s ol i loq u i e s
WIN T ER 2 021
IS SUE 25 .2
Copyright © 2021 Soliloquies Anthology Soliloquies Anthology retains first North American Serial Rights. Except for brief passages quoted in a newspaper, magazine, radio, television, or website review, no part of this anthology may be reproduced in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying and recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher. Design and layout by Jonathan Stern Soliloquies Anthology, c/o Concordia University Department of English 1455 de Maisonneuve Blvd. West Montreal, Quebec H3G 1M8 ISSN 1496-4910 (Print) ISSN 2369-601X (Online) Soliloquies.org We would like to acknowledge that Concordia University is located on unceded Indigenous lands. The Kanien’kehá:ka Nation is recognized as the custodians of the lands and waters on which we gather. Tiohtià:ke/Montreal is historically known as a gathering place for many First Nations. Today, it is home to a diverse population of Indigenous and other people. We respect the continued connections with the past, present and future in our ongoing relationships with Indigenous and other people within the Montreal community. Written by Concordia University’s Indigenous Directions Leadership Group in 2017
6 Foreword Fiction 8 Christ Didn’t Come Ann Krystel Désirée Michel 12 Matches Talia Kliot 14 26 30
Stunt Double Bridget Wadden
Reuben and Cherise Nikita Eaton-Lusignan
The Edge Gina Grant
Home Emily Palmer Uninspiring Nicolas Viger-Collins
Non Fiction 50 The Downside of Not Praying Katianna Ingraham
“beaver moon” simon tjh-banderob
Again and Again Emily Palmer
Cabin Fever A.J. Salucci
Chinatown, Montréal Janan Chan
Cutting Corners Marco Buttice
LOVE(BUG)LOVE Ashton Diduck
Outstretched, Trembling Kelly Talbot
the princess’s chamber Maze Laverty
Wooden Women Rivkah Groszman
Audra Ashley Fish-Robertson
Editors-In-Chief Abigail Candelora Clare Chodos-Irvine Managing Editor Olivia Cailliarec Artistic Director Jonathan Stern Social Media Manager Brooklyn Melnyk Web Content Creators Lila Ciesielski Lucy Farcnik Swan Yue Lily Olivas Prose Editors Corinna Carabetta Ian Taylor Paola B. López Sauri Sarah Lotfi Poetry Editors Constantina Gicopoulos Sophie Villeneuve Cecilia Mueller-Judson Márcia Ramos
F o r e wo r d
To say the least, it has been quite the year. A year none of us could have ever imagined. A school year like no other school year. Just over a year ago, Concordia went remote, much like the rest of the world. I remember when everything first shut down, Clare and I had just been chosen as the new co-Editors-in-Chief of the anthology. We were supposed to meet with the then-co-Editorsin-Chief to officially pass the torch the first weekend everything in the city shutdown. I think our online meeting that weekend was the first time I ever used Zoom. The two of us had no idea how the year would pan out. How would we do this? Would anyone even want to join the team? Was any of this feasible? Now, on the other side of Zoom meetings and emails and deadlines, we’re so happy to say that we did it! Two anthologies of fantastic work from emerging and established writers, carefully crafted by our amazing team, the ones who made all this possible. What we love most about Soliloquies is that it’s all about writers and editors and lovers of all things literature coming together to get some experience, celebrate writing, and have fun. And in a year where togetherness and celebration felt scarce, Soliloquies was a light. As Clare and I both graduate this semester and depart from Soliloquies, we will remember the joy it brought us because it meant staying connected with each other, our team, and with the literary community at large. This was a breath of fresh air and some much-needed normalcy in an otherwise unstable year. On behalf of Clare and I, thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone who was a part of the anthology this year. It was such a pleasure to lead Soliloquies this year, and we can’t wait to see where it goes next – hopefully, soon enough, far away from Zoom. Abigail Candelora and Clare Chodos-Irvine Editors-in-Chief
Christ Didn’t Come An n Kry st el Désir ée Mi ch e l
Christ didn’t come. He didn’t come when you were listening to your parents’ old records in the living room, sat on the orange carpet, smoking cigarettes and drinking a whiskey neat at nine years old because your dad was fucking the neighbor. He didn’t come when your brother busted his knees on the cement in the backyard, breaking his two front teeth and spilling blood everywhere. That day, the red sea was covering the concrete and you were Moses standing in front of it, waiting for God to give you the signal. But you didn’t get it because his son didn’t come. He didn’t come when you almost drowned in the ocean at eleven, counting fish underwater because it’s so quiet there. God, it’s so quiet there. Nobody had told you that before. He didn’t come when your mother ripped you away from the fish and the salt licking the back of your
throat and stinging your eyes, with a scream that could rival a cannon and those helicopters soldiers drop from to blow up civilians on their way to the bad guy’s house. He didn’t come when your mother was crying and praying, calling for him, to open your eyes. He didn’t come when you emerged from your momentary death, your momentary peace and were born again.
Except you didn’t cry this time. He didn’t come when your whole, fractured family was sitting on the couch, eating dinner like strangers in a restaurant where people speak in hushed tones. He didn’t come when you saw that beautiful pink suit sitting next to the million-dollar smile travelling in their car and waving at people. He didn’t come when the million-dollar man’s brains stained the pink suit and the leather seat. Christ didn’t come for America that time and he didn’t come for you. He didn’t come when your father left. Because he figured, fathers always leave, especially back then when they were so busy with their cigarettes and their beautiful women who weren’t tired, worn out, strong, sad, glorious, invincible moms. He didn’t come when your brother started acting out because boys stick together, and he missed his teammate who was busy in his convertible dragging his tongue over perfumed collar bones. He didn’t come when your brother left home at sixteen and was found a few months later, bundled up in dirty covers in an apartment that was falling apart, living with nice prostitutes who loved him more than your parents could. He didn’t come when the war refused to end. He didn’t come when you quit smoking and replaced it with binge drinking. He didn’t come when you left for Paris, that one time, and had to run away from the sticky fingers of a beautiful boy with hands that were just a tad too strong. A tad too big. A tad too tight around your throat, your thighs, your arm, your chest, your guts. He didn’t come when you had to move back home at twenty-seven because you were heartbroken and tired. He didn’t come when you and your mom stuck together because that’s what women do. He didn’t come when you
had to start washing your mom’s hair and hold her up in the shower. He certainly didn’t come when you lost your teammate to some unknown illness that you didn’t bother remembering the name of because you were too angry for words. Too angry for so many things. He didn’t come when you stood in the wet grass with your black tights and your black dress staring at your dad. His eyes were bright and alive because he’d stopped waiting for him to come and had instead decided he was going to live between the thighs of wild blondes and brunettes who weren’t as smart as him. That day, you looked up at the heavy sky that seemed to be brushing the top of your head and you decided to stop waiting. Christ didn’t come because he didn’t want to. He didn’t care for sad children who grew up in broken homes. He cared about the people who walked to the ends of the world unti they reached golden statues and shimmering palaces to kiss his feet and offer him fruit. Christ didn’t come because he was too busy being adored by everyone in the world. He was drowning in it. You’d been drowning since you were five, your arms were tired. Christ didn’t come because you didn’t like each other. He loved people who were addicted to him and you were addicted to your pain.
M at c h e s
Ta l ia Kl iot
Jason carries matches in his corduroy pockets. They can’t light much, but he knows sparks will fly if he brings them out to dance in the rain. He has yet to try it. He prefers a velvety cup of coffee and sitting on a park bench. He carries Jessica, 19, who’s here for a good time and not a long time. She’s never seen The Office (gasp!) and her curly hair can be found in numerous unsavory locations. He carries Melissa, 22, the girl with the Saint Bernard that’s bigger than her and a passion for anime. And we can’t forget Sarah, 21, who only dates guys above six foot in Engineering. Though that’s not a problem for our Jason. He carries Elana, 18, who keeps fake cigarettes (asthma) in her purse. All her friends are indie photographers who might, at any given time, want her to pose in a
field of daisies. He carries Clara, 20, a fashion designer who only wears sweatpants—at least according to her Instagram. But she’ll casually flex that she’s got more followers than Ed Sheeran. So that’s something. He carries Kat, 20, a tall ex-basketball player who’s never lost a game of Monopoly. She laughs like a hungry goose at just about everything. He carries Sam, 22, a blogger who goes on dates solely to have something to write about. Or for the free food—she always suggests dumplings and orders enough for leftovers (work smarter, not harder). He carries Ellen, 19, an exchange student who only speaks Swedish. She studies Math and can calculate derivatives in her head. He carries Dylan, 20, daddy issues galore, and Denise, 18, who might be the only person who doesn’t have LED lights in her dorm room. The ghosts he tosses out like boomerangs always come back to haunt him. You see, while Jason might carry all these matches, the one thing he can’t carry is a conversation.
B ridget Wadden
The railing didn’t feel real under Alex’s hand, but he wasn’t surprised. A spark danced around the soft spot at the top of his spine, sending tingles around his head and into his ears. They tried to tell his brain that this was wrong, that he should be feeling something instead of clambering his way down the stairs with nothing but absence in his eyes. Instead, he focused on the thud of his combat boots down the stairs to Jamie’s kitchen. Within seconds, he was standing on the small porch extending from the house’s front door. Silence crawled up his legs, threatening to tie him in place forever. Maybe that wouldn’t be so bad, he thought to himself. “Do you plan on standing here forever, or do you want to go and do something for once?” asked a voice, cold and impatient.
Alex whipped his head to the left to find the boy who had spoken standing a foot away from him, leaning against the doorframe. He looked no more than seventeen, the same age as Alex, and had deep brown hair that fell in a mixture of twists and curls. His skin was tanned, arms and cheeks lined with dark freckles. It took a second, but Alex recognized the face that stared back at him. He let out a shaky breath; how could he have forgotten that he wasn’t alone? “What, did you expect me to vanish into thin air? That’s touching. C’mon, let’s get out of here before you forget me again,” said the boy. “I didn’t forget you,” Alex lied, turning his head as he made his way down the porch steps to his bicycle.
Alex lifted his bike from a pile of dirt on the lawn. Neither of Jamie’s parents had ever had much talent for gardening, so their yard grew muddier with every passing year. It was easy to forget that endless grass and flowers had once braided their house into the ground.
“God, Alex. Why don’t you just get a new kickstand?”
Alex shrugged. He grimaced down at the side of his bike, now caked in mud. It was a question he’d been asking himself since it broke off months ago, but it looked better not to have a stand at this point. The paint had been chipping for two years now, so the frame itself was just a rusted mixture of white paint and the scratched silver that lay underneath. The brakes were getting near the end of their lives too, and he wasn’t looking forward to the day they quit on him. “You’re signing your death warrant with this piece of crap, I can tell you that right now.”
“Yeah I got that, thanks,” Alex shot back. Jesus, he thought to himself, who does this guy think he is? He brushed some mud off the bike’s side—though it only came off in sad clumps that fell back to the earth— and climbed onto the seat, staring at the mass of woods converging to the left of Jamie’s house. The sun normally made the whole scene look pretty cheerful, but with the moon rising higher in the sky and the clouds blocking any hint of warmth, it felt heavy. Alex’s head felt the same way. Something had happened, he was sure of it, but he couldn’t place what it was. “Well?” snapped the boy again. He stood farther down the path now, staring at Alex in frustration. “Are we going or not?” up?”
Alex frowned. “Don’t you have a bike? How are you gonna keep
The boy rolled his eyes in contempt. “No, I don’t have a bike, dumbass. Does it look like I’m riding a bicycle over here?”
“Okay!” Alex cringed. “Just give me a minute, I have to call-”
“Jamie?” said the boy, cutting Alex off. His tone was confusing, a mixture of softness and edge. The spark at the back of Alex’s neck started to feel louder, brighter. The cloudiness around him was pulsing now, furious. What’s happening to me? he asked himself, struck by the prospect of never being able to place this swirling feeling. The boy’s hands unfolded from his chest and fell to his sides, his eyes flushed with concern as he stepped forward.
“You don’t need to call Jamie.”
Alex’s eyes widened. He planted his feet on either side of his bike,
standing up straight. The handlebars were gripped so tightly in his fists that the hard rubber molded to their shape. A memory entered his mind, flashing and wrong, of blinding pain; it wasn’t Alex’s pain, though. Not physically, at least. Alex sprawled across Jamie’s legs. His head sat in the groove of his friend’s lap, curls conforming to the denim underneath, and the anxieties of his day were instantly washed away. Jamie’s room resembled the IKEA catalogue section for ten-year-old boys, despite his being a senior in high school. The bed they lay on was covered in a blue and grey plaid comforter, reminiscent of night terrors and bad fourth grade haircuts. There was hardly anything on his walls to suggest the life of a teenager; instead, his parents had plastered up the class awards and certificates he’d gotten around the time he learned the basics of multiplication and the difference between verbs and nouns. It made sense though, when Alex thought about it. It was near then that Jamie was diagnosed. His parents must have been trying to keep him a child forever. It had worked, in a way. Jamie was fine with keeping his private life separate from his home life. Outside of his house, he had friends, he had sex, he had arguments with people over politics. At home, he ate mashed potatoes and wore bigger versions of the shoes they’d bought when he was eight. Alex was the only crossover; he always had been. He and Jamie had been friends since before they found out about his heart, and so those poor disintegrating parents with a broken child held onto the comfort of their son’s best friend. They even took him to some of the doctor’s visits, not bothering to shield him from his friend’s mangled heart, liable to shut down at any second. “I stopped talking to Chelsea,” Jamie said, breaking Alex’s focus from the childlike details of the room.
“Oh,” began Alex. Not sure of what to say, his lungs took an extra beat. “Any particular reason?” “I don’t know, I just wasn’t feeling it anymore. I know that’s my excuse pretty much every time, but I don’t know. Maybe I’m just picking the wrong people.” “Yeah, maybe. Or maybe you just don’t know how to commit to someone without fucking them first.” Alex lifted his eyes to meet Jamie’s for a moment. They both broke into a smile. “Oh shut up.” “Yeah, whatever.” On instinct, Jamie reached down and began twirling Alex’s hair between his fingers. He didn’t stop, even when Alex’s breath caught. Alex looked away. They lay there as the sun began its descent outside Jamie’s window, casting a warm light on the boys. They stayed unmoving, intertwined and at peace, as time melted around them. “Ow!” It came all of a sudden. It was Jamie. Alex hadn’t noticed his friend’s hand stop its twirling until the yell pierced the tension between them. “Jamie?” Alex sat up and stared at his friend in horror. Jamie looked back at him, eyes wide. Jamie. No, it wasn’t real. Alex would call his friend, his best friend, and find him safe on the other line. He just needed to get some air first. His eyes wide and body feral, Alex sank back onto his bike seat and kicked his feet against the pedals. In front of him was still this cruel teenage boy trying desperately to thwart Alex’s reality, but he wouldn’t fall for it. He refused.
“Move,” he spoke, eyes locked in battle.
The boy smirked, bowing his head with a chuckle. He stepped to the side. “Gladly.” Alex didn’t wait for another word. He became mechanic, pedaling furiously down the path away from Jamie’s. The wind, though not considerably cold, still managed to slash at his open arms and push back against the soft cotton of his T-shirt. It’s okay. He spoke to himself. It’s all going to be okay.
A voice, the same as before, nearly shocked Alex off his bike.
“I told you I could keep up,” it said, and Alex looked to his left to see the boy walking beside him. Not running, walking. It should have been impossible, but his legs were moving at a nearly glacial pace while still managing to keep on par with Alex’s cycling.
“What the fuck!” Alex yelled.
“You have to accept it, you know,” said the boy, hands swinging by his sides. Alex felt a tightness in his throat. “Accept what? What do I have to accept, you dumb shit?”
“Jamie. You know he’s not okay.”
“You’re lying. You’re lying. I don’t know why, but you are. Jamie’s
“Yes he is! Now would you leave me alone? I’m trying to get home, and you’re not helping.” Alex’s words weren’t as strong as he wanted them to be, and they were becoming muddled with tears. He tried to turn his face away from the boy, but he knew it was useless.
“I won’t leave you, Alex,” the boy said, his voice softening.
Ignoring the tears still streaming, Alex asked, “Why?”
The boy, still walking slow as ever, let his mouth turn up in a sad smile before answering. “Because you need me.”
Silence. Silence. Silence?
Jamie screamed again. It was a desperate push of air from his lungs, as if his body was trying to expel every molecule from his organs all at once for the sake of time management. Alex started yelling along with him, though of course it didn’t help anything. He watched in horror as his best friend pitched himself forward, tumbling over the side of the bed and landing in a heap on the carpet below. Alex shrieked again, doing a hundred things at once. A call to 9-1-1 spoke out from his phone, he scrambled over the bed to land with Jamie, he did compressions, and then held Jamie’s head in his lap and hands and spoke strings of words that didn’t go together or mean anything. Everything stopped. “Jamie Jamie Jamie Jamie jamie jamie jamie jamiejamiejamie,” Alex found himself repeating his friend’s name, but he couldn’t tell how long it had been. It was a whisper now, running through Jamie’s mass of blond hair as Alex pressed his face to his scalp. His hands reached around, holding bundles of the golden threads in his hands, in his palms, between his fingers. He couldn’t stop.
Alex wasn’t sure how long it was before Jamie stopped being able to hear him. “Jamie,” he whispered, his face numb and wet, “I love you, come back. Come back, please.” Alex would have given anything to keep those memories locked away like some kind of fever dream, but they were back. He realized too late that he had veered towards a rock off the path. He fell, sprawling into the dirt. Pain raked his body. The boy was beside him again. “Listen man, I’m sorry,” he said. Alex could have retorted with something dramatic, but his mouth was too slack to form words. Instead he stumbled to his feet, vaguely aware of the bleeding scrapes that lined his shins and elbows, and headed into the woods. “Do you even know where you’re going? Don’t you have to go home?” asked the boy, following. “No.” “As in no you don’t know where you’re going, or no you don’t have to go home?” “No as in I’m not going home yet. And no as in you can’t fucking come with me. Alright?” Alex spat out the words. Alex stopped at the edge of the pond, somewhat surprised that he had been able to lead himself to the familiar spot in his state of shock. “Ooh, are we going swimming?” asked the boy, clapping his hands with glee.
“No, you’re not,” Alex replied, “I am.”
He dove into the water, numbness protecting him from the stinging cold. Once he felt his body stop sinking, Alex stayed perfectly still. The water tried to pull him to the surface, force him to breathe, but he refused. He grabbed hold of a semi-loose tree root and let his mind replay pictures of Jamie. Memories of laughing together, of crying and fighting, grabbing for each other at the first sign of danger. Jamie had been there for everything, and Alex repaid him by letting him die alone. You should have gone too, his mind roared. You can’t let him go alone. His lungs were getting tired now. Jamie. Somewhere above the water, ambulances rang their way down a nearby street. jamiejamiejamie. “Alex, don’t do this.” The boy. He was now, inexplicably, speaking underwater, his face just inches from Alex’s. Words painfully unavailable, Alex attempted to kick the boy but his foot passed right through him. Not even a ripple of smoke was let loose, though the boy’s face scrunched in annoyance. “Jamie doesn’t want you to follow him, and I think you know that,” the boy said. “He loved you too much to let you do that.” Alex shook his head. It didn’t matter. “Alex,” the boy spoke firmly, “I’m not going to leave you.” Alex’s fingers loosened slightly from the tree root. He wished they wouldn’t, but he couldn’t help feeling a sense of comfort in not being alone. Whatever this hallucination was, maybe it could understand him the way Jamie did. “Come on,” the boy coaxed again. “Let go.”
He let go. His lungs were burning by the time he reached the surface, his vision spotted with black. He spun, searching for the boy. Jesus Christ, Alex thought to himself, if he leaves now, I swear“Alex!” The voice rang from the edge of the pond. Alex’s body relaxed as he swam to land and clambered onto the dirt. The boy leaned down next to his face. He was perfectly dry. “What…” Alex’s voice faded in and out, his lungs working overtime. “What did you mean… when you said you’d… you’d never leave?” “Well unless I’m mistaken,” began the boy, a smile playing at his lips, “I think I was pretty clear.” “But why?” The boy let out a sigh, and his smile shrunk slightly. “Because,” he replied, “I can’t.” The tugging sensation started at Alex’s chest and worked its way outward until it encompassed his entire body. It wasn’t strong, at least not enough to feel. Not that he would notice anything now, outside of Jamie. Jamie lying in his arms, eyes closed, his pale skin turning blue and clammy. It had been a few minutes of sitting with him like this, and Alex knew the medics were coming soon. It was only a matter of time, but still he couldn’t seem to get up. A voice spoke. “Hi!” It was sharp and detached. But most of all, it was very, very familiar.
Alex turned as quickly as his sluggish body allowed, and would have been startled out of his skin if he’d had any brain capacity left. Sitting in front of him, cross-legged on the carpet, was a boy. He had the same dark hair and tanned skin as Alex, the same impish smirk and unevenly placed freckles. His shirt was the same blue cotton Alex was wearing, and they had on the same pair of dark jeans. The boy wore black combat boots that matched Alex’s own, and their hands fidgeted in the same constant nervous way. Alex reached out his hand to touch the figure in front of him. But as soon as it reached the boy’s knee, it passed straight through. “You look like you need a friend,” said the boy. “I…” Alex fumbled for words. In the back of his mind, he was vaguely aware of his memories dripping away, unreachable. Within seconds, he could no longer remember much of why he was in Jamie’s room. I should call Jamie when I get home, he thought to himself. His gaze returned to the boy sitting in front of him. “I’m Alex,” whispered the boy. “Let’s get out of here.”
Emil y Palmer
They live in an apartment on the top floor of a building for people who aren’t very well off—“a place to get back on your feet,” the tenants like to say. The ads marketing the rooms show eloquent phrases scrawled in bright pigments, banners of families with bright smiles, meant to conjure visions of bright futures. Of course, it’s all bullshit; their decrepit flat stages the first time Eleanor almost dies at the hands of her mother. The incident happens in the shadows of the dimly lit kitchen. Three of the four bulbs on the ceiling fan have long burnt out, never replaced. The shadows help camouflage the tarnished laminate countertops, the peeling wallpaper (whose tawdry floral pattern somehow reminds Eleanor of vomit), and the cracked ceiling they pretend isn’t water damaged and very likely to cave in. The air has a “stale” quality to it, and Eleanor imagines this is because the oxygen in the room has expired. She knows this word now, “expired”; she
heard her mother spit the syllables earlier before they’d gone out for groceries. Perhaps the best word to describe the loft is “lonely”; a place where dreams are left to curl up and die slowly, until hope burns out and turns to ash, falling delicately against the floor to be vacuumed and tossed with tomorrow’s dust. This is home, baby. Home sweet home. Eleanor’s mother walks in, out of breath: groceries in one hand, Eleanor in the other. There’s a gruffness to the way she sets Eleanor down against the cold linoleum, like there’s no distinction between the young girl and the bag of frozen dinners. Her mother is tired; Eleanor can sense this. Still, she craves attention. She pushes herself up onto her feet and hobbles over to her mother, who leans gracelessly against the countertop. Eleanor is lifted from the floor to be cradled, where she leans into her mother’s chest and shamelessly wipes the snot dripping from her nose. Her mother is angry. She shifts Eleanor in her arms, lifting her just high enough so that the young girl’s head collides with the ceiling fan. Blood splatters across the tiles, all over Eleanor’s hair, her mother’s shirt. tal.
There’s a lot screaming before they go to the hospi***
The screeching grates against Eleanor’s skull—she can feel the delicate tissue in her ears shredding as the crying overtakes the silence in the room. It’s the middle of the night, but she’s wide awake. Eleanor paces the length of the nursery and rocks the baby—back and forth, back and forth—desperate to put an end to the wailing. For a moment, she wonders how a creature so tiny can produce such a harsh sound.
“Please, please, please.” It doesn’t stop, and Eleanor starts crying, too. The apartment is small and run down. There’s a faint smell of sewage in the air that clings to the furniture. The room is dark except for the nightlight plugged into the far wall. The place reminds Eleanor of her mother’s apartment. The layout and all the furniture are different, but the sense of loneliness is just as strong. It emanates from the walls of the room and saturates the air. It’s almost like she never left. Eleanor continues to rock the child, gently. Back and forth, back and forth. The ceiling fan hums overhead, and Eleanor tries rocking the child along to its steady clicking. It, too, swings back and forth, and for a moment Eleanor questions if everything in the universe is doomed to hang and sway delicately like a pendulum, never able to get a grip on anything. Eleanor wishes she could rock all the hurt from her life. She feels she has passed much of her time waiting for something good to happen, waiting for the sun to finally peek above her horizon. But it never does. So she just waits. She waits and she waits and she waits. For the wailing to stop. For the day to end. For her life to begin. She wonders how much longer she has to do this, how much longer she has to hold her breath.
Eleanor rocks the child and cries.
Nic ol a s Vig er- Colli ns
Grab a bottle of whiskey and a pack of smokes. Open your laptop, pull up a new word document, light a cigarette, and pour yourself a glass of whiskey. Start typing whatever comes to mind; first comes the idea, second comes the editing. Frantically type away, the glow from the screen and the embers of the cigarette the only lighting sources around you. You hit a wall, why not listen to some music while you’re at it, some Madonna? You have a drink and write. One song goes by, then another song, then you realize you’ve stopped writing and you’ve finished the entire True Blue album. It’s late, you’re tired and a little buzzed. You’ll continue writing tomorrow. Grab a bottle of wine, a pack of smokes. Open your laptop and return where you left off yesterday. You feel like listening to music again; this time you put on some Bowie. You type “we can be heroes, just for one day.” Stop, delete
that, maybe don’t listen to Bowie. You light a cigarette and pour yourself a generous glass of wine as you read over what you’ve written. The hours fly by and you go to pour yourself another glass, but the bottle is empty. You think, I shouldn’t drink as much. I need to get more alcohol. Grab a bottle of booze, the smokes; open laptop, write. You decide that listening to music isn’t the best when you write. The night goes on; you’ve managed to smoke half a pack of cigarettes and drink half a bottle of scotch. It’s a good night. You stare at your screen, the blue light burning a hole through your retinas. So far you’ve written a story about a spy who’s on his first big mission. He drinks and smokes just like you, yet he’s in impeccable shape and can seduce anyone he wants to—why can’t you? You write him off, kill him in a horrible way, death by a thousand cuts. You pass out. Whiskey, smokes, laptop, word file. You decide to write a different story today, one that is easier to manage for an amateur. You forgo any glasses and start drinking straight from the bottle; a writer must save as much time as possible. You start to write about a corrupt politician and how their greed becomes their downfall. You decide to watch All the President’s Men for inspiration. You pass out thirty minutes into the movie only to wake up sometime in the morning with your head pressed on the keyboard, drool covering your face. Today you decide to go out for a walk; maybe some fresh air and sunlight will get you in an inspired mood. You observe the little brown, black, and white birds that flutter on by in groups of 10 or so, the little hops they make as they survey the ground looking for something to snack on, maybe some leftover fries that someone threw out because they went cold before they could eat them; they might be scrounging for some worms or other bugs crawling around. You think
to yourself, Can I write something about birds? What if these birds were radioactive and they started to infect everyone, causing a global pandemic—no, a global apocalypse—where the only hope for humanity is to live in massive underwater complexes where the birds won’t be able to reach the rest of civilization. No, of course not, you think. I’m no ornithologist! I don’t know the first thing about how birds work. You deem that idea too silly; you need to come up with something that is serious and important, something that can give you prestige and honour. Besides those birds, your walk has been most uneventful and, more importantly, most uninspiring. It’s been almost an hour and nothing has piqued your curiosity. Maybe you should go home? You think that, if you were writing a story, it would be at this moment that an absurd event would happen right before your very eyes. Perhaps a man would crash his car into someone’s yard and stumble out, blood gushing from his face as he hobbled down the street, and only a few short seconds would pass before a squadron of cop cars pulled up and surrounded the man, and then he would pull out a gun and yell out something like, “You’ll never take me alive!” Only to be blasted with bullets, blood gushing from every inch of his body, painting the sidewalk red, squirting out and drenching the cops. But, alas, nothing like that would ever happen to you, so you walk on home, defeated. Time eludes you as you type away, going from idea to idea. You realize that you’ve been writing for weeks on end without seeing friends or family. People start to worry about you: Are you well? Do you drink too much? When will you pay your rent? You decide you should see people just to let them know you are A-okay. You go to a friend’s party, equipped with a bottle of tequila and your wit. You tell your-
self that you won’t drink too much this time. You arrive at their apartment, the one that’s on the fourteenth floor, the building overlooking the city. The city itself is vibrant and full of life with buildings glowing in a hue of purple, green, and red. Skyscrapers abound, filled with hopeless romantics, stressed out parents, and burnt out businessmen. Car horns blare; people are pissed at construction sites littered throughout. Everyone is surprised to see you, but they are also happy. You immediately open the tequila and start pouring out shots and handing them to people. As the party goes on you have one drink, which turns into two, which then turns into five. Before you know it, you’re ten drinks down and it’s only been a couple hours. Your friends introduce you to people, but you’re too messed up to realize that they are actually trying to set you up with someone; it has been far too long since you’ve felt the intimate warmth of another person’s touch, let alone since you’ve had sex. You end up saying some pretentious bullshit or make an inappropriate remark to every potential match; your friends are getting irritated with you. You’ve made your way to the fifteenth and final drink of the night and, as you drink it, you can’t help but be enamoured by the beauty of the skyline. The once vibrant colors of the city are now blurred into one bland and uniform grey. You wonder if the people in those apartments are kings and queens in their lives, or if they’re just jesters. You stumble to the balcony doors, stepping outside, where people are having a smoke. You ignore them and keep your focus on the city ahead of you; the air caresses your skin, leaving you cool and relaxed. You close your eyes and let nature embrace you; you open your arms, ready to embrace mother nature back. You grab hold of the railing, wrapping your fingers around
the cold steel. The wind flows through your hair as if it were someone’s fingers. You open your eyes, look down, and notice how high up you are. You then think to yourself, Would anyone miss me? Is this what my purpose in life is? You think your life is going nowhere, so why not let it go somewhere? The people who have been conversing realize what you’re trying to do and pull you away from the edge. They bring you inside and lay you down on your friend’s bed; they enter the room and give you looks of disappointment and worry. You wake up much later, in the wee hours of the morning, when everyone from the party has either left or stayed over and passed out. You leave your friend’s house. You get home and take a cold shower to wake yourself up. After your shower, you grab a bottle of vodka, a bottle of orange juice, and a couple packs of smokes. You turn on your laptop and open a new word document. You start to write.
Nik ita E at o n-Lusi gnan
Cherise pulled the brush through her long, dark hair. She smiled at the reflection of Reuben’s slender fingers in her vanity mirror, plucking away at his mandolin. The music filling the air didn’t match the pink walls, piles of laundry, and unmade bed in her room. Reuben’s music was written for nomads and troubadours who would ride straight past their insignificant town, but somehow Reuben fit in. He was just as familiar as the ragged stuffed animals strewn across her bed. A bit scruffy and beat up, but nothing was more comfortable. “Why d’you have to have so much hair?” he asked. “Don’t it get stuck when you sit down?”
His tone was light and mocking, like they were still children. She tossed her brush onto her scratched vanity and stuck her tongue out. “Don’t your fingers ever get caught in that stupid instrument?” He took his fingers off the strings and grinned at her. “Don’t get mad now, I’m just messin’. D’you wanna go?” Cherise got up and tossed her hair with a forgiving grin. She swung her handbag over her shoulder, her red leather one with the heart-shaped clasp. “Ready when you are.” Reuben opened the door for her and followed her out. Cherise had to bite the insides of her cheeks to keep from smiling. She hadn’t thought he would come for her this year. For the past ten years they’d gone to the carnival together whenever it was in town, at first with their parents and, as they grew older, alone together. Cherise didn’t like to think that this tradition could be outgrown, like her sparkly red tap shoes and her training bras. She wanted a lifetime of Reuben coming to her door and inviting her out to play. “Did you know that there are eight billion people in the world?” Reuben asked after they’d walked a couple blocks in silence. Cherise laughed. “What?” “Eight billion people. How many of ’em d’you reckon we’ve met?” “I don’t know. Not eight billion.” “In a one-horse town like this? Doubt we’ve made it to eight hundred.” “Eight hundred’s a lot.”
“Not compared to eight billion.” “I suppose not.” Cherise looked up to the puffy clouds crossing the sky. “Doesn’t it drive you crazy to think of all the people we could be meetin’ if we weren’t trapped here?” “I wouldn’t want to meet eight billion people. I’d forget their names.” “That’s not… Forget it.” He kicked an empty can across the street and into Mrs. Henderson’s tidy yard. “It just makes me all jittery, y’know? Like I’ve gotta do somethin’.” “Well, we’re too young to think about that right now.” “I’ll be eighteen soon. What are we even doing here anymore? Just feels like killin’ time.” “Your birthday’s not for another three months. Anyways, I’m pretty happy with our corner of the world. We’ve got it good.” She didn’t know how true that was, but going to the carnival with Reuben on a sunny afternoon was nice, and she wasn’t in the mood to worry about anything else. She reached for his hand, but it kept swinging out of her grasp, so she let her own fall. The neon sign that announced the carnival seemed to have shrunk since they were seven years old, and the “r” was starting to flicker. But the smell of popcorn was the same, and so was the endless loop of upbeat music that could be heard from blocks away. A man in striped trousers at the entrance locked eyes with Reuben when they walked in, but he shook his head slightly and turned to Cherise. “So, what should we do?” Reuben asked, swinging his mandolin case. “Wanna go on a ride?”
“Aren’t we a bit big for that?” “You’re right.” He gave Cherise a lopsided grin. “We’d probably break ‘em.” Cherise tossed her hair over her shoulder. “How about we play a game? Remember how you used to always win the shooting ones? Made me cry.” “It did, didn’t it?” Reuben chuckled. “Might as well give ‘er a shot.” They found the duck shooting booth, and Reuben slipped some coins to the elderly man running it. He propped his faded black mandolin case against the metal legs of the table holding up the cash box. He got low and, with a sharp focus, knocked down all the ducks except one. Cherise clapped in excitement, and immediately felt her cheeks flush. “Good job, son!” The man gave him a yellow smile. “What do you want?” He gestured to the zoo of stuffed animals lining the corkboard. “I’ll take the rabbit, I s’pose.” The man handed Reuben the plush animal and he shoved it under his arm, its long ears crumpled in his armpit. “Do you want to try again?” Cherise asked. Reuben shrugged. “I’m okay. D’you wanna have a go?” She shook her head. “You know I have no aim.” “Alright. Onwards then!” Cherise giggled, and they linked their arms together. They meandered through the stalls, stopping to buy some over-salted popcorn from a man with a booming voice and
sparkling blue eyes, who winked at Reuben when he thought Cherise was looking away. “This wouldn’t be a bad life, would it?” Reuben asked. “What?” “Workin’ for a carnival.” Cherise laughed. “You’re kidding, right?” “What? Your whole job is makin’ people happy and, every few days, you get to pack up and head somewhere new.” “Yeah, to another dead-end town like this one.” He shrugged. “They must make it to some happenin’ places. Or at least pass through them.” “And what would you do once you got somewhere happening?” “I don’t know. Play my music. Meet people.” “You can play your music here.” “Yeah, but nobody listens here.” “I listen.” “No, you don’t. You get annoyed every time I play.” “Only when you don’t pay attention to anything else!” “See, if I were part of a carnival, there wouldn’ be nothin’ else. Music would be my life.” He threw his arms out and spun around, lifting his stuffed rabbit in the air. “I could
be happy here.” Cherise grabbed his arm and pinned it back to his side. “Stop it. You’re being dramatic. Why do you suddenly hate it here anyways?” Reuben turned away from her. “I don’t hate it. I’m just bored.” “You’d get bored of the carnival, too.” “Then I’d leave. Do somethin’ else. It’s not so hard.” “You don’t know that.” “Well, I do know I’m not stayin’ here forever.” Cherise walked away, refusing to look back at Reuben’s face. This wasn’t easy anymore. “Hey.” Reuben grabbed her arm. “D’you want this? I don’t feel like carryin’ it around.” He held out the stuffed rabbit, his eyes on the pavement. Cherise smiled. He’d always been awkward when it came to giving gifts. She cradled the rabbit in her arm and straightened out its ears. Reuben kicked the sidewalk. “Look, I gotta… I’m goin’ to the bathroom, alright?” “But the sun’s about to set.” She looked out to the crowd of people separating them from the porta-potties. “That’s alright. I’ll meet you at the pier.” He moved forward and brushed his lips against her cheek. A sharp jolt coursed through Cherise’s body. “Alright,” she heard herself say. “Don’t be too long.”
She joined the stream of couples walking hand in hand to the pier. This had always been her favourite part. The Ferris wheel with the rosy pink backdrop was straight out of a postcard. For a few minutes, she could feel like she was somewhere people wanted to be, where things happened. The clouds caught fire, and the crowd expanded. This was the most anticipated event of the carnival, and Reuben was missing it. Cherise twisted a lock of hair around her finger, acutely aware of her solitude. The sun sank lower, turning the distant ships into silhouettes on the horizon. Soon they’d be completely swallowed by obscurity, while she waited alone on the dock. Cherise yanked at her hair, and a long, dark lock came out. He’d picked her up at her house. He’d sat and waited while she brushed her hair. He’d kissed her, something he’d never done before, and said he’d meet her soon. This was meant to be their magic moment, and he was missing it. Half an hour later, Cherise stood alone in the dark. The carnival was closing up. She tossed the rest of her popcorn into an overflowing bin. The unpopped kernels showered on the grass, among the food wrappers and discarded prizes. She paused for a second, and tossed her rabbit among them. Reuben stared out the window of the van, plucking at his mandolin. By now Redwood was a blur of light. Soon it would be too far behind to distinguish. Cherise popped into his mind for the hundredth time that night. One of her hairs had gotten caught in his mouth when he’d kissed her goodbye. She was always shedding. His parents he could deal with—they’d always known he would leave sooner or later, and he’d write to
them as soon as he could buy some stamps—but it was different with Cherise. She’d always counted on his being there, as much as he tried to convince her not to. He wished he’d been able to meet her for sunset, but it was important to secure a place in the van before they packed up. Hopefully she wouldn’t hate him forever. “How long are you riding with us, kid?” asked Tysha, a round-faced juggler with fiery red hair. “Is this just a summer gig, or are you in it for the long haul?” He shrugged, keeping his eyes on the fading lights. He liked the way his music sounded in the van. It fit right in. “I dunno. As long’s it takes for people to recognize me.”
Gin a Grant
The week before we went to the beach, I watched A Nightmare on Elm Street through the slits between my fingers. I promised Alec not to tell Mom that he let me watch the movie with him and his friends; a promise that weighed more than my daylight fears of a blade handed villain. The film was on my mind as my feet sunk into the hot sand, slowing my pace as I raced Alec to the water. The suctioning effect of the sand created an awkward push and pull that overloaded the gangly composure of my ten-year-old body. I could feel Freddy’s breath on my ear, warping my gait and luring me into a darker dreamworld through the grips of the sand. As I neared the water, the surface hardened and became buoyant, my dreamworld softened behind me as the real became hard. My feet slapped their way to the water. Alec broke in first, and I followed.
The water nipped at my legs, happy to play along with my gunning entrance. My torso took the brunt of the water’s force, leaving my limbs to gyrate madly behind me in wild spirals of childlike celebration. I was laughing so hard at my grand finale I started to heave and lost my breath, at this point suspended in waist deep water. Alec was gaining more and more distance away from me when he turned his head and saw me paused. He opened his mouth to say something when Mom’s voice interrupted, “Come back here, you two!” she said, waving her arms to get our attention. “You forgot to put on sunscreen.” I watched Alec stare at Mom’s figure and could see him debating the question in his head as he continued to tread water. He looked at me, shut his mouth, and began to swim slowly back to shore. I waited for him to pass before I turned back myself. My adrenaline diminished as quickly as the water dried. The air pulled goosebumps out from under my skin. My legs were at a different temperature than my upper half and I looked down to make sure I hadn’t left them in the water. I crossed my arms over my chest as I followed Alec’s path in the sand, trying to match his stride and missing the gap, even with a small jump in between. I thought of the time three months ago when I watched Carrie crouched down and hidden by the arm of the couch, having been banned from joining the viewing. I had been silent until the end when I let out a scream and fell forward with my arms out reaching, thinking I might have time to bring it back to my mouth. The thought of it made me jump even higher, and I looked down between my feet for hands.
Mom and Dad were setting up an umbrella over the patchwork of towels beneath. Dad was crouched on all fours near the base of the pole, holding it steady, while Mom used one hand to hold the top as she uncoiled the crank with the other. I stood next to Alec and watched the canopy slowly open, creaking toward me like Freddy’s impossibly long arms. Dad said something, but he was facing the sand and his voice got lost in the grain. “Nobody can hear you in that position,” Mom said. They started a back and forth consisting mostly of back from Mom. Alec walked toward the beach bag to find the sunscreen. I stared at the layout of towels, sprawled out like a strategy board game: my 101 Dalmatians towel wrinkled and folded, submersed in sand; Alec’s Dragon Ball Z towel pulled taut and placed an arm’s length away from the rest of us; Dad’s beach chair still folded, face down next to his sandals; Mom’s many tote bags and extra-large towel occupying most of the shade from the umbrella, a looming mountain, the rest of us at her base, her shadow. Alec found the sunscreen, flipped open the cap and squeezed some onto his hand, then shoved the bottle at me. He rubbed it onto his arms as he walked back toward the water. Mom saw him leave. “Alec! You didn’t do your back!” she yelled. “And you need to wait 30 minutes before swimming!” He ignored her. I watched him leave me with our parents, now rubbing the sunscreen onto his stomach. He stepped on something hard and stumbled, a rock, probably. I was still watching him when Mom snatched the bottle out of my hands. She took me by the shoulders and pulled me a step backward, closer to her territory of which I occupied little
space. I arched my back at her touch, a small escape from her rough hands pushing under my bathing suit straps. “Your brother is going to burn,” she said into my ear. “Make sure you wait before you go in.” She pulled her hands out from under my one piece’s straps, snapping them back into place, propelling me forward. With no racing partner, I walked slowly to the water, a speed I hoped would fill up 30 minutes by the time I got to the shore. I walked heel to toe, my path one long paper clip necklace. One foot disappeared after another. The grains of sand welcomed and escaped my feet all at once. I looked back over my shoulder at the path I had made. Proof that I was here. I looked forward again and stared at the ocean. The sun had escaped its cloud and by accident I stared straight into the sun’s center. My eyes burned and shut for protection. I forced them open and for a moment the sun melted into the sky and the horizon line got lost. I blinked through hard tears and everything returned to its regular position. Continuing toward the water, my upper half was unsteady, and I balanced with arms outstretched. Reaching the line between the wet and dry sand I stopped and crouched to look at a dead crab, belly upturned toward the sky. Its many legs pointed backward and forward, and the large front claws circled above its head, lounging like every other person at the beach. Wondering whether its belly was as hard as its claws looked, I poked it and fell backward as the crab twitched itself upright onto its legs.
It turned toward me and snapped its claws. “Why’d you poke me?” the crab asked. I tucked my knees in toward my chest and wrapped my arms around them. “I thought you were dead,” I replied. Still snapping its claws, the crab scurried left and right like it was testing its legs. I thought it was going to leave me, but it crawled over to my side. We both faced the ocean. “I thought I was too,” the crab said. Before I could say anything else, the crab turned to its right and took off. I watched it crawl away until I could no longer separate it from the many rocks on the beach. I stood up, sand gripping to my body as I continued to search for the crab. I wanted to watch it get to safety, to see that it made it to some kind of shelter. All I saw were rocks. I looked to the water and searched for Alec. I spotted him eventually, with three other boys, passing a beach ball back and forth. I wiped my hands on my bathing suit and turned in the direction of the crab. Grains of sand still stuck to my palms. I made fists and felt the rough texture work on my skin. It hardened as I walked along the change in sand, searching for moving rocks.
T h e D ow n s i d e
N o t P r ay i n g
Ka tia n n a Ingr aham
“What about morals?” It was late when my mother asked me this question. I remember standing by the foot of the bed, her bedroom lighting dimmed. It wasn’t the first time, or the last time, I realized how different we were. “What do you mean?” “How do you tell between right and wrong?” I laughed in disbelief at the question. And then I said, like it was the most obvious answer in the world, “I don’t need religion for that.” You don’t need religion to be a good person. I knew that much. ##
I’m not sure funerals are any more sad than uncomfortable. My first funeral was when I was sixteen. In that regard, maybe I should consider myself lucky. It was for a great uncle who I’d never met, who lived in Freeport. About a half hour plane ride from Nassau. We weren’t vacationing that summer, and in a desperate attempt for a change of scenery, my family decided to make a trip out of it. My sisters, grandparents, and I stayed for about two weeks at my cousin’s house. My mom only stayed the weekend because she had work. My dad stayed home for no reason other than he wanted to. We sat on the left side of the church, a few rows behind the immediate family. His wife cried the whole time. My aunt went up to speak at one point; she’s a minister, along with her husband. Strangers spoke about what a great man he was. And we sang, a lot, about God and all His righteousness. All while the family wailed. Afterwards, we rode in a limo to a hall to eat and socialize, and forget we just buried a body ten feet under. Near the end, a group of us gather together to take a picture, smiling wide, because, despite the somber occasion, we all looked good. Everything about it felt weird to me. I had to keep asking myself if this was a Bahamian thing, or a Christian thing. It was during this trip that things began to change. When it became more difficult to ignore my grandfather’s distressing behavior. I always thought it happened later
until I began to remember all the little things that happened, the soft whispers that took place whenever I left the room. When my grandad began becoming restless, waking up in the middle of the night to wander, opening closed doors in hope of finding something. In some ways, it was not only the beginning, but the end. He would always ask if we’d seen Gloria, his sister. She died before I was born. “She’s not here, grandad,” we’d say. I imagine it must have been like an itch, constantly searching for someone you loved without knowing if you’d ever find them. “Oh,” he’d say, as if just awoken from a trance. But the glint in his eyes said he wouldn’t stop looking. At least during this time, his eyes still had an echo of life in them. ## I was seventeen when my grandparents came to live with us. Hurricane Matthew ruined their house, and their time spent away from it destroyed it for good. Our home wasn’t big enough for seven people, but at the time, we didn’t think it would be permanent. My sister, who was eleven then, moved into my room. My four-year-old sister stayed in my parents’ room, while my grandparents got a room of their own. The arrangement never made sense to me. Not when my uncle’s house had an extra room and he only had two kids. Not when my aunt in Freeport had two spare rooms and no kids at all. I didn’t know much about Alzheimer’s disease. I
thought it only meant memory loss, but now I know it eats up far more than your brain. It eats your soul and swallows the people around you, whole. It haunted everyone in that house. I think it always will. I wish I could pinpoint the moment I knew I was watching my grandfather die. I began to think a lot about death and religion. As I write this, I keep asking myself if these two ideas really tie in together, but they do. Of course they do. And how could I not think of them both, when in the middle of watching my grandfather disappear right in front of me, everyone is reminding me to pray. “Of course,” is what I’d say. Of course I’m praying. We were Christians, but not in a way that consumed me. Never in a way that defined me. My defiance towards going to church was probably written off as teenage angst. I never dared to say out loud that their God wasn’t mine. But it was beginning to feel like I was dancing on a thin line, like I was on the edge of a cliff I wanted so desperately to push myself off of. When I told my eleven-year-old sister I didn’t believe in God, she cried. When I told my parents I was agnostic, something I didn’t expect was the anger. It was like a gas leak ready to set fire. “But what about faith?” my dad asked. The whole thing seemed to amuse him more than anything else. “One day, you’ll see. When you’ve been through something really
bad, you’ll—” “No. Something bad shouldn’t have to happen to me to make me believe in God.” My dad handled it a lot better than my mom. She had trouble understanding, which as a result made her angry. She would yell at me for not wanting to go to church anymore and when she couldn’t shout at me, she would direct her anger at my father. She would guilt me, and sometimes it worked. I would go to church with my grandmother and come home to my father asking me to apologize for making her feel bad, meeting my frustration with pleading eyes. One evening, I went into her room—not to apologize, but to talk. She was under her covers, barely looking at me. I laid beside her. She explained she was worried about what would happen when we all died. Even she is one to admit that despite it all, we truly don’t know what happens in death. But she told me she was scared; that if our souls do go to heaven, mine wouldn’t be there, because I didn’t believe. I didn’t know what to say, so I stayed silent. ## When I was eighteen, I hated everybody. I hated being home. My aunt from Freeport would come to visit sometimes. She would stay for a few days. Her way of coping was reading Bible scriptures to my grandparents, and I started to detest her for it. Because nobody knew how bad it really was and reading Bible verses wasn’t going to help us. I could tell my mom hated it too, in the way she rolled her eyes every
time her sister left the room. My grandma didn’t like taking care of my grandad. I started to detest her, too. If she went out on the weekend, it was up to me or my sister to watch him. He would sit for a while. But then he’d get restless, because surely he had something to do, somewhere to go, someone to see—Gloria. Other days Marion, his wife. He would walk down the halls. Sometimes he ended up in the living room. Other times he went into the bathroom and pissed on the floor. We had to get an extra lock for the door after he managed to escape outside, twice. Late at night, there would be yelling from my grandparent’s room. It was only ever one prominent voice, of course, followed by a soft one—like a lost little boy trying to find his way back home. Sometimes there was a slap. Or an aggravated moan as the door opened, the flick of a light switch, and shoving of a body. Nobody ever mentioned his bruises. But sure, let’s fucking pray. I remember a car ride home after a night out with my friends, one of the only times I was able to breathe and ignore what I’d have to deal with when I got home. My friend was dropping me off, and she asked how my grandparents were. “Wait, they live with you now?” I tried my best to smile. “Yeah.” “Oh, that’s cool.” And she didn’t mean it in a bad way either, it was just a hard pill for me to swallow. It was an experience I didn’t think many could relate to. I didn’t want to talk to anyone about it, mostly because I didn’t know how, or where to start. I never even
said anything to my cousin, who’s one of my best friends. We never talked about how our grandparents lived in my house, or how her siblings and parents barely came to visit, despite living in the same gated community, their house a five minute walk away. To this day, I don’t hold it against them. I wish I could’ve ignored this the way they did. Since nobody ever asked me how I was feeling, I was sure I must’ve felt nothing. It wasn’t until late one night, when I was sitting in bed in the dark with my boyfriend on FaceTime, and he asked me how I was doing. My emotions came in one, two, three drops, and then a downpour. Once I started talking, I couldn’t stop. And then I started crying, and I couldn’t stop. ## I was nineteen when my grandad passed away. It was April, and I was lying in bed in my college dorm when I got the call. I don’t think anyone was surprised. He’d been checked in to the hospital with pneumonia a week before. My mom had sent me a picture of him in his hospital bed as he slept. He looked so small. I flew back to The Bahamas for the funeral. I helped my mother and aunt write the biography of his life. I helped my grandma write her eulogy for the booklet. I’ve noticed that the longer I’m away from her, the more I forget how much I hated her. The funeral is different from my great-uncle’s. This time I have a heavy heart. I sit in the second row next to my
sister as she cries and holds my hand. I can see my mother crying. I know everybody that goes up to speak. I laugh and nod my head along to the stories. I stand and sing along to the hymns. We drop roses on his casket and watch as he plummets into the ground. We gather in the church hall for some food. On the screen, they’re playing old family videos. The food wasn’t that great, and the rum cake had a little too much rum, but we gossiped about my cousin’s then-fiancé—my minister uncle didn’t “approve” of her—which was fun. And of course, we took a photo. The day after the funeral, my mom and I sat in the living room, on separate couches. It was a rare moment in my house, when it was quiet. “You seem to be handling this really well,” my mom said. That was true. I was. “I guess I am.” “You didn’t cry at the funeral.” “I don’t like funerals. I know why we have them, but it’s just—they’re very weird,” I responded, even if it had no correlation to what she’d said, I still said it. “I think I came to terms with it before it even happened.” “I understand what you mean.” “He was suffering, and now he’s not. That’s how I look at it.” And it’s a relief, I think in my head. But it feels like the wrong time to say it, to think it at all, but I couldn’t help it. Maybe that makes me a terrible person. But it was. It was a relief. I know many people feel a sense of relief when a loved one who was suffering dies. Rationally, I knew this.
But sometimes I go back to that night when my mother asked me about morals. Is my lack of religion the reason why I process things—emotions, most often—differently? Or is it because of something, something much deeper, more personal? I don’t know. I cry more as an adult than I did when I was a teenager, but I didn’t cry at my grandfather’s funeral. And though it sounds like a bad thing, I’m not sure if it is. I’m not sure.
“be av e r moon” s imon t j h- ba n d er ob
in 4 seasons there are 13 moons and tonight’s is the beaver’s in this country, Castor fiber bucktoothed ball-chomping platypus of the north is a museum piece known only to milliners & taxidermists the orphaned beaver moon surfaces her head with hardly a ripple between cirrus clouds as you or i might spy through parted blinds staring with 1 great rheumy eye peach marble, pale ember speckled gourd, dwarf sun stormy jupiter, smoky flame beaver moon she’s shining down on the docks & dams & canals every ordered river, every ruled shore every clay-brick bridge is illuminated from below by the water’s gloaming current
A gain a nd Again I’m losing you again; if only you could see how these hands now cradle tarnished keys that slice through palms held forth to you alone. Flickering lights of still hotel rooms stage scenes of feigned intimacy and carnal thoughts; here we lie — here I lie on musty carpets to study the vast blankness of the cracked ceiling. I cry ungodly hymns to strange rooms; they sound of your name and seep through frail walls, again and again. My wailing rattles ground like thunder and I wonder if you too can feel the earth shake. In the haze, I cling to memories like splintered driftwood in the murky pools of crapulence — not drunk enough yet to slight the hurricane unleashed; I know now we have been lost at sea. In the cold-sweat of delirium I pretend it is your heavy steps that echo through the corridor, that you stand outside the room rehearsing what will be said with a shaky fist raised to hammer on the beaten door — but you don’t. So I leave the door ajar with no promise of company but the slim hope a figure will find its way in.
E mily Pa lme r
Audra A s hley F is h-R obe r t s on
Tomato soup cake that you wrapped in burlap from Saranac (a form of your love) I still think my cat liked you more because your body always stayed warm your skin spreading like milk on the tiles beneath me I can’t say I’ll ever learn but you did a fine job of waiting thinking maybe I could
Cabin Fe v e r A . J. S a lu c c i
I’ve yearned for a fire that I cannot hold, for I am a man of cinder. Cackling, and half burnt, Willing to shine again for those who haven’t learnt. A forest aflame. That of which hell’s kitchen would be envious, I wonder if I am the same, and if my hope will extinguish. I fear my beloved would melt as I tremble, As if compassion countered extinction. I’ll outlast the darkness, only if I can be her foundation. Others burn brighter than night. And yet here I sit, envious. Perhaps I will be blessed and divinely carved, or will I sit here and let my passion starve?
C h in at ow n, Montré al Ja n a n C ha n
Walking into a government-run shopping complex, I found myself among sparrows & Chinese seniors, resting on steel benches or flittering between perches; high ceilings resembled outside, but the birds never left, unless guided out of doors, nesting sleepily in some real, some plastic plants, eating leftovers from lunches. Without reason to stay, I held the door open for someone who, I presumed, thanked me in Mandarin, recognizing my Chinese-looking face, but having no clue I spoke none of it. Outside, I met a pigeon with one foot, the other scabbed-over, pink-white bone; across the street, a man scattered grains to maybe forty pigeons, & I wished mine’d fly, & as I wished, it flew, joining its flock.
C utting Corne rs M a r c o B u t t ic e
I have a strange tendency To fiddle around with shapes I turn squares into circles So they seem less anxious Performing my duty is triangles Sharp edges fed by dollar symbols A hellscape of jagged cycles Geometry with corrupt angles If struggle is a dream And a smooth turn indolent Then labour the pain away Keep pricking fingers On that maleficent spinning wheel Until sleep is forever acute And the equation never solved
LOV E(BUG)L OVE A s ht on D id u c k
Lovebug is. Lovebug looks something like iridescent insect. Jewel beetle, wood-boring beetle. Two Lovebugs. Glossy and flatheaded in the trees. On the ground. Lips in the dark and sweet. The sweetness of technicolour. The sweetness of Lovebugs so literally kissing. Buried in the wood, kissing. Poking out a reflective head, sometimes, between kissing. Checking on branches, on what’s fallen. Checking on ecological ambiance, on what sets the mood. Lovebugs prefer what’s already dead. To be living inside death, loving inside death. They are the most alive because they are beautiful. They are most beautiful because they reflect each other’s colours. And everything is rainbowlove. Hard shell against hard shell.
Ou t s t r et che d, Tre mbling K elly Ta lbot
Across the continent the birds are silent. Leaves rustle in the trees, but there is no song. The soul-sick sun claws into the shade, ripping the hole in the sky wide open until even Antarctica dissolves, so hot and wet that we cannot breathe. The automobiles in Beijing are all freshly polished. The president of France is delivering an eloquent speech. The United Nations has issued another resolution. We can hear neither birds nor combat planes as our fingers reach for a tomorrow that is never to be.
t h e p r in ce ss’s c ha mbe r M a z e L a ver t y
crickets sing a song to a cold cup of coffee milky galactic swirl left over from the rotation of a spoon this morning a crystal rolled over in a palm, once twice the rabbit twitches his nose and locks his gaze with hers a chalice of golden honeyed brown fizzing syrup a medicinal champagne and no one to clink glasses with candy wrappers litter the floor they snicker underfoot wrists bound with lace ribbons twisted into bows locks of hair parachute down, landing soundlessly on a Persian rug china teacups are left on several side tables one harbors a fuzzy white mold raft that jiggles when you lift the cup the canopy bed is unmade white sheets yellowing she swallows her morning pill late drinking straight from the carafe of cucumber-infused water porcelain sink stained pink from blood that oozes when she pries her teeth apart with floss once daily she grins her red smeared smile she turns a gem faucet handle to start the cold-water drip chipped black lacquered nails the dust between the needle and the black plastic record cushions her descent into a sepia past trumpet mufflers and the katydid symbols swish legs crossed, naturally right over left bony ankles bob in syncopation with a distant heartbeat she is looking at her likeness in the opulent mirror with gilded frame she’s so ugly when she cries
A block of wood Carved into a woman, No arms, no legs, only a face Inside a kerchief. Doe eyes, rose lips, a pink spot On each cheek, An expression that looks Like there’s something she’s hiding. If you place your hands Across her round middle And twist, she breaks Clean in two. A smaller doll lives Within her, And within her, And within her. Did they scoop out her insides To fit the dolls in? The matryoshkas nest Beneath each other’s Hardened skin Losing their details The more they shrink. Beadier eyes, thinner lips, The absence Of rosy cheeks. Are they evolution Or devolution, These mothers and daughters, These concentric rings Inside of a tree? My mother gave it to me, And her mother gave it to her And her mother, To her. A chain of wooden women Giving themselves up As gifts. Each is only full Because there are others Within her. Did she ever have insides Or was she always this hollow?
Woode n Wome n R ivk a h G r os z ma n
Contributors Ann Krystel Désirée Michel is a 21-year-old writer and aspiring screenwriter based in Montreal. She’s currently in her final year of the Journalism program at Concordia university with a minor in Creative Writing. Over the years, essays as well as articles and fiction pieces of hers have been published in online publications such as Killerandasweetthang, By Messy and The Link. Talia Kliot is a first-year Concordia student majoring in Journalism and minoring in Creative Writing. Her passions include skiing, consuming ungodly amounts of chocolate, and making people laugh. Bridget Wadden is a Montreal-based author in the English and Creative Writing program at Concordia University. She is currently taking first-year Fiction and Playwriting courses, and is excited to take more in the future that will continue to expand and improve upon the study of the writing process. Her story, “Stunt Double,” is one of her first submissions of creative fiction in her Prose course. Born and raised in Montreal, Emily Palmer is a Journalism student at Concordia University with a passion for creative writing. When she’s not busy teaching dance or yoga, you can probably find her devouring the latest Margaret Atwood novel or jamming out to any Taylor Swift song.
Nicolas Viger-Collins has lived for 24 years. He graduated from elementary school and high school. After that he briefly went to Vanier College to study computer science. After he left he spent a few years doing odd jobs, such as a telemarketer. He then enrolled at Dawson College at first for Continuing Education, then for Cinema-Communication as a full time day student. After he graduated he continued working at a bowling alley before the pandemic devastated the nation and he lost his job due to it. In the darkness of the pandemic he got accepted to Concordia University in the Creative Writing major. Originally from Lanaudière, Nikita Eaton-Lusignan spent her 20s living in Ireland, the Czech Republic, and Taiwan. She’s now back in Montreal, studying Creative Writing and Sustainability at Concordia University. Gina Grant is currently studying English Literature and Creative Writing at Concordia University. While she is based out of Montreal, she spends much of the year in her hometown of New Brunswick with her family and cat. She has a background in contemporary dance and is interested in movement, both on body and in word. Katianna Ingraham is a third year student at Concordia University, majoring in Creative Writing with a minor in Film Studies. She was previously an English Editor for Concordia University’s Journal of Art History. The inspiration for her art ranges in influence; from the coming-of-age literature crafted by Alice Oseman to the masterful horror written by Jordan Peele. When she isn’t watching One Tree Hill for the hundredth time, she enjoys reading, watching films, or scribbling in a notebook. simon tjh-banderob is a writer, performer, teacher & cricket farmer from Nogojiawanong/Peterborough, Ontario. They are also a former poetry editor of Soliloquies Anthology and a former team member of Montreal’s own Throw! Poetry Slam Team. simon has been inflicting his work on readers and audiences across Canada, Germany and the United States since 2011. Ashley Fish-Robertson is finishing her Anthropology degree at Concordia University. She works as a freelance journalist and occasionally contributes to The Concordian. In her spare time, she is either reading or shopping for more books.
A.J. Salucci is a student at Concordia University studying Psychology with a passion for the arts. His ultimate goal is to illustrate how the arts can be used as a tool to better understand ourselves and help others see this by becoming an Art Therapist. In the meantime, he is focused on learning all there is in different artistic mediums, acquiring experience through submitting pieces, and just establishing himself in a community he already participates in. Janan Chan, studying his MA in Creative Writing at Concordia University, has work featured in The Mitre, yolk., and “Water Lines: New Writing from the Eastern Townships of Quebec”. Marco Buttice is a literature student and professional freelance writer from Montreal, Quebec. His short story “Playground” will be published in the newest issue of The Void Magazine. You can usually find him eating a large plate of pasta or binging a Netflix Original Series, perhaps at the same time. Ashton Diduck is an Undergraduate student in the department of English and Creative Writing at Concordia University. As with every great poet he began pursuing poetry in high school, and has been spiralling ever since. They enjoy writing about queerness, looking at pictures of frogs, and nice early morning runs in the snow. This is the first publication of his work. Kelly Talbot has edited books for 20 years for Wiley, Macmillan, Oxford, Pearson Education, and other publishers. His writing has appeared in dozens of journals and anthologies. He divides his time between Indianapolis, Indiana, and Timisoara, Romania. Maze Laverty is a Creative Writing student in his first year at Concordia University. Rivkah Groszman is an undergraduate Marketing and Creative Writing student at Concordia University. She’s also the Vice President of Projects of the Concordia Marketing Aid Clinic, a student-run non-profit association providing free marketing support to Montreal non-profits and small businesses. Rivkah has had a research essay published in the academic journal Transformative Works and Cultures, but has not ventured to publish her creative writing until now. Needless to say, she’s very excited.