KHROMA winter 2017
table of contents
Cover art by Justin Lynch Illustration & Photography:
Christine Horchheimer Helen Grubb Jamie Naragon Lydia Horvath
letter from the editors 2 Kelly Thompson old beijing matt russell 4 the end of light switches jason bailey 6 failure means a drowning death kelly andrews 8 iâ€™ve begun to miss kesha dorian slaybod 9 between you & i estar cohen 11 a letter to my broken arabic 12 1989 edith cohen 13 how to end it lydia horvath 16 piano is math, drums are recess kelly thompson 19 the minimalist eats toast for breakfast corrina wolfe 22 momma and the wind jonie mcintire 23 all due respect megan henry 24 maelstrom cam glassford 25 ye various horrorscopes of existential dread & unease r. roko 26 seeing kayla williams 31 honestyâ€™s not the best policy eleanor gracewood 32 memory blair grubb 34 provincial starlight mike hackney 35 untitled daughter of zeus 36 sailing along the moon path (chp 4) alicia camp 38 secor road notebook emi green 46 second beginning elena veras 47
photo: Jamie Naragon
Khroma: Winter 2017
Old Beijing by Matt Russell She stalks me down the sidewalk, an old woman about my mother’s age, and asks me where I’m from. “The United States,” I say, thinking I should have conjured my Italian and done away with her with a firm non capisco inglese. “Oh, United States,” she says. “Where in United States?” “Michigan.” “Oh, Michigan. And you stay in Beijing how long?” I look behind me and pat my pockets and tighten the shoulder straps on my backpack. “Not long.” “I’m thinking there are many differences you notice between United States and China,” she says. I’m on my way to Jingshan Park, which overlooks The Forbidden City. We’re nearing an intersection where I need to turn. “I’m thinking Americans have too many guns,” she says. “Yes,” I say. “We do like our guns.” “I’m thinking you have too many.” “I don’t own any,” I say. She tells me in one sentence spurts what she’s thinking about our differences in food and healthcare and pollution, about lazy fat American women who watch television all day and young people who drink too much and go to bed too late — that it’s bad for their hearts and livers that they do these things. We stop at the corner of the intersection. A man passes and spits on the sidewalk. “I’m thinking people in United States don’t go outside enough. I’m thinking you don’t talk to people.” Two days ago I was at a temple in Old Beijing. It looked like every other temple I’d seen in the country. In a courtyard, visitors lit sticks of incense and waved them over their heads and bowed and stood the sticks in the ash that lined smoking cauldrons. As I regarded a pavilion housing a fifty-foot sandalwood Buddha, an American woman stopped beside me. “Do you feel anything?” she asked. “I remember feeling something the first time I came here, years ago when I was a student. But now when I look at it, I see that it’s just an imitation.” She pointed at the ornate facade. “It may look like it once did, but maybe that blue wasn’t blue before.” She looked at me and I smiled and nodded and she moved on. “I’m thinking maybe you’re afraid,” says the old woman. After the American woman walked away from me, I formulated the perfect response and simulated a conversation in my head. I asked her about the incense ritual in the courtyard and she told me about the strange things elderly people do at Jingshan Park. I thought about her that night as I lay in bed, about what the rest of the day would have looked like if only I’d thought 4
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of something interesting to say to her: we left the temple together and walked the narrow alleys that make up Old Beijing; we stopped at Mai Bar for a drink and she put her hand on my leg; we had dinner at Mr. Shi’s Dumplings across from my hotel and spent the night in my room. She would have been with me now, holding my hand, listening to the old Chinese woman who just wants to practice her English. Afterwards, we’d find a bench in the park and talk about taking the high-speed train together to Xi’an to see the Terracotta Army, or Hangzhou to walk through the Longjing tea fields. “I’m thinking the important thing is to move your body and to talk to people,” says the old woman. “And to go to bed at ten o’clock every night.” At Jingshan Park there are elderly people dancing in a plaza to music coming from an old cassette player. A woman walks backward down a gravel path while clapping her hands. A man in a black Tai Chi uniform practices his movements in a wildflower garden. There is a bench beside the garden with a view of a hilltop pagoda towering over The Forbidden City with its thousands of tourists congesting one of the few sacred places spared during Mao’s Cultural Revolution. I sit down on the bench and pull my travel journal from my backpack. A gray cat wanders over and lies at my feet. I’m thinking of making some changes, I write. I’m thinking I need to join a gym and eliminate preservatives from my diet and cancel my television subscriptions. I’m thinking I need to meet someone new. I’m thinking I need to sign a petition to ban assault rifles. I’m thinking I need to walk every day and pay more attention to the world. I tear the page out and bury it under a thin layer of dirt in the wildflower garden while the gray cat looks on, then start up the hill toward the pagoda to take a picture before joining the masses inside The Forbidden City.
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The End of Light Switches Modern culture makes demands. Your commitment. Your leisure. Your blood. It says to you: Keep multiplying by zero. But I am done casting votes into the void, about the void. I am also tired and lonely and afraid of you. You and your roulette of soft faces and data, Linking up with push and pull and gnaw. I know my teeth are no whiter at night and the scent of the moon no closer. What is this grubby fixation with exactitude? With cremating every last pegasus notion? In the terrain of the binary, nothing much is witnessable. The dark is always the dark and the searing light pains me back into blindness. I prefer to be where the moss grows. Where silence and self is not a true-false quiz, but the place to sit and wait for the rising of new and eclectic suns. â€” Jason Bailey
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illustration by Chrissy Horchheimer Khroma: Winter 2017
Failure Means A Drowning Death by Kelly Andrews
To play the blackout game you need two people. One person holds the throat of another until their vision tunnels and they slump helplessly. I stood by as a man did this to a coworker in the back of a restaurant. Her body convulsed on the cement floor, no more than 30 seconds, a slow day for business. When she came to we tried the next dare, a spoonful of cayenne pepper. What I wouldnâ€™t do then to impress some guy who only wanted to see me suffer. * I curl your thumb and fingers to shape the letter C, place it just under my chin, guide your grip with the rhythm of thighs. Moment before I pull away a rapture, like how Houdini emerged each time from the metal milk can stiff legged and wet, but alive. 8
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I’ve Begun to Miss Kesha by Dorian Slaybod
photo: Wikimedia Commons
Four years ago, the singer, Ke$ha, emerged blonde and emblazoned with a dollar sign in her name. Her brand and sound seemed like something built on the fly, and made to be enjoyed on the flight itself. Most of her songs took place at a night club, where she made catcalls to the proverbial DJ to match the tempo of all-nighters and immortal youth. On one of her still-biggest hits, she repeatedly shouted, “Let’s make the most of the night like we’re going to die young!” Her music was ephemeral, auto-tuned to its time and its time alone. Khroma: Winter 2017
Now known just as Kesha, her music, surprisingly, hasn’t lost relevance during the many pop music half-lives since 2012, the year of her last studio album. A legal dispute has left her music career in limbo; muting her without a new album in almost five years. Instead, the legal embargo against her career has left a real void, still felt against the influx of new stars and Spotify choices. There isn’t another Kesha, and I’ve begun to miss her. Discussing only Kesha’s music, or the lack of it, deters from the severity of her lawsuit, which alleged that her producer, Lukasz Gottwald, known as Dr. Luke, sexually assaulted her. She sued, asking to be let out from her contract, to be allowed to make music somewhere else. Dr. Luke countersued, alleging defamation and breach of contract. In February of 2016, a state judge ruled that Kesha could not yet leave her contract, requiring her to produce music under the auspices of Dr. Luke’s record label, or not at all. The litigation continues, as does the stalemate between Kesha and Luke, preventing any new Kesha material from being recorded. What I miss most about Kesha’s music is that it was consistently outside the strike zone. Kesha’s sound wasn’t an artful mix of high and low, it was in complete disregard of high and low altogether. Her nasal half-raps and unhurried singing about staying up all night, “hitting on dudes . . . hard,” and pleading to “live right now!” were fun, per se, but also overtly and extravagantly on the nose. The theme was singular and she knew it. Whether surrounded by acoustic guitar on “Crazy Kids” or synths on “Tik Tok” or Pitbull on “Timber,” she was always just a few feet away from the dance floor. Her songs sometimes dipped into the banal, like when she explicitly called upon her nemesis on “Thing of You” to perform fellatio upon her—but even such moments as those were goofy enough to avoid making or receiving any real commentary. She was refreshing instead of stale. Instead of vapid, she was untethered. Maybe Dr. Luke’s production played an integral part in the Kesha sound. He has been a prolific hit-maker for many different artists, known for making overly-glossed music; able to add an extra coat of sugar to an already glazed donut. But even with his touch, it was always Kesha’s voice. And it is noticeably absent, even now, almost half a decade later. According to the New York Times, on the day of the court hearing where she failed to get out of her contract, a group of Kesha’s fans covered the courthouse steps with glitter— letting her know that they have not forgotten the party that she started, and that they’re not ready for it to be over. 10
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Between You and I Estar Cohen Between You and I There is a distance of galaxies You are the pulsating heart of a blackbird Hung deep in the night sky Come, crash into my world Shatter it Start me all over To the beginning of time Our love will be the first love The first fire And breath Oh, Iâ€™ll blissfully live on your planet As we hurtle on Toward Impossible Light
illustration by Helen Grubb Khroma: Winter 2017
A letter to my b r o k e n A r a b i c Dear Arabic, You are the sneeze that almost comes out, you are a pulsating mind, you are every extended “um”. When it comes to you you leave me speechless. I try to speak your love and they confuse it with hate. My sentences become bilingual They tell me I’m not really Egyptian if I cannot sing, if I cannot dance, if I cannot breathe like one. My mother admonishes my bland, English, “How are you supposed to teach your children the very essence of your religion?” But what she fails to remember is that God speaks to every broken tongue with the same kind of hope. Dear Arabic, I will never know how to translate this poem into your honey I’m sorry you won’t ever understand what I am trying to bring back to life These empty, white words wouldn’t be here without your rich, colored soul. Please don’t ever stop speaking to me through my blood There are times when English just isn’t enough And I need your letters to free all of the Egyptian out of this body. Breaking this Midwestern façade, I feel your warm forgiveness through my mother’s hugs. Sincerely, حرف
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My earliest memories are from 1989 and as hard as I try, I can’t recall anything before then. I was four years old and lived in a one-story brick ranch on Ruth Court in West Chester, a modest street with a cul-desac, with my Mom and Dad. There was orangish red shag carpet in the “back room” where we watched TV. The kitchen had swinging French doors that Little Edith loved to hang on. I can still remember the smell of the house on Ruth Court. There’s nothing like your first house. Back then, Dad and I had a morning routine. He’d wake up, take a shower, and come find me in my bedroom.
I’d be awake already, but pretended to be sleeping so he’d sing the song: “Hey Edith Muppin-Head Whatcha doing in that bed? You better do what your Daddy said. Get out of bed, little Muppin-Head.” Sometimes he’d sing it twice, adding a little, “One more time” before repeating the refrain. It never failed to make me laugh. One winter morning, after the wake-up song, Dad suggested we look out the back sliding door to watch the snow fall. The ranch had a nicesized backyard, complete with a patio, above ground swimming pool, the shed I used as a playhouse, and my swingset. It was pretty much the greatest place on Earth. That morning, I didn’t notice any of the fun things that usually distracted my attention. It couldn’t have been later than 6 a.m., and the house was silent, while the snow had covered every inch of the yard. I remember asking Dad if we could go play outside and he said only if I could find a few warm layers to wear. I decided that was too much work on my part and agreed to watch the glittery snow from our warm spot by the door. It was one of those pure, perfect moments I’ll never forget. Khroma: Winter 2017
1989 was also the year my parents separated. I was too young to understand that Dad wasn’t coming back home, and we’d never get to watch the snow softly fall on the patio again. That’s not to say I never saw him. He just lived in a different house with another woman who I asked if I should call “Mom.” I was too naive to know that wasn’t quite right, either. I go back to that early memory a lot. The one I consider as both the beginning of life as I knew it and the ending of my “normal” childhood. Before the divorce, of course. But also before my Mom’s numerous mental breakdowns and hospital stays. Before visitations with Dad were reserved to Tuesdays and every-other-weekend. Before Mom sold the house, and most of the things in it. Before I moved away to school and didn’t feel like I had a true “home” to go back to. That’s not an entirely fair assessment, though. I don’t blame my parents or their divorce on the way my life turned out, which for the most part, is pretty fantastic. It’s an event that shaped my views on relationships and parenting. But I wouldn’t change the outcome, even if that were possible. While Mom and Dad didn’t pan out, I gained new family members--including two brothers and two sisters who became my best friends, and a loving stepmom. I got double the presents at Christmas and Hannukah. It actually made time with my hero, my Dad, even more special. And he never stopped singing “Muppin-Head” to me.
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HOW TO END IT I read an article about bullying It proposed that efforts to stop Young people from being bullies Are futile; Instead, the author opined, We should be teaching kids To be stronger To fight back To rebuff bullying So – According to this theory, It was I who was at fault, at least in part Too quiet, too non-confrontational, An easy target And therefore, a victim of my own weakness And I’m trying to imagine How could things have played out differently? In a room full of eighth grade Honors English students All of whom on a morning in early December Were either mocking me, Laughing at the proceedings, Or remaining silent, Should I have shouted them down? Thrown punches? Mocked back? Me – solitary, from a run-down neighborhood, With uncooperative wisps of hair And Goodwill clothes Not a friend in the room And the teacher late to first hour How would it have played out? I speak, with my 13-year-old voice: “Stop it, you ugly morons!” The popular kids who go swimming at the Country Club in the summer, Hair feathered and polo-shirt-clad, Go silent – Each struck to the heart equally By pangs of conscience And by newfound respect 16
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For the bookish, Unattractive poor kid with the stained sweater And the clever comeback Or: I knock my desk over, Shouting, “Who wants a piece of this, bitches??” They cower back in fear Amazement on their faces “Never again”, they say to themselves, “will we harass one of these weak and quiet girls From the far edge of the district For behold her unknown strength, resolve, and violence!” Or, alternatively: With a stern and righteous look I stand and turn With the endless dignity of A Sojourner Truth; My gaze of strength mixed with pity Pierces each one To the heart As I say, “How would you feel in my place? What if your younger brother Or sister was being treated thus? Am I not human? Flesh and blood and thoughts and feelings, Like all of you? Please, go your way and Sin no more against me And my kind For we are also your kind.” Stunned, awed, ashamed They sink into their desks Silently pick up copies Of The Outsiders And read Until Ms. Mathis Steps through the door, surprised to find Class has started without her. — Lydia Horvath Khroma: Winter 2017
illustration by Lydia Horvath
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piano is math, drums are recess There is a violent catharsis to drumming that, in my experience, doesn’t quite exist in other instruments. And that’s one reason why, at the age of 30, I decided to start doing it.
by kelly thompson
And yeah, it’s pretty weird to start an instrument in the middle of your life. Adults generally have the preconceived notion that we should have already settled into our strengths and weaknesses, our music tastes and hobbies. We generally tend to believe that if you were going to learn an instrument, you should have started a long time ago. But fuck that. You can start drumming at 30. I could also go ahead and learn the sitar when I’m 85, who cares? One thing I’ve learned so far from this is that, if you want to learn to do something, go learn, and go do it. Sure, you have to overcome a lot of obstacles that kids don’t, like 1) your own shitty ego, 2) fear of failure developed from bad emotional experiences, and 3) the impatient frustration of being bad at something and having to do it anyway. Along with impatience, learning a new instrument as an adult comes with a lot of technical challenges. Personally, mine is in kinetic volume: I hit too hard when I play, sometimes. During a practice session, I strike the floor tom harder than the song calls for, or I crack a snare too much when, really, it should have been a ghost note. And while I generally catch it and at least try to tone it down, it’s a problem in technique that I have trouble fixing. I think there are technical reasons for this recurring error, but I also think it’s partially due to the fact that I’m not really aiming at the drum, when I’m striking it. I’m hitting something else. That something else could be a trauma. A memory. A neglected deep wound. Those are the things I’m really hitting, hard enough to kill them, or eliminate them from consciousness. I started drumming for two reasons, and the first one is simply that I’d always wanted to. Drums have always been what I heard first in music, the rhythm more in the foreground for me than melody, most of the time. I liked (and still like) to watch drummers, and before I started learning, I saw an incredible puzzle of energy coming out from some human being, metered out in exact beats. Now that I know more, it’s not less of a puzzle to me. The other reason I began drumming was that someone asked me to do it. My now-bandmate (then an acquaintance) Kate came to me one day, and said she needed a drummer for a project she was working on. Having never drummed or touched a drum kit in my entire life, of course I volunteered to do it. And immediately after I said yes, I secretly panicked. It was kind of like if a pilot Khroma: Winter 2017
came up to you on a flight and said, ‘Hey, I’m looking for someone to watch the plane while I pee, you cool?’ To which you reply, without hesitation, ‘Sure, no problem, I had those balsa wood planes as a kid, and I know enough about aerodynamics—’ Obviously this isn’t an endeavor that is going to cost anyone a life. Hopefully. But in the course of my life, I think I’ve turned away from a lot of situations and opportunities, fearing the worst. This is especially true when it comes to performing for an audience. For a bit of context, I was classically trained on the piano, and so my experience of a “show,” until about a year ago, was confined to solo, high-pressure classical performance (where you’re literally being judged, with numbers), or the awkward days of high school concert band. If you went through that yourself, you know it isn’t a good gauge of anything, except maybe which clarinet player is the hottest, or if the tuba player ever actually takes a shower.
Drums are sex with the most beautiful person you’ve ever met in your life, and you’re never sure if you’ll ever see them again. Beside all that, I’m generally not the type to volunteer to embarrass myself publicly. At the time, I had only known Kate for a few months, so I suddenly felt myself sliding into some weird Seinfeldesque plot, where I was going to have to somehow—through an elaborate concoction of schemes—fake my way around it, or else risk letting her down in a major way. Even having played the piano for so many years, drumming is a totally different kind of muscle memory. Where piano is math, drums are recess. Piano is an ongoing dysfunctional relationship, wherein you ask for sex and are often handed cerebral Mensa puzzles, instead. Drums are sex with the most beautiful person you’ve ever met in your life, and you’re never sure if you’ll ever see them again. When I said yes to drumming, I was taking a huge risk, and I knew it, but I still said yes. I’m grateful to my past self, because it turned out to be one of the most transformative experiences of my life to date. That was a year ago, and I’ve been practicing the drums religiously since, for an hour every day, if not more than that. I live in a tiny studio apartment, and so if a practice space isn’t available, I do rudiments on a practice pad on a chair, over and over again. While the rhythms beat into my mind and onto the physical platform, I meditate. I laugh. I cry, sometimes. Rhythm, when combined with melody, is capable of bringing out nostalgia, enthusiasm, happiness, darkness, love, hate; affective emotions that are usually kept 20
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concealed. Our band, Violent Bloom, doesn’t collaborate on songwriting very often. It’s not that members don’t have say, but it’s that 99% of the time, either myself or Kate already has the song written—often complete with bass and drum parts—when we show up to practice. Our songwriting method was formed this way on purpose, so that we could perform our music for an audience, the way that we envisioned it, specifically without the headaches and arguments of aesthetics that can break a band apart pretty fast. And every song Kate writes is complex. She utilizes 4/6 time signatures, abrupt time signature changes, I’m asked to harmonize while drumming—tasks that even experienced drummers can trip on—and I’m expected to follow through. And I do. But the only way I’m able to do so is practice. Not a casual practice, but a practice that demands full attention. Practice that is physically demanding, that makes you sweat, and sometimes bleed from your hands. Practice that leaves you completely drained, and somehow still wanting to continue. Only very recently have I started to feel comfortable behind a kit onstage. As I watch drummers perform, whether they’re in nationally recognized festival bands or in newly formed local bands, so often they are riding that same strange, rhythmic wave of catharsis as far as it will take them. I know how much practice and how many years it will take for me to even sort-of approach that kind of virtuosity. But I look forward to those years, now, instead of allowing time to be a deterrent. Drumming has healed me in several ways, and it has made me a better person, for taking that risk, and for confronting that intimidating fear of judgment we’re all familiar with. I can hit something when I need to, and have it cause no collateral emotional damage; at worst a splintered stick, a bruise here or there, or exhaustion. I can turn my anxiety, trauma, heartache, and bad memories into rhythms that wind over and under each other. I can make music that makes people smile, that makes them move, and dance, and feel. At the end of the day, I don’t want to be a famous musician. I want to make music for people, to make them feel the way I do when I play. And for me, that’s more than enough.
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the Minimalist eats toast for breakfast wholewheat toast on a backdrop of a clearblu sky his mother sits acros the table not quite staring into his eye no buter, no jely, no jam she’s disapointed in him ham is unthinkable for the Minimalist who eats toast for breakfast a tiny house in a litle town unecesary repetition of sound al he neds r: his mother, toast, guitar the Minimalist sits quietly & eats his toast for breakfast - corrina wolfe 22
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Momma and the Wind On windy nights, Momma’s doublewide sounds creaky like old wood in the wind – no, more like thick rope tied tight holding something heavy that don’t care no more. Bob’s been off ten years now & it’s been quiet. No backhands in the hallway, no knocking plaster off walls with punches too close, or towering over so you have to look sideways just to breathe. Momma says he’s somewhere Florida way but she don’t even know anymore. No job means no checks, so that’s ‘bout all we know. But when it’s windy and doublewide sounds like a porch swing, I can see him like just yesterday, at his softest and sweetest, bent right around Tucker, holding his body and rocking. And later, when the police left and neighbors came, how he got quiet – not angry quiet but like church and he was listening. The minister made such a fuss not to let us in his church with the box because he didn’t want the sin of suicide stenching up his new rectory with the big tall windows and the white white walls. But he’d be good enough to help our boy with an outdoor service. And Momma was fit to run that preacher out of town but didn’t because Bob said we ain’t the judges and Tucker always did love being outside. And Bob came home, held me tight and quiet like the daddy he never was, and chopped that tree down and into logs he sold to help pay for a fancy stone, black marble with Tucker’s picture on it. On windy nights like this, I can almost see that tree, the fast climb Bob must have made with a knife never ready for cutting like that. I can almost hear my brother finding his place dust to dust and Bob shoring up to get himself lost for so much losing. — Jonie McIntire Khroma: Winter 2017
All Due Respect We must make closure for ourselves Pay heed to feeling and the delicate internal crescendo Of alternate life languages Sung separately Ritualize the fresh onslaught of absence Accommodate a steady narrative of change If we are ever to be free To start again â€” Megan Henry 24
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maelstromI remember the way it felt, the first time my hands were in yours, a lifetime ago. it’s like you’re ingrained in my skin, or etched into the inside of my eyelids. it’s painful to hide and it burns my skin to touch someone else with hands that were meant for you. I weep for you as I wake early in the morning, cold and aware of the phantom limb you’ve become to me. the air is growing colder; with each passing breeze the faint smell of stale cigarettes burns my nose. stifled, I am instantly reminded of us haunting the forest for weeks before trudging back to our graves, on opposite ends of the world. pulling the frozen dirt back over our heads, we return to the world we were in before we turned it upside down. the memories fade quickly, as if they are just old black and white photographs flickering on a drive-in movie screen. they’re still there of course, but they are dim and out of focus. there’s no sound, because I can never remember what your fucking voice sounds like. - cam glassford
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Ye Various Horror-scopes of Existential Dread and Unease King and Cups Edition (Street-Fighter Alpha Two Garbage Deluxe) by R. Roko
And Lo, from the farthest reaches of the Void come the following Horror-scopes™, granted up from the Aether in faint hope that the hole that waits at the bottom of the stomach does not become the whole world. Courtesy of our friends at Wikipedia, included with each is the story of a person who died while having sex, because that sucks, I guess, and sex and death are popular search terms. #weareugly #repent #blessed
Aquarius (Jan 21 - Feb 19)
: To our Honest, Friendly Aquarians—you need to re-attach yourself to your life. You can—as can all U.S. Americanites—file for federal bankruptcy protection every eight (8) years to have (most of ) your debts forgiven (but not student loans, because no-real-reason). Some folks seem reluctant take advantage of this wholly legal option, however, their sentiment often being that declaring bankruptcy indicates a personal failure of some kind. Our parents taught us this, I think (guilt and shame). I mean, sure, it feels kinda like cheating, but no less an authority than YWHW would disagree: the Hebrew Bible expressly states “[a]t the end of every seven years you must cancel debts.” (emphasis added) Deut. 15:1. Indeed, this is why the Lord’s Prayer originally concluded, “[a]nd forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors,” based off what Matthew said Jesus said in Matthew 6:12, instead of the less-obviously-useful “forgive us our trespasses” language with which I up-grew. Everyone’s circumstances are different, of course, and no one should take these Horror-scopesTM as constituting legal advice, but if you are up to your eyes in debt, slaving away trying to pay some assignee-dingus their damned usury-fee (usury being something YWHW has also, at times, looked upon askance), just know that G-D is totally cool with you filing for BK. S/he/it wants you to live, baby. #treatyoself A SYMBOL OF EVIL WILL APPEAR WHEN YOU STRIKE THE STAKE Sex Death Bonus: Pope “It’sa’ me!” John XII reputedly died on May 14, 964, of a paralytic stroke suffered while having sex with a woman named Stefanetta. Other versions of the story tell that the woman’s husband actually defenestrated the Sex-Pope in question, i.e., threw him out of a window, or alternatively beat him to death with a hammer during the act (of sex).
Pisces (Feb 20 - Mar 20 ): Oh my dearest magic fishy little
babies, this is gonna be a hard time for you, coming up. You’re gonna have to stand up for yourself with your eyes open, and keep compassion flush on your cheeks. If you are in America,
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or anywhere I guess, the spiritual core—our Beloved World-Spirit—seems a bit sick at present, and your sensitivities to such may make everything start to feel sucky and hollow (or suckier and hollower). I don’t know how long this mess will last—it may for quite some time—but don’t let it get you down. You gotta know, hate gets hotter the longer you carry it around inside, and if you do that for too long it’ll burn a hole right out the bottom of yo ass. I’ve seen this happen—it’s CRAZY, man—so don’t do that. DESTROY THE CURSE AND YOU’LL RULE BRAHM’S MANSION Sex Death Bonus: In 1974, French Cardinal Jean “I’m so very French!” Daniélou, who wrote extensively on sexual ethics, died inside a Paris brothel at the age of 70. Although official accounts have him delivering charity to a prostitute at the time, this account is not widely believed.
Aries ( Mar 21 - Apr 20)
: Oh Great, Grand, Wonderful Aries—you needn’t be impatient. You gotta be smart on your sundry adventures—that’s gonna be the Key. You may be able to punch a man with your fist, but you can kick his kids with your brain. A FLAME FLICKERS INSIDE THE RING OF FIRE Sex Death Bonus: In 1979, Nelson “My word, it’s certainly difficult to see back down to Earth through all the fog which hast collected at the top of Ye Great Pyramid” Rockefeller, former Vice President of the United States and heir to the Rockefeller family fortune, died of a heart attack at age 70, his death rumored to be caused by sex with his assistant, Megan “I’m totally cool having sex with this old, rich (dead) dude” Marshack. The unusual circumstances surrounding his demise caused New York Magazine to quip, “Nelson thought he was coming, but he was going.” Another source reportedly joked, “I hate that guy and I’m glad he’s dead. Also, fuck him.” 
Taurus (Apr 21 - May 21): Patient and Reliable Taurus: be
careful not to give into jealousy, resentment, or possessiveness. Or inflexibility or self-indulgence, for that matter. Or greed— that’s really the main one to stay away from. If you have time, I’d also be wary of making friends with locusts. You know what I’m talking about. #locustsmakelousyfriends #maybethatsnotfair #somelocustsmakelousyfriends
CLEAR A PATH AT BERKELEY MANSION WITH A WHITE CRYSTAL Sex Death Bonus: In 1997, a woman died after she fell from an L.A. balcony while having sex with her boss. It was ruled a homicide by the coroner, who concluded her boss had likely pushed her over the railing. Hope she at least got some worker’s comp outta thatLOLOL#amirightLOLOLOLOLjust kidding, she probably wasn’t able to. Khroma: Winter 2017
Gemini (May 22 - Jun 22): Oh Adaptable, Witty Gemini— things aren’t as tense as you think out here. You don’t have to be so damn nervous—just use your words in order to go far. Your future may demand the blood of childless men, however—something to keep in mind. If you want to open the door, turn to page 423. If want to stare at the door until it opens on its own, turn to page 1009.
TO REPLENISH EARTH, KNEEL BY THE LAKE WITH A BLUE CRYSTAL Sex Death Bonus: In 1992, Jack McConaughey, father of actor Matthew McConaughey, died of a heart attack while having intercourse with his wife, Kim. #alrightalrightalright
Cancer (Jun 23 - Jul 23)
The crabs! The damned crabs! You miserable, hole-hearted bastards! If you stay in one place long enough, you get used to being abandoned. The currents just keep rolling on by, with most of the friends you grew up with eventually following, chasing the clarion-call of bigger, better-endowed lives. It’s unclear what to make of all this, as you look upon the face in the mud puddle to ask, “Who is that?” instead “Who am I?” and despair. #idk DESTROY THE CURSE WITH DRACULA’S HEART Sex Death Bonus: Lord “Better than Pitt the Elder” Palmerston, former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, died in 1865; rumors indicated that sex on a billiard table with the maid was to blame. This account is disputed, of course, with other sources stating that he died of pneumonia, and others still that he is STILL ALIVE AND CALLING FROM INSIDE THE HOUS— FULL DISCLOSURE: I’m a Cancer.
Leo (Jul 24 - Aug 23)
Good old Leo, so generous and warmhearted—being pompous always remains a danger, however. Remember: the Will operates in four dimensions, while your dreams only move in three. Don’t be so bossy. GARLIC IN THE GRAVEYARD SUMMONS A STRANGER Sex Death Bonus: In 2009, David “Kwai Chang Caine” Carradine died in a Bangkok hotel room, the accepted story being that auto-erotic asphyxiation was the cause, although some have said he may have been murdered. I’m a bit torn on this one: since Kill Bill was probably by himself when he died (under the official narrative), I’m not sure it really counts for the purpose of this list, as the general conceit is that while folks say we all die alone, dying while having sex seems a little like, I don’t know, dying-while-not-being-totally-alone, or something. Kwai Chang was probably pretty alone at the time, though, so maybe this can be something of 28
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a sorbet for the list—something to cleanse the palate of all this “feel-good” nonsense. They say that guy from INXS died the same way, too. Double Bummer(s).
Virgo (Aug 24 - Sep 23)
Modest Virgo—don’t fuss (or muss). It’s going to be alright. You’re such a worrier. Seriously, it doesn’t matter, whatever it is. Meaningless things don’t mean anything, you know, unless they resemble other meaningless things, in which case they can acquire a relative meaning, but don’t go mistaking that for purpose. You always go and do that, Virgo. Please stop. It’s
AN OLD GYPSY HOLDS A DIAMOND IN FRONT OF DEBORAH CLIFF Sex Death Bonus: Félix “I am also very French, don’t you know!?!” Faure, president of France from 1895 to 1899, died while receiving fellatio from his mistress, Marguerite “So, I guess this is my legacy” Steinheil, the cause of death being listed as a cerebral hemorrhage. Some historians have disputed this account. These historians are called “losers” by other, cooler historians.
Libra (Sep 24 - Oct 23)
Libra! Fuck! So urbane! So diplomatic! Superstar! Despite what they’ve told you, you are going to have to make up your mind sooner or later. It’s easy for you to be flirtatious and self-indulgent, but if you’ve been feeling your own vibes really well lately, maybe you have to stop and ask yourself: What is the lie that runs my life? And what is the truth that runs the lie? WAIT FOR A SOUL WITH A RED CRYSTAL ON DEBORAH CLIFF Sex Death Bonus: In 2008, a Pennsylvania woman died when she was electrocuted by homemade nipple clamps. Her death was ruled a homicide.
Scorpio (Oct 24 - Nov 22)
Jealous and resentful is no way to go through life, Scorpio. Your damage can however be powerful, if focused. Soldier on as would a child still convinced of her parent’s love: while there are no guarantees, at least you’ll probably be able to act like you’re better than other people for a little bit in there, before death. PLACE THE LAURELS IN A SILK BAG TO BRING THEM TO LIFE Sex Death Bonus: In 2013, a Zimbabwe woman named Sharai “It’s not very chill to mock people’s deaths by giving them stupid nicknames, asshole” Mawera was mauled and killed by a lion while she was having sex with a person.
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Sagittarius (Nov 23 - Dec 21)
Jovial and good-natured, everyone likes a good Sagittarius—just not for very long. Lol. No really, you’re good in small doses, man, but everyone knows there’s nothing “to get to know” there. You can’t catch the wind just as you can’t taste regret—I mean, you can, just not really.
DRACULA’S NAIL MAY SOLVE THE EVIL MYSTERY Sex Death Bonus: In 1999, Mario “Now I’m going to be dead forever” Bugeanu, a Romanian soccer player, and Mirela “Now I’m also dead forever” Lancu both died of carbon monoxide poisoning while having sex in a car which they had parked in Bugeanu’s garage with the engine still running. Sex Death Double Bonus: Google “coffin birth.” #ohmygoddontreallydothat
Capricorn (Dec 22 - Jan 20)
Discipline. Patience. Practicality. These are alright. But remember: don’t be a miser, Capricorn. The uncertainty of your future is full of ghosts. I mean, sure, it’d be nice if we could all just love one another, but honestly, you don’t want everyone’s love anyway—just a few people’s love. Anything more couldn’t even really be love, could it? Can you really love someone you don’t know? I mean, sure, you obviously can—you can say you do and even believe that you do—but isn’t that love meaningless? You can’t attach love to something without knowledge of the thing you’re describing, and strangers are by definition unknown. I mean, fine, maybe it’s the subjective posture of loving that’s really important, the robust state of being open, receptive, and willing to learn as much as you can, such that you may know more and love the more correspondingly. Or maybe, instead, we should all just keep carb-loading, get swole af, and hope for the best, since what we think about things is probably pretty stupid, relatively-speaking. Eh, there’s probably a third option, too, but I doubt you’re going to come up with it, Capricorn. Get back to work. THE CURSE HAS KILLED THE LAUREL TREE Sex Death Bonus: In 1987, Australian politician Sir Billy “Nickname Johnny” Snedden died while having sex. According to newspaper accounts, he “expired at the peak of physical congress,” because newspapers are at times coy, insufferable things. Nineteen years later, his son (and lover of the same woman with which Snedden, his father, was having sex at the time of his death) was quoted as saying “I’m sure the old man went out happy—anyone would be proud to die on the job.” I think it’s pretty weird that he said that. I mean...that’s your dad, dude. I don’t know, maybe Australians are just more chill about shit than I am.
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Seeing Whenever he makes you feel like you’re not enough, step back for a while and take a real look. Not at yourself, you’ve looked at you long enough, but at him, and all his unearned entitlement, his beer soaked breath, his frayed T-shirts, his text speak spelling, his emotional ADD, and all the ads he has been sold, and all the photoshop he believes, the online porn he’s addicted to, filled with silicone people, choreographing emotionless orgasms, it’s like fast food, McDonald’s, but for his dick. And then, think of the women putting fingers in their mouths, in bathrooms, everywhere, throwing up everything they ate before to feel full, to fit into underwear that makes them uncomfortable, that goes up their asses and gives them a rash, that comes undone in the dryer, in hopes that they will feel wanted, maybe, at least, for a second, and then he probably won’t even eat them out, and they’re not even eating, so then, who wins? Not you, not her, not any woman, not me, because what sexiness feels like is being free, not hating yourself for one goddamn day, not caring how you look when you cum, making him make you cum. But how can you? Because he doesn’t even see you, because he doesn’t even know how to see. — Kayla Williams
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Honesty’s not the best policy I can’t be fucking honest nobody wants to hear what you really think of them they want to be spoon-fed candy coated compliments lick the luscious lies off loving lips sip the sugary spit dripping from the mouths of suck-ups but fuck it I wanna take a bullet to everyone’s fragile ego I want to hear the sounds of shattering psyche like glass collapse walls constructed to repress and make a mess of what’s left and when the dust settles pick out the shards of sincerity examine every one and if I take a piece and cut myself will we bleed together and know each other better? let me slip into your skin bury myself in your brain I wanna swallow you whole slowly explore your soul if I take your face in my hands trace my fingers down your jawline kiss you hard and inhale your darkest secrets, deepest loves, oldest memories will you run from me screaming? I’m an honesty demon a succubus for bluntness I’ll let you live if you’re genuine
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the fake can’t take it good or bad, they put up their hands try to shield themselves from the real afraid of love, afraid to trust shells of beings, so detached chew them up, they taste so bland spit them out, there’s no difference I can’t be fucking honest no one wants to know too terrified to be alive cautious and curt, society’s rules let me rip you open, let me tear you apart and when I’ve done my worst, when I’m finally through, you can crack my skull and my ribs you can tear me up too. — Eleanor Gracewood
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Provincial Starlight She and I nestle like entwined gods under the silver apple trees until night arrives, covering our naturalness with little regret... If she and I are still happening, the landing on the moon transpired yesterday while the autumn nudged wistful summer... And, if love prevails, the would-be assailant turns a blind eye. If love is real, it could be that we are endowed with angelsâ€™ wings but I hardly believe in such things. I believe only in the provincial starlight that illuminates these precious hours. â€” Mike Hackney
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Breakfast in Boca A hot air balloon hovers slightly above the early morning mist. Crawling into its basket, I am in awe of the blue flame with its loud thrush, thrush, thrush sound. Sandbags are pulled away and the balloon gently begins to rise. We cheer, and eat a small, lovely breakfast of champagne, mangoes, toast points and cheese. Within minutes, the sky is filled with dozens of hot air balloonsâ€” papery and soft, like scarves blowing in the wind. Colors of pale rose, canary yellow, leafy green and the brightest magenta envelope the sky. As the breeze blows, the balloons head eastward, overlooking the ocean with its delicate whitecaps moving to shore. Slowly, we descend into a field, one after the other, until the just-taut balloons tumble down like lifeless paper dolls. â€” Jane McElroy
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Khroma: Winter 2017
Sailing Along the Moon Path: An Existence of Innocence
by Alicia Camp
“I’m going to kill you, son of a bitch.” I hear voices screaming outside as dark shadows sweep across my bedroom windows. It’s very early in the morning, just minutes away from the sun brightening the horizon, and I open my door and rush out to the living room where my mother is sitting in a green rocking chair, her hands covering her face in fear. “Get back in your room right now,” she whispers frantically. “Hide under your bed and cover yourself with blankets.” I run into my bedroom and hear Candace crying across the hallway from me. I see her huddled in the corner of her closet, her face dripping with wet streaks. I grab blankets off my bed and climb in the closet next to her. “What’s happening?” I cry. “I was getting ready for school,” she sobs. “The telephone rang and mom knocked quietly on the bathroom door and told me to turn off the lights and get down on the floor. Phyllis called her and said there was a man watching me outside of the window.” Phyllis is our next door neighbor. I shiver in disgust. “Watching you do what?” I ask, a sickening feeling flooding my body. “What do you think?” she says. “He was watching me undress and get ready for school. Phyllis said he was holding something in his hands, but she couldn’t tell what it was.” “What do you think it was?” I say. Candace shakes her head and begins to cry harder, her body shuddering. “I don’t know. Maybe binoculars or a camera. Maybe a gun, or a knife.” “I heard voices yelling outside my windows,” I tell her. “Did mom call the police? Who is outside?” “Phyllis called the police, but dad ran outside after the guy with a baseball bat. Mom was going to follow him with a big frying pan to hit him over the head, but dad told her to stay inside. He might be armed,” she explains. I can’t believe this is happening, I think to myself. I wonder if he’s been watching my sister get ready for school every day. I wonder how long he stands outside of our bathroom
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window. If he watches her, he probably watches me, too. I wrap my arms around myself and worry that a perverted, deranged man with a shotgun is threatening to shoot my father outside, racing through the neighborhood on an average morning in suburbia. I cover my ears as I listen to police car sirens approaching our home. I open my eyes and see shadows seeping through our curtains. I cry harder when I imagine my father chasing a twisted killer through the streets. My father is the least physically fit man I know. He’s never been athletic, and he passed on his lack of coordination to his three daughters. I don’t think I’ve ever even seen him run. I think he would look like a bull-legged frog hopping across the road. Fathers of the girls I attended school with clapped and cheered for their daughters as they competed in softball tournaments, while I was at home watching ice-skating on television with my dad. When fathers bragged about their daughters’ athleticism at track meets, I argued with my dad about which one of us was the checkers champion. My father’s height is intimidating, but I couldn’t believe that he could ever harm anyone even if they were a threatening enemy.
“The creep got away once again. The creeps always get away.” My mother enters Candace’s bedroom. “Everything’s okay. Your father is back. You can come out now.” “What happened?” I ask. “Did dad catch the creep?” My father shakes his head grimly. “No. I didn’t catch him. He jumped over a wooden privacy fence and got away.” “So he’s still out there?” Candace cries. “He could come back?” “I’m going to install security cameras and motion dector lights,” my father answers. “If he comes back, we’ll catch him.” “Are the police looking for him?” I ask. “The police are driving around searching for a suspicious looking man walking around the neighborhood this early in the morning,” my father says. “How do you know the police are actually trying to find him?” I ask. “I saw them driving around,” my father answers. “They drove right past me as I walked home.” “Did they stop and ask why you were walking around so early in the morning?” I ask, incredulously. “No,” my father answers. I laugh. “You are the most suspicious looking guy in our neighborhood,” I say. “A tall bald man wearing a thick black jacket walking around at five in the morning isn’t suspicious? They didn’t even ask where you came from? They probably drove right past the pervert then too!” I shake my head in bitter amusement. “You’re probably right, Juliana,” my father says. “But we don’t need the police because I am going to catch this bastard with security cameras.” I glance at my sister wiping her tears away with a tissue. I begin to laugh. The thought of my father running bull-legged through the neighborhood as clueless police officers drive right past him strikes me as hilarious. I laugh hysterically and everyone is staring at me. “Well,” I say. “You should be flattered that out of all the teenage girls getting ready for school on our street, he chose to watch you.”
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“That’s not funny,” Candace says. “It’s sick.” “And he’s still out there,” I say, laughing. “The creep got away once again. The creeps always get away.” For the next several weeks, I lay in my bed at night, paralyzed with fear when the motion detector lights flash through the darkness. Sometimes I race to my parents’ bedroom and beg my father to check outside and make sure that it’s only an animal setting off the monitoring system. Other nights I ignore the brightness outside my window and drag my covers over my head. I am afraid my father will walk out into the dark and be shot by a deadly pedophile. Sometimes I wish we didn’t have the security system because I would rather not know who was outside watching me. My nights were always sleepless, waiting for the lights to appear and warn me that something was outside my windows. After my father installed the outdoor security system, he bought frosted contact paper for the bathroom window. He assured Candace and me that if someone were trying to watch us, they wouldn’t be able to see through the tinted paper. But I knew someone could see us through several of the other windows in our home. During the next few weeks, my father also watched me walk down the street to the bus stop every morning to make sure there wasn’t anybody following me or waiting to snatch me into his car. My mother wanted to put our home up for sale. She thought that we needed to move to a better neighborhood. I realized that it didn’t matter where we lived. We could move to the wealthiest side of town or the east side ghetto. BFNGs, peeping Toms, and creepy men dressed in disguises would still come to find us. Even with a bottle of Mace in my hands, I didn’t feel safe.There wasn’t anyone who could protect me. I stood in the hallway, waiting for Kasey’s English class to be released. I had left my Humanities class early, claiming I needed to research a report in the library so I could meet Kasey. My teacher handed me a hall pass and let me leave, knowing that I was an honest and hard-working student. I stomped my foot impatiently outside the door, anxiously waiting for the bell to ring. She was one of the last students to exit the classroom. “Is he attractive?” I asked, excitedly. “Is he a hot college teaching assistant?” Kasey shook her head and laughed. “He’s old, Jules.” “Old in a handsome, charming way like Richard Gere?” I asked, hopefully. “Old like moldy cheese and my grandpa’s high waters,” Kasey laughed again. I sighed in exasperation and frowned. For several weeks, Kasey and I had been anticipating the arrival of a creative writing instructor who was coming to visit our English classes twice a month. We envisioned him as an intelligent, sexy, twenty-five year old college graduate student, working on his Master’s Degree as he inspired writing in high school kids. We could flirt passionately and meet for coffee on cool fall evenings at our local bookstore. Kasey and I were both studious, aspiring writers attracted to romantic men who wrote poetry and song lyrics. Unfortunately, at our high school, there weren’t many men who enamored us with their witty words. The only boys who wrote songs were stoners with spiky hair and earrings who played guitars in their fathers’ smoky garages. I constantly reminded Kasey that I had an advantage over her regarding our seduction of the creative writing teacher because I was taking two English classes. She always teased me that she was going to attract his attention before I could because she had English class first period. “I guess we’re going to have to wait a couple more years until college before we meet
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our Salinger husbands,” Kasey joked. We stood at our lockers and exchanged notes written during our classes. “Is he really that old?” I sighed again. “He’ll be dead by the time we graduate,” Kasey giggled. “He’s that old. Go see for yourself!” “I’ll meet you in the cafeteria after class,” I told Kasey. I wandered through the science department on my way to English class. Kasey thought it was amusing that our dreams of having intellectual conversations with a handsome college student were diminished, but I felt a vague sense of disappointment. We had been looking forward to this moment for weeks, staying up late talking on the telephone about what this mysterious creative writing instructor would be like, and now there was nothing to look forward to except our English teacher, Mr. Mohn’s,sarcastic, dark humor. He was a strange man. He reminded me of Icabod Crane. Once, when Kasey and I interviewed him for an article about the girls’ golf team, he offered Kasey a taste of salmon right off his own fork. We didn’t find that to be very professional. I walked up the steps, past the library, and wandered through my favorite hallways in the building, the English department. Kasey and I wrote for the high school newspaper and dreamed of becoming famous columnists. I filled my schedule of electives with English honors classes. I was a proud member of our school’s drug-free group, Youth-to-Youth. I participated in French Club fundraisers, contributed to my school’s literary magazine, and attended National Honor Society meetings. My teachers trusted me, recognized my great potential, and encouraged my passion for writing. I tutored children after-school, visited an elderly woman for company on the weekends, baby-sat kids in my neighborhood, and constantly read books. While other freshmen and sophomores I knew were drinking flavored Smirnoff and posing for sexy pictures at high school parties, I was practicing writing essays for college applications. I was a model student, and I knew exactly where life was going to lead me. I was going to attend a liberal arts college and study creative writing. I picked out a graduate school in Austin and perused affordable apartments in Texas. I would get an internship with a small newspaper and write articles about strangers falling madly in love and eloping, and the deepest secrets and lies of ordinary people. I was going to uncover crime in big cities, discover unusual travel destinations, and interview important political figures. I would marry an artist and become an editor in factual verification. I would have children before I was thirty. I had my life figured out. I smiled at the head of the English department as I walked down the hallway to my classroom. “I loved your poem in The Pantheon,” he complimented me. “Thank you,” I beamed. I walked into Mr. Mohn’s classroom and took a seat. Students gathered around their desks as they laughed loudly and discussed the tactics used at last week’s football game and planned dates for the upcoming homecoming dance. Girls flipped their hair over their shoulders and complained about the trauma of switching shampoo brands. Stoners with glazed eyes played hackey sack with a bean bag before the bell rang. I took out a notebook and quizzed my friend, Lisa, on vocabulary words that could possibly appear on the SAT tests. Mr. Mohn stood up from his desk and introduced Brady Levine to the class. “Welcome Mr. Levine. He will be visiting our class twice a month for the rest of the school year. As everyone knows, our school doesn’t offer a creative writing class, so Mr. Levine will be offering literary expertise and encouraging all of you to enter the national Scholastic writing competition this winter. Please give him your full attention and utmost
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respect,” Mr. Mohn said. I smiled. Mr. Levine stood in front of the class wearing a pressed, white shirt. He threw his hands in the air energetically as he talked about his program he created to inspire students to become enthusiastic about writing. His spirit was contagious and I recognized a genuine passion for literary arts in him. My bright blue eyes studied him intently as he read excerpts from his autobiographical novel he was in the process of writing. I stared curiously, as he quietly described to the class his experience of losing his young wife to cancer a few years after their daughter was born. He read a passage detailing his extreme heartbreak as he brushed his hands across her clothes in their closet, her memory consuming him. I watched his hands trembling slightly as words filled with emotion rolled smoothly out of his mouth. He revealed the pain he felt for his daughter when he explained to her that her mother was dead. “The grief counselor told me to tell her the truth. I didn’t tell her that her mother had gone to heaven. I didn’t say she was looking down on her from the sky surrounded by angels. I told her that her mother died and she wasn’t coming back,” Mr. Levine explained. “She responded in the manner the grief counselor said she would. She covered her eyes and pretended to cry because she was just a small child and thought she was supposed to cry. She gave the reaction she thought I would expect. I told her at the park. She saw a squirrel and chased it. Then she hid behind a tree in the woods.” Mr. Levine stood in front of me, pacing back and forth across the classroom. I listened to him, entranced. I don’t remember blinking. I don’t remember peeling my eyes away from him for even a moment. I just stared and stared at him, my eyes burning through him. I felt his words. I wanted him to know that I was there and I needed to hear his story. He wanted to protect his daughter from the heartbreak of losing her mother. He didn’t want her to live her life growing up without someone to call “mommy.” He didn’t want her to feel the awful hurt that gripped his physical body and caused him to grind his teeth down in the middle of lonely, dark nights. I watched him and felt the warmest sincerity in his words. I wanted to see his childhood photographs. I wanted to hear his voice and listen to him whispering across my body. I wanted to know why his parents named him Brady. I wanted to see the neighborhood where he grew up and listen to the first song he ever liked. I wanted to hear what he loved most about his wife, the thoughts that helped him fall asleep at night, the first book he ever read, his favorite letter of the alphabet, and which drink he usually ordered at restaurants. I wanted to learn his favorite comfort food, the hardest lesson in his life that forced him to grow up, and where he goes when he’s sad. I wanted to blow cigarette smoke seductively into his mouth and ask him if he knows what that means. I wanted to stand inside him in a piercing, hot shower, catching water droplets dripping down his skin. I wanted to write him love poems on steamy, foggy glass mirrors. I wanted to learn all of the little things about him that people are too selfish to care to know about each other. I put him on a pedestal. I thought he could take half-burnt cigarettes littering the broken sidewalks and transform them into shooting stars. I thought he could capture vapid gray asphalt and spin it into a bright yellow sky. I thought he could make moon flowers grow in the black holes of the Grand Canyon. I didn’t believe he was just another ordinary man. I didn’t understand why I experienced such closeness to an alluring stranger standing in front of me. Piercing colors reflected from the October sun, streaming a golden glow through the clear windows. I felt a fierce, fiery energy radiating through myself. It told me I needed to know him.
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“I’m going to marry that man someday,” I declared to Kasey as we sat in the cafeteria together, eating lunch. “That is seriously gross, Jules. He’s like, really old,” Kasey laughed. I grinned. Kasey was very smart. She usually found a way to interject intelligent words into every dialogue, but her vocabulary also consisted of too many meanings of the word like. On weekends when she would spend nights at my home, my mother would tease her about how many times she used the word in conversations. Kasey once told a story using the word like fifteen times. My mother counted. “He’s like, very talented and like, um, like a really great writer,” I giggled. “Seriously, Jules. He’s old enough to be your father,” she said. “He’s probably in his late thirties or early forties. Richard Gere is probably older than him,” I added with satisfaction. “Yes, but Richard Gere is a movie star, which doesn’t count as real life,” Kasey argued. “I talked to him,” I said. “I went up to him after class and introduced myself. I told him that I really admired his work and that I’d like to enter the writing competition.” “Oh God,” Kasey rolled her eyes. “He offered to meet me in the library to help edit my short stories,” I continued. “He told me to call him Brady.” “I think I’m going to regurgitate my French fries,” Kasey said, pretending to throw up her food on her lunch tray. “Besides, I think he has a girlfriend. In my class, he mentioned something about a fiancé.”
I was nobody and I wanted to be noticed. I wanted to pretend I was anyone else. “I’m going to marry him someday,” I promised her. Kasey pointed across the cafeteria. “Isn’t that him sitting alone at the table?” I glanced over my shoulder. “Yes, it is.” I stared thoughtfully across the lunch room thinking about Brady. I wondered what his girlfriend was like. I wasn’t too concerned about it. “Even if he has a girlfriend, that’s what break-ups are for. Even if he was married, there’s always an option to divorce.” Kasey started laughing. “You’re twisted, Jules, but that’s not why I’m laughing.” “What’s so funny?” I asked. She was watching students slowly surround Brady’s table. A boy in a wheelchair rolled up next to Brady. A mute Chinese boy took a seat. A girl with braces waved her arms back and forth. Another girl banged her fists on the table. “Somebody should have warned him. Out of all the available seats in the cafeteria, he sat at the mentally retarded table,” she laughed. I lost my virginity a few weeks before I met Brady. Brittany had recently moved away, and although Kasey and I were best friends, my life wasn’t the same without her. I began working at a local pizza shop to save money for college, and experience the wonder, youthfulness, and spontaneity of life as a teenage girl searching her dreams for passion
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and energy. I would complete my homework after school and my mother would drop me off at work in the evening. She encouraged the idea of having a job, believing it taught responsibility and financial independence at a young age, but I didn’t work so that I could learn how to budget money. I always did well in school. I never needed help with homework. I was the girl in class who let the superintendent’s son cheat off her French assignments every week. But I wanted to learn more than a high school education could teach me.I wanted to learn about people. I wanted to write about my boss who had confessed to me that she was a high school drug addict and used to wake up next to strange men in abandoned houses. I wanted to write a poem about Chris, whose arm was replaced years ago with a hook that he used to place pepperoni on customers’ pizzas as he bragged about his unbelievable sex life. I wanted to hear stories about Big Beth, who constantly chewed ice and never shaved her legs, even after it was rumored she gave birth to her baby on the prep table in the kitchen restaurant. I wanted to drive around after work with Cole, admiring beautiful homes with heart-shaped vegetable gardens as we discussed names of our future children before climbing in the backseat of his little green Shadow to kiss innocently. I wanted to experience more than who I was. I was nobody and I wanted to be noticed. I wanted to pretend I was anyone else. Cole had been standing behind the cash register counting change for a woman with bleached blonde hair and hooker boots when I entered the restaurant on my first day of work. His slight resemblance to the cowboy from the Marlboro advertisements immediately caught my attention. He lived with his father and dreamed of being an architect and moving to Chicago. Cole always told me he was going to register for classes at a local community college, but I knew he was never going to. He lived a mundane existence of working at a pizza shop until two ‘o’ clock in the morning, memorizing sales receipts, before going home to count the cracks on his bedroom ceiling. I knew he was going to be a manager of the small restaurant until he was old enough to retire, spending his evenings scrubbing a giant metal dough bowl with a toothbrush and serving pizza to men that he would never measure up to. I knew he would never love me. He knew it too, but we could pretend. He was in love with a woman named Jen, who had called him one afternoon to say that she was leaving him and moving to North Dakota. She told him to keep everything, including her razors and shaving cream. Cole and I would take breaks at the restaurant every hour, smoking cigarettes behind the dumpster, and dreaming of running away to Oklahoma or Montana where the stars were always bright. One weekend afternoon, I stood at the cash register counting the money in the drawer to give to Cole to deposit at the bank. Cole shined a charming smile at me. “Meet me in the freezer in two minutes,” he whispered. Cole disappeared into the freezer and I followed, giggling. “Now take off your boxers,” I smiled seductively, like an actress in a black and white film. Cole grinned. “Do you realize we could really have sex in here?” I laughed. “Yes, but I also realize that if we got caught, we would both be fired.” “Well if the work policy allows the general manager to fuck in the freezer, then I don’t understand why it would be wrong for you and me,” Cole said. “What are you talking about?” I asked. “Barry was caught in here with Rachel. Didn’t you hear about that? His pants were down and her skirt was lifted up,” Cole explained. “Barry is married,” I whispered. The image of Barry and Rachel in the freezer together was disheartening. I respected Barry. I had met his wife and beautiful children. I was shocked that Barry would betray his wife with a high school cheerleader.
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“He cheats on his wife all the time,” Cole said. “He told me that he doesn’t even want his kids because they’re too much responsibility. If he hadn’t gotten his wife pregnant, he would be at the bar every night.” “You would never cheat on me, would you?” I asked him. “Of course not,” Cole said. “I love you. Everyone loves you. Barry told me that he hopes his daughter grows up to be a sweet girl like you.” I knew in two years I would be going off to college, leaving this city behind, like a funeral I never wanted to attend. Even if I ever felt true love, it wouldn’t be enough to make me stay. I walked to the front of the restaurant and stared outside. I noticed that the front windows were cloudy and needed to be washed. People are similar to glass, I thought to myself. They are streaked with smudges and fingerprints until they’re unclear and shatter. “What are you thinking about?” my supervisor, Tina, asked. I smiled. “Just thinking about life.” “Well, the best life advice I can give you is don’t get pregnant,” Tina laughed. “I wish my mother would have told me that when I was sixteen. You’ll make a wonderful mother someday. You have all of the qualities of a good mother, but just don’t get pregnant now,” she said. “Thanks Tina,” I said. “That’s the nicest compliment anyone has ever given me.” I took a paper towel and cleaned the front windows. Bright September sun splashed color through the afternoon sky and across the shiny glass, as light shined through the restaurant. I lost my innocence to Cole that night. We dropped off the day’s sales at the bank and parked his car on a street named Helene. We climbed barefoot in the backseat and he offered me my first taste of marijuana in a strawberry flavored joint. His mother was out of town on vacation, sowe drove to her trailer and made love, wrapped in a blanket on her dining room floor. I was in love with the idea of growing up. I eagerly waited for night to fall. I would call my mother and tell her I was working late. Cole and I would pull into his friend, Aaron’s, driveway and smoke marijuana out of a dragon bong in his living room as we watched country music videos and discussed our anticipated futures. Aaron’s girlfriend taught me how to smoke properly. She told me to sit on their blue sofa and hold the bong between my legs while she lit it. White smoke blew out of my mouth and twirled through the air like a ballerina. I became accustomed to the three stages I would experience when I was high. The dimly lit, barely furnished room, would spin and I would tilt forward and laugh hysterically as we played strip poker and gambled all our clothes away. Then I would feel angry and guilty as I thought about their three year old daughter crying in her bedroom while we were entertaining each other. I thought I needed to be there to protect her from the harsh reality of drugs and cigarettes.Sometimes I would enter her room and admire the brilliance of her blue eyes as I read her children’s stories and sang love songs to dry her tears. I would feel tender eyes burning through my back, and turn to see Cole watching me from the doorway. I would fall into him and we would love one another as we laid together on the sofa and whispered beautiful lies. the streets of Mexico, and he would design houses for foreign movie stars. We would leave and drive through the city in the middle of the dark night, listening to music flowing softly from the radio, admiring the black satin sky, until the bright stars disappeared.
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Secor Road Notebook Emi Green It’s something you survive, you squeeze through. Traffic belches road rage, a casualty of deep fried speed. Bags pour out of stores carrying people they don’t need. Hope spills out of church doors on a Sunday seeking German pancakes. Yellow lines remind us of coloring, the ceaseless strive to stay inside. Houses build their defenses– maybe fences– to mend. Circular drives made to save time spin us round to begin again. Forget the I-75 overpass– a different rhythm. There was a time when tilt to either side and a semblance of silence. The trees remember the motion and root themselves in the moment. We could dig up this macadam, line up the layers. We could stack Thackeray’s books, eat a Krispy Kreme, rent a Blockbuster. We could ride this road forever, suck in, breathe at the intersection of now and then.
photo courtesy: Kraftwerk
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How can I feel so far from you? Just inches away but bound by fears of intrusion. Your eyes on the TV, mine on the floorboards while I daydream of straddling your lap, your fingers swimming up my thighs beneath waves of cotton, you pulling me in, painting my neck with kisses, pushing against me as I sink like roots immersed in earth. What would happen if I touched you now? Would you retreat or raise quills at my audacity? I’m ashamed of my longing to lift the heavy curtain we sewed in silence. I want to start over. Not at the beginning, but somewhere between butterflies and locked drawers. In the middle, where inhibition shuddered in the shadow of love. I want to gaze at you without explanation, trace your birthmarks without cause. Our synchronized breath can be the only veil between us. Come to me, let’s restore our daily communion. Together we’ll build a second beginning.
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Khroma: Winter 2017