The Route 9 Literary Collective Presents...
THE LAVENDER ISSUE IV: FRAGMENT 94 Wesleyan’s Prose and Poetry magazine Late Spring 2022
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About Us The Lavender is Wesleyan’s student-run poetry and prose literary magazine that publishes twice a semester. The literary magazine is run under the Route 9 Literary Collective which also publishes chapbooks, social justice pamphlets, and a once-a-year anthology of writing from Wesleyan faculty, staff, students, along with the work of Middletown Residents.
Why Route 9? Route 9 is the road that connects Middletown to the rest of Connecticut. It is the central artery of movement that every Wesleyan student, faculty, staff, and Middletown resident has driven on. It connects us and moves us forward. Learn more at route9.org!
Special Thanks to: Kate Ciolkowski-Winters, Tobias Matz, Annabel DeMartino, Ruby Baden-Lasar, Lavender legend off in London: Annie Wendorf, Lana Kalfas, The Wesleyan English Department, John Murillo, Amy Bloom, The SBC, and German Haus for continuing to allow their home to be our weekly meeting place.
The Lavender Team Lead Editor Victoria Dozer Editor-in-Chief Oliver Egger Poetry Editors Jane Hollander and Emily Hollander Prose Editor Immi Shearmur Design Editors Cate Levy and Bell Rush Assistant Poetry Editors Casey Epstein-Gross and Michaela Poynor-Haas The Team Sabrina Tian, Amanda Ding, Georgia Groome, Clara Martin, Maya Scheinfeld, Abby Frankenberg, Carissa Herrera, Olivia Sharenow, Sonia Menken, Jake Gale, Caroline Asnes, Ariana Blaustein, Shaniya Longino, Samantha Hager, Emma Goetz, Ella Spitz, Maya Scheinfeld, Victoria Dozer, Sylvie Pingeon, Julia Gardner, Milly Berman, Tatiana Wolkowitz, Natalie Horberg, Ben Togut, Sofia Baluyut. Cover Design Catherine Capeci Logo Design Leo Egger Drawing of Editor Alison Bechdel Snack Sancturary Maggie McCormick
Note From the Editor-in-Chief Dear Reader, I hope you enjoy this new wonderful edition of The Lavender. Special thank you to Victoria for being the visionary and the editor behind this issue. This project this entire school year has been such a joy. I am so proud of all the writers, artists, designers, and editors who have made this happen. Thank you for being a part of this project. I am looking forward to making more art with you all. Until then, Oliver Egger Editor-in-Chief
Note From Special Issue Lead Editor Dear Reader, Here we are! The last full issue of the Lavender this year is completed. It’s been such an honor to work on The Lavender, this edition and all the others. For Issue 4, we decided to focus on women and gender. So, for obvious reasons, Oliver passed the role of editor to a woman for this one and I couldn’t be more excited about the opportunity. This edition, Fragment 94, celebrates women’s writing and queer identity - even if we missed Women’s History Month by about the entire month. We collected an incredible compilation of musings by some really amazing women and individuals, and I couldn’t be happier. Even our artists and designers went above and beyond. Of course, a special thanks goes out to Oliver - our legendary Editor in Chief - Immi, Jane, Emily, Bell, Cate, and all of our editors. Women and lesbians are the illest Victoria out! Lead Editor
Table of Contents Georgia Groome viii Foreward by Victoria Dozer ix-x “Consumynge” by Emily Hollander 1 Io Perl-Strahan 2 Eleonor Anderson 3 “Sugar Lady on the Wall...” by Cate Levy 4 “Fragments” by Anonymous 5-6 Nomi Kligler 6 “My Mother’s Marrow” by Maisie Hurwitz 7 Anonymous 8 “Blood Bitch” by Mary Ahlstrom 9 Daniella Porras 10 Eleonor Anderson 11 “Castration” by Casey Epstein-Gross 12 “Wife of Bath” by Ella Spitz 13-14 “This Is What We Came For” by Nicki Klar 15 Nicki Klar 16 Sabrina Tian 17 “Mother’s Knees” by Natalie Horberg 18 “Fits of the Week, March 2021” by Lily Gitlitz Father’s Bones” 19 Victoria Dozer 20 “Allison” by Imogen Shearmur 21-22 Bailey Chapin 23 Sonia Menken 24 “Nth Descent” by Laia Comas 25-26 “To Come or Not to Come” by Abby Gray 27 Layla Krantz 28 “How Taylor Swift Changed My Life” by Arabella Katz 29-30 Bailey Chapin 31 “Loose Gravel” by Maya Scheinfeld 32 “This Body” by Amalie Little 33-34 Madeleine Meztger 35-36 “The Creek of New Religion” by Nora Markey 37-38 Nomi Kligler 39-40
Georgia Groome viii
Foreword – A History of the Lavender “The Lavender” name was chosen in reference to lavender’s history as the original school color of Wesleyan University. In October of 1884, the official Wesleyan colors were unfortunately changed to red and black. This switch was endorsed by an editorial printed in the Wesleyan Argus, stating, “Lavender is not a striking color.” But we disagree. Given the theme of Issue 4 - Womanhood and Gender - we feel it is only natural to discuss all the ways in which lavender has woven itself hroughout women’s and LGBTQ+ history. And subsequently, how it presents itself at Wesleyan today. In Western culture, lavender’s legacy began as a color of desire. Fragments of poetry written by the 7th century BC poet Sappho popularized erotic connotations associated with the color, as she described her longing for younger women wearing “violet tiaras”. This issue of The Lavender is entitled Fragment 94, after Sappho’s incomplete tragic poem about her lost female love. Centuries later, in the 1920s, lesbian women formed the habit of gifting each other violets as an expression of romance. However, the sapphic pigment turned a shade crueler in the 1950s. President Eisenhower signed Executive Order 10450 in 1953, authorizing “sex perverts” and other “untrustworthy” American citizens to be fired from federal employment. This broad definition kickstarted “The Lavender Scare”, a witchhunt for homosexual government employees with sentiments that bled into the whole of American society.
In 1969, the color again began to symbolize empowerment and love. In commemoration of the Stonewall Riots, crowds marched from Washington Square Park to Stonewall Inn in New York, many wearing lavender sashes and armbands. In the same year, the president of the National Organization for Women - Betty Friedan - denounced lesbianism as a threat to the feminist movement. She titled this threat the “Lavender Menace”. In response, activists wearing dyed purple t-shirts with the print “Lavender Menace” stormed the 1970 Second Congress to Unite Women, forcing the acknowledgment of lesbian membership within the feminist movement. Now, the color has incorporated itself into linguistics with the concept of Lavender Language. Professor Emeritus William Leap from the University of Washington, D.C. coined the academic study of LGBTQ+ language as “Lavender Linguistics”. Lavender Linguistics discusses the development of queer dialects and encourages discourse about the heteronormativity of modern language. More popularly, queer language is simply called “Lavender Language”. In 1993, Professor Leap established the “Lavender Languages and Linguistic Conference”, which still meets annually. The gathering is the longest-running LGBTQ+ studies conference in the US. This Lavender issue aims to celebrate lavender language. To celebrate queer dialect, women’s words, and femme writing. To honor Lavender Menaces, sapphic poets, and violet academics. We hope that you find the pieces as striking as we do. Victoria Dozer Lead Editor
Consumynge By Emily Hollander ‘23 Sprout slender stems her fruit body, cylindrical or branched, lift wings sink jaws into
veins on the north side of a plant, and wait
penetrate exoskeleton muscles bundle pose belly-up
her flesh meets my flesh hot with a wild taste
I consume as if I could undo all wounds when the wriggling thing becomes still
Io Perl-Strahan 2
Sugar Lady on the Wall (an ode to a painting I saw when I was seventeen) By Cate Levy ‘24 She’s dancing and licking her red red lips – wet saturated dripping – and screaming into the void because it’s fun and she wants to feel anything – she’s very numb – she used to just be depressed because her husband left her – well really she kicked him out but he won’t tell the truth and she’s too tired to clear things up because her husband isn’t there – so she thinks her children hate her and secretly she also thinks it’s her fault and she’s never been alone – but she is now because her husband cheated – so now she’s dancing and ramming her head against the wall and letting random men pour sugar down her throat because she just wants to feel something.
Fragments Anonymous When I look in the mirror I see a F — A fragment of myself I see the fear of Presenting L — looking like a Girl I put jeans on, and fight the urge to pull them down, wear them under my waist I see the Boys down the street they ride their bikes Shirtless light refracts on their metallic horses sweat drips down their frail, muscular bodies Their laughter makes me angry I didn’t laugh at 14 I hid, and fought feelings of Belonging. 5
I look away drape my mirror in red satin and go down to the River The water distorts my reflection I cannot erase it Why should I?
My Mother’s Marrow By Maisie Hurwitz ‘23 Marrow: There are a lot of words like this, words I don’t remember learning, or perhaps have never even encountered, but whose meaning I can immediately ascertain. With marrow, I know it’s something primal, something essential, something related to bone. I like the shape my mouth makes when I say it. It reminds me of my mother’s cadence when she speaks certain words in her slight New Jersey accent that my sister and I cherish, like “arrow” and “Volvo.” She still uses her ancient mother’s 1930s and 40s turns of phrase, references that were antiquated at the time. She says “queer” in the old sense of the word and sang us Irish lullabies. She calls me “mama”, and sometimes I forget about our profound bond, one that’s overshadowed by the dramas and sensitivities of the younger child. But don’t forget that I’m the one that made you a mother - you were 39 and when you arrived at the hospital Daddy said, “Babies having babies” - and that you’re in my very bones, the bones that carry me and comprise this body which I inhabit. Phoebe and I love to crack our bones: she cranes her neck like a wrestler before a match, I use my thumb to bend my fingers between breaks of typing. At night when I’d hear knuckles crunch, I knew she couldn’t sleep. We don’t crack our bones in front of Daddy though because he winces which makes us look at each other and stifle laughs with our eyes. But he bites his nails, and his knuckles are dry and raw on his big hands with sun spots. My hands have sun spots but they’re soft like yours, and I don’t let them crack open. When I caress my own hands, wring them covered in balm, I feel like a little lady. I feel like you when I dig in my bag for lipstick, Nars in the shade “Damage,” the one you keep in bulk for when it gets discontinued. I try to apply it without looking, and smile like you do in pictures, tilting your head, with your big eyes. I have the hair you always wanted, so I scrunch it up in the mirror like I watch you do. These aren’t casual acts but intentional imitations, acts of worship to that clumsy elegance that makes you so endearing. Lipstick. Like marrow. All things lead back to mom, but she doesn’t like when I call her that. We say mama, mommy, mama jo, Jo, Mary, Miss Mary Mack, with silver buttons, all down her back. Pour me full of ice cream soda, stick some bubble gum in my mouth. Too-ra-loo-ra-loo-ra, too-ra-loo-ra-lai. But when Irish eyes are smiling, sure they’ll steal your heart away. 7
Blood Bitch By Mary Ahlstrom ‘23 When I arrive she’s lost her appetite so nibbles me a little, then nips at my neck with no hunger. I hold on as she falls. Tucked hair, fingernails circle. Breathing still, breathing warm. I open my jaw. I chomp. I spill. I head home.
Daniella Porras 10
Eleonor Anderson 11
Castration By Casey Epstein-Gross ‘25 carol cohn once wrote about a male nuclear engineer friend who, as she tells it, irrationally cried out during the modeling of a limited nuclear attack: what do you mean, only 30 million people will die?! only? that’s 30 million people whose lives we are taking! who are we to kill only 30 fucking million people, who are we to playgod, the room was so silent you could almost hear the spectral whoosh of the enola gay carrying little boy off to hisdeath comes in the form of the forty pairs of eyes that pierce through him, nailing that poor physicist to the wall like a small dead butterfly skewered by big hands. death comes in the form of a masculine silence so thick it penetrates, choking him out of his marble Thinker’s gaze, impaling through his dress pants and dress shirt and making him say fuck afterwards. fuck, he’ll say to carol later, i felt like a Woman.
Wife of Bath By Ella Spitz ‘25 Porcelain—possibly fake— and cramped knees bend to contort their shape, as an embryo fits into a womb, or as an “I” fits into a body. Trace, path, track the trails with fingertips and hard-earned nails, and hope to find that feeling that these waters and this heat once brought to the surface. Body of water, water like a body that holds my hair to my skin and my skin to myself. I’m nauseous and it has to do with me being a woman. A woman with a body and a woman in a tub. 13
These waters and this heat don’t do the trick anymore. I feel stuck instead of still. Contained instead of held. My hands on breasts used to be comfort. But now it only aches. Now hands-on-breasts only Aches.
This Is What We Came For By Nicki Klar ‘24 I knew he knew I was wet because he said it, or rather felt it, or rather, shoved his fingers down my pants and proclaimed, “fuck! you’re so wet for me.” If he only knew my wetness was just a yeast infection overgrown and outsized, clinging to the fertile biome of my pussy like a baby suckling on a mother’s nipple. Mmm, indeed I was wet, but not for him. I was wet for the sweat and stick of the dance floor, of unknown asses and armpits brushing against my sides, moving because movement was the only thing between their last shot of Tito’s and a body out cold. We all wanted the heat. We danced in blood the night before, slicing flesh on broken glass and painting the floors wet red lacquer. The bartender offered another drink, and we obliged, a passion fruit margarita with salt and straw. I can’t even remember the taste – good or bad, spicy or sweet, bottomed or barely touched. Set the glass down, it’s time to dance. Forget about foul mouths, bad breaks, loose ends, we are here to feel the heat. We are heated. Boys, boobies, butts, billionaires, beefcakes, bottle-blondes, move your asses. Drink your water. It’s only 2am. It’s only the night of your life, it’s only your time to make it or break it, to make a move, kiss a lady hard on the mouth. Come on now! That’s what you came here for. That is what we all came here for. We are here to feel the heat. Skins blazed, we are past the point of burns, marks, and scars. We are turning blue flame. We are dripping sweat. And oh, am I only wet for you.
Mother’s Knees By Natalie Horberg ‘25 tender bulbs of skin swelling with the heat she drinks from a wet cup all day to soothe them and at night dreams about drowning in the small pond she grew up beside
Fits of the Week, March 2021 By Lilly Gitlitz ‘23 Planning to escape forethought to beget Feel Good Monday: Sowwy Pwoffessor My silken collar is a lifelong learner! curious beneath bookish sweater big brown jacket, strut, bold shoulders, ornamented with jargon and a cold shoulder Tuesday: She Was a Skater Boy Tiny tank, leave less to the imagination large overshirt, body swims within slouch-to-speech silver chain and boy jeans Wednesday: Gay and Cold Buttondown, vest, chunky beanie, carhartt jacket—takes layers to decipher whether this fit is for cold or to code Thursday: Luke, I Am Your Father Dad’s old sweata! Darth Vader Mask. Friday: Femme Fatale Shit Red flare pants, red heeled boots, red fur coat, red eyes, red lips, red chose me! Red sweet, red lacy, glowing red in the face when you face me!
Planning to escape the trap of one-thing-ness to beget Kaleidoscopic Change
Victoria Dozer 20
Allison By Imogen Shearmur ‘24 Allison is a name I no longer hear often. Even just writing it here feels alien, a remnant of a time I’m not sure I remember. To me now, her identity has been divorced from her name, its three syllables, its breathy “A” and hissing “S.” In conversation with those who knew her as “Allison,” she is not referred to as such. She is rather given the title: “Your Mother.” The title undoes her personhood; It turns her into a figure, an anonymous form akin to the lost mothers of the literary sphere, women whose faces we imagine, whose characters are constructed only through words and ideas. Allison, the Allison that lived for fifty-four years as her own, very real, person, becomes a figure, becomes unreal, in the same way. She is not Allison who loved the color apple green and could play an amateurish “Here Comes the Sun” on the guitar, Allison who did get asked to the prom but did not go, who could not cook to save her life, and once when my father was out of town made me chicken nuggets seven times until I was sick. In these three years since her passing I have been told, “Your mother lives on through you” more times than I can count. I hate this phrase. Is it meant to be a comfort? Or an instruction? She died so young – do I live on to finish a life cut short? Every time I look in the mirror, I see her ghost. I am not sure where she ends and I begin. I look like her, almost exactly. Her hair was brown, streaked with blonde, as is mine (hers because of hours spent in a salon chair, mine because of hours spent in the sun). Her eyes were brown. Mine are the same. We have the same hooked nose, unmistakably of Jewish origin. I used to joke that whilst other people had bunny slope noses, we had black diamonds. I am not sure how much my brown hair and eyes and hooked nose are mine alone, and how much they are the ways that, as I am so constantly reminded, she continues to exist through me. When I was younger, I would go into her closet and play dress up, pretending I was on my way to a meeting, or taking an important phone call, lurching about in her high-heeled pumps, scuffing the hardwood floors. When she died, these clothes were left to me. They are no longer hers, but they don’t feel like mine, either. Wearing them, I feel I wear her like a costume.
I have a brother, five years younger than me. I know he lost a mother, too. But he has my father’s blond hair and blue eyes. He has a button nose I often covet. I asked him, once, how often he thinks about her. He gave a boyish shrug and replied that he hardly ever does. Perhaps it’s because he was so young when she passed that he has fewer memories than I do to recall. But I also know that he doesn’t have family and friends and family friends telling him at every chance they get, “You remind me so much of your mother.” She is only “Your Mother.” My mother. It is as if her loss is only mine, her loss undoing “Allison” as her own entity, and creating a new identity inextricably tied to my own. In this way, I become half “Imogen” and half “Allison.” She and I both become defined by her lack.
Nth Descent By Laia Comas ‘22 if i were to descend the steps to the metro, in my own way, i, too, would be entering a system of subterranean, musty, and chthonic clearings. i think low lying shrubs grow in the air between my muscle fibers. i would wander endlessly through the orchards that yield nothing, where so much of my breath begins. i would lick it all, i’m still stretching my tongue, and i would taste nothing because i have the most voluptuous taste buds in the underworld. if i were to ride the train through my own body, i would not feel myself because there is still a ways to go. if i were to seek guidance from my owl father, too, i would simply find myself 25
reliving my entire life up to the owl point. all things to a point break. i doubt my ability to grow feathers. i do not, however, doubt my ability to eat things smaller than me. i have a strong little jaw. it guides me out of the tunnels— my neural network, my own leader mouth— and as i emerge i am greeted by a different assembly, with a new name, and the forests have regrown. if i were to descend the steps into my own body, i would get lost in an absolute wonder at my own oxygenation. my own extensive beauty. if i were to descend the steps into my own body i would be submerged in a glowing pool surrounded by raucous strangers in the middle of the night. 26
To Come or Not to Come By Abby Gray ‘24 Your names are endless, euphemisms abound, Oh Magic Maker, yes Pretty Pleaser, I sigh, but you refuse to make a sound. Let’s meet in private, my cherished teaser And dance in sync until the precipice. We never argue and we never fight; Amazon’s cupid arrow did not miss. We make a perfect match, your touch delights. I live in fear that you might stop and die But with a plug and a buzz you come back to life! Come! Come! Magic Bullet, don’t make me cry But make me cry out and be my part time wife. Oh! Oh! A summer’s day cannot compare You accomplish what others wouldn’t dare.
How Taylor Swift Changed My Life By Arabella Katz ‘24 So it goes like this: I’m 6, and I’m weird as fuck. My parents never let me do anything “cool.” Skinny jeans, makeup, leggings, hoodies for school, uncombed hair, dark nail polish, all the things my mother loathed. My classmates made fun of me, so I decided to change how I looked. I walked through the massive double doors of my elementary school each day, marched directly to the bathroom, shut myself in a stall, and shed my mother’s version of my outfit. I changed into leggings and a hoodie: the armor of the “cool girl.” Stuffing my flare jeans and blouse into my pink L.L. Bean backpack, I looked both ways and entered the hallway again. I looked like everyone else. Taylor Swift was a cool kid thing too for a while. Fearless, country-turned-pop sensation Taylor Swift’s second studio album, had just dropped on iTunes. Songs were $1.29, and I bought every single one. Around this time, Taylor Swift dated Joe Jonas, the famed boy band lead singer of The Jonas Brothers. He famously dumped her in a 25 second phone call. Joe said about the relationship: “I’m happy for Taylor, she’s an incredible musician and you can see her songwriting skills are really good,” before adding, “But yeah, the girl likes to date.” And all of a sudden, the world turned on Taylor. Instead of being cool, she was a slut. “The girl” Joe was referring to was 18, and 6 year-old Arabella was angry. She didn’t understand why dating around was so bad. To get her revenge on Joe, Taylor wrote “Forever and Always.” Not only does this songfeature the angsty teenage girl lyrics like “‘Cause it rains in your bedroom/ Everything is wrong/It rains when you’re here and it rains when you’re gone/’Cause I was there when you said, ‘Forever and always,’” it’s fortified by killer guitar solos and floor-shaking-bedroom-jumpability. Girl-next-door, Romeo’s Juliet, country princess Taylor Swift was getting her hands dirty and people hated it. So, blasting this song through my iPod nano on the bus to school each day gave me the power I needed to embrace the parts of myself that were boy-crazy, feminine, and angsty.
This song was, and still is, everything to me. It represents the reason why I got into Taylor Swift in the first place: to be cool. Despite the “girly” lyrics, despite Taylor’s new slutty reputation, listening to “Forever and Always,” I felt cool. I was telling every sweaty little boy who had ever called me a know-it-all or beat me in a race at recess not to mess with me. It became the soundtrack to my resistance to the “cool girl” aesthetic that never quite fit. Now I am 19: the age when Taylor was broken up with in a 25-second phone call. I know what it’s like to not fit in because of my clothes, my hair, my music taste. I know what it feels like to be called a slut, to change myself afterward, to have a messy breakup that everyone whispers about. And Taylor Swift made me see that maybe being called a slut isn’t so bad? So at 19, I drive my red Subaru down the highway, and I know I was cool all along.
Bailey Chapin 31
Loose Gravel By Maya Scheinfeld ‘24 my mom told me she feels bad because I have such a rough road ahead of me and every word seemed to dry up on my tongue I want my future to be fierce kisses in bathroom stalls and fingers that trace soft curves of ` stretchmarked-tattooed thighs and mornings where slants of light leaked in through the window fall across the face of a woman I love I want my future to be little kids with curious eyes who tap my shoulder and ask are you a boy or a girl? and when I say neither I’m met with a knowing nod, a hint of a smile and my heart burns because that does not seem, to me, like a rough road and therefore, according to her, how can it be mine?
This Body By Amalie Little ‘25 I bore myself in and out of this body kill it please, and call me pretty, take your tongue, tear, rip it and come backcan you call me pretty? I broke my mother’s body and slept with the ruins until they rot, bore myself out of this body. Touched my skin, felt the desert I spent eighteen years in the desert and found my numbness once I lost myself. I lost it when I left. Dust kept me warm, stuck, sunk to my skin, dust kept me quiet and licked my skin, saw it crack, sutured, infected, dust turned a blind eye and I threw up in the corner. Dust filled up my throat, I don’t have a gag reflex anymore, dust swallows dust swallows– When I left I stretched my skin between two pine trees and beat it until it hardened, I 33
hardened. Bloody hands on dry, dying skin. Shaky, shivering bones, my hands like pointy stars, smelled sulfuric, made fists with ‘em, bones against bones against bones against skin. Dark, cold, I took it off the trees when it looked dead. I am a hide stretched til it stopped bleeding. I wear my skin, keeps me cold. I still bleed, stain my skin, leather on bones and blood on leather and blood all over– I miss the desert. I spent eighteen years in a desert and one between two trees. Call me pretty? Can you call me pretty? Call me female. Kill my body. I bled killing it, please kill it and call me pretty? I broke my mother’s body and slept with the ruins until they got cold and rot. I am cold and rot. Kill it please? Can you call me pretty? I bore myself in and out of this body. 34
The Creek of New Religion By Nora Markey ‘22 The shoebox sitting on Faye’s bedspread sucked the life from the air, leaving her room still and sterile. The shoes inside, white ballet flats plucked from the shelf by her mother, were too tight for starters. Running was out of the question too, because if she didn’t step just so on the hard soles, her heels came flying out the back. Besides, you couldn’t run anywhere worthwhile in shoes so stiflingly whitethey’d dirty immediately. But her mother wouldn’t hear her complaints. You can handle keeping one pair of shoes clean, Faye. You’re sixteen. Her Confirmation was in a week, and the white shoes were only one part of the horrors that awaited her in Catholic womanhood. Her mother had made it clear to Faye that her Confirmation was to mark the end of her girlish antics. Dirty knees, cutting class, and talking too loud (especially to boys) were not traits of the Virgin Mary, she reminded her. Faye felt that if she were as clean, quiet, and obedient as she was expected to be, she may as well just disappear entirely. Faye found the whole ritual unbelievably frivolous, from the regurgitation of centuries-outdated I Believe’s to the stupid white outfits. How could she commit her body and soul to a church that admonished sensation, exhilaration? She’d rather promise herself to the dirt under her toenails. Faye removed the shoes from their box and stuffed them into a knapsack. She unlatched the window and flung herself through it, landing barefoot in the garden-bed below. It was a short fall, and one she was accustomed to. Her feet sunk into the soil, still cold from nighttime. Faye adored the way it squished between her calloused toes. She peered through the kitchen window. Not seeing her mother, she dashed across the lawn and through the dusty cornfield, bare feet pounding. She stopped when she reached the creek that bordered the wood, where a lanky boy in a baseball cap stood waiting. You’re late today, he said with a goofy grin that betrayed his tone. You’ll get over it, Faye replied. 37
They sat side by side at the bank, feet in the icy water. The current parted around Faye’s ankles, gently washing away the mud she’d collected on the journey over. Escaping home a month ago, Faye was startled to find the boy sitting by the creek. He lived on the neighboring property, and she’d seen him before from afar. He’d been staring at the glisten of the afternoon sunlight on the water, the very same glisten that always mesmerized Faye, and hadn’t noticed her at first. When he finally turned, he just smiled and waved her over. They’d shared this ritual every afternoon since. Was Confirmation class as horrible as usual? Worse, look at these, Faye sighed dramatically, and unbuttoned her knapsack to reveal the ballet flats. I have to wear these on the-horrible-day-that-must-not-be-named. He laughed and leaned forward, his skin so close she could feel its warmth. What is it you do believe in, Miss Unconfirmed? Faye paused. She didn’t believe in her mother’s God, who forced girls to stand in line in matching shoes and promise to be good, submissive wives. The breeze whispered through the treetops and played the leaves like bells. I’m not sure. I like this, Faye said finally. You can’t make a religion out of a creek, he teased. Why not? It was now the boy’s turn for pause. I guess you’re right, he shrugged, Why not? Mischief swelled in Faye’s cheeks. She reached again for the knapsack and removed the white shoes. Feeling his eyes on her, she held the shoes in both hands over the water. With this creek as my witness, Faye proclaimed and dropped the shoes into the creek, her mother be damned. The current caught the shoes by their hard soles and carried them downstream and out of sight. 38
“But if not, I want to remind you ] and beautiful times we had. For many crowns of violets and roses ] at my side you put on and many woven garlands made of flowers around your soft throat. – Fragment 94, Sappho (translated by Anne Carson)