Notes From the Underground, Fall 2019

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Notes from the Underground: Maclay Upper School’s Journal of Creative Writing Faculty Sponsor: Dr. Craig Beaven Founder: Dr. N. Suzanne Jamir Issue 7

Fall 2019

Editorial Staff Editor Assistant Editor Managing Editor Poetry Editor Assistant Poetry Editor Fiction Editor Assistant Fiction Editor Nonfiction Editor Assistant Nonfiction Editor Art Editor Assistant Art Editor Copy Editors Submissions Manager

Lilly Simons Sameer Ponnaluri Ellie Casteel John Messer Mary Allison McCue Ethan Tetreault Elias Jaffe Madi Cordle Hunt Deison Kendall Minter Lauren Fleischer Simon Corpuz, Rachel Abbott Caroline Delegal

Front And Back Cover Art By Jordan Jones Spine Art By Lilly Simons

A Note from the Editor With every string of words that I thread together, embrace of my eyes upon the work of another being, I reflect, retrogress. At the beginning of last year, my AP Lang class (shout out to you Norment) bravely embarked upon the teachings of Richard Miller in his essay “The Dark Night of the Soul.” As we diligently worked through his revelations upon existence, I found myself hypnotized, paralyzed in my own thoughts as Miller’s text flowed across the page before me: “The only way out is through” (Miller 27). Blinking my eyes, feeling the presence of the figure moving outside the window, and watching the hands of the clock meet in perfect unison reminded me that I was alive despite the rebirth simultaneously occurring within my soul. Within that moment, I garnered a degree of clarity, obtained answers regarding the questions that consumed my mind: Why is it that I write? What is the power of writing in a society that fails to recognize its potential and necessity? Fast forward to over a year later. As I stringed together celestial poems with planetary artistic creations, wove a connective thread between revelations upon heartbreak and confrontations with the absurd, I found myself returning to this meditation upon human experience that has been engraved within my mental sphere since that September day in AP Lang. I found myself confronting the force that gets me “through” the exhaustion of existence, the constant questioning of the purpose of my vitality. This moment forced me to recognize the power of the journal that you hold within your palms. In NFTU, we find purpose, a reason to continue pushing our Sisyphean boulders up the hill of existence despite all that plagues us. Within this community, we achieve alignment in purpose, getting through. Within the mere three months that this journal has been in progression for, we’ve expanded our creativity significantly. We altered our font, collaborated with the Art Department to create the exquisite poetry broadsides found within the journal, adopted a new publisher, and enlisted a new computer program in order to create our journal. Such expansions would fail to exist without the undying passion and creativity that you all foster within this community. Despite the complexities of existence that we all endure, the narratives that diversify our human experience, we are all united in our ability to enlist writing, reading, and the visual arts as mediums for confronting the reality we are subject to. Our hearts bleed lyrical notes of tribulation, elation, heartbreak, bewilderment, and loss into art that we share. We pour tears, laughter, and love into the art that we culti1

vate. We spend sleepless nights, rainy mornings, and hectic midday moments crafting lines of poetry, drenching a canvas in paint, and meditating on narrative pieces. When verbal language fails, we return to NFTU, this community of aligned souls, for connection and purpose in our otherwise isolating human experiences. I possess such an intense degree of gratitude for my ability to be immersed in the unique beauty of this community. From my beginning days as an underclassman copy-editing and building my writing obsession to my modern moments of all-nighters feeling my mind bloom with every provocative piece that greets my eyes, NFTU has been the vessel of community, collaboration, and creativity that has propelled me forward. Within NFTU, I have found passion in the brilliance of the literary arts, friendship in past and present Undergrounders, and admiration for the diligent efforts that we all conduct in order to make this journal a reality and uphold the outstanding standard of excellence that Dr. Jamir founded the journal upon. Gazing upon this completed journal fills my frame with emotion. The thought of embarking upon the creation of the last journal that I will witness the construction of fills me with sadness; however, I am incredibly ecstatic to collaborate one last time with all of you in our Spring journal. For now, let your mind wander in our cultivation of imagination, innovation.

With gratitude, LILLY SIMONS


Table of Contents Lauren Fleischer - Glass


Sonu Patel - Flames


Lauren Fleischer - Fever


Caroline Delegal - Fragments


Caroline Higdon - I Speak


Lilly Simons - Muse


Hudson Shelfer - An Autoethnographic Reponse to People


Clara-Catherine Lunny - An Analysis of the Goody-Two Shoes


Anna Grant - Build


Lilly Simons - Heartless


Colin Acuff - My Condolences


Emily Dudley - I Paint a Picture


Madelyn Stout - Escape


Ethan Tetreault - The Edge!


Leo Rutledge, Anna Grant - Before Death Takes it All


Lilly Simons - Hallucinogenic


Madi Cordle, Kaileigh Schmidt - An Excerpt from My Calc Notes: 3


Kat Large - Stardust


Madi Cordle - Limbo


Kameryn Davis - Growing Up


Ethan Tetreault, Braden Foster - Beyond the Ashes


Emma Messer - Big Stretch


Mary Allison McCue - Forgiveness


Lauren Fleischer - Blood on my Hands


Ellie Casteel, Anna Watson - Painted Hands


Emily Dudley - Forever- Is composed of Nows


Jillian Beck - Seconds


Lauren Fleischer - Craze


Lilly Simons - Human Nature


Rachel Abbott - Bug on Flower


John Messer - Autumn Falls


Jillian Beck - Of the Wild


Eli Mears, Sonu Patel - Stepping Out


Madeline Lillie - Chirping


Madelyn Stout - The Bookkeeper


Mariam Alvi- Nonstop

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Chloe Harbin - The Faint Tune of an Overture


Sonu Patel- 8.95239° N, -79.5354° E


Emily Dudley - Many Times Staggered


Spencer Gibbs - Tiger Got To Hunt


Ramsay Grant - The Hidden Oppression Behind Social Media


Sameer Ponnaluri - Should Voting be Mandatory?


Lauren Fleischer - Dial Up


Jillian Beck - Circus


Simon Corpuz - Submit


Owen Tabah - I’m not a good reader


Kate Krizner - The Words


Lauren Price - Reading and Writing aren’t scary


Lauren Fleischer - Umber


Heaven Ward - L.Y.T.


Jillian Beck - My Sunshine


Jordan Jones - Empty


Mary Allison McCue - Enemy


Chloe Harbin - A Mass of Romantic Juveniles



How We Got Our Name We take the title of this journal from a novella of the same name by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. The novella is an existentialist work, written before Existentialism had fully bloomed in the world of literature. The novella begins with the words“I am a sick man...�. Such a statement pens the focus of the novella as one of confrontation, exploration into the darkness that all beings endure. Regardless of influence, art remains in the presence of darkness.


For Ms. Blake (1955-2019)






i cannot live with these lies. these lies that i so hungrily eat. i devoured them, cleaning off the plate that you serve them on. they carry a bitter sweet taste in my mouth, but they slide down my throat so easily. just when i think i am finished, my mouth is on fire. my throat burns as the fire tears through them. my mouth numbs because of the pain that the heat brings. the lies went down in flames. my tongue is burnt, but this is to your advantage. now, i can never go against you. i must sit there as your puppet and watch you. watch you feed everyone your lies, and i sit there accepting my faith. i am a doll for you to decorate and beautify. you showcase me as a prize in the day, but you burn me alive every night yet, i say no words because it goes down in flames.




No one was around so I got on my bike. Moving had become harder, although, it was a nice thought, The morning red sun glowed and fell behind the Circle K sign, the heat on my back and arm burning, the station dead except for me and one other car. It’s fitting. I hate this complex now. It’s bitter and cruel, and, at your funeral all I said was thank you, and everything was fine but looking back I wasn’t thankful at all. The complex makes me feel bad but the sun and the breeze would have made her smile I’m sure of it A bunny runs across the street in front of my wheel and I almost cry, not quite, but is this how she felt that day in Texas? I ended up on B’s doorstep, somehow, barely, fifteen miles is really nothing, she answers the door wearing the old pajamas I gave her and I try not to think about suicidal people as well as bunnies. Later, sitting with my legs hanging off her dock. I realized that 5pm with you is my favorite thing, everything here is warm. The water on this lake isn’t water at all. I kept thinking that if someone were to look at me from far away all they would see is a tunnel of light, the tunnel being this tall weird dock, there was this dark canopy of all these green trees leading to where we were. If I were to see you in the distance It would look like a tunnel of dark and if you were to look at me It would be a tunnel of light, but, It doesn’t matter The sludge didn’t gross me out because I was happy, because I realized that when the sun struck the mud it twinkled just like water would have. I fell asleep with you right here and woke up on the grass once the sun set melting into the laziness of frogs croaking and bugs humming and biting me as my eyes begin to open and Halfway in the sludge is this awful but also cool red bike, we just sit and stare for a 10

while. And then, before I knew it. I had returned for probably the eleventh time this year. My pores eyes mouth red and yellow, sweating too, just like the walls were, the pores of my dripping sh-t brown slug flesh walls were gaping and rancid You are here too. Naked and sprawled like a newborn creature, two and a half sort-of humans born out of my hardwood floor. I find myself falling into a deep deep slumber to the sound of their fresh breathing. Outside scorches and burns the sand and pavement turning the water hot The twin-size mattress I sat on was soaking wet cold disgusting and soggy, I thought that I wouldn’t mind staying for a while, this isn’t so bad, because when I was here my insides glowed and shivered. You kiss my face, I don’t feel a thing Could I break through this frosted glass even if I wanted, can you see these thoughts scream and scramble in my weak brain. The words you speak aren’t red anymore. I think about it often The blood is on my shoes Some strange and devastation discomfort I really think I’d better go now… I see the itch in her too.






I speak English. Sure. It’s my first language technically. Somehow, though, it’s the language that seems the most foreign to me. I’m not saying because of my French class I took up until this year, French is my most well-known and spoken language; in fact, it’s quite the opposite. Hence the reason I stopped taking the class. My most fluent languages aren’t necessarily languages at all; they aren’t taught in school. It’s who I am. I speak only child. I speak unfulfilled stereotypes of being a brat, yet I do fill the shoes of the stereotype that my sweet, sweet parents spoil me. And while they are sweet, sweet people, they are just about the most overprotective helicopter parents you’ll find (specifically my mama).“Just sneak out!” my friends will say.“Just say you’re at your dad’s!” when I’m with my mom and,“Just say you’re at your mom’s!” when I’m with my dad, completely taking advantage of my parents who are no longer together. They don’t get it. My friends will say these things to me, failing to grasp the fact that those “options” are simply not options I have. I speak divorced parents. Two Christmas and Thanksgiving celebrations: the morning with my mama’s family, and the afternoon with my dad’s. I speak “yes, I know it’s not my fault,” a million times after someone finds out my parents are divorced. Along with that comes, “yes, it’s fine, it’s really not a big deal,” I say. “It’s better this way.” That is typically followed with a slow, demeaning head nod and a tight purse of the lips from whomever I’m conversing with. I can pack up a week’s worth of necessities into a duffle bag pretty dang quick every Tuesday night, though. That’s what I call eight years of practice; it’s practically muscle memory by now. Most of all, I speak anxiety. All too well, I know anxious thoughts and feelings, which I pray for God to suppress each night and morning. Only about five people know I have anxiety, and even less know the severity of it. I guess six know now, since I’m doing this – oh well. “Oh, you get nervous in front of a bunch of people? So does everyone else. Stop asking for attention, you’re fine,” one of my friends said. I stayed silent. This wasn’t directed at me, as, previously stated, no one really knows I suffer from a panic disorder. I know I failed to say anything, but it made me so mad. “No, actually,” I thought.“That isn’t even close to what anxiety is.” Despite the fact that I’ve been told so many times,“you’re not alone,” when it comes to anxiety, after that comment and the laughs of agreement from my peers, it sure did feel like it. Because of my anxiety, I speak having to drive myself home at midnight from my 13

aunt’s house because I’m having a panic attack. I speak sitting on the couch in my counselor’s office (who is wonderful). Having to take anxiety medication at sixteen years old is something that terrifies me. It’s something that feels so foreign to everyone else, yet it is so normal to me. It’s habit by now. While I feel as though my anxiety is definitely something that separates me from most, I cannot express how blessed I am to have the best support system anyone could ever ask for. While my dad and boyfriend still don’t really “get” it, they have worked so hard to learn what helps me when anxious thoughts or feelings overcome me. As for my mom, though, she most definitely gets it, as someone who has been to the hospital a multitude of times for anxiety. Very, very thankful for people like my people. I speak “Jesus freak.” Youth group and church every Sunday, and devotionals and bible studies each morning. Oh, and I can’t begin a meal without blessing it first – which I understand is weird to a lot of people. It’s just something I’ve always taken to heart. The silent judgement and passive aggression is something I’m used to by now; it’s something that fails to bother me in the slightest anymore. “You just do that for the image,” the ever-so-kind boys in my grade like to tell me. “Ah, yes,” I’ll respond. “Because that makes perfect sense.” Spending a portion of my life devoted to something, which I alter the way of everyday life for, solely for the clout is something that makes total sense. Good job, sixteen-year-old boys. I speak “no, I’m not stupid.” “Wait, you’re taking Norment?” a guy friend of mine asked. The next day, “Wait, wait, wait. You’re taking APUSH too?” My heart sank. I try not to take offense, but the judgement and surprise in his voice is something I can’t ignore. I speak flicking off guys (while, simultaneously, my heart races a million miles an hour and my hands shake) who say, “I’ll give you a ride home, baby,” as I’m simply trying to walk around my neighborhood. I am practically an expert at rude glares at 14

weird men at the gym who stare at me, follow me around, and take pictures of me. I speak calling my mom or boyfriend while I’m walking to my car at night, “just in case.” No, I’m not being openly bullied. I don’t have to worry about being called racial slurs or anything as serious as that. However, I do have my own battles, just like everyone else. Just because I fight mine in silence doesn’t mean they aren’t there.




“Trust thyself: every heart vibrates to that iron string (Emerson 550).” With every vibration of my heart, mechanical jolt of my limbs, I retrogress to the midsummer twilight, the obscurity and ambiguity of metropolitan Boston in June, during which my biological existence and intellectual essence finally achieved a sense of alignment. One could denominate the experience as some form of enlightenment, acquisition of clarity; however, I find equanimity in accepting that evening spent gazing upon the enigma of life as a universal offering of empowerment. As my eyes embraced the utter serenity of the Charles River, I found myself bewildered, disconnected: How could something express tranquility in the complexity of existence? How could the water molecules move in harmony without the burden of influence and persuasion? Ignoring the nebulous inquiries within the vortex of my mind, I engaged in the words of the beings before me. While I sought escape from the questions within my head, I found confrontation as our discussion progressed to our concerns for the impending future. Between the confessions of aim to pursue medical school and doctorates in psychology offered by my peers, I was forced to confront the aspect of identity that has torn at my core for the entirety of my life: I want to be a writer. Before this transformative evening in Massachusetts, I masked within my core the debilitating echoes of criticism that poured from the mouths of figures within my life. With every poetic work that I crafted, I revisited the words of family members that evoked convulsion within my soul: “If you want to be successful, go to medical school or law school.” With every poem I created, I reverted to the mantra of my college preparatory education that hails STEM as the primary key to success in life. With every stroke of ink, embrace of pencil lead upon my paper, I questioned the passion, the euphoria of writing, that makes my existence complete. I yearned for the l iberation and emancipation, the ability to exemplify Maya Angelou’s extricated being in “Caged Bird”: “the caged bird / sings of freedom (Angelou 37-38).” I begged for the power to veto the voices within my mind. I was not an emancipated soaring creature, but instead a caged prisoner to the opinions of others. I will never be able to embody in entirety what I felt on that night in June when the fears of my companions, ataraxy of the environment, and queries of my mind combined in unison; however, as I string my thoughts together a year later, I pen the experience as the moment that I defied the societal mold I am made to complete and chose passion instead. To the mass society that declares creators, crafters of raw literary creation, failures, you are correct. I am a failure. I have failed to satisfy the wicked intentions of our 16

modern culture, neglected the path of conformity. I may not enact a global technological empire or flaunt a doctoral degree in computer science or biology; however, my heart is vibrating to the “iron string” that it’s composed of (Emerson 550). As Brian Doyle eloquently offers in “Joyas Voladores,”“So much held in a heart in a lifetime. So much held in a heart, in a day, an hour, a moment. (148).” Our hearts are bleeding and beating our narratives into the Earth that we roam. It’s our stories, the strings of iron that lyrically flow in liquid notes from our bleeding hearts, that make us human. We all have a story to compose. I’m owning the pen.




A large group of friends and I sit in the Golden Eagle Country Club one evening before the Sadie Hawkins Dance. I comfortably chat among others until I make eye contact with a familiar looking middle-aged man as his daughter next to him exclaims,“dad this is the kid that sneezed on you last year at Nick’s house, Hudson. Remember?” Instantly, my mind replays the memory of a ninth grade me playing ping pong at a party outside of my friend’s house. As the ball bounced away from me, I turned from the table, so as to not splatter the play area, and open mouth sneezed into what I thought was an empty space. Yet, when I opened my eyes, there stood a man covered in what could only be my snot. I chuckle to myself at the thought of the memory as I shake the man’s hand, reintroduce myself, and again apologize for the incident a year ago. He jokes about the interaction and then points out how tall I have become since. As he moves his hands to the middle of his chest to demonstrate my past height, I mistake his action for a high five and rapidly whip my fingers from my sides upwards into his palms. Everyone around, including me, find this to be wildly hysterical as we all laugh at my mistake. Later, it dawned on me that those around were not laughing because I did something unexpected, but rather because I am socially inferior. Unlike most people, I am a bumbling fool in my actions or body language as well as awkward and uncertain in my speaking. In today’s society, it is expected that a person acts or, more specifically, moves in a certain manner. There are no written rules, but generally it is known that one’s motions should flow in a way that is fluid, familiar, effortless, etc. For example, it is expected that a person should be able to move their hand in response to another’s actions, so they meet together and form a handshake. This action should be done swiftly with little to no hesitation. If a person like me is unable to keep a maintained pace in this sort of social tango, they have bad social skills. Having bad social skills means you will make a poor first impression with your girlfriend’s father or worse, a job interviewer. Having bad social skills means you will be laughed at for your inability to act in a similar fashion to those around you. Having bad social skills means you are arguably worse as a human than most of the population because you are unable to move your hand to an extremely specific space without hesitation while making solid eye contact and answering difficult questions like, “what is your 18

name,” or “where are you from,” with a person you know nothing about. To add complexity to this already complicated equation that is a normal human interaction, there are other greetings like high-fives and fist bumps that are a possible choice of action. There is a one in three chance you will guess the correct form for your hand to take on, and if you fail to complete this puzzle in the correct way, things become awkward and stiff. On multiple occasions I have mistaken a handshake for a high-five, a hive-five for a fist bump, and once, creating a soul wrenching moment for me, I mistook a fist bump for a handshake. While explaining to a teacher that I would not be taking an entrance exam, I mistook his closed fist for an open hand. I then proceeded to wrap the entirety of my hand around his and shake. I then quietly groaned to myself as I walked away, “Oh my God that was painful, why am I so trash?” One might argue this is no big deal as everyone messes up every now and again, but I mess up all the time. As just referenced, I mistook a fist bump for a handshake, and I mistook a simple gesture as a high five. As further evidence that I am socially inept and therefore an outsider to the culture of being cool, I once incorrectly saluted my girlfriend’s entire military family because I did not know what to do with my hands when I said “goodbye.” I also once shook a man’s right hand with my left hand because my right hand was wet from the sweat of my drink. On top of confident body language, things you say also have a set of expectations in today’s society, a set of expectations I cannot meet. First, it is expected that a person will speak out when there may be a problem. Let us say a normal person goes to a fast-food restaurant. At this restaurant, they order their food and wait ten minutes for it to be ready. After ten minutes, and no word on if their order is ready or not, they approach the counter and ask if there is a problem. Turns out, their order was forgotten, but the workers sort it out, and the customer receives their meal. In my version of this story, I instead wait one hour for my food, and then leave empty handed because I am unable to ask the cashier if there is a problem with my order. Unlike most, I am unable to tell people who I 19

do not know that they have done something wrong. Another expectation is that a person will say “no” when they do not want to do something. An example contrasting this idea is that I once spent close to fifty dollars in the Bahama Straw Market because all the vendors constantly offered me little trinkets. I was unable to say, “no I do not want to buy that,” as most people would have. I, as a person, am expected to behave in a manner that most would describe as the socially acceptable way. I, however, am unable to meet these expectations. I cannot move smoothly or act with a sense of confidence. I cannot complete a successful handshake or fist bump. I do not know what to do with my hands when saying hello or goodbye. I cannot speak up for myself or say no to others. I am seen as a lessor because of the difference in ways I interact and function in a conversation as compared with the rest of society.




The Case of Clara-Catherine Lunny I feel whispers cupped behind their hands.“You’re not invited…” she says. The other girls look at each other and I know. But I didn’t expect it from her. Her face takes on an uncomfortable weight. My cheeks swell red, I apologize, and speed walk away. As I flee, I hold back the dew in my eyes. Why did I even think I could come? How could I be so naive? I continue to walk the concrete path until I see a bathroom, and run toward it. Finally, a safe haven. I then shut myself in a stall, and press my back against the cool, tan, brick wall. Tears run down my face, and I grab paper towels to stop them. I reach for the concealer in my bag, and spastically smear it on. No one comes to check on me. I silently apologize for the uncomfortableness I caused them. I apologize for embarrassing her. If I had just used my brain, I would have known that someone like me could never be friends with girls like them. In the corner of my eye I see the mess that is my face. With my mascara and foundation all ruined, I look like a clown. The role of the goody-two-shoes is to exemplify the ideal student for her fellow peers. She must obey any authority, disguise each emotion, and excel in all academics. She must meet every EXPECTATION. I have never been popular. Maybe it’s because I’m a little bit bigger than the other girls. Or maybe it’s because I don’t fight with my parents, or go out on Friday nights. I just don’t fit the mold of a popular high-school girl. But I remember this moment because I knew where those girls were going. It was one of those Halloween parties, that parents don’t want to know about. I thought if I went I could finally diss that whole high-maintenance girl people were seeing... I could finally make some friends. Have that fun everyone talks about. But everyone thinks I’m the goody-two-shoes. That’s why people don’t want to hang out with me. They think I’ll snitch on them or something like that, because I’m somehow higher than them. Or at least I hold myself higher. Every individual longs to be accepted. However this proves purposeless for the goody-two-shoes. Other juveniles rebel the greater authority she obeys. The youth determines that she embraces the system and consequently is allied with it. Thus she must accept being socially unacceptable. I’ve learned my lesson. I walk out of the bathroom. I feel ashamed, I knew it was an overreaction. Unacceptable. I wipe my face again with my sleeve, and let the 21

weight of my feet drag me forward. I don’t even notice that my bag is unzipped. Pencils fall out with each step I take. I press my binders to my chest as people start to come back. I attract eyes everywhere, but not a hand, or even words. They step back to let me through. I keep my head down, and not a single tear falls. The girl is there too, but I don’t offer her my glance. I make it to the pick-up zone, and still not a word. The teacher on watch-duty sees me, but ignores me. She was too busy browsing her phone. My mom drives up, and I see her distressed face through the window. I guess it could be because I respect my parents, too. I don’t Snapchat when I’m supposed to be studying, or watch Netflix. I do my chores, because I want to help. I don’t do anything behind their backs, because I love them. I want to obey them and make them happy. But I don’t think I’m the only one that feels this way. Doesn’t everyone want to please their parents? Sometimes it gets to that point when you’re just so angry and sad with everything that’s happening, that you take it out on someone else. I guess that’s where that angsty teen thing comes from: When you don’t understand things, so you say no one understands you. A disadvantage of humanity, especially juveniles, is true emotion. Embarrassing situations illicit juvenile reaction, and hence they respond by showing physical emotion (i.e., crying, sniffling, frowning). Once they are in the company of comforting figures (ensured safety), these contained reactions are unleashed. I get in the car, and my mom immediately starts asking questions. “Honey, are you okay? What happened? Who–” I reply with what little composure I have left. “I’m fine.”“Well honey you can’t be fine! Look at your bag! Your make-up! You look a mess!” Unleash.“YOU KNOW I DON’T WANT TO TALK ABOUT IT SO WHY ASK ME! I DON’T WANT TO TALK TO ANYONE RIGHT NOW! ESPECIALLY YOU!!!” Silence. My mom puts on her sunglasses, but I still see the tear that runs down her face. I do want something more, though. The good old days. You never hear people say: “Oh yeah, the good old days when I cleaned my room and got valedictorian.” You hear those stories filled with adventure, and excitement: “The good old days when we ran from the police, hopped the fence and never looked back.” I want that. The adrenaline in my veins, because I know what I’m doing is wrong. But at least, in that world, I’ll share it with someone else. That “we.” The goody-two-shoes must separate herself from such nonsense. Instead, she abides by the system in order to reap its rewards. Thus, she evades these 22

superfluous distractions. We finally get home. I flee from the car, and run upstairs to my room. I slam the door behind me, and crawl into my chair. I try to pull out my homework, and start. Just to forget. But I can’t help it. I lay my head on the page, and stare at the wall. I feel horrible for yelling at mom. Shame washes over me again. It pours from my eyes. I can’t help but wonder. Why am I like this? What is wrong with me? Mom and dad always said I was nice. That I was smart, and funny. Why don’t those people see those things in me? I pick up my phone to distract from everything. I scroll through Instagram, and she looks back at me. The girl, my best friend. I see her with people I don’t even know, dancing, drinking, smoking… I– I am just like you. I feel. I know when I get awkward, and when I mess up. But if you just gave me a chance… A chance to show you the real me, and not that stupid goody-two-shoes thing… You’d see who I really am. Yes, I don’t like to drink or smoke or party, but in the end who really likes to do that? Yes, I disrespect my parents sometimes, but that’s because I have feelings too. Yes, I break down, but I’m not just an indestructible example. I’m a human. Just like you.






The clock, shattered, splintered in fragmentation, reads 11:59 And we can’t help But wonder W H Y the pounding of our hearts, Rhythmic inner workings Epicardium, Myocardium, Endocardium. Mechanical convulsions Aorta, Atrium, Valve. Vehement gesticulation Vena cava, Ventricle, Vein combine in unison to mask the reality, consume the lyrical nodes of human thought as we wave in and out of sobriety. 25

It’s within us. The chemical menace, virulent malignance, clouds our lungs as we heave inward, outward. The salt burns our hollow temples as it streams downward, caressing our gaunt collar bones with each inhalation And we’re sitting here Intertwined in the busted arteries and blown veins vacant chambers and ruptured tendineae f e e l i n g the vibration through our tattered denim and bare spines that makes us human. They called it euphoria. I called it existence.




The second coming has gone and went And no one really bothered. Rapture is just across the across the street. He’s in the imposing, ruined house entitled ignorance, But even he knows the nature of our world. Our Deist reality is but an hourglass. The sand shifts relentlessly, searching for the omega point. That is where the grains converge and fall. That is when the world stops. An infinite caesura... Remembered in nothingness... Mourned solely by the unforgiving void and Drowned in a sea of empty tears. An ocean solidified by the chill of death Into an impossible, hollow ice. We are frozen... silent.






There’s a hidden world A secret tucked beneath In the secrets I furled Within the dark sheath That’s getting hard to hide And I’m losing hope While you’re acting blind As my life hangs on a rope This world I have hidden Which provides a sweet escape From a world overridden With a multitude of shapes




Either you or I focus on the stars Candles illuminating the void. The drowning sensation leaves, With it, nerves evaporate, limbs annihilate. Were they ever real? Eyesight shatters all at once, Lungs first fill then vanish altogether. Body is meaningless. Existence mutates into anti-existence, Mortality transubstantiates into eternity, The white froth, either from the tide, Or the rabies-ridden maw of death Covers, envelops, suffocates, And breathes life.






There’s a world Between you and Me. I find it in Bodies drenched in ivy, Adorned in cosmos, Constellations engraved in our Bones and prose Words effervescent with star dust in our lungs. You were Jupiter, Celestial body burning and burgundy Like the alcohol in your Throat. Intoxicated, We were, Masked in darkness, vulnerability, Nothingness and black hearts beating Ignition in Moon energy, The weight of you close to me Conceal ourselves in sublimity and smoke, Saturn’s flesh burning flames Anything to escape, Ascend mother Earth, She’s calling in fragmentations of gravity and busted veins, blue with oxygen in our hollow frames. 32

We’re burning out, Descending downward Empty vessels Of coruscating visions, Psychedelic memories. Dazed in escape. We lose ourselves in these Hallucinogenic Wave lengths, Chasing euphoria in our own existence Why did we wake up?







Looking down on people Is getting oh so hard Seeing them live happy lives While they stare up at the stars Love, for them, lasts a lifetime But love, for me, lasts longer than wanted. Who could have known That a star could love I can feel just as much as you But above all, I am lonely, up in space I never felt like I was needed Until the bitty people down below looked up And saw me shining bright They would look up at me and smile And I’d smile back, twinkling with delight They’d watch me till’ they fell asleep But in my heart, they’ll live forever Stars do not forget, you see We remember because we live forever Eventually exploding into a trillion bits Of stardust But don’t think the story is over yet. Our dust, it can speak And it will sing the memories of the times before And my stardust shall sing the memories of teeny people Who could smile Who could feel Who could sing Who could dance Who could play But there’s another part, you see The stars up above, just like me Dance and play and smile We are content 35

It’s hard to communicate, but after a bit, it’s easy Stars like me can breathe up in space We can breathe in the cold, sweet, sweet air Humans couldn’t comprehend how wonderful it feels Because they can’t live here It is okay I wouldn’t want their lives cut short Such is life Short Painful But sweet Humans embrace life Whoever sees this: you should too Life for every being Is short Live how you want Do whatever you want You should live And be who you want to be Doing something now can be the start Live forever, through your memories Be like me Be like my stardust. Be forever.




Why, tonight, am I mourning all things I have loved and lost? Like I said before, words at the end of an unfinished sentence fold into Saturn’s rings and count the stars. A whole colony up there. Silent, familial. With everything they need to communicate except for a brain to scheme with a mouth to hate with a heart to bleed with What is space but a social construct, built around an inability to understand? Bought and sold without Regard for the expanses within. flesh tingles as the microcosms stir inside Saturn’s rings

stars astro-words moon dawn darkness reputation

tears death breath


peace love drugs narcissism I wander the gap between you and meMore vast than the emptiness in myself. I lack nothing but words.





I’m all grown up because I make the stars. My mom puts them on the highest shelf close to the sky. My dress is dazzled with millions, and my shoes match. The little, bright stars on my fingers and in my hair. I’m all grown up because I can hold the sun. I can will away the dark with the flick of my hand. In my own bed I can control what light comes and goes. The bright light disappearing with the flick of my fingers. I’m all grown up because I face the dark. The little stars have left me for the sky, my clothes empty. The sun left with the moon and moves on its own. I hate the brightness that now burns my older eyes. I embrace the darkness now like the color on my nails and clothes. The sun and stars have moved on without me.









i’m not homesick at all; in fact, i’ve made this rotten face my owni’ve claimed the sunken eyes that i only recognize because they stare at me from the water that sits in my toilet bowl. i want my mother to see this face and remember why she loved me. skin thin like paper and teeth delicate like porcelain. i’d rather lose each of my wicked incisors than speak to you. i feel like a bull in a china shop, my hands shake at my sides as i realize i don’t belong here. nothing felt worse than forgiving myself for not being as strong as i thought i was. the mirror greets me in the morning and my guts are spilling onto the hardwood floor; the inside of my cheeks are so chewed up every time i speak my mouth is filled with blood. i am not as big or as loud or as smart as you want me to be. this room is cold and crowded. can we leave? you sigh out in pleasurable boredom, your eyes swimming in their sockets. you are clean and pristine everything i wanted to see in myself. i bite my nails


and you ask me why i don’t have the stomach for these things. when did i become too much for you?












A gift of three seconds You open your eyes Your mind awakens. Yet blank. Its all blank. For three perfect seconds You forget. Y our mind rejoices under the weightlessness; The prospect of a happy day. Everything is controlled, simple. Those brief moments of unadulterated bliss Yet still they end. Wait through the day You live only in those three perfect seconds.






You, Me, I, Lotus I plant lavender in convolutions of earth Nothing ever grows Leave me with busted juniper leaves, thorns of decaying roses, dead patchouli Broken to force bonds in a frame that isn’t My own I forget That I’m human Flesh, bones Cells, oxygen Blood running through my veins Reminds me that I’m alive I lose myself in waves of nothingness Invigorated in sapphire And celestial ambiguity, Fragments of a broken existence I see myself in gardens, Overflowing and mourning In moon beams My core drenched in Lotus, We grow together


Roots aligned Weaving in parallel submersion To the Tenebrosity we lurk within You, Me, I, Lotus






Apple seeds not knowing when It died and Autumn came But it bore fruit Take off your glasses You’re cuter without them It was cold without them Cold like the Dirt Who ate the fruit Planted by an idiot Shadows cast by clouds Know no sin Only Father’s fruit




I hear your call. It’s in every shadow I try to catch it; I reach my hand out And begin to curl my fingers But I grasp only the echo, Not the sound.





“The clearest way into the universe is through a forest wilderness.” -John Muir I lay my pack down and take a seat on the dirt trail under a large, grey boulder. I feel out of place, much like the succulent plant growing out of the rock next to me. Here in the verdant Sierras, it feels as if humankind was undeserving of such a wondrous environment. Experiencing nature here, I feel closer to the edge of reality than I do to the edge of the trail, as if I am on the edge of understanding the impossible. “Impossible” is a good word for it. A place with trees millennia old, with each mountain rising higher than the next, and with a desolate desert world but ten miles away. There is nothing in the world quite like Sequoia. My mind wanders to what the first humans to see this would have thought. John Muir walked all over America year after year, with nothing but bread, cheese, tea leaves, and water. Perhaps by experiencing life at the edge as Muir did, we can broaden the tunnel through which we look at our existence and nature. Muir wrote extensively on nature, giving two pages simply to describe an Alaskan sunset. His unparalleled sense of nature can be seen by the carefree way he traveled. Even in the face of freezing blizzards and towering mountains, he never felt fear for his life. Instead, he took the helm of the explorer, learning a little more about himself or a little more about nature, no matter the personal cost. Stepping out, just a little, can help all of us.




October 11, 2010, my little sister had her first MRI. The first of many. She was eight and had been ill for a while now. I prepared her for the noise and told her not to be afraid, for I had done it before. She was so brave. She told me that she felt like she wanted to go in because it would make her better. I was trying to calm her, telling her they were only taking pictures. She went in and came out an hour later. She wanted to tell me all about how it wasn’t scary and that it sounded like birds chirping as she dozed off to sleep. After two more MRIs she was diagnosed with a hole in her heart. She needed surgery. Dr. Thorne needed to put a patch on her heart. The morning of the surgery, I tried to reassure her by telling her it was safe, that she was just going to take a nap while the doctors put a permanent Band-Aid on her heart. She told me she wasn’t scared about how she was going to think of the soothing sound of birds chirping and she would see me when she awoke. The nurse took her away. She told me not to fear, but I trembled as I watched the little girl roll away. Although I would no longer need to worry about her passing out because of fatigue while playing, I still worried. I felt like that was my job as her big sister to be there. I remembered the first day we went to the park on a fall day, and the air was crisp and cool as we played around with a soccer ball, but she passed out from playing too hard. Time seemed to stand still, and I dozed off. I woke up, and I was greeted by a nurse telling me they had finished her surgery. On my way to her room, I passed by a yellow finch stuffed animal only the size of my fist with button on the side of his wing. Pressing it I heard the faintest chirp noise come from the toy. It was meant for my sister. Days later she was permitted to go home but wasn’t allowed to have any activity. We had a wheelchair to help her get around. I hated seeing her so helpless. After about a week she seemed to be doing better but was not happy being cooped up in the house. I asked my mom if we could surprise her and go to the park, and she said yes. I felt nervous. What if she is still sick? I took her out of the car, and we walked to a bench. We sat together and talked, and we finally felt close again. Sitting side by side comforted by each other’s presence. Silence. The sun was out, and the world looked bright but calm. Holding each other close we sat and listened to the chirping of the birds. 56



Not a man, but a boy. Not a woman, but a girl. The son of a respected doctor and the daughter of a carpenter. A road that appeared to be paved and a route yet to be discovered. The two were only miles apart, yet they were worlds apart and, in these days, it was hard to rise above one’s station. The boy was well-groomed and came from a family of grave importance. Despite being struck with a tragedy at a young age, his life has still managed to be a strong and meaningful one. The girl had to learn how to fight for her own path. Battling to find her own voice, she’s crafted a strong willed and determined persona. Her family barely getting by each year, she was surrounded by hardships and her delicate face masked the hardened shell of survival. Together, a petticoat and a jacket could change the world, but only if one could notice the other. With dark hair and brooding eyes, the handsome young man didn’t know the effect he had on the young maidens. Armed with fans, they would gather in groups to swoon as he walked by, oblivious to their flirtations. On this particular day, he walked the familiar and well-worn dusty city street on his way to the bookstore. The bookstore, the enchanted place where the Fates would soon have their way. While dark and dusty, it was filled with bookcases filled to the brim with tomes of new and old. Even in the dark, the words on their pages could illuminate minds with new ideas and thoughts. Working to provide for her family, the girl, with her long chestnut hair and fair skin, provided the dark setting with a shimmering light in her simple yet shining way. Friendly to every soul that walked through the creaky door, she always made sure to devote her time and attention to every customer. She even made sure to wrap the books in paper with the utmost care. No one ever paid her much attention, not even the young man she hoped - no, dared - to try and capture the attention of. However, little did she know how enraptured the boy was with her. Little did she know that he walked to the bookstore everyday just to see her, buying nothing at all and pretending to read at the newsstand outside on the days he didn’t enter the store. He had first seen her, all those months ago, flustered and working in a busy store in the height of the holiday season. With the light of candles shining done on her from overhead, his breath stopped, and he thought she looked like an angel. The way he dress turned her small frame into that of a young lady’s and the wisps of her 57

hair that fell into her face made him feel as if he were in a dream. She reminded him of his late mother. Her voice, which he could hear over the crowd was the purest melody ever sung. He was never one to believe in love at first sight but from that moment on, he knew she was the one. The one he could spend a lifetime with. As the weeks dragged on, the idea that she was the one was further solidified in his head. From various small talk, he could gather that there was more to her than her looks – and that made her even more valuable in his eyes. Her intuitive brain was something he admired – especially when she seemed to know a customer before they could speak a word. She loved books and challenged both her own views and the views presented to her in the forms of words. She cared for each and every soul that stepped foot in the store. It was these things that truly made him fall in love with her. But he could only admire from afar, he could never marry for love. Following the death of his mother at a young age, it was up to him to marry another respectable lady. This was especially the case since his older brother had drained the family wealth after drunkenly gambling everything away. Weeks went by after that fateful meeting. With every girl his father could procure, came a rejection from the boy for his aching heart belonged to another. In a last-ditch effort to become his own man and to escape the clutch of his father, the boy enlisted. With a war on the way, the family was beside themselves. However, the boy was filled with glee and sorrow. Glee, for he was to escape but sorrow for he had to lose the girl. It was then that he decided he should finally talk to her.






The flashing red and blue lights, blending together, mixing with the rain, blurs my vision as I drive through the smelly, cramped streets of New York. The fragrance is of futile hopes, of filthy pollution. The melody is of deafening sirens and echoing chatter. On my way to another day of writing. Another day of writing other people’s stories, wondering if I will ever have one of my own to tell. I laugh at myself and my naïve aspirations, as I slowly pass by window displays full of Christmas decorations. Another somber holiday season with nothing but cheerful people, rubbing it in my face. They plaster their family reunions and cheesy smiles all over the internet. The questions about my family. They seem surprised. They don’t understand. I ignore them. My temper is getting to me. Traffic, motionless. The mind, stirring. Being stuck in traffic does not settle well with me. All I can think of are the constant questions people shout at me. I start to bore myself with my own emotions and stare into this one window display, picturing something too unfamiliar to remember, but too close to move on. My curiosity is striking my mind. I cannot let it go. I carefully roll down the foggy window, ignoring the rain, and incline my head towards the jaunty arrangement. Through the crowds of boisterous people, honking of car horns, and sirens wailing in the distance, I pick up the faint tune of an overture, dispersing from the display, from Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker. Abruptly, a series of memories from my past flood and overwhelm my mind. My current awareness comes to a halt and is thrusted into an obscure memory from my adolescence. I am gingerly tying my pointe shoes, tucking in the ribbons, as I begin to hear an overture, to one of Tchaikovsky’s most famous ballets, playing dimly and muffled downstairs, and I feel at home. An anxious aura surrounds me as I steadily walk down the stairs. The music is getting louder, louder, and then I am there. standing nervously at the wings, about to perform in The Nutcracker with my new ballet company, my new family. Murmurs of people whispering “merde”, meaning “good luck,” to each other, pass through the sides of the stage. The opening music transitions and I see my friend, the face of adolescence, with draping blonde hair, take the stage. I look around to see my friends, my family, preparing along the sides of the wings, adjusting their hair pieces, checking their pointe shoe ribbons, and straightening out the thin fabric of our homemade snowflake costumes. And as the final curtain closes, at the end of the show, hand-in-hand with my new 60

family, with the music fading out, my friend and I look to each other. She stares with a joyful yet tearful look in her eyes. The melody comes to an immediate break and I am sucked back through the portal of my nostalgic psyche. A symphony of car horns, beeping at me, echo in my subconscious as I slowly fade back to reality. I take one last tearful glance at the display, as I drive off into the daybreak, forever and regretfully away from memory lane.


8.95239° N, -79.5354° E SONU PATEL






In elementary school I enjoyed playing with Legos. I thought I was, at least partially, some kind of genius, asking on my birthdays and Hanukkah celebrations for a box of the newest Lego set from my favorite movie. While the asking itself was no sure sign of my clearly superior intellect, my raw skill at cutting open the packages of brilliantly engineered, colorful, plastic pieces; separating all the pieces by color and size; reading the instructions; getting lost and confused by the terrible, wordless changes in perspective within the instructions; and asking my mother for help, surely was. I mean, I did build half of the action-packed picture displayed on front of the box, so I absolutely must have been above average for my age and was going to go far in life. As I got older, my love for instructions and my extreme prowess at visual learning helped considerably in school. I developed almost an artform out of absorbing information. This was helpful; this was meaningful; this would help me later in school. I enjoyed memorizing facts, acing tests, and regurgitating the chewed-up cud of someone else’s historical interpretation of why the Roman Empire fell, at trivia tournaments. This began to change, however, as my brain developed further, and I began to question both my literal and existential reality. “Is God real?” I one day asked myself. Because I memorized a lot of facts about the slaughter, torture, and abuse of countless peoples, which is, at the very least, not a good thing. This singular, self-imposed problem changed my life, my education, my sense of purpose, my understanding of the world, and my understanding of myself more than any other book, essay, or fact I ever have (and likely ever will) commit to memory. If God is not real, where is my purpose? I. Religion is the most immediately obvious choice to look to for an answer; the United States is fundamentally built around it. Some of the first colonies—Maryland, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, and others—were created with the intention to provide a place for people to freely practice their religion. The calendar we use to mark the year we were born or the year that someone died is based on Christianity. Each day, students rise from their seats, placing their hands over their hearts, to recite how their great, unparalleled nation is in fact “under God.” There must clearly be a purpose provided by religion, but which is the correct one? 64

The Abrahamic religions, when incredibly over-simplified, are instruction manuals to salvation. They command their followers to read their holy text (Bible, Torah, Quran, etc.), do and think as it says, go to heaven, and reach salvation. Thus, these religions state, broadly, that the purpose of living is to do as told to reach salvation. While that “do as told” varies based on the sects, divisions, and branches of all three (such as the importance of the church in Catholicism and the importance of the Bible in Protestantism), this is fundamentally what these religions describe one’s purpose as — follow instructions and reach salvation. Hinduism suggests a different purpose but a similar method. The goal of Hinduism is to read the Vedas, follow the four Purusarthas, and reach a purpose in one’s life and one’s soul’s span of existence through a concept called Moksha. Moksha is not a heaven in an Abrahamic sense of salvation, but it is instead the end of the soul cycle that involves the absorption of one’s soul into the World Soul. Thus, Hinduism, too, states, incredibly broadly, the purpose of living is to do as told to reach salvation. One’s interpretation of the Purusarthas and how to best live them varies, like how there is variation in Abrahamic religions, but the same absorb, act, achieve method is the underlying purpose. Buddhism too, when simplified, provides a different existential purpose with the same method. Drastically simplified, the goal of Buddhism is to recognize the Four Noble Truths of the Buddha and follow the Noble Eightfold path to end personal suffering. How to follow this path varies by sects and divisions just like the other religions, it is nonetheless describing the action of following instructions that one is told in order to reach one’s life-long goal and purpose, in this case to end personal suffering. These three paragraphs, in essence, simplify and describe what the purpose of life is to almost eighty percent of the global population (“Religion Information Data”). Read, follow, achieve. Read, memorize, learn. Religion is, almost by definition, a method of education for finding purpose. Some of the greatest atrocities humankind has ever seen were the direct result of religion, but as an institution for finding purpose, it is simple, elegant, and effective. Eighty percent of people use religion in some shape or form as a justification for existing and living the way they do. This just further goes to show the magnificence of religion not necessarily for morality or justice but as an effective solution to purposelessness. Is it not nice to be promised an afterlife or an end to one’s suffering? Is it not nice to have an existential purpose spelled out in front of you that all you have to do is follow? Religion is a method of education, but can following that current path bring me the purpose I seek? Must I blindly follow a book of choice, written thousands of years ago, to find my purpose? 65

Or can I find it somewhere within myself? II. Religion, at its core, provides its followers with the light and guidance that nearly everyone wants. Even if it is wrong, even if there is no purpose, no afterlife, no salvation, one would never know because they are dead, and one’s ignorance would have brought one peace. Faith in the banking-method of salvation, even if it is wrong, does provide what it promises, more than any singular problem one poses will ever be guaranteed to do. These thoughts of nihilism and the ignorance of death could not possibly create a purpose from lack thereof...—could they? If there is no existential purpose, is there any reasoning to even look for a purpose to begin with? One conclusion is called “optimistic nihilism,” which is, as it sounds, finding optimism in the face of nihilism. The concept is used to find purpose within a lack of purpose, and many prominent philosophers see it and have seen it as a necessity to overcome the inherent nihilism in the world. The prominent 20th century philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche for example states that,“I praise, I do not reproach, [nihilism’s] arrival. I believe it is one of the greatest crises, a moment of the deepest self-reflection of humanity. Whether man recovers from it, whether he becomes master of this crisis, is a question of his strength” (qtd. in Pratt). By this, Nietzsche means that he sees nihilism as something that must be overcome through optimistic nihilism. To him, it is a necessity for all people to achieve their personal purpose. While, as established, there are other ways to find purpose, this problem-acceptance method of salvation (by recognizing the futility of action and in that futility seeing liberation), is a perfectly reasonable stance on one’s purpose. Thus, optimistic nihilism is the problem-acceptance method of education. Is it not nice to know every mistake you make will not ultimately matter? Is it not nice to live in an almost Epicurean happiness and find purpose in enjoyment? Can living itself solve my purposelessness? III. The Columbine shooters shot up a school, trying to think like I do but failing at the method and as such coming to a very different solution to the problem of purpose. Existence posed them a problem, a problem everyone alive faces, and they thought about it by posing more problems.“Is there a purpose? Does consciousness exist beyond my own mind? Is there a world beyond my own observation? Does God exist?” They then, quite logically, went about answering those questions. “Yes, 66

there must be a purpose because if not, why bother? Yes, consciousness must exist beyond my own mind because other people think. Yes, the world must exist beyond myself, because other people think. No, God must not real because if he was, I could not accomplish what I am about to do.” The shooters posed problems to their problem, and they found that their purpose was to make an impact; they found that it was easier to be remembered through infamy than through love. But they, were almosts: almost remembered, almost profound, almost using the problem-posing method. They were not constantly questioning the way that they thought and not challenging their conclusions. Once they came to their solution, they became static and trapped in their broken ideology. Thus, there is a danger in attempting the problem-posing method. When you search for answers using it, you must always be in a constant state of dehydrated paranoia, or you risk such a level of arrogance that when people write about you, they are not even willing to say your name. Thus, questioning is the problem-posing method of education, which will inherently never provide a definitive answer to the ultimate problem. Martin Heidegger, another famous German philosopher, is known for saying that,“Time is not a thing, thus nothing which is, and yet remains constant in its passing away without being something temporal like the beings in time” (Heidegger). Heidegger, in essence, is stating that humans have an unknown deadline. But if people are temporal, what is the point? Your religion might be wrong, so why follow it? Your life might be miserable so why live it? You might not be able to leave a positive lasting impact so why bother trying? Does the universe not exist at all beyond your own consciousness? What is my purpose? What, is my purpose? I do not know the answer to this question. All I know is that this question makes me pose more problems; it makes me have more questions that I can seek to answer. I know that this problem makes me search for other individual’s answers, to memorize them and to learn from them but also to in some ways distrust them. I know that it makes me understand that I need to enjoy myself, that I must accept that there is a problem but be optimistic in that acceptance. It makes me recognize my unknown deadline and with it value my experience and seek to extend it. This problem itself provides me with a purpose. Vertice Montis At times I wish I still played with Legos, that I could look at those instructions and build the structure on the front of the box, but a part of me no longer can. Religion, nihilism, and the search for positive impact are equally reasonable explanations and answers to the quest for purpose. Education itself through absorbing 67

knowledge can lead to alienation, it is not inherently flawed either, as it can bring great joy to know and to learn things. If the problem-posing method of education is reasonable when considering one’s purpose in life, it would be unfair to make the assumption that any description of purpose is superior to another as long as it does not hurt others and does indeed provide a purpose; however, ultimately what matters is that conscious thought goes into whatever one believes in, be it religion, optimistic nihilism, or questioning. The only way out is by consciously thinking about what you are building—which is not nearly as poetic.




As society has developed new forms of technology, the requirements for a person to express themselves through these advancements have also undergone certain changes. A common goal that new social media expectations have enforced upon society is the need to present your life as PERFECT, when in reality, everyone knows that living a perfect life is undoubtedly impossible. The normal “insidethe-box” thinking that social media users conform to, involves obsessions like editing pictures to eliminate any trace of possible flaws, and spending valuable time ineffectively pondering over an appropriate caption that perfectly encompasses the purpose of the post. The real mystery behind these popular methods is why we spend so much time constructing a post or comment that, in reality, most people spend less than 30 seconds looking at. The answer to this question comes from the standards that society has set for people’s online selves. These standards serve as the criteria for social media users to judge each other even though many only spend a moment’s notice looking at a post. These filters serve as a cover-up for the insecurities that we all have, because, apparently, showing your true self in your most realistic form only sets you up to be judged and ripped apart by the harsh criticism that is the mindset of social media. Personally, I am not part of the majority that spends valuable time and money excessively correcting every potential flaw that could spotted in a picture, and it shows. My posts tend to stand out among the others, because of my ignorance towards changing everything about my picture to make it look fake, and of course, I do not receive the same reaction or interest that many others do. If you take a look at any social media influencer, her purpose is not to persuade her followers to follow her exact daily health routine like it may seem, it is instead to make these other users feel bad about themselves for how little attention they get on their own social media accounts. At this point in the direction that the culture of social media is headed, the amount of likes or comments that a person receives is the dictating force of how popular or successful a person may be. A constant phrase that I hear coming out of the mouths of my peers, and even myself, is “do they have a blue check mark next to their name?” Although I have said this exact question out loud (shamefully), I have never stopped to wonder who exactly makes these kinds of decisions, which in the large scheme of things are not that important but can still dictate a person’s level of success or worth in society’s perception. 69

The most disappointed feeling that I have had in myself regarding social media was in middle school, a time of insecurity and a desire for acceptance. It was one of my best friend’s birthdays, and along with everyone else in my friend group, I made her a birthday post that I deleted within 24 hours because I was embarrassed that my likes count was nowhere near my typical average number based on the rest of my feed. While I did not realize it then, I had succumbed to the tyrannical mindset of social media that through its attempt to connect the world, only brings out increasing anxiety and stress over superficial ideas. I guess it’s safe to say that while I feel marginalized, oppressed, and downgraded by the terms that social media defines as acceptable, in reality, isn’t everyone that uses any form of social media under this same subjugation? The truth is that while I felt like I was part of a very minor group of people who fell under the weight of such expectations, my group containing fellow subjugated individuals actually ranges to a much larger span of people, including those that may seem to have the perfect life and have everything most social media users want, fame and followers. At the end of the day, there is no person that is freed from the wrath of social media because the entire online world is under the control of expectations that we put there ourselves. The only way for this oppression on society to end, is to undo the rules that we subconsciously made to ruin ourselves.




The majority of teenagers feel that voting is a waste of hours at a booth. This is usually because we constantly feel that our vote doesn’t matter, simply because other people in this country will outnumber us and our vote will be useless. Voting is a fundamental issue in our democracy today. Teenagers debate critical issues including gun control, abortion laws, and other divisive issues; yet, we do not attack the source of indecision: decreasing voting rates. Voting must be mandatory to promote greater participation in political expression and a decrease in class bias. The best way to enact change is to vote with what you want to see. In today’s climate, teenagers have been described as “politically illiterate,” but teenagers are more exposed to political news because of their extensive access to the internet. A major argument to explain why voting should not be mandatory is that people only should get a say if they take the time to vote. Although this statement has some truth, people fail to realize that many voters simply do not see voting as a necessity because they have never been taught the importance. Activists constantly target issues such as abortion and gun control yet do not realize that getting more people to vote could in fact be the solution. For progressive changes to occur, newer ideas need to be tried. f this trial period does not succeed, vote it out. Many older politicians are afraid of younger voices coming through and shifting the balance of power from the ‘ancienne regime’ to a new world where my generation has control over issues that affect us. Today, politicians believe they can regulate issues that do not even pertain to them, hoping that the newer generation will not step in to fix it. With modern technology, it is difficult to not understand what candidates’ views are, especially considering the constant bombardment of advertisements on every single media platform. The importance of mandatory voting cannot be understated, because of the multitude of issues that our generation will finally put to rest. Voting is the fundamental issue in our democracy. All the issues we argue about can be fixed--gun control, abortion laws, and other divisive issues--if we attack the source of indecision, decreasing voting rates in the modern generation. Voting must be mandatory to promote greater participation in political expression and a decrease in class bias. We future voters are much more educated than previous generations and are simply being held back because of our effectiveness in coming to a consensus on issues which make multi-billion-dollar corporations’ rich. Vote to make the future a better place and if all fails vote this idea of mandatory voting out, but vote!! 71





Around, the room spins The lights become blurred I glimpse shapes of animals I know not to be here. A sweet yet salty taste hangs in the air. Crowds. There are so many people. Why are there so many people? No one answers. The walls just keep spinning, Faster and faster. I keep stumbling unable to find the ground. The flash of diamonds and crystals blind me. I lose my grip; the bottle shatters. The shapes fade. So do the sparkling gems. The striped walls stop moving. I’m alone in my room. Why does it smell of popcorn?





Voices in my head. They torment me in the night. “It’s due tomorrow.” Yikes by Simon Corpuz Say goodbye to home. A new danger awaits you: The Freshman 15. Help by Simon Corpuz I wrote all of these At midnight, approaching one. I have gone too far.




I’m not a good reader Word after word sentence after sentence All having different meaning but the same point When did reading become a long boring car ride Stuck in the back of a grey Honda Pilot on the way to Wyoming to see some family member you’ve never heard of Not knowing exactly where you are or how you got there You’re left out You want to understand what your parents are saying in the front seat but you have to read You hear your dogs loud panting next to you and you scratch behind his ears, his legs shaking with excitement Ahhh, I lost my spot The song changes on the radio, Hotel California changed to Stairway to Heaven, I need to learn how to play Stairway to Heaven on guitar Where am I again? God forbid someone opens a window. I hear the quiet squeak towards the front window. Gusts are hitting my head. I look up to see if the window will stay open or not I think I’m on the wrong page now Jumping around, losing your spot then finding it, losing your thought then losing your thought You know how many different blues there are Light blue, dark blue, navy, there is even a blue called Yale I wish I could go to Yale But to get into Yale I would have to read I have reading to do By the time you reach Wyoming 2 full chapters have passed About half a chapter understood Thoughts jumbled, Brain weak, and people ask why you don’t read more




Words are wild things that run rampant through the mind screeching, clawing, howling begging the tongue to let them loose but it guards them, and they seldom escape the lips. they say she has a way with these Words, that she can drag them out from the darkest depths and corners of her mind and make them stand still for a while in a line perhaps; they say she can tame them, and make them mean something. but Words hold power when they mean something and they can be dangerous so she is feared because every Word from her mouth has a purpose and she means for each one to be heard.


Words are wild things that run rampant through the mind screeching, clawing, howling begging the tongue to let them loose but it guards them, and they seldom escape the lips. they say she has a way with these Words, that she can drag them out from the darkest depths and corners of her mind and make them stand still for a while in a line perhaps; they say she can tame them, and make them mean something. but Words hold power when they mean something and they can be dangerous so she is feared because every Word from her mouth has a purpose and she means for each one to be heard. 77



In Unit 42 at Shands Hospital, there’s a distinct feel. The silence is deafening save for a baby crying through a spinal tap or new IV. Sometimes, when they’re pumping chemicals through your body, the pump freezes and begins to sound for help. After a few weeks you learn the cancel button will shut it up. The smell is unforgivable. Bleach and Lysol wipes are nothing compared to the sterilizers used in Unit 42. Grayson in room 4244 wouldn’t survive a cold. When his mom comes back from the café, she makes sure to wash her hands, before she uses hand sanitizer. The food is not gourmet. Most of the patients don’t have appetites. Paisley in room 4221 is barely one and if she did eat it would be cheerios, but her mom hasn’t eaten in days so the premade omelet will do. In Unit 42 there is no time to worry about next week. You pray for another hour, and when you go to sleep you pray you wake up. There isn’t a second taken for granted in Unit 42. In 42, nothing is scary except for a fatal 101-degree fever. After a year in Unit 42, no, reading and writing don’t scare me.






Pretty blue eyes tell me what you see Calm, smooth ocean or are you a raging beautiful sea? Tragically flawed human but perfect to me Two dummies in a pod but smart as can be The art of being and feeling in life Laughter like the sound of birds chirping On a Saturday morning Smile like a free democracy You’re the style and the quality Me haces creer en algo especial Like making A’s in chemistry Sunny sky, with white clouds and blue background Daisies in the sun and people being happy Light in the dark A breath after almost drowning A skip of beats in my heart Honestly you make me feel calm and relaxed Like the color brown, chocolate and honey The rush of water over your body and a laughter you can’t stop Memories with friends and living in the moment Music too high to hear anything else If I had to, I’d pick you as my favorite book on the shelf




Nothing gold can stay, yet you remain Brighter than ever. Always shining with a promise of rain and lovely inspiration With rolling hills that flatten and blend to forgotten waters Reflecting the orange and yellow rays that fill the sky As simple spheres coldly drop on the side of my iced tea.




Your love is a bright sunny day in June Warming my soul like a burning candle I think of you when I look at the moon Or when I walk the beach in my sandals Your smile radiates the room before me It’s burning a hole within my body You’re mesmerizing, you’re all I can see I see your face among everybody But I walk the halls and now feel empty Your veins are like ice, stone cold in memory Being together just wasn’t plenty Now you fail to simply remember me Can’t believe that I stayed for a whole year You broke me and left me in our shared fear







It had captured the essence of wasted memories and hopeless ambitions A mass of romantic juveniles with nowhere to go Foolishness and indifference were the only two ways you could portray the lack of care Running away from the constant regulations Escape from civility and frivolous etiquette The “prancing around in the rain� type of crowd Moseying through winding streets with shut eyes The radio blaring, just to tune out the judgements of the rest of the world The radio as their only friend through deserted, lonesome nights Staring fondly, yet hollow, at the reflections against a foggy window, presenting a show full of melancholy moments Warm lights beating down on the performing adolescents Frost forming around a chilled glass Never occurred to them the possibility of departure from the only element they know


Meet the Editors LILLY SIMONS is a senior and the Editor in Chief of Notes from the Underground. Outside of NFTU, you can find her furthering her infatuation with writing as the Head Editor of The Andalusian and the Academics Editor of the Marauder. She really doesn’t know what the concept of sleep is. SAMEER PONNALURI is a senior and the Assistant Editor in Chief of Notes from the Underground. He enjoys traveling, writing, and playing tennis. ELLIE CASTEEL is a senior and the Managing Editor of Notes from the Underground, as well as the Print Editor-in-Chief of the Andalusian Newspaper. Ellie is a Corps de Ballet member with The Tallahassee Ballet Company for nine seasons. She plans to attend college after graduation to continue her academic and artistic pursuits. She absolutely adores coffee, literature, and rain. JOHN MESSER is a senior and the Poetry Editor of Notes from the Underground. Of his bio, he says,“Though this be nothing, there is method in it.” MARY ALLISON MCCUE is a senior and the Assistant Poetry Editor of Notes from the Underground. She is the president of the Gadsden County branch of the My Chemical Romance fan club. Many of her peers consider he to be the second coming of Cameron Frye from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. ETHAN TETREAULT is a senior and the Fiction Editor of Notes from the Underground. Outside of NFTU, you can find him in Company, acting in plays such as Pink Panther and Number the Stars. ELIAS JAFFE is a senior and the Assistant Fiction Editor of Notes from the Underground. He moved to Tallahassee in 2016 after living in Louisville, Kentucky. His favorite authors include Tolstoy, Ellison, and Tolkien, and his favorite genre is poetry. In his free time, he hangs out with his three cats or watches art films. MADI CORDLE is a senior and the Nonfiction Editor of Notes from the Underground. She is thrilled to have the opportunity to connect with her peers through reading and writing. She enjoys spending time with family, traveling, and 85

music. HUNT DEISON is a senior and the Assistant Nonfiction Editor of Notes From the Underground in addition to being the online Editor in Chief of The Andalusian. He is also a co-captain of the cross country team, a member of the track and field team, and a representative on the Student Council. Outside of school, Hunt trains for triathlons, reads too many books, and uses Twitter religiously. KENDALL MINTER is a senior and the Art Editor of Notes from the Underground. LAUREN FLEISCHER is a senior and the Assistant Art Editor of Notes from the Underground. At any given time, she can be found either reading Call Me By Your Name or listening to BROCKHAMPTON. Many of her peers consider her to be the second coming of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. SIMON CORPUZ is a senior and Copy Editor of Notes from the Underground who enjoys memes, Mario, and munchies. RACHEL ABBOTT is a senior and Copy Editor of Notes from the Underground. She enjoys the finer things in life like sarcastic moments with Dr. Beaven. CAROLINE DELEGAL is a senior and Submissions Manager of Notes from the Underground. Her preferred form of communication is intense sarcasm. Her greatest accomplishment is watching Friends from start to finish 7 times.


Words are wild things wasted memories wake up lights always become blurred say goodbye to home not knowing exactly where you are or how you got there shadows cast by clouds nothing felt worse than forgiving It had captured the essence of wasted memories overflowing in a breath after almost drowning blending is essence of wasted memories sound for help traffic, motionless the mind, stirring it wasn’t scary there is no person that is freed from the wrath the room spins the lights become blurred blending t together, mixing with the rain experiencing nature here, I feel you me closer to the edge of reality roots aligned weaving in parallel the art of being is the pounding of our hearts and forever is composed of I have gone too far I am thought I was I am illuminating the void I forget that I am a human oustretched there’s a world it’s between you and me we always remember we live in forever every individual longs to be accepted i cannot live with these lies yet you remain i devoured them, light in the dark a fire is burning in our stars the limit does not exist I Blood You Reminds me that I’m alive I lose you we finally felt close me again word after word it’s burning a hole within my body the you silence how I all having some is deafening drag them out from so much time isn’t Am different is the darkest depths and corners of her in a mind you are I meaning in stepping out, just a little, can help all of us in us time run voices in my head now feel empty some kind of genius the radio blaring, just to tune out aching heart belong to another we’re burning out gulping grasping gasping I reach my hand out I