Page 1

freedom

#3


listen along

with the soliloquie freedom playlist


a letter from the editor


I'm going to be honest - I have no clue what to write here. This issue has been an ORDEAL to get through. I think we started roughly this time last year, with the prospect of releasing a new edition quarterly. And it almost didn't happen. But I'm stubborn. It's a gift and a curse. So here we are. Finally. I have really enjoyed working with all of you, as a manager and a designer and a team mate. It's awesome being surrounded by so many talented and passionate people, and I know you're all going to achieve great things! That said, this is the last issue I'll be taking part in for the forseeable future while I focus on my work and studies, but I hope to see Soliloquie continue in someone else's hands. I was hoping Gracie would be able to write an editor's letter as well, but this exerpt from our conversation will have to do for now:

April 1st, 2019 i think it's been a solid six months hasn't it? i can't even begin to tell you how many drafts i have saved trying to reach out, but the longer it got, the harder it got. obviously i deserve a beating, so i'm not even going to waste meaningless sorry's anymore. i can't even begin to tell you how relieved i was. i had no idea how i was going to even open discord and clean up the mess of my absence, so the fact that the responsibility had been transferred to someone else, in the most selfish way, allowed me to breathe a little. i was heartbroken that i had been stupid enough to cause you to leave, cause you any trouble. i don't know where this leaves us. i really want this magazine to continue, but i've been pretty reckless, and my personal problems have no right to impede on someone else's. i really don't even want to think about the amount of talented people i have lost. so, i don't know. i can understand any outcome. no matter what it is. I hope you're proud of us, Gracie, because we wouldn't exist without you.. I hope soliloquie has a future. But most of all I hope everyone can all be proud of what we've achieved. Happy reading and best wishes,

acting editor-in-chief

dani donnelly


the teams creators alex

anika de jong anne llanora

anusha anwer beth christy avery

cindy nguyen esther lee eve jan

julianna poupard katie king liz

may mel

mimi yano

sara schleede stephanie h. zoe

edit

andrea g

esth

ev

haile

jan

ky

luc

ros

vo

foun gracie


tors

gonzalez

her

ve

ey j.

ne

yla

ca

se

on

graphic design creative director dani donnelly designers char jennifer pan

llustrators

nder zhang

amelia maddy


#8

free girl

the rejection pile

by anne llanora

by alex

#15

by jan

#30

ruled

#56

by eve

by mimi yano

tokens of freedom

by zoe

by eve

#62

by christy avery

3am freedom life life liberty

#54

paraĂąaque

living & other newness

by eve

by katie & liz

#61

why do you grow this way

california

price i pay

#50

#20

by anika de jong

#29

the phantoms of bounty shores

#16

by zoe

#58 #64 making a headway

by may


contents #23

breathe, again

letter to our younger selves

by cindy nguyen

summerlong

#22

by beth

#32 mundane mysteries

by anusha anwer

tahoe

by eve

destructress

#44

by julianna poupard

oysters for dinner

spread your wings

by stephanie h.

by sara schleede

#65

#24 our small freedoms

by katie

#59

my first apartment

#45

by esther lee

two for the price of one

by mel

#66

by julianna poupard

#60

#46


the rejection pile by anne llanora

Dear all Random University applicants, Thank you for your astute interest in Random University. Through much time and consideration, we regret to inform you that your application was not accepted for the Software Engineering program. The task of choosing students is a difficult one as there are many excellent applications. Unfortunately, we are only allowed to accept a small portion at a time. We wish you the best and encourage you to continue your academic pursuits. Yours truly, Random Name, PhD Graduate Advisor I snatch the paper as fast as I can and start walking— wandering. I don’t know where I’m going. Don’t know if I was good enough for the other colleges. Don’t know if I was just good enough. It’s a restless, anxious waiting and wondering that eats at my soul. 8

The sun has set. It’s that awkward phase of time in the day where it's not dark enough for the street lights to turn on. Everyone is fumbling home, head down, shoulders hunched. Dark clouds hover menacingly over apartment buildings and turtle-like streetcars, threatening a downpour. I pass by the hospital on my walk and try not to look at it. It’s been ten years since I was in that hospital. The last day I was there is still crystal clear in my head. It was a gloomy day like this one and I was sitting on my brother’s bed. Minding the weird tube thing that he had attached to his nose and wrapped around his ears, I told him that I was at my friend’s house all of yesterday, playing on her Nintendo DS. He told me that when he died, I could take his. He said I could take his skateboard, too. Our mom got mad at him for saying that. “Uh, hey, are you okay?” Inhaling sharply, I whip around. A stalky boy drowning in a wool coat that’s too thick for November stands at a short distance. His


mitten-shielded hand is out like he was going to grab my arm but decided against it, though his hand is still open for a handshake. There’s nasal prongs in his nose. Brown eyes dig into mine. “Andy?” I reach out for his hand. It falls right through. “Oh yeah.” He brings his hand to his face, squinting at it. “I forgot about that.”

eyes flicking over to me for a fraction of a second. “Software Engineering, huh? Why’d you take it?” It’s a good question that I don’t have a good answer for and I should, seeing as it’s something I’ll be doing every day for the rest of my life. In reality, the clock had been ticking and graduation had been threateningly close. I panicked, which was why I went for software engineering.

“Wait,” I say, reaching for his wrist. My hand falls through as if he’s smoke. “Wait! Wait- you’re a ghost? Like a spirit?”

“That’s a good question,” I say instead.

“Sure.” He shrugs. “Whatever helps you cope.”

I blink. Rain splatters the windows of the building I’m suddenly in, the drops of transparency trailing down the glass like a shiver down a spine. The sun is up again. I turn around and see myself, but younger. Grade ten.

It's hard to tell that he isn't alive when you take a long look at him. Hard, but doable. He's my animated brother, just lacking depth and shading and warmth. There’s no warmth emitting from his form. I chuckle, though it sounds more like a wheeze.

“You know what? I won’t push. We’re here, anyway.”

“Am I not in crisis?”

“Oh Lord,” I whisper. Adolescent Maya is as awkward as I remembered. Her black hair is tied up in a messy bun, with baby strands poking out of the hair tie in every which way. Angry pimples my mom affectionately called love bites stood out on my freckled skin. My gaze travels from the hunched over girl to the computer table of other sweaty high schoolers. Andy stands beside me. “What are we doing here?”

Andy clicks his tongue, pulling a folded piece of paper out of his pocket and tugging it open. “Dear My. Thank you for your astute- wow, astute-“

“We’re playing detective,” he answers, watching Little Maya with intense interest, “trying to find the root of the problem first so we can fix it later.”

‘Ah,’ I think, ‘oh.’ I could probably recite those words aloud, seeing as I’ve seared it into my brain since it came in the mail. Still, hearing the words thrown back at me makes my vision blur. My body surges forward without my demand for it, snatching the paper from the ghost’s grip. “Shut up. I know, alright? I’ve read- I’ve read it enough times.”

“Nothing’s wrong,” I insist.

“A ghost,” I mutter. “My dead brother’s ghost. Oh my God.” “I heard my little sister was in crisis.” He looks me up and down. “God, you’ve gotten tall.”

He doesn’t reply as he turns away, save for the knowing look he sends my way as his navy blue mittens disappear into his pockets. “Ready for a blast to the past?” No, I want to say, no, no, no, but before I get the chance to say it, Andy starts walking. His footsteps are soundless against the pavement. This is ridiculous. Am I arguing with a ghost, or a figment of my imagination? My feet still carry me to his side but he stops in his tracks, 9


“Hey, wait, shut up for a sec.” He ignores me, hovering over Adolescent Maya’s desk. I look closer at her and see a doodle of Harry Styles from One Direction in her notebook. The eyes and hair look straight out of an anime while the lips and nose are non-existent. My style had always been more cartoon-like than what was mainstream, so I stopped drawing in grade eleven, though looking at it floods my stomach with nostalgia. “Do you know where we are, by the way?” A frown tugs at my lips. The cheap fluorescent lights make the whole brick white room suffocating although no one seems to mind as they tap along their respective keyboard. “Programming Club.” Programming Club.”

My

lips

curl.

“I

hated

“Yet you stayed in it for three years.” He crosses his arms. I shrug, biting my stubby fingernail and tugging a stray strand behind my ear. “It looked good on a college application.” Looking like he doesn’t believe me, he also peeks over Little Maya’s shoulder. “Do you still draw?” “I stopped doodling in grade eleven.” I shrug again. “Yeah, ‘doodle.’” Andy makes a long ‘hmmmmm’ sound, running a hand through his thick mop of hair. “We’re going nowhere here, I think. Let’s rewind a little more.”

10

soft linen bunched up in my hands as he looked at me sadly. A plop of water drops on my nose and the scene vanishes. I’m standing in an elementary school classroom. “Maya?” “Hm?” Andy—the ghost of him— eyes me quietly, shoving his hands into his coat. The rain has reverted to a dull thud against the pavement outside. There are kids outside for recess, playing in puddles and ignoring the supervisors’ warnings of dirty uniforms. On the other side of that window, an eight-year-old Maya sits at her desk writing on pink printer paper. In a scrawl that only an eight-year-old can do, she writes, ‘END CHILD LABOUR. MEETINGS EVERY TUESDAY @ LUNCH RECESS.’ “Social Justice Club.” I smile, peering at the messily drawn ‘@’ sign. I’d wear my hair in Dutch braid every day because it was the only braid I knew. That day was no exception. Little Maya’s nose scrunches up and her eyes squint as she draws a perfect red circle with a line cutting through it instead of an ‘O’ in ‘labor.’ Despite the happy memory, Andy frowns. “Why didn’t you join Social Justice Club in high school?” “I wouldn’t have enough have had enough time for Programming Club.”

Rewind a little more? “Wait-“

“You hated Programming Club.”

Droopy rainclouds stay immobile even as the thunder makes my hands shake. Cracks of fallen raindrops stain the windows, though blocked by health and wellness posters telling me to wash my hands. I was sitting on Andy’s bed again, the

“That I did.” Andy ruffles his hair again, glaring daggers into the floor. Tiny Maya has abandoned the classroom, after leaving the poster on the teacher’s desk. Her


energetic footsteps bounce and fade through the hallway, leaving only us. It’s stopped pouring outside, leaving nothing but smothering silence, and the ghost hops onto the little desk across me and pointing. “I’m having a hard time understanding you,” he says.

in that rain. It’s pitter-pattering, pitter-pattering, pitter-pattering on the pavement. “You don’t understand! You don’t care! The only reason you’re here is ‘cause you’re dead! And you have nothing better to do than butt into my life and pretend something’s wrong with me!”

“I’m having a hard time understanding why you’re here,” I answer, plunging into a chair. It’s an elementary school chair, making my knees awkwardly drawn higher than I’m used to. Despite that, I spare Andy a glare.

Then silence. My stomach sinks. Andy looks like when I last saw him: very, very dead. Bruised eye bags that makeup couldn't cover. Chapped, pale lips. Cheeks sunken in. For the funeral, our parents had decided to dress him up in the suit that he hated wearing. I dropped a rose into the casket despite him being allergic to pollen. Not that dead brothers can have allergic reactions. His ghost starts to speak.

He pointedly looks away. “You loved Social Justice Club. Even when those kids across the street used to make fun of you for it, you still went.” I wasn’t the president of the Social Justice Club- I was just the kid who drew the mediocre posters. Why would I keep going if it wasn’t going to take me anywhere? The realization of not being good enough had hit me a long time ago. There was no purpose in being purposeless. I knew that wasn’t something he’d want to hear though. “Look,” I say, “I don’t know what you’re getting at-“ He’s cornering me all of a sudden, dropping down from his desk. “You didn’t even try?” The posters weren’t even that good. I still have them in the back of my closet, if only for the wave of nostalgia that hits me on rainy days. “Stop-“ “What? Did you just- did you stop caring all of a sudden?” “Because one person won’t make any difference! I wouldn’t have made a difference!” I’m drowning

“Maya. You dumbass.” His voice is low and raspy like he’s whispering in my ear and shouting across the room at the same time. “I care-” Andy flickers in and out like a dying light bulb as his words shake, “-because every breath you’re taking is a breath that I don’t get to take.” “Andy,” I say, “I’m sorry.” He shrugs, looking up at the incandescent lights. “You’re my baby sister. I just don’t want you messing up your life, ya get me?” Then he looks at me, with the same gaze that had become default after his diagnosis. Brows quirked up slightly. Lips twitching upwards and downwards like he hadn’t decided on smiling or frowning. “I still- I don’t get it.” There’s nothing wrong with me. I know there’s nothing wrong with me. “I wasn’t good enough for my safety school, that’s the reason you’re here, right? So just- just stop trying to fix something you can’t change and make me feel shittier in the process.”

11


“That’s not why I’m here.” His chapped lips finally settle on a smile, albeit a sad one. He avoids my gaze, choosing to stare over my shoulder. “Hey, remember when you made me bake cookies for your club?” The Social Justice Bake Sale. Our mom said she’d buy some cupcakes from the store. After she went to work, I bribed Andy to help me bake cookies because I didn’t want to be that girl with store bought cupcakes. By the end of the day, my hair was dusted with flour, courtesy of Andy, with cookies that tasted like sand. We both agreed to not tell Mom and covered up the evidence together. I snort. “Yeah, even the dog wouldn’t eat them.” An unsteady silence settles between us. His eyes are sad but his mouth is tilted upwards. “What about the time I dared you to climb up our tree house without using the ladder? It took you, like, less than a minute to fall. That was so funny.” It takes him a good ten seconds to respond. “I sprained my ankle, you ass,” he says, though it failed to snap him out of it. His voice is honeyed with somber as he stares at nothing. “I’d be twentyeight right now. Did you know that?” The cheap school light flickers, Andy flickers, too. Somewhere in the moments in between, he disappears and I’m left alone. A rejection letter weighs heavy in my pocket and it’s only a matter of minutes before I’m smoothing it out on the table. I scan it again and again, hoping that if I read it one more time, the words will rearrange themselves into something it’s not. Software Engineering- a job that Andy would've done if he hadn't died. I used to help him study for the exams. The moment he showed me what he was learning, I knew I wanted to do it too. Though that didn’t stop me from questioning every step I took because I had potential that could be ruined in an application letter, a bad grade, an opportunity missed. Is what I’m doing enough?

12

The chair screeches against the tile. My footsteps go along the empty hallways. The playground's liveliness has died out, with the children ushered back into classrooms, and the rain has dulled to a light mist. I spot him flickering on the playground’s swing, lazily gripping the chains. He doesn’t look up. I know he notices me. Taking a deep breath, I settle on the swing beside him. The sun is finally setting. It leaves dewy clouds pressed against hues of pinks and oranges like a second grader’s canvas. Whenever Andy had to babysit me, he’d take me here even though he wasn’t supposed to. He’d try and teach me how to skateboard which worked out with a scraped knee and a nasty scar on my elbow that Mom still doesn’t know about to this day. “I can’t believe you thought I was here because of one rejection letter,” Andy drawls. I scoff. “Shut up. It was a safe assumption.” “Yeah, well, those astute scholars lost someone special.” Andy flickers again as he chuckles but his face is still thoughtful. “You’re different from when you were eight; I get that. I just- something’s different. Not in a good way, y’know? It’s like you’re not even passionate about anything anymore. I should’ve asked this before but… what do you want, Maya?” It’s a good question. “I mean, I’d kill for a coffee right now,” I say. He frowns and gives me a look— a youknow-what-I-mean look. The watercolor sky begins to transition to black with little sprinkles of stars and there’s cotton stuck in my throat. “I… I want to buy Mom dinner without worrying about the bill, y’know? And I just- I want to make a difference in the world, and I want to be happy and I want to be good enough and I wanna be someone you would’ve proud of, y’know?” I gasp. “It’s a long list.” “Success,” Andy mutters, “that’s what you want. Success.” “I guess so, yeah.”


“Here’s the kicker, though.” He ruffles his hair. At this point, all his black strands stick up like spikes. “Success and happiness don’t have to be two different things. You’re sacrificing the things that make you happy to do things that make you unhappy.” Andy doesn’t let me reply because he’s rambling again. “Do you think I taught you how to skateboard ‘cause it would help build your résumé? No! I taught you because an eight-year-old doing kickflips would’ve been sick and I knew you’d have fun.”

yourself to death. You’re good enough. One snotty rejection letter doesn’t change that.”

“I… never thought about it that way.” “I know. I’m pretty wise.”

His eyes sparkle as his form flickers even faster. “It means crisis averted.”

“Shut up.”

“Wait--” Oh, I think, oh-- “will I ever see you again?”

A moment of silence settles between us. It’s a nice break that I know I deserve from all this dead brother’s ghost bullshit. Hums of nocturnal nature begin to buzz around us. Crickets crooning, fireflies droning around, owls hooting. “You’re gonna make me fucking say it, aren’t you?” he mutters, his form flickering again. “I’ve been proud of you, dumbass, but you’re worrying

There’s a moment of pause. I’m bad at words; I couldn’t explain the wave of emotion that spills out if I tried. Each word sticks with me, a sense of familiarity and home washing away every single heavy weight in my body because God, I haven’t heard those words in so long. “Oh.” I glance at him. “You’re flickering again. What does that mean?”

He chuckles, leaning back and stuffing his hands in his pockets. “Close your eyes and take a deep breath.” Hesitating, I do what I’m told. The earthy, postrain air fills my nostrils, making my shoulders drop and my eyelids heavy. I can feel myself flicker like Andy. I take my time to inhale, cracking open one eyelid. A burst of white greets me. I’m too tired to be shocked, opening my other eye.

13


My ceiling fan blasts my face, splaying black hair across my pillowcase. I turn my head, shivering from the rain in my dream and squinting at the sudden brightness. A perky yellow sticky note sits on top of a fresh cup of coffee.

Tell Mom I say hello Have an astute life -Andy :P

The word ‘astute’ is underlined three times, making my lips quirk upwards. I set the note back on the dresser, drag myself out of bed, and out of my room. I find my mom in the kitchen. Her head snaps up when I pad into the room, her smile small and a little sad. “I found the letter on the table. Honey, I’m so sorry.” She grabs my hands, squeezing tightly. “We’ll get the next one for sure.” It takes an embarrassingly long time to remember what she’s talking about. The rejection letter- that’s what she’s talking about. My heart tugs a little, but there’s no overwhelming panic that follows it, which is a nice feeling. “Yeah,” I say, “yeah, no, for sure. Hey, do you remember if we donated Andy’s skateboard?” She blinks, tucking away the stray hairs poking out of her messy bun. “I think your father put it away in the garage. Why are you asking?”

14

“I want to learn how to do a kickflip this summer.” After two more rejection letters, one acceptance letter did eventually come. We celebrated with ice cream in the park, where I showed my mom a kickflip. I think Andy would’ve been proud.

Dear Maya, It is with great pleasure that I offer you a spot at Random University. On behalf of faculty and staff, we welcome you to our community. We hope you fulfill your academic pursuits at our university. We are confident that the unique gifts you share with us will be challenged and developed on our campus. As a member of the graduating class of 2022, it is your responsibility to continuously accomplish the best that you can do. To accept your offer of admission, please refer to the pamphlet attached to this letter. Congratulations again, Random Person, PhD Graduate Advisor


free girl by alex


why do you grow thi


is way by anika de jong


living & other newness by christy avery

i. there is a drop in my stomach but not a nauseous one. i wake slow, let the release of a breath held too long blow open the curtains. give myself permission. nothing is up to me, yet everything is. the last year or so, with its muck—magnificent in its maliciousness, but right now the pollution is gone. i exhale, spit and leave it all behind in my wake, vow it to be final and just ii. i make breakfast and finish full but never to capacity. i am starved for time, really. have you savored the taste of new like a baby with milk on her lips? what is left once you do? for once, i leave the questioning behind me, too the unknowns, the rebirth. how smoothly it all seems to gush down my throat and calm my stomach, usually all red-bellied and caution signs; it’s been slow in the making, but today time feels everlasting and weightless. shouldn’t hunger be slow and steadily fed so the wolves keep away from

the body, don’t eat the core alive

iii. here and now, with grass tickling my spine, a laugh like forever, the wolves are just so—wolves. i change their shape in my mind: the teeth are bared, yes, but at such a bird’s-eye view i am not afraid. (i have been trying to fly more lately). right now, their teeth (and mine, too) are butterflies finally free and just confused about it. i send them off, say i understand their rage sometimes, tell them the winter gets damningly cold here and the trees go bare, tell them of the bite marks etched in my skin from times less fortunate, times i was the wolf iv. i still am the wolf sometimes, en pointe, ready to pounce at myself. but i am also the butterflies. metamorphosis. a change of state, and also home, still. through all of it v. maybe i have always been home, and the wolf, and in flight and full. but it feels new and beautiful. we just have to adjust to each other, even when the trees go bare. and we do. i am

20


breathe, again by cindy nguyen


summerlong by beth

won’t be long til summer time iswon’t be long til summer time iswon’t be long til summer timeis won’t be an empty cola can hits the side of the record, glancing off the spinning edge, skip, scratch—long til summer time iswon’t be long til ‘can’t you find another fucking record?’—snarling over the buzzy music—‘you lived here.’ ‘Unfortunately, I still live here.’ The air is thick with heat and dust and won’t be long til and rot and flies because the spiders are all dead. Two or three years and the flies will be dead. It worked like that, starting with the lions, scraps of matted yellow fur, the whales, beached and blistering, then down to the cows and horses, yowling cats and mice, and then the spiders. The whole predatory chain wilting under its own long til summer weight. Most of the people are gone too, bodies shriveled in the heat.

Out means walking into town, which means dead dogs and kids on the street and all those crows someone stuck on the railings, falling apart when you walk past. People did a lot of stuff like that. They weren’t used to dead things lying around, won’t be long, it did twisty things to their heads. Or maybe that was the dehydration. Or the heat. Or the darkness when the power went summertime iswon’t. They went twisty though, especially the ones that lived past the cholera. People said there was no cholera in the Arctic, but that didn’t really matter because the people that went up there long til summertime all drowned anyway. ‘Jesus-’ another can, off-brand lemonade thirteen years out of date, and the record judders, tries to go back, is forced forwards—been having fun all summer longwe’ve been having fun all

is herewon’t be—‘go downstairs and get us some food then--sick of these fucking—sugary fucking drinks-’ ‘I’ve been in all the flats, there’s nothing down there. We’d have to go out.’ ‘Yeah-’

23


freedom

letter to our yo


i miss those days

ounger selves by esther lee


summer of '18


you are such a rollercoaster


price i pay by jan

There are words I do not like the taste of anymore The sugar in their curves remind me too much of bedsheets and glass Sometimes it takes a mountain jagged rocks and precipices before I am taken under Sometimes it takes a breath and i am sucked back there As if no time has passed With the bedroom door not safe unlocked And the window, an open invitation There is no use hiding under covers When monsters have opposable thumbs And everything is ripping away from me The coldit scares me just a little. But it’s just the ice cream bite, I say Just the wind and its playful laughter Just a word in the end And I am back to the now

Forever thankful for the past tense How it signifies obsolescence. And so I bite into a bitter lemon Savouring what life has given me Savouring how sweet it doesn’t seem With arms wrapped around softness Hair in face chaos We are watching the sunset or the sunrise Or just watching the blue and white above Because heaven is beautiful anyway And I tell myself it’s okay Tell myself that tomorrow exists Tell myself that the chill in my curls mean that I am so far away from everything And I am.

29


california

by eve


quam te desidero

by king

I keep dreaming that we’re in the snow, white fur coats wrapped around our throats and your red lipstick the only visible enemy. We stand a far cry from Marshatuga Creek, but only a stone’s throw away from summer. Seventeen-year locusts cry out-of-place in the background, because their bodies are turning colder than my hand against your cheek, and then we fall; plummet to the frozen earth and fade away like dust-bunnies in fan-made wind. I always wake up with sweat on the backs of my eyelids and toes so cold they could freeze lemons; hunkered waist-deep in a body of sheets picked out by you. I stay this way most days, like a boulder midstream with no current to part around me. It really is a shame that canoes of the mind are the easiest to flip over. You are always sitting in the back of mine, one hand gripping an oar and the other pressed against my jugular.

My mother still makes tea that only you would drink and sometimes I get drunk and buy us life-jackets. Fifteen-ninety-five is a small price to sit beside them on the couch. I try not to think about why our fifteen upholstery-trapped crickets haven’t sang since two months after you set them loose like living house decorations. I always try to replicate their tiny bodies and peach-sweet high notes, but some symphonies can’t be played on human legs. I’ll admit to reorganizing the book-boxes once a week just to spite you, but I’ve only filled the garbage disposal with plastic one time. Good therapy is harder to come by than local part-time plumbers, and television static-snow sounds better than paying the cable bill in my name only. So, I sip juniper-gin and hope that you’d be angry; enough to slip one stiletto off a dainty heel and throw it through me. Most days, I miss that harder than I ever would a dreamless sleep.

31


mundane mysteries

by anusha anwer

She sat and stared at her computer screen for some time. “Thank you for the opportunity to read this one,” the email said. “But I’ll pass.” The first time she read the line, it struck her as odd. So odd in fact that her cheek muscles were about to contract in the beginnings of a confused, incredulous smile. She was in her pajamas and it was perhaps 3 a.m. in the morning. Her eyes were smarting and watering, despite the doctor’s prescribed eye-drops that she made sure to take regularly (fat load of good that did). It was her second mug of black coffee in two hours and fifth rejection in a week. But this, —she squinted at the name below the oneline reply — Loraine Cohurse didn't care, no. “Hey, Ames.” Rob sauntered into their room. “You’ve got to check this out.” She was thirty-two and he was thirty-seven, and perhaps both of them were too old to be dawdling about and around. They should just marry already. Shouldn’t they just marry already? She turned with the most nonchalant expression she could manage. “‘Thank you for the opportunity to show me this one’,” she said, tasting the words in her mouth. “‘But I’ll pass.’” 32

“Huh?” Rob frowned in confusion. His eyes were a mahogany brown and he was a head taller than her. His childhood in Ireland had left him with a permanent drawl in his speech that she loved – it was, in fact, the first thing she’d noticed about him eons ago when they’d met. She shook her head out of a daze and smoothed out the grimace on her face (so much for nonchalance). “Sorry.” She waved a hand and stood up. “What were you saying?” He raised his eyebrows doubtfully. “The news,” he started slowly as they made their way out into the living room. “There’s been a hurricane in New Orleans.” “Really? Did you call your parents?” “Yeah, they say they’re okay. Car’s been damaged because of a tree and lawn’s flooded but that’s about it.” Their coffee table was a mess – strewn with papers, dirty coffee mugs, a half-empty bag of chips, a laptop and bubblegum wrappers. A quilt lay hanging from the side of the sofa, and there were about three novels lying in various positions around the side of the table. The muted TV in front of their sofa featured a bald, suited man gesticulating wildly as updates about the storm rolled in under him.


Her eyes almost started twitching, looking at the mess, but she tried to keep her face blank as made her way to the kitchen.

brows, hands in the pockets of his shorts. The wallclock above their window ticked impersonally as if it had no idea what was happening.

Rob ran a hand through his hair and looked at her sheepishly. “Hey, uh sorry about the mess. I’ll clean it up.”

“Amy?” the voice said again, misreading her silence. “It’s me, Nick. Nick Fowles?”

She threw him a smile that felt more like a flinch. “Sure. No problem.” Rob opened his mouth to say something else but just then, their phone rang, a sharp startling sound in the otherwise quiet night. She frowned and looked at Rob, arm freezing midreach for the coffee machine. He shook his head and shrugged, making his way to the phone. It was three a.m. in the morning. He picked up the receiver. “Hello... yes hold on.” He raised the phone to her. “It’s for you.” Amy’s heart began to beat wildly in her chest. She wracked her brain for possible reasons for the call. Had something happened? Was someone hurt? Did Hafeez and Sara have their baby? But that didn’t warrant a call at three a.m. in the morning. They weren’t that close to her. Then, more forcefully, a thought pushed its way into the forefront of her brain: had someone died? She put the receiver to her ear. “Hello?” “Amy?” a raspy voice answered. In her body, it felt like her blood had frozen up; slowly coming to a halt in her arteries as she listened. Somewhere outside their apartment, she heard a door open. Rob stared at her with knitted

She gathered her thoughts, her voice, her sanity. “Dad?” It had been twenty years since she had said that to the man in person. * Amy hadn’t had a particularly impressive relationship with her father. Nothing at least that she could sit down and dramatically retell as a story at a dinner table. Nevertheless the memories she did have of him, she cherished fondly – their debates over books, how he would randomly throw out a quote, whenever he remembered one (he was a professor), and proceed to tell anyone in his immediate surrounding about its context. After the initial shock of her father’s disappearance had faded somewhat, she would always harbor guilt in the halo of her sadness that she didn’t have anything grand to remember him by. She’d sit in her room and spend hours trying to find that one amazing road trip, an exciting incident that involved only her father and her – something, anything, that would make it seem like her father was important to her. A memory that could prove it. But her household had been a fairly simple affair. Her mother was a professor too but at a different university. They rarely fought and when they did, it didn’t last very long. For twelve years of her life, they’d always eaten dinner together, in winters they’d have coffee after. On Christmas, they’d have relatives and mutual friends over and after everyone was gone all three of them would pitch in to clean the kitchen and the tables. 33


How to remember a father who’d just been around for her entire life. Someone who’d always been present alongside her mother. Never too busy with work to look over an assignment. Never too tired to go for a walk in the park or take her out for ice-cream or listen to her mother’s rants about colleagues at the university.

paper. And you begin another monotonous day in the new reality.

How to move on from a loss of someone who was so substantial in her life that it was like the loss of an eye or an arm. It was almost a reflex – going out of her room and into the hall, handing him his glasses as she walked by his armchair because he’d always leave it somewhere and forget about it completely. It broke her heart when she did it the first time after he was gone, picking it up from the lamp table and raising it towards the armchair for him to grab.

She nodded. “But how does –”

Her mom had seen Amy do it from the dinner table, and her eyes had welled up with tears that held a grief so crushing, so alien to twelve-and-ahalf-year-old Amy that for some days, along with sadness and guilt, she also felt mortified at the thought of experiencing so much pain. They never figured out what happened to him. Had he been kidnapped? Had he died? No one knew. Nick Fowles had vanished like he’d never been alive. She had had a horrible dream once that her father was only a prospect of her imagination. She had woken up with a start, relieved that he wasn't only to realize that he was gone. During the first few years, waking up was the hardest part of the day because it doesn’t hit you immediately. You groggily shake away the dream you had, you marvel at the strangeness of it but can only focus on a few incoherent snatches because it’s leaving you so fast. You blink open your eyes, you yawn, even stretch and the moment is hazy and detached and utterly devoid of emotion, but then the anxiety and trepidation of the night before spreads in your chest like a blot of ink on yellowed

34

Amy nervously reapplied her lipstick and stared at Rob through the mirror. “How do I look?” “You look fine Ames, it’s going to be alright,” he assured her patiently for the fifteenth time.

The doorbell rang. She jumped and dropped the lipstick, her hands and feet going numb. “Rob, I can’t, Rob I –” “Amy,” he said calmly. “You’ll be fine. Your father is at the door. Go and greet him in.” On the call, Amy and her dad had decided to have dinner at her place on the very same day. Rob had come home early from his job to help with the preparations, which is to say that he did everything and she just hyperventilated. There couldn’t have been an untimelier moment for her to remember the line from her email, but she did, and it somehow made her restless enough to get her moving towards the apartment door. The man who stood in front of Amy almost startled her. The father from her memory didn’t have silver streaks in his gold-red mob of curls and his glasses weren’t so thickly rimmed. She could see that he had gained some weight, despite the layers of sweaters he wore, and his cheeks had never been quite so flabby. Or was that old age? Because he was old now – lines heavy on his forehead, deep crow’s feet around his eyes and around the smile he was giving her. “Amy,” he said, pushing the bouquet of flowers into her hands. She could see that his eyes were welling up with tears. “It’s lovely... you’ve... grown so much.” For a panicked instant, she wished that she hadn’t opened the door, hadn’t received the call. She wished she was still asleep and all of it was a dream.


Because now that her dad was standing in front of her, the millions of scenarios she had envisioned in her mind – of finding her dad through teenage and then her adult life – somehow didn’t include something as simple as opening a door.

particular gesture sent a nostalgic jolt through her system. He used to do that so much.

And now she didn’t know what to do.

“So Mr. Fowles –" Rob started.

“Hi, dad,” she said, then flinched because her voice felt awkward and hoarse to her own ears.

“Please, call me Nick.”

Thankfully, Rob intervened. “Hello Mr. Fowles,” he said smoothly, all broad smiles and confident strides as he thrust out a firm hand for her father to shake. “Please come in.”

“Two days,” her father said. “I don’t know much about the city, it’s my first time here, actually.”

She shot him a grateful look as they made their way to the living room. “You have a nice apartment, Amy,” her dad said. Where have you been? she thought. What happened to you? “Thank you,” she said. “Rob and I live here together.”

“I’m sorry,” he said. “I’m just trying to understand.” She waved her hands, throat painfully dry.

“Nick, how long have you been in New York?”

“Do the police know you’re here, Nick?” “Hmm? No, I...” Her father shifted in his seat, visibly uncomfortable. “Rob.” She shook her head curtly. “Uh dad, so where are you staying?” “Oh, upper side,” he said, some of the tightness loosening around his eyes. “Small apartment.”

Her father was still curiously looking around the apartment as he took his seat. “How long have you been married?” he asked. “Oh no, we’re not married yet. We’re just living together.” Rob smiled in agreement. “Oh, I see, I’m sorry,” her father frowned. “How long have you been in New York?” “Eleven years. After...” “And this is your apartment? How old is it?” “Uh yes... I’m not sure.” There was an awkward silence after that in which Rob frowned uncertainly and she furiously folded and unfolded her hands in her lap. Her father finally caught her eye and chuckled sheepishly, raising his hand to push away hair from his forehead. That

35


They had nothing to talk about. She could see that Rob was analyzing her father. She wished he wouldn’t. Amy was annoyed that she could think of nothing to say to diffuse the tension that surrounded all three of them like a fishnet. God, was the clock always that loud? She clapped her hands, a resounding boom in the graveyard of the living that her lounge had become. Her father startled, but she ignored it. “Well, let’s eat then or everything will get cold,” she said, pulling on the mask that she had never imagined she’d have to use in front of the two most important people in her life. Funny how life was sometimes. Dinner was a quiet and boring affair. All the while, she imagined and rejected possible conversations that could happen, but everything in her head led to the same question that she repeatedly asked her father – what happened to you? And that was the one thing she had to avoid asking. Rob was making an effort for her. Making small talk, looking at her to join in. But she was now so uncomfortable in her own skin that she could do little else but nod and smile. Conversation drifted to her in waves and bursts: So how do you like the city? It’s okay. Very noisy. Amy used to complain about that all the time too, right Amy? She smiled. Nodded. Uh yes, our neighborhood was very quiet in New Orleans. Then: Will you stay for coffee? Oh no, no I have a... I have to... Yes, okay. Another time then.

36

Of course. In fact, if Amy would like to meet me at this coffee shop tomorrow... Nod. Smile. Well then, goodbye, goodnight, I’m your daughter. Did you know? Could’ve fooled anyone. * “Hello,” she said as she hung her purse on the arm of the chair and sat down across from her father the next afternoon. The disaster of last night hung around them, uninvited and obtrusive. But she was adamant about trying again. “Hello, hello,” her father said as he straightened his glasses and pushed his hair away from his forehead, his eyes flitting away and back to her in agitation. “How are you, Amy?” Hearing him say her name, and so repeatedly, after such a long time always gave her an odd feeling – that all-body jerk that would sometimes wake you up as you were falling asleep.


“I’m good, I’m good. How are you? Are you settling in well here?” They were doing that thing they always did when they were nervous – repeating words twice to fill silences they were too scared to face. “Oh yes, it’s all going well,” he told her with a nod. “Been looking for some jobs.” He leaned forward and steepled his fingers on the table, which caused his shirt sleeves to ride up and reveal hideous, deep, reddened gouge marks around his wrists. And further up, there were... God, knife slashes like someone had hacked at his skin the way you might hack at an apple. The sleeves were quickly pulled down and there was an uncomfortable cough from her father as she met his eyes. “Dad...” she whispered, shaken. “I’d rather not talk about this just now, Amy,” he said, looking somewhere above her shoulders. She could see him trying to keep his face as blank as possible. “I need some time to...” “It’s okay, dad.” She shook her head. “We don’t have to talk about it at all.” “Thank you.” The coffee arrived and both of them took polite sips of theirs. A memory came to her then, of another era, in a different coffee shop, where she and her parents had celebrated their fifteenth wedding anniversary. “Oh, and Amy,” her dad said with a start, pulling her back to the present. “I didn’t have a chance to ask you last time, but where is your mother? I didn’t see her at your apartment.” She swallowed and looked away from his expectant face. “Dad, mom died years ago when I was twenty-one. Lung cancer.” “Oh,” her father said delicately, on an exhale. “I always told her to stop all the smoking... she never listened.”

For a moment his eyes clouded and she could see he had gone somewhere, reliving the past, but then he focused once more on her and smiled sadly. “You’ve been so brave, Amy.” He reached over and lightly pressed her hands in both of his. “I hope a lot of people have told you that.” No one had, actually. Rob always listened to her, of course, comforted her on bad days, tried his best to be supportive. But with him, she always feared that one day he’d get too tired of listening to her sob story and that she would catch that ripple of annoyance in his eyes that would stay in the back of her mind forever. It wasn’t surprising though, that he would be this way. For most of his life, he’d had to take care of himself too. And perhaps both of them had fallen for each other, in part, because both of them grew themselves up and knew what that was like. But sometimes, Amy was hit by these bouts of longing and sadness – that both of them hadn’t had so many things they could’ve had. So many indulgences and so many liberties. The option to look away because there was someone else looking out for you. “Your mother would be so proud of you,” her father said earnestly, squeezing her hands. A year after her father’s disappearance, her mother was diagnosed with lung cancer – fourth stage. None of them were expecting it. It was supposed to be a bad cough, that’s all. When it turned up in the report, it took them some time to make sense of what was happening. She remembered sitting in the brightly lit hallway of the hospital, watching her life being pulled apart as if a little kid was untying the ribbon of his birthday present; pull this string, now pull that one, until the box falls open and out comes the nightmare. In the months that followed, she’d drown herself in self-pity. And then feel guilty for it. Everyone 37


told her then, and they keep on telling her now, that she’d done her best for her mother. They’d remind her of how she’d done this and this and this. But Amy would always hear it like one hears an admonishment – curtly, with that sharp tang of embarrassment. Because she knew what relatives and friends didn’t, she knew what had been going on in her head before she’d decided to invite her mother’s friends over one random day as a surprise. When she’d bought her those earrings her mother had always wanted from the money she’d been saving up for college. She was well aware of those spontaneous, guilt-inspired, spur-of-the-moment decisions she’d make and how she’d try to convince everyone that it had all been planned. Amy was always working to make up for the ugly feelings that hit her before she could push them away: ‘Why me? Can’t she make her dinner herself tonight? Why do I always have to give her the meds? Would it be that bad if she missed one appointment? She could at least try to make this easier on me.’ What really scared her was how little it took to bring out this side of her – a tiring day in school, her mom calling for her when she was in the middle of writing an essay or preparing for her exam. Some nights she’d check on her and it would strike her how rapidly her mother was losing weight, aging years in months, stooping and wheezing more and more. She’d look around the room, once littered with books but now stocked with small plastic bottles that seemed to grow in number every day. She’d look at the small mound of blankets on the bed that had once been a healthy mother. Her mother, who’d coddled her and assured her and admonished her and had been the strongest, most stable support for her after her father’s disappearance. Her mother, who had put Amy’s grief above all else. Forcing smiles for her, forcing assurances when every time an update call about her father revealed the same achromatic, unchanging answer: “I’m sorry, we’re still searching for him, ma’am.”

38

In those moments, staring at her mother’s shape under the blankets, Amy would be aware of all this, aware of everything her mother had selflessly done for her. She would recite it to herself like a list, to prove to herself that she loved her mother, just like she loved her father. To prove to herself that she wasn’t ignorant of all they had done to raise her. But her thoughts would still converge on this one visceral fear: ‘What if she dies tomorrow?’ she’d think then, ‘What if she dies and all I feel is relief?’ Those few years, she’d constantly be in fear of herself, of what she might feel and then of how she might unthinkingly react to it. How unreliable love would be to stop her then. Thoughts always had a way of getting out of hand in her head – scenarios she’d make up herself, in which ugly Amy would be the protagonist. But ugly Amy would never stay long enough to suffer the repercussions of what she’d done. No, that would be her, wracked with guilt and shame, always making up for things that never happened. But goodbyes, in the end, always had a way of surprising you. Even if you had eight years to prepare for this one particular goodbye.


Because she’d been so present through her mother’s sickness – through every emergency hospital run and all the appointments and scans and those days when her mother would feel emotional and sensitive, through each birthday they’d celebrate, holding their breaths and wondering if she’d be alive for the next one, Amy had somehow decided, on a subconscious level that she’d be present, even at the time of death. That this was some divine decree. But she had been in college when their nurse had given her a call to inform her about her mother’s quiet and graceful departure from this world. No heaves or panic, just an exhale that carried her away from Amy forever. Relief was not the emotion she’d felt, it was a peculiar sort of emptiness. She was buoyed in that space between knowing what was coming and still having it come as a surprise. She’d be going back to an empty house today, she’d have to clean out the room, see about the meds, she’d have to go over the bills, there was the funeral, the casket... She thought all this somehow detachedly, yet aware of the black hole of anguish that had opened inside her chest. Amy had never been more aware of her loneliness, than in that half hour ride from her college back home. She walked into that forlorn house that had, for so long, been a place of security and comfort for her, where she’d had so many of her firsts, where every object and it’s relating memory reminded her of a happy home, of her parents and the little halo of togetherness and tranquility they had built around and for each other. At that moment, she was sure of one thing: this place was no longer the same without them. It was so completely attached to their memory that in this house, she would always be lost somewhere in the past. She had to move and what better place for new beginnings than New York. Amy pulled herself back into the present and nodded at her father, sure her voice would break if she spoke just yet.

“So tell me about your life here, Amy?” her dad said in the same curious, attentive way he used to when it came to her. Maybe it was because they were still holding hands, maybe it was the kindly way he was looking at her – sad and sympathetic and consolatory. Maybe it was because Rob wasn’t there? Maybe it was the coffee shop... or memories of her mother, but she started talking – telling him about New York and how she’d met Rob through her job in a publishing company. About her current job, lecturing at a college. How she was working on a book that she hoped to publish. How she’d written only a quarter of it in the past year. About her and Rob’s domestic life – their apartment littered with books and work files, various reading glasses, stylized paperweights and Rob’s puzzle boxes, his most enjoyable hobby. She told him about the articles she was sending out to online magazines, how she’d suddenly developed a taste for Thai food, even though she had hated it as a kid. She told him about the friends she’d made in New York – Lia from the publishing company, Beth and Terry from college (the one she’d studied from). They talked about her mother and Amy’s time with her during her sickness – the loans, the three part-time jobs she had to do. She told him about moving here, about the tough first few years; she told him about nostalgia and melancholy and hope. God, she told him all about hope. Three hours later, she finally looked at her watch, “Wow, It’s late!” she said around the pie she was eating. Her father looked around at the clock on the wall and chuckled. “I’m so sorry I’ve kept you so long.” “The phone’s battery is out too, I think,” she said, frowning down at her phone. “You should hurry then, Rob must be worried,” her father said. She nodded and began pulling on her coat. “Dad, I would really like –" “No, Amy,” her father held up his hand, shaking his head. “I’m not coming in to live with you. I appreciate 39


your offer, but I cannot possibly consider intruding into your life like this.” “But Dad, I want you to be a part of my life,” Amy told him, feeling light and radiant. He stood up, his eyes kind, and pulled her into a hug. “I know,” he said. “I know.” * Three weeks after the coffee shop meetup, Amy got to know that the man who presented himself as her father was not actually her father – identity theft was what you called it. It was Rob who’d found out. He told her he hadn’t trusted the man from the start (she didn’t know how to feel about that). That coming out of the blue like this was not something he could get on board with. Did Nick escape from somewhere? Was he in danger? Why wouldn’t he let them notify the police of his arrival after so many years of absence? All of these things which, for Amy, had been only secondary to her father’s just being with her again, were matters he’d prioritized. Good thing he did too, she could understand that. If he hadn’t, they might’ve been robbed or killed or kidnapped. What was it about love that made everyone so blind? Her mind fired questions at her that she couldn't answer: How could she still wish that Conner Deeks was her father? Why did he sit in that coffee shop and listen to her talk for three hours? Why did he stay that long in her life pretending to be Nick Fowles? And why on Earth was their time spent together a fond memory for her still?

40

But there was a dull sort of ache in her heart, various ‘what ifs’. A panic that took her at odd moments because it all might’ve happened. Mortification at how some of the things he’d said in the coffee shop had been so convincing. Marveling, at the meticulous research Conner had done before he’d played them – going through her blogs, her father’s online lectures, Rob’s involvement in her life and whatever personal information he could get access to. He had confessed to all that himself in the station. Without the makeup and the mask, Conner was a completely different person. A long sallow face, dull green eyes, and blonde hair, sitting slumped in the chair, shoulders curved inwards the way her father never would; he and her father looked nothing alike. Embarrassment had hung around her shoulders like a gross wet blanket when she’d looked at him for the first time – the real him. How could she ever have believed, even for a second... The sting would stay with her for a while. Conner hadn’t been angry or panicked by the arrest. He’d sat there, handcuffed in the interrogation room, his face turned away from them. His manner was almost sad. The police told her and Rob that he’d confessed immediately upon arrival but hadn’t disclosed his motives, shaking his head when asked. She thought and thought about all the things that had happened in the span of three weeks, fixated on Conner’s reluctance to reveal his reasons. It should be money. It’s always money, right? Then why couldn’t she believe that?

And God... where the hell was her real father?

She’d never know.

Chewing her lips and staring blankly into space, she thought about it. Maybe she’d be angrier if Conner had been successful in his con, but it was hard to imagine what tragedy looks like without it happening. As it was, Rob had figured it out before things got out of hand.

Maybe her father was alive somewhere. Or maybe he wasn’t. Whichever was the truth, there was no getting back the years they had missed in each other’s lives. If they would ever meet, they’d meet as strangers who once knew each other very intimately, who were such an integral part of each other’s existence that they’d – well she’d speak for


herself here – that she had kept him alive in her memory, encased in the golden incandescent bubble of immortality that, ever since his disappearance, had been her makeshift form of closure. But that wasn’t how life worked; she had known her father for twelve years, had been separated for twenty. It would take some time to learn to get used to his presence because she had gotten so used to coping with his absence.

“I think we should break up,” she said. Rob looked up at her from his laptop. “Okay,” he said with a nod. “It’s 2 a.m. right now but I’ll move out first thing in the morning.” He turned back to his work. “Wait, what?” The fight left her like air from a deflating balloon. He looked at her again, almost nonchalantly, and sighed. “Really, Amy? Fine, I’ll leave right now.”

His disappearance had forced her to learn to do all these things that she never thought she could do without him. Paying the bills and checking the car when it gave her trouble, fixing the sink faucet because it broke every other day, learning how to drive.

Oh, God. Oh, God. Oh, God.

With her mom sick, she didn’t have a choice. But how absolutely wonderful would it have been for him to be there and teach her himself.

The inside of Amy’s chest was quivering like jelly and her eyes were smarting. Would it stop happening if she stood very still?

Despite the fact that this was obviously irrevocable, if they were ever to meet, it would always gnaw at Amy – her inability to turn back time or foresee his disappearance. To instill him into her life like you’d go back and add a comma into a sentence you’d already written.

But Rob was pulling out clothes and walking around the room and doing all these things that she understood and didn’t at the same time, and her eyes kept following his shape.

But she promised herself that she’d do everything in her power, if he returned, to include him in the life she had left. She would try her best because he meant that much to her. She sighed and rubbed her shoulders. What was it about her life and mysteries?

Rob closed his laptop and stood up, putting it into his case. “Can you give me a bag?” he said as he walked into their room and opened their closet. “I don’t have one.”

She had to say something. “Rob?” Her voice cracked. “Rob? Rob, wait. I... “ He turned around questioningly as if he couldn’t possibly understand what was wrong. How could he be so cool about this? Would he throw an ‘I’ll pass’ behind his back as she tried to stop him?

And speaking of, how long was Rob going to take to ask her to marry him? Should she do it? Of course not. Why did this feel like she was a child brawling for candy? If he felt like the relationship wasn’t working, what was the point of dragging it? If he was waiting for the right time to end it, he wouldn’t have to anymore; she’d do it for him. Amy put down the coffee mug she had just begun to raise to her mouth and walked briskly out to the living room. 41


She desperately wanted to say the words. Desperately wanted to make him understand but her tears were choking her; a sword in her throat. He cocked his head and gave her a lopsided smile. “You know, it’s okay that you want me to stay?” He slowly walked towards where she stood, hands shaking. “And you really think I would leave you just like that? Just walk out? Because I’m so blind, I’ve never noticed all the things you do for me? How much you’ve compromised for us to work? How much you’ve accommodated in your life? Amy, I’d be a fool to let you go. I love you and I know that we’ve... struggled.” Amy could see him searching for the right way to say all that he had to say. “I know that it’s difficult for both of us to be around someone so completely, every day. All our lives we’ve learned to detach ourselves from people and situations all the while wanting the very same feelings that everyone else has – comfort, happiness... a home. And with everything that happened with Conner...” He shook his head. “I don’t know how to fix the holes in our lives, Amy. Not in mine and not in yours. And I know I’ve waited too long to say this, but I can now. I want to try to learn how to trust our happiness. And I want to do it with you.” He went down on one knee and opened the small blue box she hadn’t even seen in her panic. “Marry me, Amy?” He said with the most brilliant smile.

42

Later that night she read her favorite set of passages from her father’s unfinished manuscript. One, she’d found out later, that he was writing for her. She would never know how it would end – the story of the two boys, running away from their lives on a boat to the Caribbean, but if hope had a physical form, if it could ever be presented in words, Amy was sure it would read something like this: “It was the most wondrous feeling in the world, to be joyous like this. To have a turn of events that led you, in this moment, to this place of happiness, this ease that you felt with yourself and yours. It was like opening a new book – fearsome in its size and number of pages – reading its first line and realizing that despite all the sleepless nights you’d be spending pouring over each word, you’d keep on turning the next page because this book would lead you to emotions you want to experience. This was a guarantee life never gave except in rare moments of said joy. And this euphoria of feeling, this breaking through the calm waters of normalcy, this upsurge of emotions that made you believe as if holding the stars in your hands was possible – would be exotic yet ephemeral; overwhelming and almost unreal. But of this, you’d be aware – the fact that it was only now and dreamlike, and that you’d soon be dunking your head back into the same steady stream of ‘authentic’ emotions. That those were easier to live with. And keeping your head out of the


water would mean storms and hails and thunder. And how could you ever, ever be brave enough – or stupid enough, to make that your life. It wasn’t a choice you gave yourself. And perhaps, in a way, it added to the experience. A coward’s excuse this might be, but it was one you gave yourself constantly. That knowing this would never last, you feel it more intensely, you cherish it and the pinprick of light it offered into the otherwise bland – not altogether unlikable – existence you had. And, as an afterthought, you think that maybe you don’t want it to become normal after all. Because if it did, it would be as unexciting as your todays and yesterdays and then what would you do to remind yourself that there were things to feel outside of anxiety and stress and panic and relief? That was the idea behind heaven, right? A constant state of peace that one never got bored of. And heaven didn’t exist on places like Earth. Here, it was only this – a sunrise, a sunset, these bursts of colors against a pale ordinary sky.”

43


tahoe by eve


destructress by julianna poupard

It was always a Goddess that would see my undoing; of course a Goddess would watch as the world I had so carefully constructed was slaughtered at my feet. And it is Her that I now build a sacred home for, from the carcass of my sacrificed skin. Her horns thrust not from her head, but protrude endlessly from her steady breast, piercing through my flesh in a claiming brand no mortal eye could unsee. It was always a Goddess, raging with passion and raving of desire, that would see to my undoing. This was never a story of my salvation, but one of my willing damnation.

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our small freedoms by katie


the pha i remember little of that day as the lights at bounty shore were blinding me from rationality. those twinkling baubles; glittering within the rickety staircase leading to the top of the lighthouse. where i had a balcony perspective to watch her giggling at her reflection taking a step towards the blue blocks forward. her little hand just missing the railing; slipping under heaps of typhoon waves below.

i’m packing extra fiber granola bars with blueberry bits that you loved to eat; now, they stale away at home. flashlight, a wallet with no more than twenty. hastily tossing in a old family portrait. (old; as in once three, now two.)

“i’ll be back” (as i watched her fall into abyss; standing frozen) (worlds away, when i should’ve protected her) (a lighthouse pounding me down like a boulder) (a reminder of the innocent in a green sweater) (a stair step away from shattering life) (365 days; i still feel that blinding light) (and it’s all my fault.) “XOX” 50


antoms of bounty shores words by liz illustrations by katie

another obituary message is posted. the condolence beeps on my phone i feel a choking sob - pushing it downwards.

sweaty hands clench the keys and storm away.

i click the radio and hear sounds of dancing queen and bohemian rhapsody. us arguing over which radio channel was better humming to freddie pleading with the angels agnetha having the time of her life. down the freeway with a pounding heart i go. your offkey screaming comes to mind i snicker, and start to sing.

wistfully, i catch myself staring at jade specks uniform to the color of a necklace you once adorned. do branches mourn the loss of their leaflets? doleful for all of the winter weeks; only for spring duplicates to be born. her life was no copy however, if trees never rebirthed their petals surrounded still they’d be with others.

(with love)

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a dead (too soon?) end hits full face in the sahara summerlike terra. population: one turmoiled teenage girl. dusty path marked with nails shooting up from the roads. leading to a gas station and diner. alone in the savannah trickling with the pointy daggers; trying not to hit a tire. hoping i don’t fuck up again.

the sign shows a diver descending down into murky night waters. she swims, she floats; she’s safe. outside, the sky glitters like those staircase jewels mockingly, with the red swimsuit smile. i taste salt in my lips as i cry. for somewhere inside me lies a heart so bruised and broken; filled with guilt. a phantom screaming to be free.

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the signs at the edge of the state two lanes - drastic different ways; both grant me the same sting.

(i know not of a home without you now.) shoving a map in my face you’d yell at me to “JUST TURN ALREADY!” and maybe, that’s why i do.

i remember all of that day as the sight at bounty shore blinded me of seeing anything else after. those distracting baubles; gloating within the rickety staircase leading to the top of the lighthouse. where i had a balcony perspective to watch her giggling at her reflection taking a step towards the blue blocks forward -

(and that’s it.) my hand takes the railing; clenching it tight blowing a kiss to the typhoon waves below.

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ruled by eve


poisoned by julianna poupard

You marked me as a body of your own. You, who always taught me not to speak, unholy you, who burns the skin. Your kiss comes - and all is drenched in dusk; my hair whips in the ravaging winds, I drown - to draw more of you in. The veins in my molten thighs wrap your waist entangled they grasp at smoke. Nothing of you has remained and yet, I am loathe to admit: I have remained there always - dragged from every plane, soaked in endless night - adhered to your brooding reflection. Your overcast eyes caress my own... You’ve become my purpose and my demise. I am surrounded by only you. I am held at the tip of your slashing tongue, kept loyally by your will. Your shining star, floating there - everlasting still. I, who no longer love like a being possessing my heart should, am deathly white, and my lips, as blue as a winter sky, - what I will become sits behind a glass. How hearts can break!

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life life liberty freedom and simplicity That summer, my feet were introduced to many sensations. In the morning, they would be the first to absorb the mud and dew before the sun, before the sky. At breakfast, they were left caked with remnants of Mother Earth, picked up and borrowed when my feet had first greeted her domain. By mid-afternoon, ecdysis would restore my feet from soil to skin. This became the cycle of my shoeless days, which lasted for a little over a week before I found the one pair I had brought to camp. In that short period of time, my feet learned how to be feet. They became aware of their function. They became acquainted with earth, not concrete or gravel but thick mud and dry sand. Each constituent from toe to heel was awakened as they discovered their true form.

life life liberty freedom and simplicity We should color them. Why? So, when they transform, they turn into the colors that we want. And then we can recognize them tomorrow, and the day after, and the day after tha... Exactly. A harmless afternoon of light hand holding and barely kisses had turned into a mission: hunt down white caterpillars, color them with markers.

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Little did we know the caterpillars were destined to become paper-bag brown moths, and the vibrant futures we had given them were childish aspirations. As we colored, we talked about when we would see each other after camp, how we would email each other every day. These too, were childish aspirations. So immersed in each other and the task at hand, we never asked ourselves, ‘What if it rained?’

life life liberty freedom and simplicity I was saved only by the fluorescent sign that read ‘Paris Theater’. In a landscape of white, the yellow lights seemed not to be glowing but reflecting light like a brilliantly cut diamond. I had walked four blocks through a snow globe shaken repeatedly. Four blocks is a breeze in the sun or even in the rain, but in a bomb cyclone it’s like trudging a cross-country skiing trail. I did not know this to be a fact until block two, when my eyelashes started to freeze shut, and I realized that no movie was good enough to die for. Yet I found myself, an hour later, sitting in the emptiest movie theater ever, the kind that you see in movies. The only other people were a couple sitting three rows in front, their shadows a skyline against the dimly lit screen. The snow that had latched onto me was melting, and my jeans felt like slabs of ice casing my legs. I sat back in my chair, trying to trick my body into relieving the numbness to which it had succumbed.


life life liberty by mimi yano

The movie began with a tinkling melody from an acoustic guitar, quaint and charming. Then the screen in front of me bloomed into a Monet painting, and for the first time in what felt like weeks, I saw color. Blues of the Mediterranean Sea, greens of the sun-kissed earth, yellows of the vivid orchards. Each hue was vibrant with life and warmth. An instant heat spread through my frigid body, dissolving the numbness it had clenched on to.

life life liberty freedom and simplicity Day becomes night in an instant, and the streetlights come on in an effort to bottle up the rays. Though powered by the remnants of a sun, the streetlight lacks warmth: it is distant, alien. Yet it is different too from the moonlight in the shadow of their predecessor—the lamps possess their own ethereal restraint. My leather shoes echo off the concrete pavement, illuminated with patches of ominous glow. How lonely an empty street can be, in a city so overpopulated with people and ideas. Autumn in Tokyo is simply a fleeting transition from hot to cold with no intrinsic value. During this time, the intense weight of the blistering sun is hefted by swift winds and swept away. All that is left is trepidation; no crunching of leaves, no pumpkins, just an apprehensive wait for the oncoming chill.

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3am freedom by zoe

It’s 3am and I’m thinking about what freedom means to me. I think about when I remembered that you can make a career out of anything; When I decided that happiness comes from hundreds of different situations and in hundreds of different forms; The times I had nothing but a song and my own thoughts, and managed to be content; The time I came to terms with who I really was; All my best content, written using the light from my phone screen; Those times I remembered how lucky I really am; that time I learned that you’re never as trapped as you feel. Something about being awake at that time gives me the freedom to realize that things are never as tightly bound as they seem, and that you can always change things with the snap of a finger.

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spread your wings by stephanie h.


oysters for dinner by julianna poupard

Everybody has heard the phrase "the world is your oyster," and I think everyone could benefit from reaching and surpassing some more of our perceived limitations. So, let me provide a few pearls of wisdom on how to truly exercise your own freedom. 1. FREEDOM OF SPEECH. Wherever you are on this beautifully cruel planet, we all have the freedom to open our mouths and speak our minds. As long as you have working vocal cords, you can use them to whisper, speak, or sing whatever your heart desires. So, tell your friends you love them, tell your crush you like them, tell your boss you want a raise! There is no time for talking like right now. 2. FREEDOM OF RELIGION. In the great USA, we have something called Freedom of Religion, which should mean that people can believe in and worship whatever the heck they want. If you live in the states, or in another nation that allows you to believe whatever you wish, I recommend you find a little magic in the world and put your heart and soul into it. Whether you believe in a loving God, a flirtatious Devil, or a family of bickering Deities, worship them freely! Believe in love, in family, in nature, in science, or literally in anything you can imagine! 3. FREEDOM OF LOVE. While the freedom to love endlessly and openly isn’t written explicitly into any governing laws, I truly believe it is a freedom that the entire human race possesses. We are all free to love, or free to hate. If you had to guess which one would make the world a brighter, kinder, more harmonious place, I’ll give you only one try to answer… it’s LOVE! So, love your family, love your friends, love your weird neighbor that is always talking to her garden hose. In fact, I love you, just for being you! Doesn’t that feel nice? 60

4. FREEDOM OF CONFIDENCE. It’s always summer somewhere, right? In the same thread, we are coming to the beginning of “beach body” season. In my opinion, if you have a body and you go to the beach, then you have a beach body; if you have a body and you are wearing a bikini, you have a bikini body. But, there are powers at hand that wish to brainwash you into thinking otherwise. DON’T LET THEM! Take a nice, long look at yourself in the mirror (bikini optional, but encouraged) and tell yourself that you are beautiful. Better yet, shout out your window or get on top of a building and scream that you are one hot piece of ass and the rest of the world better WATCH OUT! 5. FREEDOM TO ROCK. Music has a way of bringing the most unlikely of people together. Trust me, I have met a screamo-singing boulder of a man and a woman in her thirties, definitely wearing an obscene amount of pink, at the same music festival. So, plan a trip to your favorite music festival, grab a friend and go to a concert, or just have a dance party in your living room. Whatever the venue, just rock out however you want to!!

FREEDOM


paraĂąaque by eve


tokens of freedom

by zoe

HISTORICAL CIVIL RIGHTS FIGHTERS: Karl Heinrich Ulrichs (1825 - 1895)

Rosa Parks (1913 - 2005)

Is thought to be the first gay person to publicly speak out for homosexual rights. He published 12 volumes of work about sexuality. Those are believed to be the first theory of homosexuality.

Fought against segregation in the U.S. by silently protesting and refusing to give up her seat on the Montgomery bus. She also fought against the unjust persecution of nine African American boys.

Susan B. Anthony (1820 - 1906)

Nelson Mandela (1913 - 2013)

Was a leading figure in America’s Women’s Right to Vote Movement. Later partnered with Elizabeth Cady Stanton and eventually led the National American Woman Suffrage Association.

Worked to undo South Africa’s racist apartheid laws and inspired an international campaign for his release from prison. He then became South Africa’s first African American president.

Chief Joseph (1840 - 1904)

Martin Luther King (1929 - 1968)

Worked hard to argue for Native American rights. Kept his people from retaliating against the violence inflicted on them with more violence.

Leader of the African American civil rights movement within the U.S. Led the first nonviolent demonstration by boycotting the buses in Montgomery, Alabama, and spoke peacefully protesting. Over the 11 year period between 1957 and 1968, traveled more than 6 million miles and spoke more than 2,500 times.

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (1869 - 1948) Spread non-violent civil disobedience for the independence of India from Britain. Became an inspiration for non-violent civil rights movements across the world.

Oskar Schindler (1908 - 1974) Rescued more than 1000 Jewish people from deportation to Auschwitz during World War II. He employed them into his enamelware and ammunitions factories in occupied Poland and the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia. 62

I have a dream.


CURRENT CIVIL RIGHTS FIGHTERS: 14th Dalai Lama (1935 - ) Struggled non-violently for the liberation of Tibet. Became a Nobel Peace Winner due to his concern for global environmental problems, making him the first to win a Nobel Peace Prize for that reason.

Malala Yousafzai (1997 - ) Defied the Taliban in Pakistan and demanded that girls be allowed to receive an education. She became the youngest person to receive the Nobel Peace Prize at 17 years old after surviving an assassination attempt.

When the whole world is silent, even one voice becomes powerful.

CURRENT HUMAN RIGHTS MOVEMENTS: Me Too Movement: A movement against sexual assault and harassment. It supports victims of sexual assault and its purpose is to put an end to sexual abuse and harassment. Began being used in 2006 by Tarana Burke, an American social activist, and community organizer.

2018 March For Our Lives: A march in cities across the U.S. and the world for stricter gun laws. This was among the biggest youth-led protests since the Vietnam War era with over 800 sibling events throughout the world. Started with the February 2018 Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Florida, U.S.

2017 Women’s March: Took place the day after President Donald Trump’s inauguration and drew millions of protesters all around the world for women’s rights and equality. Most of the rallies were aimed at President Donald Trump after offensive statements he made that were. It was the largest single-day protest in U.S. history.

Black Lives Matter: A series of protests and street demonstrations against the unjust deaths of African Americans by police actions of while in police custody. Started with the shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in February 2012.

School Strike 4 Climate: Students from around the UK go on strike as part of a global campaign for action on climate change. It began with 15-yearold Greta Thunberg, a teen in Sweden who skipped class to sit outside government buildings and accuse her country of not following the Paris Climate Agreement.

We want change!

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making a headway by may


my first apartment by sara schleede

I haven’t set my alarm since I moved in. For the third morning in a row, I instead wake up to sunlight slicing up my bedsheets. Silence sits in the kitchen like a friend, and we prepare breakfast together, only interrupted by the snap of egg whites on the stovetop and the coffee machine moaning like a tugboat. I eat breakfast alone, and then I do nothing in particular except open the front door to a courtyard stuffed with magnolia trees and look for the mailman. I stretch my legs long, browse job listings, play music without earbuds in, and brush shortbread cookie crumbs under the couch. At night time, I sit on my balcony, scraping my thighs on the concrete because I cannot yet afford a patio chair. During the day, the heat bakes the trees and sidewalks, but after sunset, the heat is a cushion that my tired lungs rest against. The skyline is blocked by homes taller than mine, and trash bags spill out of the dumpster below in lumpy, plasticky bouquets. Still, I sigh and swear I see my heart glow through my ribcage.

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two for the price of one by mel

The screen lights up now A knife to the hazy velvet It’s all impersonal Ephemeral Insubstantial in my hands But continuously I rise Eyes to strange gods Emulatively breathing That white choking aspartame I know my words fall heavy Upon those not deaf but holy Ascended, almost heaven-sent Onto the film-drenched screen I take my communion Swallow the wine In the center of a theater Alone

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Soliloquie Issue #3 - Freedom  

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