysics and cosmology suggests that the universe is infinite, and it extends spatially; there’s no end to it, no boundary. You could, in principle, keep moving in one direction forever, and never come back to where you started.” Battat’s research focuses on the astrophysical concepts of dark matter and dark energy, which are invisible quantities that account for most of the matter in the universe, and the energy that drives the expansion of the universe itself. However, the singular nature of the universe can also be questioned, according to Battat. “We talk about the universe as everything there is, but there’s this ongoing discussion in physics now about whether or not there are universes, plural. The multiverse.” Battat specifies that the potential existence of multiple universes is highly theoretical. As of yet, no substantial research has posed an answer to this complex question of multiplicity. “In the concept of the multiverse, you have a collection of observable universes, but there [are] universes that are forever inaccessible to you,” Battat says. “The laws of physics could be different in those universes. And there could be an infinite number of them. An infinity of infinite universes.”


THE THEOLOGIAN “There’s a common misconception between infinity and the eternal,” says Dr. Donna Giancola. Giancola is the director of the religious studies program at Suffolk University, where she is also an associate professor of philosophy. “When you talk about eternity, you’re talking about a sense of timelessness. When you’re talking about infinity, you’re talking about the endless duration of time. I think that’s an important distinction, because sometimes people get confused and use those terms interchangeably. The distinction I make is that eternity is a timelessness—a state that is separate from time—whereas infinity itself presupposes that there’s a continuation, a constant changing.” Giancola specifies the ways in which infinity and eternality influence two major world religions. “In Buddhism, for instance, it’s more of the idea that the cosmological process goes on for infinity, whereas in Christianity, we do have a beginning, and we do have an end of the world, supposedly. There’s a lot of comparing and contrasting between the eternal and the infinite within world religions themselves. Some systems will gravitate more towards the eternal notion of the divine, whereas religions that are more pantheistic, like Buddhism, tend to be more focused on the infinite.” Giancola places the notion of time in conjunction with infinity. “The idea of time is related to the whole idea of change. We measure time through change,” she says. “I think the idea of the infinite is implicit in human consciousness and human thought. We are a species absolutely obsessed with time. If you look at it that way, we are in a never-ceasing arena of change, and that’s something I think we all need to get a hold of. People sometimes try and limit experience, and fail to see it as something that is perpetually unfolding and will continue to perpetually unfold.”



In the forgotten items left in haste, the dark hallways now only inhabited by mice or plant life, and decay there is a strange sense of warmth. People were there; they lived, breathed, danced, sang in the rooms and halls. They were ill there, they got better there, some may have even died there. Inside a home that was boarded up and condemned there still remains evidence of life, some happy, others painful. I am not the only one to see the beauty in the rotten floorboards, caved-in roofs, and vines that claim walls and windowsills; throughout the world there is a large community that has made it their personal agenda to visit and experience forgotten places. Some call themselves urban explorers, and they personally take on the risks of disease, injury, and persecution to enter and listen to the stories these places have to tell. Becoming an urban explorer doesn’t require an application, an essay, or an invitation. While websites connect urban explorers with others like them, these are stifled by illegality. Autumn Delong doesn’t consider herself an urban explorer; in fact, she doesn’t know what it is when I ask. She does, however, fit the criteria. Delong doesn’t seek out locations; she stumbles upon them. When she is driving down streets and sees a building that looks like it is unoccupied and has been for some time, she takes it as her cue to pull over and check it out, trespassing sign or no trespassing sign. “You aren’t supposed to be there,” she tells me. “And that just makes me want to go even more.” She appreciates the things left behind by other visitors, such as graffiti. “It’s art,” she explains. “All of it, even the graffiti. By itself, it is peaceful and wild, and the spray paint adds to it.” Alyssa Kahn, a new mother who recently found her home in Florida, does consider herself an urban explorer. “It’s a sense of freedom in a world dictated by rules and regulations,” she says. She speaks about abandoned buildings with reverence. “When I find an abandoned building it’s like finding lost art…once I am inside, I am surrounded with gratitude. I am filled with admiration and remember to remain humble, for I am in the presence of something that once was, but is not anymore.” The structures, in

her opinion, deserve to be explored. Without the occasional visitor, every story that the building has to tell dies for good. A few abandoned locations have global fame. Ellis Island, New York’s immigrant inspection station from the late 19th to early 20th century, was photographed in 3-D by a man named Sheldon Aronowitz after 50 years of decay. Sheldon describes the dilapidated state of the buildings. “There were dead animals—mostly rats—everywhere, some were rotted down to just the skeleton and others were still in partial states of decay.” Enough was preserved to give him a glimpse into the past. “The age was apparent,” he tells me. “There were glass skylights to compensate for electricity and the architecture alone was a significant sign of its age.” Thinking of the motto that Kahn had told me, “take only pictures, leave only footprints,” I found myself at The Lyman School for Boys. The institution was opened in about 1886 and housed boys who had been through the court system for offences such as truancy. The students were handled with methods comparable to boot camps and military institutions, with strict rules and schedules enforced by corporal punishment. During its 85-year run, there were multiple reports of abuse, where staff confined students in dark cells and refused to give them food and water. Ultimately, these cases brought the school to a close in 1971. Despite its dramatic history, The Lyman School for Boys gained most of it’s fame by being the childhood school of Albert DeSalvo, the Boston Strangler. This bit of information was what ran through my mind as I stood in knee-high snow, staring into a window not much wider than my head. The window led into what I could only assume was the basement, where there were no signs of structural damage. A look at the top of the building showed that on the far end, the roof had already caved in. After much internal debate, I climbed through the window, head first, body sideways. As I pulled my last limb inside the tiny basement window, I had to stuff down the urge to get out. From the inner side of the window, all outside noise disappeared and was replaced with a silence that pushed on my eardrums. The natural light rotted only




a few feet from the window, and from there it was nothing but darkness. Student desks were tossed into a pile to the right, and an administrator desk stood to the left. There were unknown documents glued to the floor, the desks, and each other by a dark mold that caused the damp smell that weighed down the air. Across the room was a doorway, the door broken, flat onto the floor. In order to move away from the window and through the doorway, I had to calculate every footstep, and with each footstep I devised a new emergency escape plan. The ceilings of the school hallway dripped water and sparkled when light was shone on them; paint peeled off of chipped brick walls. Signs that were bent and screwed to the wall told me I was going in the direction of the resident fallout shelter. Weighing my options on how to pass the half-standing door blocking the way to some unlabeled room, something happened. It might have been the footsteps of security or ghosts, or the roof caving in even more, possibly even a window, my only exit, falling shut. Whatever it was,I needed to get out as quickly and quietly as possible. Once outside and on the way back to my car, I heard a similar noise and turned to watch snow fall from a tree onto the roof.

Though it was just my overactive imagination that led me to flee, abandoned places can be quite dangerous. Many have been left in ruins for decades, allowing for mold to develop, as well as the ever-present chance of asbestos. Entering these structures also holds the risk of physical injury; rotting floorboards, stairs, and ceilings can offer all sorts of surprise dangers. Many locations have been covered with “No Trespassing” signs, and explorers face the risk of legal problems. Many jurisdictions can charge hundreds in fines and sometimes even days of jail time. Alyssa Kahn spoke to me about the legal issues surrounding abandoned structures. “I don’t go to places that have a ‘No Trespassing’ sign,” she says. “I used to, when I was younger and, I guess, a little more reckless.” She says she prefers to stumble across lesser known places. “There are so many that don’t have signs. Sometimes those are even more interesting because they really have been forgotten.” Many other explorers like Delong realize and embrace this risk, traveling far and wide to get a glimpse, take a few pictures, and leave a mark—in the form of footprints—on the already vast history of Ellis Island, The Lyman School for Boys, and hundreds of other buildings and tunnels left behind.




Banana. Sunrise. Chair. Someone diagnosed with Alzheimer’s may forget these three completely unrelated words in ten minutes. Perhaps they’ll remember it for several hours, or a few days. Maybe it will begin with simply forgetting where you put your wallet. Next may be the names of neighbors, of distant relatives, of that barista at that coffee place. Slowly but steadily, your memories weaken as the disease strengthens. You’ll start to forget faces. You will forget your name. And eventually, you may forget how to eat. Alzheimer’s is a quiet disease; it kills approximately half a million seniors in the US annually, yet hardly anyone sports purple ribbons on September 21. Few people know of World Alzheimer’s Day’s existence, and even fewer know what day it falls on. Alzheimer’s is a disease that lingers in the baffling, uncomfortable area that conversations tend to sidestep. It is an urgent global problem, and yet it remains one of the least understood. Over the past two decades, Alzheimer’s appearance in the entertainment industry has spiked. In mainstream music, Alzheimer’s emerges in songs by artists who have

witnessed its effect regardless of genre, ranging from Elvis Costello’s “Veronica” to the Dixie Chicks’ “Silent House.” Jessie J and Carrie Underwood both remember their grandmothers in songs “I Miss Her” (I wish she could remember / I watch her fade and slip away) and “Forever Changed” (Some days it almost kills me / Watching her memories slip away a little more), respectively, and Ed Sheeran’s “Afire Love” commemorates his grandfather (My father told me ‘son / it’s not his fault he doesn’t know your face’). In the realm of cinema, Alzheimer’s has starred in various films, ranging from its brief, romanticized presence at the end of Nicholas Sparks’s novel-turned-movie The Notebook (1996 and 2004) to Away From Her (2007), a film adapted from Alice Munro’s short story “The Bear Came Over the Mountain” (1999). Another prominent feature on Alzheimer’s is Lisa Genova’s novel Still Alice (2007), released as a film under the same name in December 2014. After protagonist Dr. Alice Howland is diagnosed with Early Onset Alzheimer’s, she says in the film, “I wish I had cancer. I wouldn’t feel so


ashamed. People put on pink ribbons if you have cancer.” There is larger number of non-fiction works that spotlight Alzheimer’s. The majority of these are memoirs written by caregivers who use writing as a platform in which to convey their frustrations or recreate their memories. Meryl Comer, an Emmy award winning broadcast journalist, advocate, and author of The New York Time’s bestselling memoir Slow Dancing With A Stranger became her husband’s primary caregiver when he was diagnosed with Early Onset Alzheimer’s. She had to leave her career at 48. “I vowed never to write a book,” Comer says. “I had been in the media, I had read too many books by people who had nothing to say, and I refused. But I wrote this book because I was very upset that we were not having an honest conversation about the disease.” Comer’s memoir was written out of anger toward the disease’s lack of progression with the goal of exposing the truth. “This isn’t a little old lady who just forgets her address. This is a disease that robs you of who you are. And what happens in diseases where there is no hope? It

goes soft around the edges. All the public relations around it [are] aimed to help people live in the space. Not [to] be honest.” For Martha Stettinius, author of Inside the Dementia Epidemic: A Daughter’s Memoir, her intentions were slightly different. Stettinius says that she wrote her memoir in order to cope with her mother’s illness. She began writing as soon as her mother moved into her home after being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. “I was writing in the moment,” Stettinius says. “I started writing little snippets here and there. Just writing in a notebook on my way to work, on the bus in the morning, or late at night.” In Stettinius’s case, journaling was a meditative means to deal with her mother’s illness: “whenever an emergency came up, or something I was confused by, I would write.” Unlike Stettinius, Comer wrote her memoir in retrospect. “I had survived all these years by living forward,” she says. “I had to stay focused on getting through from one crisis to the other.” Comer believes that for a disease that

is affecting more women than breast cancer, it has minimal coverage. “This is a huge global issue. It’s not a normal part of aging. We have lived through the cancer, the heart disease; we have now lived long enough, and this is the disease that is sitting out there waiting for us,” she says. “People are just layers of experience and memories. This disease stops it. It’s very, very painful to watch.” Norma Shackleton, 81, still has to endure this pain. Shackleton lives in Macungie, PA, with her husband Derek, 89, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s ten years ago. Some days her husband of 27 years remembers her name, on others he has no idea who she is. On good days, he recognizes their son. Shackleton says, “One time he came up to me, put his hand on my shoulder and said, ‘I have a question.’ I said, ‘Okay what is it?’ and he said, ‘I’d like to know if you’ll marry me.’” Not only does Shackleton have a heart condition and is in poor physical health, but she also spends the majority of her


days in silence. Her husband often wants to visit his parents, and each time Shackleton has to explain that their relatives have all passed. “I tell him, ‘We only have each other. It’s okay. I’ll take care of you.’” For her, the only way to cope is by “living lightly”: “This one time Derek came and sat by me and said, ‘I have something serious we have to talk about.’ I said, ‘Okay. What’s the problem?’ And he said, ‘Well I was thinking. I felt bad because we never had children of our own. But I think we should forget about that now. We’re a little too old for that.’ I said, ‘Really Derek? That’s great because I don’t think I can have any more children at my age.’” She says, laughing, “I try to look for humor.” Alzheimer’s is unrelenting, and the fight is as much about the caregiver as it is about the patient. Songs, novels, memoirs and a sense of humor become means of survival. What were those three words?

STRANGE SCIENCE The Study of the Paranormal

WORDS BY MARY KATE MCGRATH & PHOTOGRAPHY BY COURTNEY THARP Sally Rhine Feather had her first psychic experience as a young girl. One day she returned from school to find a glass sitting on the kitchen table, and she filled it with water for a drink. She found herself overwhelmed with an uncanny feeling of déjá vu. Feather realized that the night before, she had dreamt of this exact happening, down to the glass. This small instance was the first of many precognitive moments in her life. From prophetic dreams to psychics predicting major life events to apparitions in the attic, brushes with the paranormal feel familiar, even personal. Paranormal phenomena are a part of some of the earliest human histories, dating back to the beginnings of animism and human’s first conceptions of spirituality. From conspiracy blogs to television shows, a fascination with psychic forces still permeates contemporary pop culture. However, at the last remaining centers dedicated to the formal scientific study of the paranormal, these psychic encounters undergo more serious analysis. Paranormal psychology, or parapsychology, is the formal study of psychokinesis, clairvoyance, precognitions, apparitions, and other paranormal experiences. The field is as elusive as the psychology it studies, its definition expanding to include a range of bizarre paranormal occurrences. Parapsychology is nonetheless a science, and in designated labs and research facilities, some of the mind’s deepest, most unanswered secrets are explored. The Rhine Institute in Durham, North Carolina, was the first center for the academic study of the paranormal in the United States. Founder Joseph B. Rhine was a young psychologist when he attended a lecture on communication with the dead given by Sherlock Holmes author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Intrigued, Rhine used this as the inspiration for the institute’s first study, using mediums to try and discover evidence of an afterlife. This proved a dead end, as it were, so Rhine moved on to study ESP and psychokinesis, testing the possibility of psychic control. “He was not a believer and not a skeptic. Stories like this

have been reported throughout all civilizations, and most religions have quite a number of what we would call psychic experiences as belief systems, with prophecies and things of that sort,” Sally Rhine Feather says. “He thought it was important we find real quantitative data.” As his daughter, Feather may know Joseph B. Rhine’s work better than anyone. Feather is 85 years old, and speaks with a Southern drawl. She continues paranormal research today at the Rhine Institute, currently studying the spontaneous psychokinetic experiences, or unexplained physical events, which occur at a time of crisis. The Rhine Institute finds its home at Duke University, but is no longer affiliated. Feather says the university took advantage of her father’s retirement to distance itself from the controversial field. Higher education’s skepticism of parapsychology stems from experiments that fail to yield the concrete results that Rhine dreamed of. Parapsychologist Barry Taff has conducted studies in the field for over four decades, specializing in studies of telepathy and precognition. Taff is assertive in his beliefs, proposing bold theories with heated conviction. These include his claims that he worked with the United States government developing research and protocol for remote viewing, essentially mental spying. Or that he considers himself to be a medical clairvoyant, meaning he can use his intuitive abilities to locate a person’s physical or medical anomalies. Even as a true believer in the psychic power of the mind, Taff recognizes where fellow scientists struggle to accept the field. “We are still in the stage of parapsychology where we are investigating the effect of an unknown cause,” says Taff. “We know a lot more than we did forty or sixty years ago, but not enough to make it directly applicable to the real world.” The lack of experimental evidence does not bode well for the state of parapsychology in higher education. Many institutions


label the field a pseudoscience, citing lack of concrete lab results. What is happening is a real-life Ghostbusters scenario, with paranormal researchers finding themselves discredited and dismissed from their universities. “Parapsychology is related to psychology, and psychology is what they consider a soft science, a social science. You go in a laboratory and try to reproduce something, you won’t see people acting the way gravity acts,” says Jon Kruth, who is a seasoned parapsychologist and the current director of the Rhine Institute. “Within the world of psychic phenomenon, there have also been many charlatans that have come out, trying to trick people to take money. Magicians, illusionists, all these people have put a real shadow over the scientific work that is being done. Many people in an academic environment, when they hear parapsychology, they think of the charlatans.” Another challenge for those looking to conduct serious study of the paranormal is the rise in the popularity of paranormal reality shows. These shows, which tend to dramatize paranormal

encounters, are thought by many to inaccurately portray the field. “These shows are one thing only, they’re entertainment,” Barry Taff says. “If a show is based on capturing phenomena on video, the chances of that happening are astronomical. Instead they lie and fake it, embellish and exaggerate what occurs, and they populate these shows with a lot of crazy people.” While parapsychology is shrouded in skepticism, reported psychic and paranormal experiences are in no state of decline. The only hard facts that exist when it comes to the psychology of the paranormal are that encounters with psychic and paranormal phenomenon are reported often and in large numbers. “People don’t have to believe that these experiences really happened, but the fact is that many people across the world are reporting them, a very high percentage,” Feather says. “All the stories we keep hearing come from people that sound like they’re sane. We don’t question it like a court of law, but we just look at these cases and we study the kinds of people who report them.” Reports of paranormal occurrences remain common, but the fu-


ture of parapsychology is still uncertain. As reality television pulls the paranormal further into pop culture, higher education pushes it further away from academia. Some parapsychologists maintain the field remains important across all mediums. “As we start to recognize the integration of consciousness and our own feelings, we begin to see the connectivity that we

all have,” Kruth says. “Your thoughts and your feelings and your intentions all affect not only the people around you but everything in the world. Once we start to recognize this, it is going to have a tremendous influence on how we think and how we act. Parapsychology will hopefully be the integrating science between consciousness, spirituality, and the traditional material sciences.”



ENLIGHTENED: SEEKING A CURE FOR S.A.D. WORDS BY MARISA DELLATTO & PHOTOGRAPHY BY ZACH MCLANE It’s 11:14. I know this from looking at the clock on the wall. The “happy light,” the large rectangular glowing mass, is to my right. The light therapy room is quiet, peaceful. The longer I sit, the more I feel the brightness start to take over me. This is the same feeling I get when lying on the grass in my hometown on an April afternoon, taking in the fresh air and warmth of the world. I think of lying on a sandy towel at the beach, listening to waves crash. Only now, instead of waves, I am comforted by the sound of a ticking clock. –––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––– If I am ready to shed anything, it’s this past winter. The record is impressive for bragging rights; we survived the most snow in Boston’s history. We also finally learned what it would be like if hell were to freeze over. Days upon days were spent trapped indoors. Classes were missed. The public transportation system collapsed. Life as we know it ceased

to exist, all due to gray skies and little white flakes. I am the first to admit that cabin fever did a little more than just “get to me.” I have never been diagnosed with seasonal depression. I didn’t really understand what it was. Was I just being over dramatic, or was there clout to my theatrics and complaints? There isn’t much scientific proof to back up the existence of Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D.). It’s a depression that occurs only at a specific time of year, especially during times when less daylight is present. For now, the main cause stands as a lack of daylight, which plays with one’s biological clock, circadian rhythms, and the amount of the brain chemical serotonin (which determines mood). Seasonal depression can occur in anyone, but is most common in people who: are women, ages 15-55, live far from the equator, or have a relative who also suffers from S.A.D. The


risk of seasonal depression decreases as we age, so we college students are in the prime state for developing it, especially ‘round these parts. Fantastic. –––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––– 11:25am. Fifteen minutes in, 15 minutes to go. I so badly want to close my eyes, take a rest in this still oasis. But that will do me no good. Today is gray. Not sunny, not rainy. The snow is melting. It’s contaminated, stained by the moving cars and fast-paced city life. But here, the walls are white, clean. Right now is about letting in the light. My eyes are focused on my pen and journal, my thoughts exploding onto this page. Nothing but me. The humming of distant machines becomes friendly. –––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––– To understand more about S.A.D., I took to the streets (or around my building— who am I kidding—if I was about to step outside into the harsh tundra that Boylston Street had transformed into). I met two


individuals, who unlike me, actually suffer from S.A.D. When we spoke, Danielle Oldfield, 25, sat relaxed at the round table in her office, every so often glancing out the window. Through her transition from high school in Texas to college in North California, Oldfield became aware that she suffers from S.A.D. She now works as resident director in the Piano Row dorm at Emerson. Living in New England full time doesn’t exactly help. “Last winter was gray and frequently rainy. I would stay in bed for hours,” remembered Oldfield. This winter, she is finding that the snow actually helps her. “Snow is bright,” she said. It doesn’t help that her office faces a row of buildings, so even when there is sunlight, Oldfield is left in the darkness. “Weekends go from times of going out and exploring the city to spending time in bed,” she said. “I want February and March to be over with.” Oldfield’s drive to be active and to be around people disappear with the coming of Christmas. “When people get excited about Christmas and the first snow, I get lethargic because I know it’s coming.” Ben Franchi, 19, came from different circumstances, though the symptoms are the same. A few years back, he noticed that he would become angry, pessimistic, and withdrawn around Christmas time. Living in Massachusetts, he was used to being subdued to the cliché New England

winters. After being put into therapy, Franchi discovered that he too suffered from S.A.D. “I love Christmas,” said Franchi, now a freshman at Emerson College. Unfortunately, that’s the time his symptoms start to appear. “I’m like Matthew McConaughey in True Detective,” he offered as a description of his mood. In high school, his struggles with S.A.D. caused his grades to slip. “High school, it was harder,” said Franchi. He felt a strong desire to see and be around people every day, something that the weather didn’t allow him to do. –––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––– Almost five minutes left. Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock. Breathing in and out, I’m filled with the warmth of a spring day. I’ve never been in a room like this before, but somehow this light feels like home. Baking in the sun no longer seems like a distant memory. I hadn’t realized how frozen I was. During my time in front of this square, I have defrosted, dripping away my stress and sadness onto the purple chair, down into the gray rug, and back into the earth only to return again next November. –––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––– “Healing” means different things to sufferers of S.A.D. For Franchi, healing means not allowing himself to feel depressed. He has a hands-on approach to handling his S.A.D. After being sent to bi-weekly therapy, he was also put on anti-anxiety medicine. He said the results have been tremendous. “I’m a lot more positive and upbeat,” said Franchi, smiling to himself. The ther-


apy also served as a release. For him, this winter has been better than most. Now, Franchi knows how to manage himself and S.A.D. “As long as I keep going before it sets in, I’m fine,” he said of his symptoms. He tries to get outside, as well as exercise. Both of these things keep him moving. For Oldfield, it’s a full spectrum light that does the trick for her. “It has the same effects as sunlight. You’re supposed to use it for thirty minutes a day. I will use it for hours,” she confessed. “I’m lucky that my apartment has window space. It has the same effect.” After learning from Oldfield that Emerson’s counseling department has its own light therapy room, which they limit to half hour sessions because too much sunlight can disrupt the body’s rhythms, I decided to see what the hubbub was about. Though the science to back up this treatment is still developing, I wanted to get my hands dirty, see if I could experience a transformation firsthand. So I booked an appointment, got myself a tea and pastry, and made my way down the cloudy wet streets to be enlightened. –––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––– Time is running short. However long this was, that first frozen layer is off. I feel like the icicles outside. The winter is still present, but slowly, the sun wears it away. Down into the earth the winter falls. The streets are now water. Tomorrow the sun will dry it up and release a new layer to fall to the earth, repeating this over and over until the grass is green.


I went out that drizzly Wednesday night in late February because I wanted to meet people like me. When I found them, walking into the small room on the second floor of the Boston Living Center, I had to admit none of them seemed much like me. Many of them were older, some were married or had been before—some were tax accountants, community organizers, retail workers. But like me, all had spent most of their lives confused and frightened by their sexuality. Like me, their friends, family, and even medical professionals had tried to ‘convert’ them, tell them they were wrong or lying. Like me, they had only ever seen themselves reflected in the media as jokes or deviants. Some of them had been coming here for years, but for others, like myself, this was the first time they had ever had the support of other bisexual people—the first time that they could talk about their experiences and hear the words “me too.”

The meeting—the monthly Bisexual Social and Support Group (BLiSS)—is one of several regular meetups coordinated by Boston’s Bisexual Resource Center (BRC), one of the oldest and largest bisexual advocacy organizations in the country. Nearly four million Americans identify as bisexual—more than the number who identify as gay, lesbian, and transgender combined, according to research compiled by the Williams Institute at UCLA. Another 25.6 million Americans who do not identify as bisexual still report attraction to more than one gender. This is one of the reasons the San Francisco Human Rights Commission termed bisexuals “the invisible majority”—a group experiencing widespread erasure, stigmatization, and ostracization, which BRC board president Julia Canfield has witnessed firsthand. “Bisexuals as a community have a huge gap in funding,” Canfield says. “You can see it on the annual LGBT funders 44

report that comes out every year—bi advocacy gets a very, very small amount compared to other areas of the community.” And as has always been the case with systematic injustice, this has life-altering, and sometimes life-ending, repercussions. Ellyn Ruthstrom, a Boston-based bisexual activist for more than 25 years, says “it’s what lesbian and gay people have been saying since the beginning— the closet kills.” And this closet goes deep—bisexuals are the least likely of any studied sexuality group to be out to the important people in their lives; the Pew Research Center puts it at a rate of 28% compared to gay men at 77% and lesbian women at 71%. This is one of the factors that accounts for widespread physical and mental health disparities between bisexuals and other sexuality groups. The San Francisco Human Rights Commision found that over 40% of bisexuals reported having suicidal feelings, compared to 27%

of homosexual men and women, and 8.5% of heterosexuals. The reality of bisexual lives lies in stark contrast to mainstream stereotypes of bisexuals as abnormal, indecisive, and promiscuous. Research interrogating the very existence of bisexuality—research not unlike that on homosexuality before it was declassified as a mental illness in 1973—continues to be published under such overtly offensive titles as the 2005 New York Times article “Straight, Gay, or Lying.” Whether jokes, myths, or stereotypes, these attitudes towards bisexuality have harmful consequences. “People always make that old joke about how I can date twice the people [because of my bisexuality],” says Ruthstrom. “But I’ve always had the opposite experience; when I bring up my bisexuality I’m met with suspicion and mistrust.” Ruthstrom says that it’s common for bisexual people to not come out until several dates into a relationship. “And that’s hard,” says Ruthstrom. “Because you just want to be yourself and meet people, but as soon as you do they start throwing stereotypes on top of you. So you have to hide it just so they’ll give you a chance.” This bias isn’t just coming from the mainstream. Ruthstrom says that lesbian women can often be just as mistrustful as straight men. And her story isn’t unique in the bisexual community. H. Sharif Williams, a bisexual activist and LGBT health researcher known popularly as Dr. Herukhuti, says that despite his qualifications, he is regarded with suspicion in his community. Even while completing his PhD, running workshops for Black and Latino men to deal with internalized homophobia and biphobia, and publishing HIV-prevention resources, Dr. Herukhuti was treated as a “prevailing stereotype” by gay men because of his bisexuality. “For them, I was really gay but unwilling to accept it and therefore could not be taken seriously as a queer activist,” Dr. Herukhuti wrote in an email interview. Low coming out rates, stigma against same-gender relationships, unique and hurtful stereotypes, and low rates of support, even in those spaces where other marginalized sexualities find community

and solidarity, result in more than just a few bad dates and hurt feelings. Bisexual health, and bisexual lives, hang in the balance. “For a long time we didn’t know a lot about bisexual health because bi communities were lumped in with lesbian and gay communities,” says Julia Canfield. “It’s only in the last few years really that they’ve broken down those categories and we’re seeing that all of these things we feared are true.” Canfield—who holds a master’s degree in public health and is helped found Bisexual Health Awareness Month, which takes place each March—is alluding to a series of major health disparities between bisexuals and other sexuality groups. According to numerous studies, bisexuals have the highest rates of substance abuse, smoking, mental illness, high risk sexual behavior, depression, and self-harm of any studied sexuality group—in some cases, by a significant margin. Bisexual women are particularly vulnerable, not just to health issues, but to violence. According to a study conducted by the CDC in 2010, almost two thirds of bi women have been victims of domestic abuse, and 41.6% have been raped, nearly three times the rate for heterosexual women. These statistics don’t appear to be random, but instead inherently tied to mainstream views of bisexuality. In the

"Bisexuals are the least likely of any studied sexuality group to be out to the important people in their lives." same study, bi women reported that 89.5% of the intimate partner violence they faced came from a male partner. “Bi women in particular are viewed as very sexual. When I came out as bi [in early adolescence], everyone said things like ‘oh you’re bi, that means you’ll sleep with everyone’ or ‘you must be into threesomes’,” says Canfield. “And that’s very common. It doesn’t surprise me that bi women face such high rates of sexual violence because I hear it all the time from bi women whose abusers or rapists decided that because they were bi, they were ‘available’ for whatever sort of thing was that person’s whim.” Dr. Herukhuti sees many of these health disparities as issues of intersectionality. “The more marginalized, oppressed groups a bisexual belongs to, e.g. people of color, women, transgender women and men, differently-abled, etc. the worse the conditions they will experience in society,” he says. “Oppression is bad for your health; it always has been and it always will be.”

This is why intersectionality was one of the issues addressed by this year’s Bisexual Health Awareness Month, started by Canfield and sponsored by the Bisexual Resource Center. “This year our focus is on mental health,” says Canfield. “We want to expand the data we have in terms of intersectional issues. With regards to bi people of color, bi trans people, bi elders, bi youth, we want to give more of a face and voice to their issues, to promote them and hopefully boost available resources and action steps.” Although the issues facing the bi community are significant and, as of yet, not fully understood, organizations like the BRC are drawing people together in order to make positive change. Bisexual Health Awareness Month is one such initiative, as was the founding of the Bisexual Research Collaborative on Health (BiRCH), the first organization of its kind, founded in 2014 and hosted out of the Fenway Institute in Boston. “The hard data is scary to look at, but it allows us an opportunity to get funding and resources,” says Canfield. “You can’t deny statistics. It’s a fact that we have these disparities, and we’ve had them for a long time, but now we can go to funders and organizers and say, hey, look at this, look at the disparities in our communities. What are you going to do about it?”


Going into a product testing session at Thync Research, I’m in a horrible mood. I’m stressed about school work and annoyed that the people at the Prudential Center are so specific about what entrance I need to use to get into Prudential Tower. Entering the shiny Thync offices on the fourteenth floor, I’m greeted by a young woman who gives me a questionnaire about my mood. I sit down at a table that’s decorated by two road signs denoting the intersection of Commercial Avenue and Neuroscience Place. I give high answers for irritability, anxiousness, and stress, while I give the lowest possible answer for “carefree.” Another woman enters the room, takes my clipboard, and leads me to a small cubicle. She attaches stickers to my fore-

head and the back of my neck, and I sit back, waiting for electrical currents to fix my bad mood. In 43 A.D., Roman physician Scribinus Largus wrote of a patient who cured his gout by stepping on an electric ray, also known as a torpedo fish. A century later, the physician Claudius Galen attempted to recreate this strategy by strapping the rays, also known as torpedo fish, to the foreheads of those suffering from headaches. This painful yet effective headache cure was used throughout the Middle Ages. Fast forward to 2015, and the modern equivalent of the torpedo fish are manufactured as wearable technologies, but with a few key differences. While the patients receiving the torpedo fish treatment received a


painful electric shock, modern users of the technology barely feel anything. And the devices aren’t just used to treat headaches; they’ve been used for depression, strokes, addiction, increasing intelligence, and mood alteration. While this technology might seem miraculous, it’s based in the very real science of Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation (tDCS). There are labs at Harvard, Oxford, and the University of Pennsylvania dedicated to the study of how electricity can work to improve brain function. “It’s not a metaphor that the brain is a computer that runs on electricity,” says Dan Hurley, a journalist who explored intelligence enhancement in his book Smarter. “It is a computer, and it does run on

“I don’t think that there’s been anything that humans have cooked up that isn’t abused. That’s human nature.” electricity. It shouldn’t be so surprising that applying more electricity would have some effect on the system.” Upon hearing about electrical currents administered to the brain, people are likely to think of electroshock therapy, but the dosage of electricity in tDCS is minimal: between .5 and 2 milliamps, while electroshock therapy uses a dosage of around 800 milliamps to induce seizures. tDCS is also different from other treatments that are known to make you “smarter,” like Adderol. “All the known drugs seem to do is keep your butt in the chair longer doing the work,” says Hurley. tDCS, on the other hand, has been proven to improve a variety of brain functions for people who are already focused. At the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, partially paralyzed patients treated with twenty minutes of tDCS improved their hand dexterity by five to ten percent. The positive effects of the treatment were still apparent ten days later. A Harvard scientist discovered that tDCS has similar effects

to the antidepressant Zoloft on depressed patients. The United States Air Force has found that its pilots can sustain accuracy in simulations twice as long while being treated with tDCS. Hurley himself has been the recipient of the treatments. Researchers at Harvard’s Laboratory of Neuromodulation connected electrodes to his forehead and administered an attention-switching test, requiring him to make quick decisions on a computer screen. Over the course of eight treatments over several weeks, he made seven errors during his first treatment and no errors in his last four. His reaction time decreased by half a second. Hurley envisions a future in which tDCS is used as therapy for people with mental disabilities. Of course, this doesn’t mean that rich college students won’t buy or make devices to help them cram for a test. Hurley sees this abuse as unavoidable. “I don’t think that there’s been anything that humans have cooked up that isn’t abused. That’s human nature,” he says


with a laugh. “Maybe one day there will be a treatment for that.” David Fischer is a research fellow at Harvard’s Berenson-Allen Center for Noninvasive Brain Stimulation, which specializes in tDCS, as well as its more expensive, yet better tested electromagnetic counterpart TMS. The center performs research on the possibilities of tDCS and TMS, in addition to offering therapy for various illnesses. Patients are referred through hospitals, though with the increased popularity of the technology, more and more people are approaching the center themselves. The center recently received a grant from the United States Department of Defense to examine the effect of tDCS on fluid intelligence, and they are also testing patients in a clinical trial of the effects of the technology on Alzheimers. “It’s all very preliminary, but so far it looks promising,” says Fischer. Fischer explains the difference between tDCS and TMS. “TMS is electromagnetic current that runs through the brain, while TDCS involves two electrodes on the

brain that interact with each other,” he says. “tDCS is subtler.” tDCS has also become more popular in recent years, primarily because it’s much cheaper than TMS. “Anyone can pretty much make it in their garage,” says Fischer. The low risk factor and easy accessibility of tDCS is not lost on individuals and companies interested in capitalizing on people’s desire to be smarter, quicker, more focused. Videos on Youtube show individuals experimenting with homemade devices and documenting their improvements. headsets are already available to purchase for $298. The company uses tDCS to manufacture products aimed at gamers and athletes. Then there’s Thync, the company that made me its guinea pig, which advertises itself as a mood altering product developed by scientists using tDCS and TMS technology. The accessibility of this technology is a double-edged sword. Fischer says that the Berenson-Allen Center has considered whether the technology should be regulat-

ed. He is skeptical of companies like Thync that package these simple technologies into expensive products, especially using false promises. “As of now, there isn’t a ton of evidence that you can really reliably enhance mood,” he says. “You can imagine a pretty decent placebo effect there. If people think their mood is going to be enhanced, it probably will be.” During my testing, a pretty iPhone app wirelessly controls how intense the tDCS frequency is. During my first test, the young woman controls the frequency, and I keep a diary of how I feel. I feel only a slight tingling on my forehead, one that I might not have noticed if I hadn’t been paying attention. During my fifteen minute session, I become increasingly relaxed. Attempting to think about the subjects I was previously stressed about, I don’t feel an increase in heart rate, and my thoughts are positive and measured. Carefree is the word for it. During the second test, I control the


frequency as I keep a record of how I feel. I’m immediately struck by the physical sensation of even the lowest frequencies. It reminds me of the chewing gum joke shop toy, the one that shocks you as you pull a fake stick of gum, but on my face. As I increase the amount, my eye begins to twitch and my forehead hurts. I don’t feel carefree: more trepidatious. I wonder if I’m participating in a sadistic version of the Milgram experiment. Most of all, I wonder whether my far milder first test was a placebo. After another questionnaire, a woman hands me $50 for my participation, and I’m informed for the first time that I might have received a placebo. In spite of this, I feel that my mood has changed. I’m feeling out of it, a little loopy, but I can’t be sure of the cause. If I’m honest with myself, I’m not very skeptical, easily swayed by expert opinions. I wonder if it’s the technology that made me feel so relaxed at first, or if being forced to sit in silence and meditate on my mood has altered my mood on its own. Wondering if I’ve failed, I go back to feeling anxious.


L’appel du Vide (French)

Goya (Urdu)

Saudade (Portugese)

THE CALL OF THE VOID the slap of fresh air through the fourteenth floor window, cool and inviting from your place between four white walls. the wide blue sky from the window of the plane and remembering when you were little and you wished you could fly. when you read it in your dictionary you feel something inevitable and trembling unfurl within you. you swallow five hundred million years of evolution like bile, like a breath you didn’t know you were holding, like air. like empty air, stretching out beneath you forever, or what seems like forever, and if you just stepped out you would never touch the ground. you’re scared, of course you’re scared—gut-scared, spine-scared, skin prickle scared—but not scared to fall. just scared you want to.

THE SUSPENSION OF DISBELIEF THAT COMES FROM GOOD STORYTELLING where are you? take a breath. describe it to me. tell me a story. castle turrets spiral like twisted oaks towards the giants in the sky. if you concentrate, you can feel the weight of the magic beans in the palm of your hand. squeeze your fist closed around them. do it. if you concentrate, you can smell the fur of the white rabbit in his moth eaten waistcoat, hear the ticking of his pocket watch. take a breath. describe it to me. tick-tick-tick. castle walls come crumbling down at a thought, or a word, or a breath. describe it to me. you’re the main character, after all. make me believe it.

THE LOVE THAT REMAINS you couldn’t say you loved her, but sometimes you miss who you were before. it’s the kind of love you put in a shoebox with baseball cards and newspaper clippings and your collection of old pennies. it’s an under-the-bed kind of love­—you forget it’s there, but it doesn’t go away. you wish you’d taken more pictures that day. can you miss someone you barely knew? it’s the kind of love you see in the crumpled map at the bus station, where someone used purple gel pen to trace the way home. can you be homesick for a place you’ve never been? you keep the map, though you’re not sure why. you put it in a shoebox with your baseball cards and newspaper clippings and your collection of old pennies. you put it under the bed, but this time you don’t forget.


Weltschmerz (German)

Mamihlapinatapai (Yaghan)

Ostranenie (Russian)

SENTIMENTAL DEPRESSION wake. class. work. sleep. take off your clothes. turn on the water. step into the shower. you get into bed with her. take off your clothes. the face in the mirror is yours, you tell yourself again and again. mine. it’s not that you’re sad, just bored, just tired. you have no right to be, you tell yourself again and again. no right. you’ve forgotten what excitement tastes like. you’re weary. nothing’s wrong, you make yourself say. your skin is cold, she complains, and you don’t really know what to say to that. you just let her take more of the blankets. you try to remember what it’s like to be warm. it doesn’t matter, you tell yourself. wake. class. work. sleep.

THE LOOK BETWEEN TWO PEOPLE WHO WANT THE SAME THING, BUT NEITHER IS WILLING TO INITIATE you couldn’t pronounce it, much less spell it, but you can see it reflected back at you in her wide black pupils. no one says a word. you tell yourself there’s nothing to say— just want, like a pit of hurt. you tell yourself you won’t say it first, at least, and that much is true. she makes herself smile and tries not to blush. it’s not all bad, this tight feeling, this shy feeling, this hungry feeling. you can live off it if she can. you can live off the brush of her leg on yours when she reaches over you for the tv remote. you can live off small talk and the smell of her for now if you have to—because you couldn’t pronounce it and you couldn’t spell it, but you can almost fucking taste it.

THE PRESENTATION OF FAMILIAR THINGS IN AN UNFAMILIAR WAY four minutes and thirty-three seconds of silence is the best sound you ever heard. you wear your favorite dress backwards. you wear green lipstick. the spider in your kitchen is large, but also it is quiet and soft. softly you laugh. science has all but disproved the existence of free will. you know it, but then again you know lots of things you don’t believe. life is temporary and magical, and art is anything you want it to be. you look yourself in the eyes and hear the ocean in your seashell ears. tomorrow maybe you will wear your favorite dress frontwards— but then again, maybe not.



BREAK OUT YOUR OLD NO. 2 PENCILS Take your notes in pencil again. Close your laptop and cap those ballpoints. When you make a mistake, don’t delete or ink over it—flip over your pencil and erase, leaving the shadow of your old words under your new ones. Mechanical is fine, but wooden is classic. Sharpen your pencils by hand, not by machine. If you’re skilled with a knife, whittle the graphite to a point. Can you smell the wood shavings? Don’t just stop at notes for class. Tell your friends you’ll pencil them in for lunch tomorrow. Capture a still life by the fruit bowls in the dining hall, shading in the way the fluorescent light hits each banana. Free-write a story with your pencil as fast as you can, trying not to smudge your hands and the page into a blur. GO CLOUD BATHING Don’t sit inside waiting for a sunny day. When the weather gets warm, suit up in your favorite trunks or tankini and hit the nearest park, lake, river, beach, or rooftop. Lay down a colorful towel and bask in the overcast. Smile smugly at passersby if they stare, because you have the location of choice to yourself. You could invite along a friend or three, but don’t be too offended if they turn you down. Crack open a good book. Enjoy a snack (anything but Sun Chips). Of course, you should study the shapes hidden inside the clouds. Maybe you’ll end up with a tan tomorrow after all. Those UV rays are always out, even when the sun isn’t. GIVE SLEUTHING A TRY Not sure where to turn on your career path? Offer your services as a private eye. Start small. Think Harriet the Spy, but dress and act like the hardboiled noir gumshoe you aspire to become. You don’t need an office. Simply advertise. The newspaper is preferable, but Facebook will do. Offer your clients their first mystery solved for free (and the next at a reasonable rate). Show up in a dark trench coat to search for your aunt’s lost car keys. Make sure to bring your magnifying glass to the laundromat when you’re on the hunt for your neighbor’s missing blouse. START UP A MOTH GARDEN On a warm summer night, head out to your porch, patio, stoop, or alleyway. Find a light or bring a lantern. It shouldn’t be long until the butterflies of the night find you. Watch them flutter through the dark. Marvel at their translucent wings in the glow. It may sound a little gross, but if you frame, light, and filter it right, this could be a very Instagrammable moment. Moths are the cool goth girls of the insect world. Just be prepared for their entourage—hopefully, you won’t mind a few itchy bites. And make sure your doors are tightly closed; you’ll want those sweaters in your closet to be in one piece come winter. DIY A HALL OF MIRRORS Spruce up your boring hallway. You could go for a funhouse look. You could try your own take on Versailles. There’s no reason you shouldn’t do both. If you’re looking for glamour but don’t quite have the means of a monarch, paint an ornate frame onto the wall instead. Consider going on a hunt for some old circus mirrors. Hang the mirrors on the wall on both sides of the hall—you’ll see that it more than doubles the fun. Check yourself out as you strut down your new, reflective corridor. Are you really that lanky? Are you really that squat? When you make it to your ordinary bathroom mirror, give yourself a second look. How can you be sure that this is your true reflection?


Gauge Magazine is produced twice a year by undergraduates at Emerson College. Copyright of all materials reverts to the individual artists and authors. No materials may be reproduced without permission. G27 was set in Avenir Next, Raleway, Optima, Adobe Caslon Pro, PT Sans, and Futura. Cover photo and photo on this page by Courtney Tharp. Back cover by Nydia Hartono. Images on 2, 5, 8, 15, and 19 by Kavita Shah.Special thanks to Nick Spanos at Kirkwood and to Gauge advisor Bill Beuttler. Submit, read past issues, and learn more at

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