editors Theodore Ashford Amelia Bellows Devon Bennett Jake Farnsworth Miranda Gemmell Nick Hennessy Kynna Lovin Megan Price Shane Putnam Garrett Skelton Naomi Summa
Portland Community College
SPECIAL THANKS TO... DIVISION OF ENGLISH AND WORLD LANGAUGES Dave Stout, Dean Cherie Maas-Anderson, Administrative Assistant Tami Allison, Administrative Assistant CREATIVE WRITING INSTRUCTORS Mia Caruso Andrew Cohen Emily Frey Judd McDonald Billy Merck Ron Ross Megan Savage Ann Selby W. Vandoren Wheeler GRAPHICS AND PRINTING INSTRUCTORS Cece Cutsforth Linnea Gruber Claudia Meyer Nathan Savage Debbie Schwing COVER DESIGN Anie Day ASH CREEK PRESS Matt Batchelder FACULTY ADVISOR Vandoren Wheeler Copyright © 2016 by Portland Community College PO Box 19000, Portland, Oregon 97280-0990 Portland Community College reserves all rights to the material contained herein for the contributors’ protection; on publication, all rights revert to the authors.
Contents Poetry 3 5 9 10 25 28 39 44 45 53 62 64 66 72
News Report John Buckley Haikus Nick Hennessy We Spent the Evening in Mountains Naomi Summa Interrogation Over Coffee Chloe Hage London Rain Amanda Mielock Grammar Michelle Schrom Forcible Removal Adrian Potter To Be Blur Free Jacob Farnsworth Night in the Life of an Eating Disorder Sarah McMahon Worn Down Naomi Summa Mementos John Vanek What I Really Want to Say Katie Collins Advice for a Minor Character Adrian Potter Will You Stay? Kynna Lovin
13 Long, Awkward Pauses Missi Jarrar 68 On Holding Hands and People Ryan Jones
Art 4 6 8 12 16 24 27 29 38 40 43 47 54 61 63 67 71 73
Dino-rama Carrie Cervantes Autumn Trees Sandra Lajoy Honey Water Matthew Hachisu Garbage Royalty Lindsay Scanlan Looking Down, Vertigo SG Hamlin Alive Matthew Cross The Poe Stamp Jon Bordas Reading habits Matthew Hachisu Drought Joe Urbina Cathedral Grove Jessica Harvey Pigtown Jon Bordas Man with Organs Ira Joel Haber The Chola and Her Poncho Monica Vallejos Lens Sunset Cheryl Pin Dancing Potential Finn Graves Past and Present Jon Bordas The Monastery Monica Vallejos The Florist Monica Vallejos
17 30 41 48 55
Linda and Margot Micah KJ Lucyâ€™s Studio Katherine Ljungqvist Frank Missi Jarrar Like Smoke Lorenzo Rodriguez The Skin We Wear Amelia Bellows Midnight in Tahiti Kynna Lovin
Ever since there have been people, there have been explorers, looking in places where others hadn’t before. Not everyone does it, but we are a part of a species where some members of the species do—to the benefit of us all.
—Neil DeGrasse Tyson Reaching For the Stars: America’s Choice, Natural History Magazine, April 2003
A middle-aged mermaid, maybe forty-five, fifty, washed up on the beach with a large bite taken out of her side, just below the fish part. It could have been a shark. It could have been a squid. A surfer found her while scrounging for change for an In-N-Out Double-Double, maybe a Wienerschnitzel Sea Dog. A surfer found her, tangled in seaweed and fishing line, some plastic sixpack rings braided around her neck, stumbled upon her like a hiker with a missing prostitute. The police spread yellow tape around the site and wrapped several small children up like mummies because they wouldn’t obey. All the news agencies were called, and the reporters came and hopped like fleas in the sand, like Fisher-Price Little People, jaunty multicolored amputees. The sheriff’s deputies fired blanks from shotguns into the air to scare away the seagulls. Seagulls have to eat, too. One reporter opined that it could have been a boat propeller. If a manatee had been driving the boat, it might not have steered very well. A wise old sailor said, yes, but propellers don’t leave poison ichor inside the wound. Nobody had noticed the poison ichor. A Coast Guard CSI licked the wound. There was no poison ichor; the old sailor was trying to drum up business for his brother-in-law, who owned a poison-ichor distillery. In a climactic montage, the Coast Guard CSI shot the old sailor and probed the mermaid’s wound. He measured her fish parts, which were finned like a mackerel instead of a trout. So she had been an ocean mermaid. This was at the ocean. This was at the ocean in July, when mackerels spawn. The wound was like a perfectly formed bite taken from a cartoon sandwich. The surfer was getting very hungry, as the police and sheriff’s deputies and reporters and Coast Guard CSIs persisted in interviewing him, keeping him from grabbing his longboard and Mr. Zog’s Sex Wax. He now wanted sushi. People grieve in different ways. 3
Itâ€™s only thanks to Facebookâ€™s privacy settings your mom still loves you.
The last art project you left to dry overnight is why we have ants.
The difference is your grandmother never made twenty-five albums.
If I die before I wake, pray the Lord and I get totally baked.
Linda and Margot
inda snapped her book shut and tapped my wrist. I looked up at her from my reading, annoyed at being pulled out of my concentration. “Let’s go swimming,” she said. I shook my head, “I have to read this for school.” “No, you don’t. Let’s go. I can’t think in here. It’s too hot and neither of us have money to do anything else.” She put her elbows on the table, clasped her hands and brought them up to her chin, leaning on them intently. She stared back at me, waiting. So I didn’t have any choice, really. We wore our swimsuits under our clothes like I did when I was a child. We took the bus to the farthest light-rail stop, then a city bus dropped us off next to a stand of maples. We were right across from a hand-painted sign that read HUCKLEBERRIES FRESH. Linda stood in the sun, faced the road and stuck her thumb out as I tried not to look worried. She was a thirtyyear-old women standing in a long floral skirt next to a ditch, waiting for something, somehow looking sweet and kind in the midst of it. Sweat rolled into my eyes while we waited. Neither of us said anything. No one drove by for twenty minutes. Then the first car pulled over, a dirty red truck driven by a slight, red-faced man. He pushed aside groceries and moved packages to the back of the cab as we climbed in, everything smelling of citrus and hot vinyl. Linda chattered next to him about farming and berry picking. I didn’t say anything, I couldn’t hear much over the rolled-down window, the rush of air whipping my hair around my head. I pretended I was 7
Medusa while Linda learned about crop rotations. He went out of his way to drop us off at the river and didn’t try anything with either of us. I felt relieved to see him go. We peeled down to our swimsuits, piling our clothes over rocks. I forced her to put on sunblock and she thanked me, but didn’t let it set for long enough before swimming, so before long she burned anyway. The water was too shallow to jump or dive, but we could sit in it so it flowed just over our shoulders. I sat facing the current, dipped my head in and held my breath. When I came up for air my hair formed a single wet fabric over my face, impossible to breathe through. I gasped, and Linda, sitting with her shoulder to my shoulder, asked if I was alright. I pulled the hair forward and as I spoke my voice echoed around the wall it made. “I’m fine,” I said, “I feel just fine.” I flipped the hair forward and made a face as it slapped against my back. She laughed, reached out and squeezed my hand under the water. I didn’t let go as I propped my shoulder against a rock and laid back. The water poured over my body. Linda’s hand in mine, I finally felt some kind of freedom.
We Spent the Evening in Mountains
we spent the evening in mountains. we compared palindromes between beers and wet crescents on a copper bar. our eyes travelled inked peaks and vales, back and forth, counting letters like mile markers or abacus beads. you sipped wet beads from your copper moustache and smiled as silky and long as the line youâ€™d laid down: TULSANIGHTLIFEFILTHGINASLUT it lilt like jazz, moons poured over mountains and we spilt over hills.
Interrogation Over Coffee
Listen when I tell you, I am whole. There is not a single place to be poked, prodded, penetrated. You will not find a gap to stick your sticky fingers, to gouge, scramble, explore my insides. For out they will come, bloody, burned and proud. I have found it! They will scream, hot and near mangled. The glory is yours. Your proclamation a bandage, My blood your serum. Are you proud? Are you pieced together yet? Will now you let me rest? Listen as I tell you, Yes, I liked the movie. Did you ever read the book? Can you tie it in a knot with only your tongue? Did you ever fuck? 10
Through swollen eyes you stare, and yet still ask of me— Do you know what it is to live as I have lived? Oh, girl. The spit from your tongue drips from my grasp like honey— What can you know? You haven’t even.
Long, Awkward Pauses
drive Simon’s car on the way home from the hospital. The sun is too bright on his pale, almost translucent skin. Bruises have formed along the ridges of his arms and he’s still wearing his hospital band. He hasn’t bathed and his gray hair looks like a sea anemone dried out in low tide. Most disheartening of all is the smell, an organic decay coming from his body. It makes me chew my lip as I merge into highway traffic. Highway 217 is congested on a Friday afternoon, but the sky is cloudless and the air is warm. The windows are down and someone on NPR is interviewing Serena and Venus Williams’ father. We are both relieved that he is out of the hospital because we somehow interpret that as a step forward. “Did you talk to your brother? ” I ask. His brother had come to the hospital and given him an article from The Atlantic, “The Irrationality of Alcoholics Anonymous,“ and told him about a new drug that wasn’t Antabuse—I didn’t catch the name—that he thought might help Simon. I’m glancing at him as he talks, trying to gauge his sincerity. Maybe he’ll take the medication. Maybe it will help and he’ll get better and we’ll all stay together like we had a decade earlier, but some have moved away or passed on leaving an ever dwindling group of friends. 13
Two days ago he checked himself into the hospital because the swelling in his lower legs had gotten so extreme that he couldn’t walk well. He was bloated and pale yellow and his kidneys were fighting not to shut down entirely. I have to look away because of the color of his skin. It’s simply too unnatural and the bruises make me feel cringes in the ends of my fingertips and down my legs. The only thing left to do is drive faster and get away as soon as I can so I can breathe again. But Simon is enjoying the weather like a man released from prison, as if he hasn’t seen the outside in many years, or perhaps as a man who has escaped disaster yet again. His window is down, his elbow propped on the sill as he watches over the edge of the freeway. “When did they build that Target?” he asks. “They built a Target? I don’t know. It’s been a while since I’ve been over here. Listen, I know we’ve been over this, but you have to take better care with your diet.” “Yeah, ” he says. “Is that drive-in still out here? ” “Yeah, but it’s shut down. Did you hear what I said about your diet? ” “I heard you. Will you stop by the pharmacy? ” I take a deep breath. “Sure. ” He falls quiet and watches out the window until we reach BiMart. He stays in the car while I get out and go to the pickup window. I listen while a thorough pharmacist talks me through all eight bottles of medication then packs them into a white bag. I thank him and walk back to the car where he is sitting and staring forward. I wonder what he is thinking. The car moves in and out of the shadow of sunlight as traffic slows near 99W. The light is flashing across his pale, round face. He rubs a shaky hand over his inconsolable hair. Between his legs is a plastic bag full of everything he managed to take from the hospital—shampoo, socks, a towel or two—and his cane is leaning against the door. He is breathing heavily and
He rubs a shaky hand over his inconsolable hair.
when he turns I look away so he doesn’t catch my stare. I turn right into the driveway of his apartments. He begins to gather his things before we are parked. I pack up everything—numerous bags, medicine, cane— and move to the door ahead of him. He is slow; it is hard for him to get out of the car and he shuffles his feet. He’s tougher than he looks and not much of a complainer. Inside, out of the light, is a dim cavern that smells of dust and smoke and something organic that is gone wrong. Navigating the hall around boxes and easels, a shelf with an anvil, a cow bell, an old clock, I shove the bag of pills and his hospital items into a nearby chair and turn to see that he is coming along. His eyes are down and he is hanging onto things as he makes his way. He falls back into his chair as I move around the room jerking up blinds so that he squints and seems annoyed by the dust in the rays of light. Then I fall back into a chair and sigh deeply and it’s as if we have both completed some great feat. After some moments, he rises precariously from the chair and shuffles to the kitchen. He disappears around the corner as I rub my my temple and listen to the sound of the refrigerator opening and closing and the distinct pop of an opening can of beer. I feel something awful in my gut and close my eyes. Then I jerk up from the recliner. “I have to go, ” I say. “You’re leaving now? ” he asks and I hear him beginning to shuffle back. “Yeah, I’ve got things to do and Mark’s waiting. You seem okay. Just call me if you need anything. ” The sound of his feet is nearing, but he hasn’t turned the corner yet. “Sure you don’t wanna stay and— ” “No. I’ve got to go,“ I say and hurry for the door.
Looking Down, Vertigo
Lucy’s studio was a large, airy room with a big leaded bay window that overlooked the lawn where about ten easels were scattered around, each the object of focus for its respective Artist. The light in the studio filtered in through the high windows, perfect lighting for her kind of work. The room was musty, just as Lucy liked it. Clay dust wafted down from the rafters, just as Lucy liked it. They were sending her a new Model today, one who Lucy had been assured would provide a stimulating study. They always found a way to meet Lucy’s needs, even when it seemed the options were slim.
There was a knock on the door, and Lucy moved quietly to answer it. A tall figure stood in the doorway and stooped over the threshold. He certainly is tall enough… Lucy observed, and she stepped back to admit him into the studio. “Are you the Artist?” “Are you my Model?” He blinked, confusedly, and nodded in answer. “Please sit over there,” Lucy gestured to a wooden chair in the center of the room, a sheet was folded carefully on the seat, “The sheet is for your modesty, if you need it.” They walked towards the chair, and his presence seemed to fill the room. He glanced back at Lucy, and when he realized she wasn’t looking away he undressed and sat in the chair, pulling the sheet across his lap. He sat upright and rigid, not an attitude Lucy enjoyed from a Model, “If you insist on good posture, we’ll never get anywhere. At ease, soldier,” she said with casual sarcasm. She was already filling a bucket of water from the brass tap that spouted from one of the walls, and she took her time gathering any tools she would need before getting started while the Model 17
loosened up, a delay which wasted this perfect lighting. Six years ago, a Model like this would have terrified Lucy. She would have been flushed the entire time she worked with him, but he’s a Model and I’m an Artist, and this working relationship is natural. Lucy stood beside a massive lump of clay and looked over at the Model, who had tucked one foot under the chair so that the heel was elevated and extended his other leg out in front of him, exposing fine muscle definition in his calf and quadriceps. He was sitting closer to the edge of the seat and one arm was slightly propped on the back of the seat, allowing him to comfortably sustain a casual posture. Much better. After removing the corners of the clay block, Lucy worked quickly to establish a rudimentary shape. She glanced at the Model only occasionally for a basic reference, fearlessly tackling the mountain of mud in front of her. A little over an hour passed, and the Model’s deep voice roused her from her artistic trance, “How long have you been an Artist?” Lucy paused, not used to having a conversation with her Models—the breach of unspoken protocol irked her slightly. “Six years. Since they employed me.” He nodded, and was silent for another hour before he disrupted the quiet again, “Do you like it?” Lucy dropped her hands, heavy and coated with globs of mud. What kind of question is that? “What kind of question is that?” she asked. “They recognized artistic qualities in me from an early age, and when I was sixteen I was introduced to several types of media. I took to clay… we tried pottery and different abstract works, and I chose sculpture.” He nodded. After another hour the sun began to set, and the light was gone. Lucy dismissed the Model and cleaned up her tools.
“Do you like it?”
Over the next couple of weeks their meetings were considerably less chatty. The Model, Michael, as Lucy learned during week two, was content to show up around three thirty 18
in the afternoon, strip down, and re-assume his casual pose. By the end of week three, Lucy was working on intimate details with sponges or fine-tipped carving tools to work on the folds of the ‘modesty cloth’, his lips and eyebrows. This was the time during the project when Lucy would closely examine her subject’s fine features… his nose… his ears… his elbows… “May I stand?” Lucy nodded, and he wrapped the linen around his waist before lacing his fingers together and stretching his arms above his head while leaning from side to side. He was a little bit older, for a Model, but his features were distinguished and strong, an attribute that Lucy often sought in her Models. The time it takes to maintain physical fitness is not something easily afforded in anyone’s career, let alone a Model’s, when they were expected to lounge for hours on end until dark. Lucy’s muscle tone came from working with clay many times her size and weight. Most of the other Artists had a certain softness that came from working daintily with paint. The few times Lucy had met people outside of the Artists community, people who were not Artists or Models, but Mathematicians or— God forbid—Agents, or even the Baker she met once… Those people had lent themselves so much to their profession that their doughy physical forms were hardly representative of their true persona. Or were they? Michael carried himself with an air of humility that many of Lucy’s other Models had lacked. The innocence he conveyed which had initially irked Lucy, had now become somewhat endearing, coupled with his greying hair and the crinkles around his eyes that showed when he spoke or smiled. Lucy slapped her hands on her aproned lap and turned to the faucet to wet her hands. She turned back to the clay and continued
Their doughy physical forms were hardly representative of their true persona.
working, her hands moving deftly over the mud, its smooth surface giving way under subtle pressure changes. Michael had resumed his seat. Whenever Lucy glanced up at him, she felt as though his expression continued to grow in intensity. “I thought you’d know better by now than to be so serious,” She offered lightly, “Only my very new Models look as serious as you do now. And I’m not asking too much of you, I hope. This is not an Atlas pose.” Michael glanced at her quizzically before letting his facial features relax a bit. Another hour passed. The sun was going to set soon, and Lucy would lose her light. We’re making good time though. I bet we’ll be done before the end of week four. “I’m not a Model.” Lucy dropped the tool she was using to define Michael’s lower lip, and it scarred his chin. “What?” “I’m not a Model.” “I don’t understand. You’ve been modeling for three weeks…” “Lucy, I’m a Historian.” Lucy looked at him blankly. A Historian? The thought was difficult to wrap her head around. Historians weren’t the sorts of people you would find stepping outside the role of their assigned career. They were specific Agents that travelled through time, the way taxicabs drive through cities, collecting cultural information and distributing it to wealthy Aristocrats in different times or museums or to the government to study. They also shared useful knowledge of science and history from the future with the past. Once Time Travel had become a finely crafted art, Historians worked to weave in and out of future and present times to share knowledge that would help promote cultural awareness. For the sake of preventing time-tears or any of that nonsense, they never went
...her hands moving deftly over the mud, its smooth surface giving way...
any further back than the year Time Travel was patented. So, obviously, Lucy had been exposed to certain aspects of it, like when she was given a textbook while she was in art school, which had come from nearly two hundred years in the future. It had images of her own sculptures that were made during her present career. Nobody actually met Historians though, and they certainly did not waste their time modeling. Or did they? Lucy knew something had been a little off about Michael since his first day as her Model, but she had assumed he had just recently changed his career to Modeling, which explained why he didn’t seem very comfortable stripping down in front of her. It must be humiliating for someone of his status to be reduced to this kind of job. “Huh.” Lucy said. “Huh?” “I see.” Lucy wiped globs of mud from her hands onto her apron and went over to the sink to rinse them off, “You can go ahead and get dressed.” She kept her back to Michael. “I’m sorry I didn’t tell you sooner, but it seemed like the kind of detail I could get away without sharing. You needed a specific Model, and I was a good fit. You know the Agency will do anything to get an Artist what they need—any Employee really—and we had to meet sooner or later.” “Excuse me?” “Well. You’re the reason why I found out I was supposed to become a Historian. When I was quite a bit younger I saw a statue of myself in the Library at the University I attended, and you were the listed Artist. You live quite a few years before me, and the statue clearly showed me as an older man, so, I knew that I would meet you in another ten or twenty years.” Lucy shook her head… It wasn’t a difficult notion, but it occurred to her that she had been admiring Michael’s mature qualities and he had not even been born yet. Interesting, she thought, and walked over to a shelf to pull down a large dusty textbook. A handful of placeholders fell out of the book as she flipped it open to an image of a sculpture she had actually completed a year prior. It looked better in person, she thought. The lighting used on the statue in the image didn’t do its sensual curves justice. She snapped the book shut and looked 21
at the author, M. J. Pereux. “Pereux?” She asked Michael, who nodded his head. He was the author. She had learned she would become a Sculpture after reading a book he had written after he had met her. “How well do we know each other?” Michael had gotten dressed, and was standing near the bay window with his hands folded in front of him, “I believe we come to know each other quite well,” he said, “This isn’t the sculpture I saw in the Library.” Lucy looked at him, and then looked at the statue, “You mean, you model for me more than once?” He nodded, “I was fully clothed in that statue. Had a nude statue of myself been on display in the Library where I attended university, I don’t know that I would have had the gumption to finish school.” Lucy smiled at this, somewhat relieved, and somewhat resigned to the idea that Michael was a Historian. All-in-all, she had enjoyed working with him. He was not polished, but he was handsome. He had an air of adventure and intrigue that most Models would not be able to achieve, his coming from actual experience. “Are you the first Historian who has worked directly with an Artist?” “No, but I believe this the earliest point in time when a Historian has been allowed to work with an Artist. It’s kind of a staple in our career to work with an Artist of our choice, and when portraits or statues of us show up throughout history it becomes much easier to identify our chosen path. Historians aren’t born knowing how to Time Travel. It is very much like an artistic talent that we need to cultivate.” They spoke until well after dark about his career and travels. It was the first time in a long time that Lucy found someone so fascinating. She had never paid much attention to any type of Agent, writing them off as a bit snobbish. It wasn’t that the way they ran society was bad, not by a long shot. In fact, in
Historians aren’t born knowing how to Time Travel.
the past several hundred years, they had managed to improve so much of society by providing people with the education, opportunities, and resources to do what they loved. But still, Lucy liked to think that with any kind of power there had to be some kind of corruption. Or at the very least, a huge ego. Working with Michael and seeing how humble he was, and how much he devoted himself to his job, Lucy found herself being a little more appreciative of the Agents’ work. For example: they provided Artists not only with the supplies they need, but any and all text resources as well as studios and Models, and a flexible schedule so that Artists such as Lucy could get away with working in the late afternoon and early evening hours when the sunlight was magical. The sculpture was done by the beginning of week four. It was good. Really good. Lucy couldn’t help but be proud of her efforts, and at the end of week three an Agent informed her there was already a buyer lined up. Michael got ready to leave, and it occurred to Lucy she didn’t know when they would meet again. Usually she took a break between different pieces to prevent destroying her back and arms, but additionally, she knew it was time for her to work on something completely different. Michael shuffled his feet in front of the door, “I believe our next meeting is a little over a year from now.” He said. Lucy nodded, hiding her disappointment, “Do you know how many collaborations we work on?” She asked. “At least three.” He said. She stood near the door, briefly blocking his exit, and extended one of her tiny hands to shake his. He smiled and gripped it firmly in his, “Until next time then!” He smiled, and left the studio, and her time.
London will rip your heart out, place it in the clouds, and patiently wait for you to come back to retrieve it. But when you return, you realize your heart has become a vital part of the city. It clings to the last seat at 8:00 pm on the Piccadilly line. It teases the pigeons in Trafalgar Square, throws breadcrumbs by the lions. It stumbles along uneven pavement, tugging its jacket closer because the ever-present cold of London has soaked its bones. It sings with the choirs of St. Paulâ€™s Cathedral and Westminster Abbey, praising the feet that have walked its floors and worn it smooth. And then you finally understand that London has molded your heart into something it cannot separate from, and you must leave it behind, watching it sip strong coffee and long for warm, sunny days. You must watch it cling to London, cling to the skyscrapers and the take-away boxes 25
and the smoke from a cigarette. You must watch it long for something different, and you must leave it behind, knowing that it will never know anything better than to dance in a London rain.
The Poe Stamp
I love saying things like, if I have another drink, I shouldn’t drive home, or, if I have to ask if he loves me, he mustn’t. I shouldn’t, and he doesn’t. Life is full of contractions from birth and until death I will always think of the haves and the have nots. In shorter forms they are contractions. Have what? Have not. Haven’t.
he sky is thundering rain from its dim mouth. I don’t have a good coat and water is dripping from the frayed seams of my hood. I am at the corner of Washington and Fourth, trudging alone with my head down. The heavy rains have come early. But October in Washington doesn’t know the difference and on Friday Harbor (an island in the San Juans) winter will never truly come. Instead, it will be endless months of cool drizzle. I am watching the cracks in the sidewalk when I hear the short toot of a car horn and look up. I recognize the green sedan, of course, because I have ridden in it many times. It is my mother’s boyfriend, Frank. The rain is throbbing down the lines of the car as the windshield wipers labor to brush it away. I hesitate, glance left and right for traffic, then rush toward the car. I glimpse my reflection in the car window before it eases down. Frank’s practiced smile emerges through the dimness of the interior. I rest my hands on the widow ledge and bend inside. The smell of heat and leather come to me. “It’s pouring. Why don’t you get in and I’ll drive you home.” I glance around the inside of the car at the leather seats and polished wooden dash. “I’m dripping.” “It’s all right. C’mon,” he says. “A little water never hurt anything.” I circle the car, pull the door handle, and bound inside. I am breathing heavy as I straighten myself, push the hood of my coat from my head, and stretch the seatbelt over my lap. The car is warm and humid. “It’s really coming down,” I say. “It sure is.” I glance over at him. Frank is older than my mother, but I have no idea how
much older. He is handsome still, in a way. He has blonde hair that is graying at the edges, and he always wears a dark suit and smells good. His eyes are a dull green and shaped like he is forever squinting, but the thing that always strikes me the most about him—the one aspect of him that I will recall so well—is the authentic nature of his face. He smiles at me with straight, expensive teeth. “How are you?” I glance out the window and shrug. “Oh, you know…okay.” “Nothing interesting at all? No story to tell? Surely there’s something.” “Wish I could say there was.” “Nothing? “ he asks. “Really?” This draws a breathy laugh from me. “Really. I promise.” “Are you hungry?” He is still smiling and we have not moved away from the curb. “If my mother’s expecting you she’s probably cooked something.” He glances down at my lap. “You’re getting so skinny. Maybe I should take you for something to eat before we get you home. I don’t want to be accused of mistreating you and take you home on an empty stomach. Besides, your mother doesn’t know I’ve come. I decided to surprise her.” “You shouldn’t come out and surprise Ilene, you know.” “I know,“ he says and adjusts in the seat. I hear the curious sound of the leather as he moves. “Why do you call your mother by her first name?” I shrug. He watches me a moment and it seems he is thinking about something, then he takes a breath. “So, you want to get something to eat?” “Sure.” We drive to the south side of the island away from home because he knows a place where the burgers are good, but he won’t tell me where. He is telling me a story about his brother who lives in Holland. It is getting dark when we pull into one of those drive-in diners and he eases his new car next to one of the ordering speakers. He asks me what I want and I lean over
him to read the menu, but for just a moment, I feel the slight pressure of his hand on my lower back and move quickly back into my seat. “Just a burger and fries,” I tell him then dismiss it as some strange part of my fantastic imagination. “Shake?” he asks. “Sure.” “What flavor?” “I like chocolate,” I say. “Chocolate it is,” he says and turns to add it to the order. Then we are alone in the car, staring forward. The rain beads on the windows throw a distorted shield between us and the world, and I feel oddly alone with him like I never have before. He watches me a moment. “I worry about you.” “Yeah?” “Sure. About your future.” “What do you mean?” “I mean, you’ll be what—sixteen next year? You can’t stay here on Friday Harbor forever. You hadn’t meant to, did you?” “No. Maybe. I don’t know.” “You think about college at all?” “Not really.” “Ever thought about getting a job?” “I thought a little bit about that. I mean, some, but not too much, I guess.” “What were you thinking?” I smile shyly. “Ah, no, it’s stupid really.” “C’mon and tell me. I bet it’s not stupid.” “Well,” I look out the window, “I thought about being an airline stewardess.” I laugh. He laughs with me. “That’s not so stupid. You’d get discounts on travel, for sure. I have a friend who works for the airlines. I might be able to help you.” “Yeah?” “Sure. You’d make a great airline stewardess, I think.” I smile in spite of myself. The simplest brush over my starving ego sends me to a foolish place where anything is believable. “I’ve never had a job really,” I say.
“I thought your mother said you were working at the cannery last summer.” “Well, sort of. I mean, yeah, I was working part-time doing clean up.” He continues. “Friday Harbor is just the edge of the world, you know. The world is a big place and there’s a lot to see. A girl like you should see it. It’d be a shame and a waste if you didn’t.” “You think so?” He nods. “There’s no doubt in my mind.” I watch him. I like Frank, his easy manner and his belief that there are better things for me in the world, but it is really my selfishness that draws me to him. “You should think about going to college.” My hope flounders. “There’s no money for that at all.” “I might lend you the money,” he says. My eyes cut to him. It is the first time I truly sense something is not what it should be. It isn’t that I am afraid, but I instinctively know we are on new ground. Frank always pays attention to me. He is always watching me and I am flattered by that because I understand it all more than I am willing to admit, but this seems to be some new level of attention. I am thinking about it in the quiet of the car, watching Frank, waiting for him to speak to me with the soft sound of the rain falling on the back windshield, a low thud with a chaotic beat. “Well, what do you think of that?” he asks. I blink at him. “I think it’s generous.” “You’d have to leave the island, of course.” “I don’t have any money. I wouldn’t have the money to pay you back,” I say. He begins to speak, but a girl in a poodle skirt and clear rain slicker skates up and knocks on the window. Frank eases it down and adjusts in the seat to retrieve his wallet. He takes out some bills, hands them to the girl, and tells her to keep the
He watches me a moment. “I worry about you.”
change before the electric window rolls back up. The car fills with the smell of fried onion rings. “Here we are,” he says and begins to go through the bag. We begin to eat in silence. The burger tastes good, but I am ashamed to admit how long it has been since I’ve eaten one. I bet Frank eats them everyday. I bet Frank eats whatever he wants. My mother stopped cooking years ago. She stopped doing a lot of things years ago. Her helplessness has always frightened me, always made me feel like we live too near the edge of a cliff on soft ground and it always seems we are precariously close to complete destruction and her exaggerated weaknesses make Frank seem like granite to me. “I think about you,” he says between bites. “About what will become of you.” I wish he would be quiet while I am eating; I really want to taste this burger. “I worry about you,” he says when I don’t respond to him. The windows are starting to fog, enveloping us in a deeper isolation. I have heard him through the thin walls of our house, groaning with my mother. For some reason it comes to my mind now. “I could take care of you, if that’s what you wanted, take you away from here. I’m offering,” he says. “To take me where?” “To Seattle where I live, of course.” I hesitate. “Where would I stay?” “Well, we’d have to get you a nice cozy little apartment of your own. Would you like that, a nice apartment of your own?” I watch him and chew. “I can’t afford to get an apartment.” “You’re a smart girl. I’ve seen you pay your mother’s bills. You’d do just fine on your own, if that’s what you decided to do, and with Ilene, well, the way she is, maybe you’d be better on your own, you know? I mean, you ever think of it that way?”
The windows are starting to fog, enveloping us in a deeper isolation.
I get the sense that he is being very careful about something, but all his talk is filling me with such childish hope that I fail to understand the entirety of it. He sees my response, my hesitation, and quickly changes the subject as we eat. He tells me again about how he is really Dutch, not an American at all, but had come to this country when he was so young that he doesn’t speak Dutch anymore or even have an accent. He tells me he thinks about me a lot and I like that; it makes me feel important, but I am getting an idea of what is happening, of what Frank is offering me. Still, even knowing, I allow it to happen. He has a large Catholic family and they are all living around the northwest somewhere, in Washington and Oregon. I tell him I have some family in Oregon, but I have never met them. He asks me questions about them that I cannot answer and we stare out at the sea, the moaning mass of black in what is now darkness. Franks slides his arm across the back of the car seat behind me like I have seen him do to my mother. His attention makes me feel drunk, the way he listens and nods, as if I am the only person in the world. His eyes watch me so intently, obsessively, following me wherever I move and I have never had a man pay attention to me like that before, or anyone else for that matter. With Ilene I am a shadow, but here with Frank I am the center of the world. Such a feeling it gives me, such a twinge of strange excitement. “You could come to Seattle next weekend,” he says and watches forward. “To your house?” We had never been to his house. Frank always came to see my mother, not the other way around. He nods. “Sure. Why not? We could look for an apartment for you that Saturday.” “I don’t know.” He shrugs. “It’s up to you. I mean, you don’t want to stay
His attention makes me feel drunk...
on this island all your life when there are so many things going on in the world. Seattle is a big city, so much to experience. It’d be a great place for you. Unless, you have your heart set on staying here…” “No. I don’t.” “If you came to Seattle I could help you. You’d have a friend, you know, and not be so on your own. I could show you around and spend time with you until you met people your own age. If something went wrong, I’d be near to help. But maybe Ilene wouldn’t like you going to Seattle for the weekend.” “She wouldn’t notice,” I say. “She never questions me. You know that.” “I know. There are never any rules for you.” “Where would I stay? For the weekend, I mean.” “You could stay in a hotel, but that costs a lot of money. Probably best you just stayed with me, after all.” “I wouldn’t want to be a bother.” “It’s no trouble at all. We’re friends, right?” “Sure we are,” I say and eat. “What’s your house like?” “I have an old house in Queen Anne, an old row house. It’s very nice. You’d like it.” “You mean like a gingerbread house?” He laughs. “Yeah.” “Do you live alone?” “Just me and the cat,” he says and winks at me. “There’s plenty of room.” “That’s very nice of you,” I say and crumple up the empty wrapper from the burger and search in the floorboard for the bag to put it in. “Here,” he says and takes the wrapper. It disappears somewhere in the back seat. “But I’d better get you dropped off. We should get going.” “You’re not coming to the house? The last ferry doesn’t run until ten,” I say. He shakes his head. “Not tonight. I have a little work to do early in the morning so I can’t stay tonight.” “Does my mother know you want to help me?“ “I didn’t mention it to her, no. It’s hard to know whether or not she would approve. You understand.”
But I do not understand. It is confusing to me. Part of me understands and the other part ignores it because I am so excited that someone would take an interest in me at all. He starts the car and hesitates. “You are so pretty. Do you know that?“ he asks me and pulls a lock of my long brown hair through his fingers. I pull back from him slightly, almost undetectably. “Thank you.” “You’re so unlike your mother.” “She can be very charming when she’s sober.” “I know that. I know your mother, remember? But she hasn’t been much of a mother to you, has she? You’ve been a latch key kid all these years, but there’s another life for you out there, somewhere. You’re so young and you can’t imagine the things that will happen to you. I know it’s hard to imagine at your age, but I promise you it’s true. Do you believe me when I say that?” I nod slightly. “But you don’t understand,” he says. He watches me a moment, thin pink lips, and he seems younger in this dim light. “You’ll grow up one day and fall in love, have children, problems of your own, and you’ll wonder whatever happened to old Frank. But you’ll never forget me.” I laugh at him. “Who could forget you, Frank?” But he is not laughing. He is too serious and he moves closer, takes me deeper into his shoulder. An alarm goes off somewhere in my head, in my body, and my breath stretches and holds, but I don’t get a moment to become frightened before he lifts my chin and his thin lips fall over mine. I might have been trembling, I don’t know, but his lips are like snakes in a basket and I haven’t the sense to close my eyes, so I see his light lashes up close. When his tongue slips into my mouth I make a faint noise, but he does not stop and I feel it slither beyond my teeth. He is cradling the back of my head,
“She can be very charming when she’s sober.”
tipping it back. The world fades away and the rain seems to pause, become still. He is pulling me closer, taking my head into both his hands, closer into an endless kiss that goes on forever. Then suddenly he pulls back. His eyes are moist and he is breathing heavy, but he says nothing. He straightens and grips the steering wheel as if he is strangling it. “Don’t be afraid,” he says. “I’m sorry if I frightened you. It was just a kiss, nothing else, no reason to be afraid. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. Are you okay?” I nod and wipe my lips with the back of my hand. “I’m okay.” “Maybe we shouldn’t tell your mother that happened. Maybe she wouldn’t understand.” “Do I still get to come to your house this weekend?” Frank’s eyes jerk back and forth. “No. Maybe next weekend, or I don’t know. Tell your mother something came up. Tell her I’ll call her, that I’m busy at work. Let’s get you home.” I shrink into the leather seat as he starts the car. “Okay.”
If anger exists within, get it out. Extract it like an abscessed tooth or relevant data. Use a crowbar if you must, or yank it out by hand as if it’s a weed – just make sure to pull out the roots. Stop anger from burrowing inside your dreams, percolating, polluting. If it’s massive, starve your anger until it shrivels to a manageable size. If it’s insolent and won’t vacate, react quickly. Don’t let anger hunker down and establish squatter’s rights. Evict it before it becomes you.
I could disappear from the earth, and the world would go on moving without the slightest twinge. —Haruki Murakami, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicles
ther night we was tryna score some shit cuz I been shaky like a motherfucker if I wait too long lately. Teebs been sayin he got some new guy and Jay ain’t been pickin up lately. Teebs think he probly doin a bid. He sayin that motherfucker got it comin cuz a what he did to Little Chuck. Me an Teebs figure, can’t hurt tryna new guy, cuz he been worse up than me lately and it’s been a minute since we chewed up them last dues. I tell Teebs he better be quick before his dialin fingers too jelly for the buttons, and besides I’m bout ta be sick so you best hurry yer ass up. Teebs gets off the phone and say we gotta ride the train uptown. This new guy some kinda business man, so we start tryna clean up a bit so we ain’t look like warmed up shit like normal. Teebs starts spittin down my hair and I tell him if I wanted his nasty mouth on me ida asked. He been tryna take care a me for a minute, but out here erry man an island an he know it. I say we gotta get goin cuz my guts is comin up. The train makin my jones heavy. All these Dicks and Janes starin make me itch like the jeebees got me again. I can feel they eyes like they touchin my skin. We get uptown an go to 33rd. Uptown make me feel like some kinda slug. Me an Teebs tryna make ourselves small as we can but errybody we pass on the street give a look like we monsters. We find Businessman’s slick-as-a-greasy-shit ride where he say he gon be. Teebs lately been takin care of business, so he go up to Businessman’s door. I always be thinkin he coulda been some kinda businessman if it had not been for the shit. My nerves always standin up on end right before we get the shit up until 41
we load the pipe. I look to see what’s goin on, and Teebs be thankin Businessman like he some kinda god or king or holy man. Teebs hustlin to where I standin in the shadows, him with the shitiest eatin grin. He sayin Businessman gave him a deal on some new fire. I ain’t givin a shit cuz it gettin hard for me to move without heavin. I say let’s hurry up an find a hole to fire up in. We go down an alley and sit behind a beat ass trashcan. Teebs load up the pipe an hand it to me. He tryna be sweet but I ain’t gon be the first ta try some new shit from his man. I tell him ladies first. He take a few puffs an errythin seem normal so I take the pipe from him. I put the lighter to the pipe and suck up fumes. The best medicine. I feel like nothin just the way I shoulda. Next thin I know Teebs askin where I been. I say I been right here with you dumb motherfucker. I been sittin right here with you with this goddamn pipe like always. He got scared and thought I left him. I tell him he know I ain’t got no one else better to kick it with. I take another hit. Better than medicine. I open my eyes and he got tears now, an I say whatchu cryin for? He says I was gone again like abracadabra poof an I’m gone and then back I came. I say it probly this new shit. He start puffin up like he gon do somethin an say he gon tell Businessman he better fix this shit. I tell him to shut his damn mouth an hit the pipe or leave me so I can take care of business. He still got tears on his cheeks an he get up an run off. I yell not ta come back less he got more shit, then I hear a slam and pop. I get real scared. I gotta hit the pipe again ta see what I think I’m gon see round the corner. The smoke make me feel like I’m gone. I open my eyes an get up ta see if Teebs ok. He layin in the road leakin errythin, big time. I can hear the pigs comin and Teebs tryna say somethin but I just grab Teebs’ phone, so I can call Businessman. I been kickin it with Denise lately, tryna not think about Teebs. She tell me I been disappearin more lately, but she don’t give a shit cuz the rock good. I been really startin to feel the nothin come on lately. Like when my momma threw cold water on me when I was a pup. I guess me an Teebs was tryna escape since day one. He got out and now I’m gettin out too. 42
To Be Blur Free
Sometimes I act like I fell off the planet. I wait and see who checks on me. Lights flicker, I’m too dizzy for all this. I need to focus, to be blur free. I’m working on painting destiny’s picture, but all I see are mouths dripping lecture. I hate the feeling of just existing. Existing hates the feeling of me. Sometimes I act as if I crashed down in a foreign land. I wait to feel comfort leave me. Lights burst. I’m too damn dizzy for this. I need to focus, to be blur free. I’m working on putting two images together— too many dimensions, I see illusions forever. I’m simply searching for direction, cuz I’m sinking in the deep end. I’m simply looking for passion, yet all I get is seduction. My fantasy, just enough to let the air in.
Night in the Life of an Eating Disorder
A goldfish blows bubbles in my stomach demands to be fed I bind the bedspread around me sweat try to forget the goldfish. Distract myself with Twitter headlines: “Humans Spend 6 Hours a Day on the Internet” which is probably true, today I asked Google: how to lose ten pounds, how to pick the right appetite suppressant where to buy a diuretic why don’t I have a menstrual cycle how to measure body fat at home what is my BMI, how can I make it lower how many calories are in a piece of bread are carbs essential nutrients which foods have zero calories how much coffee is ok to drink in a day what exercise is most effective can alcohol be diet friendly how much sugar in a strawberry does slim fast really work does a cup of popcorn count as a meal 45
if I run 12 miles do I need to replenish glycogen stores how can I ignore the hunger pains they feel like a side stitch. If I give the goldfish a little bit, will he ask for more? He always wants more than I know how to give.
Man with Organs
Ira Joel Haber
The Skin We Wear
’d spent the whole day on the couch with cold medicine and chinese food, ignoring the commercials as best as I could. I grabbed at the fat squash shapes under my arms and rolled into the seam of the couch every time some supermodel flashed her tiny ass in an attempt to sell sneakers or burgers or something equally irrelevant. I told myself I didn’t care but I knew that if I kept this up, by the end of the week those little squash shapes would just get deeper and purple-r. I didn’t even want to think about the divots around my stomach, the thick trenches that make my shirts fit funny. At least the television was better than being alone. I’d left the erasers my doctor prescribed in the bottom of my purse, along with the card with the doctor’s name on it. It’s not that I didn’t want it erased, that’s not it at all. It’s just that I didn’t think the pills would do a whole lot. Not really. Besides, I didn’t know who I was without the marks. I was only 12 that first time. When the black stuff started to stain me. Not like it had before, though. I mean of course I had the little freckles, little marks to remind me of things. I’d had those since I started school, and probably before then. School, at least, was when my mom started dressing me in tank tops, shorts, skirts, showing off these little dots and marks so that my teachers and other parents could see what a good job she was doing. There was the spot on my lip leftover from when I learned not to be rude, or too forceful with my opinions. It was faded now-- I’d never been very good at keeping my mouth shut, and never thought much about it until after the fact, anyway-- but it was definitely there.
I’d just started school, that first time. Seventh grade. Twelve years old. He was a doctor. The spots it left were only about three inches in width and smudged at the corners like a bleeding pen. I really didn’t have it as bad as some other girls I knew, and definitely not as bad as my mother. But his fingers and thumbs still left fat prints. I went home and took all of my clothing off, and climbed up onto the big stool in my mother’s bathroom. I sobbed as I looked at the stupid little marks. Pressed my own thumbs into them and yelled, mostly at myself, for being stupid enough to get them. Even then, I knew blotches like that didn’t fade overnight. An article in Seventeen said that they would fade to a whitish color as time went by, but Mom’s never had. The marks the doctor left on my skin weren’t all that bad, not compared to the other ones. Besides, the ones he left bled out under my shirt, he couldn’t even see them. He probably didn’t even know they were there. He couldn’t have known. My mother was a beautiful woman. She was marked from hairline to toe with swirls and lines, but did a lovely job of covering up the unsightly splotches. Sometimes she’d show my sister and I the swirls and tattoos she’d earned when she was our age, but she always knew how to tuck them away in her sleeve again when the stories went too far. She looked womanly, after my Dad and sister had gone to bed, staring at the computer screen, fingers slipped between her lips, eyes glued to an online game of solitaire. Her face strained as she looked at the cards, carefully moving stacks with the mouse. Her face looked the same way every morning, as she covered the marks on her face with thick makeup. I always told her she should draw over the ones she liked in pen, so that she could show them off. She’d always just smile and kiss my forehead before heading downstairs for coffee. I knew I didn’t want to be like my mother. I wanted to be one of those women who bear their marks proudly, who buzzed their hair and told the truth in ways only they could.
I knew blotches like that didn’t fade overnight
“Magazines are full of shit,” I’d spit. “Those bitches are covered head to toe, I swear to you, they just cover them up digitally, only leave the ones men like to see. Pigs make ‘em, and the people who read them are pigs, and our whole damn world is filled with pigs. You don’t listen to those damn magazines. You cover your skin with the things that matter. See this?” I’d pull up the leg of my skirt and point to the deep divot I got when I was eighteen, a purplish color, with geometric lines pulling at it from several angles. “This one was not fun to earn. But I’m glad I did. When shit hits you hard, you hit back. If you ever find a splotch like this one on yourself, I want you to earn these lines, the straight, woman-made ones. The ones that work to untangle all this shit. Because then no one can say you didn’t fight back”. I pulled up the flap on my bathrobe and looked at the mark. No lines. I turned back to the television and flipped the channel to something safe. Some crime show: I’d learned long before that nothing was safe. Before I could even begin to care about the new episode some girl was getting bent over a desk, screaming. I guess the writers thought it was necessary for the plot line. I guess I’m not a writer so who am I to say. They could at least take a magic marker or something, give her more than a little dot on her wrist, something to create and conceal and everything would be solved in 45 minutes, with three to five minute interludes of women strutting around in bikinis with gap teeth advertising the vulnerability of people like me, and how people like me made people unlike me want to revisit old ways, promising them that all would be possible so long as they bought Budweiser or some crap like that. I thought about how some people just needed to get hit by trains. I was aware of how hypocritical I was. Here I am laying here all body positive or some shit when I know all I’ll do later is
All I’ll do later is try to cover up those dark splotches...
try to cover up those dark splotches with thicker, woman-made lines. I’d just stick my head in the toilet and try to pretend that that was my issue, so people would pay attention to me in the ways I wanted them to. People would feel sorry for me. People would envy my ability to expel what we as humans needed. Fuck the organic marks. Fuck the things I can’t control. It’d happened to me three times. A doctor. Some guy in an ally. Some guy I knew. Three times I’d watched the flesh on my body crawl into perverted shapes, into shapes I’d never wanted to be in. None of my own body did what I wanted it to. Three times I blamed myself. That’s a lie. I blame myself every day. For every inch. Men don’t do that to girls who look like me. So it must have been my fault. Sometimes I’d just sit and look at the other marks. Little things that happened in my life. The trip to Mexico that took up so much of my arm, and no one expected it or knew why. The faint crease between my eyes from the first time someone in elementary school told me I should wear a bra. The little dappled marks of ideas that surrounded my face in an innocent little halo. Everyone had marks like these. Everyone, any time something significant in their life happened, had a mark for it. And we could, at least partially, understand what these marks meant. They’re what made us human. But the deep, organic splotches, the marks of fear and anger and humiliation, they didn’t feel human to me. I didn’t understand why I had to have them. I rolled over and stared into the flashing television lights. I’d just focus on that. I could spend nearly an entire day focusing on that. Like some sort of upper. Over the counter downers before bed. That stuff wasn’t my problem. It’s funny that the only words I can use to describe what happened to me are usually used in an appealing way. Bent me over. Breathed in my ear. Held me down. On top. Underneath. Inside.
Men don’t do that to girls who look like me
The police report probably sounded like some fetish porno. Like some scorned girlfriend trying to get a cut of her lover’s reputation. I guess that’s why the officer looked at me like that. He probably thought about it that night with his wife. The TV show was still playing in the background. The woman looked so meek, so fragile sitting in the thickly decorated police chief ’s office. “We take these things very seriously, Miss” the officer stated, as he stood to leave. Turning back near the door, he said, now in his civilian voice, “if there’s anything I can do, anything at all…”. She patted under her eye with a tissue, and whimpered faintly. “I just want to know that he can’t hurt me again”. I wasn’t that nice to the officer. And the room was metal with a place to clip handcuffs under the table. And I was pissed as fuck and didn’t want to see his serious mug. And I still remember the acne scars left on his face, under his eyes, from when he was the same age as the man who did it to me. And I went home and smoked a blunt naked in front of the mirror, watching the black splotch bleed over my hips and pelvis. There was no sexy hip bone there, not like the girl in the TV show. I wasn’t meek like the girl in the TV show. Fuck the girl in the TV show.
It’s a good thing my aesthetic is messy and you can’t tell what I did last night by my mascara, flaked and clumped, and my hair, kinked— unwashed. Tired and sad, sexy and underfed, you wish you could wear the night before like I do… or don’t, if you consider my panties, crumpled, pungent in my pocket.
The Chola and Her Poncho
Midnight in Tahiti
he cry came, as it usually did, just before midnight. A thin, raggedy wail which could only mean his son had woken from another nightmare. Stephen was just beginning to drift, when the sound shot down the hallway of the darkened house to pierce his eardrums. With a sigh, Stephen got up. The child psychologist at the hospital had warned him about the possibility of nightmares. A child losing their mother so young–Matty was only five and a half–could produce a variety of reactions, the doctor said. Nightmares, acting out, depression, were all to be expected. Stephen shuffled down the hall to his son’s room, stopping himself at the open door to lean against the frame. He thought that by now he must have worn spots in the wood where his left shoulder and head so often rubbed the frame, but he never remembered to check in the mornings. He left the lights off. He found in the two months since Katie’s death, and the resulting nightmares started, that if he left the room dark, Matty was more inclined to go back to sleep quickly. His son was in the center of the bed, sheet and blankets wrinkled and squashed all around him, hugging his knees, with face and arms pressed into the fitted sheet, looking for all the world like some kind of absurd turtle. Upon hearing the halt of footsteps, Matty turned his head a fraction to the right, so he could peer up at his Father. The darkness changed his son’s slightly-too-large, hazel eyes to black, and Stephen could see the ash gray, full moon nightlight reflected across their watery surfaces. “You know they’re–”
“I know. Bad dreams. Not real stuff,” his son finished his lines for him. “Ok, so you have the power to make them go away. You’ve just gotta imagine the Bad Dream Trashcan we talked about with Dr. Downey, and throw them away.” It was the same monologue he had given, at least once per week, for the past two months. If Katie was alive, he knew she would have found a better way to deal with this. But the doctor’s advice was the only life raft he had, adrift in this ocean of grief they were both on. He clung to it, a desperate castaway. His son stared silently at the plastic moon for a moment, before nodding into the bed. “So, we’re gonna throw away the bad dream, and dream about something else.” Stephen racked his brain. He always tried to name a new, pleasant thing for his son to dream about. Things Matty loved. Dinosaurs, or painting, or the animals at the zoo, or going to the park. He found one. “How about ice cream, huh? Do you remember the tasting room...” Stephen’s voice petered out on the last few syllables, like an old car running out of gas. Of course Matty would remember the tasting room at the ice cream factory. Katie organized his whole fifth birthday around a Willy Wonka theme, and the tasting room tour was her big surprise. Matty got to have a small spoonful of each and every flavor he wanted, then vomited in spectacular technicolor across the backseat of the Volvo on the way home. “Daddy?” His son whispered now, talking more to the moon on his wall than to Stephen, “Can I tell you my dream?” Dr. Downey had said not to talk about the dreams right away. He said nightmares were often worse if the child tried to recall them, and it was better to just “throw them away” so the child could get back to sleep. Usually, they were forgotten by the time morning came. If not, they could still be talked about
...then vomited in
when the child was less agitated. Matty had never offered to share before. Stephen lifted his bare foot, stretching until his big toe breached the door’s inner perimeter. He could do it. He just had to walk in, and listen. Then he thought about mentioning the ice cream trip, and his foot retreated to stand next to its partner, just outside the door. The silence pounded between them. Stephen’s stomach seemed to have fled back to his own room. The hallway felt colder and the wood of the door frame had turned to concrete under his shoulder. “I dunno, it’s kind of late. Shouldn’t we go back to sleep? You’ve got school tomorrow, and Daddy’s got work.” Even to his own ears, Stephen’s voice sounded like a man facing the gallows. The two pools winked out of existence, as his son tucked his head back into his knees. “Ok,” Matty barely mumbled. “You have good dreams for the rest of the night, ok? I love you.” Stephen turned to trek back to his own room without waiting to hear if his son repeated the last three words back. He thought maybe his son wouldn’t. He wasn’t sure he deserved to hear them. He was with Katie for eleven years. All it took was a tear in her bowel, an infection, and a single weekend spent at the ICU of the hospital, to obliterate any future they might have together. Entering his own room, he stopped at the end of the bed. To the left, his side was rumpled. To the right, hers was a still-life portrait of someone else’s bedside. After she died, his sisters boxed up everything of Katie’s, then moved the boxes to the shelves in the garage so he could sort through it all at some better time. Gone was the necklace she wore every day, with the peridot pendent. Gone were her books, and the water bottle with folded napkin coaster, which perched on her nightstand always a little too precariously
across the backseat...
for Stephen’s liking. He’d tried to persuade her for several years to let them get a king-sized bed, but Katie was adamant they stick to queen. He wanted the extra room to expand, to stick his always-too-warm feet out from under the blanket. She said she never wanted to sleep so far away from him. So they kept the queen, and he kept to his side of the bed. He heard the toilet flush. Shit. He forgot to listen for the soft patter of his son’s feet on the hardwood floor as he went to the bathroom between their rooms. Matty recently started flushing his favorite plastic dinosaur down the toilet after a nightmare. It could never go too far, but would inevitably get stuck, leaving Matty to bawl, wanting it back almost as soon as it was out of sight. Stephen ran back down the hall, screeching to a stop at the bathroom door before plunging in and flicking on the light. Matty froze in the sudden glare, the blue and purple dinosaur dangling by its neck over the vortex below. “Matthew Bruce!” Matty clutched the toy to his chest, and leapt down off the little painted wooden step stool at the front of the toilet. “Matthew, why were you holding Diney above the toilet?” “I had to go. And then Diney had to go, too.” “Diney doesn’t go to the bathroom, only people do. Were you going to flush Diney?” Matty avoided his gaze, but his tiny cheeks turned redder. “No.” Hearing his son’s lie, Stephen felt hot anger smashing through his body like a tidal wave. His fingernails pressed halfmoons into cold palms. He wanted to scream his son back to bed. Why was Matty making this harder? “Why do you want to flush Diney? I thought you liked him,” Stephen demanded. “He makes me feel bad. Like my dreams.” Tears dribbled from the sides of Matty’s chin, onto his train jammies, joining the others that had already fallen, to form two growing wet patches. He stared hard at the dinosaur, now held in front of him with both hands, running a finger along the ridge of spines on its back. A wheezy, snotty gasp came from his son, instantly transporting Stephen back to those colic-y, sleepless nights
just after Matty was born. It always fell to Stephen to stay up, clutching his helpless newborn to his chest as Matty cried for hours. Stephen closed the toilet lid and sat down on top, feeling less like a king on a throne, and more like a sinner, in need of absolution. The dripping faucet pinged loudly. Stephen filled his lungs with air, just like he’d done as a kid, before trying to reach the bottom of the deep end of the pool. “Will you tell me about your bad dreams?” His son peeked at him from under his bangs. Katie cut them just before she died, and Stephen hadn’t found the time to take Matty to get them cut again. He realized how ridiculous his son must look, to everyone else, with too-long hair. He met his son’s eyes and tried to make his face look encouraging. Katie would have known how to look to make Matty tell his secrets. “I don’t have bad dreams. I have good dreams. About Mommy. But then I wake up, and Mommy’s gone. And I feel sad.” Stephen reached out, wanting to hug and cradle his son, but couldn’t remember the last time he hugged his son as more than just a reflex. His arms dropped, palms slapping loudly on the tops of his thighs. Rocking backward, he felt the frigid touch of the porcelain tank behind him, and leaned forward again. “Ok, well, that’s an ok thing to feel, you know. To miss Mommy. I miss her too,” Stephen could feel his eyes filling with hot wetness. Now his shirt had wet spots to match his son’s. “But why do you want to flush Diney?” “I got him with Mommy. When we went to see the dinos. He makes me sad too, sometimes. So I flush him.” Stephen tried to breathe deep again, but his lungs seemed unable or unwilling to expand. Whatever he said would probably screw up his son’s pysche. His eyes scrambled around
...the smell was probably more akin to “WornOut Tahitian Grandmother.”
the bathroom. He needed something to cling to. They came to rest on a bag of bath beads sitting on the side of the tub. His sisters must have missed it when they packed everything up. Did they think they were his? He hated those beads. Though the scent was called something ridiculous like “Midnight in Tahiti,” he felt the smell was probably more akin to “Worn-Out Tahitian Grandmother.” He jokingly told Katie as much–on multiple occasions–but she kept them around, even so. She had just gotten a new Costco-size bag of them the day before she went to the hospital. “Sometimes I feel sad too. But you can’t keep flushing Diney. You love him, and you loved your Mom, and if you flush everything you shared with her down the toilet, you might be even more sad. How about, from now on, if you feel sad, you can flush one of these?” He grabbed the bag of bath beads, and held them out for his son to see, “But only one at a time, ok? And only if you’ve tried some of the other things Dr. Downey said to try first.” “Can I flush one now?” Matty sniffled, hopefully, it seemed to Stephen. “I think we should both flush one.” Stephen ripped off the perforated strip, and cracked open the freshness zipper. “Worn Out Tahitian Grandmother” charged out of the bag and into his nose. He plucked two of the little indigo pearls out, and put one in each of their hands. He stood up, lifted the toilet lid, and moved to the side so Matty could stand on the step stool next to him. “Ok, close your eyes and force all of the bad feelings into the bath bead.” His son dutifully shut his eyes and scrunched his face in concentration. Snapping his own eyes shut, Stephen wondered what Dr. Downey would say about this. It probably wasn’t how Katie would fix the issue, but at least it was something. “Drop ‘em.” The two spheres plunked into the water, sinking to rest at the bottom. “Now flush!” Their eyes met as his son double checked that he was allowed, before using the dinosaur to help push the silver lever
down. The two watched the pearls dance and twirl around the bowl before zipping out of sight forever. Stephen let out a long breath, and saw the side of his son’s mouth quirk up a tiny bit. He walked Matty back to bed, stopping at the doorway for a moment, before diving into the room. He sat on the edge of the bed while Matty drifted off, smoothing his son’s too-long, dark brown hair. It curled around his ear, just like Katie’s had. When at last his breathing had slowed, and he began to let out pint-sized snores, Stephen went back to his own room. The cool pillow under his cheek felt nice after the hot tears. He thought he would call Dr. Downey tomorrow and set something up for Matty. Maybe weekly appointments. He should probably set something up for himself, too. The bath bead flushing was only a temporary measure. Eventually they’d run out of “Midnight in Tahiti”. As he began to feel sleep fold its arms around him once again, he reached out his big toe, hunting along the bed until he found the opposite edge. He popped his foot out from under the blanket, and drifted off.
Cheryl L. Pin
Who’d have thought you could contain a lifetime in this tattered old shoebox? Yellow photographs curled at the corners, a dried carnation as faded as the photos, a summer in Europe, eternity in ‘Nam, raw letters of longing from overseas, an odd brass button, tiny baby teeth, prayer cards for friends and family, marriage license, discharge papers, loving acts, moments of greatness and folly, chasms of judgment, omissions, clues that I missed and clues that lead nowhere, selfishness, stubbornness, acts of deceit and betrayal, a divorce decree, turmoil, regrets, loneliness, yet enough space left over for tomorrow’s joy and sorrow—a box tattered as its shoes, tattered as my life, tied up with twine, always the same, always changing.
What I Really Want to Say
What I Really Want to Say to the Question, “So, How Did You Two Meet?” So there I am, speech slurring, wishing my glasses weren’t so damn dirty, trying to remember if his middle name is Anthony or Andrew. Then we’re fumbling on top of his Star Wars sheets, he blaming muscle relaxers, me drooling on an uncased pillow. So the sun pours in, and he takes me to Tom’s, and I don’t run out because my car isn’t there, and he’s intriguing and I can’t figure out why I’m breathing to begin with. 64
So by next week I’m still there, Boise house hostel, pink bag on his floor, and he shows me a ship in a storm holding a sweet sour and with pods bursting petals peeling eyes wild he tells me. So we get a Uhaul and he totals it by hitting a parked Nissan, but we get my shit moved and it turns out I snore and he’s an introvert, and I cry too often and he never wants to get married and I’m needy and one of his armpits smells like basil and he hates when I throw my phone and I hate when he says, “No, it’s fine” (when it clearly fucking isn’t) And now we’re choosing to love despite all of the shit that should have stopped us before but didn’t. And it’s so easy.
Advice for a
Never mind the dialogue whizzing by, the thrall of a relentless plot, the heroes and villains insisting themselves into your otherwise unassuming life. Continue being merely what protagonists need: that quixotic neighbor perpetually pruning roses, a wisecracking bartender with sage advice, the doorman who happens to recall a key detail. Try not to stand out. Speak only when required, and never with an abundance of charisma. Avoid looking directly into the camera. Blending in is a lost art you must master. Your contribution: the modest performance of a background player that will be forgotten, ignored, or overshadowed. Toss pride to the wind. Be who the script says you are, and nothing more.
Past and Present
On Holding Hands and People
hen I was younger I spent a great deal of my time in cemeteries, placing flowers on graves of people I had never known. The wrinkled leather seats of my Papa’s old Chrysler van, the crinkle of pastel bouquets across my Nana’s lap, these were all memories of our trips to the cemetery. The graves we would visit were on the outskirts of the property, closest to the busy road you turned on to enter. A chain link fence was the only thing separating us from the road, and because of this there wasn’t much silence to mourn. Still my Nana managed to find her quiet—enough quiet to scrub the gravestones with a wet cloth, place the flowers and whisper to the pictures. Many of the graves were humble square slabs laid flat in the ground. The location to the road meant that these graves were the least cared for: weeds grew over the faces of most of them. I guess that’s why my Nana took so much time to care for them, even though I had never known them personally, these were the graves of her family. As I grew up it didn’t take me long to realize that two things made my Nana happy: cleaning things and feeding people. What took me longer to realize was that these were more than pastimes, these were survival methods. In the summer, I remember being small, sitting on the rug in the living room as she buzzed around the house. “Ay, mira,” she would groan, pointing up to the crooks and the crevices. She would bat the
telarañas from the corners of the ceiling, cobwebs left long ago. I would watch as she scrubbed picture frames of her brothers and sisters, with the same care as when she tended to their graves. I watched as our matriarch maintained her home, her family and her language. Her parents had immigrated to San Francisco from Spain in the 1910’s. They had done so after working on a sugar cane plantation in Hawaii for two years, to save up money to go to the U.S. Growing up, my Nana worked in factories, canneries, and fields. The poverty she had grown up around had caused her to see many people grow sick and die. It was because of this that she was so quick to feed others. In hopes that if she put enough of herself inside them, maybe they would grow, maybe they would live, maybe they would stay. In a similar vein, her frenzied cleaning was a way to preserve people, whether in graves or photographs. Her quiet desperation fueled by enormous servings of food, placed before anyone sitting at her table, in hopes they would forever remain flesh, never to be encased in picture frames. Each plate, each wipe of the counter, a prayer that she would never have to buy more flowers. My parents decided it best I not speak Spanish, and they made this clear to my Nana whenever she spoke to me in her native tongue. They didn’t want me to struggle with learning English when I went to kindergarten. They had good intentions, but I came to see how this hurt my Nana. Still, she would sneak me little bits of her language whenever she could, the same way she would hand me candy whenever my parents weren’t around. The kitchen seemed to be where I learned most, peeking up over the counter top, I listened. She was never heavy handed with her teaching, there were never any translations, you simply just had
My Nana taught me how to hold a family together with ingredients. 69
to listen. Milk in her kitchen was never milk, it was leche. Butter was not butter, but mantequilla. Culo was the end of the loaf of bread, and also where she would hit me if I acted up. My Nana taught me how to hold a family together with ingredients. She would chop up garlic, onion, chiles and tomato for sofrito. Sofrito is a base in Spanish cooking, something made solely to raise everything else, everyone else. My Nana would tell me about working long hours in the Ghirardelli chocolate factory. She never complained, but I knew that was why she was left with two artificial hips. To carry a family on fragile limbs is a strength I will never know. I want to reach out, tell her she is more than cooking and cleaning, more than la domestica. That she does not need to survive anymore, that she can live. That there are others who will cook and clean, that I will cook and clean. I want to let her know that she is important, not because of all that she has done for others, but simply because she is herself. She is warm blankets that never run out, old telephone calls while the wire wraps around your finger. My Nana is a fireplace, her love is tactile, it can be felt when the leaves fall and the wind kisses your cheek. She is the endless skyline that lives in the rear window of our cars. Lately I’ve been thinking about her hands, the way they could hold a wooden spoon, a feather duster, themselves. The way my Nana’s hands dance an all but forgotten rhythm on top of gravestones and picture frames. Enough might to hold a home, long after the pillars have fallen. Enough wisdom to know when to let go. I take hold of these hands when we go for walks, not to steady her, but to grasp her spirit. We have traveled through shopping malls, neighborhood sidewalks, parks and always, the end is the same. She turns to me, places her palms on either side of my face and tells me, “Cuidate.” In translation it means “take care of yourself;” in her native tongue it means more than letters or words could ever express. I know she intends for me to take care, but I can’t help but wonder if it means something else. If when she says “cuidate” she is telling me to remember her and it is then that I understand the word. It means, when I am gone, sweep the telarañas away, take flowers between your fingertips and lay them beside me in the grass, siempre, forever.
Will You Stay? Kynna Lovin
Will you stay young? I want you with a firm ass and a perky breast, or two. Keep a secret bottle of Clairol dye #611 under your side of the sink. I don’t want to see it, or see you without it. Be always on the cusp of dewyeyed with love for me. Your skin glowing, and I’ll be growing fonder of you with each passing year. Never my ol’ lady, ever my young filly broken by these hands alone. If I go to seed, or ignore your needs, please do continue to pluck that errant chin hair which pokes me when we kiss. 72
Contributorsâ€™ Notes Theodore Ashford is a current student at PCC, who
later plans on transferring to PSU. He has been writing for approximately nine years, and also leads the organization of the local National Novel Writing Month event every November.
Amelia Bellows is a PCC student. Jon Bordas: In January of 2015, at age 29, I decided to
return to school to study art. During my first term at PCC, I took a printmaking course and immediately fell in love with the process.... My artwork gives me a voice in a world where it seems increasingly difficult to be heard.
John F. Buckley has been writing poetry since March
2009, when his attempt at composing a self-help book went somewhat awry. After a twenty-year stint on and near the West Coast, he now lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan with his wife. His publications include various poems, two chapbooks, the collection Sky Sandwiches, and with Martin Ott, Poetsâ€™ Guide to America and Yankee Broadcast Network. His website is johnfbuckley.net
Carrie Cervantes is a second year graphic design student with a love of typography and dinosaurs.
Matthew Cross has been drawing seriously for the past two years in the hopes of becoming an animator.
Anie Day lives in Portland with her wife and cat. As a
student in the Graphic Design program at PCC, she spends 74
most of her time doing design homework while listening to radio shows about space science. I, Jacob Farnsworth, swear to write! I’m currently working on a writing transfer and only terms away. I’ve been writing for a good while now and enjoy all different types of fiction. My dream is to one day write an epic that can hold up against Steven King’s “The Stand” or even some Philip K. Dick.
Finn Graves, born in 1985, is a freelance illustrator
writing and painting in a tall blue nest on the earthquake corner of the Pacific Northwest. Her work is inspired by made up stories, Pacific Northwest nature and old Greek mythology. She delights in symbolic, whimsical storytelling. She faults her mother for this because of the freedom she experienced in childhood. She was left alone to wander the woods with creatures and her little brother, art supplies clutched in tiny, grubby hands.
Ira Joel Haber was born and lives in Brooklyn. He is
a sculptor, painter, writer, book dealer, photographer and teacher. His work has been seen in numerous group shows both in the USA and Europe and he has had 9 one-man shows, including several retrospectives of his sculpture.
Matthew Hachisu is a PCC student, currently living in Japan.
Chloe Hage: I have been writing poetry nearly all my life, although only writing seriously for a year or so. I am a full
time student and crepe-maker, living in downtown Portland.
SG Hamlin: I was born in Portlandia and appreciate the
less formal life we lead here. I enjoy walking through the city and parks and love to stop and take pictures everywhere I go.
Jessica Harvey is a PCC student and graphic designer. Her work can be found at: www.jessicaharveydesigns.com
Nick Hennessy doesnâ€™t wanna. Missi Jarrar grew up in Southern Oregon. She has lived in Las Vegas, Seattle, and San Francisco. Currently she lives in Portland, Oregon where she is a student at PCC.
Ryan Jones is a writer and student living in Oakland,
California. He has been writing his whole life, but only recently discovered creative nonfiction and loved the opportunities the genre provided. He will be attending Saint Maryâ€™s MFA program in the fall.
Micah KJ is a PCC student. Sandra Lajoy: As a retired social worker I am returning to
classes to increase my knowledge of water color. I had used art as a way of helping children communicate during my years of practice.
Katherine Ljungqvist: I am a born and raised Oregonian, and have lived most of my life in and around the charming town of Gaston. I spend my time away from school playing piano, running around with my dogs, bartending, and horseback riding. This spring I will finish my Associates of 76
Arts degree at PCC and will continue with my education at Western Oregon University in the fall of 2016, where I will pursue a degree in creative writing and music.
Kynna Lovin has been writing short stories since she
was six, but only recently began writing poetry. Currently a student at PCC, Kynna hopes to transfer to a four-year university to pursue a bachelor’s in English or Creative Writing. This is her first time being published, but it won’t be her last.
Sarah McMahon is currently pursuing her M.A. in
English from Bradley University in Peoria Illinois. She also runs Cross Country and Track & Field for Bradley while working as a writing tutor and co-editing Bradley’s literary journal Broadside. Her work has been previously published in If and Only If, Barking Sycamores, and TheThe Poetry Blog.
Amanda Mielock lives on the East Coast and survives on
coffee and instant ramen. She spends her days on Tumblr and her nights playing World of Warcraft. She left her heart in London in September, 2015.
Cheryl L. Pin has returned to the studio after a business
career in construction and architectural design. In this first adventure into woodcut I have found creative adventure and re-established playtime. More to come next term as I continue to explore this medium at PCC.
Adrian S. Potter writes poetry and short fiction. He is the
author of the fiction chapbook Survival Notes (Červená Barva Press, 2008) and winner of the 2010 Southern Illinois Writers Guild Poetry Contest. Some publication credits include North American Review, Clare, Obsidian and Kansas City 77
Voices. He blogs, sometimes, at http://adrianspotter.com/.
Lorenzo Rodriguez lives with his infant son and wifeish
person. The ideal day for Lorenzo would consist of reading, listening to loud live music, exploring nature with his family and laughing over good food.
Lindsay Scanlan: I’m an animation student who finds
the beauty in the weirder things, and finds inspiration from the dwellers of my own backyard, and children’s books of the early and middle 20th century.
Michelle Schrom: ...in the 2nd grade I submitted a
poem about the impact of a smile to the local newspaper in my run-down town of Rockford, IL. I was published; everyone thought it was just the cutest thing in the world, so I submitted another and another until the 3rd grade when my poems got much more real…
Naomi Summa likes to play. Monica Vallejos: I was born in Lima, Peru. I love to paint
about my birth country because it makes me feel connected to it. Being of Peruvian ancestry makes me feel proud of my heritage which I reflect in the palette of colors in my paintings. Painting not only allows me to express my ideas and emotions but also culture, folklore, customs, and history.
John Vanek is a physician and poet with works published
in numerous literary journals in four countries and showcased on public radio. He has been invited to read his poetry at the George Bush Presidential Library, the Akron Art Museum, Eckerd College, and the Cleveland Clinic. His book, Heart Murmurs: Poems, is available online. 78
Colophon We here at Alchemy thank you for reading our publication. We have suffered our way through learning Indesign, clawed through the stacks of submissions, and battled to defend our point of views—all to present you these strange new worlds. To enhance your travels through them, we started with Adobe Garamond Pro 12pt., the typeface first created in the sixteenth century by famed French printer Claude Garamond. This font’s classic, historical clarity serves as solid ground for the skies above. We have offered portals into other worlds of art and photography; DIN Condensed 15pt., the sans serif first used in 1905 in Prussian railways, title these portals. Abadi MT Condensed Light 10pt., which holds a strong place between Gil Sans and Helvetica, brings you the artists’ names. Charlemagne STD 50pt. (first created to resemble Roman engravings by Carol Twombly in 1989) titles the writing, and acts as the mother ship on this journey. Our intrepid authors’ names are presented in a German script called Zapfino 12pt. With these choices of fonts and layout we hope to extend the metaphor of the front cover, sending you on your own journey through the galaxy.