The Pairing Project

Page 1

Contents Tallulah Fontaine & Helena


Isabella Thielen & Samantha Perez


Content warning: body image, self harm, nudity, body horror

Tutulu Feagai & Anonymous


Content warning: self harm, mental illness, homophobic slurs, transphobia

Bethan Mckinnie & Ishani Jasmin


Anika Kent & Nadezhda


Joamette Gil & Sarah Y


Content warning: sexual harassment, stalking

Content warning: body image, medication, mental illness, nudity

Claudia Verleg & Rylie

Alyssa Hargrove & Anonymous



Liv Thurley & Erika Rodriguez


Anait Tamanian & Anonymous


Content warning: drug use, miscarriage, pregnancy

Content warning: graphic pain, abuse, bodily harm

Margot Terc & Chloe Isaac


Nari Emerson & Elissa


Dayna Ellen & Bee


Content warning: sexual harassment, assault

Content warning: death, self harm, eating disorder, mental illness, medication, blood

Alien & Anonymous


Content warning: self harm, blood

Amelia Batayola & Anonymous


Joamette Gil & Jazzy Davis


Kelly Campbell & Anonymous


Cecile Nakayama & Kelly West


Content warning: homophobia

Content warning: sexual harassment, assault

The Pairing Project The Pairing Project is a collaborative writing-art project about helping others help themselves through the process of healing. It is all about supporting and acknowledging moments, feelings, and questions. We are honored to provide a space where you all can feel free and safe; a space where you can be vulnerable and share your stories. We are also very grateful for everyone that submitted their stories, and for all of the artists that took the prompts and made something beautiful for them. This would not have been possible without you. You’re all so important.



Metamorphosis Biro on paper Birp


BETHAN MCKINNIE It’s All About Learning acrylic on wood



feel a huge darkness in my chest always. I’d attribute it to guilt or emptiness, but I’m honestly not even sure anymore. Even when I was dancing around the room, like I was a planet mined dry of its ore and about to implode. I sat in front of the psychiatrist. I’d picked her like a lollipop in a jar. My parents thought it was a good idea. It wasn’t: she didn’t think anything was wrong with me, just that I should talk to people more, because not talking to people in classes is why I couldn’t get through a day without crying.

Now I pop 10mg of citalopram a day; it comes in a little cardboard box which is always battered by the end of the month. I get tired really fast. My boyfriend has been making fun of me for it; our sleep cycles run three hours apart, so I drag him to bed too early for his liking. I see the funny side. He gets the last laugh, sleeping in until ten: I am up at seven, and in the shower, and I haven’t missed a class in a little while. Rinse and repeat. I still don’t know how to make it better. When I last wore a skirt I didn’t leave the house all day for tears. I’m still working up the nerve to pull it up over my hips again. It’s all about learning. ISHANI JASMIN



uncomfortable train ride, Claudia Verleg, colored pencil.

the train ride when I was 20 I took the train home from school and because by some strange turn of fortune business class was cheaper I was riding in style but there were assigned seats and I was next to a man let's call him... large it was a three hour ride and I spent the entire time making myself smaller crouching over towards the window so his leg wouldn't touch mine he got up once to go to the bathroom and it was like a weight had been lifted off my chest because my space was my own again and no one else's when we finally got home my back was sore from slouching over and my entire body was tight with the tension of the journey and I hated myself for putting up with it before we even left I thought about asking to switch seats but wondered what I would say because 'I'm uncomfortable' is not enough for most people without at least a reason like 'he touched me' 'he said things' 'he laughed' like it has to get that far before it's wrong so instead I just gritted my teeth and bared it and didn't cross my legs to knee him in the sides (I should have)



I felt you in my bones.

And my bones I would wake over, my chest creep into my until they I would wake Why on a green spent one notice until I and I wasn’t until I was and I wasn’t until I was wasn’t afraid Now I hope I I hope I don’t Then, after a to breathe and

were aching before you, cold and cracked. up during those clouds in physical pain. Doubled bruised. I felt the black and purple and yellow skin and grind and crush and torture my muscles quivered into prunes, floating in red and fog. up, and I couldn’t remember why I would feel so sad. Earth would anyone feel this pain?-- And then I night with you! And I stopped crying! I didn’t even was sitting on your rooftop and you held my stomach afraid for it to be my stomach. I didn’t even notice sitting on your counter and you looked at my veins afraid for them to be my veins. I didn’t even notice sleeping in that car while you held my chest and I for it to be my chest, my heart in your hand... forget you for a while. see your eyes for little long while. little long while make me cry again and not be able wonder why on this green Earth I didn’t die.







I never thought I could be loved. Not in that way (not in any way, but that’s not what this is about). But, that year, he told me he might be able to love me. He told me he could possibly see me as more than just a person that makes him laugh, makes him smile, makes him happy. But maybe, just maybe, he could see me as a lover. I didn’t know what a lover was. I didn’t know if I was capable of loving. I didn’t know if I deserved it. He held my hand when we walked, he told me secrets, he kissed me and made me feel... nothing. I couldn’t give him anything, though he gave me everything he had. He slandered me through a text message, telling me I’m not ready for love, not ready for him. I wasn’t. But, that didn’t make him right. He loved me in a way I didn’t need to be loved. I didn’t need the side of him he showed me when we took what we had to the “next level,” I needed the side of him that I had always had. Our relationship was supposed to be a promise, rather than a set of actions and labels. I understood this. He didn’t. He stopped holding my hand, sending me Facebook messages, calling me by name. I haven’t seen him in two years, though sometimes I think about how dim his eyes were. How his hands were always cold.



"Dear Dad, When your face turned blue and you whispered I love you, I knew that was it. You passed away so sad and so slow. I was only 13. Can't you come back? 4 weeks later, my mom started to date my best friend's dad. Can you imagine, Dad? Mom started dating DAVE! I cried. That was the first night I had urges to cut myself. I didn't. Guess what, Daddy? They got married 8 months later. I didn't want to go to the wedding, but they forced me. Christmas Day was the first day I cut myself. I did it right on my wrist where everyone could see, but no one cared. From then it just got worse, Daddy. It got to where I was doing it more than once a day and guess


what? On December 2nd of 2013 I attempted suicide. Yes, Daddy I swallowed so many pills and I laid on the bathroom floor and I sobbed. I didn't black out. I stopped before that point. But on December 9th someone told them about my cuts and they questioned me and sent me away to the mental hospital. Well now it's almost a year later and guess what, Daddy? I'm worse. Now I'm bulimic too. But ya know who knows? Almost no one. So I'm sorry, Daddy, for disappointing you. I miss you. I love you. Maybe if I commit suicide I'll see you again. Maybe not. Love, Your little girl, Elissa"

Written by Elissa

DEAR DAD Art by Nari Emerson Charcoal, graphite, sumi ink, watercolor, pen.


Life is cracked right now. She seems to blur into the background, painted as an insignificant detail. Eyes glaze over her and in other parts of her life there is tension that cracks the asphalt of relationships. She lays in her bed, and looks slowly at the bright bulbs seeping light and watches the fans rotating Inhaling softly, she feels the warmth collect in her calves The blades of the fan spin creating a circle, and she realizes that this is a cycle and this feeling will slip away with time. For now she closes her eyes to escape.

written by anonymous

cracks amelia bataloya digital



My artwork is completely integrated into my life because it helped cope and understand who I am in a time that I desperately needed it. When I was a freshman in high school, I fell in love with my best friend. We kept our relationship a secret from our friends and family because we knew it would not be accepted. I have always been told since a very young age, that being anything but straight is wrong, and I knew how my parents would react if they found out. The tension was growing and I was in a constant state of paranoia. I couldn't hold it in anymore, and I told them. I was taken out of the school system and


was not allowed to speak to any of my friends, especially not her. When I was allowed entrance back into the school I didn't speak to her at all for a year. I started to invest myself in my artwork and my dedication really helped me ignore what was going on at home. The relationship had with my parents was non-existent. With time I started to really focus on my identity and explore myself through my artwork. With this understanding I felt comfortable with myself and continued to see her. Throughout junior year the ideas of the traditional expectations, and experiences I had as a woman of color, fueled my artistic process.

Kelly Campbell

Grown, Kelly-Grub Campbell, ink on paper.

This event that lasted my developmental years, 15-18, helped me establish myself as a person. Not only am I independent and proud of whom I am, but also my art has become a crucial element in my life. I know that what happened is not over, and it caused me a lot of pain but as of right now I am very content with my life, and in a way, I'm glad it happened. My love and I are happier than ever and plan to both study art, my relationship with my mother has only improved and I hope to one day tell my dad. Everything that happened is crucial to who I am as a person and an artist and I will never forget any of it.




iddle school had just begun and I entered with the hopes I’d expand my creative outlets, meet new people and finally get my hands on a razr phone. I did not, as any hopeful, cheery teenage girl, anticipate the inevitable growth of insecurities and detrimental ways of coping. Skinny jeans had just been introduced as the new trend and I owned approximately zero. I rummaged through my closet to find


the smallest pair of jeans and squeezed into them. I could only think of how terrifying I’d look if my waistline went beyond this particular size. The jeans weren’t skinny enough. My mother adjusted them so that they’d hug me but the material didn’t feel right. I walked as I danced, stiffly. I sacrificed comfort to appease my mother’s inexplicable irritation with her only daughter’s body. It was never about me. Her words were like deep cuts,

which she would later find me covered in and send me off to be hospitalized. I was young and I didn’t see her attack as her own insecurities being projected onto me. I didn’t know the expectation to shrink as you grew never stopped and because of that I thought I was the only target. Now at 20, I’ve adjusted. She carries on. I forgive. SAMANTHA PEREZ

ISABELLA THIELEN Forgiveness graphite, ink on paper




don't consider myself special. I like to consider myself small and soft. There is no problem. My innate self obsession now cannot conflict with my work. Assure me that there is space for a black girl to be small and soft. ANONYMOUS

ALYSSA HARGROVE Antithesis: Reverential plaster, paper, digital photography


I visited Chicago with my family over the summer.

To look at colleges, and the city my parents met in. My sister detests museums, so I went to the Art Institute alone while she put her palms on the great silver bean. I like modern art the most, but I still trailed around each looping exhibit, the thin straps of my romper sliding down my shoulders. I didn't have anything to do with my hands but fix them, again and again.

It was at the foot of Warhol’s enormous Mao, trying to put together the pieces of understanding of my culture and this one and jade and disjointed clips of my father in my head, that I realized there was a white man following me. Around and around the exhibit. I didn’t wear the romper after that. And then I realized I was sex-repulsed, and asexual, and also angry. It’s winter now. Sarah Y


Joamette Gil it’s winter now mixed media


We sat over the ocean tonight, a bench on the ledge of the pier. The sea makes you perform heart rituals. You carve through skin, and you touch the beating thing with your hands as they are. Stained by the day's work, glossed with the shell you endow. You find yourself, and you find your brother. And he's been gone since we were teenagers, but he left you with his seed. I like when the dialogue comes out, and I'm listening while my


insides leave somewhere only you know about. During these times, I hold my shell closely, like a warm blanket. Like I'm okay. Like I'm actually okay. And you hold yours like you're carrying something heavy and you're making it light again. You look over to the sea and you tell me you see your life there. You can see all these memories. Child of the tide, you have started drifting to shore. You talk about how you are

slowly coming out of the water and you're okay with that. You say to me, that I always bring you back to the sea. I do, it's true. I just want to be by the ocean, melting away by your treasures, dropping our pieces like cremated ash, to remember and to move on. To heal, to grow, to rebuild. I tell you that's what this is all about. You put your heart things back inside, and we go home.

Written by Erika Rodriguez

UNTITLED Art by Liv Thurley Watercolor collograph.




I met my ex boyfriend after he had successfully finished his rehab program for cocaine use. He is the most successful person I know with multiple record deals playing bass as young as 15.

We fell in love and after a little over a year, I found out I was pregnant. I was only 17 and he was 18 but as scared as we were, we knew we would make it because we were in love.

After three months, I miscarried. It hurt for me to even see him because it reminded me of all the pain of losing our baby and I was selfish because I didn't even think that he would be hurting too.

I broke up with him when the pain seemed to be at its worst. When I later found out that he relapsed shortly after our breakup, I realized how selfish I was for ignoring his pain.

Now, a year later, he is still using and even though everyone says it's not my fault, I am always having nightmares that he will overdose and it'll be all my fault.



Past, Anait Tamanian, Mixed media.


I've only ever been to one multigender sleepover, and it was recent. The guests there were all couples bar me and two boys, one of whom was a close friend of my best girlfriend and minor friend of mine. Since the couples had their own tents, it was the boys and I bunking together. I had no objections; they were my friends. As it happened the only one sharing my tent was the friend, since his brother wanted to sleep under the stars. Around 4 AM that night this “friend” began to grope me while I slept. The first time I woke up unsure of what it was, but then he did it again soon after, and I knew. I called him out immediately. I didn’t let him leave the tent until we talked that morning. I made sure he understood that what he’d done was sexual assault. I made sure he understood the violation it was, and the breach of trust; I made sure he knew that I am only sixteen, and he has made me the one in five women who has been assaulted. I made him promise never to do it again, and I’m positive he won’t. It’s been a few months since this happened and I feel okay. I’m not angry or upset. I know it could have been worse, and I’m glad it wasn’t. I just hope my story can empower someone, and maybe give them strength should anything like this happen to them. I’d like people to know that it’s not something they’re alone in.



forbidden [shame/desire], Dayna Ellen, watercolor, graphite on paper.


An Experience With Self-Harming traditional and digitial ART BY: Alien Killjoy


WORDS BY: Anonymous

ARTIST NOTE: ARTIST NOTE: I could tell you that people have it worse as they probably have already told you, the thing is, they are right. There I could tell you that people have it worse as they probably must be hundreds of people who "have it worse". This have already told you, the thing is, they are right. There doesn't at all mean what you are going through isn't must be hundreds of people who "have it worse". This worth suffering about and you have every right to feel doesn't at all mean what you are going through isn't pain and be sad for all the bad stuff that has happened. worth suffering about and you have every right to feel pain and sad yourself, for all thevery badoften, stuff friends that hasand happened. When yoube harm family will feel really hurt about this. They will probably get mad When you harm yourself, very often, friends and family or yell or both because they care, you must make them will feel really hurt about this. They will probably get mad understand that you are struggling with is because you or yell or both because they care, you must make them are in pain, a sign you are not happy and that something understand that you are struggling with is because you must be done now. are in pain, a sign you are not happy and that something must be done now.


"I had relaxed hair for over 15 years, not out of 'necessity' or desire, but simply because that was how others decided it should be done. I was never particularly fond of it, but allowed it. That is, until my sister cut her perm off, jibing ""The bigger the hair, the closer to God."" Upon asking if I could do the same, I was hit with resounding no's as I was ""unable to take care of [your] hair now.""


Here's the thing about a perm: it's a lie, it's not permanent. After a few months, hair starts to reject the chemicals and becomes some sort of texturized/natural high maintenance love child with Afro at the roots and limp waves at the ends. My hair was at that awkward love child stage at the time while my mind was simultaneously at a stubborn, contriving stage.

Naturally, my mother was aw rehtom ym ,yllarutaN I attempted to yharp m no on pramy h ot detpmetta I furious upon reveal and dna laever nopu suoiruf father's religious ,erutanature, n suoigiler s'rehtaf punished my sense of fo esnes ym dehsinup stating that ""Jesus dah suhad seJ"" taht gnitats bodily autonomy. .ymonotua ylidob hair like lamb's "",wool!,"" !loow s'bmal ekil riah But my parents couldn't t'ndluoc stnerap ym tuB yet was still .turned nwod dedown. nrut llits saw tey touch me. My hair was big b saw riah yM .em hcuot So, like any rejected, ,detcejer yna ekil ,oS and like lamb's wool, so s ,loow s'bmal ekil dna obedient daughter, I ,rethguad tneidebo I was twice as close to ot esolc sa eciwt saw I plotted. .dettolp God. .doG " " I waited until my ylifamily maf ym litnu detiaw I members were at nehwork, t ,krothen w ta erew srebmem stole my sister's rhair iah s'retsis ym elots scissors and cut mrethe p ehperm t tuc dna srossics Written by b nettirW out of my hair tBantu onk utknot naB riah ym fo tuo by Bantu knot. dI ihthen nehthid I .tonk utnaB yb HAIR LIKE KIL RIAH it under a scarf eht until litnu the fracs a rednu ti next morning. .gninrom txen

I attempted to harp o father's religious na stating that ""Jesus hair like lamb's wool yet was still turned So, like any rejected obedient daughter, I plotted.

I waited until my fam members were at work, stole my sister's hai scissors and cut the Jazzy Davis out of my hair Bantu by Bantu knot. I then WOOLS it under a scarf unti next morning.

J yb trA

Art by Joamette Gil

em dexiM

Mixed media.



Speaking on Loss






Pencil and digital colouring 42


Credits Staff


Creator of project

All of our Anonymous participants

Margot Terc

Co-creators Laine Elliott Luz Orozco

Director & Editor-in-Chief Asha Davis Daniels

Director & Managing Editor Eugenia Woo




Tallulah Fontaine Tutulu Feagai Bethan Mckinnie Alyssa Hargove Isabella Thielen Anika Kent Amelia Batayola Nari Emerson Liv Thurley Joamette Gil Alien Claudia Verleg Dayna Ellen Kelly Campbell Cecile Nakayama Anait Tamanian Margot Terc

Ishani Jasmin Helena Erika Rodriguez Samantha Perez Elissa Sarah Yang Rylie Bee Chloe Isaac Kelly West Nadezhda Jazzy Davis

Sam Munoz Stacey D’Andelet Megan Oh Caroline Pedraza Kasey Reinbold Mel Nguyen

Special Thanks Ginny W Khadinia Casey Griffin


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