The Lavender: Vol.6 The Unremarkable

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THELAVENDER

Wesleyan’s Prose and Poetry Magazine

Tongue by Simone Niamani, Io Ilex
route9.org instagram:@route9wes ii The Route 9 Literary Collective Presents... THELAVENDER ISSUE VI: UNREMARKABLE Wesleyan’s Prose and Poetry Magazine Winter, 2022

AboutUs:

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 a multitude of other projects including Pre-Good, Good Condition, Poems of Our Climate, The Route 9 Anthology, and more. Learn more at route9.org.

WhyTheLavender?:

The Lavender is an homage to the fact that Wesleyan University’s official color used to be lavender. The color was changed because, according to an October 1884 issue of the Argus, lavender was not suitable for intercollegiate sports. “Lavender is not a striking color,” the article proclaimed. Well, 1884 critic, we here at The Lavender find the color incredibly striking.

WhyRoute9?:

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.

TriggerWarning: Some of the pieces in this magazine have references to violence and death.

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TheLavenderTeam: Editor-in-Chief: Oliver Egger ManagingEditors: Georgia Groome & Ella Spitz PoetryEditors: Jane Hollander & Emily Hollander ProseEditor: Immi Shearmur DesignEditor: Madeleine Metzger CopyEditor: Sylvie Pingeon & Emma Goetz AssistantPoetryEditor: Casey Epstein-Gross SeniorEditors: Ben Togut, Michaela Poynor-Haas, Sofia Baluyut TheTeam: Clara Martin, Colin Bloom, Franklin Mindich, Isabella Koz, Jake Gale, Julia Gardner, Liz Pace, Myles Edelson, Nicole Lee, Nomi Kuntz, Sabrina Tian, Sadie Gray, Amanda Ding, Samantha Hager, Sophia Neiblum, Tatiana Wolkowitz, Victoria Dozer, Katia Michals, Daniela Stahle, Spencer Klink Coverdesign: Daniela Stahle LogoDesign: Leo Egger DessertDebutante: Maggie McCormick SpecialThanksTo: All the dear friends who make this magazine possible (you know who you are), Alpha Delta Phi for hosting our release events, the Shapiro Writing Center, the Wesleyan English Department, the Green Fund, and the SBC. iv

Dear Reader,

Thank you for picking up this copy of The Lavender! We hope it lives up to expectations and is, truly, devastatingly unremarkable. Just kidding— it is anything but! Each contributing author offers an original perspective on everyday occurrences. We’ve got koalas with chlamydia, cute boys, and of course, death. If you find this list compelling, or at least puzzling, keep reading and you’ll see what it’s all about. But before you go, we’d like to take a moment to thank everyone who helped make this issue happen: the artists, the authors, the editorial and design teams, and of course, you— our dedicated readers! You help make this vibrant literary community a reality.

With love, The Editors <3 Oliver, Immi, Jane, Emily, Ella & Georgia

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vi Netti
Hitt

Tongue by Simone Niamani, Io Ilex i

Netti Hitt vi Anabel DeMartino viii

BoybySabrinaTian1

Reese Chahal 2 Doom Generation, Mckenna Blackshire 3

MutedbySophieNeiblum 4

NotesfromtheMetroNorthbyGisselRamirez 5

Sarah Albert 6

MydadbySarahBank 7-9

Georgia Groome 10

SeaLaborerbyEllaSpitz11-12

ElegybyRexBeaver 13 Spencer Klink 14

TheMotionsbyMiaAlexander 15 Anabel DeMartino 16

FromKaren,toJolie,andTowardCatastrophebyGeorgiaGroome17-18 Mia Alexander 18

AnimalEnvybyAidanZimmermann 19

Madeleine Metzger 20

MiddleSeasonbyEllaBiehn 21 roses begum yetis, io ilex 22 ThinkingAboutYoubyMylesEdelson23

Jane Lillard 24

AdventurebyIsabellaKoz 25 Madeleine Metzger 26

Georgia Groome 27-28

MaybeAdisonbyKateCiolkowski-Winters 29-33 Mary Ahlstrom 34 Netti Hitt 35

ToBindMyselftoYoubyJaneHollander 36

ReturningbyAmandaDing37

Tess Solot-Kehl 38

StrangeRainsbyEmmaDhanda 39-42

SeeTrainbySylviaMaxwell 43-44

Sarah Albert 44

MeetingwithaTeacherbyLilaBlaustein 45-46 Catherine Capeci 47-48

TableofContents
Anabel DeMartino

Sabrina Tian

sat in front of me in class today with wet hair. We compared the Davids. He looks more like Michelangelo’s but with eyelashes, a shy neck, and a white t-shirt. His curls took shape in an hour and a half.

Boy
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Reese Chahal
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Doom Generation, Mckenna Blackshire

Muted

Sophie Neiblum

A remembrance of orange skies, sunrise walks, and that little mug of Chex sitting on the beach towel.

Now the poker chips are stacked in rows, forgetting the scents of the beach. Their bright colors lie meaningless.

I forget it. I go on hikes with someone I know so well, yet barely know at all.

I learn: people should be met from the outside in, not the inside out.

I peer slivers of sunsets from my four-pane window. With a burst of temporary flourish, another day creaks out.

After the before, life is muted. Little sweets and little lows

Blow in on the yellow-leafed breeze.

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NotesfromtheMetroNorth

Gissel Ramirez

it feels corny to think how the gray beat bag was the only thing my parents brought with them from mexico. probably because it’s not supposed to be symbolic — it’s just a fact. but how could it not be if it holds way too many clothes for a four-day weekend when it never had enough clothes for a four-week (if they’re lucky) “trip?” (that’s not the word). i don’t think about it even when my dad says goodbye y que valga la pena, — when we eat breakfast and pass the phone around to tell grandma josé feliz cumpleaños aver cuando vamos, knowing that’s directed to God but when — i realize i can’t remember when the train ride to connecticut started to feel like going home. though the changing leaves welcome me back, i know i’d never be able to write a nature poem — the city has ruined that for me.

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Sarah Albert

My dad drove his dad’s ‘74 Ghia through the wall in the garage, right into his brother’s bedroom.

My dad charged ten cents per ticket for a “flea circus” in his backyard. The kids looked under a magnifying glass and saw nothing. He swore there were fleas doing tricks if they looked a little harder.

My dad’s cat Zachary traveled all the way to Brooklyn without anyone noticing. Zachary liked to hang out on the roof. He got to Brooklyn by stowing himself in the neighbor’s trunk. When Zachary returned, my dad’s brother said, “his feet don’t look too worn out,” as he thought Zachary had walked to Brooklyn and back.

My dad bought M-80s, equivalent to a quarter stick of dynamite. He lit them and threw them into the canal because the wicks were waterproof. I never knew this. My dad told me about it when he started reading this. All the fish came up dead. He told me to add that line.

My dad sold tic tacs in 1st grade. One dollar per tac. His mom made him give every kid their money back.

My dad knows I’ve heard these stories many times. He tells them anyway. I don’t mind.

My dad skied in jeans because he was poor. This is actually my mom’s story, but I changed it to be my dad’s. They both insisted my brother and I learn to ski at a young age to avoid this sort of embarrassment.

My dad ripped out a stop-sign and crashed his red Volkswagen Beetle the next day because of the lack of stopsign. His prom date was in the car.

My dad drank Green Midori Liqueur out of his parents’ liquor cabinet. I remember my cousin doing the same with Vermouth when we were teenagers.

My dad’s neighbor found his mob guy dad stuffed in the trunk of a car. The dad was dead. A couple blocks down Amy Fisher shot Joey Buttafuoco’s wife in the head. The wife lived.

My dad’s dad owned a pharmacy called City Drug. In college he was in a pharmacist fraternity. He sold t-shirts that said “I get my ups at City Drug.” My dad’s sister wore it to school and got suspended.

MyDad Sarah Bank
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My dad sold t-shirts that said “Berner Soccer” on the front, and if you lifted up the t-shirt from the bottom and flipped it it said “sucks.” He also made one that said “Massapequa Penitentiary.” It didn’t sell well at Massapequa High because no one got the joke, or had $20.

My dad was the middle child. My dad’s friend Urbs got a girl pregnant. She hid her pregnancy from her dad, and Urbs, the entire time, and then gave the baby up for adoption. The baby was adopted by child-murderer Joel Steinberg. My dad found out on the news years later, only a little after Urbs did.

My dad’s brother once came upstairs from the basement and said, “can I keep playing? It’s only a small fire.”

My dad’s parents announced their divorce to him at his sleepaway camp visiting day.

My dad never knew Televangelist Jim Bakker, successor of Billy Graham, who cheated on Tammy Fae Bakker with his secretary. Her name was Jessica Hahn, aka 1984 Miss Massapequa. I made up the year 1984. I actually made up the whole pageant aspect.

My dad exaggerates some of his stories for dramatic effect. He doesn’t lie, though. I can tell which ones are altered.

My dad played soccer. He made a banner that said “GO AMES BEAT MCKENNA.” It didn’t rip when the team ran through it.

My dad turned 55, so I printed a replica banner at Staples for a gift. I told him not to try to run through it.

My dad’s chore was to shovel coal into the coal stove. His dad had 55 gallons worth of coal delivered to the house, pulled inside through a trapdoor. My dad has asthma now, but thankfully not black lung.

My dad’s first child was me. I inherited his asthma.

My dad, twelve years old, rode his bike to the Unqua School parking lot flea market, drinking Budweiser nips and shooting bottle rockets.

My dad comes to my apartment when I cry.

My dad has seen every movie and TV show ever made. He will rewatch any of them with me, especially when I cry.

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My dad was promised his Bar Mitzvah money, but it instead went to remodel the basement. He did get a pinball machine for consolation.

My dad wore an orange velour blazer and plaid pants to his Bar Mitzvah. He looks like my brother in the photos. His outfit was all the rage in the 70’s. He never looks like me in any photos.

My dad’s mom made him wear black galoshes with huge buckles because they didn’t have green galoshes money. He tossed them in the bushes before he went to school and put them back on when he got home. His mom grounded him for the offense.

My dad dropped a wheelbarrow on his dad’s ’74 Ghia, which was the first time he learned it’s okay to make a mistake.

My dad and I agree that all of the names mentioned here are too perfect to fictionalize. He does fear his enemies might come after him if this goes public. We agree that it’s worth it.

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Georgia Groome

Unassuming and unattained, you stand by harmless and say, “Stand by, my dear, stand by, I say,” and nod to the heavens, who deem it okay.

With oaky voice and constant sway, you remain unharnessed— warmth sinks away, ways away. You dress like a slob, and stink like a skunk, yet when you call me your “dear,” heart floors body—kerplunk.

If only you would notice— as the sky does your words— my wriggling and rolling, my chain-me-down curse. You purse lips, pursue stars far from my eyes, anytime I stand to you, anywhere I arise.

“Stand by, my dear, stand by, I say,” as you shift one inch close to me, then ebb back where you laid. My head is your anchor, my hands are the shore, yet my scalp has turned green, a penny, but worth more.

SeaLaborer
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I shake off your rust and shade the heavens’ glare. Unharnessed, unstuck, upstanding, aware. Stand away, skunk rodent, stand away, I say, I can float too, away, ways away.

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Death comes riding in— Draped in furs of tar and stars.

Terrified souls are woven into this fabric Their sunken visages stared out into the emptiness.

In this fabric are the starved children The weary women of this war-torn world.

And the men who died fighting

In faraway lands, under the guise of some Great flag. For honor, they died For duty, they died For freedom, they died. But they found no such things— Trapped in Death’s many folds And faces and roads.

It is here the dead are trapped, in between damnation and salvation. Victims of his obsession. But through it all

Death goes riding on, And riding on And riding on With the whole, wide world in his hands.

Elegy Rex Beaver
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Spencer Klink 14

TheMotions

Mia Alexander

My grandmother texted on Thursday with LOL in parenthesis. Ovarian cancer, she wrote, come

to Chicago this summer before I’m gone. Love, Grandma, accompanied by a selfie--treatment had taken her eyelashes too.

When I get out of the hospital I’ll look beautiful again, I just hope I don’t gain the weight back.

A week later I looked through my desk for stamps to send her widowed husband a letter. Thanks, he wrote.

Sometimes there’s nothing to say about death. I just hope she felt beautiful before she died.

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Anabel DeMartino

Georgia Groome

Lacing up his work shoes, Tim remembered his last fight with Paul and began to weep with bruised resignation. It was not a cry for the fight or for Paul himself but for the fact that it was his and Paul’s last fight. This epiphany had never before dawned on him: he didn’t think that there could be a last of anything with a brother. They were standing by the lake, he remembered, and Jolie’s purple bathing suit was laid out on the dock, drying in the sun. Paul screamed, the bathing suit glimmered, and Paul kicked it into the water. The brothers stood side by side, watching it sink. Just as soon as the memory resurfaced, it faded, leaving Tim empty and longing. He pined for the days when he could hate Paul for all of his rudeness passed as sarcasm and for the way that he pushed every button that Tim didn’t even know he had—for when he could hate Paul for all that Paul was. Paul was. Paul in past tense; Paul in memory.

Tim exited his apartment, thinking about how all of his days were the same and how they all used to be different. This was when he could spend his days laughing with Jolie but awake in Karen’s arms. He moved between the two women in a familiar dance, and when he wasn’t wrapped in their individual love, he was consumed by his lust for life. Tim was so intoxicated by just how easy he had it that he didn’t even think to look around to find the cameras, or identify the plastic fruit, or venture backstage to discover that it was all a simulation, a theatrical act, a game, as it were. He boarded the subway.

She draped herself over Paul at dinner, kissing him between sips of wine. Tim stiffly wrapped his arm around Karen’s shoulder, overwhelmed by a memory from the night before, the ghost of Jolie’s body against his. She brushed his foot with hers under the table, at first gently and then with force. He rose as the stainless steel subway doors unlatched and sighed as if proclaiming an ode to self-discovery. Was it ego? Pride? Envy? Greed? Perhaps an amalgamation of all of those traits—a character-determinant concoction. What drove him from Karen to Jolie and toward catastrophe? What was it about that afternoon spent with Karen working at the local farm stand, Paul resting on the dock with a book shading his eyes, and his wife, Jolie, slipping in and out of the lake in her purple bathing suit?

As the bathing suit drowned, Paul told Tim that he had known all along. Paul told Tim that what was worse than Tim sleeping with his wife was Tim thinking that he could get away with it. Paul told Tim that he was a lonely fucking coward who should do them all a favor and fuck off expeditiously. Paul told Time a lot of things, but Tim blocked most of it out. He does remember, however, that Paul really had used the word “expeditiously.”

Across the street, two men quarreled outside of a bodega. “Why are you harassing me!” the first asked, in a harassing tone. The other dragged his foot a step forward and peered downward at his jean cuffs. “Why are you harassing me!”

FromKaren,toJolie,andTowardCatastrophe
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Stopping to witness the drama, Tim found himself instead focusing on a third man, only a few yards away from the outburst, dialing a number on a payphone. It rang for ages, and there was no answer. But the man stood solemnly, with the plastic phone propped against his head, waiting for something to change. Entranced, Tim raised his own phone to his ear to listen to a voicemail that Karen had left him, long before she knew. She spoke of Stacey, her work friend, with whom she had just eaten lunch. “Remember?” she asked, “Stacey with the cat who ate a dime that one time? Anyway,” she continued, “lunch was fantastic. I ordered the cobb salad and...” Perhaps nothing was meant to be, after all.

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Mia Alexander

Lab coats coaxing rats close hoping for snacks groping at cheese.

Do we get cheese at the end of our labyrinthine days?

Monkey see monkey do but better yet, see the monkey poo they fling at the window?

At least they have a water feature in fiberglass limbo.

Oh to be a pupil of the marsupials, Befriending the koalas is not a bad idea.

I feel I could live with the taste of eucalyptus, Though I recall that they all have chlamydia.

AnimalEnvy
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Madeleine Metzger 20

when i listen to coldplay with you it feels like two thousand and eight. how many years til we listen again?

here we have this middle season not quite winter or spring the branches are wet but the grass is dead and the pavement glimmers you and i will not stand chilly on the sidewalk outside the jiffy lube together for many moons you sing low and then crazy. there are so many other nights in the world like this. the hedges are neat and green in oak grove the chinese restaurants like a mirage a cold, oniony rain is bleeding on the horizon

you sing firm baritone and the streetlights go indigo and at home there is a mauve couch, and a dog, and the television set we had when we were kids, and a worn dvd case a hundred times perused, at least, and a plate with beige flowers, and your limited smile, and your hair in the shape of a star and i will not see you again until the day that i do.

middleseason
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22 roses
begum yetis, io ilex

ThinkingAboutYou

Myles Edelson

Puddles grow outside my dorm room window. I’m always listening. You’re here with me. Soft and gentle spirits all around.

Leave dinner early for our nightly assembly.

Creaking wood floors. Closed and locked doors. Pale and Pink.

With you I know what youth is. What truth is. Arms burly, hair red and curly.

I close my eyes to stop my mind from running too far.

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Reese Chahal 24
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Jane Lillard

Isabella Koz

A day is a dot, a hole to be punctured in denim shorts, dirt to be slathered onto cream shoes that know nothing of the outdoors.

Chinese temples tower over the tallest of men, the tallest of men that willingly regress beneath its stature, its unspoken ability to make a grown man shrink and a shrunken man disappear.

A domestication of the unknown, the prying open of a stubborn eye that has refused to acknowledge fear. A stubborn eye that has wallowed in its own filth of the known, the comfortable, the conquerable.

To smell pine is to understand the impossible,

To put wrinkled hands in a spring that houses mossy rocks, gilded koi, and species that remain nameless is to comply with what exists silently beneath your feet. To crunch dead leaves that sound as though they’re living is to recognize the irony of complacency.

A day is a dot, a hole, a road, a path on which to walk backwards, upside down, and to not walk on at all. A day is a replica of the mind’s greatest fears and wonders, all condensed into one adventure.

Adventure
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Madeleine Metzger
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Georgia Groome

MaybeAdison

This afternoon I started Call Me By Your Name. I remembered a warm fuzzy feeling after I watched it the first time, and I wanted that again. I wanted something easy, familiar, and anyway I felt like a movie. But this time around, I hated it. I don’t know what it was— maybe it felt too manufactured the second time around, too much like it was made with a Europhile audience in mind that would love any movie saturated with the bright colors of Italy; maybe it’s the fact that this time it was too hard to get behind this French/Italian/American family and its wannabe quirky dynamics. And then, there is the scene about half an hour in. As it storms outside, they read: a soldier loves a princess, but in the face of her loveliness and their budding friendship, he finds himself speechless. Finally, he asks her if it’s better to speak or to die. Timothee Chalamet lounges on the laps of his ever loving academic parents who tell him after reading this portion of the story, you can tell us anything. The rain outside pelts at the windows and cuts the power in the house.

I might try to guess at the cinematics of this moment— Maybe I’d take it one step too far to make the connection between “house” lights in a theater and the fact that the lights in the actual house go out, but regardless that blackout moment has a similar function to a curtain closing on an act of a play. During intermission, the audience chews over the last few lines of the previous act in relation to what they’ve already seen. They stretch their legs, go to the bathroom and buy M&M’s, all the while wondering how these lines might set up what is to come. Foreshadowing.

It’s an undeniably utilitarian device. An event or a dialogue that precludes or suggests something to come. Ohhh, we say, as the collective viewer, He’s in love! And he can’t... he can’t say it... he’ll die. Or maybe he will... speak. We put two and two together and understand that our two protagonists will grapple with the soldier’s question whose profundity is somehow made banal as it passes through Armie Hammer’s lips. But I don’t want to write like a critic with a message about whether the movie is ultimately thumbs up or thumbs down. I want to write like an introspective 21 year old who’s wondering why it made her so upset. The foreshadowing specifically. Maybe I’m more attuned to it today. Because today, I rented a mountain bike.

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I hated it so fucking much. It was way too steep for my little legs to move the thick wheels, and I ended up pushing my bike up the mountain and locking it at the top. Why I felt it needed to be locked at the top as opposed to the point at which I decided to push it, I cannot say. Hot, sweaty and dehydrated, my system of logic was impenetrable, not to be questioned. After the first dramatic climb, there was a series of alternating peaks and slopes, as if the rocky path followed the indications of a wistful hand hanging from a passenger seat window accompanied by a slow melody on the car radio. Going down these slopes posed new, albeit less sweaty and exhausting, difficulties; my breath would quicken as the wheels forced the handlebars this way and that upon encountering sand, I was afraid of going too fast, I couldn’t stop thinking about Christina Crosby. In A Body Undone, Crosby recounts mountain biking as she did so often when a twig got caught in one of the spokes of her wheel, sending her flying, leaving her paralyzed, and changing her life forever.

And so it was, inching my way up and down the mountain’s undulations, that I began to think of death and biking, biking and death, and foreshadowing.

I thought about a trip I took with Adison and Phoebe, two friends of mine in middle school. Adison’s parents had just separated, and her dad wanted her to bring two friends along on vacation with them. I felt a certain responsibility for elevating my role as a friend in Adison’s life; after all, I was the one who had already dealt with divorced parents, I felt I should have wise words or be able to say, don’t worry, my parents did that too. And so I thought to decode this trip using my own divorced parents as a metric, their vacation dynamics a means by which I might relate to Adison in this new phase of her life, might understand how to be a better friend, might thrust us into a relationship of maturity. My mom felt that she existed in the shadows of the elaborate vacations my dad would take us on. With little parenting effort, she thought, he had an unfair advantage in gaining the affections of his wide eyed children hungry for clear beaches and all you can eat buffets. Of course this was over-simplified, but when she hinted at feeling this way, I couldn’t untangle her logic enough to demonstrate that it was decidedly untrue. So I felt I understood: Adison’s dad was positioning himself as the fun one. But trying to think from my dad’s perspective, I always felt he was just… trying. Sure, we went on nice vacations together but on the drive back, we all knew how relieving it would be not to see each other for the next few days, how rejuvenated I would feel just by hugging my mom, sleeping in my own bed. And so there was something about these vacations that had a kind of sad tinge to them. So again, I felt I understood: Adison’s dad is trying, but nothing will change. If there is a barrier between them, it will remain, vacation or not.

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We went to the Poconos. I brought my Eeyore stuffed animal and a library book, both of which I never saw again. I remember very sparse but very clear details from this trip. We stayed in an A-frame cabin in the woods, us girls in the attic under the triangle ceiling whose banisters taunted us to climb or hang from them. Outside, there was a pool or a hot tub or maybe a pond or river; what I mean to say is, there was a reason to wear a bathing suit. I know this because I remember the three of us chatting as we got ready to swim, I being rendered momentarily speechless observing Phoebe changing; she had hair between her legs, black and curly and sparse, and she didn’t say anything about it. When we started wearing bras, we talked about it. When we got our periods, we talked about it. Maybe this was something Phoebe was dealing with on her own. Did she want to talk about it? Was it a condition? A disease? Would it go away? Had it been there forever? Surely I would google it once I got a moment alone. One might note that this foreshadowed the trip as one of maturation in some capacity. Maybe. It was some sort of adventure trip, a guided day split into a biking portion, a hiking portion, and finally a rafting portion. I knew how to speak the language of intrepidity this kind of trip required; my mom loved to hike and bike and drag me along, and I envied so much her love of the outdoors that I presented myself the same way. Meanwhile in truth, I held not only envy but also resentment of her passion for nature and exploration, frustrated by my inability to become everything I emulated; adventurous, spontaneous, easygoing… And so it was that I positioned my excitement for this trip like a veil in front of me, hoping that it might blur my surroundings in such a way that I might come to love them, hoping that it might present myself to my friends the way I wanted to be. But really, it was biking I hated the most. Long bike rides where I had nothing to think about besides the question of whether or not I’m thinking, if my thoughts are like the thoughts of others, why I don’t truly think thoughts but rather sing songs endlessly. I hated that there was nothing new you could do on a bike. It was just riding—it made me anxious. When we started on the bike trail, there was some time for oohs and ahhs at the beauty of the trees and the mountains before the anxiety set in, at which point we began to say, look what I can do! Stand up, one hand biking, no hand biking, riding in a figure eight shape, legs flailing in the air away from the pedals. And finally, let’s hold hands!

Framed by the panorama of mountain and sky beyond the cliff ledge on one side and the thick green forest on the other, Adison and I biked hand in hand for all of three seconds, at which point her bike skidded and she fell. I laughed tentatively as she laughed to rid herself of shock, and we decided to sit off to the side for a break. Coming up about a minute behind us, Adison’s dad rounded the bend and asked what happened as I stood off to the side, pretending to examine leaves

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and test the softness of the pine covered ground. I wanted to dig a tunnel into it or hide in the moss; I wished I had been the one to fall. I felt I had committed an irrevocable wrong and I didn’t want Adison’s dad to know. To know I had done something stupid, to know I didn’t care if his daughter biked straight off a cliff, to know I was not to be trusted. He kissed her knee and told her they wouldn’t have to cut her leg off, and at least you didn’t fall off the cliff to a rocky death! Coulda been a lot worse. We biked on for a while in silence. I hope I said sorry more than once, but I can’t be sure. I thought about imminent disaster, I thought about what would happen if she had fallen off of the cliff. I’m sure I would have forgotten the fall and my ensuing thoughts if it weren’t for the events of the rest of the day. (Foreshadowing?)

Adison, Phoebe and I got onto the bus that was to take us to the hiking location, and as we stewed in the midday heat rising up from the sticky two-seaters, a faceless man appeared at the door to ask… something that I can’t remember. But it was an announcement that made Adison rapidly leave the back of the bus, where we had been planning to stare out of the emergency exit and make faces at drivers to determine whether they were sweet or sour. I can say that the faceless man in fact had a consoling look, a detail that deeply confounds my memory but that I would be remised not to note. He addressed all of us but spoke to Adison. Your dad had a heat stroke, he’s at the hospital. Are you with anyone else? I’ll drive you there. In the car we exchanged strangely loud comments about how important it is to drink water, how this heat could get to anyone, how essential it is to keep your protein intake up.

I remember the hospital as only a waiting room with sliding doors. Trying to associate this room, in which we spent the next few hours, with the big building it was no doubt attached to is a futile effort; my mind conjures the hospital in its entirety as only this one small room with TVs in the ceiling corners and a shiny white floor. In my imagination, it could have been nestled between two small shops on either side.

I don’t know when we learned that the heat stroke was in fact a heart attack. And I’m not sure when we learned that Adison’s dad had died. I do not remember the point at which I realized I did not have the language to address grief, to commiserate, to know what to do next. I knew only that a friend was experiencing something unimaginable to me. Phoebe’s mom started the three hour drive up to get us as we waited in the world’s smallest hospital; Adison crying and the inadequacy of anything we might think to say or do palpable in the air.

My mom called me and I walked behind a corkboard divider wall to talk to her because as soon as I picked up the phone I felt my throat constrict and I did not want Adison to see me crying. I sobbed silently that I didn’t understand why I was crying, nothing happened to

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me, I wish I could stop. I stared blankly at the TV as the voice on the other end of the line told me that death is intrinsically emotional for anyone around it, nothing was wrong with me, I’m human. But I didn’t believe it; I didn’t feel like I was crying for someone I knew who had died, or about an irrevocable tragedy falling on a close friend. I felt that I was just… crying. Paradoxically heartless, impossibly without feeling.

Adison sat in the middle of Phoebe and I on the drive back, resting her head in her cupped hands and doubled over. As we neared home, Phoebe’s mom asked Adison if she wanted to stay over at their house. It was a ridiculous suggestion; Adison’s house was minutes away, where her mom was waiting to finally give her the care she needed. It felt wrong that she would have to pick her brain for words of etiquette in that moment, but nevertheless she said sweetly, no thanks, I want to see my mom. And I will never forget that upon opening the door, Adison’s mom took her daughter in her arms and said, you poor thing.

My dad picked me up from Phoebe’s house and we had another 30 minute drive to his house. I felt evil for feeling okay. For turning my concern now to myself, and how I couldn’t imagine losing my own father. And how I wanted to tell him. I wanted to tell him that I love him and that I don’t want him to die. These simple words I repeated in my head over and over again in the passenger seat of the silent car that night. I rehearsed them nervously. We passed the supermarket, Staples, and finally the fork in the road leading either to the highway or the small road to the next town over. We veered left. At the stop light, I said it.

I hated that scene in Call Me By Your Name. The world is never so predictable such that a few lines of dialogue or an insignificant event might hint at another. The only opportunity it has to be so is in retrospect, when we use the omnipotent power of consciousness to connect the pieces of the past that seem to slide seamlessly into each other. I always thought about the fact that Adison’s dad spoke of death, however humorously, the day he died. That he did so because of something I was involved in. Something that made me think about the possibility of death. We were all thinking of death on that sunny summer day? I hated that scene in Call Me By Your Name. I hated when the father tells his son, you know you can tell us anything. I thought it was cringy, cheesy, cliché. There’s no reason to say that, I find myself thinking. If it’s true, everyone knows it, and if everyone knows it, there’s no point in saying anything.

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Mary Ahlstrom
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Netti Hitt

ToBindMyselfToYou

Jane Hollander

over and over and over fold the fold the pages I labor from yellow fumes peel each layer of dried glue into a thousand slender threads then thread the needle to sew the spine into the din of each rising sun

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Amanda Ding

He begins, and they follow suit. unzipped hair, flyaway eyes enrobed in white, mud creeps up on their orange boots. asphalt beneath their feet, glaring lights that surge towards and never away, or nothing at all. making their way down to the water swirling, gaping mouth of no returning. yet little by inseparable little feathers pool in rippling fashions across the naked pond. He ends in the reeds, umber crowns bowing as bobbing necks salute in return to curl around six blue dreams.

Returning
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Tess Solot-Kehl

StrangeRains

The stranger doesn’t jump at the piercing squeak of the kettle. That is what intrigues her most; instead, he fiddles with the silverware she set out, refusing to touch the plate of cookies with his dirt-stained hands. She lets her gaze drift away from him, over towards the door, as she absentmindedly searches the cabinets for tea bags. She has long since memorized every groove and nook this lonely place has to offer; her eyes are merely for daydreaming, now.

The growing gales outside pound against the magnificent stone walls, threatening to burst through the door as he had a moment ago. His boots, decrepit and mud-caked, drip saltwater on the towels she’s laid out haphazardly. A similarly soaked cloth hat hangs from a coat hook above it, so bright in its unfamiliarity in her home.

There are only three clean mugs on the shelf. She plucks down her favorite, and settles for a deep green ceramic one with a chipped handle for the stranger. It sports flecks of white around the rim, which reminds her of the stranger’s curious stubble across a stubborn chin. The steam from the kettle, no longer bursting in its cacophonous tune, rises lazily into the morning air. She lets her face dip into its path as she lifts it from the stove, delighting in its soft caress against her skin.

She doesn’t ask what kind of tea the stranger wants. She doesn’t need to. The pattern of his breathing, deep and slow, is enough. The slight rhythm in the way he taps his bare foot against the kitchen tile, ba-BUM, ba-BUM, ba-BUM-BUM, reveals to her all she needs. After a moment, the room begins to fill with a soothing scent of chamomile, strong enough to temper the jasmine she has selected for herself.

The mugs thud gently against the table, their contents swishing just towards the edge but never over; she has learned, by now, how to set them down properly. The stranger inhales, shutting his rheumy eyes and tilting his face slightly upwards.

“Milk? Sugar? Honey?” Each word is perfectly measured to fill the space around them. She’s had more than enough practice, more than enough time to learn how her voice could complement the world surrounding her.

The stranger does not reply, though she senses he knows she has decided what dressing his tea requires. The honey wand, already molded to fit her hand, glows in the morning light as she lets it drizzle its sweet nectar into their tea; his mug, first, then hers. Outside, waves crash. A lonely sound.

“What brings you here, stranger?”

He simply smiles. The steam from his tea distorts his face, smoothing the sharp edges that he has no doubt cultivated over a lifetime. The cold panes of glass at the window shudder, giving life to the silence between them. His foot continues its strange dance, ba-BUM, ba-BUM, ba-BUM-BUM, and she can feel her heart beginning to mimic it. A strange trickery, he has brought into her domain. But a harmless one.

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She lifts her mug to her lips, earning another smile from the stranger; his peculiarity alerts her to the presence of what exactly she holds now in her hands. In quiet surprise, she traces her fingertips along the green ceramic surface, caressing the rough chip in the handle. . How the stranger managed to conjure an illusion strong enough to enthrall her is a mystery. And yet, there is no denying it: grasped firmly in her palms is the mug she had intended for her visitor, filled to the brim with the tea she had brewed for herself. She lets her delight show through her eyes, a concession, and drinks.

“It has been many years,” She begins when she has set the mug down again, “since I have seen a display of magick such as that.”

She slides the plate of cookies towards him. Shortbread, deliciously buttery and just sweet enough to soothe while they melt on your tongue. It is a recipe she can perform without effort. The stranger hesitates; the stubbled whiskers on his chin twitch. And then he has taken one, and two, and three and four and nearly half of the plate for himself. Crumbs cascade onto the blue gingham tablecloth, and further, onto the floor. Their light, nearly undetectable melody complements the ceaseless ba-BUM, ba-BUM, ba-BUM-BUM of his feet.

In the distance, nearly too faint for the untrained ear to perceive, a ship’s horn blares. Still too far for her to raise a signal; they should know that by now. So many years here, so many seasoned ships and captains, and yet there are always the unknowing, the naïve. If she is feeling particularly cross with them, sometimes she sits here in the kitchen, a chair pulled up to the window, and fails to illuminate the night as she has been charged to do. It is a delicious failing, those nights; for then, she is able to watch the sea come alive.

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The stranger has been watching her. His hands, covered still in dirt and now the crumblings of the cookies, tremble slightly. She has ways to ask him questions that he will be forced to answer; but she has found that sometimes, silent company is its own reward. There are too many who squirm at stillness, who have an incessant need to jabber and ramble and waste their breath on meaningless words just to escape the possibility of existing alone. She cannot say that she was never one of them. But when you have been here as long as she, the silence becomes its own living creature.

She must remember to teach herself that trick with the switching of tea mugs. Perhaps the stranger will teach it to her, should he visit again. But she knows he will not. Once he has left this place, he will take the thick steam of tea with him, coalescing in his mind and obscuring her from his memory.

The sun burns away the thick morning fog completely before the stranger deems it time to speak. “I have traveled far,” he says finally. She enjoys the way his voice fills the kitchen. Whereas hers is lithe, gliding like the very air itself and settling cozily into the crack in the walls, his is coarse and halting, thick sand soaked in saltwater; and yet, his voice complements the space as well, just in a different way.

“I am honored that your travels have brought you to my doorstep,” she replies. It is with the customary amount of respect that she addresses him now. He would be deserving of less of it, had he not already shown her what power he is capable of. Whatever being she speaks to now, he may be as ancient as her.

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“I come with a purpose.”

This is a surprise; the steam rising from his chamomile dissipates slightly, and she can see the chiseled scruff of his face holds no tricks.

“And what purpose is that, stranger?” She cannot lie to him, nor to herself; his words have intrigued her. The steam begins to rise faster around them, having found energy through her interest, through the quickened pace of her heart.

He takes a moment before replying, slowly devouring another cookie from the plate before him. “You used to have a husband, did you not?”

The stranger could not have chosen a worse thing to say. The room falls cold, the foggy panes of glass overlooking the sea suddenly growing opaque with frost. She feels herself stiffen, hair standing on end along her arms, along the back of her neck. She is aware, all of a sudden, just how lonely the call of the ocean is. And she is aware of how frigid the air can be against her bare skin. How thin it has become, after all these years. How susceptible to the whim of the winds.

“I would caution you to speak mindfully.” Her words are ice through gritted teeth, but they melt before they can make contact with the stranger’s skin. He is too warm against the sudden cold in the room, by magick or else some other trick she has not learned.

He has noticed the change in her demeanor, though he does not seem affected by it; those cloudy eyes still shine with mirth. “I have none but good news to bear. You see, he is dead.”

Dead. She supposes it was meant to happen sooner or later. “How?”

“He fell at the hands of his vice. Well, one of them, I suppose. Cards.”

“And when did this happen? How long ago?”

“That, I am afraid I cannot tell you. The news reached me after a long line of storytellers and, well, you know how they muddy their tales.”

So he is not to return. It is some relief not to have to wonder anymore, not to have to keep a wary eye on the doorknob in case it ever jerks sharply. But if he is gone, and it was gambling that took him, then there is no hope for her freedom. He would have been stripped clean, his body dumped bare into a shallow grave as his compatriots claimed all they could from him.

“Is that your purpose, then, stranger? To bring me news of his death?”

The stranger’s eyes glow brighter. “Not entirely. I learned this story, as I told you, from an entertainer. But it was in another gambling den that this tale was spun; the storyteller was much similar to your husband, I presume.”

“Your words are needless in their complexity. Tell me, stranger, why you have come.”

He blinks, seemingly jarred from the world of his tale. Sitting straighter in his seat, the stranger opens his muddy overcoat and withdraws a large package wrapped in newspapers. The marshy air beyond the lighthouse has dampened its pages, smudged the labyrinthine letters into unrecognizable streaks of black and grey. With some effort, he lays the package on the table. Its enormity does not perturb her; to the naïve -- perhaps to those ship captains that sound their horns too early -- the fact that the package should

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have no business fitting in such a small space as within his thin coat would be illogical, shocking even. Not to her.

There is a distinct scent of tobacco and wine wafting off of the package, nearly enough to permeate the cloud of chamomile that wraps thickly around the atmosphere. It has been through many hands, and she is sure that not all of them have been kind to it; but this stranger has, as though he knows its value better than those who had it preceding him.

“You know what it is,” the stranger says simply. His feet continue to tap; ba-BUM, ba-BUM, ba-BUMBUM. It has begun to rain, but the sun still shines brightly into the kitchen. The drops of water on the windowpane mimic the sound of the stranger’s feet against the tile, accelerating in intensity and speed.

He stands slowly, enabling another cascade of cookie crumbs to fall to the floor. His mug no longer steams; it must be empty, though she cannot see into it from here. “I must be going,” he says. His craggy voice is much more gentle now. She could attempt to dissuade him, to gesture to the rain and convince him to stay; but he is not a creature to be convinced. Perhaps he called the rain, anyway.

“Thank you,” she replies instead, resisting every urge to tear apart the wrapping of the package now, to see for herself whether what rests inside is what she believes it to be, what she needs it to be. The stranger can sense this urge, she has no doubt. He knows she must be alone. And so he takes his leave without another word, not even pausing to put his muddy boots back on his feet. Instead, he carries them, and tips his hat at her slightly before descending into the rain and away. ba-BUM, ba-BUM, ba-BUM-BUM, thuds the rain.

Newspaper crackles beneath her fingertips. The package opens to her barest touch, as if waiting for her to find it, as excited to be returned to her as she is to be in possession of it. And yes, as she so desperately needed it to be, her coat is there. Out in the open, she can smell the thickness of the gambling dens on it; but under that, faint but still there, is the scent of the sea, the salt and the kelp and the freedom. Soft and heavy in her hands, she is released.

Outside, waves crash. They do not sound lonely anymore. They sound like an inhale, a summoning. The ocean names her once more, in the telltale whisper-scream of the tides colliding with jagged rocks. Selkie. Amid the wind and the rain and the bright morning sun, she returns to the sea.

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eyes yanked from halted slumber to cross peripheries with strangers, their faces gone stale overnight:

I. mother with child off to school little body leaning on stretched out body swollen with sore love and bottled up contrition little shoes swinging off the seat little head too little to wrap around how its little voice could arouse furrowed brows and hushes from bigger body who longs for the blissful ignorance she sees in her creation but cannot get back to.

II. couple in the middle one will get off before the other one will decide it’s been too long holding onto rotten fruit the snack she packed him for his day at work as if fitting the housewife dress will make him forget how ugly her face looks drenched in sullen sweat rushed into a ring seduced by the facade of financial stability and fulfilling her role still, his stop comes first.

III. old man with crossword puzzle lines traced with a shaking claw to show up on the skin instead

SeeTrain Sylvia Maxwell
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frustrated with dwindling synaptic connections and expiration dates and a train too slow to keep up with modern crossword references with hefty doctor’s bills and catching breath up the stairs that could very well be the last life on the verge of being forgotten…

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Sarah Albert

MeetingwithaTeacher

I take my seat. Us two in a room of computers. I am watching her face, struck as always, by its unreadability, its broad planes, its openness feeling acutely vulnerable, quietly contained.

I am not contained, I spill, holding myself together with halfhearted hands that seek their own failure, that failure the rush of release, I can’t help but empty myself out.

She pulls up my video and gives me two small notes, this and that need to be fixed so this is an Awhatever.

She asks me how the semester’s going I almost tell her I have a long distance girlfriend but I don’t I say, overwhelming.

She asks me how the class is I say, good.

I fumble for the words of a lie, I am scratching and scratching. I ask her, how’s the class for you? already standing and packing things, looking

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over my shoulder at her, that face –she is smiling but what, what is the smile? Just a shape on her face. She says the class is good all is good, us is good the conversation is good, she says we’re a great group

I don’t believe her. I don’t know what type of group we are but can we really be great? Is she getting paid enough? Does she hate our work? How old is she?

I find myself wishing that we could speak in the room as we are that there was nothing but what we felt, nothing but our ability to hear and to imagine each other.

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Catherine Capeci