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V ertigo

The official literary magazine of Lynbrook High Schoool.

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ertigo V

2009-2010 | VOL. 16




ditors’ note


n the eyes of the Ancient Greeks, believers of the geocentric theory, the sun did not rise and set in the same place. Throughout the course of the year, it forged a certain path across the night sky, which became known as the ecliptic. It was along this celestial bearing that the the sun, a symbol of fate and power, impressed its colossal footsteps upon a ring of twelve constellations, known commonly as the zodiac. To this day, each constellation represents different peoples and ideas. Though each entity is imbued with its own unique characteristics, they all are caught in a perpetual struggle between rising individuality and pure destiny... Laboring to preserve a reality long defunct. Purchasing memories by the string, only to have them float out of hand. Swallowing paint to escape civilization's perceptions. We invite you to walk on the ethereal cobblestones of the ecliptic and listen carefully to the stories of these individuals as they come to strife or triumph against the forces of the universe.

Vertigo is the official literary magazine of Lynbrook High School in San Jose, California. Advertising rates are available upon request by sending an e-mail to with the subject: “Vertigo Advertising Request.” The views and opinions expressed within Vertigo do not reflect or represent the administration or faculty of this school or high school district. Cover art: Unlabeled by Jia Gao Title page art: Equinox by Yuqing Zhu

Managing Editor Copy Editor Poetry Editor Prose Editor Art Editor Treasurer Secretary Production Manager Production Staff

Betsy Tsai Sarah Destin Frances Guo Ashley Wu Betsy Tsai Amy Sung Disha Banik Roopa Shankar Roopa Shankar Jocelyn Shieh Amy Sung Betsy Tsai Alexander Wong

Stephanie Chang Shravya Chavva viser Jia Gao Michelle Huang Jasmine Liu Jocelyn Shieh Tommy Sung Betsy Tsai Ashley Wu Rachel Yung Christina Zhu Yuqing Zhu

Art Staff

Staff Writers Daniel Adelberg Vivian Chan Candy Chang Stephanie Chang Michelle Huang Kritika Iyer Helen Jun Jane Jun Diana Liu Sabrina Shie Jocelyn Shieh Kimberly Tan Shweta Tendolkar Alexander Wong Carolyn Yen Iris Yuan Christina Zhu


Adviser Rick Hanford



ecliptic Sunset » Candy Chang Overdue » Helen Jun Hands » Sabrina Shie Immortal Muse » Betsy Tsai The Midnight Gardener » Jane Jun A Touch Of Mint » Sarah Destin Descendant » Christina Zhu As Ice » Diane Liu A Study in Purple » Carolyn Yen Vortex » Kritika Iyer Home Coming » Amy Sung End Game » Vivian Chan Delivered » Sarah Destin Eyes of Van Gogh » Betsy Tsai



05 08 10 13 18 21 27 32 37 42 45 48 51 58

able of contents That Who is My Own » Ashley Wu Lacuna » Roopa Shankar An Artist’s Conversation » Alexander Wong Ochre Limbs » Disha Banik Recipe of the Heart » Shweta Tendolkar Highway » Laurie Mallison Feathers of Gold » Kimberly Tan Saturation » Jocelyn Shieh Dripping Departure » Iris Yuan


07 12 30 34 36 41 44 47 57

the ecliptic // vertigo photography by tommy sung


by candy chang

They are halfway through lunch when his phone rings. “No, I didn’t mean that. It’s just that I have a prior engagement today—” He gets up and heads for the restaurant door, talking all the while. She stops watching him pantomime through the window and stares vacantly at her glass of water, swirling the straw around and around. Chilled water takes its time trickling down her throat as she takes a sip. Too cold. She makes sure he is still absorbed in his conversation before quickly asking a waiter to exchange her glass for one without ice. He’ll never notice, and she’ll make it through lunch without triggering a one-sided heated debate about society’s wastefulness.

At this, he sits up straight and glares at her. “We’ve come all the way out here, and you want to head home? That’s completely—” She has never been so thankful for the roar of an arriving train before. He gives her a look that promises a continuation of the conversation on the train, but once they sit down, he drifts off to sleep almost immediately. She listens to the continual clash of metal on metal and tries not to think about the empty seat between them.

* * *

* * *

He fidgets again, glancing restlessly about the train platform like a small child who can’t fall asleep. She half expects him to start throwing a tantrum. “What are you smiling about?” he asks. His affronted look is almost endearing and she has to keep from smiling any wider. “Nothing in particular,” she answers. His exhaustion is obvious, though, and she wonders if she can push a little further so he realizes that himself. “You seem to have a lot of work lately—do you want to head home instead?”

They sit, watching the sea. The atmosphere is so beautiful that she impulsively reaches for his hand, but it edges out of reach. “I’m tired,” he finally admits, stretching his legs out in front of him before slumping back onto the bench. The walk from the train station has taken a lot out of him, and she is once again reminded of a child as he stands reluctantly, almost petulantly. “You can stay here if you’re tired—one

“Depth must be hidden. Where? On the surface.” — Janos Arany 5

the ecliptic // prose

“She listens to the continual clash of metal on metal...” her direction and she’s left worrying late into the night whether his reaction meant a yes or no.

person is enough to get some dinner.” “I’m not an invalid,” he snaps, fatigue forgotten. “Let’s just hurry so we don’t miss the sunset.” She doesn’t know how she managed to get him to sit back down, but she’s glad. She has forgotten the exact location of the restaurant and she can imagine the exact look he would have on his face if she told him that. By the time she’s found her way back to the bench, it’s already beginning to get dark. “What took you so long?” “It took a while to prepare, and I got a little lost on the way back.” “How—” He stops himself, reaching for one of the takeout boxes instead. “Never mind. Just hurry and watch the sunset. There’s a little left.” She doesn’t know whether to laugh or cry but dutifully sits down anyway. It’s over before she knows it, as if the sun, too, thinks their outing is a waste of time. “Hurry up and eat; the train doesn’t allow food and it’s getting late.” She hopes he doesn’t finish before her. The last thing she wants is to be pinned down by his impatient glare. As they ride back, she can feel a stomach cramp forming. He seems perfectly fine, criticizing their dinner and proclaiming that the death of homemade food is the death of honest society. They part at the station. She offers to bring him lunch tomorrow at work, but he leaves with barely a nod in

* * * The next day, when his secretary informs her that he’s out to lunch, she wonders why she’s not surprised. She is already back in the parking lot of her workplace when she thinks of the quickly thrown together sandwich sitting at her desk, and then the carefully made lunch resting in her backpack, radiating enough heat to warm the passenger seat. She takes out her phone, calls in sick, and then heads off for the train station. The lunch is still in her backpack as she sits by herself at a small side table in the restaurant she had such a hard time finding yesterday. When they bring her a glass of water, she politely asks for one without ice. The rest of the day is spent visiting quaint shops and watching seagulls search for breadcrumbs. For dinner, she goes back to the bench from yesterday and takes out the packed lunch. It’s cold now, but it’s the best thing she’s tasted in a while. And then she watches the sunset, the sea playing host to ripples of light that slowly shimmer closer to their counterpart in the sky. Once the darkness finally settles in, she leans back and enjoys the lingering warmth left by the last tendrils of rosy light. She hasn’t felt this good in weeks.

“He drew the curtain back... 6

the ecliptic // vertigo

that is who my own by ashley wu

we are mirrors against which the world lies— this reality exists in my perspective: I am not a transient sojourner. I recur here, a reflection, an entity of my own and yet your child, his, hers. something of you must reside within something of me must reside within something of you—could I see from your perspective and examine your reality, cut off from my own but parallel— mirrors lying side by side gaze into space never at each other. (if I were to look at you, would you recede in my eyes to warp into infinity) our separate selves filled and emptied, and filled again. identity: like a light in the fog perhaps there but imprecise, only a feeling on your face, in mine— keep me close, kindred soul I know you. my own, I know you, we are the same cerebral instinct.

art by ashley wu

...and there was nothing there.” — Michael Ondaatje 7

the ecliptic // prose photography by stephanie chang

Overdue Holding a library book, she peeks into her mother’s bedroom. “Mom?” she asks softly. “Are you busy?” Her mother turns slowly on her chair. The girl glances behind her mother and flinches slightly. Old photos are pinned onto the wall, and one stands out to her: mother and father, side by side, their faces beaming behind the fading paper. Her mother is looking at her expectantly. “Can we return a library book? It’s overdue.” * * * As cars speed in the rain she cautiously glances at her mother sitting beside her. The hands on the steering wheel seem too feeble. She forces her eyes closed. “We are rarely proud... 8

by helen jun

A honk jerks her awake to see their car speed toward the side of a green van. She gasps and clings onto her seatbelt as the car skids to a halt inches from the van. Her mother looks stunned, hands still resting limply on the steering wheel. “What were you thinking?” A van door slams. “Do you have eyes? Can’t you see a stop sign at the end of a street? I was right there on your left, you couldn’t have missed meLady! Are you listening to me?” “Sorry, sorry,” the daughter stammers, scrambling from her seat. “My mom, she’s not feeling very well. Sorry. Did we hit your car?” “No, but it was damn close. People like your mother shouldn’t drive on the street. They’re a driving hazard.”

the ecliptic // vertigo

“She tries to stiffen in her mother’s arms... “I’m sorry,” she says. The water slowly drenching her drips to her heart. She looks back at her mother. Her mother watches, blinking.

like paper. But as if longing for her mother’s caress, she clings to the feeble body. “Mom… Mom...” she weeps, “I miss him so much…” Her mother is crying with her. Noticing this, her daughter swallows her sobs and quiets into shudders. She hangs her head. “You can cry.” Her mother lightly pats her daughter’s back. “Cry. I’ll… make an effort.”

* * * She rests her head on her hand, rubbing her temples. Beneath the glass of her desk is a birthday card, wrinkaled and yellow from old age, signed by one whom she dearly loved. Her father would not have let the driver yell at her mother. No, he would have been the one to trudgea out into the rain as she and her mother stayed in the car. A sob rises from within her. She clamps her hands to her mouth and tears fall over her nose and fingers. Then she weeps into her hands as the dam she had built gives away. The door slowly creaks open. Her mother is standing at the door. Her daughter looks at her through swollen eyes. “Mom…” Her mother wraps her arms around her daughter. The vacancy is still visible in her mother’s eyes and her daughter’s heart rips

* * * She wakes up to the smell of scrambled eggs. Pleasant disbelief lingers as she tiptoes down the stairs and sees her mother preparing breakfast for the first time since her father’s death. She seems out of place in the kitchen with her slow, absented-minded movements. Tasting the eggs she says genuinely, “Thanks, Mom.” Her mother smiles. It’s not beaming, but it’s a smile. “It’s time we returned that book.” She smiles back and takes her mother’s hand.

...but the touch of warm cotton has never felt more comforting.” ...when we are alone.” — Voltaire 9









the ecliptic // prose

“...I glance down at my own naked hands, bare, without any mask to hide behind. They disgust me, with their thin skin stretched to cover white bones.”

“A lie would have no sense unless... 10

the ecliptic // vertigo Men from behind roughly push me out onto the open platform to face the jeering crowd below. Only one other man stands on this high wooden stage. He is dressed from head to toe in inky black cloth. A hood covers his face, allowing only two roughly cut eyeholes to be seen. His hands sit calmly on the lever, like a hungry beast waiting in anticipation to take down its foe. It makes me wonder if the black cloth hides their true nature. I turn my thoughts from his hands to my own. Before, I had never given them that much thought, preferring to think of a less mundane subject. Yet, in this moment, I had finally come to realize just how much a pair of hands could define a person and his destiny. To illustrate this, take, for example, a baby. A baby’s hands are clean and soft, plump with life, scrambling to all corners of anything, everything within reach. They are curious and innocent—if only we could all stay that way. For after those years, we change, and our palms change with us. And from the smooth unblemished hands of a child, they almost always transform into something larger, grotesque… I thought that I could escape from that. I kept busy, always, careful to immerse myself with those who would keep me from straying away. There were no differences among us then, for we were unmarked and unchanged, with our fates clearly lit before us. Yet as time passed, subtle changes emerged, and I was conscious of a growing change between the others and me. I tried to hide it at first, dancing lightheartedly, following their utterly free spirit, attempting to laugh as loudly as they did. But with each try, I found myself cloaking my changing hands inside anonymous gloves, hiding away. I tried to

by sabrina shie

ignore the arising differences and the pain that it would inevitably bring. * * * Here now, I glance down at my own naked hands, bare, without any mask to hide behind. They disgust me, with their thin skin stretched to cover white bones. All that my mind can see are the scars of every individual I had ever finished, every last drop of blood that I had forced out of innocent lives. Rotting skin that adorns blackened fingernails display all that I am inside. I had once tried to hide from this, but at the end, I am forced to face them, to face this, all alone, on this wooden stage. How strange, how, when I first felt the longing to commit crimes, I immediately covered my hands, eager to make myself believe that nothing was wrong. I refused to acknowledge the twinges of uncertainty that began to appear, once, then twice, finally becoming a constant shadow in my midst. Yet now, after years of running, ducking, and weaving around every corner, here I am with nowhere to hide my hands. It is too late for me to fix what should have been fixed long ago. A noose is lowered around my neck and tightened. For an instant, I look up. The crowd below is cheering, eager to see me drop down six feet into the air. But in the last few moments before I fall, I once more regard these two hands. If only I had clearly seen them sooner, I would have been one of the crowd, a spectator watching a guilty man be punished for his committed sins. But instead, I fall, my hands displaying to the world what I truly am.

Hands ...the truth were felt dangerous.” — Alfred Adler 11

the ecliptic // poetry

it is one of those nights when the clouds can’t swallow their tears and the stars haven’t dressed the sky. the spectral moon dangles with a half-heart pinned to its breast and willows quiver soft, muddy tears in the thunder-clad night. branches scratch at my windowpane for someone to find them and let them in. and the tempest’s eyes spill emotions across my bones and thick clamors dig into my stark flesh as if trying to find some kind of self. stormy cries ebb, recede… and my skin hollows— i have nothing to give. lifting my face to the rain, i watch the skies unfurl. droplets curl around my cheeks and the moon spins its frail skin into midnight arms. it is one of those nights when i just want to drink the storming sky and crawl into the eyes of dusk, to dovetail across night’s tassels and feel the world inside me.

l a c u na

art by jocelyn shieh

“It's so fine and yet so terrible to... 12

by roopa shankar

the ecliptic // vertigo

Immortal Muse

by betsy tsai

“And, ladies and gentlemen, it is my deep honor to introduce the mastermind, the genius behind tonight’s wondrous exhibit, my dear cousin, Hubert Wolf.” The lady in a crimson gown stepped down from the podium as a young man rose from a chair behind her. They exchanged the dual kisses on the cheek and a light hug of protocol. The woman sat down in another chair beside an old man, another curator. “He looks awfully happy.” “Oh, leave him be,” she snapped quietly. “I’m sure this is just his way of getting over Fiona’s passing.” Hubert Norman Wolf, standing as a man in a spotless tuxedo had undergone a drastic metamorphosis. Whereas his artwork on the walls radiated the complex beauty of human nature in conflict, his mien exhibited the charm of a cosmopolitan businessman. His eyes glistened beneath the spotlight, for his moment had come. This was the day his public recognition would relieve his heart of its emotional labors. What were the chances of becoming a successful artist and living to see the proof? As he adjusted the height of the microphone, he stole some last glances of his portfolio on display. He only needed one blink to fully assess the main themes. The orchestration of all of his colors and strokes immediately pumped a pulse of blood through his body, giving him the inspiration he needed to speak to the audience. “Good evening. I can’t begin to describe the happiness this event

art by yuqing zhu

...stand in front of a blank canvas.” — Paul Cezanne 13

the ecliptic // prose brings me. I hope it will suffice to say that among all nineteen canvases in these halls hangs none that can convey this degree of joy. To keep things brief, there was always one person in my life who complemented me. Wasn’t too mean, certainly wasn’t too nice, always seemed to comprehend my exact thoughts and feelings, appreciated my interests, shared the same insights and enriched them. But I never really grasped the amazing depth this person held within her heart. Unfortunately, she was too shy to share it. Though there’s undoubtedly a hell of a lot wrong with the world today, here is the unabridged translation, of the musings of my lovely wife, Fiona.” Applause began, and the lady’s hands automatically followed suit. But Jan only had to clap once to find what was disturbingly strange about her cousin’s dedication. She stopped as a puzzled sorrow weighed her down. She frowned and looked to the man next to her, who appeared equally concerned.

Jan’s eyes at last landed on Hubert’s figure in the distance, but they softened at once. The artist was outside on the balcony, letting his weight rest on the silver railing, atop of which stood two tall glasses of champagne, his half-empty, the other one full. Hubert had his hands deep down in his pockets and looked to be mumbling happily, humming perhaps. Jan stopped in her steps. * * *

* * * The thin clinking of fresh champagne glasses was all in good spirit, celebratory of an extraordinary success. This art show was not one to be missed. Both the artist and the art were prompting animated conversation among the slender men and women, who seemed like overdressed children against the giant tableaus. Where is he? thought the curator in crimson, tapping across the granite floor. Jan was a tad curious as to his whereabouts, to say the least. Hubert was the man who would patrol museum hallways to prevent idle misconceptions from stirring.

A knock fell at his door late the next morning. Hubert, who had transformed his once tidy living room into a disordered artist’s studio, snaked through a passage he had drawn by pushing boxes and boards. Hubert had invaded and overrun the room within a matter of a few weeks, and had filled it with all sorts of materials and knick-knacks to keep his art company. “Hey, Jan!” he greeted, opening the door. “Good morning!” She grinned, attempting to maintain a cheerful disposition, but she couldn’t help but blurt, “Oh wow,” at the sight of his living space. “Can I come in?” she meant literally. Hubert pointed an open palm down a narrow passage leading to the kitchen counter. “I brought you some of my apple bread. I didn’t know if you were feeling better yet,” she said, placing a nicely wrapped basket onto the counter. “Oh, thanks, Jan,” Hubert replied, smiling bemusedly. “I mean, I know last night was huge and a great step forward in your artistic career, but I couldn’t be sure, you know?” She lingered on the last word, facing away, hoping that Hubert would respond.

“the slender men and women... seemed like overdressed children against the

giant tableaus. “

“If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch... 14

the ecliptic

// vertigo

ar y tb m ich ell e hu an g

There was silence. She swallowed and turned. “We were all really worried about you,” she said. “I feel like this is the first private social interaction you’ve had since the fifth. I still can’t believe you shut yourself up in here for three weeks, just… painting.” “Well, I know that sounds like my old depression-torn, obsessive self, and if it hadn’t been for Fiona, you know, I don’t know what would have happened to me.” Jan frowned. Something in his voice rung a false note. Or was she just hearing things? “It was kind of a retreat,” he continued. “And you know what’s funny, I feel like it was that quality time the two of us spent discussing all these interesting topics about plain ol’ life, not angry city life. That’s what really made me the artist we always dreamed about becoming.” Hubert seemed to ignore Jan’s countenance. He turned to gaze at the beautiful mess in his living room as if it were a historic site. “I guess all that emotional nourishment is what kept us inside this apartment.” He was smiling, but not at Jan. The way he so gently crafted his lips upwards depicted a deliberate smile, one whose complexion was so natural, yet ethereal that

it seemed to Jan that Hubert had found something beyond her human comprehension. She paused, and thought carefully about what Hubert had just said. She studied him and furrowed her brow. “Wait. Hubert, who are you talking about? Who was in the apartment with you?” “Fiona. Who else?” “You’ve been talking to her in here for a month?” Jan’s voice wobbled. “Yes.” “She didn’t go to work once, after her big corporate promotion?” “Hmph.” Hubert scratched his head. “That is strange.” “Hubert,” Jan began nervously. She took one step closer to him. “Fiona’s… dead.” Hubert’s heart cemented into a stone, slowly crushing his lungs. He wasn’t sure if he understood. Was this news he should have known about? “Jan, what are you talking about?” “Almost three months ago, May 5 th, Hubert, early morning. You called me when it happened. Jan was on her way to work and this group of kids jaywalked, so she swerved out of the way and the car tipped.” “No, no, Jan,” Hubert interrupted firmly. “What the hell are you talking about?” His voice was rising as his blood pulsed erratically in his veins. “Fiona’s alive and well.” He put his hands on his hips. “She’s getting ready to take a shower right now.” He quickly moved along towards the hallway in the back. “Fiona?” he called out. Jan ran after him. Hubert turned into the unlit hall, towards the bathroom. The door was slightly ajar. As he paced, he thought he could hear her humming her favorite Beatles tune, Eleanor Rigby. His eye caught a glimpse of a delicate shadow on the white counter. “Fiona?” he repeated. His feet hit the floorboards harder, faster. His eye caught a flash of her peach skin. He picked up his feet and ran to the door. The door was closing. He raced down desperately. It was not a long hallway, but the door was closing so fast. When the crack reached a centimeter’s must first invent the universe.” — Carl Sagan 15

the ecliptic // prose

“There seemed to be a fine mist in the air that filled his lungs only, presenting the illusion that he was complete. “ width, Hubert saw his wife’s lovely face turn to meet his. Her fair features held neither sorrow nor joy. They simply bored right into his eyes and into his frenetic heart. Hubert was not even three feet from the door when it shut, leaving the poor artist in the dark. Jan reached for the hallway light-switch. The harsh light shone down, and then Hubert burst through the bathroom door, maintaining a clenched grip on the metal knob. Fiona was nowhere. The room’s small square window was open, letting in a cool breeze that stroked Hubert’s hair. He stood still, his rigid heart still throbbing fiercely. The bathroom held no signs of any recent use. The sink area was completely dry and the floor tiles were cold. The room just felt empty. “Hubert,” Jan gasped. He turned, his face as cold and empty as that bathroom. “What did you do?” he asked slowly. “What?” “What the hell did you just do, Jan?!” “Hubert, what’s going—” “I swear to God I just saw Fiona in here. You turned on the damn lights or somethin’ and now she’ gone, Jan!” he roared. Jan was panting. She saw that her cousin’s eyes were accumulating a thin layer of moisture. Hers did the same. She kept her feet firmly planted. She didn’t want to run from him, but she was frightened to move any closer. Hubert breathed rapidly, and began pounding down every door in the hallway, only to be infuriated by another cold and empty room. “Fiona!” he shouted multiple times. “Fiona?!” Jan shoved one hand down her pocket “I never expect to see a perfect work... 16

as Hubert came closer. She gulped, keeping her eyes dangerously fixed on him. I’m not gonna run. I’m not gonna run. The last door beside her was knocked down. Hubert grabbed her by the shoulders and shook her violently back and forth. “Where is she?!” “Hubert, she died in a car accident!” she almost wailed. Standing only a few inches away from him, Jan could see every muscle in Hubert’s face twitch, trying to strangle a dark, despairing insanity inside. He tightened his grip. Jan refrained from squirming in pain and jerked her hand out of her pocket, flipping open her cellphone. “Hubert, please don’t make me call the cops,” she said tearfully. “You’re better than this. Please let me help you. Please don’t make me call them. Please don’t.” Hubert gripped his cousin’s shoulders harder. She was the pickle jar of answers whose lid would not untwist. But the rage inside him was so searing that he could only squeeze her with more force. He peered into Jan, but her eyes only stared into his. He breathed at last, letting his eyes dart around. His wife’s belongings were all over the room. His eyes froze when they landed on a bracelet on the littered coffee table. It was this year’s anniversary gift, several months ago. His breathing slowed a bit, and his muscles relaxed, as if he were absorbing a faint tranquilizer. A swipe of Fiona’s burgundy coat draped his eyes. Suddenly Hubert was feeling his tense hands clasped around a steering wheel in the dark, not on Jan’s shoulders. Fiona was removing her coat for the car ride home from the restaurant. It was their anniversary. Hubert recalled her nine-

the ecliptic

// vertigo

minute silence. He knew just how aching the minutes were because he had noted when the digital numbers of the dashboard clock changed each time before she had said, “I’m sorry.” Sorry for what? But he wasn’t in the car right now. His hands weren’t on the steering wheel, they were on Jan. He considered the golden gleam of the bracelet, and softened.

“Her fair features held neither sorrow

nor joy. They simply bored right into his eyes and into his frenetic heart.” Hubert, what have we become? I’m such a terrible wife. I give you all this advice I think I’m qualified to give, yet I can’t seem to find the girly guts to say how much I love you. I know you’re upset about your life, and I’m not doing much to help. But, that old part of me, that part that didn’t give a rat’s ass about money or success is so in love with you for putting up with all of your problems. I don’t why I can’t say I admire that. I must be jealous. When I’m upset, you always do your best to comfort me, despite everything I don’t tell you. Why can’t I do the same? It’s cold in the car right now and I just want to reach out and hold onto your shoulder, but I can’t… “She’s speaking,” Hubert murmured. His hands freed his cousin’s shoulders. “What?” Jan asked. She followed his fixed eyes to the corner of the coffee table. “Hubert?”

“No, no, wait, Jan. Fiona’s talking to me. I’ve been cooped up inside here for a month, just talking.” He slowly approached the bracelet and nestled it in his fingers. “I’m reliving our past, except, I’m hearing everything that was never said.” “What are you talking about?” Jan said softly. She remained clueless, but she appreciated that Hubert had settled his rage. “I… I gave her this bracelet in January, for our anniversary. I was looking at it just now, and I suddenly remembered the car ride home from the restaurant. She was silent for nine minutes. I counted. She didn’t say anything, while I sat there and drove feeling like a heartless bastard. But just now, her voice spoke to me. She said that she admired me, and that she loved me, but she was afraid that I’d judge her.” Hubert enclosed the bracelet in a gentle fist and waded around the room, taking hold of whatever spoke to him. He grabbed Fiona’s black office shoe. And then her reading glasses. Her favorite pen. Jan watched him close his eyes and inhale deeply. There was a deep serenity in his breathing. He sat down, cradling his wife’s things in his lap. Jan wasn’t even ten feet from him, yet there seemed to be a fine mist in the air that filled his lungs only, presenting the illusion that he was complete. There was someone beside him. Jan couldn’t move; she felt like an object of no significance. She watched him sit, surrounded by a great peace that only a proximal affection could provide. This was no illusion. She only lacked the adequate senses to discern what was really there. * * * If a day were to come where the decay of time would consume the dwelling’s atmosphere and its mementos, there would still be a painting hung somewhere, or a sculpture standing erect. It had already been done.

...from an imperfect man.” — Alexander Hamilton 17

the ecliptic // prose


photography by roopa shankar

Midnight Gardener

by jane jun There’s at a flickering streetlamp on the empty streets. A deluge of rain, penetrating the night air, soaks my hair and clothes. The streetlamp is struggling, and I wonder how many accidents it had prevented during its lifetime, how many lovers it had watched steal an evening kiss

under its light. But I only stand there, as the streetlamp continues its rapid quivering alone, fighting to stay alit in an obsidian sea. I do nothing until the streets turn black. * * *

“The experimenter who does not know what he is looking for... 18

the ecliptic

// vertigo

I remember running with her many years ago, on a crisp January morning before sunrise. The city was still sleeping then, and everything was blue and surreal. The girl had been thoughtful and quiet as we ran through the silence, our hearts beating in time with our sneakers hitting the concrete. The train tracks started on 4th Street. Then they stretched miles away from town, over the mountains, and into some other town in need for attachment. We jogged along the rails, each so identical to the one before, and heard their pulse, which was the rhythm of our hearts and feet. We ran past the daisies that grew along the tracks. Their white petals glowed in the morning air, singing of endurance and perseverance. Their fragrance flowed through our lungs, making each cleansing breath something more than compulsory action; it was nothing short of sweet pleasure... * * * The bell has rung and I am late for class, but I have to use the bathroom. So I sprint past the empty hallways and through the blue doors, shifting my backpack onto my shoulder. Then I see her, and everything stops. She is kneeling on the tile floor, bleeding. I stare until she looks up; our eyes meet for the first time in months. The clatter of a dropped blade resounds across the stalls. Her alarmed eyes are a hungry abyss, outlined by dark rings and hollow cheeks. She reaches down to cover her torn wrist with her sleeve, which is soaked violet red. She is the girl whom I used to call my best friend. The girl who could run seven miles without rest, who brewed me lemon tea when I got sick. She is looking back at me again, and

maybe she knows what I’m thinking, because a defiant shadow passes over her eyes. She gets up and leans over the sink, dying the water red as it passes over her wrist. Bandaging her arm with a cloth, she gathers her books and leaves without another word. I think of how she had changed in the months after that run, and how we ceased to talk until we avoided each other altogether. I suppose in other eyes she is happier now; she is prettier, more accomplished, and has many more friends. But I had only seen her withering away, as the trampled daisies by the train tracks had crumbled and died. I knew this, yet all I did was watch. * * * I sit at the bleachers, amidst the deafening cheers and blaring trumpets. The football team is huddled around the coach, and the cheerleaders are making their way off the field as a drum begins its roll. A gilded carriage slowly starts to circle the field, with the Homecoming Queen and King seated side by side. I study the laughing, waving girl carefully. Today she isn’t the girl in the bathroom, nor is she the girl on the train tracks. She is a queen crowned with a plastic tiara, her face powdered into a glittery mask. As the carriage makes its final turn, fireworks whistle and explode sparks onto the night sky, slashing the darkness with their streaks. The carriage leaves the field into the delusive smoke left by the fading fireworks, and the queen is no longer in sight. * * * “Did you hear what happened last night?” “I can’t believe she did that… right after the game, too…” I sit at my seat, my mouth clamped to

...will not understand what he finds.” — Claude Bernard 19

the ecliptic // prose

courtesy of lynbrook photography club

approach. I make myself remain standing as the train passes by me. Its rushing wind is liberating, and I let it blow through my regrets, drying me of the raindrops I’ve held on to. And as the melancholy hoots disappear into the hills, I realize I am finally able to tell my friend good bye. I shrug off my backpack and drop it on the ground, by the tracks. I pull out a pack of seeds and a hoe. Then with my first spadeful of dirt, I start planting. I can remember her clearly now—we ran by here long ago, on a January morning. I see her in a windswept ponytail, smiling as she pushed forward, her arms swinging freely by her side. As dawn approaches, I continue to work in silence, dropping seed after seed into the cold ground. I will return tomorrow, then the day after that, then after that, to water and plant more daisies. And in time, the daisies will bloom, and the tracks will be alit by their white petals once again. Their perseverance and encouragement will illuminate the darkness, as they did that morning. Then maybe, another girl waiting for the midnight train will see them and decide to stay.

stop my chattering teeth. At midnight, she had jumped in front of the train on 4th Street. Why? Why had she tried so hard if she was going to throw all of it away? Why did she hurt me like this when she had promised all strings between us were cut? We used to dream of a train ride. We had planned to take a trip together, to see the mountains. I recall our brief encounter in the bathroom. I remember her defiant eyes, challenging me to reproach her. But only now—when I have no choice but to take my train ride alone—do I realize she had called out to me that day. And I had let her walk away. * * * For the first time in months, I am running through the neighborhood, a backpack slung on my shoulders. The misty rain is heavy in the night air, and the moisture weighs me down. My muscles feel unnatural and stiff, unable to recall the rhythm they knew by instinct many lifetimes ago. I stop at the tracks on 4th Street. I check my watch and look up to see the train

“Age is a matter of feeling... 20

the ecliptic // vertigo

ar y tb ra ch

A Touch of Mint

el yu ng

by sarah destin

It wasn’t the diamonds that surprised him the most. It wasn’t even the new outfit, though God knows how much that was going to end up costing him. It wasn’t the fine china that had been laid out two days in advance either, for that was to be expected. No, the thing that surprised Allen Byrne the most as he watched his wife prepare for her sister’s visit was the size of his wife’s breasts. He had never quite seen them like this before. It wasn’t that they were really much bigger, no, that wasn’t really it. It was their shape, their shape had been altered. They were firm, the firm breasts of a much younger woman. Allen blushed. He wasn’t used to thinking about Blair in this way. He didn’t think of Blair in this way. He supposed that maybe he had thought of her sexually at one point in their relationship, perhaps when they were very young. But even this seemed rather unlikely to Allen. “What’s that you’re wearing?” he asked. “I don’t need to get your permission to go shopping,” she snapped. “I know, I didn’t mean the outfit—” “Then what?” “You. You look different,” he said. “Is that supposed to be a compliment?” “Jesus Christ, Blair.” “It was supposed to be a surprise. For tonight. Now, I’m really quite busy. Emma and her lot should be here any minute now,

so I could really use—” “—some space,” he finished. A surprise. For him. More like a surprise for Emma. She had always been so self conscious of her flat chest. As if the rings, mansion, cars, yachts and vacation homes weren’t enough. Now Blair had gone out and gotten herself a push-up bra. * * * Blair knew about that summer. The summer Allen stayed in the city. His father had really pulled some strings to get him that job at the bank, so he really couldn’t complain about having to give up his summer, or so he told Blair. But she had been only a child then. She pouted and complained; a whole summer without her boyfriend was a bit too much for a girl of sixteen to comprehend. That was the only summer that Emma did not leave the city to join the family at the beach. She was home from college, Blair remembered that much, but Emma had no real interest in going to the beach. Or that was what she explained to their mother. The truth was, Emma had met an artist. He was going to have her model for him. She did, a bit, but he was unmoved. He was attracted to her, but she was rather repulsed by him, or so she said in her letters to Blair. When he brought home his next muse, ...not of years.” — Washington Irving


the ecliptic // prose Blair assumed that Emma must have moved out. Emma said she was leaving Max, and that was the last she wrote all summer. At this point, Blair always found herself thinking a few years back to when their Aunt Eleanor moved to Paris for a year and a half. Aunt Eleanor had doted on Emma, and oftentimes would send her little gifts and trinkets from the different cities she visited, much to Blair’s dismay. Oftentimes, Emma took pity on her sister and would share the gifts, as more often than not they had little value or purpose. Except for one. Aunt Eleanor purchased a small, custom made scent from a parfumier in Paris. Pears, violet and a tang of even mint filled the air the second Emma opened the vial. Naturally, she adored it. She swore by it, too. Said it made the men come running from miles away. And so, it was saved for only the specialist of men and the specialist of occasions. Blair decided to surprise Allen over the Fourth of July weekend. He would get the Monday off, and so she decided to take the train into the city to join him for the festivities. But when she got to his apartment, he informed her, quite curtly, that she was wrong. There was no bank holiday, and he was in fact rather late for work. Before she realized it, Blair was back on the corner of West 69th Street with a five dollar bill in her hand and a kiss on the forehead. On the forehead. After she had ridden the train for two hours just to see him. And, how the apartment had smelled of

pears. Ripe pears on a summer’s evening. With a touch, mind you, just a touch of mint. * * * It was a strange sight to witness, Blair greeting Emma. Blair, with her pristine mansion, her hair and nails done and her immaculate outfit, opening the door to her sister, with her pack of four children, rough hands and messy hair. But, oh, Emma was beautiful. Even with tufts of unwashed hair sticking out from underneath her bandana and the old buttonup men’s shirt she was wearing hanging out from her jeans, she was still a goddess to Allen. “Emma, dear, it’s been too long,” Blair said as she opened the door. “It really has been,” Emma replied. She began to open her arms, as if to embrace Blair, but quickly remembered that, for this group, a hug was neither expected nor appreciated. “Emmie, you look lovely,” Allen said and stuttered for a moment, unsure of what to say next. Emmie, why on earth would I call her some dumb pet name I made up twentysome years ago. “I may be your guest, but please don’t lie Allen. I look horrific. Paul got a last minute call this morning, and he just couldn’t get away from the office this weekend, so of course I’m left to drive the VW all the way up here! You can only imagine how much I loved that. Hey, kids, get up here and come see your Aunt and Uncle,” Emma rambled,

“Couldn’t do coffee. As in he was busy. As in he had to go to work. Not as in he had... “It isn't tying himself to one woman that a man dreads when he thinks of marrying... 22

the ecliptic // vertigo as the pet name had obviously put her at unease. “They’re darling, Em, I don’t know how you do it. Mothering just seems to come naturally to you, doesn’t it?” Blair said, although, clearly she was lying. The children were not darling, they were tired and mothering certainly didn’t come easily to Emma. “You’re easily impressed then,” “No, you’re really wonderful with them,” he said. A mistake again, goddamnit. You haven’t seen the kids in ages. Stop it. “Why don’t you all go upstairs and wash up? You must be so tired after your drive. Dinner will be ready in around an hour and I’ll send someone up to get you all then,” Blair said. Allen opened his mouth to speak, but then closed it again. No, he had already made enough mistakes for one introductory, basic conversation. How had he ever gotten through these events before? The Thanksgiving dinners before children and even the weddings, for chrissakes. “You better go wash up too. God, you’ve gotten all sweaty,” Blair said as a look of disgust passed over her face. He began to apologize, but stopped midsentence. There was no point. Blair knew what Blair knew, and the less she knew the better off he was. “I can start the grill now, if you’d like,” he said. “I told you. The casserole’s for tonight and the salmon’s for tomorrow night,” “Oh. Sorry. I guess I just forgot,”

Now, that’s a lie too. He didn’t forget, they had actually quite a lengthy conversation over breakfast as to why Blair had decided to switch the menus and have the casserole on the first night (it’s comfort food, and you know, they’ll be tired after the drive) and the salmon on the second night (it’s much more celebratory, and the meal will stretch on longer). Actually, Emma hated casseroles. That was the real reason why Blair decided to serve any type of casserole at all. Maybe this way she thinks Emma won’t visit again anytime soon, Allen thought. God, Blair doesn’t even really like casseroles. On the way up to his bedroom, Allen spotted it. The picture. It’s been on the wall since the day they first moved in. Emma stares straight at the photographer; a look of determination resonates in her eyes. Blair looks down and appears to be giggling. As if there is something extraordinarily humorous on her shoe. They are in their backyard; they are two young girls posing in their garden. Emma, she can’t be much more than seven, but she is already a woman. She wears the same girlish dress as Blair does. A pale shade of white with a little collar. Their hair is cut identically, parted identically, and even pinned back in the same fashion. And yet, they are so different. Best friends, May 1937 reads a woman’s neat cursive underneath the picture. But were they, really? Yes, Emma has her arm resting on Blair’s shoulder and Blair has her arm on Emma’s, but it is so forced. The interest in sipping boiling water with some crappy instant coffee mixed in it with her...'s separating himself from all the others.” — Helen Rowland 23

the ecliptic // prose

and she thought he might be left out. What about Allen? Won’t he be there? Oh no, she had replied. He’s away on business. I can manage the drive, we’ll just take the VW. I can manage the kids, I do it all day when you’re at work. Paul even offered to come along and watch the kids so that she and Blair could spend more time alone. But she insisted that he stay home. The kids would be able to entertain themselves. So, obviously, she still wanted Allen. It was her fault though, obviously all her fault. That summer, to him, she had just been a single girl in the city. She knew perfectly well who he was. He was seeing her sister. Her younger sister, to make matters even worse. But no, she went for him anyways. He was positively livid when he discovered that she was Blair’s sister. But he didn’t leave her. Instead, they simply went to bed, as they did every night that summer. The next morning, they both acted as though the fight had never happened. Allen brought her breakfast in bed and called in sick from work, like he did every Monday.

photographer has told them to put their arms around each other. Their mother has dressed them identically. They did not ask to be twins. And they are not. Twins, that is. Upon further examination, Allen cannot help but wonder who it was that wrote the date under the picture. It doesn’t appear to be Blair’s handwriting, so it must have been Emma. But why write the date? So that future generations might know when this was taken? Doubtful. Or was it simply a disclaimer? Was she admitting that while she and Blair Byrne could have been best friends in the spring of 1937, they can now barely hold a two minute conversation? But, then again, that was his fault. * * * Dinner was nearly impossible to sit through, Emma thought as she began to undress. A cycle of legs touching, fingers locking and sheepish smiles from across the table. He still wanted her. That much was obvious. Paul didn’t have a business meeting. She had encouraged him to stay behind. It was just going to be a girls’ weekend at Blair’s

* * * He tapped lightly on her door. No response. It was late, so maybe she had fallen

“The richest love is that which... 24

the ecliptic // vertigo Couldn’t do coffee. As in he was busy. As in he had to go to work. Not as in he had no interest in sipping boiling water with some crappy instant coffee mixed in it with her. Not as in he didn’t care about her. He could have woken her. She would have had a cup of coffee at three in the morning, if that was what he wanted. Even if he didn’t want coffee, he could have woken her for simply a kiss before work. Emma got back into bed, but couldn’t fall back to sleep.

asleep. After all, he didn’t have the gall to actually plan anything with Emma. “Lee, is that you?” “No, Emma, it’s me. Allen,” he said. She opened the door, without speaking. “Are you happy to see me?” he asked. “I wasn’t expecting this,” she replied. He stroked her hair. She had washed it since this afternoon, and the smell of her shampoo still lingered. “You should go back to bed,” she began. He kissed her. “Don’t do that.” He kissed her again. And then she kissed him back.

* * * “Good morning, Blair, where are the kids?” Emma asked as she stumbled into the kitchen. “In the basement. Cartoons are on,” Blair replied. For a moment they were silent, as if neither of them knew what the next appropriate statement was. “Allen’s going to be gone today,” Blair said. “Work?”

* * * The next morning, Emma got up before dawn. Allen was going to go into the office, so they were hoping to have a cup of coffee together before he left. But he was already gone. When she went to open her door, she spotted a piece of paper that had been haphazardly shoved under it. Sorry I couldn’t do coffee, A.

...submits to the arbitration of time.” — Lawrence Durrell 25

the ecliptic // prose

“It was just as she remembered it from her

childhood , the rusty old sailboats, the

glamorous yachts and the crusty old men who sat out on the dock...” “That’s what he told me,” “Okay,” Emma said, unsure of what to say next. Blair knows, was all that she could think about. Of course Blair knows. She probably woke up in the middle of the night and noticed he was gone. That’s probably why he’s gone. He’s left me to deal with the morning after. “Would you like a cup of coffee or something? A cigarette? You look so tense,” Blair said, interrupting her thoughts. “I’d love a cup,” “I was thinking that we could go down to the shore today,” Blair said as she got up to get a mug, “I think the kids would like it.” “That sounds lovely,” Emma replied. Blair set the mug down in front of her and Emma began to drink, but the coffee was far too bitter for her taste. * * * Emma was right. It was lovely at the beach. It was just as she remembered it from her childhood, the rusty old sailboats, the glamorous yachts and the crusty old men who sat out on the dock fishing for their dinners. “Amber, make sure Ellie keeps her hat on, okay,” Blair said to her daughter. “They’re so darling,” Emma said. “They remind me of us, a bit,” “No, I was too obnoxious to be like either of them,” Emma said, “I was more like my “God, if you wish for our love... 26

Lee. Loud and blunt.” “Maybe you were,” Blair said, smiling. “Like little best friends,” Emma whispered. “What?” “Oh, no, it was nothing,” “You saw that picture, right? Best friends,” Blair said. “Yes,” Emma said. “Back in the days of the matching outfits,” Emma didn’t really know how to respond to that. They had been so close. They could have been so close, still. To the average onlooker, maybe they still seemed close. They sat next to each other on the beach tanning and making polite conversation. But, even without Allen, they couldn’t talk. “Do you miss it?” Blair asked, breaking the silence. “Miss it?” “The identical outfits,” Emma glanced out at the ocean. Did she miss it, did she really miss it? Did she miss piling into the car to spend a summer at the shore, building sand castles and eating nothing but cold cuts for dinner? Did she miss the nights? The nights on the sun porch, when a storm would roll through and Blair would beg for Emma to let her share a bed with her. Did she miss those days when she’d go searching for her lipstick, only to find that it was in Blair’s backpack? “Yes,” Emma replied, “I do.”

the ecliptic // vertigo art by christina zhu


There it is again. The sound of crickets chirping peacefully, chiming out the darkness that is coming alive. It is my time now. I hurry swiftly down these streets, drifting silently among these dimming roads. The neatly cut lawns match the identical houses next to each other, and as I near my destination, a growing excitement bubbles within me, along with some fear. Yes—she’s there again! Her small figure blends in perfectly with the dark background. Her navy dress is barely discernible in the suffocating darkness. The

by christina zhu

girl’s rich blonde curls contrast horribly against her dress. My heart thuds, for I know that this perhaps may be my last night on this world. And yet I still walk forward. She turns around. I stop in front of her, my shadow towering over her fragile body. In her hand, she holds several balloons. They look like normal balloons : seethrough, multi-colored, tied with simple white string . I know that they do not contain helium, though. They carry something much more precious within. They carry human memories.

...fling us a handful of stars!” — Louis Untermeyer 27

the ecliptic // prose The dark look she gives me causes me a flicker of unease. “How many do you have today?” I ask, my deep voice awkwardly punching the still air. “I have seven,” she says softly, pronouncing each word carefully. Her voice sounds strangely high compared to mine. “Did I do a good job today?” “Of course, dear,” I murmur, not wanting to upset her. Children like her were hard to please, but they did their job very well. I might get a promotion for this, I thought happily, counting the balloons in her hand. I notice a bright turquoise colored one in particular. I recall the last time I had gotten a balloon that vibrant with color. It was red, I remember, and it held a memory of a young woman feeling the happiness of getting a new puppy. The feeling throughout the entire memory was joyous. She had forgotten, however, that joy. The puppy is now a full grown dog that barks too much and bites every stranger; it is no longer a joy in that young woman’s life. And thus, this little girl in front of me, who looks so innocent here, stole that memory and converted it into a balloon. “Do I get my payment?” She asks, her voice not much different than before but edged with impatience. “Of course.” I break out into a cold sweat, and instead of looking at her, I glance up at her balloons. She had much more power than I could ever have. Some of my colleagues return as vegetables, not knowing how to move or think by themselves: all memory gone, stolen. Seeing adults in that form is a deeply disturbing sight. These children were not to be trifled with. Turning back down to her perfect porcelain face, I grin nervously and shove my hands into my pockets, fumbling around for her pay. “I have it right here, no need to worry,” I assured her, a bit frightened the by dark expression growing on her face. I feel objects clunk around in my pockets before locating what she wanted. “Here you

go,” I breathe with a sigh of relief, taking out a few bright orbs that glow merrily. They make my eyes hurt, and it took a while to adjust to the lights. The girl, however, seems captivated by them, but purses her lips together and waits for her share, a greedy look igniting in her sparkling eyes. “Hmm,” I mutter, looking up at her balloons. I would have to give away quite a few stars, especially for the nice turquoise one. I wonder briefly what memory was contained in it. Something good this time, that’s for sure. Perhaps the memory of someone’s Christmas? A nice vacation, or a hike in the meadow? Maybe it’s a feeling of satisfaction as someone licks their ice cream? After a few seconds of calculations, I bend down to the girl’s level and hold out a handful of stars that are hovering above my palm. “Take about five. That’s all you’ll get.” There is a flash of defiance in her eyes, but it passes just as quickly as it came. She frowns and picks the stars out of my hand, choosing her selected ones with careful accuracy. Occasionally, she picks one up before dropping it down again and picking up another. After a few minutes, she gives a brief nod that indicates she’s done. I nearly sigh with relief. She seems very satisfied with the stars that I caught that week. “Take care of them,” I warn her. I spent a long time catching those stars. She nods solemnly and proceeded to hand over her balloons, which I hold tightly in my hand. She looks happily down upon the stars floating gently in her palm; it seems to ignite a fire within her. Perhaps, soon, she would achieve her goal… but I must achieve mine, also, I thought wryly, tying the balloons to my wrist and making sure they held fast. It would be a waste to let them all fly away. Why human memories took on the form of balloons, I may never know. “Until next week,” she murmurs softly, walking down to her house, her foot falls muffled by the grass. I watch her glide up to her home, not knowing why. Balloon children were difficult to find nowadays.

“You can take no credit for beauty at sixteen. But if you are beautiful at sixty... 28

the ecliptic // vertigo There are not many children who look upon the stars these days; too mesmerized are they by their video games and movies, cell phones and internet. Her small, dazzling face swims in my mind, her eyes showing a maturity that is rare even in adults. The purity of her soul gives her the power to collect these memories. Only the untainted children may ascend upon the heavens in true peace. Walking slowly back down the street, I reflect upon my exchange. At the rate I’m going, I’ll be a human in no time, I thought happily, a little ashamed at my enthusiasm Oh, how I envy her ability to withstand so much light! If only I could stand in broad in daylight, soaking up the sunshine. How I wish to see the full colors of a purple flower, or admire the translucent clouds! The things humans take for granted. But I am only a shadow of humanity; born of the darkness, and the night is where I belong. * * * There is a soft meow from a cat and I suddenly realize how suspicious I must look. A grown man clutching a handful of balloons… as a result, my feet speed up considerably. I stop at the end of the street, where only moments earlier I just touched down. The watch I wear is showing 1:39 AM in faintly glowing numbers. The leaves rustle, and the wind breathes down upon me as I lift gently up. I am sure that no one is out this late to see my takeoff. Soon, the houses are reduced to nothing but small neat squares. The veins of the highway twist and churn around into dizzying patterns, and the streetlights reduced to small pinpricks of light. The balloons waver in my hand, carrying me upwards toward the blanket of the velvet night sky. There appear to be holes in the sheet of black: I can see small lights glimmering through, like a small ray of hope. Almost subconsciously, my hand reaches out to one of them and gently clasp around a

speck of light. My palm opens up and there, sitting upon my fingers, is a live, sparkling, star. Smiling slightly to myself, I twitch one finger upwards and it zooms back to its rightful place in the backdrop of darkness. As I descend into the infinite nothingness, I happen to catch the eye of the previous child I had traded stars with. He was a meek, skinny boy. I wave to him as I float gently upwards, hoping that he recognizes me.

“But I am only a shadow of humanity; born of the darkness...” It is a rule for a Star Trader to not capture too many stars at once. We are careful as to which stars to pick, we don’t want to choose any that used to be children. That would be an abomination. There is a twinkle back, in a happy sort of way, and I lower my hand, chuckling. He has fulfilled his lifelong wish by trading with me; he now can stay where all the children’s laughs echo throughout the darkness, making the nights a little more bearable. In your world, they are also known as stars.

art by ashley wu will be your soul's own doing.” — Marie Stopes 29

the ecliptic // poetry

Sink, into pungency, into the unctuous, undulating vat with all the suffocating solitude of a stagnant sea; clamor swallowing you in the din refracting from glossy, shimmering fat. Buffeted by the blows of each breaker upon your shore, each lash strikes from your virile blood the green of sudden day, suffer each drop of dew like a boulder: dripping not to a patter, but a crash— Feel Apollo’s shafts strike you, piercing your spine pinning your spirit on the pavement like a moth misplaced, thus impaled by each stroke of linseed oil and turpentine. But there is always a calm after even the brightest torrent of day The cacophony lets to euphony, harmony, symphony And the cruelest cloying asperities pass harmlessly away Sing—be not a brush, but a lonely reed by the watery glow a being of echoes, of distant happy memories that whisper wistful thoughts, wander with the water slipping like the flow of consciousness creating then dissipating, letting color through with the glancing tap of sudden rain, bring rhythm without pain shining echoed flickers of subtle light, so should you feel Artemis’ shafts slight you, as it slips through your heart and sets you at ease, as the cool of the cloud-cast day— Shadowy tranquility when the open skies part. Like the sparrow, defy augury; the years pass with rise and fall. the chalice of life shatters brimming, the phoenix ascends from ash Take heart! This is humanity you’ve found: to be a part of it all!


Artist’s Conversation

“We have art... 30


the ecliptic // vertigo

art by jasmine liu

With His Brushes

by alexander wong that we shall not be destroyed by the truth.� — Friedrich Nietzsche 31

the ecliptic // prose


As Ice He stared at the girl on the ground. They had called 911, the high tenor of the clock running down the seconds, the room around him a whirl of silent hysteria. No one seemed to want to get too close to her, but everyone wanted to get a good look at her, staring and peering, pushing at each other. Mouths whispering, “What happened?” “Will she be okay?” “What if...” “What...What...” all their useless questions blurring into one. The room was awfully hushed, a brightly lit funeral set under glaring fluorescent lights. He looked at his classmates. He was there, with them, in the classroom, but he was not


l ash



by diana liu there at all. He did not feel their fear and confusion, a mix of morbid fascination at the girl lying between the projector and the computer. He felt…not pain, exactly, but sorrow, the kind that ran deeper, cutting through his skin and his veins and cells and all the way down to his heart. The teacher was calling to the students, the ambulance would come soon, everyone, everyone, get back to your seats. The crowd around her thinned, and parts of her slowly emerged...a bit of her leg, her face, her arm, her entire body. She was frightfully pale, her dark hair

“Don’t ever take a fence down until... 32

the ecliptic // vertigo

“I could have stopped her from just drifting, just drifting away from me and into nobody’s arms... fanned around her in long, loose pieces. Her body was bent at an awkward angle, her legs sprawled randomly on the ground, her head tilted straight up, facing the ceiling. A strange look for a girl who cared so much about her composure. His eyes passed over her sunken cheekbones, white lips, traces of mascara on her eyelashes. He could see the blue hued veins around her forehead, replacing her hair: hair gradually stolen away as her body struggled to cling onto its sparse, remaining nutrients. He could see the shape of her skull. His eyes moved down to her torso: her collarbones sticking out like some twisted, bony necklace, the skin stretched out over her sternum, her fragile, wispy hands. He remembered holding those hands that night, the night of the dance, tender and warm with the faint scent of roses. Their interlocked fingers as he twirled her around and around, laughing, her dark hair cascading, the tea lights reflected in her eyes. Most of all, he remembered the way she had smiled at him. Oh god, that smile. So beautiful and so genuine, yet a smile that could break his heart. There were a hundred different meanings imbued in that smile, red lips guarding secrets he would never know, never understand. Secrets that she would never reveal. He looked at her pale lips. Was there a ghost of that smile left on that face? The beautiful hair he had admired that night at the dance was all but gone, leaving a crown of scalp around her face. He barely

recognized the girl in front of him. Although she was fully unconscious, she still looked strained, tired, and miserable. Too thin, too stretched out, looking as if someone raised their voice a few decibels higher or made their footfalls a bit heavier her fragile body would just shatter and vanish, blowing away like the light mist of dust across a desert. He imagined someone placing a blanket over her; she was so small her body would just vanish under it. No one would ever know there was a human being underneath. The pain started deep inside him, throbbing slowly in his chest. As his moist eyes gazed upon her motionless body, he thought. I could have helped her. I could have stopped her from just drifting, just drifting away from me and into nobody’s arms, drifting away into the darkness and deep, deep beneath the surface. I didn’t ever want her to feel alone, she was never alone. I was always there. Days and weeks and months and I could feel her slipping, I could feel it, her warm hands growing colder, cold as ice, and I could have grabbed on, I could have, why, why didn’t I? I saw it, I knew it, she would never let me in, she would never let anyone in, I wanted to… I could have held on and never let her go. He was breathing quickly, helplessly, his chest rising up and down shallowly, the air not coming in completely, not going out completely. And then they came, and they put her on a stretcher and wheeled her away, her dark hair pinned beneath her body, small wisps swaying softly in the breeze.

...drifting away into the darkness and deep, deep beneath the surface.” know why it was put up.” — Robert Frost 33

the ecliptic // poetry



by disha banik

photograph by stephanie chang

“Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it... 34

the ecliptic // vertigo

branches stretch, in ebony night, jeweled with beads of rain, glinting like liquid fireflies. retiring, to bed she sees twigs contort, to clasp beads tears gravitate, from crooked arms silver cascades, through ravines carved in cragged branches. rain murmurs her to sleep a voice of honey, lullabies as she dreams, of pearls splattering on ochre skin trickling, through arches of her cragged limbs. wooden strands, graze crystals slip from bark, fingertips melody dissolves into a whisper rain’s decrescendo

begins, to wake her. her course skin, bristles waiting, for descending beads. her fingers graze, for diamonds to jewel their flesh, arid rings. her arms stretch, in ebony night, to clutch glass marbles. her fingers horizon, to drink sweet, waters as branches become, crystaled. her arms tingle for rain to seep, unable to feel the quench of silver beads. her fingers stroke they quiver, then twinge at parched flesh upon her cragged limbs.

...doesn’t go away.” — Phillip K. Dick 35

the ecliptic // poetry

Recipe of the


onions and celery, tomatoes and peas mixing the ingredients for my sorrow to appease.

by shweta tendolkar

to distract that feeling deep within this heart to heal these wounds for to forget is an art the voice I long to hear growing fainter with time add in some parsley add in some thyme let the sauce simmer to top this dish of woe longing to be alone but, he’s all right, I know garnish with a sprinkling of parmesan and hope that each day will be easier to live and to cope.

ly n sh ie h ar t by jo ce

“I don't know if I should care for a man who made life easy... 36

the ecliptic // vertigo

A Study in Purple

art by jasmine liu

by carolyn yen

...I should want someone who made it interesting.� — Edith Wharton 37

the ecliptic // prose Out of habit, she grasps the necklace around her neck. It wasn’t something as typical as her mother’s necklace or an ancestral heirloom. It was simply a fragment of a conch shell that she had bought impulsively. She had seen it glow, creamy and pink, in a jeweler’s display case during a trip to the mall. It was one-of-a-kind, and made her feel anything but ordinary. She drops her shoes on the silky sand below her and looks down upon moonlit waters. The sand shimmers and slides through the small gaps between her toes. The rushing wind smells like seaweed and lifts the purple sand underneath the moon, washing the landscape with color. The whole beach is so purple, she thinks. This is all she is able to think before something pulls her backward. Her back hits a large dune. Grains of sand fall into her sweater, feeling less like silk and more like thorns against her skin. The girl grabs a fistful of wildflowers to hoist herself up. Flowers? She looks with surprise at her open hand, and sure enough, there are crumpled wildflowers smeared blue and red. Red Columbine. Lupine. She finds that she can name each variety. She gingerly scrapes off the petals. “Hey, you,” someone says. Promptly, she jumps backwards. But he simply sits there, a bloated man in stained overalls. Rancid stains. She is sure that the fat man is smothered in a cherry puree. Even his hair is crusted with so much blackish gunk she cannot distinguish its true color. The bench he sits on creaks as he leans towards her. She is almost certain that the man would simply burst like an overripe grape. “Hey, girl, you lost?” She steps back. You got that right, she wishes to retort. But she just nods. “That’s what I thought. Then again, people who’re here wanna be here, if ya know what I mean.” He pulls out each word through his yellow teeth and lurid lips. She can’t help but stare at his moist red

mouth. At the way his tongue flicks at his rubbery lips as he speaks. “Ya better watch out around these parts,” he is saying, “That is, if ya don’t mind any of the fine beasties lurkin’ around here.” That makes her look up. There is the urge to turn back and lose sight of this horrible turgid man, but she is curious; despite herself she is interested in what he has to say. “Like what?” she asks. His moist eyes glitter in the purple light. “Well, ya know, birds and deer and such. They won’t hurt ya. Usually.” He laughs and for a second she is transfixed by his quivering flesh. “Well, it’s them black birds that I’d be worrying about, honey.” “What about those birds?” The Fat Man inclines towards her again, and leers at her. The corners of his red mouth widen, but he isn’t grinning, not really. Softly, he says to her, “Sometimes they smile.” She blanches. The Fat Man has become so repulsive, so wrong, to her that she cannot bear to spend another minute with him. Bordering the purple beach, a dark forest appeals to her. Something within it draws her to it. It promises her shelter from the ripe purple moon. Anywhere but near this horrible man. * * * The woods hadn’t looked too large from the beach. They seemed innocent then, but now she is dragging herself each step of the way, and the sticky mud beneath sucks at her bare feet. What is this? Only a few beams of lavender moonlight stream through the canopy now. She notices that every tree is marred with knotholes that leer at her. When she blinks they melt away.After a while she stops and spots what can only be a rosebush. Its mauve petals wriggle in the purple light, and, breathless, she leans over to cup the silky blooms. While she is bent over, voices chorus close to her ear. To her they seem less like

“A man is not old until... 38

the ecliptic // vertigo voices and more like hissing. Paul wants his head back! She freezes, a heat coursing through her veins. Remember him? Remember Paul? Of course she remembers Paul. Paul Castley. That stupid, hideous idiot, she scoffs. And there is just so much hatred inside her. Her brain is filled with it, that horrible achy feeling that makes her want to scream. This hatred fills her so completely. Then all of a sudden, she is hit with a stench so foul that she wrenches. When she opens her eyes, all of them come into focus. They are nearly as large as ravens, but the more she stares the less she is convinced that they are. One black shape after another. Stretching their wings, flexing their obsidian claws, shadows framed by the silhouettes of trees. One especially close turns straight towards her. Despite everything, she is sure that she can make out black lips. Human lips.

“But each time, she was certain, they would bother her less and less.” Slowly, purposefully, they broaden, as if the bird-thing is made of rubber and not blackness. After a quick moment it becomes apparent what the glistening lips are doing, they are smiling at her. A second later she is crashing through the trees with abandon. Oh god oh god, she realizes. Fear, sharp and painful, is riddling her body. She thinks she sees them move out of the corner of her eye. As she flees, the purple moonlight paints savage faces all around her, in the roses, in the gnarled knotholes. Even the mud pulls at her and an unearthly shriek burns her ears. Between thumping heartbeats that fill her head she thinks she can hear the black shapes, close behind her,

and they begin to laugh. Run, run! they jeer, Run like Paul ran before you smashed him! Her breath catches in her throat. Blindly, she tears through bushes and thorny weeds. She realizes then that she will not make it out, not with those bird-things so close behind and gaining all the while. She can think of only one thing to do. She gathers all her courage and takes a breath. “He deserved what he got,” she snarls. She thinks she sees them hesitate. Flinch away. She yells into the empty woods, piercing each retreating shadow with her confession. “Yes. I killed him! I killed him and he deserved every bit of it!” Her echo repeats each word, mocking her: “...bit of it! Every bit of it!” * * * At last. Purple sand underneath her bruised feet. He is waiting for her there on the beach, the shapeless Fat Man. “Who are you?” she shouts, now dimly aware of the tears forming around her eyes. Before, she would never have let herself cry like this. Never. “I know this, all of it, isn’t real,” she accuses him. He nods at her, seeming to acknowledge her words. When this simple motion ripples across his entire body, she sees him clearly for the first time. She is shocked by what he has become: a doughy balloon twice as large as before. Every square inch of him is soaked with the viscous, rancid juice, and he just keeps growing. “What is this?’ the little girl thought,” he whispers, “‘He deserved every bit of it!’ she cries out!” “How did you—” He smiles. No, he leers at her. Suddenly she feels very small. “Know what you were thinking?” he replies. His body ripples with laughter. Still, the Fat Man inflates. There is a ripping sound as his overalls shred. With a crack, an object bursts from around his neck

...regret takes the place of dreams..” — John Barrymore 39

the ecliptic // prose art by jocelyn shieh

and lands by her feet. It is a shell necklace. Wait. Her hands fumble at her own neck. She feels the smooth ridges of the conch there. Before her eyes, the Fat Man swells, bigger and bigger. His stomach fluids begins to slosh as his stomach expands. As all that spongy flesh quivers, his rubbery lips move and his booming voice shatters the purity of the purple beach. “Now do you know who I am? I am—”

dirt. She glanced back, once, twice, over her shoulders. At last she turned, satisfied, and began to hum softly. She was not frightened by what she had seen. If there was one thing she knew, it was that nothing truly stays. The purple beach. The bird-shadows. Even the Fat Man. The dreams would come, yes. But each time, she was certain, they would bother her less and less. And that goes for you, too. I did you really, really good, didn’t I, Paul? she thought, and lapsed into giggling. All that she left behind would also go. Come morning, fresh dew would coat the mound of earth she had made, and deer would tamp down the loamy soil, and the noon sun would bake it hard, and the days would pass and the nights would come until not a trace would show that a girl had ever thrust her shovel into the cold ground one Sunday afternoon in the woods. A lone pair of birches guards the grave, many birds residing within their foliage. And sometimes they smile.

* * * She blinked rapidly and saw nothing but a silent forest. The purple beach was gone. The Fat Man was gone. She glanced around, but there was no reason to be cautious. No one was with her in the woods. The two birch trees on either side of her seemed to tremble. She turned away. As she limped back, her shovel scraped the earth, dragging tracks into the dust. The wind beat against the forest and obscured branches in pillows of

“What if we all suddenly get carried away thinking... 40

the ecliptic // vertigo

highway Dark. The only hint of fellow travelers pairs of red and yellow lights. Speeding along the road Deserted or crowded didn’t matter. I was moving I was going. Thrill Rush Hope, Escape was what I needed— wanted. Dare I drive on?

contest winner by laurie mallison

At home lay responsibilities: duties, work and people. But couldn’t I leave them all? Just for one night? Driving on into blackness on into unknown… My exit. A lane switch— one compromise. Dare I continue? The habit blinker—oh cursed blinker! It’s not too late… No. It is now. The mystery is gone, the moment past But still I wonder what it was I left Or maybe it was something that I gained? I chose obedience for adventure— If that were right then why is there this ache?

...who will be left to act?" — Andrei Platonov 41

the ecliptic // prose courtesy of lynbrook photograp hy club

Vortex by kritika iyer

A whistle shrieks and running shoes meet rubber. Thousands of feet pound into the sun-baked track, synthesizing a vibrant rhythm. Left, right, left, right I concentrate on keeping my feet pumping, as steady as the hands of a clock. I feel the burn of tendons rippling, muscles straining, blood rushing. It feels good. I brush sweat off my forehead and swat at stray strands of hair that have managed to escape my ponytail. No distractions allowed. My eyes find the dull red rubber of the track. The red reminds me of clay in the park that I used to visit when I was younger. It was fun, running barefoot in the smooth clay, feeling it gush between my toes. No distractions. I snap back into the present, and become one with my muscles.

Fifteen minutes and two miles later, I feel red-hot irons force their way up my feet. Every step takes the effort of lifting a hundred pounds. My feet are begging for respite. I can handle this, I tell myself. I take deep, slow breaths, and let the rhythm pulsate through my mind. Full of nothing but my heartbeats, my brain has no room to recognize pain. Still, I smile. Seconds tick away, and there is only half a mile left. I pick up the pace, stretching my legs as far as they can go. My breathing is labored, and I struggle to keep it even. The wheezing begins. Suddenly, the world spins, and I find myself doubled over, stumbling blindly off the track. I stand there, head between my knees. I can feel my

"Every man takes the limits of his own field of vision... 42

the ecliptic // vertigo swollen air passages clenching tighter, intent on stopping all air from getting through. I cough, my chest heaving twice as fast. Air whistles through my nose, but it doesn’t seem like enough. The bottomless black hole that has become my lungs isn’t satisfied, and threatens to collapse. I blink to rid myself of dizziness, then close my eyes to shield myself from my surroundings. Calm down, I tell myself. You can do this. After all, you’ve managed it before. But that was so long ago!

breath for just a second longer, let it out just a little more slowly. My heart pounds at five hundred beats a minute, and a fresh wave of dizziness crashes over me. Slowly, ever so slowly, I gain the upper hand. * * * Someone had run to the nurse’s office and brought back an inhaler. Tears were streaming out of my eyes, air whistling in and out of me. Someone stuffed the inhaler in my mouth. “Breathe. Breathe!” The world stopped spinning, and then it faded away.

* * * The first time it happened, I didn’t know what was going on, why I couldn’t breathe, why my heart was beating so fast. My insides were swelling up, squeezing the air out of me. I was on the ground, head spinning. They whispered, laughed, pointed. “Coward.” “Weakling.” “Wimp.”

* * * The iron fists around my windpipe relax their hold reluctantly, and just a bit of air eases its way into my bronchial tubes. Slow breaths, I tell myself. I lift my head, ready to face the world again. As I straighten up, my eyes focus on the finish line. I walk, intent on finishing what I started. Each breath is a staggering effort, but it is worth it. My worn sneakers scrape across the white chalk line. I am done.

* * * I hear worried whispering; a couple of girls come over. “Are you okay?” No!, I scream silently. Opening my eyes is a herculean effort. I try to hold each

“The bottomless black hole that is my lungs isn’t satisfied, and

threatens to collapse.” ...for the limits of the world." — Arthur Schopenhauer 43

the ecliptic // poetry

Feathers of Gold by kimberly tan

The lion, the powerful, darting through the woods soft footfalls, barely audible give way to yawning jaws, consuming his prey in eternal flame. Ruler of the land, he holds power, knowledge. With knowledge comes painful truths arrogance, greed consuming the lion, their victim in ceaseless turmoil. He prowls the night, silence lingering for he cannot confide. He alone must shoulder the burden, the trials, that come with power.

The lamb, the submissive, darting from the woods rapid footfalls, blundering about give hints of a narrow escape. Meek and naĂŻve, he remains ignorant, sheltered in the warm haven of his herd. He scampers in the daylight surrounded by friends accepted, loved, oblivious to the woes of the lion.

art by chr ist ina zhu

The sharp, insightful finch, preening her golden feathers, analyzes the scene unfolding the lion, alone, the lamb, with his herd she trembles at the authority of the lion, but aspires to be like the lamb.

“A propensity to hope and joy is real riches... 44

photography by betsy tsai

the ecliptic // vertigo


Coming by amy sung

The soggy grass engulfs my feet. Wordless and pale, angels and flowers bow from mausoleums. I stop at a white stone. A wind flutters the black lace across Jane’s face. I reach over. “Jane.” She twists away. The black lace falls, hiding her face.

From the inside, however, the house is different. Billowing in the cold wind, plastic covers flutter over unfamiliar furniture like silent gray ghosts. The couch squashed against the wall of the family room is not red, it is brown. Instead of frames of Jane’s and my childhood scribbles and stick figures on the walls, there are frames of unknown faces, the faces of the new family moving in. The family had walked by when Jane was moving boxes from the garage. The whole family helped with the boxes, and a week later, Jane, the only heir living nearby, signed the contract.

* * * From the outside, the house looks the same. The front door is the same bright red, with the same door knocker that young Jane was afraid to grip until she was assured that the golden lion’s jaw would never clamp down. The front lawn is the same front lawn where Jane and I played, sprayed in the snow, making snow angels or rolling white balls for a snowman. The porch is the same porch where we ate outdoor dinners, the clutter of plates, talks, and laughter interrupting the heavy silence of hot summer evenings.

* * * A soft vibration interrupts the busy clatter of the keyboard. “Hello? Jane? “When are you coming back?” “I don’t know. I have a big project coming up.” “You should come. Mom’s ...” to fear and sorrow real poverty.” — David Hume 45

photography by shravya chvva

the ecliptic // prose

“Not feeling well? She looked fine last time I saw her.” “No. That was eight months ago. And she always acted as if she’s feeling better whenever you came. Can you please come? She’s…” The desk phone rattles. It’s the contractor. “Jane! I’m getting a call from a contractor, I’ll call you back later, I promise.” * * * Ever since childhood, Jane and I have been very different. Jane liked to stay at home, only venturing out to the lawn or

sidewalk. I was never home; I wandered all over the neighborhood. Jane liked books and flowers in Mom’s garden. I liked balls and the baseball field at the park. Years later, Jane stayed and lived at home with Mom, while I wandered far away. * * * The last pallbearer walks away, imprinting fresh dark prints on the grass. I look at the slumped figure walking against the red sun bleeding into the hills. “Jane…” Only the trees answer, their bare branches scraping each other against the crimson sun.

“Great art picks up... 46

the ecliptic // vertigo


by jocelyn shieh

where, in a world of water, does it end? i can’t even tell where it all began— this endless blue, merging with the sky reflecting, reflecting, day and night. tell me, does the sky dye the water? it’s too tumultuous at the top; it’s hard to tread water, so let me sink to the bottom and judge the above from below

courtesy of lynbrook photography club

there’s water, water everywhere the surface looks so far from here— tell me, does the sun still shine up there...?

...where nature ends." — Marc Chagall 47

the ecliptic // prose

End Game by vivian chan

A society based on facts—now isn't that just pure genius? Or so said the creators. Of course they would consider their own work genius; who wouldn't? Facts, facts, facts, they cried. All hopes, dreams, and goals aim for that one shining star: fact. I read a book once. It was written by a man named Charles Dickens. Like with a few other authors, I wasn't sure if it was his real name or some facade he picked up along the way. But his story was based on our world; a world of facts, that is. The ending wasn't a very pleasant one, with only one character achieving happiness. The others who lived for facts were only content with life. I can't say I'm one who can tell the difference between happiness and contentment. It doesn't mean much since facts are needed to survive in a world where only winners reign. So I suppose, whether you are happy or content, you still need facts. Let's begin.

“Call—royal flush.” I looked up to meet the arrogant gaze of the winner as he laid his cards out before me. His eyes were a brighter red than before, blazing with triumph. With a sigh, I revealed my own unprofitable hand: one pair of fours. “Should have expected that from an Ace,” I muttered lowly, hiding the disappointment prickling the edges of my consciousness. However, he must have heard my mumble, for he merely smirked and put the cards away after giving them a good shuffle. “You never could have won,” the Ace said. His eyes found mine. “Your eyes are still black. There was no way you could have beat me.” Once he was gone, I sat up in my chair and stare blankly at the table. The other gamblers in Black Sheep barely paused, only glancing at me and confirming my loss before turning their attention back to their own games. At last, I slapped the table and got up, swearing as my hand stung. I had to leave—my recent loss weighed heavily on my mind and I didn't want to stay any longer.

Fact: Of all the losers in town, I'm the one who loses the most. What is lost, you ask? Did I say our society was based solely on facts? There is one other foundation on which life is built upon; just one other.

Fact: Gambling is a part of life. It always has been, and it always will be. There are several variables to being a good gambler; the most important one is your ability to cheat. Nothing is wrong as

* * * “Achieving life is not the equivalent of... 48

the ecliptic

// vertigo ger. Thus, men alone could work, since there was already surplus of unemployed men. That left widows, such as the one with the two boys and little girl, to starve and wait futilely for a helping hand. But there were always so many of us, so many losers just trying to survive, that the pay was low. The only way to make enough money to eat would be to gamble amongst each other, hoping to win against someone with darker eyes. The Aces enjoyed mingling in the groups we huddled in, nicknamed Black Sheep, simply to place bets on which black-eyed man would win in a particular game. To them, Black Sheep groups were places to blow off or gain spare change. If they won or lost to another Ace, it didn't matter. It was so very easy for them to have a little match with someone off the street, someone with dark eyes, and regain their money just like that. Money wasn't the issue when it came to what Aces didn't have.

long as you don't get caught. * * * I've never been a cheater. And thus by default, I've never been a winner either. Red eyes flashed through my mind and I cursed again as I walked down the streets. Poverty was visible everywhere in the cardboard boxes and tents lining the alleys. I felt a flicker of pity as I passed a family who stared up at me with weary eyes. The mother looked haggard and worn, while two young boys clung to her arms, wide-eyed and silent. The little girl was wearing a worn and dirt-streaked dress, and she sucked at her thumb as she glanced at me before bending down to play with her shoes. There seemed to be no father, which explained a lot about their situation. Fact: Everyone knows that your eyes mean everything. That, and your gender.

Fact: People with dark eyes believe that Aces have everything.

We are all born with black eyes. But if they don't change—if one doesn’t become a better gambler—then they stay black. And that is exactly what dark-eyed people fear. Everyone wants red eyes, to leave behind hardship. I stopped and leaned against a wall, waiting for someone to challenge me to a game. I still had ten dollars in my pocket, earned from my part-time job at a store. I was luckier than the ragged families on the streets since I was an adult man; only men could have jobs, a law that was enforced with heavy punishment. It was a fact, employers said, that men were physically stron-

If I cared about facts a little less, I might wonder if the Aces feel better watching us struggle at the bottom. I doubt they are happy while they are surrounded by what they used to be. But who am I to decide that? I've never had red eyes, and perhaps they are happy with just money and skill. * * * Facts aren't so easy to change. And neither are my eyes.

“I wondered if the boy could hear my heart as it cried for me to stop and to live.” ...avoiding death.” — Ayn Rand 49

the ecliptic

// vertigo

I, with black eyes from birth, would be challenged soon enough. Challenging me would be like finding free money. I wasn't disproved. “Hey, old man. You up for a game?” came a voice, clear and young. Slowly, I dragged my eyes from my worn sneakers to see a teenage boy. His eyes were a light gray. He would only need a few more wins to gain white eyes, which would then turn slowly red. “What do you have in mind?” I asked in reply. There was a pause as he slowly turned his head from side to side. He was almost hesitant as he finally turned to face me again. I blinked, momentarily puzzled. Then I noticed what he was fumbling with behind his back. A gun. Fact: I may be a loser, but I've never been afraid of losing. “Russian roulette,” came the low hiss. It took me a moment to realize it was my voice. He flared up. “If you don't want to do it, then don't. You're just going to lose anyway,” he insisted defensively. I raised an eyebrow, amused. “You're scared, aren't you?” He flushed and looked away. “You thought I was going to refuse?” I prompted. “Is that a fact?” When he didn't answer, I slipped a hand into my pocket. “How much?” “Ten dollars,” he said quickly. I took in his appearance; a dirty white shirt, torn jeans, and long hair with wild bangs. He may have been a better gambler compared to me, but he wasn't better off than most of the homeless in the alleys. I nodded and extended a hand for the gun. “May I?” His own hands shook as he passed over the revolver. The weapon felt warm and sturdy in my grip. I almost felt pity for the boy as he watched me take the gun; he was obviously starting to regret choosing Russian roulette. He had thrown himself into open waters, unprepared for the more dan“This is the way the world ends... 50

gerous game of survival the bigger fish participated in. But what else could we do? I've played Russian roulette before. Russian roulette wasn't your common gambling game off the street, or then we would have bodies piling up in the streets like trash. Checking to make sure one round was inside the six-shot revolver and spinning the cylinder once, I held up the gun and fitted my finger around the trigger. The gun seemed fairly reliable and it didn't look as if the teenager had fixed it or anything. The boy watched me, apprehension and fear forcing him to remain quiet. I wondered if he had ever gambled with his life before. Or was he still a greenhorn when it came to Russian roulette? He must have a need for quick money since only mentally instable people have been reported to have killed themselves in a gamble. Once you died, nothing mattered anymore. It was Game. The End. I raised the firearm, and paused. My heart began to beat louder and louder until I could hear blood pounding my ears. I wondered if the boy could hear my heart as it cried for me to stop and to live. My hand loosened around the gun handle, and then tightened in decision. If I won, I would have twenty dollars— enough to feed myself for one day. If I lost... Would I lose this time? I closed my eyes and pulled the trigger. Fact: You can't cheat in Russian roulette. Maybe that's why I always win. art








the ecliptic // vertigo photograph by betsy tsai

Delivered by sarah destin

George Copenhagen was the fourth generation of men in the Copenhagen family to run the family’s insurance business. Of course, ‘run’ was a loose term. George did positively nothing all day long. To his father, the insurance business had been satisfactory at best. To his grandfather, the profit had been enticing. George didn’t know why his greatgrandfather had started the company. Nor did he care. The phone on George’s desk rang. George was displeased when phones rang, which is why he had hired a second secretary that month. He simply disliked talking in general. People tended to be so bothersome. After spending eight hours behind his desk (George was too diligent to even break for lunch) pretending to ‘run’ the insurance company, he would return home. His mother would have his dinner set out and ready for him as soon as he walked in the door. His mother would pester him with petty questions as he ate, of which he would simply smile or grunt in return. This doesn’t bother Helen Copenhagen. She has already

lived through 52 years of Mr. Copenhagen’s grunts. If it was a work night, George would retire to his bedroom after dinner. (He was far too tired after a long day at the office for much activity after dinner). The bedroom is a man’s room now, but it wasn’t always. The bedroom was once George’s nursery. It was once George’s childhood bedroom. When he looks at the corners on the ceiling, George can still see the bits of yellow wallpaper that used to be there. George is at peace when he looks at the remnants of the yellow wallpaper. When the phone rings at work, George likes to think about the wallpaper. * * * Mr. Copenhagen had always enjoyed his evening nightcap. He knew that there were those who felt the need to comment on his drinking. But Mr. Copenhagen did not care. “Frank, now did you hear what I was saying at dinner? About that nice girl Julie that George is going to take out tomorrow

...not with a bang, but with a whimper.” — T.S. Eliot 51

the ecliptic // prose photography by shravya chavva

“Do I love, George thought, oh, do I love. He thought of Paul, and the little joys that Saturday mornings used to bring...”

Now, Frank had always been a decent enough looking man, but he was smarter than that. For Helen Lawrence, there had been something far beyond those positively dreamy blue eyes that she was always going on about. No, Helen loved something sitting a few miles down the road under Frank Copenhagen’s father’s name at the bank. But that was unfair. Every woman on this side of the Mississippi River knew about the fortune Frank Copenhagen would inherit. And that was why they pursued him. Women interested solely in positively dreamy eyes were forced to look elsewhere. Frank took another sip of his nightcap. Even now, he was still impressed with how sure of herself the young Helen Lawrence had been that day on the beach. At sixteen years old she had already made up her mind to abandon any childish romantic longings she might have once possessed. For this, some might have thought that Helen Lawrence was a rather odd child. Her older sisters, the Lawrence Girls, as they were affectionately called by all those who summered at Laurel Beach, were romantics in their youth.

night. I think they’ll really hit it off, don’t you?” Helen asked. Frank Copenhagen knew that he didn’t need to respond. His wife didn’t actually care what he thought about whatever girl she had fixed George up with for this Saturday night. Helen simply needed to know that someone willing to listen to her ramble. It wasn’t that Frank didn’t love his wife, he did. It was just that she was always so forward. Frank didn’t blame anyone but himself, for he had known what type of woman Helen Lawrence was from the moment she first walked up to him that afternoon at Laurel Beach. She was barely sixteen years old, but she carried herself the way she felt a woman ought to carry herself. Her lips were pouted, her hair was curled and as she batted her eyelashes at him, Frank couldn’t help noticing what a great deal of makeup this girl had on. He was five years her senior and far wealthier than she could ever dream of being and yet, with one bat of those lashes, Helen could make Frank feel as if he had never been able to utter two words in the direction of an attractive lady before.

“We waste time looking for the perfect lover... 52

the ecliptic // vertigo Yet, the Lawrence Girls would all go on to marry for comfort as well. Frank turned to his wife, as she continued to jabber on about what a nice girl Julie/Patty/MarySue/Joanne was. No, Frank thought, Helen wasn’t an odd child. She simply grew up a little faster than the other Lawrence Girls did. The story of Mr. and Mrs. Copenhagen is not a romantic one. They “dated” for a ridiculous eight years before Frank even proposed, although this was largely due to the fact that Helen’s father insisted she finish college before they became engaged. Frank knew that he had always been too cold of a man. But luckily Helen had understood at an early age that nothing will ever keep you as warm as the comfort of an overflowing bank account. * * * As George Copenhagen lies in bed, he tries to focus on the yellow wallpaper. But, tonight, George does not think that he will be able to escape his thoughts. His thoughts wander to Dr. Thestran, the psychologist that his mother dragged him to when he came home, after attending some of the finest educational institutions in the world, with absolutely no motivation to find work. But his mother was displeased when she found out what, or who, George and Dr. Thestran were discussing during their sessions. That was the end of therapy. * * * If George had woken up at precisely 6:30 that morning, he would have heard the door to his mother’s bedroom shut and then the pitter-patter of her little feet as she walked down the hall to lock George’s

bedroom door. Helen did this every morning. Every morning since the incident. The sun reflected against the pale white walls of George’s bedroom. Light, George thought, maybe it’s light that I’m missing. No, George reminded himself, his room was only missing the yellow wallpaper. If only he had his wallpaper, this morning wouldn’t have been so different from the morning of the incident. * * * It had been hot, the morning of the incident. Not that heat was any excuse; the lawyers had explained that well enough. It had begun innocently enough. George would simply watch him from upstairs, when he would come on Saturday mornings. Paul, that was his name. George didn’t chose to omit Paul’s name when he thought about the incident for any particular reason. That’s a lie, actually. George never thought of Paul by his name until after the incident. George simply thought of him as the UPS delivery man. It was warm, so the UPS delivery man was wearing his brown shorts. The ones that were perhaps a bit too big for him when he ordered them, but he had never bothered to exchange them for the next size down. Paul was much more of a pants man, so shorts were actually a rare treat for George. George used to wonder why the UPS delivery man came so early on Saturday mornings. Generally, or as George had observed, the delivery men came in the early afternoon to drop off their packages. Rarely did they even come before noon. But not Paul. Paul came at 6:30, every Saturday. George liked to imagine that maybe it was because Paul was shy and disliked having to converse with the clients. That would be something they had in common. A

...instead of creating the perfect love.” — Tom Robbins 53

the ecliptic // prose

“He thought of his mother, and even of his father... The loveless photography by betsy tsai

marriages that had gone before him...

conversation starter, perhaps, simply about how much they both hated petty conversation. But, on the morning of the incident, George was not feeling shy. He had been preparing for it for weeks. He decided that he would rise at 5:45 and begin making breakfast. Nothing too extravagant, but just enough to lure Paul in. After careful consideration, George decided that he would make scrambled eggs. Maybe he’d put a few slices of bacon beforehand, but only if he was feeling really daring. He would put a pot of coffee on too. George always saw Paul’s cup of Starbucks sitting in the car. When Paul came up to the door, George had just about finished the eggs. As Paul leaned down to place the package on the doorstep, George opened the front door to face him. “Good morning, sir. I’ve got a package here for a Helen Copenhagen,” the delivery man said. “Thank you, thank you, er, Paul,” George replied.

“Would you, take the package please, sir?” “Why don’t you come inside? I’ve, I’ve made you some eggs.” “Eggs? I really, I don’t think that’s quite,” the delivery man began. “Come inside, to the kitchen. I’ve made, made them for you.” “I’ve actually already eaten,” the delivery man said, smiling apologetically and turning to go down the walk. “But I’m so interested, so interested in what you do. Delivering packages. I’m very interested in how you deliver packages,” George said, his voice beginning to tremble. “Would you like to come out to the truck, sir?” “Yes,” George whispered. This was the part of the incident that Dr. Thestran had insisted that they keep revisiting. The walk down to the truck. For, when George looked into Paul’s eyes that morning, he saw a man longing for him. Longing for his touch, for his presence. Longing for George Copenhagen to lean in

“As to marriage or celibacy, let a man take which course he will... 54

the ecliptic // vertigo George, he’s just so bad with directions. That’s a lie. Helen knows that if George was to pick up Julie, he would never actually pick her up. He would rather drive around in circles for four hours than pick up Julie DeMateo. This, his mother knows. “George, George, she’s here!” Helen exclaimed from the living room. “Good evening, Mrs. Copenhagen,” Julie said as she walked into the foyer. “Oh, no, no, no, it’s Helen. And dearie, how are- oh, here’s George!” “Good evening, Julie,” George mumbled. He couldn’t look at her while he spoke (George had never been able to look atwomen when he spoke to them), but afterwards he couldn’t help but stare. She wasn’t the slightest bit attractive. But she wasn’t ugly, she was simply so peculiar. It was obvious that she didn’t care much about appearances; even George could decipher that much. Hell, her socks didn’t even match. She wore too much brown, and brown really wasn’t her color. Her sweater must have been at least two sizes too large. And it was brown. He wasn’t surprised that she wasn’t married, but at the same time it seemed almost tragic that she wasn’t. “Julie, George is taking you down to the Riviera tonight. Isn’t that lovely? And Georgie, here you go. A little something extra from your father and me,” Helen said. George looked in his hand to find three one hundred dollar bills, which he immediately stuffed in his pocket. “I’m parked in the driveway,” George mumbled. “No need, I’ll just drive. Your mother said that directions aren’t really your thing. Plus, I’ve been to the Riviera loads of times,” Julie replied.

and push his lips into his own. Which is precisely what George did. What came next, even George didn’t know. Even after his sessions with Dr. Thestran, it all remained the same. After Paul pushed George away, George somehow ended up back in his bed where he slept for almost five more hours. After he woke, it was as if it had all been a dream. That is, until George walked down into the kitchen and heard Helen asking Frank where all the eggs had gone. She needed them, after all, for her weekly French toast. Two weeks after the incident, George was arrested and charged with sexual assault. His mother hired the best lawyer to be found in the greater Boston area. Three weeks after the incident, George began attending sessions with Dr. Thestran. Five weeks after the incident, Helen removed George from Dr. Thestran’s care. And now, thirty-seven weeks after the incident, Frank Copenhagen still refuses to speak to his son. * * * It is a Saturday night. George’s date night. George hates Saturday nights. His mother had fixed him up with some girl, some girl who he had never even heard of. Her name was Julie, his mother said, Julie DeMateo. He should be nice to this one, she said. It wasn’t that George wasn’t nice to the other ones; it was just that he didn’t care. George sat on the left corner of his bed. He was waiting for Julie, like an anxious school girl might wait for some jock to come take her out for a soda. It was all so disgusting to George. His mother had told Julie to come meet George at their house.

...The monotony of it all.” ...he will be sure to repent.” — Socrates 55

the ecliptic // prose “Oh.” They eat their sorbet in silence for a moment before Julie starts on him again with questions. “Could you love me, George? Someday, could you love me?” George can’t help but remain silent. Although, he know enough to realize that even to a man who isn’t painfully shy this would be considered an inappropriate question. “I, I really don’t think so.”

Loads of times. Well, maybe she was rich then. That would explain enough. Although, if she was rich, she would be married by now. George uttered seven words during the drive to the Riviera and the first two courses. If Julie noticed, she seemed not to care. It wasn’t that George was bored with her, he really wasn’t. She was interesting, and educated. She had ideas, perplexing ideas. Ideas about love, about loving. Ideas about the absurd thing that life really is. Ideas about families, ideas about friends, ideas about lovers. In many ways, she was like an educated version of his mother. “George, could I ask you something?” “Sure,” he replies. “Am I terribly boring?” “No,” George responds. He does not need to explain how interesting he finds her to be. In the short time since they’ve met, Julie already knows that George isn’t a liar. “Then George, do you love?” Do I love, George thought, oh, do I love. He thought of Paul, and the little joys that Saturday mornings used to bring. He thought of his mother, and even of his father. He thought of Julie, pathetic and yet educated Julie. He thought of the insurance business. And how it had been his father’s before him and his father’s before him. The loveless marriages that had gone before him. The monotony of it all. “I think I loved once, Julie. I think I loved him very much, once,” George stammered. “What happened?” Julie asked. She does not care, she really does not care, George thought. She is perfectly fine with the fact that she is on a date with a man who is gay. “I, well, I don’t think he loved me very much,” George said.

* * * The next week, Julie calls George. Or, calls his mother actually. She sets up a time to meet with George for coffee that weekend. George then begins to spend all of his Saturday nights with Julie. But only Saturday nights. He’s far too tired on work nights for such things. After nine months of Saturdays, Helen presents George with her original engagement ring. (Naturally, she’s had to upgrade over the years). Helen plans the entire wedding. Julie, as George anticipated, couldn’t care much less about getting married. In fact, she even refuses to wear a wedding dress. In private, she suggests to George that Helen is the one who ought to be wearing a white gown. In the end, both Julie and George wear pantsuits to the ceremony. As George walks down the aisle, he cannot help but tear up a bit. It isn’t because he’s marrying a woman he can never love, surprisingly. It’s because there’s a guest missing from his side of the church. And it isn’t an aunt, uncle or cousin. It’s Paul.

“A man content to go to heaven alone... 56

the ecliptic // vertigo art by michelle huang


There was a time when warm candles surrounded a clink of golden-glassed wine, it was markedly promised. Not now; I’m standing in flat slippers and cold tiles slam the soles. I’m stressed, unshaven glaze in the blank TV and I’m fumbling the remote in fury, whiskey in the second drawer As she sleeps, trusting me. There was a time when other perfumes meant nothing, too quiet but now such a lovely whisper— I’m losing myself to this necklace of kisses, Tomorrow’s schedule smudged and I’ll come home drunk, drowned in this restless mouthful As she sleeps, trusting me! Because I’m staring into the night and the moon avoids itself, flooding black ink across the sheets and that ring clawed into her skin. I’m shaking, shivering, cold fog wetting this empty space, the life we marked with an X— it was markedly promised after all, it was markedly promised for seawater to smear uselessly down, down as I pack, leaving her.


by iris yuan

...will never go to heaven." — Boethius 57

art by rachel yung

the ecliptic // prose

Eyes of by betsy tsai

Van Gogh

“Experience without theory is blind, but theory without experience... 58

the ecliptic // vertigo Sometimes it confounds others that I have lived a usual life. I can’t quite believe it either. I always seem to perfectly grasp and present any idea with all five senses. They want to feel what I’ve supposedly felt, chasing after my works as if craving to be in my body, though in fact, my body has never actually consumed the very idea of discussion. No, I have never had a lover or any bizarre phobia, but that’s impossible, isn’t it? The dozens of esteemed critics claim that I possess some godly insight, allowing me to know what it’s really like. But the fact remains: I don’t know. I am the secondary source, the historian, not the witness. For years I’ve convinced the world that I knew. Until—now I realize that I am the one who knows the least.

And, now I can’t help but feel those raindrops of shame and self-pity dissolving into my hard conscience. I feel light-headed, and I at once blame it on that ghost whose misty tissue I’ve been inhaling. But begone, I say; this was my destiny. I suddenly rise from my seat. “God, do I need a coffee break.” * * * There’s nothing quite as refreshing as a walk. Yet without a destination, I feel so lost. I see hydrangeas, clouds of magenta and royal blue, whose hues are so colorfully strong and vibrant. The flowers only lie within my line of sight for a moment, for my feet must keep up with the pace of the street, but that one vigorous second inflames my senses. They make my paints mixed to that perfect shade seem like unmolded dark gunk oozing out of the tube. Already I’m imagining using a variety of my paints, layered on top of each other. I’d slather the thick color onto the smooth canvas of my skin and then I’d set my wide lips onto that color just to see what flora really tastes like, for the two are stunning mirror images. I imagine that the sensation of that first contact between my lips and that paint is phenomenal, but I know I’ll pull myself back, disgusted by the waxy complexion of the paint. But that first contact was enough, and it’s fortunate that I refrain now. Hereafter, I can just get lost in the memory of that first delicious blast, stretching its life longer. But most others aren’t satisfied with that. No, they need real hydrangeas. They need to ingest real emotion, the most powerful alcohol of them all, bathing their little hearts while damaging their perception of its value. Blinding them. If it’s true that Vincent Van Gogh was a lonely alcoholic, and that, on several occasions, had swallowed paint, who’s to say that the two observations weren’t related? I’d like to imagine the cold soul, surrounded by yellow beauty, yet suffocating still. He could make his nights as starry as he liked, and blossoms as palatable as he craved. But in the absence of absinthe, did he turn to the

* * * It is only until after I feel I’ve extracted what’s rest of my creative organ that I find I’ve lied. It’s such a rich lie. And it’s because of the deeply internal nature of the lie that I feel fatigue and a dispirited heart, not because of the fallacy itself. I’m looking at the mesh of industrialized colors, of sidewalks, cement and walls, mundane outside my window. For the first time, I am out of ideas. I can’t think of what emotion or insights to convey next. It is then that the growing pebble of emptiness was dropped unto the roof of my (already) rigid heart. If even my ideas have escaped me, with whom must I now consort? I want to speak. I want to laugh, weep—shriek of my intimate stress but my voices are all tamed and caged by the frown on my lips. Who am I to speak? The ghost of that other kind of solitude lingers in the air. I haven’t been familiar with this particular solitude in this particular situation before. Typically, the silent serenade of solitude wafted about me when I was at my desk. I could close my eyes and be waltzing in the arms of an idea. While the others were caressing their primitive senses in each other’s arms, I was so satisfied right where I was. mere intellectual play.” — Immanuel Kant 59

the ecliptic // prose paint, to helplessly give his flowers another chance to move him? My footsteps seem to hasten as I near the café.

* * * There are some places full of breaths of fresh air. I recall now the scent of unhampered sunlight, feeding the air through the scintillating inflections of the Mekong. It’s strange how costly it is for an urban mouse to opt out of civilization, even for a few days. But I had once finally saved enough to leave. There had been a little boy not far from me. He didn’t have many sets of clothes to suit his dirty mound of short curly hair and dusty dark skin. He lived in one of those straw huts along the banks the river’s dunes. To him I probably appeared as one of the wealthy Westerners armored with sunscreen, mosquito repellent, and perhaps an iPod. Our sun-sensitive eyes grimaced at the boy from behind thick brown glasses. I may have been heavily armored, but I would not wear sunglasses to look upon this boy’s world. His world remained untouched by those industrialized hands clean of microbes but filthier of money and smog. So although the wooden structures have every nook and cranny filled with the dark, damp remnants of soil, the blues of his sky and his waters are pristine and crystal. His world is much cleaner than ours. He was smiling at us with the traditional smile of indigenous youth that appears in charity ads. But I was smiling at him because he seemed to know. Here was a simple boy, who loved his home. He worked, he played, he

* * * I sit by the window with my black coffee, placing myself in the spotlight for an idea. The bell on the door rings and a girl enters. I’ve never seen her before, but I know who she is. I’ve always been like that self-emaciated girl who steps into a bakery. She’s the one who bends so curiously close to the glass counter, mindfully devouring the crème caramels and rich panna cottas, all with that thick chocolate scrawl binding the delicacies away from her desirous tongue. She just wants to look. She wants to study how each layer of creamy dessert is presented on top of another and how every cosmic flavor is artfully woven into the sculpture that she will never allow herself to place into her mouth. She will not be a glutton. She wants to remain able to appreciate. There’s a plumper man over there indulging himself in one of those silk tarts, who doesn’t seem to care about the deeper beauty of the work, just the luscious, ephemeral ecstasy of the chocolate in his mouth. She glances at him coldly. When the young baker asks her sweetly, “Miss, can I get you anything?” she answers, “No thanks, I just wanted to take a look.” And she is satiated.

“If it’s true that Vincent Van Gogh was a lonely alcoholic, and that, on several occasions, had swallowed paint, who’s to say that the two observations weren’t related? ”

“In order to understand the world... 60

the ecliptic // vertigo slept and dreamed in this niche, peacefully engulfed in his world, respectful. He didn’t quite know yet how his lands were being exploited for its goods. But then he sees the white men. He sees the way we crawl humbly to the pristine, the way we come to his river as if it’s a theme park. It’s as if simple, untouched life is a fantasy for us, or a painting of a flower. It’s then that he knows there is a far deeper worth in his soil and in his fragrant blades of grass. And that worth, which he perceived, had nothing to do with money or material goods. I was smiling at him because, unlike the rest of us, he seemed able to both live and love at the same time. He smiled back at me, recognizing my admiration for him.

what our experiences do mean to tell us. Perhaps it is those who allow themselves to be swept romantically away by the little butterfly’s wing of human life, who do not know. Perhaps they’re happily drowning below the surface while I stand above it, peering deep into the consciousness of the world I love, but will never allow myself to be a part of. * * * The coffee swallows my tongue in its deep presence. Maybe the beans ground in this cup came from somewhere near the boy’s village. I wonder, as if the drink is an escape of the struggle that civilization has thrown onto my desk. My absinthe. The thin girl decides to take a seat. She doesn’t want to hinder the many impatient people entering the café to mindlessly devour their afternoon sugar-fixes. It’s too bad. All she wanted was a look. At this busy hour, there’s no time for people who are just looking. I turn away. My eyes try to peer further through the window, reaching for those hydrangeas again, their intoxicating, aromatic colors. I can’t help it. I suppose I’m no better than the edgy customers in line. “Miss, would you like one?” The young man from behind the counter sits across from the thin girl, setting a plated raspberry soufflé with chocolate shavings and a spoon before her. “You’re not in a rush, are you?” he asks. The girl flushes, her fragile face jumping out of surprise. “Um, no, I have time. I’m not going anywhere,” she says. Good answer. If she eats slowly, she’ll find the delicious tastes emerging. She may have observed the desserts as if they were sculptures in an impenetrable glass case, but as I watch her take the first bite, it seems that the artwork has some real flavor. It’s okay to consume once in a while. And as for me? Well, I take another sip of my coffee, gladly.

* * *


by c hris



It’s when we’re blessed with that beauty that we lose sense of its worth. I paint real emotion all the time, and yet I don’t want to consume it. I want to savor its value forever in that first point of contact, even if I must make frequent friends with the ghost. This is a gift. I get to have my panna cotta and eat it too. So perhaps I did not lie. I may just know has to turn away from it on occasion.” — Albert Camus 61




Judy Boehm Roz Davis Maria Jackson Kimmie Marks Joshua Miller Tuan Phuong Barbara Takahashi Lynbrook ASB Lynbrook Photography Club

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Vertigo's 2009-2010 annual print issue. Vertigo is Lynbrook High School's official creative literary magazine.