M O N TA G E
V O L U M E 3 5
M O N TA G E 2016
S TA F F CLARE MICHALAK
Prose Panel Editor
Poetry Panel Editor
Visual Arts Panel Editor
Visual Arts Panel Editor
Assistant Director of Student Media
Printing By TYCO
CONTENTS NEWTON’S FIRST LAW 15
A COUNTRY IS NOT REALLY A COUNTRY WITHOUT ITS NAME Nicole Maresca – Poetry
AMSTERDAM Anthony DiMartino – Poetry
GLOBE Kristen Riello – Visual Arts
ODE TO MY APPENDIX Clare Michalak – Poetry
THE CALLING STARS Leah LeDrew – Visual Arts
MY DAY Amanda Damone – Fiction
STUPID SCHOOL BUS Julia Perkins – Fiction
FINGER GUNS Danielle Marmer – Poetry
CONTENTS STRING THEORY 39
NOAM CHOMSKY DAY!! Alan Johnson – Fiction
TAKE OFF Jessica Pereira – Visual Arts
THE DISHWASHER’S PICNIC Nicole Maresca – Poetry
BRIDGE Hannah Schindler – Visual Arts
TWELVE Lauren Manna – Fiction
TURNING OFF THE LIGHTS BEFORE GOING TO BED Clare Michalak – Poetry
THE HANGMAN Danielle Radeke – Poetry
Elizabeth Cardone – Visual Arts
Jon Hammer – Fiction
CONTENTS GRAVITY 73
FATHER-SON PHONE CONVERSATIONS Kyle Liang – Poetry
GROWING OLD Anthony DiMartino – Poetry
THOSE WHO PLAY WITH CATS MUST EXPECT TO BE SCRATCHED Amber Hopwood – Visual Arts
BIG DOG LITTLE DOG Taylor Hoblitzell – Fiction
YOU CAN’T BARTER Clare Michalak – Poetry
Nicole Maresca – Poetry
EDITOR’S NOTE “There is no passion to be found playing small--in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.” - Nelson Mandela Volume 35 is a tribute to the inspiring creative community at Quinnipiac University. This issue explores the complexities of relationships, family, and life through fearless written and visual work. As always, Montage hopes to promote spaces where innovation, creativity, and passion can thrive. Thank you for sharing.
NEWTONâ€™S FIRST LAW
A Country is Not Really A Country Without Its Name Nicole Maresca
On Tuesday all anybody did was ponder fish. When other people have tasty-looking food I want that same tasty-looking food too. People usually don’t think about what other people really want. This caused a red fish to be trapped in a tiny dirty fishbowl. I wonder what it would be like to live in Venezuela. All the coyotes there run free and naked through the coastal lowlands. Don’t try to say that coyotes would be the last animal on Earth because they wouldn’t. They would die in that greenhouse-effect-causing apocalypse too. Try and convince yourself that the waffle on the stranger’s plate across the room is actually not a waffle. Don’t see everything as it is. People wear clothes and look different when you ask to see them naked or even if you don’t ask at all.
They tell you this city is good to everyone you can see art in cramped museum halls or all around you if you look hard enough, you can order royales with cheese to bridge your Samuel L. Jackson fantasies into reality, you can be frightened by rude souvenir store cashiers who wish you spoke another language or excited by the prospects of adulthood in the city of pragmatism and freedom by climbing far into space anytime of the day, rain or shine, above those watery ceilings you knew existed but never thought were really real, you can stay at those cozy local hostels where thin stair cases rise into the air and they greet you with familiar toothless smiles and everyone leans to the side a little bit like the tower of Pisa on a bad day because the buildings have started to sink in-to the earth like a swamp swallowing its trees, you can gain night vision by staring skyward on hazy Saturday afternoons in Vondelpark, you can forget everything you left behind and become connected to a less tragic and debilitating
Universe fueled by anonymity, they say adulthood is real and this is it I never stayed up past midnight when I was twelve, I run up the canal to where the disco lights bounce off my eyes and I’ve never seen so much crimson altogether, you can live here, everyone lives here at least once no exceptions Here the dream is made, as if visiting the safest but most dangerous and dastardly-looking basements completes the young escapist’s journey, nineteen years long, they’re like medieval dungeons but without the death traps and underneath bouncing nightclubs that play the most obscure German electro music and the occasional jazz tune to lighten the mood again, settle any rising tension and help you return to the cool, clean, inner sanctuary of sensory overload and exultation It’s two in the morning but the city is as bright as it was at noon I can hear the music distantly from upstairs while the most polite strangers in the world offer their happiness and shared solitude but I’m already spent I can feel the floor suddenly shaking the seat rocking there and from the music getting lower and lower the beat disappearing I think I’m being chased by the one-eyed
man who looked like my dad and threatened me by the pizzeria earlier so I say “Adios” to no-one in particular and run, like my life depends on it my childhood skin slowly peeling away from the sheer speed and adrenaline of a life-or-death pursuit through dusky streets and dusky canals until I reach the last train out of Amsterdam Centraal and it’s in that moment I realize I’m sinking and smiling, too
Ode To My Appendix Clare Michalak
My dear vermiform organ, Between Gerlach’s valve And your tendency to overcompensate In your mammalian mucosal immune function Your tenacity is to be admired and adored, You astound me Can I ask you a favor? Surely you could, In your seemingly indefinite residency, Take with you this ache that Has lodged between my third and fourth rib? Not that I haven’t enjoyed your company But just as a parting gift? No? Well, they say you prefer both the elegance of fight And the refinement of extorted flight. The last moments of your life are spent Compiling your weapons in your vestigial hollow Aware of your own ultimate extinction. You’re so cool. So, If you cannot take this ache with you, You should teach me how to fight, Show me how I too can leave With fire in my wake And poison in the blood When I too start collapsing Infected.
THE CALLING STARS
Everything was wrong. My nose was stuffy, and if I wanted to blow it, I had to wash my hands again and change my gloves. My pigtails were getting loose, and a strand of braid was stuck in my nametag. Josephine was asking me something, but I couldn’t understand her. Felicia came over to help but Felicia doesn’t know what she’s talking about. “Just use the chicken cutter for the baked potato,” she said. “You have to work with what ya got, Susan.” I obeyed, because cross-contaminating meat with potato would only be unforgivable if the customer was a vegetarian, right? The customer asks me to throw some bacon on top. Good. I sprinkled some chives too and then brought the potato to the waiting, brown-ish tray. “Susan, Josephine needs your help,” said Felicia, a little louder than necessary. In the back room by the big sink, Josephine was rinsing mushrooms that come frozen in a plastic bag. She asked me to take over for her because drive-thru was getting busy. I said “okey doke” and took out a pair of scissors to open a new bag. They were the broken pair that I had a fifty/fifty chance of avoiding. For several minutes, I tried in vain to fix the scissors. Then I grabbed a knife. I was close to ripping the bag open with my hands when Josephine returned, shaking her head and telling me “no, no.” Frustrated, I took a step back and let her do it the way she wanted to. Whatever. After that, I didn’t have much to do, so I wandered to the sink and started cleaning some trays. Bending my head down, I splashed some water onto the stack. I tried to stop my snot from dripping into the sink, but it was a lot like stopping little kids from touching valuables, or from ducking under roped-off entryways. Needless to say, I did not entirely succeed.
The majority of the trays I was working on had globs of ketchup sitting untouched atop the hard plastic. Some people left salt and pepper all over them, and others left greasy pickles stuck in a little bit of ketchup or mayonnaise. To get rid of the slop, I use the sanitizer solution from the dishwashing sink. Then I put a paper placemat (the epitome of luxury) onto the clean tray. These placemats usually advertise discounted prices for the month of April (at participating locations) and feature the image of a hamburger blown up across the page. Between you and me, most of my colleagues barely rinse the trays before handing them out to customers. So, you’re welcome. I was drying off one of the two ancient red trays when I started coughing. The customers could hear me, so I walked into the storeroom and waited for it to pass. I love the storeroom. It’s out of sight from the customers and, most of the time, far away from the other employees. The coughing was now manageable, so I grabbed a box cutter and started opening up packages of sauce—barbeque, ranch, and honey mustard. This is my favorite activity. It’s a solo act and doesn’t require gloves. I don’t get meat juice on my hands and customers can’t watch my every move. The computer screen that displays the orders beeped just then, and I speed-walked back to my station. Georgina had spilled sudsy water all over the floor by the sandwich counter, which was not unusual. I didn’t want to buy non-slip shoes when I got the job, so I took my chances every day wearing the black loafers I bought for my high school theater production of Fiddler on the Roof. I tiptoed slowly and held up the bottoms of my pant legs. “Tienes un novio?” Georgina regularly asks all the high school-aged people, plus Felicia, this question. “Nope, still single.” When I got to my station, I found Felicia leaning up against the counter, trying to help.
Her craftsmanship is sloppy, but boy does she make the incorrect sandwiches quickly! “How’s it going, Fe?” I ask. “Not bad at all, let me tell ya.” She wraps up the burger. I hand the burger to a shirtless, maybe 65-year old man. Who let him in? Who took his order? His gut is tremendous and his chest hair covers the span of his torso. Is there anyone in his life who can tell him this is unacceptable behavior? When I turn back to the station, Felicia is putting ketchup, pickle, and onion (hamburger/cheeseburger toppings) on a BLT, which is supposed to have mayo, tomato, and lettuce. I ignore it. “How’s school going?” I ask. “I dropped out of there a while ago. I can’t be bothered. No more am I gonna waste the gas driving back and forth from Suffolk (Community College fifteen minutes away from Wendy’s) all the time.” I decide I need some water and manage to escape with a vague nod that I hope comes off as understanding. At this moment, my manager, Jodi, comes out of her office and tells me to go on break. She says something obnoxious to whoever was in the storeroom and walks back into her office like she’s Madonna in 1985. Alec Killeen is at the back register by the break area, taking cash from the customers and organizing it in the register. I was put on back register once and was so confused by the money transactions and the process of entering totals on the computer that I ended up giving customers whatever change they told me I owed them. Since then, no one has tried to train me on anything other than sandwiches. “What up?” Alec asks me. “I have the plague,” I reply. Alec and I have gone to school together since kindergarten and have now entered our final year together. After hitting it off in
first grade, we lost contact for a decade. These days, we bond over music, Wendy’s, and our AP English class. “Yeah, I heard you coughing earlier.” “Mmm.” “I listened to Comedown Machine on the way here.” “Do you love it?” This continues until 3:00 when I wash my hands and put gloves on. We’re out of all medium-sized gloves, so I try to squeeze into a couple of smalls. They break, and I grab a pair of larges. It’s 3:04 now and Felicia doesn’t want to continue covering the sandwich station for me. I hurry back. I immediately start coughing (into my elbow at least) in front of the sandwich toppings. At school, I have been speed walking out of classes without even filling out a hall pass to go “take a drink at the water fountain,” meaning “cough uncontrollably by the lockers for a while.” In the beginning, teachers generally gave me a nod to indicate just how acceptable it was that I was leaving the classroom and would temporarily be making noise elsewhere. Then teachers stopped acknowledging that I was doing anything alarming, so now I come and go when the mood strikes me. Now it’s Saturday, and Jodi would have blamed me for being sick had I attempted to call in. So here I am, making a cheeseburger, coughing. It isn’t stopping, and is getting increasingly difficult to take a gasp of air between coughs. My eyes start to tear and now I am panicking. My air passages constrict. I am terrified of suffocating. I start crying, still coughing, and the one employee who noticed my fit seems unaware of the panic in my eyes. She heard the noise, looked in my direction, and kept walking toward the freezer. I try to take deep breaths, and grab a sip of water as the coughing slows down and the breathing picks up. I want to go home. I can’t think of anything to do but to finish making the sandwiches. So, I do this and then bring them to the customer,
who clearly witnessed the coughing fit. I awkwardly smile, trying to look healthy, I guess. I pull my gloves back on, since the large size causes some skin to be revealed. I am a walking germ. My manager finally notices how wrong it is that I’m preparing food for people right now, and puts me on trash duty outside. She raises an eyebrow as I hurry over to the paper towels to blow my nose. I am so tired. While mentally figuring out how much money I’ll make for doing this shift, I grab the bags from the dining room and take them out to the parking lot, trying not to get hit by customers speeding to the next drive-thru window. The dumpster has angry yellow jackets and smells like sewer this time of year. My chest feels heavy and my abdomen is sore, so I take my time heading back for my next task: picking up loose garbage from the perimeter of the property. By the time I get back inside to grab a broom and dustpan, Courtney (the one who successfully made it to the freezer without having to pretend that she valued my life at all) had commandeered them. She is sweeping up the carpet. You see, we don’t have a regular vacuum, let alone an industrial Shop-Vac, so we sweep up French fries covered in ants from underneath sticky tables. I ask her if she’s almost done. She lets me take it (how sweet) and I head back into the sun. I realize I’m not wearing sunscreen, so I pray my Wendy’s visor does the trick. (I sunburn like Julianne Moore. Relatedly, I bruise like a peach, and the blue blotches of ruptured blood vessels are as visible and as long lasting as the effects of sunshine.) Luckily, the lunch crowd is mostly gone, and the parking lot is wide open. I have no trouble finding garbage, despite how heavy my eyelids are feeling. There are endless cigarettes, Wendy’s to-go bags, and straw wrappers, so I feel as if I’m accomplishing very little in terms of parking lot aesthetics.
I can see the gas station next door from this line of parking spaces, and stop to watch a man pump gas for his wife. She’s in the passenger seat, her head leaning against the window. He’s watching the big TV next to the pump. When he gets back in the car, he kisses his wife’s forehead. I smile and pretend I’m included in their interaction. I hear the beep of a car driving over the sensor, followed by the voice of Josephine: “Welcome to Wendy’s, how may I help you?” I look at my phone. It’s 5:05. I should head back for the dinner rush. I look at my car parked on the other side of the store. It looks cozy and familiar. I want to get in it and drive. I sweep up one more plastic lid and get back onto the concrete path to the door. I prop the broom up against the wall and turn towards my car. I take out my keys and sneak into the driver’s seat, just for a minute. It’s warm and it’s quiet. I close my eyes for a while. “I’ll have a double cheeseburger,” the headset tells me. I turn off the volume, and put the headset in the passenger’s seat. The pin that holds my nametag is stabbing me, so I take it off. I pull off my visor too, and get myself comfortable, legs stretched to the gas and brake pedals. I recline the chair. The trees are moving outside, so I guess it’s getting windy. I turn my face toward the sun and let it warm my skin. I hear a tap on the window. It’s Alec. He smiles at me, gesturing to the door. I unlock it and he climbs into the passenger seat. I say “Hello” and he replies, “Hey.” He leans across me, and puts the key in the ignition. The radio comes on and he turns up the volume. We close our eyes for a while.
Stupid School Bus Julia Perkins
I scrunched my body up against the side of the school bus, trying to get as far away from the aisle as possible. Maybe if I got close enough to the window, it could swallow me up and I could escape outside. But no matter how hard I pushed myself up against the metal of the bus, I could still hear the footsteps of Johnny Smithson and Michael Crosswire stomping toward me, their screeching voices growing louder. “She was way out of line!” Johnny shouted. He wore his usual perpetual snarl, like a shark with his pointed, crooked teeth, narrow jaw, and dirty blonde hair spiked up on his head like a gill. “Yeah, yeah! Way out of line!” Michael agreed, pounding his fist on the backrest of a Kindergartener’s seat. Michael was redheaded and freckled, with a flat nose. “I mean, there was no reason for her to get so upset!” “Yeah! Why did she get so upset?” Michael asked “Because she is a fat retard! That is why!” Johnny exclaimed. “Yeah, yeah that is why.” I could sense that they had reached my aisle and wiggled deeper into the rubbery seat, the color of moldy green, begging that they would choose to sit somewhere else today. I hugged my Ariel backpack, holding onto the hope that maybe they wouldn’t notice me. Maybe they wouldn’t remember that it was Friday. But sure enough I heard the boys clump into the seat behind me. They always seemed to find me no matter how hard I tried to be invisible. Friday was the only day that I had to put up with Johnny Smithson and Michael Crosswire on the bus, and their obnoxious farting noises, and their obnoxious kicking of my seat, and their obnoxious game of “see-how-many-times-we-can-spit-out-thewindow-before-the-bus-driver-yells-at-us.” Luckily my babysitter-
slash-tutor-slash-best-friend Sophia drives me home from school Monday through Thursday. Unluckily, she couldn’t drive me home on Fridays. That meant that I had to deal with stupid Johnny Smithson and stupid Michael Crosswire on the stupid school bus. And pretty soon—I squeezed my backpack tighter just thinking about it—I’d have to take the school bus every day. The night before Sophia had told us the worst news I had ever heard in my eight years of life. She would be leaving us soon. She had looked at me all happily and said she got a new teaching job, as if I were supposed to be excited about this. But I didn’t see anything exciting about losing the only friend I had. She taught me how to swim and helped me beat all my levels on my The Little Mermaid video game and still told me bedtime stories even though my parents said I am too old for that. She brushed my hair and knew how to braid my pigtails just how I liked them. The bus pulled out of the school parking lot, passed the baseball field, passed the big brown house with the big oak tree out front. We reached the pizza place when I noticed too late that Johnny and Michael had grown quiet. That could not be good. “Ew!” exclaimed Johnny. “What’s that smell?” “What’s That Smell” was one of Johnny and Michael’s favorite bus time pastimes. It just happened to be my least favorite. “I don’t know,” cried Michael. “I don’t know, either!” Johnny said back. “But it kinda smells like seaweed.” Michael laughed. “Like seaweed! Yeah, yeah, like seaweed!” The two cackled and slammed their fists against the back of my seat. “Wait, no, no, no, Michael! It doesn’t smell like seaweed!” “Yeah! You’re right! It doesn’t smell like seaweed!” “It smells like dead fish!” “Like dead fish! Yeah, like dead fish!”
“No, no, no! Wait a minute, Michael!” Johnny gave the meanest of cackles. “That isn’t dead fish! That’s Katie Harper!” “Katie Harper!” Michael giggled. “Hey! Hey!” Johnny taunted, poking the back of my head.I ignored him. It was better that way. It was my fault really that they made fun of me this way. I made the mistake last year of telling them the truth about me. Normally I don’t tell a lot of people, but I am actually a mermaid princess. When I was a young baby, I lived under the sea with my real parents, the king and queen of the mermaids. My parents ruled the sea with fairness and kindness. The whole kingdom loved them and everybody thought we would live happily ever after. That was until the evil mermen came. The evil mermen ransacked our palace, killed my father, and took over the kingdom. With their new power, they threatened to kill my mother and I, as well. Desperate to save me, my mother swam ashore and left me in a little basket on the Harper’s dock. That is where my land family found me. I thought Johnny and Michael would think it was cool, that they would stop making fun of me if they realized I was a mermaid princess. But they just laughed at me and called me a retard. I know my real mother is still alive though; I can just feel it. One day when I am a teenager, I am going to return to the sea and help my mother take back our kingdom. My family on the land says this story isn’t true, but I know they are lying. I don’t know if it’s because they are working with the evil mermen or if it’s because they would miss me or something if I went back under the sea. But it sure doesn’t seem like they would miss me. My mom forgets to pick me up at the bus stop, my dad misses dinner a lot since he works so much, my sister Cassie ignores me, and my parents don’t seem to notice me when they fight. Sophia would miss me though. Sophia has never confirmed that I am a mermaid, either, but is only because the others never told her the truth. Out of everyone,
I know Sophia loves me the most. She would never lie to me on purpose. “Hey, Katie Harper! Hey, Katie Harper! How come you don’t answer me? Hey Katie Harper!” Johnny started tugging at my pigtails. The pigtails Sophia perfected for me this morning. Sophia wouldn’t be around much longer to braid my pigtails. “Hey, Katie Harper! Are you deaf? Can’t you feel this? Hey, Katie Harper!” Johnny yanked on my hair tie and the braid on the right side of my head fell out. My stomach felt like someone just threw a really big boulder at it. My eyes and my face felt like they are on fire. I whipped around. “DON’T YOU EVER TOUCH ME AGAIN, JOHNNY SMITHSON!” I screamed, my voice, crackling with the sound of oncoming tears, filled the bus. And then, to my horror everyone on the bus grew silent and turned to look at me. “Wow, it was an accident. It really was, Katie Harper,” Johnny shook his head, taken aback. “Tell her it was an accident, Michael.” Michael didn’t say anything. He looked too shocked to move with his mouth half open. The bus jerked to a stop and I fell backwards a little into the cushion of the seat behind me. I snuck a glance out the window as I straightened up. There were just trees outside the window and no driveways. This was not where we usually stop. Oh no! Oh no! Oh no! Oh no! The bus driver must have heard me. She must be checking what’s going on! There was a clicking noise and then the shuffling sound of the bus driver unbuckling her seat belt and standing up. I tried to pretend I didn’t know the bus driver was coming and continued glaring at Johnny, but I could feel myself turning redder and redder and it was becoming harder to think, to stop the tears from falling, to keep breathing. I’d never gotten angry like that before and I didn’t understand where that all came from. The whole bus was dead silent so I could hear the clunk of the bus driver’s footsteps as she drew nearer. Michael’s
face was bright red and I could see his blue backpack shaking because of the nervous vibrations of his legs. Johnny pinched his arm and the little chunk of skin he gripped onto turned whiter and whiter. The sound of the bus driver’s footsteps stopped and out of the corner of my eye, I saw her put her left hand onto the seat behind me. “What is going on here?” the bus driver asked. Her voice was rather gravely. I thought she sounded angry, but my babysitterslash-tutor-slash-best friend Sophia says that I always think adults sound angry. I slowly turned to look at the bus driver. Her bright blue eyes surveyed Johnny, Michael, and I, but the expression on her wrinkling face remained unreadable. I tried to open my mouth to say something, but I didn’t remember how to speak. “Well, Mrs. Bus Driver, something happened accidentally is all,” Johnny jumped in very quickly. I could tell he was trying to sound super smart and sure of himself, but his voice waivered. “I accidentally touched Katie Harper’s hair and her ponytail accidentally fell out. It was an accident though.” “Yes, I am sure that is exactly what happened,” sighed the bus driver. The bus driver turned to look at me. I shriveled into the seat. “Maybe you want to tell me what happened.” I couldn’t think. I couldn’t even see anymore. My eyes were too cloudy. “Um, I think…” I whispered. “I think…I think…I don’t really know.” I squeezed my eyes shut so the tears wouldn’t fall out. But that just made it worse and I felt them creeping out from my eyelashes. I heard the bus driver take a deep breath. “Okay, your name is Katie, right?” the bus driver asked. I think I nodded, but I wasn’t really sure. “Okay, Katie, why don’t you sit up front, all right.” I squinted and saw the bus driver had her hand out for me to take. My mom and my sister Cassandra would hate her nails. They are cut short and have the faintest remnants of black polish on them. Wiping my arm over my eyes to clear the
tears from my face, I took her hand. It felt just a tad softer than sandpaper. We only walked about ten feet, but it was the longest walk of my life. I didn’t want to look at anyone so I stared at the bus floor. I never knew there could be so much dirt and so many pieces of trash in one place. I counted three lollipop wrappers, a yellowing sock, two Dunkin Donuts napkins, eight pencils, two pen caps, and twelve fairly large hairballs. She walked me to the first row where there was an empty seat on the right side. I slid in and placed my face up against the window. I waited to hear the driver buckle her seatbelt and start the bus again, but instead I heard the slap of her feet walking back to Johnny and Michael. “And you two!” She was trying not to yell, but her snarling voice carried in the silence of the bus, so everyone could hear her. “Next time you get on this bus you will be sitting up front! And no, not together! One of you will be sitting behind me and one of you will be sitting on the other side. Is that clear?” There was a pause. “I asked you a question. I said, is that clear?” There was a faint mumbling of “yes” from the back. “Now, if anything like this ever happens again, I will tell the school and they will tell your parents. Understand?” There was another mumbling of “yes.” “Good, now don’t cause any more commotion for the rest of the ride!” The bus driver’s feet clumped down to her seat. She buckled up, started the bus, and drove away. No one talked for several minutes so everyone could hear me sniffling as I hugged my Ariel backpack.
(Read aloud for dramatic effect) It wasn’t supposed to be like this. Bullets couldn’t leave our fingertips and when bigger blows left our lips our parents washed the sins out with soap and that was it. And in school we settled our race issues on the track because it didn’t matter if you were yellow, white, or black, it mattered if you were fast, and whether or not you were picked last, but definitely not the contrast of skin tones. I remember in the third grade when my classmate called this girl with short hair “gay,” and it’s my naiveté to say that I looked up the word in the dictionary and I agreed, she was merry and carefree. But if we didn’t have to be so P.C. maybe Merriam-Webster could have helped me stand up to a bully. And now with cyberspace we don’t even have to face our enemies or count the casualties of the worlds we explode with our keyboards that we cock and fully load with rumors that in time will implode, because what you say will still exist when you no longer do.
But it doesn’t seem to matter what you’ve achieved, what you believe, or the change you wish to see as long as on the surface your life’s purpose is to be easy, fearless, and greater than the people on your “friends list.” Because your accomplishments are only defined by the number of likes you receive online, if your clothes are J. Crew or Vinyard Vines, but it’s time we wake up and shake this paradigm. I can’t tell you how to live your life. Hell, I don’t know how to live mine, but if it doesn’t have friends and family you love it ain’t worth a dime. So let’s alter this ideology that fixates on status and technology. Help those around you because one day you might need help too. Treat strangers like neighbors, don’t honk at out-of-staters, and always tip your waiters because this life isn’t about you, it’s about something greater. But please understand it’s not the minds of our parents we need to expand, but I demand that the spread of love begins with our children placing their finger guns back in their waistbands.
Noam Chomsky Day!! Alan Johnson
“Phones.” Topher held out the fruit bowl, pushing the apples and bananas to the side, making room for all of our cellphones. I never liked this rule, but I respected it. It was put into place to spare our innocent loved ones the large amounts of gibberish and nonsense that was about to consume our minds for the next six or so hours. Besides, the only other rule was to never go into a bathroom and that was sacrosanct to me, ever since Topher and I got lost in different bathrooms, staring at our reflection in the mirror. “I think it’s time to shroom, boys,” said Sam, separating the magic mushrooms into equal serving sizes. “Woah, woah. What about the Das man, dude?” asked Russell. I loved the Das man, but the dude was the most unreliable guy ever. We’d spend weeks trying to pick a day, carving out a tenhour chunk of time, and crafting subtle lies to our parents, but Das always had an insurmountable yet absurd obstacle in his way, like taking his little sister and friends to the zoo or forgetting that he had an appointment to get his wisdom teeth removed. Unfortunately, today seemed to be a classic Das-less day. “I vote no Das man,” I said, sadly. “I second it,” Sam piped in. “The no’s have it,” said Topher. Democracy had won again. Sam gave us each 4 mushrooms, fully intact, with giant, bulbous caps. Sam always made the servings, because he was the one who always had the mushrooms. He would never admit it and we would never say it to him, but he was a pusha man. He was our pusha man. We loved him for that. Russell ate his mushrooms plain, delicately chewing the caps slowly. The first time I ate shrooms, I ate them plain. I still haven’t been able to get the faint taste of cow shit out of my mouth. I 39
dipped my mushrooms in Nutella and chewed them as fast as I could. Topher did the same, while Sam made a peanut butter and shroom sandwich. “So, Nick, it’s your last day here, before college. Where do you want us to trip?” Without a moment’s hesitation, I said, “The Rambles.” The Rambles was directly behind my house, with enough trees and shrubbery to be completely out of sight from any window. It was a mile long stretch of a plain green meadow, with a small pond in the middle, civilization on the left, forest on the right. The cool high school kids called it “The Secret Meadow,” and threw huge parties, where many a guy and girl had their first sexual experience in front of 200 of their closest friends. After high school, we renamed it The Rambles, because of our seemingly inconsequential and incoherent conversations we had when we tripped there. That’s where I met Katie. During our senior year of high school, Katie heard from a friend of a friend that we occasionally liked to lose our minds for a couple hours and I guess she thought that was cool. I definitely thought she was cool. She looked like a pinup from the 50s, curvy in all the right places, but she was the most interesting girl I ever met. We made small talk for a little bit, until she felt sick from the shrooms. She didn’t eat breakfast that day. Katie never ate breakfast. I took her back to my house and held her hair back while she vomited in the toilet. I looked in the mirror. It was a good rule. I laid her down in my bed and put the blankets over her. I felt bad leaving her alone, so I sat in my chair watching her, waiting for the trip to end and hoping she wouldn’t puke on my sheets. After a few moments, she asked, “Can you hold me?”
I slid in next to her and wrapped my arms around her, enveloping her body. We said nothing for a while, her tripping, me tripping. Apropos of nothing, she told me that she wanted to design a more aesthetically pleasing passport or a speechwriter for local mayoral campaigns. Nothing else in the world intrigued her enough to do as a career. “That’s such a large gap between those two.” “Everything is in that large gap.”I spent the next six months obsessed with that gap. We dated for the rest of senior year, but never took shrooms again. We did visit The Rambles, but that was for her last night at home, before she left for college. I was staying in Texas and she was going to New York. She said it wouldn’t last and I said ok. This was it. I bought the finest boxed wine my local grocery store offered and the cheapest fake vomit prop my local prank shop offered. She appreciated one of those gifts more than the other. I wanted to stay up with her all night, but she had an early flight and I had to let her take an early flight. I told her I loved her, she said the same, I drove her home, she flew away. When I came home for Thanksgiving, I found out she had one of those fancy New York boyfriends, the kind who listen to This American Life and own Neutral Milk Hotel albums on vinyl. Needless to say, I was crushed. On the last day of break, she texted me saying how much she missed me and that she wanted to see me before she left. I didn’t reply, because my phone was in the fruit bowl. After we sobered up, I saw the text but it was too late. She was gone.’’ “Dude, it’s way too hot for The Rambles,” said Sam. He wasn’t wrong. The sweltering Texas heat in August was definitely not an ideal place to spend ten hours, let alone while
under the influence of psychedelics. “It’s Nick’s day and I vote that we respect his decision,” said Topher. “I second it,” said Russell, already headed to my garage for supplies. Democracy was a cool thing. We each grabbed a lawn chair, a water bottle, and a sandwich, ensuring that we had the ingredients for survival. Russell brought a pen and paper, because he was the Poet Laureate of The Rambles, and what a great Poet Laureate he was! Whenever we needed something, whether we knew it or not, Russell had the phrase, the rhyme, the word, to keep us going. We set up in the shade, looking directly at the pond. I wanted to swim in it, but I was afraid to drown. Sam stood in front of me to go pee in the trees, but not before apologizing for blocking my view of the pond. “I thank you, Sam, and, more importantly, I forgive you.” Sam smiled at me and went off into the forest. As I watched him leave, I noticed the trees. They seemed to be uprooted and headed towards us, but I knew that wasn’t possible. I didn’t want to scare my friends over aggressive trees, so I just stared at them, never breaking eye contact to make sure they weren’t advancing. After a while, I noticed Topher and Russell were also staring at the trees. We needed to talk about them. “Guys, I don’t want to alarm anyone…but those trees are coming at us.” I said. “I know, it’s a huge bummer. They kind of look like The Ents from Lord of the Rings,” said Topher. Topher was right. Russell began frantically writing in his pad, almost tearing through his page. “What is it, Russell?” said Topher. Russell smiled and proudly showed off his paper: I’m Above The Affluence, But Below The Poverty Line.
He was a good Poet Laureate. “Yo, where the fuck is Sam?” said Topher. “I think he went to the bathroom like a minute ago.” “Dude, it was at least an hour ago.” “No fucking way.” “The answer, as always, is in the middle.” We left our safe spot on a journey to find Sam, passing through the unique ecosystem of The Rambles, full of empty beer cans, underwear, and cigarette butts. We passed the area where I last saw Katie. I swear, I could still taste the shitty, acidic-boxed wine from over a year ago. She could be texting me now. I needed my phone. I needed to be sober. While I tried to formulate a plan, we stumbled upon Sam, sitting cross-legged, looking in-between two rocks. “Sam, are you doing ok?” asked Topher. Sam said nothing and continued staring. “Sam?” Sam turned to Topher. “I found this,” said Sam, smiling. It was a used condom between two rocks. “It has to be a gnome’s. No regular sized man could fit between these rocks.” Topher started laughing. “I’m serious! This is important. We need to find this gnome and question him about who he’s been fucking.” Topher stopped laughing. “Do you think-do you think it was Noam Chomsky?” asked Topher. “I think it’s too early to rule anything out. What do you think, Russell?” Russell showed us his paper: How Strange It Is To Be Anything At All. This was my chance. “Guys, we’ll never find Noam Chomsky in The Rambles… unless we all split up.”
“I second it,” said Sam “And I third it,” said Topher. Everything is so democratic and cool. I ran all the way to my house, faster than I had thought I could run. I think. It was hard to tell, because I was starting to peak at that point, and I can never remember much when I’m peaking. Apparently, we left my door wide open, so I was able to run straight into my house without using a key. I should remember to thank Past Nick for his thoughtful behavior. I went to the fruit bowl and found my phone. No texts, no missed calls. She wants to see me, she just doesn’t know it yet. I text her: I realize that I just want to BE with you. After a few seconds, I send another: I just want to spend all my time with you. Then I became obsessed with the blue background of my phones. Noam Chomsky definitely spends all day on his phone. Phones are good. I glanced at the bathroom. I entered the bathroom, eyes closed, still unsure if I was to break the rule I held most sacrosanct. Facing the ground, I opened my eyes. The first thing I saw was my dad’s Car And Driver magazine. We used to go out to these mini-racetracks, where we would race these little model cars that we built. And when I say we built, I really mean my dad did all the work while I watched. He was a good man, my dad. He still is. I turned to the mirror and there I saw my dad. You would think I would have been surprised, but I kind of expected it. “Hey Nick.” “Hey Dad. You’re at work right now.” “Yeah, I know. Just taking a break to talk to you,” said Dad. There were a few moments of silence. “Should I get back to work?” asked Dad. “Dad, I don’t want to leave. I want to stay, Dad.”Dad frowned
for a moment, but then smiled. “Yeah, ok, I don’t see why not.” “Do you mean it, Dad? Do you really mean it?” “Of course. Would Dad lie to you? No way, Dad would never lie to you!” Dad was a pretty chill dad. “Dad, you’re a pretty chill dad,” I said. “Hey, they don’t call me Dad for no reason. Why don’t you take a break? You look stressed.” I tried to look at myself in the mirror, but all I saw was Dad, so I took his word for it. I made a makeshift bed out of towels and was about to go to sleep, before Dad said, “Hey Nick? I love you.” “I love you too, Dad.” I awoke to the noise of banging on the door. I opened the door to see Das. “Dude, where have you been?” said Das. “Where have I been? Where the fuck have you been?” “I had to paint my neighbor’s house. I thought it was supposed to be next week, but I fucked up the dates.” I looked around to see Sam and Topher drinking beers in the corner. “Hey, how are you guys?” I said. “We’re good, man. We figured out that Noam Chomsky was actually a pretty good dude. In fact, he might be our God. It’s between him or Das. Das knew to bring us water when we ran out,” said Sam. “I became the Legend of Bagger Jokes, so I’m now second in line behind Russell,” said Topher. “That’s a great name,” I had to admit. “Also, we declared today an official bank holiday called Noam Chomsky Day, so we need to celebrate it right. We’re throwing a party in The Rambles,” said Sam.
I left the bathroom and walked over to the kitchen, where my phone was. I checked to see if I had any texts or phone calls. Nothing. I took the handle of vodka out of the freezer and poured out Âž of the vodka into a solo cup. I filled the rest with soda. I took out a fork and began furiously stirring the drink, hoping to distribute a little bit of soda throughout the cup. Russell walked up to me and handed me a sheet of paper: If You Stir Fast Enough, Can You Go Back In Time?
The Dishwasher’s Picnic Nicole Maresca
He lies next to me, but I can’t fall asleep. He snores before his hair sets on the pillow. I want to take a mini lawnmower and mow rows of his locks off until they drop onto his chest, until they’re a garden full of daffodils growing on top of his heart. He says he loves me, but he never stays awake long enough to watch me sleep; I’m always the watcher. I’m too drunk right now, the cheap Smirnoff smacks me in the forehead again. It feels mushy, like sodden moss, mashing myself and the room into a pulp. Alcohol always feels the mushiest at 4am, and the sharpest at 8am. Rabbits eat daffodils in family yards, but don’t like to be cuddled. I should be a rabbit instead.
He turns over, back facing me. I would try and sleep, but ceilings crash and windows break and walls cave in. I stayed up to write how I love him, but all I can be is a penguin slipping on ice, a snow plow not plowing snow. I think I dislike him, too. Did you ever swim in every ocean and cheat on your boyfriend with the coral at the bottom of the sea? I wouldn’t dare, but he has. He’s also danced with slutty clownfish in the same marine, fins flopping everywhere and lips licking everything. All the Kens in the world, and he still eats and spits me out like a chewed Barbie at a garage sale. They say “every man’s junk is another man’s treasure,” but there’s also the kind of poem that says the daffodils on his chest are just a bunch of weeds. Weeds grow every springtime and make me sneeze till my nose turns pink and cut. Please love me. 49
Years later they wouldn’t remember the nature of the words they breathed out into the covers; what the sounds were that slipped from between the fibers of the too-small, too-thin duvet covering the plastic mattress. Giggles and whispers seeped out into the darkness of the room the way the cold air seeped in from the single-pane window behind them. The girl’s room was in front of one of the few working street lights on that block of the city, and from outside the light was coming down and cutting a lampshadeshaped hole in the winter blackness, and in it there were furry white snowflakes, dropping down slow and lazy and fat and making the girl’s room very cold. But the blanket was suspended like a tent between their heads, and inside it, sharing the stale air and talking quietly, it was warm. It looked like a dorm room. It had six rows of shelving built into the wall on the long side of the room, and the amount one had stored on them told how long they had been there. On that particular night three of hers were filled. The bed where the boy and the girl were sitting was against the other wall, jammed into the far corner. It was the small hours of the night and they were little and old, sitting up in the girl’s bed with their legs drawn in. Her right side was against the window so that the cold dripped onto her neck and shoulders, and a line across her upper arm ached a little from pressing against the sill. The boy was across from her, at the foot of the bed, their knees touching. The sheets and the comforter were pulled entirely over them, and they were sitting on the corners, holding in the edges and their body heat. It was the girl and her flashlight, and the boy and his deck of cards. There really wasn’t enough room for all of them without catching the sides of the blanket cocoon. When one of them shifted
a few inches of the seams would be pulled out from beneath their bottoms, inviting a puff of cool air onto the underside of their thighs before, squealing in whispers, they replaced it again. All hard edges, elbows and toenails and knees. They were careful in dealing the cards so as to protect the warmth of the cocoon and the newness of the deck. The buttery battery acid lit up their faces, alight with laughter, close together and not minding, and on that night they were both twelve. Francisco was her first friend there. The ward was called Winnie 1, the psychiatric unit branching off the larger hospital in the city. The childrenâ€™s ward was one long hallway. A classroom was first, the only carpeted and decorated room in the place. A door across from it led to the rubber-covered playground outside. Further up the hall was a kitchen, attached to an adjoining rec room where they spent the majority of their time in Group. After that were bathrooms in alcoves on either side, and after that, bedroomsâ€”A through J, all of them doubles. Of the night Emma arrived there she remembered very little. After more than a year of it in secret she had broken down completely, hysterical and screaming, and revealed to her mother that she wanted to die. Her life did not matter and this made her very existence feel bloated, useless, taking up space. She did not want this and so she wanted not to be alive. She remembered that when it was all over, the screaming, her whole body had felt numb and damp, and that she was so tired she could not close her eyes. She remembered the streets, black and wet, and the sticky rushing of tires on pavement and ice and sand. She remembered lying prostrate in the backseat of the minivan; how her father was crying as he drove but her mother had kept on a wet, sloppy smile. Fingertip heartbeats. Clogged ears. That was all. At the end of the hall in the ward there was a couch, and an
enormous white bookshelf that took up the entire back wall. On that first night that was where she huddled. Everyone else had been in the rec room watching a movie. He found her there. He had dark Puerto Rican features and hollow cheeks. “What’s your name?” He rolled his Rs. She said, “Emma.” He crouched on the floor with her and pulled a puzzle from the bottom row of the bookshelf. “It’s not so bad,” he said, meaning here, this place. He dumped it out. The nurses woke them up every day at 6:30. Winter had come early that year, and at this hour everything was pitch black and freezing. The children, ages six to twelve, would get dressed groggily in the dark, reluctant to turn on the painful white lights, and then they would take their bags of toiletries from their cubbies and wait for their turns in the alcove bathrooms. Emma was always ready early. She would sit on her bed in the dark until breakfast time, listening to the sounds of the morning tantrums and the morning wails. Francisco was part of the former. If she heard him then she would smile to herself in the dark, and at breakfast she would scold him in Miss Helen’s voice until he laughed. In the kitchen area of the big common room they took a carton of milk or juice from a plastic bucket with ice and then waited in line for a tray of shelly scrambled eggs. They went to school in the mornings in two groups, the big kids and the little kids. It went just until noon, and the lessons were painfully remedial. Around Thanksgiving they watched Pocahontas. They were separated only for Private Therapy. The big kids went after school, alternating for an hour or more into one of the office rooms that held a team of three psychiatrists. It was always dim in there, all the shades drawn and the only light coming from sleepy, red-hooded lamps. The people who worked with Emma were a
plain, straightforward sort. What went on in those sessions was very painful. She swirled her medical bracelet around and around her wrist with her finger, the skimming sound of plastic against skin balancing out the voices of the men. In Emma’s Private she always felt like some wet, drowning thing, having the murky semi-conscious knowledge that a stranger on the shore was breathing for her. Every time they spoke to her it was like they were feeling for a heartbeat, trying too fast, and too forcefully, to pump the life back in. She was tired all the time. Once she had confessed that she was afraid of the unknown time she had ahead of her there, the endless stretching days or weeks before they decided she was well enough to go home. She said she was afraid of being still for too long, being useless, insignificant; it was making everything worse. If she were on the outside, she said, she would feel better. If she were on the outside she could maybe volunteer or write a book or fly into space; anything, anything at all, that mattered. One of the psychiatrists said, “But the good news, Emma, is that you’re twelve. Now is the perfect time to be here. You couldn’t be out doing any of those things anyway, not really. You’d be in school.” He said, “Real life won’t start for a while, honey. Focus on using this time to get your head on straight. Emma, you’re twelve.” After dinner there was a few hours of free time, where they played in the hallway or their rooms as they waited for their names to be called for showers. Most nights Emma sat with Francisco in the reading corner by the bookshelf, both of them lying on their backs on the cold tile and chatting, salvaging normalcy from the day. Bedtime, for the big kids and the little ones, was at nine. Most of the time she was there Emma felt very much as she had before, tired and ancient and sick. Her parents had sent in a blanket along with her clothes and toiletries but the nights were always cold. Her bed was beneath an air duct and freezing drafts
blew out from it all night. But it was the nights that Emma felt alive the most. Outside her door in the still-lit hallway sat members of the Late staff, one in each alcove. They were meant to keep watch in case there was a problem in the night. But many times they gave into the temptation to sleep; heavyset, kindly women dozing with their mouths open, tilting sideways in their chairs. On those nights Emma would sit up in bed with her back against the window and wait, and invariably the door would open, pooling her room in a slice of light before it was blocked out again. Francisco would tiptoe past the empty bed in her room and into her corner, sometimes holding a puzzle or a deck of cards and sometimes nothing at all. It was risky, this business, because being caught in someone else’s room meant a week without playground privilege, and doing so at night—a boy in a girl’s room, even—was unthinkable. But they would construct the tent, Francisco and her, feeling more like children in their wrongdoing than they ever could during the day; feeling the stillness and silence of being the only ones awake. On the third week of her stay in Winnie 1 Emma was allowed her first visitor. Her mother came. Emma told her that the place was fine, that things were fine, that she would be fine. She showed her the playground, the rec room, her room. She could not show her Francisco, because he was in The Hole that day. The Hole was a white door with a porthole window, placed too high up for a child to see. It was the size of a closet and meant for the kids who were in Winnie 1 for behavior problems, the ones who sometimes became dangerous. One of those was Francisco. Her mother looked around in silence for a while and then sat on Emma’s bed, studiously ignoring the distant pounding and screaming at the end of the hall. “Boy, sweets, it looks like time stands still here, huh?” Emma said that sometimes it did and sometimes it didn’t.
“Where’s Dad?” It was not kind, but Emma was tired and freezing and she wanted her mother to say it. Her mother’s smile was too big, immediate, cartoonish. “He had to work,” she said brightly. “He says he misses you and loves you very much.” “Okay.” “Listen.” Her mother reached for Emma’s hand, pulling her gently down next to her on the edge of the bed. She kept Emma’s hand in hers as she spoke. “Baby, you’re twelve. You’re a little girl. In a couple of months none of this is going to matter. We’ll pretend this never happened. Okay? Like it never even happened.” There it was again. The idea that her life was insignificant, presented to her like she was meant to find that comforting. It was depressing. Hollowly she said, “What do you mean?” “I just—gosh, how do I explain this?” Emma’s mother was a math teacher at the high school. It was painfully clear that the words she was trying to offer to her daughter were out of her depths. “It’s like…this part of your life, Emma, it’s just a fraction. It’s a fraction of the whole thing. In the long run, when you’re older, all this time here won’t mean a thing, you know? You’ll come home soon all fixed up, and your life can start again. Don’t you worry, baby.” Emma’s thoughts were too full and she did not know if she was articulate enough to answer her mother. What she really desired, more than anything at that time, was the reassurance that this fraction of her life, and the people within it, was not worthless. No one did. After that she counted the minutes until her mother would go home. Later, at dinnertime, one of the nurses caught her as she filed with the others into the rec room. “Emma, yeah? You’re buddies
with ‘Cisco? Don’t bother him tonight, hon. You don’t want to set him off. He’s had a bad day.” The residents of Winnie 1 were all in for different reasons, for depression and anxiety and behavior problems and, strangely, it seemed to Emma, for those with very low-functioning autism. Francisco would fly into inexplicable rages that scared everyone, including her, destroying whatever was in his reach. That morning at breakfast he had been yelling like a bull, fighting wildly against one of the male hospital staff that had him in a bear hug. A table was on its side and broken dishes were everywhere. When they left the kitchen to go to school Emma had seen the one of the male social workers that had dragged Francisco away standing guard outside The Hole. It was shuddering from the force of Francisco’s repeated kicks. She could see his small hands smacking against the shielded glass of the high porthole. He was still screaming. Wherever she went in the ward she could hear him in there, all day long. It made her tired just to hear it. When Emma went into the kitchen he was already there, sitting alone at the corner table they normally shared. He looked exhausted, his shoulders slumping and his head resting against the wall. She approached him anyway. “You didn’t miss anything in school. We did fractions.” He said nothing. There were dark shadows already blooming beneath his eyes, but he looked up at her and smiled wanly. It hurt her to see. She offered her mother’s advice, the psychiatrists’. “It’s okay. It’s not a big deal. You’re only twelve, you know. Just pretend like it never happened.” Francisco’s voice was hoarse. “It did, though. Just ‘cause it was bad doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. What’s it matter if I’m twelve?” She didn’t know whether she wanted to kiss him or cry. Some number of hours long after dark it began to snow. He
stepped silently into her room, shutting the door against the light and slipping like a ghost between the sheets. They constructed the tent over them, as was their way. The flashlight was in Emma’s lap pointing upwards, accentuating the circles under the children’s tired eyes, much happier now. Francisco pulled out the deck of cards. They played Slap. Cards came down onto their laps, one by one, the boy and the girl slapping the deck and occasionally one another’s hands. Thoughts, too, were falling from Emma’s head, onto the deck and out through the sheets. Slap. She was twelve, but she mattered. Slap. Her life in here was not—would never be—on hold. Slap. She was living, living right now, and having the very small, insular human experience of playing cards after lights out with a boy who was her best friend, and he was not a fraction. She did not yet know if he would be a permanent part of the whole but that that did not make this, or them, insignificant. Slap. From outside the tent it would have looked odd, the two little figures under the covers. Their bodies would have been lit up black against the yellow of the flashlight, illuminating them in their cocoon like a floating paper lantern in the otherwise perfectly dark room. All this for the last time before the girl, and then the boy, was sent home and they did not see each other again. She decided there in the blankets that she maybe loved him, and just as she did so he leaned over and kissed her, just a small quick one on her cheek, and then he pulled back and looked at her and for a second they were both confused and still before dissolving into twin fits of shrieking laughter. They muffled themselves when the attendant sitting just outside the girl’s door snorted loudly in her sleep, and they returned to the game. They were twelve.
Turning Off The Lights Before Going to Bed Clare Michalak
I open the cabinet doors and do not close them when I leave so that it looks like there is a ghost in the room * chasing away the fear of loss is much easier to do with things that need chasers * my friends say come with us I only say maybe * being alone was never as terrifying as when I sat at the top of the stairs to make sure that mom didnâ€™t leave me alone in this house * my drug of choice is the attention that they give me when you cross the room and say something about my eyes *
if given the choice I would prefer to hide and not seek rather than to seek and find what has been hiding * my fingers scratch and shred to pick and pick at the cuts and scabs until they bleed knowing that they will form prettier scars * I like my bed literally empty and figuratively full * if I plug every hole that’s left with bath tub plugs they will make me numb even if I flood * I don’t like feeling like an open window in a rainstorm but that’s the only way I can breathe * It is getting late and the shadows from my head crawl down my spine and make me feel uneasy *
The Hangman Danielle Radeke
The hangman came to call today In robes of pure snow white And in his hands he held a noose His bony fingers held it tight He showed me my past today The hangman revealed my crimes He revealed to me a hopeless future He said I was out of time The hangman was my judge and jury And in his eyes I was guilty from the start I was nothing more than a pathetic waste Did I even have a heart? And when my verdict had been reached And the gavel had been swung The hangman held me in his arms With words of comfort on his tongue “It will be alright,” the hangman whispered With the elegance of a snake “I will not force anything on you, But you now have a choice to make.” “You can live this life of nothingness And you can bear it best you can Or you can change your fate by simply Taking this noose out of my hand.”
And with his kind words in my ear That made so much sense at that time I took the noose and squeezed it tight And fell from way on high But as I fell I saw my mother Crying until she couldn’t breathe I saw my father’s drunken grief And my brother asking why I’d leave I saw my sister with her head held down And my friends whose despair showed through And I saw a future that was so bright I saw the things I’d never do And now I know, too little too late, That my verdict was not true So I beg you to make a different choice If the hangman comes for you
tossing turning tossing turning It’s the point of the night where language doesn’t justify thought. You turn over to the cold spot that houses the silhouette of your mind’s desires; where there was once warmth, now, only an empty bedsheet. You’re not thinking, but you know the thoughts are there. Sigh. Opening your eyes, you see the reflection of the alarm clock’s blue hue in the mirror adjacent to your night stand. The numbers on the clock are too high to be hopeful, and your spirits are too low to climb above the forming layers of anxiety. You can’t tell if it’s the weight of those anxious bricks that keep your eyelids shut, or if they’re heavy because you’re convinced you can fall asleep if you just try. Try. tossing turning tossing turning 64
You finally catch a glimpse of a thought; it’s the outline of who used to lay next to you. By this point of the night, the warmth of your sheets feels more like a cage that isolates your body from the rest of the world; you can feel your skin, your nails, your teeth. They vibrate in unison with the waltz your anxious mind embraces you with, sweating from the heat, heart pounding from the rhythm. You turn over, moving from laying on your back to your right side, in the hopes that it will be more comfortable; maybe you’re just trying to remember what it was like to lay on your side with who left the indent in your mattress, or maybe you’re just telling yourself you’ll fall asleep easier. Regardless, you already know who’s going to talk to you in your sleep. Time – the logical system humanity applied to maturity – blurs like vision through tear filled eyes. Minutes become hours, hours become seconds; Distortion. tossing Your eyelids grow heavy, turning tossing, the images of your room become clearer the more you shut your eyes. The layers of anxiety unwrap the sheets around your body, turning tossing turning toss
—ing. You’re in an elevator filled with others dressed for a ball; the symphony has already started, and although being fashionably late has always been your style, you’re worried your boss may be angry with you. Thankfully, you don’t know anyone in the elevator, and they’re all talking to each other but not you. It’s isolating, but there’s a strange comfort in isolation; it’s the warmth of hugging the person who used to lay next to you. The door opens, and she’s standing in front of you. She smiles; her black dress and golden hair strike you as more formal than what you intended for the night, but you haven’t seen each other in so long that you just don’t care. She extends her hand, and grasping yours, pulls out from the elevator with an elegant harshness. You separate from the rest of the unknown crowd in the tight room of layered strangers, and the sweat kicks in. It’s so hot, and you can’t tell why. The music swells as you get closer to the main stage – there are so many tables around so many floor levels with so many stairs to descend that the entire experience is overwhelming and leaves you breathless. She’s still holding your hand, but you’re almost running, though as you get closer and closer to the stage, your legs stop moving fast, like you’re trying to skip through a pool. As you look around you, you realize the ceiling is high and covered in chandeliers; the lighting of the room is dimmed, with most of its source coming from the lowest level of the floor, which has a stage on it. The symphony keeps growing louder, and you keep sweating, like you’re being choked. Suddenly, you let go of her hand and your weighted stride slows until you’re not moving. You realize you can’t keep running with her – she wants to dance but your suit jacket is gone, and it’s impossible to find in the dimly lit room. You’ve descended so many stairs that going back up all of them would be impossible because what used to be your legs are now cement bricks, as if there was no blood flow.
You turn around to get back; you can’t stay with her. As you begin to walk up the stairs, once carpeted in black, the wind hits your face and you hear laughter; the strangers from the elevator are all socializing by a beach, dressed down from their formal clothing. They seem welcoming and you start to approach them. The heat seems to die down as the sun hits your skin. As you walk closer, you realize the strangers are all men, and she isn’t there anymore. Then you see him – he doesn’t reach out for your hand, and his expression remains blank as he runs his hands through his long brown hair, quickly glimpsing above a magazine at your out of place figure on the calm beach. You’ve seen him before, but you can’t place where. He returns to reading the magazine and stretches out on his beach chair, long and white – the only one there. You want to speak to him to ask who he is; the two of you used to talk. You approach. The heat suddenly kicks in and grows to be unbearable. You find yourself ripping off your formal clothing, unknotting your tie and letting it slither off your neck like a writhing snake; the buttons to your shirt are already undone and there’s no undershirt to hide your skin from the cool ocean air. Your shorts were already comfortable – you were always wearing them, don’t you remember? But you’re still sweating, sweating, sweating… You’re 50 feet from the beach chair and pictures of her are littered throughout the magazine – you can’t see her face, but you know. As you grow closer, closer, closer, the world starts shifting. The sun rapidly descends and night breathes chills on your cheek until the hair on your spine stands up. There’s a rhythm now; the ground is shaking, the symphony is playing, and she walks out of the magazine. He stands with her, kisses her hand, and the two waltz around the beach as torches light the couple’s path. You’re
appalled â€“ the two of them, together? Never. The ground keeps shaking, and you begin tossing turning tossing turning tossing off your clothes as you wake up, covered in sweat under the layers of your anxiety, like strangers crowding you in an elevator â€“ the sheets of your lonely bed, a symphony that holds you down. You sigh. Another sleepless night in isolation.
Father-Son Phone Conversations Kyle Liang
Hey dad, there’s this song on the radio that goes, “Hello, it’s me…” And I was wondering if you’ve heard it. There’s a line in the bridge where she says, “They say that time will always heal ya, but I ain’t done much healing…” Have you heard this song, Dad? I really think you should listen to it. Sometimes when I sing the lyrics, I think of you,
and although I know that it’s supposed to be a song about a break-up, I can’t help but feel the song was written for us to hear it, because even after all these years, it made me think that there’s still a part of me that wants to share the son you never got to meet, the one hidden behind what made you happy, because he finally decided that he’s done making sacrifices, and he
forgives you for the tears shed, and he’s willing to forget the weeks he spent suffocating, wishing time would fast forward to a day when your grip on his heart would grow a little more soft. Anyways, I just wanted to know whether you’ve heard this song that’s been playing on the radio every other minute. Yeah, I love you too, Dad. I’ll talk to you again soon.
Easter morning I phone someone I used to know because what’s the fun in being alone, growing old it’s been months, people change, “you’ll get over it, after awhile” he’s older than the last time we talked, when we moved separately into different zip codes he’s living with someone I’ve met before and her teenage son but I don’t know her name or her face so she doesn’t exist to me, just a clear, vacant space a cataract over the eyes I can still hear the phone ringing, ringing, and he’s still lonely, somewhere staring right out into space, nascent stars emotionless black holes the great beyond from Pleasant Drive too engrossed in his invisible affairs to hear the ringing, ringing, or my apologies, I’m sorry for being the better person for not minding the gap between childhood and adulthood for not letting “none of my business” get to me “after awhile” the unheard sounds of aging alone, alone fill my head I want to leave a message
but the inbox is full I think of what it must be like to be old, older than now when moms and dads, wonâ€™t be answering their phones anymore from disease or disorder or divorce I wonder if aging is quiet because Iâ€™m having trouble hearing goodbyes, or have-a-nice-days from the people who matter I stare into the bathroom mirror and see gray hairs above my lip and beside my right ear and under my chin right where he used to get them I wait for it to change back
THOSE WHO PLAY WITH CATS SHOULD EXPECT TO BE SCRATCHED Amber Hopwood
Big Dog, Little Dog Taylor Hoblitzell
As a young girl, I spent most hours of my summer waiting. I sat in the driver’s seat of my father’s red pick up truck because it was the only time I was allowed to sit in the front row. This was when my feet were still able to touch the boring, beige carpet. I leaned my entire body to the left. My head would rest on my extended arm. I would feel the breeze between my fingers and hear a lawnmower humming in the distance. I sigh, wondering when mom and dad would be done. They took their outsized tools with them and returned hours later dripping in sweat. I patiently waited until I began to rot. Summer was boring. I missed school. At least I could play with kids my age. I never got to play with friends during the summer. I could only sit in my father’s truck and watch the kids play from a distance. They would whirl by with their fancy bikes and roller blades. Left behind, I turn to the passenger seat and retrieve the electronic game of connect four, which my parents left for me to play. I had already beaten every level twice, but I picked it up anyway and furiously clicked. I watched the mailman slowly drive up and down the street. When he passed by, he raised his left arm and held it in the air. A dark stain beneath his armpit revealed itself. His big yellow teeth grinned and his eyes stayed covered by glasses that I could see myself in the reflection of. He remained still until I waved back. I always hated him because he got to leave the street before I did. But in his defense, he was bored, and I was bored too. So I didn’t honk the horn like mom told me to do if anyone bad came up to me.
After a while, I would get really bored. I had my share of conversations with birds, squirrels and chipmunks. I tried to talk to the occasional deer, but the lawn mower would always scare them away. I counted all the trees, bushes and flowers that I could see. I would pick my favorites and show mom and dad when they were done working. They normally rolled their eyes and gave some a generic response like, “wow, nice”. I realized that I always seemed to pick the pretty plants that were nurtured by the big landscaping companies that left signs all over town. Mom and dad hated those. They said they did a better job in their small company because they put love and care into their work. I tried to protest to my parents that their mower was too loud for me to make friends. They would always say if it wasn’t loud then it wouldn’t be working. And if it wasn’t working then they weren’t working and if they weren’t working then we would lose the apartment. It seemed fair, but I always tried to fight it. I tried to talk to people too. Kids would normally get scared and speed up when passing. Adults would stop and have a pity party with me. Company was company though, I wasn’t complaining. I sat in the same seat of the same car everyday. My parents had lots of streets and neighborhoods to work in. It was one quaint neighborhood after another. They all blended together after a while. One hot July afternoon, a mother and her daughter walked down their street in unison. I watched from the car. The mom was older than my mom and the daughter was older than me. Though I didn’t really care for them. Their dogs caught my attention. I sunk in my seat until they got closer. As they passed I sprung up, “HI!!!” I forcefully yelped.
“Hi there!” the mother said slowing down. Her daughter jumped. “I like your dogs,” I said, cutting to the chase. Now that they were up close, I could observe. The mother was walking the small one. It was so fat that I giggled. Its eyes were big and foggy in contrast with its white fur. Its tongue hung from its mouth, looking like a puppy smile. Its big belly was getting big then small then big then small as it panted. This moment was probably the only break the poor thing got. I moved on to check out the big dog, which was walked by the daughter. It was taller and thinner than the fat dog. This one was the color of a sandy beach and its fur looked more like hair that had just been brushed. It kept moving around, prancing and jumping on the girl. I was mad that the dog loved her so much. “That one’s really fat!!!!” I rudely laughed. “Yeah he’s a fatty! But with a fat heart.” the mom chuckled. Did she not get that I was trying to insult him? The daughter was giving me a nasty look. “Are they boys or girls?” I pried. “One’s a boy and one’s a girl,” the mom answered, “Can you guess which one’s which?” I frowned. “Uhm…….” I sat for a while. I watched as the daughter rolled her eyes and grew impatient. “That one’s the girl!” I decided, pointing at the little fat dog. I knew I was right, the girl had to be smaller than the boy.
The daughter laughed. “Girls aren’t always the smallest” she replied condescendingly. The mother ignored her daughter and smiled. “Nope, the little one is the boy and this beautiful girl is our princess,” the mother said petting her while the little fat dog grew jealous. I was angry I had guessed wrong. They smiled, waved, and walked away. I watched them walk until they were four little specks in the horizon. I rested my head on the dashboard and shut my eyes. I woke to the thump of my parents’ tools hitting the trunk. I knew it was time to relocate to the backseat. I still remember the drive home like it was yesterday. Mom jumped in the driver’s seat and threw her dirty t-shirt in the back next to me. “EEEEEWWWW!” I squealed. Her grey undershirt was sweat stained and her arms glistened while gripping the wheel. My father, already striped of his work shirt, got in the passenger seat. I laughed that they were matching in grey sweat stained tank tops. Rubbing his shoulder, my father turned around, “Hey kiddo, sorry that took so long.” I couldn’t be mad while he smiled at me. “Its okay. –Dad…” I thought for a while, “aren’t girls always smaller than boys? ” “No.” he sounded surprised. My mother turned around, then kept driving. As if she was checking to make sure her own
daughter had said that. My dad stretched his big tan arm around my mother, leaning back to say â€œSweetie, girls and boys are all the same. Just look at me and your mom.â€? I did.
You Can’t Barter Clare Michalak
You can’t barter with bath tub water The thoughts that pour out of your ears Catch in the drain With your overcolored hair Making a mess Of unending threads That your plumber will hate When the drain clogs With your neurons The water running In streams through the Caverns of your collarbone Pools in the crevices Of your thighs And it smells faintly of iron And indigestion The soap scum is grey And so is your brain matter When droplets take up residency In your corneas You can’t barter with bath tub water Because the coils of steam That cover your scraped Black painted toes reveal Everything that you wanted To wash down the drain And now the grime in the tub Looks a lot like Home.
Friday, I drive down the long pavement road, seeing the thin, faded grey pathway winding up and down and around like a wild stream, whipping me past beet-red barn houses and white and brown horses in the wispy fields, going as fast as the road will allow me to. Tymor Park is acres and acres of adventure. In the front, a fresh white barn stands tall and willing. I walk past it on the golden dirt trail, over a railed bridge that pushes me farther into my jungle. My mother first brought me here when I was barely four, pointing up to the brave trees, close and tall like soldiers beneath the sun. The creek to the side grows and grows until I reach the savory spot: the pond. I walk out onto the ledge of water moving fast around my feet,
stirring to the waterfall. I stand for what seems like minutes as the sun sets and I keep standing to see the water gracefully drop to its home, the pond. Iâ€™ve driven this route about two hundred times, usually alone, just to get away from everyone and everything, so I can gracefully drop to my home.
WHO WE ARE ELIZABETH CARDONE
Ever since Elizabeth was little She’s had a fierce love of art. In school she would walk around with paint covering her clothes and hands, fresh from her two-hour art classes. Looking at the world through a creative lens has opened her eyes to so much more than she ever thought possible to see and she has art to thank for this. Her love for art has followed her to college and inspired her to peruse Fine Arts as her minor. She is a freshman at Quinnipiac and cannot wait to see where her artistic endeavors will take me for my next three years.
Amanda Damone is a member of the junior class, currently finishing her senior year. She is interested in a career in comedy or publishing. She has spent the last three years writing for the Quinnipiac Barnacle and looks forward to explaining what that is to future acquaintances. She would like to thank “that guy [she] used to work with” for being unwittingly featured in her short story, and she would like to thank her Pekingese for being very small and her mutt for being very medium. “in omnia paratus” are not the words she lives by.
Anthony DiMartino is a senior English major and aspiring high school teacher from Connecticut. He enjoys black tea, traveling the world, and the Oxford comma. If it weren’t for his inspiring family, friends, and teachers, he probably wouldn’t be writing today.
WHO WE ARE JON HAMMER
Jonathan Hammer is a 5’11” English Major whose pants are often tighter than his poetry rhymes. If he isn’t descending into a pit of nihilism while reading Friedrich Nietzsche, he’s writing fiction, screaming metal songs in his car, or developing marketing strategies.
Taylor is a senior Media Studies major. She is an English minor with a concentration in creative writing. She is graduating in May 2016.
AMBER HOPWOOD Amber Hopwood is a junior Psychology and Criminal Justice double major. She has always enjoyed photography, and has won prizes for various pieces of her work.
Oscar. Emmy. Tony. These are all awards Alan Johnson has heard of. Alan, a good ol’ Southern boy from Dallas, investigates the many skeletons in Albert Schweitzer’s closet as the Co-Editor-in-Chief at The Quinnipiac Barnacle. When he’s not performing comedy, he’s listening to The Smiths, which means he’s probably crying.
Leah is an English major in the secondary MAT program with a passion for art. Leah uses paints and colored pencils, and her subjects usually take inspiration from movies, books, and fictional characters. She also runs a commission-based portrait drawing service that has given her the chance to practice drawing people.”
WHO WE ARE KYLE LIANG
Kyle Liang is a twenty-year-old writer from Norwich, Connecticut. Much of Kyle’s writing is centered on being a first-generationborn American, running, romance and nature. In addition to writing, Kyle is also involved in theater, particularly acting, and has performed in two plays in New York City
Lauren Manna is a senior English major and promising aspiring something-or-other from Connecticut. She enjoys dad jokes, peanut butter, and those Youtube videos of unlikely animal friendships. Lauren lives in the Blackbox theater on campus and is better at puns than you.
Nicole Maresca is an English major in the MAT Elementary Education program at Quinnipiac University. In her spare time, she enjoys crafting, cooking, doodling, and eating food (specifically, Chipotle). She’s also on the school hip-hop dance team, so she enjoys shaking her ass as much as writing creative pieces.
Junior from Dorset, Vermont, member of the Quinnipiac Women’s Ice Hockey team, and cat enthusiast.
Clare Michalak is a senior English and Interactive Digital Design double major from Connecticut. She enjoys aggressive lip-syncing, microwavable quesadillas, pterodactyl noises and dark humor. She lives in the closet of Black Box when Lauren lets her.
WHO WE ARE JESSICA PEREIRA
Jessica Pereira is a twenty-one year-old English major, International Studies minor, and plans to enroll in Quinnipiac’s fast-track MBA program this upcoming fall semester. She considers her relationship with creative writing fairly new and experimental; Her interest lies mostly in the Creative Non-Fiction genre. Jessica’s life would not be complete without her cat, Chunie, and Cumberland Farm’s $0.99 coffee.
Julia Perkins is a senior journalism major from Hamilton, Massachusetts. She loves being the editor-in-chief of The Quinnipiac Chronicle. Her life revolves around Harry Potter, and she cannot wait for her Hogwarts letter.
Danielle is a sophomore nursing student who has been writing her whole life. Her greatest accomplishment was being recognized by the 2013 Scholastic Art and Writing Awards as a regional winner, and the 2014 Awards as a national winner. Her favorite genres are short stories and plays.
Kristen Riello is an Interactive Digital Design major and a Fine Arts minor. Her favorite artistic medium is oil painting. She also enjoys pugs, lattes and going to local concerts.
Hannah Schindler is a senior Interactive Digital Design major and a Fine Arts minor. She loves drinking green tea while doodling and listening to Spotify.
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS As with any creative endeavor, there is an extraordinary amount of time and effort that is dedicated to its existence. This issue would not have been possible without the support and guidance from Ken Cormier and Lila Carney. Your enthusiasm and dedication to Montage is outstanding and we could not have done this without you. Thank you. I would like to extend this message to the entire English Department for providing us a space to grow and experiment with every weird idea that we could possibly imagine. Plus you feed us every once in a while and those cookies really do make a difference. Thank you to TYCO printing for allowing us to print such a thing in the first place. Your flexibility and patience throughout the process is invaluable to this endeavor. Lastly, I would like to thank my incredible editors Anthony DiMartino, Nicole Maresca, Kristen Riello, and Jessica Pereira. You guys have entertained my imagination and weird random noises since day one. So this is all your fault. Your love of creative writing and your enthusiasm was inspiring. I could not have done this without you. Until next time, Clare Michalak
Cover Image: JĂłse MartĂn Montage Designer : Clare Michalak