PoemsPeak Literary E-zine
Poetry Winner…..pg. 12 Falling for François….pg. 15 Interview with Isaac Witter….pg.43
Created by: Marie Sims
Table of Contents Mission statement………………………………………………… 1 Poetry……………………………………………………………... 3 Poetry Winner ……………………………………………………12 Short stories……………………………………………………… 15 Falling for Francois……………………………………………… 16 Personal Experiences……………………………………………..39 The interview with Isaac Witter…………………………………. 43
PoemsPeak Mission Statement PoemsPeak Literary E-zine was developed to help others advance their writing careers. It believes in shedding light to individuals who are living their dreams or doing amazing things. It gives people an insight into true talent, of writing and artwork. This e-zine helps others to take a step outside themselves so they can face their fears and conquer their dreams.
Poetry No Regrets
I took a turn for the worst but I can turn back, I'm only eighteen. Thought I was doomed at first, but I've grown strong from all of the things that I've seen I wouldn't turn back if I had the choice. I've played the Russian roulette How Exciting! -I almost died. Never again will I play I played with fire, could have been fried. But you won't hear regret in my voice. After years of tears And days of craze eternity of pain As bad as it appears As hard as it was I can't complain. Because I don't know how, But I bid bitterness goodbye. And for all of the battles I've won I'm now my own ally.
And for all of the Hard work I've done, I got where I am now. By Nicole Hakimi.
Memories of beloveds, now gilded In the cool, evening sunshine of my mind, Decay in dead silence, ivy strangled, Covered in the soft, green mosses of time, While I, a tourist, wander the cold streets, Watching shadows lengthen, enfolded in black sheets And study for clues these ruined sculptures of mine. -Daniel Adler
My love Is as full As an ocean Overflowing Wanting you Craving you Starving For your love Digging you Missing you Needing you Loving you All of the above 4
Melted kisses Evaporate But burns Loving arms Hold me near But disappear But lingers on Loving you Is ongoing Growing Ever stronger Sometimes Feeling I cannot Hold out any Longer I recount Mesmerizing Hallelujah shouting Skin tingling Lovemaking Itâ€™s you Baby only you â€“ and you make my world go round
by: Patricia Witter
Did you know that the city only exists in the eye of the projector. Its film is becoming far too thin and ready crumble and the streets are sold? The projectionist is on the way out. He found an eviction notice on his door this morning.
The beauty queen of glamour magazine 1983 now lives under the scaffolding of 91st street beneath the thumb of AIDS. But the tides of good fortune could not carry her away far enough from the streets and sidewalks and rooming houses which are exposed when those pools of fame run dry. Now she wears the face of disease which came on
like beauties final curse. Here ruin presses against the skin leaving its mark like a finger print on still glass.
Under the watch millionaires row Of 86 Street The Dexter House does not sit quietly. Its children Know only night waking at 4 in the afternoon to walk as silent shadows who pass by on Riverside Drive. to sustain the winds off the Hudson river which beats against their sides as an invisible friend. Most live with winter in their hearts as the disgrace of landlords running unchecked grow as a decaying threat. While others
Perform at Penny Arcadeâ€™s. All have given up looking for something to keep clean in cleansing fire.
Witnesses to the crimes of iron jawed landlords pass by with deep seeded contempt or fish eyed indifference then vanish from memory as they reach the end of the set.
A Song for the Ages When your fortunes are all spent and you sit in a Westside diner over a cup of coffee Waiting for nothing Because there is nothing left to expect But those dreams you once thought tamed now bare their teeth and turn back on you.
Your boss tightened the screws on you
The only thing that waits At the front door are eviction notices as you wash out onto the street on the aborted tide.
Dry dreams are the other side Of marriage the side of the razor Which never cuts The last safe house Before Potterâ€™s Field and where even the greediest of landlords are lift at the door and where we call home. There is only so many times That we can make love to those wasted hours Where self ruin Is an art form Sleep comes too late in its nocturnal womb 9
but Still acts as An anchor Which drags us down Into the ocean below New York is a dead museum. Matthew Abuelo Sleep When I lay down I think of you The breathing pattern of your body The softness of your fingertip The way â€œI hate you
By: Carmen Tanseco
But yet I still want you I have you to myself in my dreams It is the reality that I canâ€™t see You are a vision of Love Brought to light How I wish it was always night I remember you holding me Telling me how my body is so pretty But now I hold on to memories When I glance back at your picture and see those pretty white teeth I wish I was in front of you letting you lend in to kiss me
As I place my hand on your shoulder and remember what it was like to undress you I think to myself it is over and will I ever have something like you I still LOVE you or what you represent! Christina Jeter
Art work BY: Carmen Tanseco
Poetry Winner Magic When life seems the worst
There is always someone living in more fear Like the victims of hurricane Katrina Or the disaster in Haiti this past year We stress about a bad hair cut or the size of our legs While people struggle without limbs, or hair on their heads There are diseases and sickness, incurable cancer To all these monstrosities there is yet to be an answer People die every day from hunger or heat There are kids who have never sat down to dinner, or had shoes on their feet So how are we so ungrateful, we can’t begin to understand? We freak if we chip a nail, or lose our summer tan What about the families who have no place to call home Or our elders who have seen everyone pass and are left alone We don’t take into account the lives of passerby’s You can’t tell what someone’s been through by just looking in their eyes So before we judge a person based on their stature or stance Be unlike the rest of society and give them a chance We could donate some dollars or give up some time But you might say your days are more valuable than mine So what puts us on a pedal stool higher than the rest? Nothing, at all. We’ve just been blessed
In this glorified world, people steal, people lie, and people stoop so low and cheat Cause the one thing were scared of, is facing defeat We always want to be the best floating at the top But what when all the superficial things come to a stop When the smiles are cleared and we face something tragic Think of the rest of the world, make a change, and perform magic. By: Speechless
Photographs By: Beata Zakrzewska
Photograph By: Beata Zakrzewska Story Time
Falling For François By: Lisa Bernier
Victoria fell in love with her best friend’s fiancée on the twenty-first of November at three o’clock in the morning.
and then she awoke…. By: Carmen Tanseco
She woke, heart pounding, sweat clinging to every inch of her skin, jolted upright, thrashing at the covers until they were completely off her bed. She shook her head, attempting to clear it and rid herself of the awful feeling that had stormed out of her subconscious to bowl down her superego. She leaped out of bed, turned on her lamp, and began to pace. She placed in a circle repeatedly, ignoring the periodic banging on her floor (her downstairs neighbor was displeased) and continued to do so until the alarm went off three hours later. Then, Victoria stopped, showered, grabbed breakfast, caught the subway, and rode it for forty minutes downtown to the office where she worked.
“Victoria,” said Mr. Meltzer, “Victoria.” Victoria stopped typing the office memo. “Yes, Mr. Meltzer?” she said, smiling up at him.
He blushed and pulled at his collar. “Do you ah, have ah…. that, um…. the report that…you know, the thing that talks about the thing that we thought had we had on the other thing.” “Of course.” Victoria pulled the file out from the bottom drawer of her desk. She handed the document to him. It was hole-punched in three places and arranged in a black plastic binder. Mr. Meltzer blushed. “Thanks, Victoria,” he mumbled and shuffled off. “My pleasure, Mr. Meltzer,” Victoria said, resuming her typing. Mr. Meltzer stumbled. “Damn rug,” he muttered and scurried off to conference room A, hoping Victoria hadn’t seen. She hadn’t. “Victoria.” Randall, the Junior Vice President of Marketing, sidled up shyly to her desk. “Hi, Randall. How are you?” “Fine…” He pushed at a pencil in her cup holder. “Your pencil is cool.” “Thank you, Randall.” “Do you need more?” “No, I’m all right.” “Because I really have a lot of pencils really, and it’s no trouble, I mean…it’s no trouble.” Victoria threw him a quick smile. “Thanks, Randall, but I’m all set.” “Okay.” Randall stuck his hands in his pockets. “Well, if you need any pencils, you can come to my office on the third floor. Room number three-oh-two.” “Fantastic. Thanks, Randall.” Randall broke into a toothy grin. “You’re welcome,” he said and sidled off, turning once to watch her type, before taking the elevator to the floor above. A flash of red momentarily distracted Victoria. She paused, hands poised over her keyboard. “Artie,” she said, smiling. “Thank you.”
Artie nodded. “It’s hard being new,” he said. “Yes,” said Victoria, “it is.” “And it’s only part-time,” he explained. “I know,” said Victoria. “I know.” “The things people throw away,” he added. Then stopped. “Not that that’s—” “Didn’t even cross my mind,” said Victoria. “It’s beautiful.” A smiled bloomed from his mouth. It was, Victoria thought, the one redeeming feature in a largely unredeeming face. “Gotta go mop up the men’s room,” he said and left, pushing his cleaning cart before him. The mop rattled in the empty yellow bucket, banging into the bottles of cleaning spray hanging off the bucket’s side. Victoria picked up the little red carnation. The stem was clipped about five inches down from the head. She pinned it up on the bulletin board behind her desk, next to the office calendar. Going home that evening, Victoria felt cheerful. Emerging from the subway station, the world took on a lovely glow, and, as she walked home, heels hitting the sidewalk with lively clicks, she knew her equanimity to be restored. Work, she thought, was the cure for almost everything, and routine the remedy for all else. She entered her building with a quick twist of her key and bounded up the two flights of stairs to her apartment. Today was Thursday. “Chicken and peas and roasted potatoes!” she said to the print of Botticelli angels in her entrance hall. Entering her room, she took off her coat, scarf, and gloves. The first went on a hanger in her closet. The second, she draped on a hook behind the closet door. The third was placed in the second drawer of the dresser that stood next to the window on the room’s east wall. Victoria took the soft bristled hairbrush that lay on her vanity table and ran it three times through her tousled raven locks. They fell smoothly down her back as she put the brush down and walked to her kitchen. Opening the freezer door, she smiled as she reached for the box of frozen peas. Life, she decided, was always full of little surprises. She chuckled to herself and closed the freezer door.
Victoria woke gasping, sweating, and uncomfortable. She put a hand to her head and winced. There was a vise around it. An iron vise. A medieval iron vise. A medieval iron-torturing device vise. She groaned and fell back onto her drenched pillow and then bounced up from the awful, sticky wetness. She kicked back the covers and clambered off the bed onto her bedroom floor to do sit-ups in order to relieve the tight ball that seemed to be cleaving her stomach in two. From those, she moved to push-ups in order to burn out the rubbery feeling that had invaded her arms. Jumping jacks were next, then squats, then lunges.
Finally, she returned to sit-ups. Her stomach, she knew, was always the worst perpetrator. Always.
“Victoria,” said Mr. Meltzer. “Here’s your itinerary, Mr. Meltzer,” said Victoria smiling. “You plane leaves at 7:00 pm-a night flight, as you requested. It’s non-stop, and you’ll be staying at the Hilton. I booked you a suite, one with a large office and a dining area that can double as a conference room if you need. Have a good trip!” “Thank you, Victoria,” said Mr. Meltzer. He shuffled a bit. “Ahhh…would you like me to…you know…” Victoria blinked, smile staying her place. “Yes, Mr. Meltzer?” “Well…it’s just…you’ve never been to London you said once…and I was wondering…” “Yes?” “…Just…a souvenir…I could bring one…you know…” “Oh, thank you, Mr. Meltzer. I appreciate it, I do, but there’s really no need.” “Are you sure?” “Yes, but, thank you for thinking of me. It was a kind gesture.” She smiled at him. 18
He blushed and smiled back. “You’re welcome,” he said and tripped off. Victoria typed a few more sentences, then, pulled open her drawer to take out a post-it. Something dropped on her desk. She looked up. “What timing,” said Victoria, smiling. “I was just about to grab one of these to write a reminder to myself.” Randall turned a dull red that made his head look like a pimple that needed popping. “Well,” he said, stuffing his hands into his pockets, “I saw your bulletin board…you have a lot of these…and I have a lot…” “A perfect match,” smiled Victoria. “R-really?” “Well, of course. Now I know who to call when I need post-its.” “Oh…good…”Randall took his hands out of his pockets to fiddle with his tie. “Also…you know…pencils…” “Yes, Randall. Thank you, so much.” “You’re welcome.” Victorian took one of the post-it packs from the unceremonious pile on her desk. She ripped off the plastic and threw it into the trash. She wrote her reminder with one of the blue ballpoints she kept in the mug on her desk. She took the post-it off and stuck it to her bulletin board. She looked up. “Thanks again, Randall.” He nodded, smiling like an imbecile, and fumbled off. Victoria sighed as she looked at the pile. She opened up her desk drawer and started to put them neatly in. She shut the drawer, then, frowned. She pushed the drawer a little harder. She shoved it. It shut. She opened the drawer and the piles had fallen. She sighed, took some out to stack onto her desk, and then closed the drawer. It shut smoothly, neatly. The head of a daisy fell from the air to drop onto her keyboard. Victoria turned to smile at Artie’s soaked form. “Artie, thank you,” she said. “I love daisies.” 19
Artie nodded and pushed some damp hair out of his eyes. It flopped back into his line of vision a second later. “The toilet exploded in the women’s bathroom.” Victoria nodded. “I see…you’re very…well, you’re dripping onto my desk.” “Oh. Sorry.” He squelched back to drip onto the office carpet. “You fight the good fight?” “Uh-huh.” As he nodded, water droplets sprayed the file-laden secretary walking behind him. She glared at Artie. “Maybe you should dry off,” Victoria suggested, smiling gently. “On my way. Gotta call the plumber first.” He turned, soggy and skinny, his gray janitor’s uniform clinging unforgivingly to his bony frame. “See you,” he said. “See you,” said Victoria. He started to push his cart. He stopped, smiled, and gave her a gentleman’s nod before wheeling off. Victoria stared after him, then, shook her head, smiling. “Poor boy. Poor boy.” “Poor boy my ass,” sniffed the file-laden secretary as she marched on back past Victoria’s desk.
It was the third night. Victoria awoke and clutched her knees to her chest. She rocked back and forth, then, decided the gesture was needlessly regressive. She jumped up and walked to her bathroom, turned on the shower, stripped and hopped in. As she scrubbed vigorously with Dove soap and a sponge she would soon replace before it got too moldy, she tried not to think about him. She closed her eyes and scrunched up her face as she scrubbed her nose, cheeks, and forehead. She gagged. Some of the soap had seeped into her mouth. She spit a few times, then bent down and started to scrub her feet.
His name was stupid, she thought. She scrubbed her ankles. Plus, she barely knew him. She scrubbed her knees. And, he was her best friend’s fiancé. She scrubbed her belly-button. Also, there was the Atlantic Ocean. And time. Lots and lots of time. Victoria turned off the water. She stepped out and wrapped her lavender towel around her body. She looked at her face in the mirror. The glass was completely fogged from the steam. She traced an “F” onto the surface, bent her head, clutched her towel closer to her body and screamed.
“Victoria?” “Yes, Mr. Meltzer?” Victoria kept her eyes on the computer’s screen, fingers flying over the keyboard. “Erm…I just wanted to say…good job on…the schedule today.” “Thank you, Mr. Meltzer.” Mr. Meltzer shuffled. Victoria kept typing. He blinked. “Are you—“ “Yes?” “Victoria, here are—oh.” Randall stopped short, a handful of pencils clutched in his right hand. “Yes, Randall?” Victoria finished one paragraph, hit Enter, Tab, Shift T. “Um, I brought you…” The head of a lily fell onto Victoria’s keyboard. She brushed it aside and kept on typing. “For you,” Artie clarified. “I know Artie. Thank you.” –monthly budget meeting to be rescheduled period Enter Tab Shift A. “Vic—” “Victoria—”
“I bought it—“ Victoria paused, her hands poised on the keyboard. She turned her head and looked at them. “Yes, gentlemen?” They stared at her, gaping. She felt a line of tension slice down from her forehead, between her eyes, to touch upon the bridge of her nose and then spread, horizontally, and settle. They looked like sheep. Awkward, fumbling, pathetic, calf-eyed, idiotic sheep. Victoria bit her lip to keep from shrieking. “Nothing.” Mr. Meltzer tripped off. Randall nodded and stumbled after. They bumped into each other apologized, and then hurried away. Only Artie remained. “What, Artie?” Artie nodded. “I understand,” he said. “I do, I really do.” Victoria ignored him and resumed typing. Out of the corner of her eye she saw him standing there. “Artie. I have work to do.” “It’s my last day.” Victoria closed her eyes briefly, then, snapped them back open. She scowled and hit Backspace to delete the typo. “Are you in love?” Her fingers stumbled to a halt on the keys. Though “memorandum” was grossly misspelled, she lifted her eyes and turned around to look at him. He smiled at her and she wanted to cry. Her lips thinned. “Are you hitting on me?” “I’ve been hitting on you for the past three months,” he said. He scratched at the side of his nose. “That’s the point of the flowers.”
“Oh.” Victoria turned back to her computer. She hit Backspace three times. She turned to Artie. “Do you…” The black, chunky piece of plastic and rubber on his left wrist beeped. He pressed a button on the side. “I’m on break,” he said and pushed the cart away. Victoria sat there and stared at the Bic pens in her mug. “Nothing’s happened,” she muttered. The cart stopped. “What?” Victoria scowled. “Nothing.” Artie stared at her for a moment, and then smiled uncertainly. “You’re prettier…” he began, and then turned away. “What? I’m prettier what?” He looked back. “Yup. Definitely prettier when, you know.” Victoria tapped her finger on the desk impatiently. “No. I don’t know.” “Oh. Well, when you smile.” He pushed his cart off down the hall and around the corner. Victoria frowned and looked at her computer screen. She deleted the rest of the word and retyped it. Perfect. Period. Save. She smiled and she wanted to cry.
Victoria woke and lay still. She shifted her head to the side and looked at the clock. She returned her head to its original position. She slept.
“Victoria?” Victoria didn’t stop rapping at the keyboard. It was new. The old one had been replaced three weeks ago. The keys had broken.
“Yes, Mr. Meltzer?” “There’s a call on your personal line.” “Yes?” “Don’t you want to answer it?” “Not really, sir.” “Well…I didn’t want to mention it…but I thought it was my line…So I accidentally picked up…they’re on hold, at least I think they are…” Victoria reached over with one hand, pressed the button and picked up. “Victoria speaking.” “Tory? It’s Diane.” “Diane, you know I’m at work right now, I can’t—“ “We broke up.” Victoria dropped the phone. “Tory? Tory are you there? Tor—” The line went dead. Victoria resumed typing. Mr. Meltzer stared at the receiver swinging off the edge of her desk. Its black cord glinted in the office light. “Don’t you want to…?” “No.” “Well…then…Have a good afternoon. Yes. It’s yes, it’s raining, yes. I’ll be in my office…yes.” As Mr. Meltzer backed away, Victoria typed. “I before e except after c,” she reminded herself.
Victoria smoothed the front of her coat with trepidation. Her hair, long and full, swung down her back, swooping and swinging as she walked. She moved towards the tall, slender man standing in the train station. He looked, she thought, tired. He spotted her and gave a small wave, a crooked smile. Victoria pursed her lips together into a tight line. “Victoria.” He strode towards her and, taking her by the shoulders, kissed her on both cheeks. She stiffened and drew away. “So,” he said in his heavy accent, “You are well, non?” “I’m fine,” she said, her voice cold. “Thank you for letting me stay the night. It is not so good, now, you know, with Diana, and I thought—“ “She asked me to,” Victoria snapped. “She’s feeling guilty about Tom, I suppose. It was…” She trailed off and clenched her hands. “I had to leave work early for this,” she groused. He blinked, dark eyes large and deep. “Oui? I am sorry, I did not mean—” “Well, it didn’t matter, they fired me anyways, but still, I would have finished out the day.” He blinked again, forehead creased in concern. “You lost your work?” “They suggested,” she said stiffly, each word precise, “I take an extended leave of absence since I set the break room on fire.” “Quoi?” “I was making coffee—not something I need to do, but everyone else does it so—and it’s relaxing, generally—but I set the timer wrong, I suppose—it exploded—” “Victoria—”
She turned her back to him and started to walk. “We’re never going to catch a cab if you wait much longer. It’s horrid at rush hour.” “Victoria—” She felt his hand, warm on her arm. She removed it from his grasp. “I am glad,” he said after her. “I am glad about Diana and me. Victoria—Victoria. Je t’aime.” She stopped. Turned and looked him in his eyes. They gazed down at her, wide and trusting and full of fear and hope and guilt. “You know I don’t speak French,” she replied. “I know.” She stood still. There were about five feet between them. She stayed in place as the rest of the station ebbed and flowed around her. He shifted his weight from his left to his right foot. “You love me?” He shifted his weight back to his left foot and Victoria was annoyed, but she felt herself smile anyways. “I wake up every night at 3 a.m.,” she warned him before stepping into his arms. And when he kissed her, scraping her bottom lip with his teeth, she winced before her mouth sank into his.
Artwork By: Carmen Tanseco
TWO WOMEN By: Marcia Epstein The two women who greet each other at the entrance to Sarabeth’s Kitchen, a popular brunch place in New York City, are bundled up against the cold in parkas, wool hats and gloves. Eva hugs Anna and they take their place in line for a table. “Did you hear from him?” Eva whispers to Anna. “Shhh. Let’s wait until we’re sitting,” Anna says. When they finally are seated, steaming coffee in front of them, Eva leans closer to Anna and raises her eyebrows. “Yes, he e-mailed,” Anna says. “Well,” Eva says, waiting. “He’s been busy. Writing his book, so he says. He did say he wants to get together soon. “What’s soon?” Eva asks. “Who knows? He didn’t say. It’s pretty frustrating. First he kisses me and sweet talks me like a lover, then he’s really busy. The old story.” “Hmmm,” Eva says, leaning back and sipping her coffee. Yes, the old story. “When did you last see him?” she asks. “About two weeks ago. Just for lunch in a diner. But he bought me this watch.” Anna holds out her arm. “It’s fake, of course. From a stand. But it works just fine, and I like the way it looks. It was a sweet gesture, just a fun thing.” Eva smiles. “It’s nice,” she says. They start to eat their pancakes. As usual, they’re excellent, as is the coffee. Sarabeth’s is their favorite place for brunch. “So are you just going to wait and see what happens?” Eva finally asks. “I suppose so. What else can I do? I know he’s busy. The book and all. And I think he likes me. Why else would he keep e-mailing? And that kiss.” “What about the other guy?” Eva asks.
“He’s nice, but I like this one better. Michael. He’s very bright, and he’s interesting. George is a nice person, but a bit dull” “Well, keep the other one – George - around. You never know. And he seems to like you.” “I know, I like him too. But it’s not the same. Why is it always that way?” Anyway, how are you and Joe?” “We’re good. Joe would like to get married, but you know, been there done that.” “You’re happy?” “Yes. Well, all relationships have their problems, but we’re doing fine.” “Do you think I should just keep on going like this?” Anna finally asks. “I mean, just e-mailing and waiting to see? It’s nerve wracking. Maybe I should ask him what he has in mind? I just don’t know.” “I personally wouldn’t,” Eva says. “It’s taking a chance. He might say he doesn’t want to be tied down. But on the other hand, you’d know how he feels. Which is better, do you think? “ “I don’t know. I don’t want to lose him. But then, I don’t really have him either, do I?” “You really like this guy. Why not wait a while and see. It hasn’t been that long, has it?” “No about two months. And I’ve only seen him three times. Oh Eva, it’s so hard, this waiting and not knowing.” “How long has he been divorced?” “About a year and a half.” “Do you know if he’s dating anyone else?” “No, I don’t. I don’t want to think about that. We don’t talk about that kind of thing.” Both women remain silent for a while. “I’m so glad I’m not out there on that scene,” Eva says finally. “Joe’s not always easy, but we love each other and hey, we’ve always got a New Year’s Eve date. They laugh. “How old did you say this guy is?” Eva asks, looking at her watch and starting to pick up her coat. “He’ll be 80 in June,” Anna says. “Just three years older than I am.” “It never ends does it?” Eva laughs. And they stand up to leave.
Story By: Daniel Adler “Pacience is an heigh vertu certain, For it venguisseth, as these clerkes seyn, Thinges that rigour sholde nevere attein.” I was born in Brooklyn. Once its own city, it was consolidated into New York in 1898. That is not to say that its character as a city has become subsumed, leaving it as nothing more than a borough. Instead of being competitors like San Francisco and Oakland, or Baltimore and D.C., Brooklyn and Manhattan are sisters. One is the runway model, the other is the athlete, bound for the big leagues. Brooklyn is a cauldron of pluck and bubbling verve – she enjoys being removed from the limelight that bathes Manhattan. Geography, like a person's facial features, is important to determining character. In the old days of physiognomy and alchemy, it reflected moral aplomb. We've moved away from the Middle Ages, but remnants of these notions stick into our unconscious. Brooklyn is vast and, south of Manhattan, has easy access to the River. It once held a great harbor and spreading north to Queens and the Island; it is yonic. All of the streets come together to form a V, slanting and coy. The direction of the avenues dictates what neighborhood you're in, and as long as you know your way you won't be surprised. Sometimes you just have to walk, unaware as to where you're headed, letting her guide you, and take you from neighborhood to neighborhood. The people will accept you, even if it is with a raised brow or an evil eye. And because I was born there, not in the graceful cradle of pomp and circumstance, it's reflected in my character. Brooklyn is not about standing out like Manhattan, it's about who can stand out the best while blending in. This is a masculine trait, evinced in the tuff guys and the pride that natives take when speaking to those who are newcomers. There's a certain sense of propriety involved depending on how long you've lived in Brooklyn, or in what area, a hostility, a sense of betterment and pride depending on the neighborhood. The vast ocean of Brooklyn lies removed from the hubbub and centerpiece of Times Square and the financial center. It is a borough of know how. Well into the 21st century there are neighborhood enclaves of immigrants, and they point to the old babushkas with pushcarts and the slick haired kids elongating their vowels outside of salumerias, the affordable brownstones, the Puerto Rican auto body shops – it is here where the poor immigrants came and slaved away to make it in the world delivered upon them. Manhattan is patently phallic. It was gridded more than 200 years ago, when the bureaucrats and officials decided that yes, it would fill with people, that one day this granite island would become a cultural capital, and that the people rushing to fill it would vie for space. It is a city of autonomies, of arid scimitars. Authenticity is a true New York characteristic, but Manhattan can deceive with illusions of grandeur and bright lights. She's coy, especially downtown where the streets of the Village and Tribeca and Soho merge and wind wrapping around each other, embracing. Manhattan puts on a show, but damn, she's good at it, talk about attractive. It is a place for work, and tourists, and millionaires. Much like Hollywood, if you can make it in Manhattan you are worthy of staying. If you can't, it will send you packing, and you will remember her fondly like a lover who was too good for you. Sure, downtown has yonic qualities, and they are where the bohemians lived in the 50's and the 60's, where the cafes welcomed Bob Dylan and Jimi Hendrix, and cross-town East where the overflow from the West deposited the rubble and they repudiated the grid, spitting in the face of it. Oh, but Midtown, where the
avenues are long, and the crowds bustle, that's where they're drawn. That's the New York that everyone recognizes, the homage to the 20th century, the Skyscraper, the clambering crowds, where the space exists so evenly that only the best can remain. The way your birthplace affects your character is comparable to the way some people, I for one, don't believe in astrology but still succumb to the pratfalls of their cosmological nature. It starts subconsciously, and when and if you choose to acknowledge it, influences you in the way that truth is garnered from art – burning into memory long after viewed, causing the realization that outward circumstances shape inward nature. The elements of a character are more sophisticated and varied than any chemical concoction, and thousands of ingredients are transformed by the reaction of drifting clouds and flakes of environment and experience. They compact, dissolve, and reform again, until a number of firm configurations result. Like your birth city, your physical appearance, your rising sign, your moon, your sun signs, your name is a fundamental contributor to who you are. My mother's name was Stella. My mother was the family financier and wore the pants. Her accent was mild, only showing when she was drunk with alcohol or anger. The difficult syllables like “aw” she pronounced “ar” so that her speech did not detract from her beauty in the way that often happened in this region of the United States during the turn of the century; her accent was slight. She had full lips and a traditional Irish nose, rather small, tear dropped, with nostrils not too narrow. In cold weather and during the early morning the color dropped from her lips, making them mauve. She was of middle stature with strawberry blond hair, a square, strong bone structure, and blue eyes that had a tint of yellow, conveying her disregard for matters of gravity, unless she had to manage them. Serious occasions she approached like a lioness, circling with mild suspicion and distrust, traits she had garnered largely from the trials of her native youth – mugged twice, a thrice burgled apartment, and countless encounters with churls, urchins, and the silt of the Brooklyn duck pond. These incidents most often occurred because she lived in the rougher areas, Flatbush, Park Slope, which during the early eighties, just about when crack came out, were Mecca’s of drug related crime. This was “before Giuliani,” as many New Yorkers affectionately recall. Stella, star, “Stella!” Marlon Brando, Tennessee Williams. People don't change. Sure, certain events can give you insight and perspective into acting correctly, but let's face it, if you come screaming bloody hell out of the womb, you'll be splenetic for life. Grampa Leo had four children already when he came to America from County Mayo in Western Ireland. Of middle height, with arms long and light, elfin ears and small eyes, he had the look of a troublemaker, which by the point of his early adulthood, had produced an effect approaching resentment in most of his interactions. His character was mild, but like me mammy's, quick to anger. His genetic predisposition to dipsomania did nothing to alleviate his natural presence of spleen, and as an older man, his kindness and patriarchal sagacity lay wizened underneath a blotted, ruddy countenance of an alcoholic's burst blood vessels. It is this spleen which from his loins, through deoxyribonucleic acid, produced my mother's very own fiery rages, which as Tristram would say, were wholly untempered by a more frequent and a more convulsive elevation and depression of the diaphragm, and the succussations of the intercostals and abdominal muscles in laughter, to drive the gall and other bitter juices from the gall bladder, with all the inimicitious passions which belong to them, down into their duodenums. But Leo was by no means uneducated; from his rural roots he had been bible-reared and went off to 30
study at Kings University in Dublin. There he learned carpentry, a trade which allowed my mother to respect my father's profession, but more about that later. At my mother's birth in1960, Leo was confident about successfully raising a family in New York. That greatest of American cities – the Big Apple, the City That Never Sleeps, the one Sinatra sang about with the Empire State building and the vistas of Park Avenue miles long, looking one way until the park, and the other to squeaking buses and flurries of pigeons eating filth off the streets; the Papaya Dogs and Reuben’s, mobs and hordes of people, people from everywhere, all over the world in all shapes and states, taxi cabs – the Statue of Liberty on Ellis Island, given to us laudably by the French for allowing them to have a model for freedom and government, that symbol representing the new life for the millions of immigrants of whom Leo was one, Broadway – oh Broadway, the one Whitman sang for, where the multitudes bifurcate Manhattan, all the way from the Brooklyn Bridge to Washington Heights, Times Square pinioned by its transverse weave, once bedecked in porn and smut, now a pedestrian's paradise, where the heart of American theater centers, Wall Street, arguably the financial capital of the world even in the early twenty first century, through all the thin crusted pizza of Famous Ray's and the restaurants, which if you ate at one, daily, you would not make it through all for eight years, at which point you could begin again, enjoying the new restaurants that replaced the ones that shut down while you were on your first round. New York also had the largest Irish community outside of the Motherland, so that at the now familiar beck of his Tessie's call, her hormone swollen face on the threshold of adding yet another mouth to feed, they hopped in the red Chevy station wagon with my Uncle Jimmy, a boy of eight, beginning to understand his ability to remember the other births like this, how he was gaining power over his siblings-and with it, responsibility - as he gathered years. But this was not how he felt at the time - rather, he was ebullient. “The prospect of another brother! Ah, 'twould be a shame if it were a girl; sisters, psh! they're no fun to play with, and they whine and cry like brothers never do.” His gray blue eyes drifted coolly along the high rises and steamy man caps, busted fire hydrants spitting into the road and onto the sidewalk... Mary would love the child notwithstanding its sex. It was another baby – the fourth in a brood of an eventual seven. Warm little cooing infants with their seashell hands and fingernails miniscule. And mammy needs the help, because babies are a lot of work too, they cry and spit up and have to take naps, not to mention changing those diapers. How many diapers a day must a parent change ... too many to count. I wonder how this one will turn out, if she'll be whiny like Chrissy or what if he tires easily like James... These Irish born children had no idea at the time, but when Tessa was birthing them in the old country with midwives in a cabin in Mayo there were no drugs to induce the process. The only thing utilized was a nice warm stout to ease the flow of breast milk after the stress and pain of parturition. When my narrowback mother (so called because she never had to experience the pear shaped disfiguration of working the potato fields) was born as the first in the United States, they gave her mother scopolamine. This drug in high doses causes extreme euphoria, much like an opiate. In a transversal patch the average dosage is .4 mg and can often cause memory impairments. It is no surprise that it was used to ease the pain of my grandmother when her fourth child was brought into this world. When they whirled Tessie into the obstetrician's office, she felt precipitously like there was a dramatic difference with this one; a definite fire starter, a real hellacious one, even before it came out. Without going in to the unsavory details of child birthing, I will say only that my mother immediately began a 31
route on which she would stay for the rest of her life – one of howling and rubicund fury mediated only by her feminine capacity to love and shelter. My mother trained as a nurse in her youth, but with the burden of raising children of her own, was unable to continue working long shifts at the hospital, and opted instead to work with retards, information which when received with a blank look by those who curiously wondered what a woman like this would do to make money, was furthered with circumgesticulation, – “you know, they have trakes, (her abbreviation of tracheotomies) they're in wheelchairs, you know...medically fragile.”
II. Gabriel (Ya, it's the third person. It's my story and I can do whatever I want. But seriously, I think that although the first person provides a level of intimacy between us which is necessary for a modern kunstleroman, the third person is helpful for the omniscience apposite to any high literature. From now on, all of my present thoughts and digressions will be in the first, and the plot will be in the third) was a flaxen, curly haired cherub. His bright blue wide set eyes swam with intelligence and deep thought, even from an early age. Stella dressed him in patent leather baby shoes, pint sized corduroys and little collared shirts. His cheeks glowed rubicund with delight. He was often mistaken for a girl. When he was four months old, an elderly Irish woman stopped Stella, a modern day Medv, blue-eyed, petite, &c., on the streets because she saw the map of Ireland on the wee one's face. Sear faced and withered, from the old country, she emigrated as a nubile lass, freshly married and fecund. Sixty years of life's vicissitudes cultivated the powers of augury that her peasant Catholopagan forebears had preached for centuries before. “What a gorgeous little girl 'tis.” Stella, with a new baby, was still wary of anyone who came too close, and convinced that this woman was some kind of spook, recoiled as the hag leant in. She pursed her lips in her habit of affected stoicism and said, “It's a boy.” “Simply want ta give the babe something.Ah, blessed be his hart! He's the map of Ireland on his face! Whar'sis hand?” She reached into her small purse and removed a quarter. Placing it into the baby's palm, she foretold, “So he'll never be hungry.” Smiling, she went on her way. Stella was always superstitious. She did not quickly forget that wrinkled mien, the wispy white hairs of the biddy, and her baby's welcome acceptance of the shiny quarter from the weathered fingertips. II. Gabriel's adult life started - like all things - with sex. He had an encyclopedia for children that were his childhood companion from age’s four to six. He enjoyed reading about the Vikings and Energy, and what he appreciated most was the uncensored truth of the book: right next to Reptiles, there was a naked woman with an upside down baby in her stomach – Reproduction. He knew this was naughty, that it was an important entry, and he became embarrassed when he accidentally opened it to that page around his mother. This happened often, because ironically enough there was a crease in the binding that marked that page like it was chosen. The main entry described the biological function of reproduction – how all mammals share a placental period of gestation blahdey blah, but the detail of a penis pressing into a spongy vagina in the lower right hand corner seized his attention. Finally one lone Saturday morning, while reading at his desk, he opened to this page. Sexual intercourse, even reading about it as a five year old, implies an erection, and in this case, it also began a Pavlovian effect of harnessing erotic pleasure with reading. Needless to say, this sample of knowledge and consequent power from it, fueled his passion for learning. 32
How naïve his parents were, while watching a program on t.v. called “Nature” on the Public Broadcasting Network on a Sunday night when he was seven, with two mollusks having sex. Mollusk sex involves the lengthening of one organ into another vacuous organ, just like most reproduction in the animal kingdom. Sitting in between his parents, with a baby sister playing absently on the floor, Stella became embarrassed and whispered, “Pete-er…S-E-X!” Not only could he spell like most seven year olds, but his knowledge of sex kept him silent during the scene, and he became embarrassed. The fact that he knew, however, and didn't know that he knew, was a cherished secret. III. When his sister was born, the Arnolds moved to Manhattan. The veiled hand of fate took the form of Stella's old nursing school friend leaving the city for Denver and offering her family the use of her rent controlled apartment in the East Village. At that time, the neighborhood was just becoming bohemian after years of being home to factories and industry, the tenements of poor Irish and Italians had been bought out and turned into lofts and luxury flats. They were seized upon by yuppies and trust fund babies with nothing to lose but time as they tried to make it in New York with their art. The Bowery, being watchful, was loud and rough, except at the hour when the halfway houses were serving dinner. A red brick building of six stories overviewed the southeast corner of 1st street, obligingly settled next to its northern neighbors. The other buildings on the street were varicolored, conscious of the usual discord and momentary peace within them, and gazed at one another with imperturbable faces. The former landlord of their building, a priest, had died on the top floor. Air, heavy with cotton ball stink from being long enclosed and even longer untended to, seeped downwards and hung in the hallways, and the garbage chutes were littered with scraps cleaned too seldom. Among these, Gabriel found a few paperbacks, whose pages were yellow-curled and damp: Nexus by Henry Miller, an old T.S. Eliot play, and Waiting for Godot. He didn't read them, but he liked them because they were ancient and smelled like mildew. The wild alley behind the building was freshly paved and a barbed wire fence separated the next building over. He had been a magnanimous priest; his monies were bequeathed to the halfway houses up and down the Bowery, and his furniture he had given to his tenants, since he had no living family. When the short days of winter came, dusk fell before they had eaten our dinners. By the time the children met in the alley the streets had grown somber. The space of sky above them was a pale orange that darkened quickly into indigo and towards it the gray streetlights hung their heads indifferently. The cold air stung the parts of their faces that went uncovered and the blacktop was unforgivingly hard when they fell; they skateboarded until their cheeks glowed. Shouts echoed in the silent alley. The career of their play brought them through the fence by a small furl of untethered mesh, and they ran through the corridors in between buildings, listening to the blaring of televisions or Puerto Rican bailandos, where odors of plantains and frijoles steamed and our bellies somersaulted with hunger. When they returned to the street, light from the eyes of the tenement illumined our way. If Gabriel's father was seen turning the corner the boys hid in the shadow until they had seen him safely ensconced. Or if Buckley's sister emerged to call him to dinner they watched her from a shadow peer up and down the quiet street. They waited to see whether she would remain or return, and, if she remained, they left their shadow and walked up to the building resignedly. She was waiting for them, her figured limned by the light of the foyer. Her brother always teased her before he obeyed and Gabriel stood removed, 33
looking at her. Her limbs swayed like velvet rope as she turned and she walked matronly inside, though she was hardly two years their senior. Every morning before school, he waited at the kitchen table listening for the lock of her door. When he heard the click and pause, he leapt up with his knapsack and out the door just in time to see her lock her door. She acknowledged him with a smile and a spoken nicety as they would walk down the stairs together and out the front door, in silence. This happened regularly. Besides this, he had never spoken to her, and yet her name caused the callow blood in his veins to gush and roil. Her image accompanied me even in places the most hostile to romance. On Saturday afternoons when his mother did her errands he had to help her carry the bags. They walked through the jostling streets, weaving between drunken men and eager women, amid the shouts of Mandarin, the bustle of map-wielding tourists, the enchanted government protestors, their speakers blaring threats about government power and justice. These walks converged into a single sensation of life and experience: he imagined that he bore his gift safely through a mass of thieves and finger smiths to bring it to a shrine of devotion. Her name sprang to his lips in these moments of bravery in litanies which he often did not understand. His eyes were full of tears (whether from the cold or from thoughts of illusory dedication, he didn't know) and at times a flood from the heart poured throughout his body. He thought little of the future. He did not know if a conversation would ever consist of more than a greeting, or if it did, how it would progress to a confession of love and unwavering loyalty. But his body was like a guitar and her image was like the fingers that busily bend and pluck at those strings that sounded his being. One evening Gabriel went into the priest's old apartment where he had died. It was a dark stormy evening and there was not a sound in the building. Through the windows and the thin roof he heard the rain pitter patter, the sheets bouncing into the tenement, immovable, then gurgling into the gutters. A distant light from an open window shown below him. He was thankful that he could see so little. All his senses became indistinct and, feeling that he was about to slip into darkness, he bowed and genuflected to Venus, murmuring “Dela, Dela...” many times. At last she asked him a question of substance. When it happened he was confused as to how to respond; his self-doubt was firm and unshakeable. She asked him, are you going to the Christmas tree lighting this year. He forgot whether he answered yes or no. The tree is a Douglas Fir, over one hundred feet tall, she said; she was planning to go. While she spoke, she pulled a brown thread of hair around her forefinger. Her brother and two other boys were pushing each other against the brick wall and the stood alone in the lamplight of the tenement's facade. The light shone on her white neck, the knobby protuberances of the medial most aspect of her clavicles were illumined, and her hair was suffused in a gold patina, and falling, lit up her hand on the cold iron door handle. It caught the folds of her dress, and was lost in the ruffles and blackness of her overcoat, loose around the neck as she stood contrapposto, at ease. “You should go,” she said. “If I go,” he said, “I will find you before the tree is lit.” What countless fantasies and illusions lay waste before his waking and dreaming visions after that encounter! He focused only on the moment when they would stand together underneath the lights of the behemoth tree; he wanted to destroy the intervening days, and would have sacrificed much to do so. Such are the follies of youth. School was not just tedium, but agony. At night in bed and by day at desk in the classroom, her image came to him like a succubus, taking full attention from all reality. 34
Artwork by: Carmen Tanseco
The syllables of Rockefeller floated around him with the mystique of American royalty, as though by simply saying the word, he attained a higher plateau of sophistication and culture. His thoughts of the future formed like a rainstorm, gathering speed and cohesion as hope played the role of time. When he asked permission to leave the following Wednesday night, Stella was surprised at his gall and told him he could go after dinner. He answered no questions in class. He watched his teacher's face pass from amiability to distrust; she hoped he was not growing lazy. He could not shepherd his roaming thoughts. He had hardly any patience with the work of life which, now that it intervened between him and his desire, seemed sore and ugly, like the monotony of an office job cubicle in by three sides, with only the future as an escape. Early Wednesday morning he reminded his father who was an electrician and worked like an American, which is what they say in Russia, when someone works like a dog that he wished to go to the treelighting ceremony that night. He was shaving, and answered me curtly, knowing that he wanted to travel solo: â€œBe careful on the subway.â€? His father stood there delicately absorbed. Gabriel sat at the kitchen table and skulked with his head low. He didn't wait for the click of the lock to leave because he was too excited and eager to see her that 35
evening, fearing that seeing her twice in the same day would be too much, that it might dissuade her from going to the ceremony. The wind was biting and he was debeatified by the time he arrived at school. When he came home to dinner his father had not yet arrived. Still it was early. He sat staring at the clock for some time, and restless, wandered from room to room. He tried to read, unsuccessfully. The empty rooms of the apartment sang with the wind's knocking at the glass window panes. From the back windows, he saw his buddies playing in the alley, skating and falling. Their shouts reached him softly from the street, blurry and muffled and, leaning his forehead against the window and watching condensation slowly build, he thought about her downstairs getting ready for the ceremony. He may have stood there for half an hour, obsessively meditating on her quotidian actions, seeing her in that golden patina of light as the darkness enclosed her and the pallor of her collarbones receded into shadow. When he came downstairs again he found Mrs. Lorenz sitting at the fireplace. She was the mother of two younger boys down the hall and was a notorious gossip, a butcher's wife, who collected tidbits to give her life some sort of purpose. The meal was prolonged an hour and still his father did not arrive. Gabriel had to endure her bandying for the entirety. Mrs. Lorenz stood to leave: she was sorry she had to make dinner for her kids, but it was after seven o'clock and the festivities had begun. When she left, he began to walk through the rooms in irritation. His mother said: “You can wait until your father comes home before you go to the tree-lighting; it doesn't start for another few hours.” At eight the latch clicked and his father entered; he hung his coat in the closet as his keys jangled. His father was an insensitively slow eater and tried to confer this on his spawn by reciting the old maxim of “one chew for every tooth.” When he had finished his salad, Gabriel asked if he could leave for Rockefeller Plaza. His father had forgotten. “You better get going, before they light the tree.” “By the time he gets there, it'll be lit.” His father said he was sorry he had forgotten. He said he believed in the old saying: Work hard and play harder. He asked when it started and when Gabriel told him a second time, he asked him did he know the old Wordsworth Ode to Duty. When Gabriel left the kitchen with his coat, his father was beginning to recite the opening lines to his mother. Gabriel held his cash tight and eagerly bought a subway ticket, knowing how to get there from downtown on the Lexington line. The holiday fever had begun and infected him as he passed into the subway station, dripping with water despite the last rain days ago. The train came quickly and he sat, hands folded in a moderately filled car. Each stop dragged interminably on. When it arrived at Grand Central, he felt butterflies flutter and a crowd of people entered the train. His was the next stop. He ran to exit the station and walked west, to 5th Avenue. A swift breeze moved clouds around the sky like betting stubs at an empty race track. I passed a large bank with a roman numeral clock that read a quarter to nine. I had ten minutes until the lighting. The square was two blocks away, and throngs of people collected, buzzing with anticipation. This was the Christmas after 9/11. The city was quiet, and its wounds were still open. There was a sense of a need to fight back, but there was also a need to recollect, and understand, to show people that this was still New York City, dammit. People still felt shaken, similar to the feeling after a natural 36
disaster, but this, to them, was more like war. It called for a rebuttal, it was destabilizing. Security measures were tight everywhere, especially at Rockefeller Center. Cops on duty stood with their arms crossed and looked menacing. This wasn’t like Christmas the year before, with the strength of “Carol of the Bell” pounding and the camera receding from Rockefeller Center, the children skating and falling on the ice, the Empire State Building glowing ominously in the background, the Twin Towers anchoring lower Manhattan – this was somber, funereal. It dawned on him that to find her would be difficult. Still he searched through the massing swarms for some warmth to this cool evening, with the wind low, and the onset of winter still distant. Perhaps she would be in the front. He found himself crawling through black pea coats and avoiding large circles of people who knew each other, making way for him, as if he were a contagion. Suddenly, the tree was lit, oohs and aahs, the flashing of cameras signaled that it was over. He didn't even stop swimming through the crowd to admire the tree; he wanted only to find her and apologize for my tardiness. He paused for breath in an opening and tried to get his bearings. He overheard the conversation of some Southern folks. “I wonder where they got it from.” “I heard it was from Washington state, that they found it and put it onto a plane to get it here.” “A plane?” “I thought they drove it.” “Where'd ya hear that?” Noticing him noticing them a motherly figure asked if he needed help. The tone of her voice was comforting; she seemed to speak to me out of a true desire to help. He wanted to tell her that it was a Douglas Fir. Gabriel looked around, hoping to glimpse her and save his honor, then at the looming tree as if it were mocking him with its multi-colored lights and symbolism of Yuletide cheer, and murmured: “No, thanks ma'am.” She looked inquiringly at him for a moment and returned to her husband and the two others who could have been her children. They returned to the subject of the tree. Once or twice, the woman looked at him with distrust. He lingered, though he knew it was pointless; he would never find her now – she had probably already left. Slowly, he turned and walked through the emptying square, disenchanted and disheartened. He clanged the change for the subway in my pocket. He heard a female voice call from behind, and turned excitedly, but it was not her. It was now past ten o' clock and there were few people remaining. Gazing skyward he saw himself from above as an animal driven by fruitless passion and pride; and his eyes blurred with tears of anger and shame.
Photograph by: Beata Zakrzewska The Experience
Part 1: Pre-Invisibility By: Natalia Handler I wasn't always invisible. My voice, my personality, and even my footsteps were louder. I was rebellious, assertive, opinionated, and undeniably emotionally unwell. The confusion and fear that go along with being a nonconformist in high school created an environment within me where trouble was inevitable. I lived in a town in Long Island that only a half hour train ride away from New York City, but at the same time, it was very isolated. By the time I was in fourth grade, everyone dressed the same, looked the same, and wore the same heart shaped Tiffany necklaces (I was the only one in my class who did not own one). I was different not only because my hair was black instead of the sandy brown I wanted, but also because I was not dependent on adults and had already begun to form my own opinions. Over the next few years, the differences only grew. I was not like the other girls, and it was painful. By high school, I was placed in a school for girls with emotional problems. It was a small school, and because the girls' problems got in the way of their academic success, the academic component of the program was focused on getting girls to pass major tests and eventually graduate. Not much more was expected of us. There were no after school programs and no higher level classes. More importantly, creativity was not encouraged. My attempts to start a literary magazine were squashed by an uptight and inflexible principal. It seemed like every method of self expression was against the rules (even journaling). This was not the environment for me and I did not do well there. I got into all kinds of trouble. I had one teacher who gave me a C on my report card despite my A test average because I verbally disagreed with his political beliefs. I was not much more popular amongst the students. One day, I got into an argument with a student who was a pathological liar. My principal jumped at the opportunity to suspend me. I received a clear message from all of these experiences: Lay low. Keep the anger inside. Keep the passion inside. High school is not the place for you to express yourself. We can't help you. I decided the only way for me to stop causing "trouble" was to become invisible. Part 2: And Then I Was None In order for my anger to die, all of my energy had to die. I used the only method I knew. I had problems with my weight before. Along with some other friends, I had toyed with starvation and diet pills in middle school. It was unfortunately not unusual for a young girl to experiment with disordered eating, and it was a phase I thought I grew out of. But now, in high school, I developed a full fledged eating disorder. I limited myself to 200 calories a day and withered away. I wanted to be as fragile physically as I was emotionally. Unfortunately, the two digit number on the scale never satisfied me. I was too fascinated by my own vanishing act to realize how sick I was. All I remember is feeling lightheaded and sad, but too weak to be angry. The "professionals" at school either did not notice or did not care, as long as I was not getting in trouble anymore.
I really must have succeeded in becoming invisible, because eventually, I couldn't even see myself. Part 3: Everybody Has An Exodus In February 2007, I stayed in my bed for about three days when my mother took me to the doctor. When I got there, I was weighed by a nurse who was noticeably alarmed and took my vitals several times. She left for me to get dressed, and in almost no time, the doctor came storming through the door. I remember him poking me in the ribs and saying I looked like hell. He demanded that my mother take me straight to the hospital. Twenty minutes later, I was checked in. Lying there on the hospital bed, I was actually helpless. I was hooked on to an IV and heart monitor. But I was relieved. After so much pain, I was ready for some healing. The next night, when a psychiatrist asked me how much I would like to weigh, I made a circle with my thumb and forefinger. I would not be satisfied until I reached zero. A few days later, when a friend hugged me, she cringed. I was bony and ghostly white. I always wanted so desperately to be beautiful, and only then was I beginning to realize that Anorexia was not beautiful or glamorous. I was not healthy, or happy, or even pretty. I really was nothing, and it didn't do me justice. Part 4: Reconstruction Since then, I struggled to build myself up. I learned about myself, and improved myself image. I accepted some of my imperfections and cultivated some of my better qualities. I still don't know exactly who I am, but I do know that I am a human being worth the space I take up. I don't want to shrink anymore. I want to grow, in so many ways, and I only hope I have a long time to do so.
Photography by: Beata Zakrzewska
My success story began when I made a decision that I had enough of a cocaine and heroin addiction. I would look in my bathroom mirror and confront myself and say, "This is not you. My attire revealed an altering of a former neat appearance to the extent that my mother once looked me up and down with disapproval. Lost of civil servant appointment, and separation from a wife and children left me sleeping on a mattress after selling all the furniture. B.B. King's song "The Thrill is Gone" and my reflection in grocery store mirror set a route to recovery. The survival of an "O.D." by cocaine caused me to learn to be patient and not to panic. A week of binging froze my brain cells to the point that I couldn't get an euphoric feeling for a high. Then all of a sudden, an injection woke up all the dormant cocaine from the past few days. My heart raced, beating rapidly. I knew I had too much in me. I started to see miniature stars and feel like I was blackening out. "Call an ambulance, Call the police!" I felt an impulse to run down the apartment hallway and shout to neighbors. Whatever will power that still remained within gave me the strength to repeat, "Don't panic! Donâ€™t panic! Donâ€™t panic!" I was on path to death. After that ominous bout with possible expiration of life, I bought heroin to bring myself down. Then I started getting high on cocaine all over again. I was self-destructing. I felt tired for times of playing crazy to avoid getting stopped or arrested. Acting was never an ambition of mine. I was bashful as a boy, but as an adult, I had to do an impromptu act for deceiving the older guys for whom I was selling for. "Punch me in the mouth." I told a friend. He laughed, thinking that I joked. "Punch me in my mouth, don't knock my teeth out." I needed a prop to fool my bosses into thinking that I had been caught by the cops. The bleeding of the lip and the tearing of my coat gave me the costume to support my lie of breaking away from the police, supposedly leaving the drugs in the police's possession. For that week of binging on cocaine and still owing eight hundred dollars for that consigned package, I had to stand before a man aiming a pistol towards my leg firing two shots. Fate once stepped in to prevent me from accepting a heroin package from a known murderer. Police burst in the bathroom door, preventing the transaction; where as I had been informed by him, "Don't Mess-UP!" Flushing the package down the toilet and the police's search stopped my possible death. I found my athletic abilities being wasted by running a whole city block on my toes, stealthily, coming behind a younger dealer who will be relieved of his illicit merchandise, so I could voluntarily enter a substance abuse program the following morning without being ill from withdrawal. The inevitable consequence of an addiction leads to death, jail or homelessness. Odds are three to one that you will experience one of the three. Since I was ailing, I ended up going to jail for those ailing criminally, add the "J" to ail, and you have jail. My story for success happened in a court room when a judge sentenced me to seven years, and my mother started to cry. I told her that I would not be there for seven years. At that point, I was certain about what I needed to do. "Don't worry about me; I'll be alright, and take care of yourself." An acquiring of a G.E.D. became my first goal, which led me to become an honor inmate by leaving the correctional facility to participate in a college release program. Poetry writing and publication helped me to find myself and provide a new direction in life. Upon my release I continued to write creatively with advancement to short fiction. The correcting of my behavior and the belief that I don't belong in jail has guided me to receive a B.A. and a Masters degree in education. I have been an effective English teacher with eight teen years of teaching experience. My most recent success story comes about because of divine intervention
that occurred due to my conscientious doctor. He ordered a particular examination, but by mistake or fate, a different examination was ordered, which showed Lung Cancer. I remained emotionally strong following the doctor's suggestions. I survived major surgery and chemo therapy to have a success story for remaining determined to live with a guardian angel lolling down. Ronald King
Photograph By: Beata Zakrzewska
The Interview We are having an exclusive interview with Author, Isaac Witter. Isaac Witter Tell us a little about yourself? I like to work on computers, websites, and to travel. I have been married for 37 years and have three adult children. Where were you born? Buford, SC Are you working on anything now? Yes, I am working on something now but I am not sure when it will be published. Who is your favorite author? Alex Haley Who is your biggest inspiration? My mother As an African American-what was different in the war for you? Seeing a lot of black men die at a very young age. What are your future goals and aspirations? I plan to do more writing and travel once I retire-see the world (Paris, Japan, Hawiiâ€Ś) What is your next great endeavor? I would like to write a great fiction novel. Thank you for doing this interview Mr. Witter.
Photograph By: Beata Zakrzewska