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cover art by MAREN CONRAD front cover / YIN YANG back cover / YIN YANG

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S A NTA C L A R A R E V I E W V O L U M E 10 5 // I S S U E 0 2




ASSISTANT EDITORS Ethan Beberness Derek Feldman Alexandra Bertaccini Jake Stolmack

EDITORIAL BOARD Ethan Beberness Rosino LeGan Wes Dufelmeier Melissa Lowder Marialisa Caruso Kyle Metzger Danna D’Esopo Toni Nunez Wes Dufelmeier Riley O’Connell Alyssa Feldsine Rylie Richardson Mary Frederickson Chloe Scheuch Bronwyn Geyer Dhanush Shetty Tara Tedjarati FACULTY ADVISOR Kirk Glaser SANTA CLARA REVIEW | 5











Frederick Luis Aldama is an Arts & Humanities Distinguished Professor of English, University Distinguished Scholar, and University Distinguished Teacher at The Ohio State University. He is editor and coeditor of 8 academic press book series as well as editor of Latinographix, a trade-press series that publishes Latinx graphic fiction and nonfiction. He is creator of the first documentary on the history of Latinx comics. He is the author, co-author, and editor of 33 books, including Long Stories Cut Short: Fictions from the Borderlands. Aldama is currently finishing two novels and one creative nonfiction book. The piece that is published herein comes from the epistolary science fiction novel, 2041. Instead of the dystopia (common) or utopia (uncommon), this sci-fi novel builds a planetary lifeworld that has radically changed. The conceit: an unnamed event in 2019 took the whole world by storm and changed radically the foundations of planetary society and the perceptions, affections and all other cognitive faculties of all human beings. This event spread like a pandemic with planetary and historical consequences. And it is in the aftermath of the event that the epistolary relationship between father, daughter, and an anonymous voice takes place. Aldama is agnostic when it comes to writing fiction and nonfiction. He divides his time between writing fiction and scholarly nonfiction books. Depending on what idea grabs him the most in this flow of energy and working zone, he’ll work on fiction or scholarly nonfiction during a certain amount of time. He doesn’t see fiction and nonfiction writing as somehow ontologically different. They are both creative. His fiction begins nearly always with a word, a phrase, a feeling or a concept begins imposing itself as an obsession and a rhythm. This in turn starts growing by addition and subtraction into other words, other feelings, other images, as if the need to describe and tell about a tiny fraction of the universe takes hold of his whole mind. For Aldama, this is the moment the tyranny of writing becomes absolute: expression needs to take place, even if only as a sketch or a rough draft. Then comes the careful revision, deleting and rewriting with seemingly no end. He knows when a piece of fiction is finished when the universe is contained in this tiny speck.


This is receiv up for love to


I wake. I’m not in my bunk—one of hundreds that run up and down like a newspaper column in an abandoned structure. They say they used to build aviones here—we call nadvas today. They keep all of us chicas here; we work in the maquilas until we turn 21, anyway. Then they throw us to the wind where we must kill for comida and shelter. We’re tattooed. We’re chipped. They keep track. I wake. I’m unattached. I can’t move. I have only images and thoughts to assemble into nightmares: blood, severed heads…. They keep me company. We had to disconnect her brain. Diseased, her body betrayed her. Her brain is fed within a thick, wispy pink, oily blue fluid. They promise: Sentience can exist and grow within this gelatinous substance that flickers with 0I pulsations. Months pass. Are you sure it will work? I wake. I roll over. I’m connected. I’m tentacle. More hot braceros than legs. I’m dizzy. The familiar siren roars. I climb down from my bunk. I line up ready for another day at the maquila.

*“Ella” is one of numerous interrelating flash-fiction pieces that make up Frederick Luis Aldama’s forthcoming sci-fi, 2041. After “The Event,” Ella lives in a Latinx future where English, Spanish, Mixtec and a fourth translanguage are used to communicate neologisms like nadvas—a word for everyday modes of flying transport.





Cave Canem graduate fellow Arisa White received her MFA from UMass, Amherst, and is the author of Black Pearl, Post Pardon, Hurrah’s Nest, and A Penny Saved. Her recent collection You’re the Most Beautiful Thing That Happened was a nominee for the 29th Lambda Literary Award and the chapbook “Fishing Walking” & Other Bedtime Stories for My Wife won Daniel Handler’s inaugural Per Diem Poetry Prize. As the creator of the Beautiful Things Project, Arisa curates cultural events and artistic collaborations that center narratives of queer and trans people of color. She serves on the board of directors for Nomadic Press and, starting in fall 2018, will be an assistant professor at Colby College. arisawhite.com


This is receiv up for love to


There are those moments when I experience that “most black” when the host fails to do his job and not greet me as I arrive in the French bistro—I expect a hello and “How many?” His eyes follow his scribbles, then up and look past me and I need to check the box for the sake of survival, be aware of the nature of my surroundings— this is what targets do because at any moment someone’s ready to treat you like a screen, some form of paper, make you a candy machine. But I will not get caught here. I’m too happy to meet the person I came to meet and she’s sitting by the pillar and if this were France, I couldn’t go unnoticed—not with this combination of features. There would be bonjours. Mine awfully American, but because they don’t see me as such, they immediately let me know. They want conversation, ask to join me and my friend and tell us about a bar where internationals don’t go and they are close and smell good. Their hands gesticulate and passion. She runs her index along my jaw. The wine glasses filled from bottles and I can’t help but have a cigarette or five. The sky refuses to slip from its haze and show me stars, but here is her beautiful Parisian mouth, his, hers, and hers.




let it pickle in that Pacific brine. All the beautiful boys, with fresh cuts, will wonder over their reflections, wonder will they ever be red for love. They watch us watch them and they see us here on the sidewalk not walking, sitting with our imaginations earthed. So much bass to confuse us of our purpose, but it’s the bass that grounds us here. In the asthmatic hum of that engine, in the purple holler of girls calling on their girls, the air origamis into flowers, and there is your question that brings you to your knee. For once, I understand the perspective of mountains, that sometimes-hunger to be in the valley, and so I say, I do.



The children are behind locked doors. Metal closed on no new air. And there is a window that frames them. The jail looks better than their schools. The order, they don’t get at home. They’re raised on what-I-want-to-do. Look how she dismisses, waves away the thought that her mother gives a damn. Who they’re calling daddy is pimp is the same tiredass conceit. She is out there, each day, making her world. On-the-block, around-the-way encounters are the hallelujahs to attest that “she’s not enough.” Regardless what her mouth entices, still can’t shake that two-thirds stuff, the ain’t I woman, too. And eventually there is a pop. There is death. However, we name the transition from then to now and again, there is shedding old to make something known. That these children are not far from their first breath.




There is love that brought you dawn, the sunrise that seduced you from your linens. You will get used to the impermanence of all things, and people who say you triggered some hole in their gut that you had no part in digging. You can be standing there, looking to the clouds to surprise your eyes, hugging a friend you haven’t seen in years and the joy it breeds turn you both to galloping horses. Wind is green and heavy with humidity and someone outside the beauty of your own heart, will take you from the beauty of your own heart, bring you back to broken sidewalks, and call you a gun.




“You’ll be nothing there. A piece of mierda. This big—” Luis’s father squishes two fingers together to show his son how big he will be in los Estados Unidos. “You’ll work until your hands bleed. Until your corazón bleeds. Until you’re so tired you can’t walk. But you’ll make three, four, five times as much as you can here. Stick it out, hijo, and you can save up some real lana.” Luis follows in the footsteps of his father, of his uncles, of half the men in the state of Jalisco. He sneaks across the border to find work in Los Angeles, spending eight thousand pesos to be stuffed into a semitrailer filled with immigrants and poultry. He plans to save enough money to buy a house in Mexico, then return to Guadalajara in a year or two, marry his novia, Rosalinda, and raise their children. When Luis arrives in Boyle Heights, L.A., he moves in with an uncle, Paco, who lives in a squalid studio apartment with a dirty bathroom and a tiny kitchenette. Luis sleeps on a couch in the same room with his uncle, who sleeps on a mattress. Every few months Paco sends a little money back to his wife and two daughters in Monterrey. Paco works construction and comes home in the evenings reeking of body odor, fresh cement, and tar. He spends most of his paychecks on tequila and Negra Modelo. He gets drunk and hollers at the TV as he watches his Mexican soccer games on Univision. Luis vows that he will never waste his money and his time like Paco. After what seems like forever—three months, two weeks, and six days—Luis finds a job at the food court on the Santa Monica Promenade, sweeping and mopping the first and second floor patios every morning, and setting out tables, chairs, and umbrellas. The men’s bathroom is cleaned and restocked five times a day, garbage bins changed nine or ten. Most of Luis’s time is spent clearing tables: McDonalds cups, Baja Bud wrappers, Wolfgang Puck silverware, half-eaten Subway sandwiches. Working eleven and twelve hour days, making six bucks an hour—cash, under the table—he manages to save a few thousand dollars. He stashes the twenties inside a suitcase behind the couch where Paco sits and watches his soccer games at night, cursing and spilling beer, then stum-


bling over to his mattress as Luis collapses on the couch. *** Luis meets Ruben about eight months later. Ruben is a waiter at Yankee Doodles. Luis is wiping down tables in the McDonald’s patio when he sees Ruben devouring a burger. Ruben calls him over, introduces himself, and tells Luis about his job and his green card. “Got my own place in Korea Town,” Ruben brags. “Make good tips at Yankee. But I make a lot more at the casinos. Texas Hold ‘em. I hit up Indian Wells every weekend.” He invites Luis to go with him some time. Luis tells Ruben he is saving money to buy a house in Mexico for his novia, Rosalinda. Ruben laughs. “Another pinche Mexicano saving up to buy his first piece-of-shit casita south of the border!” “Pues—” “Listen,” Ruben says, “I’m headed to the Monsoon Café tonight, this nightclub. Let’s go.” Luis thinks about Rosalinda and their future in Mexico, about all the money he’s saved by not going out. “I can’t,” he tells Ruben. “But thank you for the invitation.” Ruben grabs a napkin, wipes his mouth, and takes another huge bite. “Hermano,” he says. “You need to get out. Meet some chulas. You’re working too hard. Come on, I’ll pay your cover. I’ll even pick you up. There’s a salsa band playing tonight.” A salsa band. Luis isn’t good at much, but he can dance. His father had swept his mother off her feet dancing mambo the night they met and Luis and his brothers and sisters grew up listening to cumbia on their parents’ transistor radio. He was learning merengue by ten, had mastered cumbia and salsa by twelve. Luis is skinny and not very tall, his brown eyes set widely apart; he isn’t attractive like Ruben, who is handsome and well-built. But Luis can dance. They arrive at the nightclub around ten. Luis follows Ruben past sharp-dressed Los Angelinos eating battered seafood. The restaurant is filled with sweet and sour smells. They climb some stairs and wait in a short line for the back room where the salsa event is being held. Luis wears a black dress shirt Paco lent him, his darkest blue jeans, and a scuffed pair of boots. In his white-collared shirt, baggy black jeans, and tattoos, Ruben looks like a famous rapper. When they enter the back room the place is packed. The Puerto Rican salsa slamming out from speakers is deafening. The band is a nineSANTA CLARA REVIEW | 12

man squadron: trombones, piano, bass, congas, and three singers with rhythm instruments in hand. All around the band, salseros dance and spin in bright dresses, dark suits, shiny shoes. The ceiling is decorated with eastern tapestries. A chandelier hangs from the center. People walk around the dance floor with glasses of wine, fruity drinks, and Coronas. A dozen scents of aftershave and perfume mingle as they do outside the department stores Luis passes on the Promenade, but could never afford to shop in. Ruben stops in front of the bar, shakes hands with other spruced up guys. He orders a couple of Coronas, and hands one to Luis. Luis takes his wallet out, shouts through all the noise, “Cuánto?” “Don’t worry about it,” Ruben says, slapping Luis on the back. He lifts his Corona. They toast. Then Ruben grabs a girl and is swallowed up on the dance floor. A few minutes later, Ruben reappears with the pretty Mexican girl he’s been dancing with. “Luis, échale!” She and Luis squeeze through the crowd until they arrive at a spot close to the band. Luis leads her around in cross body leads, double turns, hammerlocks. He makes the girl look like a spinning flower in her pastel dress, and it is all she can do to follow his lead. He notices the smile on her face, other women who can’t take their eyes off him, and men who seem impressed. Toward the end of the night, a young woman wearing black spandex tights, a small turquoise T-shirt tied at the waist, and black highheeled dance shoes crosses the floor and holds out her hand. As they dance, Luis gazes at her pale features, her light blue eyes, her blond ponytail that keeps brushing his face. She asks what Luis does for a living. He tells her he’s a waiter at Yankee Doodles. “You’re the best dancer here,” she says, as the band finishes their set and the crowd applauds. They walk over to the bar together. “I buy you a drink?” Luis asks. “Sure.” Luis squeezes between a couple other Latinos, stands in front of the bar, and waits for the bartender’s attention. “A margarita,” she says into his ear. He orders her margarita and a Pacifico for himself. She tells Luis her name is Stephanie. “Luis,” he says. “Mucho gusto.” “Mucho gusto.” He asks if she speaks Spanish. “I minored in it when I got my BA. I’m studying business at USC


now. Te gusta Santa Monica?” “Claro que sí.” They go back and forth between Spanish and English. Luis notices she uses the word like the way Mexicans use the word este—as a crutch. When he points this out they both laugh. “You are, like, a very nice dancer,” he tells her. “Well, este, I took ballet lessons when I was younger. I had this ridiculous dream of becoming a prima ballerina at the San Francisco Ballet.” She smiles and takes a sip from her margarita. “My sister went on to dance at the Boston Ballet, but when I auditioned for all these bigger companies they said I was too tall.” She stands up straight. “Tu eres muy alta,” Luis says. “You are taller than me.” “Si,” she says. “Soy demasiada alta. So, being a demasiada-alta-dancer, I quit ballet and stayed on this coast, while my sister moved to the other. And that’s that!” “Pero bailas bien.” “Thank you. I’m like, at least a better salsa dancer than my sister. And she didn’t get into USC.” Stephanie asks where Luis lives. He tells her Santa Monica. A plump girl in a peach dress appears out of the crowd. She has dark hair and a complaining face. She puts her hand on Stephanie’s shoulder. “You ready to go?” she says. Stephanie asks her if she’s alright. “I got fucking stepped on—stabbed—by some chick’s high heel. And some Mexican was grinding on me earlier.” Stephanie introduces Luis. Sally nods curtly. Luis tells her it’s nice to meet her. “Luis is an amazing dancer,” Stephanie says. Sally glares around, and again asks Stephanie if she’s ready. Stephanie nods, then says to Luis, “So, este, can I give you my number?” “Like, of course.” Luis hesitates, feeling a pang of guilt as he glances past Stephanie at a slender, smiling, dark-skinned Mexican woman who reminds him of Rosalinda. Stephanie recaptures his attention and asks if he’s going to take out his phone. “I accidentally leave it at home,” he says, his third and final lie of the evening. Stephanie grabs a napkin, asks the bartender for a pen, and jots her number down. Sally tugs at Stephanie’s elbow. “Lets get the fuck out of here.” SANTA CLARA REVIEW | 14

*** Luis keeps the sweat-stained napkin with Stephanie’s number on it inside his suitcase, near the stash of money he’s saved up to bring back to Mexico. Along with the seventy dollars he sends Rosalinda each month, he’s managed to put aside a considerable amount of money for the house he plans to buy in Guadalajara. Every other week, a few days after Paco receives his bi-monthly paychecks, Paco asks if he can borrow fifty bucks to send home to Monterrey—“For my wife’s car payments,” one week, “For the baby,” another. Luis lies to him—he knows Paco’s family would never see the money. It would be spent around the corner at the liquor store. When Paco asks, Luis tells him he doesn’t have any cash. Paco grunts without looking up from the television set. Luis remembers that first week he moved into the apartment when Paco, on top of the three hundred dollars he took for first month’s rent, asked Luis if he could borrow four hundred more. Luis never saw the money again. He hides his eight thousand in cash below his socks and underwear. Luis waits a few days to call Stephanie from a landline in the apartment, playing it cool as Ruben had instructed. When she answers the phone, and Luis, in his best English, reminds her, “It’s me, the man from the Monsoon,” she pauses, then replies, “Este, I thought you’d forgotten about me.” At that moment, Luis is struck with an image of Rosalinda saying something similar in Spanish at a café in Zapopan the second time they’d met. But the memory is drowned out by Stephanie’s sweet, sing-song voice, showering Luis with attention. Eventually he works up the courage to ask her if she “wants to go out sometime,” a phrase he remembers Ruben using. Stephanie suggests dinner on Saturday night and returning to the Monsoon nightclub. She knows a great sushi place on the Promenade. Luis understands only half of what Stephanie says over the phone, but he remembers the words “sushi” and “Promenade,” and “Saturday night.” *** “Stephanie?” Ruben says, incredulous, sitting under an umbrella in the McDonald’s patio a few days later. Luis holds a tray filled with leftover Mexican food and a Baja Bud’s soft-drink cup. Ruben’s lips smack as he chews his double-bacon cheeseburger. “That blond chick you were dancing with? Her name was Stephanie?” Ruben asks. “Si.”


While Luis was at the bar talking with Stephanie, Ruben had left the Monsoon with the pretty Mexican girl, who it turns out he’s been dating. Luis had to get a ride home with one of Ruben’s friends. “Pues, felicidades,” Ruben says. “That girl was hot. I didn’t even know she gave you her number. And where did you learn how to dance? You gotta to teach me some moves, hermano.” Luis grins. “Si, te enseño.” “Dude, you could’ve had any girl in there. You were en fuego.” Ruben takes another bite of his cheeseburger. “Hey, listen,” he says, “I was thinking about it, and I’m sure you got some money saved up to take back to Rosalinda, this girlfriend in Mexico. You want to make some real money? Double or triple what you got? Let’s go to the casino. Ven conmigo.” Luis shakes his head. “Estoy bien.” “No worries, bro. If you change your mind let me know.” He tells Luis about going to Indian Wells Tuesday night and winning five hundred dollars. “Just think about coming with me next time, alright?” “Está bien,” Luis says. “And have a good time with Stephanie, hermano,” Ruben winks. *** On Saturday, Luis gets to work early and leaves early. He borrows another dress shirt from Paco, pilfers more aftershave from the bathroom cabinet, and slicks his hair back. Before leaving the apartment to catch a bus to Santa Monica, he kneels in front of his suitcase behind the couch. As Luis retrieves a wad of twenties from the bottom of his suitcase, Paco’s eyes are glued to the television set where his Chivas are winning 2-0. Luis counts sixty dollars and slips it into the pocket of his jeans. Then he pauses for a moment, remembering all of the hard-earned hours that he’d worked to save this money for Rosalinda—for them and for their life together. He feels guilty for pushing Rosalinda to the back of his mind—for filching money from their future. At the same time, he can’t forget Stephanie’s smile at the Monsoon, the way she squeezed his hand when they were dancing, and her teal eyes. He thinks about drinks for himself and Stephanie, about the cover he’ll have to pay for both of them at the Monsoon on top of dinner at the sushi place. He takes out forty more dollars, then buries the rest—along with his thoughts about Rosalinda—and zips up the suitcase. Paco rises, pounds the coffee table with his beer bottle, and berates one of his soccer players: “What the fuck are you doing, cabrón?”


*** “Are you serious?” Stephanie asks, as they scan their menus at the restaurant. “You’ve like, never had sushi? In your whole life?” Luis shrugs. The room is tall and modern, with snow-glass and light-wood paneling. Japanese men stand behind the sushi bar, slicing raw fish, while aloof waiters dressed in black zing around tables. “Alright,” Stephanie says. “So like, you should definitely try the salmon roll, and we can split a few things on the menu, and—tell you what—let me just choose a few things and we’ll share.” When their food comes it seems to annoy Stephanie that Luis is a failure with his chopsticks. She shows him how to hold them, how to dip the fish into soy sauce, and how to scrape the slightest bit of wasabi (“It’s spicy!”) off for each bite. “How is it?” Stephanie asks. “I can’t believe this is your first sushi! I mean, I guess they probably don’t have it in Mexico. But like, how long have you been here?” Luis is about to tell her one year, and that the sushi tastes a little like the ceviche his mother cooks, when he finds himself choking on some wasabi. He starts coughing. He reaches for his glass of water and knocks a cup of green tea clear across the table, hot liquid spilling onto Stephanie’s white dress. Her chair screeches as she stands. “Hijole,” Luis says. “No, no! It’s fine,” Stephanie says, glaring at her dress, her blond hair up in a bun. “It’s just tea. I’m fine.” A waiter brings her a towel, then comes back with a mop and wipes up the mess. Stephanie sits down and dabs her dress, looking disgruntled. Then she says to Luis, with a broad smile, “It’s nothing, no problem.” She glares at her dress again and loses the smile. They continue eating in silence, Luis trying to act normal using his chopsticks. Stephanie attempts to make him feel better by pointing out that her dress is drying with hardly any stain. “And I can get it out with baby-powder,” she tells him. “I always use baby powder.” Luis pays the bill while Stephanie is in the bathroom. Adding in the drinks Stephanie ordered, the tax, and the tip, the total comes to about sixty dollars—a lot more than he anticipated. When Stephanie returns she seems revived, her lipstick re-done and eyelashes touched up. “Luis, thank you for dinner,” she says. “It was your first sushi!”


Luis pays for their covers and three more drinks apiece at the Monsoon. He and Stephanie dance song after song, Stephanie getting drunk off her three mojitos. She kisses Luis on the cheek and becomes bolder with him on the dance floor, prompting Luis to become bolder with her, all of this eventually leading to one of those haphazard makeout sessions in the middle of the club (a moment that gives Luis a thrill that is more wonderful than anything he can remember, a thrill that makes him forget about Rosalinda). While Stephanie is in the bathroom again, Luis realizes he is out of cash. Two dollars left in his wallet. Stephanie reappears, grabs Luis by the hand, and leads him through the crowd. They amble out onto Third Street. She lets her thin blond hair down. Luis finds himself supporting her, catching her, like she is a child who’s just learned to walk. They pass a group of people entering the Monsoon, laughing and whispering and pointing at Stephanie. They are making fun of her, and, Luis fears, wondering what she’s doing with the Mexican janitor they saw at the food court this afternoon. He is suddenly worried that one of his co-workers may see him. They’re only half a block from his workplace. Luis leads her in the opposite direction of the food court. They make their way among dark department stores, towering palms, and the lurid auburn glow of street lamps. The sound of overflowing bars blares in the distance, but the end of Third Street is empty and mostly quiet. Stephanie stops and faces Luis. His hand is around her waist. She gazes at him with lazy eyes, fussy hair, her tiny mouth half open. She kisses him and Luis tastes mojito on her lips—peppermint and alcohol and lime. She asks him, “Where’s your car?” Her head droops down, then slowly rises. “I’ll leave my car in the parking garage. We can take yours and”—she hiccups—“to my place. You can give me a ride.” She says it as if it’s already decided. “Let’s go.” She stumbles out in front of him. The faint melody of Guns & Roses’ Sweet Child of Mine drifts from Baja Cantina down the street. She looks back at him. “What?” She smiles and saunters over. Puts her arms around his neck. “No tengo un carro,” Luis hears himself say. “No—tienes—un—” “I don’t have a car,” he says. Then quickly adds, “I mean, I have a car. It’s at the mechanic now. I took the bus tonight. Just tonight.” “Then—” She hiccups again. Luis peers down at their separate shadows on the paving stones of the Promenade. “Then I guess we’ll just take a taxi,” she says. “Well, like, I could drive your car.”


She doesn’t smile. “No,” she says. “You’ve been drinking. I mean, we both have.” She seems to have already forgotten asking Luis to drive her home in his car. He follows her past the end of the Promenade into the middle of an empty Wilshire Boulevard where she sways in her dress, her dance shoes clunking along. Her head drops as she moves past Luis, back toward the sidewalk. She shuffles along the curb, Luis close behind, until she finds the solid trunk of a ficus tree and paints it with her vomit. Stephanie’s head rests on Luis’s shoulder in the back of the taxi, his arm tucked around her waist. She is drowsy, her eyes half closed, her limbs still. A sour stench fills the cab. The cab driver cracks his window, but Luis smells only her perfume now, feels only her tiny head on his shoulder, thinks only about how he doesn’t want this night to end. She tells him she’s sorry she got so drunk, and like, puked on a tree. “There is no problem,” Luis says. She sighs. “My sister got made prima ballerina in the Boston Ballet three days ago. My parents are so fucking proud of her. I hate her. Are you there?” “Yes, I’m here.” “Anyway, thanks for sticking it out with me. I know I can be a real pain in the culo. I can’t kiss you anymore. My mouth is all vomity. I want to. I like you. At first I thought it was just because you were a good dancer. But you’re sweet. You listen to me.” The cab driver pulls up in front of Stephanie’s high-rise apartment. The meter reads 22.75 in crimson digits. Luis stares at the numbers, while the cab driver and Stephanie stare at him. “No cash,” he finally says, looking down at his scuffed cowboy boots. “Just use your card,” Stephanie says, with a wave of her hand. “I left it at home.” “It’s fine.” She rummages through her purse and finds a credit card, then pays the driver and gets out. Luis follows. “What are you doing?” she asks him on the sidewalk. “I—Yo—No sé lo qué hacer.” Luis doesn’t want to leave her. He doesn’t want this night to end. He imagines the long bus ride home, then Paco mumbling and snoring, and Luis spending another near sleepless night in that stuffy room. “You get in the cab and go home,” she says, “that’s what you do.” She takes his hand. “Listen. I had a great time tonight. But I’m vomity.”


She hiccups. “And hiccupy. And I just want to take a shower and brush my teeth and go to bed.” Luis nods. “Oh,” she says, rummaging through her purse again. “I think I might have some cash.” She finds three twenties and hands them to Luis. “For the cab ride.” Luis says he’ll pay her back. “Don’t worry about it. And thank you for a lovely evening. Can I kiss you on the cheek? With my vomit lips?” He smiles. “No me importa.” “Bueno.” She kisses him. “Buenas noches, Luis. Gracias por todo.” She turns and starts up the walkway. He watches her fumble around for her keys, swing into the building, say hi to the security guard behind his desk, then disappear. He gazes up at the twenty-story monolith. Patches of yellow light glare down at him. *** Luis phones Stephanie the next day and finds himself hanging on her every word. He is ecstatic when all of the words add up to her wanting to see him again. She apologizes for her drunkenness, her vomit lips. Then she thanks him warmly for being so patient. She tells him she’ll be busy this week because of a really big project at the office she’s interning at, but that she’ll be having dinner with some friends on Saturday night. She’d like to meet up with him at the Monsoon afterwards, and she’d love to go out with him on Sunday as well. Her last phrase repeats in Luis’s mind for the rest of the day, with a particular emphasis on the word love. *** Luis sees Ruben at the food court every afternoon, eating his burgers and slurping his large cups of Dr. Pepper. On Thursday, Luis is surprised to find him on the second floor patio eating a thick steak and finely cut vegetables inside Wolfgang Puck’s. “Jackpot, hermano!” Ruben says. “Two thousand dollars. I know how to play this shit. I had them all on the run. You should have seen it—my piles of blue chips all stacked up in front of me, all these old fogies looking worried, with their little red piles disappearing. I just waited really,” he says, cutting his steak. “Waited till I had the right hand, then bluffed the shit out of them.” “Felicidades,” Luis says, nodding, holding a garbage bag. “So,” Ruben says, “I have a proposition for you.” He wipes his


hands with a napkin, folds his arms. “Here’s the deal: You lend me eight hundred bucks and I pay you back nine hundred in a month. It’s like interest, see? Like a bond. Like when you give the government money and—” “No,” Luis says, thinking about Paco and the money Luis never saw again. “Whoa, I hear you loud and clear, man. Just trying to help you out. We could really make some money together.” He shrugs and tells Luis to think it over. Then Ruben asks, “So how’s that puta you went out with the other night?” “Oye, no digas groserías sobre—” “Whoa, calm down. Shit.” He laughs. “What, are you getting married? So how’d it go, man?” “Good.” “You hook up?” “We kissed. She—ella vomitó.” “She puked?” He shakes his head. “Another drunk white girl.” “No, no es así.” “Shit, ella te gustó mucho, huh? Well, just watch out,” Ruben says, tearing his steak apart. “These white girls come and go. I know you have this little Mexican girl waiting for you at home, no? Thinking about you night and day? Fiel. Muy fiel. Well, you won’t find a girl like that here, hermano. Less you got some lana.” *** On Friday afternoon, the day before Luis is supposed to see Stephanie at the Monsoon, he is mopping up a mess in front of the sushi kiosk when he spots a familiar figure near the counter. She is chubby and dressed in trendy attire. Even from the back—that dark hair, tight dress, plump figure—Luis thinks he recognizes Sally, Stephanie’s friend from the Monsoon. Before he can avoid her, she picks up her tray, throws a purse over her shoulder, and turns around. All of the smells Luis has grown accustomed to are obliterated by her apple fragrance. He stands—mouth agape, dressed in faded jeans and a stained white T-shirt, holding a mop he’d been using to clean up a spilled smoothie—face to face with Sally. She smirks—a smirk that Luis scrutinizes in the days to come. Did she recognize him? Or was it the smug look she might give any guy with a mop? She shoves her empty plate into the garbage and marches out of the food court in her dress, high heels clicking on the tiles like


a metronome, her sharp fragrance still hanging like a cloud in the air around Luis. *** For the rest of the week, Luis goes back and forth between the images and words that are stuck in his head: Stephanie telling him she’d “love” to go out with him on Sunday. The smirk on Sally’s face in front of the sushi kiosk. What Sally said when they first met—“…and some Mexican was grinding on me earlier.” Luis wonders if he is just some Mexican. He knows this is what Sally thinks, but does Stephanie think it, too? And if Stephanie doesn’t think it, will she come to think it if and when Sally tells her that Luis is really just some Mexican janitor at the food court? Despite his worries, Luis is hopeful. He gets butterflies in his stomach thinking about Stephanie and remembers that moment in the taxicab with his arm around her, her head resting on his shoulder. She said he listened to her; she said she liked him. *** Saturday arrives and Luis calls in sick. In the morning he makes a trip to a thrift store to purchase a suit and wingtips for twenty dollars. He hands the clothes over to a dry cleaner to have them washed and pressed. On his way home, he stops at the grocery store to buy some more Old Spice for the bathroom and is so giddy that when he passes the spirits section he picks up some gold tequila for Paco. Paco is grateful. He starts in on the tequila that evening, watching TV as Luis puts on his newly pressed suit, his aftershave and wingtips. Paco’s Chivas are losing 1-3. He sits on the couch drinking the tequila, looking sullen. Before leaving the apartment, Luis says to him, “Suerte, tío.” Paco just grunts. When Luis spots Stephanie across the dance floor that night, she offers a polite smile. Her eyes give her away. They are dull and pale, not the bright teal eyes that had been so attentive to him. A short glance across the dance floor, a slight smile—that is all. She dances with him once but keeps a cushion of space between them. Luis never says a word. He doesn’t even feel like dancing with other girls who ask him to. He hides his pain and leaves early. On the bus ride home, staring out the window at the dilapidated


buildings on Wilshire Boulevard, he tells himself that he should have seen it coming. The signs. Ruben telling him you have to have some lana to be with a girl like that. His father telling him he’d be nothing in los Estados Unidos. Him telling Stephanie all those lies. In his mind, Rosalinda appears, like a bright star he hasn’t noticed for a time, but is suddenly there in the sky. Part of him feels guilty, another part grateful she’s so far away. When Luis returns to the apartment around midnight, he is surprised to see Paco’s messy piles of work clothes, Paco’s small CD player, Paco’s workbag and tools, all gone. There are a few empty beer bottles and cigarette packs lying on the mattress and the coffee table. Then Luis sees the top of his suitcase flapped open against the wall. Most of his T-shirts and socks and underwear lie scattered on the floor. He hustles over and rummages through his clothes, unzips every small pocket in the suitcase, hoping against what he already knows to be true. He stands quietly next to the TV set, teeth clenched, hands shaking. He sits down on the mattress and holds his head in his hands. Closing his eyes, he imagines Paco behind the wheel of his old Superbee, racing up the 10, or the 405, or maybe the 101, with the bottle of gold tequila between his legs and nine thousand dollars on the passenger seat. *** In the coming weeks, Luis talks to Rosalinda on the phone now and then. He tries to convince her things are going smoothly. His mother and father call. He tells them the same lies. His parents tell him what they’ve discovered about Paco—he blew all his money in Las Vegas, then came crawling back to Monterrey, where it turned out his wife and children were living with another man. No one knows where Paco is these days. For a month or so, Luis tries to save his cash again. He works overtime most days and decides not to send Rosalinda money for a while, in order to save, then eventually forgets about sending her money altogether. Ruben disappears. Clearing a table outside McDonald’s one day, Luis overhears some waiters from Yankee agreeing that it was bound to happen. The waiters laugh and talk about how Ruben had always lied and bragged about his winnings. How Ruben had asked to borrow hundreds of dollars from everyone and their mother. How eventually he lost everything he had at the casino and ended up back with his abuelitos in Tijuana. The months crawl by. Luis dreads calling Rosalinda and his par-


ents, so he rarely does. He finds it difficult and tedious saving money. He goes out salsa dancing, discovers some new clubs, impresses a lot of girls, buys them drinks. He realizes that his Mexican accent and everything that had gotten in the way with Stephanie probably makes it all futile, but he keeps going anyway, burning through his savings until he is close to broke. In a desperate attempt to make more money, Luis starts gambling at Indian Wells on his off-days. He enjoys the blackjack tables. He loses sometimes and wins sometimes but is hooked on the idea of hitting it big one day. He settles into the couch with his Pacificos after coming home from work or the casino. Eventually he stumbles over to the mattress, closes his eyes, and dreams of Mexico.



A found poem, pieced together entirely with words from Icelandic band Of Monsters and Men’s second album, Beneath the Skin (2015). you are sailing from Darker Days but the air is silk and you’re lost in stars that lose their shape in skies that see through you want to undo this storm hide in your clear veins your floating comfort I run from clouds of Silver ropes I feel it in my sleep a vicious vengeful sea hold me down swallow my breath feel the ocean suffer the sea see the salt dance the sound and the shape of it I need nothing in the color Blue I feed the cannibal sailing control


breathe in cough up my lungs burning breathing heavily pitch Black sand and charcoal-coloured thighs see myself through a swarm of silhouettes without teeth Black water color my spine my body the vicious one but I caught you with all my eyes closed so you want to take off my face peel away Gems and Gold colour me Clear stones fear no storm no neon lake within no perfectly strange skin what are you waiting for? lift up your body Black breath Black discolor bleed and blend and lose what is Starlit and








IGNATIAN CONTEMPLATION SERIES #1-15 CIARAN FREEMAN printer toner, oil pastel, drywall tape and blue print paper on watercolor paper




For Lily I have a litany of names for the color of your hair at all hours of sunshine, but you like “cherry-sweet” the best. One evening in your hometown, you had me parallel park your car because the curb had you in checkmate, and when I got into the driver’s side of your old Corolla (Shelle, you call her), I jammed my knees on the dash and nearly knocked the wind out of myself on the steering wheel. You’re so short. You insisted I’m so tall. Still, we found a way to hold each other in an orange-lit parking lot, humid, sundresses, clinging. I hooked my neck over your shoulder and we danced standing still. I opened your cherry soda— Cheerwine, twist-off glass bottle— we don’t have that up North. I called it pop and you snorted. We drank our drinks, my pop, your soda, in that parking lot and laughed out the windows. It was late, then. You drove me home the long way, took me through a narrow tunnel made of trees and I trusted you, though it was foggy and dark and you drove fast and it was probably a private drive. You took me past smoky sunset mountains, past a civil war house and told me about the bullets in the yard and the metal-detector men, and about your mom’s old place just down the road a ways, brown brick, told me what a barn swing was, and I couldn’t believe all this was one summer night. You dropped me off and I wanted to cry, I think. Instead I smiled and I meant every tooth of it.



When I want to please my father, I cook butternut squash. Peel and boil, broth and curry, mash the soft squash against the sides of the silver pot that for two decades has managed magic: solids to liquids, disparate to inextricably together. When I want to comfort my mother, I bake fudgey cake from a tattered recipe that calls for cups of chocolate chips, pecan halves, cocoa powder. The glaze slips down the sides but solidifies when cool. My mother shaves off slivers, licks the knife clean. When I want to feed my sister, it’s white bean soup: great northern, grown in the Midwest, just like we were, where one summer she painted the picket fence, and I cooked us two frozen dinners: salisbury steaks, gravy, potatoes, apple pie. Cicadas rattled songs from trees after seventeen years. The sun hung onto the early evening sky, the light of youth and never enough. We ate sitting cross-legged on the grass, scraping the bottom of our tin trays. For my husband, it’s red lentils with cayenne pepper, a squeeze of lime, chopped cilantro. When we’ve run out of words, I add a dollop of sour cream and it melts into the dish without needing answers. When he’s tired, when he’s down, I bake a yogurt custard pie with berries, a crust crushed from ginger snaps and strawberry jam. It’s a dessert of opposites: baked then chilled, sweet yet tart, the outside cracked, the inside soft.


When I miss the once, the used to be, I soak black beans overnight as stars slip across the Southern sky. In the morning, I add bay leaves, more than necessary. My mother used to make it look so easy: chopped onions, minced garlic, cumin and coriander and a long boil. It is simple but takes some time. Toward the end, I shred tortillas, crack open eggs and drop them in, wait until the yolks cloud over, a pan of yellow eyes going blind.



JOHN GIFFORD nonfiction

Rule 1: For each shutter release, a photo Rule 2: For each photo, a conversation Rule 3: For each conversation, a new friend Rounding the corner, I spot them: two old men perched on the steps of a decaying edificio, one of Havana’s many grand old buildings, which at this hour is resplendent in its advanced age and character. The soft, early morning light is like a beauty cream, concealing the cracks in her façade, filling the chinks in her slowly crumbling foundation, and bathing her fading, pastel-colored walls in a warm glow. Half an hour from now, the rising tropical sun will render it a different building altogether and force the viejos into the shade, or perhaps indoors. The scent of freshly baked bread wafts through the streets, while an unseen rooster crows from somewhere nearby, echoing the morning call to rise and shine. The men pause their conversation and gaze at our small group as we approach. Jorge, our Cuban guide, asks if it’s all right to take their photo, and they give us the thumbs-up. As we raise our cameras, focus our lenses, and click away, voices erupt from behind us. Four teenagers are sitting on the steps of another slowly crumbling building across the street. “Charge them a peso!” one of the boys shouts. The men ignore them and go back to their conversation. We thank them and begin to move down the street when one of the men calls out. “Why us?” he asks. “What is so special about us?” He’s not being sarcastic. He’s simply curious. This part of Havana doesn’t see many tourists. “We’re looking for certain lighting conditions,” Jorge says. “Where you’re sitting, the sunlight is falling perfectly and we wanted to get a shot before it changes.” The man nods and we head off down the street. When we reach the end of the block, I notice a woman on the opposite corner sweeping mop water out of her front door and onto the sidewalk. Holly, one of the other photographers in our group, notices too and she raises her camera. “No,” Jorge says. “Don’t steal the picture. You SANTA CLARA REVIEW | 34

have to talk to her. Go over there and ask, and then get the photo.” Though Havana is easily the most photogenic city I’ve visited, I’m learning that the opportunity to talk with Cubans is the most rewarding part of this experience. We watch as Holly crosses the street and approaches the woman. When she lifts the camera to her eye a moment later, the woman leaning on her broom, posing, a small cheer erupts within our group. “That’s how you do it,” Jorge says. “Most people are happy to allow you to take their picture, but you should ask first.” I’m elated at the opportunity to be in Cuba. I’ve waited all my adult life to travel to this once-forbidden island, and now that I’m here I find myself pausing to wonder if I’m not dreaming. It really is like stepping back in time. Whether it’s the slower pace of life, or the sense of community I feel on the streets, it seems I’ve been transported back to the 1950s. And for someone who always believed he was born seventy years too late, this is exhilarating. But I wonder how much longer this unique culture can persist, especially with more and more travelers visiting the city each year. The New York Times reports that the island welcomed 3.5 million visitors in 2015, and the number of Americans who traveled here during this same period jumped seventy-seven percent over the previous year.1 How much longer until residents tire of seeing visitors crowding their streets, cameras in hand, snapping photos? I’ve discussed the issue with many Cubans who’ve told me that they welcome the opportunity to share their city with American travelers, and to learn more about our country. Yet, they also mention an extreme reluctance to see their culture diluted by tourism and by the kind of wholesale and generic development that has degraded so much of the American landscape. This view is certainly understandable and I share their concern. On the other hand, tourism is also giving many of us something we’ve dreamt about for years: the opportunity to get to know our Cuban neighbors. For now, Cuba is still Cuba, as I hope it always will be. There is no Disney theme park here. No drive-through lanes or fast-food restaurants. As I walk the streets of Havana, I savor this reality while considering the possibilities of everything around me: the city’s tropical landscape…its aging but elegant and eclectic blend of Art Deco and colonial architecture…a woman buying limes from a sidewalk vendor…three men laughing around a banana stall…the panerero on his morning rounds, singing his way through the streets, offering, for one-fifth of a peso—a mere twenty

11 https://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/25/world/americas/amerihttps://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/25/world/americas/americans-rush-to-cuba-overloading-services.html cans-rush-to-cuba-overloading-services.html


centavos—bread, butter, cheese, freshly made, as a small dog shadows his cart, howling in accompaniment. Though it’s still early, though the streets are still shaded and cool, some of the locals waiting for their morning bread seem to relish the opportunity to visit with one another. There is a certain camaraderie among Cubans that I seldom detect in the fiercely independent United States, where so much of our lives are spent isolated in homes and offices and automobiles, and plugged into technological worlds in which many of us interact, at best, only digitally. There is a certain patience, compassion, and joie de vivre, despite, or perhaps because of, the hardships they’ve survived together. People often go out of their way to greet one another, first verbally, and then with clasping hands and smiles. And everyone seems to enjoy interacting with friends, family, or neighbors out in the streets. I see it in the mornings at coffee stands and panaderias. I see it in plazas and parks in the afternoons, where children play soccer and men talk baseball. And I see it on the sidewalks every evening: people visiting and laughing with one another. Everywhere I go, I see and feel community out in the open air. I love this. I’m also realizing how much I love Cuban coffee, which is delicious. I appreciate the way in which it’s served here on the Caribbean’s


I’m also realizing how much I love Cuban coffee, which is delicious. I appreciate the way in which it’s served here on the Caribbean’s largest island: not out of a paper cup, but in the requisite demi mug, often with saucer, and with plenty of sugar and conversation. In Cuba, coffee is important enough that people stop what they’re doing to enjoy it. And now that residents are permitted to own small businesses, many serve café right out of their homes. As you walk the streets of Havana early of a morning, you see people gathered in the warm glow of open doorways, sipping coffee and chatting, enjoying the feel of the city waking up, the low light, the tranquil, dusty hush of the old, cobbled avenues, savoring one of life’s sweet moments. At a rural fishing village a few days earlier, I happened upon two men who were sorting bait and preparing their tackle not far from the edge of the sea where they’d spent lifetimes plying their trade, fishing for livelihoods for their families and country. I had only barely said hello when one of the men took up a thermos and metal can, and offered me coffee—sweet, full-bodied Cuban coffee. In enjoying this wonderful beverage, and in talking with the men about their work, I realized I had always dreamt of exactly this scenario. These men made me feel welcome. They talked with me, answered my questions, and treated me like a fellow Cuban even, and I only hope that my enthusiasm for their work, their customs, their country, was apparent, for the experience was something I treasured. But here I am in Havana two days later, exploring the streets with a camera in hand. Just up ahead, a young boy is walking to school,



surrounded by men and women on their way to work, a police officer standing on the corner, and a stray dog or two. The boy seems consumed with his own sleepy thoughts. If only I could get ahead of him on the street, perhaps I could take his photo. Instead, I remove my backpack and drop the camera inside, telling myself I’ve been in Cuba a long time and I’ve taken more than enough pictures. Then I reach into another pocket and remove a new baseball, which I offer to the boy. First, confusion, and then surprise wash over his young face. For you, I say. A gift. Smiling, he takes the ball. Muchas gracias, he says, his small fingers finding the laces, feeling serendipity’s tight stitching. It’s only a baseball. But after decades of divisive government rhetoric and a crippling embargo, which seems to have benefitted no one, I tell myself it’s these simple but kind gestures, and the benevolent spirit they suggest, that count. Whether we find our commonalities in fishing, coffee, baseball, or something else is not as important as the need to find them in the first place, and now is the best opportunity we’ve had in half a century for doing so. I resolve to make the most of it, and at the next coffee stand I sidle up to a group of locals and say good morning.




Peter Parker came to me in a dream the other day, but it wasn’t the clean-cut Tobey Maguire-looking one and I wasn’t a redheaded Kirsten Dunst caught in the rain. It was the Andrew Garfield average-boy dreamboat Parker with the brown wispy hair that sits as if he’s standing above an air vent and a blonde Gwen Stacy and her arm slung around his neck, but Gwen Stacy wasn’t being played by Emma Stone and I wasn’t Emma Stone and both Gwen and Peter were dressed like they were in their punk rock phase of life, and it was all rather confusing, seeing them there. They were sitting in my living room. They were sitting on my corduroy couch smoking cigarettes and ashing into the glass ashtray on the coffee table. It’s shaped like a heart (the ashtray, not the coffee table), if that at all matters. I feel like it does matter; after all, Peter Parker was the love of my life, and there he was wearing this blonde chick like a scarf and smoking cigarettes. And then they started smoking the same cigarette and I knew it was all over. Peter Parker hadn’t come to tell me he loved me but to show me how he loved someone else. He’d hold the cigarette up to her mouth and she’d lean in, and I saw the look on her face. Her eyes were closed, her face quiet and smug like a smudge on a windowpane. She found someone who would save her and from the greatest evil of all – that feeling of falling with only the ground beneath you.




to tell me her husband was once unfaithful. Mouth sutured shut, I think of my marriage. How sometimes we’re upside down, held by our ankles, loose change falling from our pockets. Quarters, dimes dint like rain on a metal roof. Then just like that, we’re righted, pockets jangling. She bleeds on about her children. I see them tall and wooden—soldiers standing sentinel by the fire as less-crafted brothers burn. My ears perk at sex. Sex with her husband she is saying, how it’s better post affair. She wonders (biting her lower lip, blood disappearing, reappearing) if he learned something new from the other woman. I see her husband down on his knees between mine. My mouth stitched into silence. She pauses to paint her sliced mouth blood red. I pull the thread from mine.



It’s not that I want to—and it’s not that I know I will—it just tastes so good on my tongue and the thought of it cradles my heart. It is sweet, scary, and a little salty, but I want to die there. Right there. Do you see it? Not today though, not even any time soon, maybe in fifty-four years. I hope I don’t see it coming. I hope it happens like burning my finger on the stove. If I move my finger fast enough, the energy transfer is too small to notice. The involuntary reflex doesn’t allow me to feel pain. That is, until the remaining energy simmers the skin and pain crawls to the surface. But when I die, it will be like when I pull away, but there will be no time for the energy to surface. Hunter once said he wanted to die late, in love, a little drunk. I fell in love with that and held those words in a fist since I’ve known them. Yet, opening my hand now, they seem to have slipped my fingers. I want to die and not know I died. I want to be straddling my Ducati Monster 796 singled-sided swing arm through turn five at NCBike. I want it to happen there, and only there. But—remember—I don’t want to know it happened. * The wind will hold my body against the tank (I learned much earlier I have to tuck when I go 110 down the straight. They said to me, speed clearly doesn’t scare you. The first time, it did, I just did it anyway). The speed will allow the wind to shelter me, and I will be safe there. The turn will be blind from the long grass covering the bend in the road. That road will beat from the burning rubber of the tires, radiating its heat into my leather suit. The additional speed will be necessary to counter the burn. The long grass will sing to me as I brush it with a knee digging into the pavement. The shadows will dance on the Monster and will accompany me into turn six. That grass will be as deceiving as it always is, hiding the gaping holes and ruts that will consume me, if I choose that path. Come and play, they will say. I may listen. I may not. I won’t know. The sun will follow me around turn five, blanketing me with a SANTA CLARA REVIEW | 42

small cloud, as if an umbrella. Its light will send additional heat into the pavement, which will make me aware of the lava ground. The sun will flirt with the grass and long for my skin, yet allow me shadow under that single cloud. The sun will be surprised when it happens. It will be deceived, just as I will. It will shine a lovely beam, as if to tell me nothing is going to happen—because of course, I think nothing is going to happen. I will be covered in a grey leather bodysuit, zipped into the crevice of my neck. My Arai helmet will be tinted. My boots will be white. Everything that will have once saved me will be sound asleep when it happens. The roar of my motor will dim the rest of the track. The vibrations of the handle bars will spark an unnecessary pump of epinephrine into my veins. Though my heart will race, I will be tranquil, leaning my body off the seat of the bike, and stretching my face across the pavement. When I die, it will be at NCBike in turn five. Turn five only because in that one you are able to lean the bike low enough to kiss the earth and stay for seven seconds. In turn five, I will have just enough time to lean off the bike a little more than I’ve ever. There, I will ask it how it has been, whisper my secrets. The tremors of the pavement will answer. Turn five is not a quick turn, not abrupt. It is the long graceful sweep of a turn. A turn that will let me play with the laws of physics, allow me just enough time to extend my comfort zone. The bikes behind me will be too far to care. They will call out in multiple pitches, telling me to wait for them. I won’t, because in time, I will think we’ll be together soon enough. The track will be my blank slate, and I’ll pin the throttle until my wrist aches. When I die, I hope it’s unexpected. It will not be a crash or a run off the road. It will not be a high side, where my bike will eject me from it. No, instead it will be something subtle. It will be something like a kiss goodbye in the midst of turn five. My body will just turn off. And in turn five, it will look like a low side and the bike will slide out from underneath me and get lost in the tall grass. My body will slide to the beginning of turn six, I won’t move. It will be as if I were sleeping on the burning pavement, curled up against a wonderful dream. Others will not hear it. The roar of the surrounding motors will be too dense to notice. People will cry and not understand how I will never stand up, it was just a low side, they’ll think. * But that is where I want to die. I want it to be unextraordi-


nary and quiet. I want it to be like a love affair, silent and mysterious. Because what if where we are when we die, is the memory we live over and over again? What if those last ten second is the continuous loop of the afterlife? I want it to be there in turn five at NCBike. I want to be on my Ducati Monster 796 single-sided swing arm—toying with the pavement as it longs to pull me in for the rest of my life. And when I go down, I will have already passed, so that last ten seconds will be and be and be.




[HOLY SPIRIT] Is that you drifting or me? She asked me if I feel awake or like I am dreaming most often I say I am not sure. I know very little. The holiest moments seem to be dreams. But it is they I want most to be real. I want most. [SCRIPTURE] I swear by the heavens and the poorly translated hell I’m not sure I believe in I will get there one day and I will be wrong and you will be wrong and we will all be just fine. God whispered to me it’s okay not to know. God shouted it’s not okay not to love. [BEDTIME PRAYER] It is most often less than sweet. Pre-dreaming licked by tea-water tears and lots of why. The cup still brims over with Life. He adds two cubes of sugar. [WORSHIP] Light criss-crosses. On the dark side of my eyelids sits the other side of the fence, green redeemed. Sometimes thoughts like bits off a mountain break, turned folly. Unsteady, avalanche-prone, flying as the rise and fall of a soul well-spent.


[HALLELUJAH] My hand cannot help but reach, tenderly you take Yourself upon it and I am thoroughly convinced. Enoughness stands delicately on the tip of my tongue. [CHRIST] Do you laugh when people call your name after stubbing a toe? Greater love, You hang upon my heart. The Incomprehensible sought to heal and feel everything the world has ever felt done heard twisted, just to know. A God with humanity. My finger grazes my wrist. Love has no one greater than this. [THE LIBRARY] Holds just as many Bibles and contains moments sometimes holier than church. Involves dancing in bathroom stalls. Late-night mirror crawls into Saving Grace eyes. Intimations. [CHURCH] Safety did not pronounce your name until she clarified that the definition of faith welcomes questions. The cup of life brims with them. Safety becomes the definition of family. [EYES] The presence has been piercing and warm. Not without great sanctity have these doorways been crafted. I walk through captivated. Someone Otherworldly lives there. Enlightenment of the eyes appears much fuller than the mind.


[TREES] Know You in a rooted way into which I must water myself. They dig deep, they reach higher than eyes can climb. I know it’s more than sunny up there. Knowing light takes both the earth and the sky. [HEART] Keep careful watch of your beatings, there is a God stitched into your sinews. Hum gentle like a Lamb, feel tiger-deep. Love your imperfect love, it’s human enough. [LOVE] If it becomes about anything else run. If there’s one law you don’t break this. Give what you can, take what you know. A million untruths will teach you less. You’re unsure, but with this you can rest. [FATHER] I wish I pray I understood. But let it go, and bang-bang that which makes sense not makes the earth spin round. Whispers my soul into being, be still. You and I are a-dwellingplace. Peace ricochets.


[DEATH] Fear not, my history pleads. I’ve never heeded enemy requests to wring my hands, I’ve run wholeheartedly to cross the bellowing future. Don’t you know a creation so vivid could never really die? I am quiet, quite alright. The stop needn’t be kind. [HOPELESSNESS] Is not an option in this heart-of-mine, heart-of-Yours place. The devil’s attempts at friendship, scandalously I repeat no, thank you. You’re too late for me. The darkness is never on time with a world-clock set to the Awoken gasp of unshroudable light. Three days for eternal sunrise. [AMEN] That I might mean so be it. That I might be convinced. Faithfulness needs eternal convincing. Today I feel again That I will be filled with love forever. My hand cannot help but reach yes, thank you.














I stand on that stump in the middle of the ring of stones someone laid out years ago for just such an occasion. I touch my finger to the rushing water to find out for my -self if the stories are true. Spoilers: they are. Everything we’ve ever been told about water is real. I’d stay away if I were you. When you touch my arm longer than One Heterosexual Second does that mean you’re into me? Or are you just secure in your masculinity enough to play with my feelings? I’ve lost the tongue of touching. What does it mean when a boy grabs your arm, or drags your hip next to his? Forgive him; he knows not what he does to me when he puts his fingers in my hair and tosses starlight at my eyes. I have no time for fragile masculinity, Frank. I need a good man who will hold me like he means it, and I can’t keep relying on you as my fallback. Sunday afternoon, I read your poems to a waterfall crashing through a sewer grate into a pool of murky brown water. Up the banks behind me, a mother and her dog walk two kids along the trail, yelling about dragonflies in the mist. I’ve never seen a dragonfly soar in the mist but, God, it must be special. The little vessel of hope flits above the still water, reaching high enough on glassy wings it may as well be a real dragon, roaring and fire and everything. Like an angel signifying terrible change about to come to the world, it dances over the morning waves a lonely light, forgotten.




Tucked in the corner of my backyard is a small, spiny trunk, clothed in pink and white blossoms, and adorned with bountiful flowers. The roots disappear like snakes, writhing downward into a blanket of petals at the foot of the tree, covering the same hard ground on which my brothers and I knelt when we planted it years ago. We had planted it on a Tuesday, and I had watched in silence as my brothers’ gentle hands had packed thick soil around its trunk, laying a small bundle of lilies at its base. My older brother, Owen, towered over us from behind, shifting and spreading the rest of the sodden dirt back and forth around the tree. He wiped his furrowed brows with shaking palms, raw from his tight grip of the shovel, and paused every so often, pursing his lips to pull a drag from the crumpled cigarette he pinched between dirty fingernails. He wasn’t allowed to smoke, but no one had said anything that day. It was this same Tuesday that I had heard my dad’s muffled crying from outside the bathroom door, for the first and only time I ever would. When the door swung open, he had already rinsed his briny tears down the drain, and wiped his mottled cheeks dry with the soft, white shaving towel he used every morning. He pushed swiftly by me without a word and left for work after getting dressed. It was this same Tuesday that our neighbors started acting weird -- staring at us with sorry eyes every time they saw us at the bus stop and leaving flowers on our doorstep because it was too awkward to deliver them in person. My best friend Paige (who lived across the street),stopped coming over to play and the boys from the end of the road (who were always hanging out in our backyard), never used our trampoline again. It was this same Tuesday that our relatives, whom we never see, started showing up -aunts and uncles that were always too busy with work to join us for Thanksgiving or were annually sick for Christmas. My mom had rolled


her puffy, bloodshot eyes as she welcomed them into our living room. We sat in silence, shifting uncomfortably in our seats and glancing unceremoniously around the room, trying to avoid eye contact. Uncle Rob, who I’d met once at a dinner a few years back, clasped his sweaty palms nervously in his lap and wouldn’t stop shuffling his feet against our wooden floor. I felt bad for him. It was this same Tuesday that I had found a half empty bottle of rum in our garage, discarded behind the metal shovel that I had gone to look for, and stained with the same burgundy lipstick I used to steal from my mom’s bathroom drawer. I had taken the bottle outside and given it a good whiff, slowly inhaling its bitter stench, before pouring the rest onto the lawn. I watched it soak and bubble into the dirt, drowning the tiny black ants and that filed through the grass, and poisoning the ground beneath them. I never told anyone about that. It was also this same Tuesday that my older brother, Myles, had disappeared‒ gone with the sirens, anxious voices, and those useless defibrillators. I don’t really remember him anymore -- I’ve tried hard to, but forcing old pictures into memories is just a mind game. I do, however, recognize that small, spiny tree in our backyard. His bark, wounded from years of roughhousing and making trouble with us, had softened against the harsh weather the past winter had brought; but his little branches still reached up towards the open sky, just as my older brother had done to my mom when he was a boy. I know every crevice and crack on that tree, all thirteen of his branches, and those hundreds of small, papery flowers that stick to his limbs like bunches of cotton candy. When I drag my fingers over his rough bark, feeling the blistering skin of the trunk come loose beneath the touch of my hand, I can sometimes find my brother again, diffused in the sweet scent of cherry blossoms -- pink, white, and bountiful.



MEGAN G. NEWCOMER nonfiction

String Theory: Eight Self-Portraits in Mixed Media Megan was born bleach blonde with lime eyes. Her features were not that of her father’s, and he asked if she was his. Her mother pleaded, of course she’s yours. And she grew up this way. In those odd moments between time, like when she would brush her teeth, her father would look at her and his eyebrows would furrow skeptical of his own daughter. When she was nine, she spoke to her father, and he noticed a slight cleft chin, as if a ghost were pushing its thumb against her face. He yelled at her mother that night, cleft chins are genetic, neither of them had one. Megan woke up on her thirteenth birthday to a fight below her. She turtled herself at the edge of the stairwell and was waiting for her moment to appear. She waited so long that she decided to walk down stairs and hoped her appearance would simmer the tension that threatened the walls. Go back upstairs, they said to her. And what was she to do? She was finally a teenager, does this mean she could, or even should, argue back? She didn’t. She waited on her bed, until the door slammed and seconds later her mother came running up the stairs and climbed into bed with her. But I love him, her mother said to her. Megan decided to bake herself a cake, maybe this would get her mother’s mind off of things. It was strawberry, with vanilla icing. Normally she prefers chocolate with vanilla icing, but this year she wanted to evolve. Her father walked in with a march that shook the house. He saw Megan mixing the batter with the little might she had. She looked at him stunned, met his gaze and then got right back to work. I’m sorry, he said to her from a distance. Megan didn’t answer, instead one tear swam down her left cheek and dove into the batter—she mixed it in as if it was never there. Her father stepped forward and asked why strawberry? She didn’t answer. Her father left through the garage.


Perhaps Megan dropped the batter on the floor and ran to her father. She would wrap her little arms around him as if to strap him to the house, maybe it would make him stay. He would pull her arms off of him, go to his closet, pack a bag and leave once more.

The broken family lasted one day or so. Her father began fixing up the house, to get ready to sell, he said. But her mother cried, she fought, and she fucking fought hard. The next morning the family sat together and had a recovery meal at IHOP. The pancakes were much sweeter than the strawberry cake. Megan’s mother asked if she would like to celebrate her birthday the following day.

Megan would move in with her mother to a little two bedroom townhouse. Her brother would be there twice a week and they would have to share a room, the way fish did in a tank. When she started high school, she’d sneak out of her window onto the roof, and shimmy down the adjacent tree. She would grow calluses on her palms until her hands became indistinguishable from her brothers.

Megan’s idea of romance was built from years of Disney and Nicholas Sparks. She knew nothing more than the fairytales that the media fed her. She felt a disconnect between those and her parents, but she couldn’t help but search for something interesting. Perhaps someone interesting—as she would say now: a back-flipping, skydiving, exploding motherfucker. As a high schooler, Joshua was this.

Megan would no longer believed in romance. She would believe in a false sense of hope that creates a temporary euphoric feeling— called an orgasm. She would learn this too early in life. High school would teach her how to smoke a cigarette and her breath would taste of burnt rubber. She’d like to hide it’s bitterness with spearmint gum.

Joshua was the pisser in the fountain, the surfer on the treadmill, and the kidnapper of freshmen on the lacrosse team. And to him, Megan was a back-flipping, skydiving, exploding motherfucker. She was the biker chick riding a Ninja 250 into school, a 5:1 setter on the volleyball team, and a mysterious art freak. Yeah, they were both each other’s first kisses in middle school and some shit like that, but high school was something different. They were adults, to a degree, and knew exactly what they were get-

She would meet Jeremy on the swings behind the school. They would both be out for a cigarette break. But after this cigarette break, Megan would never buy cigarettes again. Jeremy would always have one in hand, ready to light before she even got to sit down next to him. Jeremy would be less than perfect but more than dead. He just would be. Megan would be the only female who had attracted him. She would be masculine in a sense, and he’d appreciate the Chuck Taylors, and ripped jeans. He’d like the way


ting themselves into—nothing good of course. It would be a terrible break up, they both knew this—but they decided to risk everything for a brief period of euphoria.

they sagged over her hips and she wouldn’t mind having to pull them up every four minutes. Megan would spend her nights on this swing set applying mathematic formulas to different Calculus equations. She wouldn’t leave until the sun dimmed away, and Jeremy had to go to dinner.

Megan decided she wanted to rent a hut on the beach and live out of it as long as she could with Josh. She wouldn’t go to college, instead they would live on the outskirts of town and be madly in love with the simplicity of their life. They would contemplate changes in society. They wanted everyone to live as they do. But Megan’s mother and father applied to college for her. She said no, but that didn’t even leave a dent in their minds. Instead, she filled out Josh’s application so wherever she went, he could go too.

She would want to go to MIT. Megan could only see herself as an engineering student at one of the best schools. She would get in, but wouldn’t be able to afford it. Instead, she’d take a few classes at the local community college, for a degree in math. Not engineering, not any extraordinary science, but math. Jeremy would meet her for lunch on Wednesdays during his off day. Jeremy would work as a mechanic and Megan would find this attractive. Jeremy would never be a person to date, but a friend throughout the time when life just wouldn’t go her way.

Megan got into Towson, UMBC, Salisbury, Frostburg, UNC Wilmington, but not Brown. She decided UMBC because her best friend got into UMBC and her brother went there. Josh got into UMBC and Salisbury, his GPA was a 1.8 but his SAT was a 2100. One plus one seemed like four, and she thought this was the answer to her life, four. It has to be right.


Megan’s brother would get his girlfriend pregnant and move into their mother’s house. Megan would be in college and have a fulltime job, so they’d ask her to move out. They would say you can support yourself, he can’t. She would decide to move to Salisbury and live by the beach. It would be cheaper too

Two days before the mandatory acceptance had to be done, Megan found out UMBC didn’t have a visual arts program. She picked Salisbury because it was by the beach. She crawled into the hammock with Josh and whispered of the beach and their hut. Josh changed his decision to Salisbury. In the next chapter of their lives, they lived only two floors away from each other. But one semester in, they had fights every three nights. He was unhappy with how seriously she took college and she was unhappy with

Maybe Megan would go to UMBC and Josh would follow. Megan and her best friend would become seeds in the wind and Josh would get lost in the madness. Eventually neither of them would know whether to smile or say hi when they passed each other in the cafeteria. To make it all worse, the cafeteria would be shit. UMBC was a big parking lot. Megan would meet the Poplar boys upon her first day and this would be the last that she would ever see Josh. He would start selling cocaine and get lost in the scene.

Perhaps Jeremy and Megan would move in together. They would think this would be more economical than them living apart, and since neither could leave the other, it would make sense. She would not be in love with Jeremy but she would be comfortable. Comfortable enough to take her clothes off and sleep with him a few nights a week. Next thing she would know, he would introduce her to his friends as his girlfriend. This would make her tongue press against her cheek. She’d wonder when the sky turned purple.

She would find out on

Jeremy would propose too

She would become sickly skinny, eating only a cup of plain oatmeal in the morning, and canned soup in the evening. Sometimes she would treat herself to apples for lunch if she had enough money. Perhaps her life would suck, but she would be making it on her own and she wouldn’t give a shit what other people thought of her choices because she would finally feel successful. She wouldn’t need a damn person to take care of her. She would do it all on her own. She would graduate Wicomico Community


how much he left her. Eventually she would see him in the elevator, high as a kite. And like a twig falling from the sky, she felt the impact and snapped. She fucking broke. Josh begged her to talk to him to meet him at the room, but she took a step out of the elevator and said I love you, for the first time. Then I think we are done. Megan didn’t understand this kind of pain. She was not a girl of tears, she was a stone face. She went into the Science Building and cried until she could figure her life out. An hour later she decided the next three years of her

Facebook, two years later that Josh would die of an overdose and no one would tell her what he was on. She would cry unexpectedly, like when she was getting a coffee at Starbucks, or turning a paper into her teacher. Josh’s ghost would forever follow Megan around and she would not be able to get over his death. She would get fired from being a Resident Assistant on campus for showing up to desk drunk. Her grades would plummet like rainfall. Eventually, she had to drop out of school because her parents wouldn’t pay if all she did was slack. No one


young and too in love. Megan wouldn’t reciprocate the feelings. She would really just want another body in her apartment so she didn’t feel so God damn alone all the time. She would want to say no, but yes would come out of her mouth. Jeremy eyes would glow with a love that she knew she would never be able to return. She would want to hug him, tell him to put the ring away and that she would help him find a wife soon, but she would be pregnant. And Megan wouldn’t know what to do, she would only be 21 years old.

College with straight A’s and apply for UMES. She would still be able to live in her shitty little apartment and work, while taking a few classes. She would hope to be able to graduate by 26, but she wouldn’t be sure if she ever would. She would fall in love with learning and she would be okay with going to school a little at a time for the rest of her life. Because frankly, that would be all she had to look forward to when she would wake up in the morning. One morning, she would be sitting in Starbucks working on a theory that she would

life were going to be dedicated to a certain kind of effort that would make her forget about everything she ever loved. She never had time to hurt. She lived in a certain kind of autopilot. She prayed for it to work. And for the most part it did! That off-year, she met Jack and Rob. She fell hard for Jack, but Jack was not interested. Instead, the three of them (and eventually her brother) started a company. This was her baby. She protected this company with her life and her stone faced lifestyle was finally worth it. She acquired

would understand what the sudden change was. No one would understand that just because she wasn’t in direct contact with Josh didn’t mean that she didn’t care about him. She would think of her own ending. She would have been okay with seeing other people in college and coming back together afterward. But there would be no end to Megan and Josh. Josh and Megan. Until he would die. So she would move back in with her parents and became a bartender at Brewer’s Alley. Josh’s brother would begin working there

So she would have a ring on her finger at the abortion clinic. Jeremy would never know a thing about it. But after ridding herself of her first child, she would make a promise to herself to never bring a child into this world. She would hate herself for six months and Jeremy would be able to see this, mainly because she would stop having sex with him and would begin sleeping on the couch. Megan would be depressed and Jeremy would try desperately to cheer her up, but would only be left with silence She would eventually recover

be pursuing for her Honors Thesis. A man would walk passed her, glance twice and sit down across the room. He wouldn’t be able to look away, not because she was beautiful, but because he had never seen that much determination in the eyes of a woman—sexist maybe, but honest. Megan would not notice this man watching her. Instead, for the next three weeks, this man would come into the Starbucks every day to see if Megan was working. Sometimes she would be, sometimes she would not. Each time, he would plan to talk to her. Each time he


this strange relationship with Josh, one of which she does not want to detail. However, this led to a nasty second break up (even though they weren’t together) when she met Kyle. She met Kyle through a flame in a Lilo and Stitch onesie. It was Halloween and she was drunk and he was blazed. She puked and Kyle helped her recover with his fluffy blanket and water gallon. They spent the night together in a gentle spoon. He was a gentleman covered in tattoos and she loved this about him. But she was never supposed to go to that party,

as a bus boy, and eventually the two would begin hanging out after work. Adam would introduce Megan to weed. Adam would then leave for college and Megan would be stuck wasting her money to get her mind off of Josh, and slip down a dark hole she wouldn’t be sure if she wanted, and if she could, get out of.

from this depression and would get pregnant again. Neither of them would be able to afford a child, but it would have a heartbeat and little fingers that Megan would want desperately to hold this time around. Megan and Jeremy would somehow make up over this common love for their soon to be child.

She would meet a girl, April. She would work at the same bar and train her on her very first night. April would remind Megan of herself. She would have long brown hair that only curled at the bottom. She would have

Jeremy would decide to join the Army. He would not be a fighter, nor a very strong man; in fact, he would have a scrawniness to him, and hair down to his waist. Megan would like his hair, especially when it was matched


would not. Until one day, he would be sitting in Starbucks and Megan would not be there. He would sit down and begin reading Letters to a Future Lover. He wouldn’t see Megan walk in because he would be too occupied with Ander Monson speaking to him and writing all over the marginalia. Megan would sit next to him this day coincidently because there would be no other seats. This man would look over just because he smelled something so sweet and he had to know whose scent this was. Megan would catch his glance and tell him that

and he lived far away, so she expected it to end. But Kyle didn’t want it to. He asked to see her each weekend after that night. The night they met, Kyle stayed up with her until four in the morning talking about life. How his sister was murdered and how we should have met at Shane’s funeral. He asked her again to come over. This question had a salty taste that soured in her mouth and it took her a while to answer.

sleepy eyes, and a deep brown stare. She would speak with a certain elegance, perhaps a strangeness that Megan couldn’t help but be attracted to. April would graduate college with an accounting degree. She would get a job in a firm and quit six months later. Megan would be a drop out. April would ask Megan to come over for a party one night. A few people from work would come and Megan thought it would be fun.

with his long scruffy beard. But Jeremy wouldn’t tell Megan he was joining the Army. This would happen when she would be eight months pregnant. He would come home with a shaved beard and buzz cut. She would stop loving him instantly, almost as if the thing that had kept them together was how much she loved his hair. Jeremy would leave the week after Charlie was born. And Megan would be left alone, jobless, and raising a child.

she loved the book he was reading. She would say, a professor recommended it to her in high school when she was in creative writing. She bought it and didn’t read it until last year. Sometimes she would wonder if she should have pursued creative writing because she would not be sure what she wants to do with her life. The man would sit nervously and await Megan’s next comment, but she would be quiet.


She said yes to coming over every weekend. And he was emotionally unstable, but that made her want to help him even more. Eventually he told her that he loved her, but she didn’t say it back. Then shit began hitting the fan. She broke up with him six months later because a friend of hers said I think you are getting emotionally abused. She shrugged it off and still tried to care about Kyle. But she didn’t and she knew she didn’t. And he knew she didn’t. She rushed into things and she couldn’t even tell you why. So she called him while he was sitting on the toilet taking a shit, and said she couldn’t do it. He started crying, and she tried not

Perhaps she said no to him coming over every day. She would be real with him, that she had a great night, but that he was 24 and she was 20 and he lived two hours away. Moreover, he was her brother’s friend. She wouldn’t do that. Kyle’s cousin would commit suicide a few days later, and Kyle would join him. Megan wouldn’t know whether to be sad or not. She would have only known him for a day. She would continue to drown herself in school and not let life get the best of her. She would always say, all I need is to be distracted and I won’t need to think too hard. But she would feel a sort of relief knowing that she didn’t get into a relation-

Megan would go. She would expect to only stay for an hour or so. She really liked April and wanted to just see what would happen. They would both share a bottle of tequila. They would take a shot every time someone said Trump. Interestingly, they would get so fucked up that they would both end up in April’s bed, talking of work, of life, of death. April would lean over to Megan and kiss her. Megan would think about this moment. She would wonder if she would like it or not and what it would all mean. Would this mean that Megan was a lesbian? She wouldn’t really give a shit and she would kiss April back, the way she used to do with Josh.


Maybe Megan didn’t go. Instead she would stay up looking at classes to take at UMUC. She would only need a few more classes to graduate with a business degree. She would think at the very least she should get a business degree.

Megan would eventually move to the base with Jeremy. She wouldn’t really have to work, all she had to do was raise a child and this would bother her. What kind of life is being trapped in the house all day listening to a screaming child?

She would get the degree in two years. It would be from UMUC, so she wasn’t really sure if she would get a job that she actually enjoyed. She would want to keep learning. She would want to go to graduate school, but she wouldn’t be able to afford it. Instead, she would sign up for the Navy. Apparently the Navy would pay for graduate school when she would get out of the force.

She would begin running. She would take this up as a hobby because she wasn’t really good at anything else. She would run when Jeremy got home from work. But when Jeremy was deployed, she would have to stop running. This would drive her into a madness that she thought she’d never be able to escape. She would feel utterly dissatisfied with her life and the only hope that she had was that maybe, just maybe, Charlie would grow up

She would miss April when she went into the Navy. She hadn’t felt any sort of connec-

Perhaps Megan would send Jeremy divorce papers before she even got to the base. Divorced at 23 would make her stomach churn with an uncertainty. She would have no idea what she was doing, she was just reacting. She would leave Charlie. She would take him to a neighbors and leave him there, pack a bag and drive away. She would move to Washington, because they say Seattle is an amazing place to live. She would start over. Would this even be allowed when technically she had a child and husband? Would Jeremy ever sign the papers? She didn’t care to wait to find out. She would love Charlie, but not enough to take his father away from him. She grew up

Perchance the man introduced himself as Aidan. He would be a graduate student seeking a Masters in English from Salisbury University. She would smile and say My name is Megan, it was nice meeting you. Aidan would work up everything inside of him to ask: I’ve seen you here before working on something, do you mind me asking what it is? Megan would appreciate this attention from a stranger. She would explain her theories to him and they would sound like a foreign language, but the way her eyes lit up when she was talking about it made him keep asking questions. This would be the beginning of everything. The way they met so fucking cliché,

The man would have so many questions and words on his tongue, but wouldn’t be able to get one god damn thing out. Megan would leave that day early, so that she could move her laundry over before she went to class. When driving home, a man would t-bone her. She would be stuck in a coma for the next two months. But the man would keep coming back and wait to see her. He would do this for two months. After coming every single day, he would give up and meet a beautiful model that was moving to New York to pursue her career. Megan would wake up two months later. She would have two hundred and forty three stitches dispersed

to picture that scene, in his bathroom, pants down, on the phone crying. She hurt for him, but she thought it was for the best. A few days later, he told her that he wanted to kill himself, but that would be too easy, so he wanted her to hurt more than he did. Her friends and family put Megan on 24 hour surveillance because they were convinced that he was going to kill her. She wasn’t sure. The thing about bad relationships is that they make a person never want to get into another one. This was her new drive, to never get married, to never be committed to a person, who in the end of all the shit you’ve been through you may not even know—he may want

ship with a grown man who was mentally unstable. She would feel safe knowing that she made the right decision, as awful as that sounds. Josh and her would get back together, a few months later. They would both tell each other how much they missed one another and Josh would come to Salisbury every Wednesday on his night off. They would read together, books that stimulated their mind more than they could explain. They would watch Californication on her twin-sized bed and fall asleep in each other’s arms. Josh would develop a smoker’s cough and she would kick him out when she met someone. Josh and Megan would see each other

She would take the bottom lip, then she would run her lips down her neck. It would feel so natural. Next thing Megan knew, she would be introducing her parents to her girlfriend. Her dad wouldn’t really give a shit because he had always said boys are young, dumb, and full of cum. Her mother on the other hand would say, right in front of April¸ you don’t like girls, you like boys. This is just a phase. Megan would move in with April. They would continue working at the bar, and take online classes at UMUC to get degrees (for April, another degree). Megan would no longer talk to her mother. Occasionally she would get a call from her brother, but this would happen

tion with another human since Josh. It would pain her to think that she had lost everyone in this world who could possibly be her soul mate. A waitress at Brewer’s Alley would say her cousin has this job cleaning rich people’s houses in California, and she only works five hours a day and spends the rest of it on the beach. Megan would quit her job and move to California, where she was hired to clean James Franco’s house. James would love to talk to Megan about her opinions on minor things, like lawns. She fucking hated them, thought they were a waste of money. James would ask Megan if she wanted to quit this stupid job and be his assistant. She would

and be everything that Megan wanted to be. Because if she could give her kid that, it would all be worth it. When Jeremy would come home, Megan wouldn’t stop bitching about how unhappy she was. So he would hit her. He would be angry, he had tried to do everything for her and she was complaining? What more could he have done? He would have had to set her straight. At first it would just be a slap across the face, but Megan would retaliate. She wasn’t a woman to be pushed around. She would punch him directly in the nose and when he would notice that his nose was bleeding, he would throw her up against the wall in a choke hold.

without a father and that just wasn’t fucking fair. She wouldn’t do that to Charlie. When she would get to the city, she would feel like an ant about to be squashed. She would barely have any money, one suitcase, and a broken heart. The first place she would work would be a diner that smelled of burnt coffee and she’d ask for an application. They would be happy to hire someone as young as Megan because most of the women there were old or barely spoke English. She would sleep on a bench behind the diner until she could find a real apartment. Her skin would become discolored from malnutrition. And she would develop acne under her chin. Her life would

so they would make up a story about how Aidan was her professor and she was his student. Sometimes they would tell people that they met in the airplane to go Skydiving. Aidan was celebrating graduation and Megan was celebrating her birthday. When they got to the bottom, they couldn’t stop talking about what adrenaline junkies they were—because of course, they weren’t at all. Aidan would propose after Megan graduated from UMES. They wouldn’t move in together until Aidan finished graduate school. But their mornings would be boring, with Megan reading of scientific theory, and Aidan of poetry. Their apartment

throughout her body. She would panic, not having a single memory of what happened. Megan wouldn’t have health insurance. She would drop out of college, move back into her mother’s house until she could pay her medical bills. She would get a job as a secretary at a music production studio. The owner would be Josh—a kid her age that she swears she knows, but she wouldn’t quite be able to remember. Josh would like her though. He would ask her to dinner three months into the job. Megan would feel weird fucking the boss, but would do it anyways. Then the industry would go to shit, and Josh would give up the studio. Megan and Josh would


to kill you. As if, she thought the sky was blue, but it was green this whole time.

again. It was only a matter of time because magnetic forces worked that way.

only if he needed something. She wouldn’t mind though. Especially after he had a child and would ask Megan to babysit.


ask what the pay was.

Charlie would watched from the couch. This would be Charlie’s youngest memory.

slope downward and she would have no idea.

would smell constantly like coffee, both would be addicts. And they would be happy living this boring life.

start a software company. This Megan knows there is no such thing as this Megan.


Object Permanence1 I try to remember the last time I slept on a cot. Nurse’s office, paper pillow case, bucket just in case, but I only had a fever with chills that couldn’t be smothered under a clinically-knit blanket like this one I have now. My numbered possessions (soggy shoes, toothbrush and paste, two photo albums, my mother’s locket) are tucked under a cot that isn’t mine, under lights that are too harsh to fit the word ‘home.’ I try to remember what my childhood home smelled like— laundry day, winter morning, kitty litter? I want to go home. I try to remember how to fill this space, fill my adult body. I try to imagine, sitting now, how tall I might be if I stood. Could I see over the heads of all these people shuffled together? Probably not. It doesn’t feel right. I try to remember the gripes I had with my neighbors, the real ones. I can’t. I try to remind myself that I have been alive half a century now, that I am married. He’s just in the other room washing up or outside smoking one of his soggy last Marlboros. I try to remember that my children are adults themselves, safe and dry across state lines. I count my things without touching them. I have my Red Cross blanket. My shoes smell like rot. My new neighbors will sleep on their cots down the row, our elbows brushing all night without the energy for whispered apologies, and we will pretend that we hadn’t heard each other mourning when we rise tomorrow.

1 After a photo by J. Raedle of the inside of G.R. Brown Convention Center which was used as a shelter in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. (via Getty Images)



This is where the sad boys keep their rock collections. When they move their curly heads dust falls from their shoulders. The little tree in the corner isn’t a signifier of cheer or belief but it does light up the room some. They’ve pushed the tables to the far wall to make room for the beautiful woman who dances like it’s okay to be afraid of death even when everyone shames you for wanting it. The closest to God we’ve ever gotten is nothing. The closest to being alright we’ve ever gotten is being alive. Cities across the country clap their bells together to ring in the new year of shameless creation. This is how the prophets tell it: They say life is a feast, well if it is I’m starving. The collective consciousness of every boy I’ve ever touched presses on me like a winch tightening around my throat. I expose my reed-pipe bare bones to the universe and hope for a return of want. I’ve decided not to hope if I can help it. I’ve decided I’ve learned all there is to learn about longing; my teachers have been each person who has ever sat next to me.


What a time it will be: when there is no one left who knows who I was born. Call me the ridiculous heat. Call me a stack of dirty, crumpled bills shoved in his elastic waistband. The membrane snaps and recoils and I wake again, the dreamscape dissipating in the morning light. Go ahead, say this has never happened. Say this isn’t how it really is. I’ll pull back the curtain for you; I’ll demystify the myth of our existence. Call fire a flower, and it will still burn your reaching hand.




Women began leaving Their husbands for looms. This old practice I believe We should take up again Especially in the wake of So many disappointing man Thighs. The real losers are Not the ones who aren’t winners They’re the ones we imagine Have imagined fucking us in a Blue house with a fish pond. True or not true—the vagina is A four pronged flower not A knitted piece of art presented in woven drops that are as soft as me. I hear messages from the beetle On my jacket the fern pressed in My book they say your body it Wants to talk to my body— First in sign. We know what it’s like To knit our protestations with our own fur you and your simplicity aren’t going to change that —even if we’ve imagined fucking you too



Carolyn Bell uses primarily oil and cold wax, Carolyn Kari Bell is influenced by everything, from the mundane to the complex. Color, texture and light inform her work along with a “no fears” approach. Breaking and bending rules gives rise to creativity. Kari thrives in Colorado. www.karibellart.com Sarah Beringer is a Communications & English major at SCU with a focus in creative writing. She was raised in Norwalk, Connecticut, where she grew up amongst her five brothers. Most of Sarah’s writing is autobiographical and she’s often inspired by the stories her big family has fostered over the years. Shuly Xóchitl Cawood is the author of The Going and Goodbye (Platypus Press, 2017) and None of Them Home (Red Bird Chapbooks, forthcoming 2018). Her writing has been published or is forthcoming in Brevity, The Rumpus, JuxtaProse Literary Magazine, and Cider Press Review, among others. Her website is www.shulycawood.com. Maren Conrad is a prominent California based artist creating both public murals and fine art pieces. She is inspired by metaphor and universal truths. Maren’s pieces have been featured is Forbes magazine, the San Francisco Chronicle, and USA Today. Her current passion is installing large scale murals to inspire viewers’ playful interaction within urban alleyways. Follow on Instagram @MarenConrad. Joshua Alan Dick’s stories have appeared in Red Rock Review and Ghost Town Literary Magazine. He received his MFA in fiction from Columbia University. He grew up in Salinas, California, and lived in Guadalajara, Mexico for many years. He resides in New York City, where he teaches English and Spanish at the Bronx Global Learning Institute for Girls. Emma Ferrell is a recent SCU graduate from Sacramento, CA. While an undergraduate, she studied English, Italian, and Urban Education and received awards for her academic writing, prose, and poetry. Emma was also recently published by the Academy of American Poets. She works in San Jose as a college counselor and plans to return to school to pursue clinical psychology. Ciaran Freeman ‘18 is a senior at Santa Clara University double majoring in studio art and art history. His recent work is born out of his experiences working for his father’s construction company in New York, New York. He recently finished a residency at SF Recology, culminating in the first solo exhibition of his work in San Francisco. John Gifford is the author of five books, including the story collections Wish You Were Here and The Sharks of Al Jubail, and a forthcoming collection of essays, Where East Meets West. His work has appeared in Arkansas Review, The Atlantic, Southwest Review, The Christian Science Monitor, and elsewhere. He lives in Oklahoma. Frederick Luis Aldama is an Arts & Humanities Distinguished Professor of English at the Ohio State University. He is the author, co-author, and edi-

tor of 33 books, including Long Stories Cut Short: Fictions from the Borderlands. He is currently completing a science fiction and YA novel. Megan Newcomer is a graduate from Salisbury University who studied Art and Creative Writing. She has served as the art editor for Scarab Literary Journal, and illustrated two published books. Her work has recently appeared in Steel Toe Review and is forthcoming in Mochila Review. MeeRee Orlandini is a writer and student at the University of the Arts. She currently lives in Philadelphia with her roommates and their foster cat named Bean Dip. Among peers, she is known for her hopeless romantic antics, being tired, and her short stories about food. Erika Rasmussen was born and grown in Denver, Colorado, and her growth now continues at Santa Clara University. A childhood spent in the outdoors, in travel, in books, and in faith has fostered within her both a deep love of the earth and of human beings. She prays that her words would be carriers of light and of love to all who read them. Emily Ratto is an MFA Candidate at Saint Mary’s College of California. Her poetry is spiritual, and reflects her belief that the moon may help and love you more than some people. She has an interest in creating a discourse with reality, following intuitive motions, and exploring womanhood. Sage studies poetry at Elms College, where they have also been awarded the Blue House fellowship. Their poetry appears/will appear in Empty Mirror, Five:2:One, Glass: A Journal of Poetry, North American Review, Penn Review, Pittsburgh Poetry Review, and elsewhere. Short fiction forthcoming from The Binnacle. They can be found on Twitter @sagescrittore. Since Heidi Seaborn started writing in 2016, her poetry has appeared in over 50 journals and anthologies including Nimrod, Penn Review, Yemassee Journal, American Journal of Poetry. She’s the 2018 Joy Bale Boone Poetry Prize winner and finalist for the 2018 Mississippi Review Poetry Prize. She’s a New York University MFA candidate, graduate of Stanford University and on The Adroit Journal staff. www.heidiseabornpoet.com Natalie Siede is from New Hope, MN and hopes to spend her life working with others to repair the world through policy, education, and the power of language. She loves her dog Bauer, classic folk music, and local produce. She is a student at Concordia College at Moorhead, MN studying English Writing, Political Science, and History. Derold Sligh lives in South Korea was born and raised in Saginaw, Michigan. He received an MFA from San Diego State University. He was the recipient of the J.L Carroll Arnett Creative Writing Award. His work has appeared in American Poetry Journal, Konundrum Engine, and Saw Palm, among

other publications. Marsha Solomon is a New York area artist whose work has exhibited nationally and internationally in galleries and museums. “Star Formations” from a series called “From Rhythm To Form” creates an imaginary space for the viewer to enter. Emotions are evoked by color and movement that unite to create an atmospheric, mystical realm of serenity infused with energy. Cave Canem graduate fellow Arisa White received her MFA from UMass, Amherst, and is the author of Black Pearl, Post Pardon, Hurrah’s Nest, and A Penny Saved. Her recent collection You’re the Most Beautiful Thing That Happened was a nominee for the 29th Lambda Literary Award and the chapbook “Fishing Walking” & Other Bedtime Stories for My Wife won Daniel Handler’s inaugural Per Diem Poetry Prize. As the creator of the Beautiful Things Project, Arisa curates cultural events and artistic collaborations that center narratives of queer and trans people of color. She serves on the board of directors for Nomadic Press and, starting in fall 2018, will be an assistant professor at Colby College. Arisawhite.com Nan Xu was born in China. After graduating from New York Academy of Art she works as a professional artist in New York. Her work is talking about the inspiration nature gives to human through the grand historical apocalypse. She uses imaginary landscapes to describe the communication of unknown energy in the civilization change.








Profile for Santa Clara Review

Santa Clara Review, Volume 105, Issue 2  

Featuring poetry by Arisa White and fiction/art by Frederick Luis Aldama.

Santa Clara Review, Volume 105, Issue 2  

Featuring poetry by Arisa White and fiction/art by Frederick Luis Aldama.