Lions-on-Line (in print)
“Batik” by Brooke Breyley
Spring Issue 2010 1
A Note from the Faculty Advisor This is a very special issue of Lions-on-Line, because in this issue we’ve chosen to feature a selection of the prize-winning poetry, fiction, and personal essays from the Mount’s very own 10th Grade High School Writing Contest, a contest that has just celebrated its 14th anniversary. Eight sophomores in high school were honored (one writer won first prize in both personal essay and poetry) at an Awards Ceremony at the end of March 2010 for their awardwinning work. The Mount received in excess of 100 submissions in poetry, fiction, and personal essay. In each category, a first prize was awarded as well as two honorable mentions. Winners were chosen by a panel of student judges and faculty coordinators from the Mount’s English and Communication Studies departments. This is the first time that Lions-on-Line has chosen to publish work generated by the contest and we hope that you will enjoy the extraordinary words of our youngest contributors. It is with a shared sense of pride and nostalgia that Lions-on-Line says goodbye to its graduating staff members. I would like to personally thank all of them for their hard work and dedication to this magazine and to their interest in celebrating the creative accomplishments of the members of our community here at the College of Mount St. Joseph. This spring, we say goodbye to several members of our team: our Creative Nonfiction Editor, Stephanie Brokaw; our Poetry Editor, Paul Arrand Rodgers; our Fiction Editor, Tom Ciulla; and our Treasurer, Danielle Siemer. Though this publication is dedicated to the power of words, there aren’t words capable of expressing just how much we’ll miss our graduates. Congratulations Stephanie, Paul, Tom and Danielle!
Table of Contents Symana Dillingham Robin Coronado Brittany Arthur Connor White Brooke Breyley Jacob Stentz Robin Coronado Kim Asmus Bailyn Hogue Brittany Arthur Meghan Finke Sophia Melnyk Robin Coronado Stephanie Brokaw Sherman A. Hartley Hannah Raulston Brittany Arthur Jordan Crouch Vicki Lemen Megan Cullen Megan Pena Linda Brown Brittany Arthur Jacob Stentz Yasmeen Daher Alyssa Kaine Symana Dillingham Neil Kelly Brooke Breyley Jacob Stentz Not Quite A Rooney Julie Metzger
Degrees of Life: What’s a Girl to Wear? Calloused Hands Heart Strings Visible Green Landscape Service Learning Forever Remembered Cincinnati Art Museum Daring to Remember The Fallen Angel Beatle Beauty The Backwards Anthem Living Finding Riverside in the Mercantile Library Little Boxes I am From There The Man in the Moon Home Midnight Canvas Lost Souls 1,000,000 Eyes It’s a Pleasure to Meet You A Thought The Life Some of the Greatest Treasures Can be Found in a Friend Just Like SpongeBob and Patrick Coffee, Chaos and Connections Dream On Differences Coffee Tree Still Have a Cookie I Want………..
4 9 10 11 16 17 18 19 21 23 24 25 26 27 29 30 31 32 34 35 36 51 52 53 54 56 60 61 63 64 65 67
Degrees of Life: What’s a Girl to Wear? By Symana Dillingham The day starts at a scary hour as I try (while fighting through the stale aroma of my basement bedroom) to think of the perfect, secret-keeping outfit. As I reach across my cluttered nightstand into the darkness that engulfs my surroundings to find my watch so that I can confirm the rudeness of the hour, I reach, knock a book to the floor, glance over at my snoring husband to make sure he is not disturb, grab the watch, the hands of which confirm what I knew to be true-it’s way too early to be conscious. So I try to settle back into the comfort of the frayed “doggy toy” that I once called my favorite pillow but which has now become a bone of contention between B-Boy (my 120 lb. German Sheppard) and I. I press down my heavy head, close my eyes tightly, and try to drift off. Drift off to a place where reality fails to exist and decisions don’t have to be made. The harder I try to sleep the more I am aware, aware of my husband’s snoring at a pace that is reminiscent of a bad rock tune that never ends. Aware of the pillow-stealing dog scratching, and scratching some more; each time his paw hits his coat it sounds as though he is raking rocks across concrete in slow motion with the volume on blast. I block him out only to discover that I must have fallen asleep with the TV on and Montel Williams is now screaming that he has discovered the greatest juicer of all time while trying to coax my last $19.95 out of my purse. I grab the remote; hit the off button and press back in, only to be accosted by the question in my mind, “Is that rain?” As I begin to zoom in on an ominous sound that is now standing between me and my dreams, I begin to think, rain wouldn’t be that bad maybe it won’t only rain, but flood the whole area so I won’t have to go. “Foolish girl,” I tell myself, “it’s not rain.” No it’s a drip from the faucet that I told the snoring husband to fix three months ago! With that I furiously surrender to the inevitable and allow my haunting thoughts (of the rapidlyapproaching day) to come in and invade my elusive peace. As I lay frustrated and awake, I begin to think maybe I should wear a pair of torn jeans, faded t-shirt, and shoes that won’t tell on me. The choices are too many and my skin is itching with excitement and trepidation. As I scratch my arm, I think, you sound like B-Boy; girl, your skin is so dry. As I shake my head franticly trying to jar my thoughts into a new direction, I think now you look like B-Boy shaking off water. I laugh… and here come those same thoughts. Should I dress professionally? I don’t know- because I don’t know what they expect to see, so I can’t determine who I should be. I think to myself all of my life I have been “existing” by discovering what people want me to be and then becoming just that. How pathetic is that? My parents wanted me to be a quiet child who did as she was told and so I was. The boys in the neighborhood wanted me to be easy and so I was. My children wanted me to be all knowing and so I learned how to become their real-life make-believe. My husband wanted me to be a hard worker on the job and on the home front and so I did. The church had expectations, my friends had requirements, my world has become one huge checklist and I have always been required to check yes even when my insides were screaming, no! 4
Now here I sit, itchy, confused, tired and on the eve of doing something strictly for me with total hesitation and absolute fear. With my inner thoughts becoming deeper, I can’t help but to wonder, am I good enough just as I am? Am I smart enough, eager enough, or, am I fooling myself? This domain that I am about to enter is one that is distant to me. This isn’t just a trade school, an extended learning course, this is college! This is a world of academics that will see through me at a glance and discover all of my imperfections. I am more afraid of this than I am of disappointing those whose opinions mold me; but I also want this as much as I want to be free to live, to dream, and to become, independent of those strongholds that are dictated by my world. Yet fear, doubt, and low self esteem, have arrested me and are holding me mercilessly without bail. Can I compete in this new world? Do I have the smarts, the stamina, and the determination? Or will I quit before I even begin to try? I am so overwhelmed, so lost, so unsure of myself. Yes, I need an outfit that will hide all of the insanity that’s filling my soul. It’s 3 a.m. on “D” Day and I can’t sleep! In a few hours I will be sitting in a place that I have feared my entire life and, with my G.E.D.-high-school-equivalent understanding, can’t even settle on what to wear. As I arise with my head spinning and my body feeling as if it is carrying the weight of the world, I sit on the side of the bed as my senses tell me to fear the cold, dark, lonely bedroom floor. Attuned to the fear I lift my brick-filled leg and allow my feet to search the darkness for the furry feeling of my slippers knowing that once they are discovered they will provide enough cushion for me to stand protected from the chilly isolated obis that resides just beneath them. As my feet slide into the warmth of the slippers, my senses appeased, I wrap my feelings in a tight bundle, tuck them deep inside my weary heart and carry them over to the closet where I try to find the perfect covering for all of them. Not only do I need an outfit but more importantly my feelings need one, my feelings, my sanity and I need a perfect camouflage that will allow us to appear confident and assured. As I grab one pair of pants, one shirt, sweater, skirt after another and another, I begin to feel overwhelmed. I grab my crutch: a pretty pink sweeter with fake pearl buttons and an embroidered rose on the lapel and I lay my head in its softness as I begin to sob uncontrollably. Can I do this? Should I do this? My legs of will are at their breaking point and I can’t balance myself; my crutch has failed me! I slide down onto the cold floor that minutes ago I fought to escape, with the sweater secured in my grasp and I allow myself to collapse into craziness. The questions, the doubts, the fears, continue to attack me mercilessly, then they are interrupted by a smell…I bury my head deep into the sweater and breathe in with everything I have, and there it is again… the smell of Dolce and Gabbana’s-Light Blue perfume. And with the smell come memories. I recall the last time I wore this sweater; it was the day my husband and my girls accompanied me to my first public speaking engagement. I remember that day fondly, I was just as afraid then as I am now yet I never let on. They presented me with a blue package that held the fragrance that is now filling my nostrils. I remember them grabbing my glance and saying one after another, “You look so nice today,” and off we went. I was the last one out the door and as I reached to secure it, I said a silent prayer, turned off the light, and looked to the heavens and said, “Today I am a new person. Lord please allow me to never be the same.” We arrived at the venue and although I can’t recall each instant; I can clearly recount the moment I finished speaking and how the applause captured me and brought tears to my eyes. My throat dried out, my words were choked by emotion as I leaned towards the microphone to 5
mutter the words, “Thank you, Thank you, Thank you all so much.” I remember looking out into the crowd and seeing my husband as a tear rolled down his strong face. My children were standing to their feet and, with cell phones in hand, they began pointing and clicking while smiling smiles that broke through all the self doubt I carried. That was a good day, a changing day and I know now like I knew then that I needed more of those. I owe it to myself to get off this floor and to do what I swore to myself I would do. I swore that I would not be held back by lack of courage and self doubt. I promised myself that I would seek not what was easy but that which was so incredibly hard and in doing so I would become an example for my girls and this world. I determined in that mesmerizing moment, standing on that stage, that that round of applause would not be my last. I would rise above being a teenage mom; I would overcome the single parent dysfunctional home I was reared in. I would for once in my life do something based not on the needs of others, but I would selfishly, and unapologetically, do something great just for me! And so here I am, on this August day, in the prime of my life, headed off to a foreign place. A place where degrees are obtained and futures are made. College-there is so much wrapped up in that word, much of which I know nothing about. I have somehow managed to dress and primp myself; I have navigated through the city traffic; now all that’s left to do is to park and then, drum roll please, enter! I find my parking place marked by the word “visitor” as I pull in and I think, wow, a visitor, well, hopefully I won’t be that for long. I throw the car in park, gather all of my art samples in my lap, thumb through them for the hundredth time hoping that with each flip they will become worthy of admissions and represent my undiscovered ability. I hope my color choices are right, I hope my spelling is correct, I hope my eye for detail is evident. I finally say to myself, “There’s nothing you can do about any of that now.” So, I close the binder that holds the samples, sit straight up in the car seat and look longingly towards the entrance. The sign for the College of Mount Saint Joseph Admission Office tunnels my vision and becomes all that I can see. I envision what it will be like to enter and become one of “those” people, those people whose chatter reflects pure knowledge, those people who walk with a confidence that is not represented by anything external but that comes from a deep and educated place, one of those people who have for years held my destiny in their hands by way of overseeing my job growth, promotions, and pay, one of those people who wake up with a vision and lay down each night with a sense of accomplishment and growth, one of those people who has a certificate hanging on the wall that say things like graduate, alumnae, bachelors, masters, doctorate, and the like. This is heavy stuff and my arms are becoming weaker and weaker the more I realize it. I gather my thoughts and my emotions and enter the admissions office. I catch a glance of myself in the glass door and give myself a once over. I realize that the pink sweater is the perfect choice, I grab the door handle, pull it with all I have and in I go. The woman behind the desk is normal looking and couldn’t be any less intimidating, yet to me she is as scary as an untamed lion protecting her cubs. She takes my information and roars for me (asks me) to take a seat. As I look over at the seating area, I can’t help but to gaze longingly at the walls covered with degrees and announcements for people that are far more ahead in the game then I. 1965, 1972, 1986, wow these people were doing great things before I was born, while I was growing 6
and during the time I was making some of the biggest mistakes of my life. I want to run before I am exposed as a fake and phony intellectual want-a-be who is clearly in over my foolish head. But I don’t. I sit down, grip my binder, close my eyes, and wait for someone in the admissions department to summon me into their world. Before long I enter and stand opposite my admissions person with a cherry desk separating us. I sit down hoping that I can control the desire to dash. I listen to her explain how wonderful The Mount is and tell me that I will certainly gain from being a student. I say very little, mostly nod my head and smile nervously. My thoughts are all over the place as I listen to her paint a picture that Van Gogh would have envied. As she boasts of all the virtues of college life in a tone that in my head has converted to the waa waa waa of a Charlie Brown episode. Before I know it I’ve signed a few papers, tried to open my binder but am stopped by fear. Then at last, she stands, extends her hand and says, “Welcome to the Mount!” I reach to shake her hand, careful not to reach too far and expose the puddle that has formed under my nervous arm pits. I smile and say, “Thank you, Thank you, Thank you so much” and then turn to exit, take one step, and it occurs to me that I am walking on a cloud! Every movement towards my car is optimistic and carefree I was, in that moment, on top of the world! Nothing could stop me now. I can’t even remember driving from The Mount to my house. I can’t recall starting the car or even maneuvering through the city streets. All I recollect is the blissful feeling of knowing that I DID IT! Within weeks it is time for my first class and fear is trying its hardest to creep in and erode my blissfulness, yet I am bound and determined not to let it. This is my time and I am ready! At work that day I can’t focus on any task. I am too full of anticipation, knowing that in a few hours I will be a College Student headed towards a goal that will finally satisfy the hunger that has been building in my spirit for years. After a lifetime of procrastination and fearing the unknown, I am doing the impossible! As I arrive on the campus, I begin to notice that which had escaped me weeks before. There is beauty all around me. There are perfectly landscaped grounds with Christian monuments sprinkled everywhere. There is a tennis court, a workout room, and a gym room, that are a shiny reflection of hope. Realizing I am wonderfully lost I ask a fellow student for help, climb back in the car and continue my observations while following his directions to class. There are buildings, doors, and windows that lead straight to possibilities! I pull into the student parking lot, (Did you hear me? I said, “The student parking lot!”) I step out of the car and into my destiny. As I begin down the never-ending hallway, I search the room signs for my class number. Finally I find it, hands sweating, I pull open the door to the classroom, and step in. For a brief moment I am frozen- it is so big, so scary, and so empty. I step further into the room in which bright lights and bright ideas are the perfect complement to my bright eyes. I make my way to an empty seat that represents the barrenness that was once such a part of me. I can literally hear the echoes fading in my inner places. Now, where fear and self doubt once lived, hopes, dreams, and expectations are floating to the surface and filling those voids. Before I know it, the class is filled with students. They are texting on their phones, talking to one another, flipping through magazines, eating snacks-just being students. Their relaxation causes me to loosen up and settle in. As the Professor walks to the front of the class and issues a greeting, I zoom in and focused in on her eyes. I don’t know much, but I know that 7
just beyond her eyes is a place that will tell me all that I need to know. As I channel in, I can see that she is seasoned beyond her years. I look deeper and I see a fire there-one that has the potential to set us all ablaze! I stare even deeper into the place that holds my future triumphs. In that moment’s inquisition, she looks me directly in my eyes, continues talking, and smiles. With that, I feel the spark unite and my future begin to smolder with excitement. I look away assured that I am in the right place, at the right time, and that it is not too late for me. I look around at my classmates and it occurs to me that I am not alone. I wonder how far each of them has had to travel in their own lives to get to this point. I am sure that they had hills and valleys of their own. It becomes apparent to me that maybe none of us had a promise of a “light at the end of our tunnels,” maybe each one of us are acquiring our lights by force along the way…Maybe we are all smoldering sparks waiting on someone or something to fan us so that we can become raging infernos that will change this world. At this point on my path, as I continue my sophomore year, I have discovered that there are many degrees of life and whether you acquire them in the streets, on the job, or in the classroom, each one has the potential to change your life and mold the person you will become. The strength of my hand (the very hand) that will one day embrace my grandchildren is being determined by the choices I make today. I long to have a hand that is full of promise and perseverance, a hand that proudly represents not only the depth of my learning but also the varying degrees of my tangled life and captured dreams. In the end, I discover the perfect outfitFaith, Hard Work, and Confidence all of which must be worn daily!
Calloused Hands By Robin Coronado Calloused hands upon well-worn leather gently slide saddle behind sturdy withers. Precise pull makes cinch taut, never disturbing chewing steed. Dark brown eyes close as head lowers for metal bit to meet pink tongue and green masticated goo. No more hay bale antics with your pasture pals, nowâ€™s the time for making good on ancient partnerships. Human other half, cougar-like spring, bowed legs straddle equus. Yield to seasoned hands, give to pressured leg and ears get scratched and carrots crunched. Fearless weekend cowboys ride. Childhood dreams realized. Day jobs forgotten, there are no differences on the trail. Freedom finds you as canter turns to gallop, wind rushes mane of horse and man. The horse, a chrysalis, forever changes man to rider. Steep ravines descended and mighty mounts ascended. The trail forever bonds the riders.
“Heart Strings” by Brittany Arthur 10
Visible By Connor White What you are about to read is something dear and important to me. This is the first time I have written about it and it will be hard. I don’t even like to talk about it. It has taken 19 years for me to write down anything about me having Tourette’s and it still is hard. I have always hoped that if I ignore it I would forget it and it would go away. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work like that so you will be reading about this part of my life that no one else has ever read. In 1999, I was in the fourth grade and I was diagnosed with Tourette syndrome. I didn’t realize it then, but my life was about to change and I was going to stand out wherever I went. For those who don’t know, Tourette’s is a neurological disorder characterized by recurrent involuntary movements, including multiple neck jerks and sometimes vocal tics, such as grunts, barks, or words. In 1825, the first case of Tourette syndrome was reported in medical literature with a description of the Marquise de Dampierre, a noblewoman whose symptoms included involuntary tics of many parts of her body and various vocalizations including coprolalia and echolalia. 19th-century French neurologist, Jean-Marc Itard, described his patient as having motor tics, echolalia and coprolalia. His unfortunate patient, the Marquise de Dampierre, was a French noblewoman who developed motor tics at age seven years and, shortly thereafter, developed involuntary vocalizations consisting of screams and strange cries. Several years later she developed coprolalia. With this host of problems, the Marquise was forced to live in seclusion and continued her involuntary cursing until her death at age 85. Some 50 years after Itard's report, in 1885, another French neurologist, Georges Gilles de la Tourette, produced a detailed account of several patients with a similar condition, including the Marquise in her later years. Jean Martin Charcot, one of the leading European neurologists of the 19th century and Gilles de la Tourette's supervisor at the Salpetriere, attached his pupil's name to this syndrome. Georges Gilles de la Tourette was born (Georges Albert Edouard Brutus Gilles de la Tourette) in 1857, and died in 1904. For most, of the 20th century, Tourette syndrome was considered a psychiatric disorder because of the voluntary ability to suppress symptoms, the stress-associated exacerbation, and the bizarre forms of many of the tics. Indeed, its symptoms provoked a number of commentaries in psychoanalytic literature. Because of the identification of many biological factors over the past 20 years, including the efficacy of pharmacologic therapy and the heritability of the disorder, Tourette syndrome has been reclassified as a neurological movement disorder. In fact, Tourette syndrome has prominent behavioral as well as motor manifestations, and occupies a niche that spans psychiatry and neurology. I remember being in the doctor’s office when he told me that I had Tourette’s. I was only ten years old and didn’t know what to think. I remember being confused and it explained a lot. I remembered how in the past I blinked my eyes a lot and then began to unintentionally make vocal sounds and that’s when my parents had me checked. My parents were relieved to know what was wrong. There is no cure for Tourette’s though. However, there is medication, usually depressants that calm the nervous system and relax you, but at a heavy price. The side effects can be worse than the actual disease. There are four different types: neuroleptics, 11
antidepressants, antianxiety, and CNS stimulants. These are the side effects that they carry: drug-induced parkinsonism, kinesis, akathisia, acute dystonia, tardive dyskinesia, oculogyric crisis, extrapyramidal reactions, restlessness, drowsiness, decrease in cognitive function, anxiety, autonomic dry eyes/ mouth, urinary retention, diaphoresis, hyper-salivation, increased appetite, weight gain, anorexia, constipation, hepatitis, dysphoria, social and school phobias, heat stroke, polydipsia, impotence, photosensitivity, rashes, galactorrhea, hyperpyrexia, anemia, leukopenia. Most of these are neurological diseases or malfunctions that cause more complications for the Tourette’s patient, which is the reason they are only used for severe cases, but my case is only mild Tourette’s, so taking drugs is out of the question. Tourette’s has made me most visible in school and it took me a while to get used to it. I was always self-conscious and always thinking that people were talking about my tics and when someone laughed, I always assumed they were laughing at me. In every class since fourth grade, I’ve gotten weird looks, and stares, or teachers and substitutes have told me to be quiet. Every year, for every teacher, I’ve had to explain what’s going on. It started to get difficult in middle school because that’s when peer pressure starts, or kids really start focusing on how cool they are and how popular they are, or how many friends they have. Luckily, I was accepted by everybody and this one kid Andrew Perrault came up to me, because we had every class together, and introduced himself to me. I remember him coming up and saying, “What’s up man, my name is Andrew and I noticed that you’re in all my classes.” I replied, “Yeah, my name’s Conner and I just transferred here from Faith Lutheran.” He said, “That’s sick man; so what’s with all the noises.” I laughed and said, “I have Tourette’s.” His response surprised me and was the reason we became such good friends. He said, “That’s sick, man, I wouldn’t have even noticed if we didn’t have every class together. We should definitely hang out sometime. I will introduce you to the guys.” After meeting the guys and being accepted I became one of the most popular kids in Johnson Middle School. The biggest thing Andrew did for me was he introduced me to lacrosse and got me to start playing it. Andrew was 5’11’’ and 150 pounds, so he was my size and told me I would be perfect for it and, since all the guys played, I decided to give it a try. Picking up lacrosse was huge for me, because I got extremely good and it helped me stay active and keep making more friends. Middle school was done and the next step for me began. I went to Palo Verde High School and luckily for me, the exact same thing happened. I met one of my best friends, whom I will never forget for the rest of my life. His name was Austin Taylor and I played lacrosse with him for four years and that’s where I first met him. My Tourette’s was accepted at this high school and, although I still got those looks during the first week of classes, once everyone knew about my Tourette’s it was like they just ignored it. The difference though was I had to take all exams and placement tests in a separate room in the office. A girl complained that she couldn’t focus with me in the room. It didn’t bother me too much, but I did feel like an outcast every time I went into the office. I remember feeling like a prisoner in there, because it was just me and a dean staring at me while I took the test. 12
Back to Austin: the first time I met him was at our first lacrosse practice and he came up to me and said, “Hey, you’re the kid with Tourette’s right. That’s awesome; do you do the cussing thing like on South Park.” Again I laughed and said, “Yeah, that’s me but I have a mild case and don’t cuss.” He laughed and said, “You’re so lucky; you can say whatever you want and never get in trouble.” I replied, “I guess; I never really thought about it like that.” He said, “Don’t worry. I will show you the ropes and help you use this to our advantage.” Austin was one of the trouble makers. He was extremely smart and popular, but was always getting into trouble and he partied hard on weekends. Austin was 5’’11’, with brown hair and some blonde highlights, just your basic, popular jock. From freshmen year to senior year, we were best friends. We were always messing with teachers and pulling pranks and we partied on weekends together. The best prank we did was our senior year. I was the student aid for a physics class he was in and we had a sub that day, so we decided to switch places and I pretended to be a student and he was the student aid. During the whole class, he acted like he had Tourette’s and it was the funniest thing ever, because the sub didn’t say a word but you could tell on her face that his behavior bothered her. And, it also gave me a different perspective on things; I got to see people’s reactions and what it was like for everyone else to deal with me. The only party that I still remember was after graduation at the hotel party we threw. It was at Caesar’s Palace and we arrived at the suite with suitcases filled with vodka and Malibu, and tons of bud light, and then we filled the bath tubs with the alcohol and ice from the ice machine. Then we set up a beer pong table and played some music and at about ten o clock the party started and didn’t end until the next morning. I remember Austin telling me, “This is the life. I will never forget these times with you guys.” Now, we’re in college and luckily the classes are small just like in middle school and high school, so it was easy enough for me to make the transition. Everyone here at the Mount is nice and understanding. The first week, and in orientation, I definitely got those looks like, “What is wrong with him?”, or “Why is making weird noises?” I talked to my teachers and although no one has asked me in any of my classes, I assume they know or just don’t care anymore, but class runs smoothly and I still feel comfortable. I still take exams in a separate room in the Learning Center, but it is a lot friendlier than taking tests in the dean’s office of my high school. Since I am on the lacrosse team, I already have a foundation of friendships and they have become a family for me and have made my time here much better and a lot easier to handle. The professors here are great and have all understood and have worked with me to make sure I am getting the information and that I feel comfortable in class and can concentrate. This is something I never got in high school or middle school. It was tough at first dealing with the constant stares and knowing that when I’m in a room people might be whispering about me, but over time I have gotten used to it and have accepted who I am. I have gotten used to the stares and laughs and it’s not a big deal for me. I just ignore them and remember who I am and what I have worked for. If I wasn’t able to get past that, my life would be a lot different. I would be in a constant state of depression and I am stronger for getting over it. I am not ashamed of my Tourette’s and although some students and teachers get bothered and annoyed, I just ignore it. I have to take exams in a separate room, which I have 13
chosen to do because I am a distraction to people trying to take an exam and focus on what they are doing. I have no problem explaining what’s going on and why I am making these weird noises during class. I feel that Tourette’s has made me visible, because everywhere I go, people look and stare. School was the hardest obstacle for me to conquer, but I did, because that is where stereotypes and discrimination are the worst. Even though school is fine now, when I go to restaurants or stores, I still get looks and stares because people don’t know, and since I’m different I’m looked down on right away. But I know who I am and it doesn’t bother me. I could care less what people think and I live everyday happy my life is like this and I have no regrets. The biggest thing I have learned is to deal with it with laughter. If I didn’t accept myself and use jokes about my Tourette’s, I would never have survived. It would have eaten me alive and I would have never been able to be socially active and make the friends I did. I met a lot of kids because of my Tourette’s and most don’t forget me. Because I am so open about it, I am on the bottom end of some jokes, but I’m ok with that and I laugh because that’s all I can do. *** Besides school, the second biggest impact Tourette’s has made on me and made me visible in is lacrosse. Throughout my high school career, I was known as the kid with Tourette’s and eventually one of the best and most respected kids to play lacrosse in Las Vegas. Because of how hard I worked and how good I became, I got a lot of spotlight. This last year westsidelax.com wrote an article about me and my Tourette’s and I was featured on the front page. If you Google “Conner White lacrosse,” you will get probably eight to 10 hits on the first page all about me and how I led my team to victory, either in season or in tournaments. Tourette’s really helped me out in lacrosse, because when I did my head tics, they would throw off defenders and goalies and confuse them, making it easier to burn them and score goals. I led my high school, Palo Verde, in goals scored from 2007 to 2009 and led in assists 2008 and 2009. I was the first kid to go to a NCAA college from Palo Verde and led my team to being ranked on westsidelax.com’s top 25. Before I got hurt and tore my ACL, I was talking to Providence in Rhode Island and if it wasn’t for some unfortunate circumstance, I would have gone to play NCAA, division-one lacrosse. But, if it wasn’t for my Tourette’s, I would have not been so well known and people would have never noticed me. I believe everything happens for a reason and Tourette’s was to help me get noticed and make a difference. People in Vegas look up to me and I have proved you can fight through anything and that if you work hard, you can accomplish anything. The difference between lacrosse and school is that in lacrosse, kids were a lot easier to deal with and the transition was easier. Lacrosse was my escape. When I play lacrosse, everything just flows. My Tourette’s never affects me when I play; it’s like I am in a different world and I only see the field. The thing about a lacrosse field is people cannot hear your tics or focus on anything but the game. So on the field everyone is the same and no one judges you; they just play and have fun. So, for four years in high school, lacrosse was my escape and my chance to be normal. Because I was so good, people always wanted to go shoot or play catch. I got pick-up games every Saturday and people just came to play. Lacrosse helped me meet so many people and I have made many lifelong friends who have helped me and continue to help me. So if you asked me if I would get rid of my Tourette’s, I would have to say no. Tourette’s 14
has made me the person I am today and has made me visible and a huge part of the lacrosse community and now hopefully the Mount Saint Joseph community.
“Green Landscape” by Brooke Breyley
Service Learning Forever Remembered By Jacob Stentz Is it possible to silence a valued spirit? To the point where no one can hear it? To end a life which brought only good, comparable to noble robin hood Exhibiting their love for complete strangers, setting an example no matter the dangers Setting a foundation to build upon, encouraging compassion and piety to spawn From which a community can steadily stand, even in diversity it will not disband An army of good infecting us all, an example that, shall never fall A cornerstone that is honored with love, performing the tasks from the creator above One cannot silence the good deeds of the soul, for those lives have represented the whole although one day, a soldier may pass their works of charity will outlast So I thank those women and men, and I say keep it up and do it again!
Cincinnati Art Museum By Robin Coronado Ascending the stairs, pushing forth the heavy doors and entering the art museum, was a simile for me. I had risen above my trepidation and pushed through my fear of high culture and entered an uncomfortable realm, only to be overcome by all the beauty that I was missing, having lived most of my life in the lower echelons of society. Going to art museums is a lot like going to symphonies. It is something that financially-challenged people don’t do (even if it is free)! Who wants to look at a bunch of stuff we could never afford, that rich guys commissioned and their wealthy heirs “wrote off” (donated) when it no longer matched their swanky décor? We come from a different culture, we don’t know which forks to use, we must subdue hardy laughter, and our beer garden behavior. I imagined that I felt much like those early Cincinnatians who were close to being the “have-nots” and definitely not the “haves,” who put on their Sunday-best suits, so they too could stroll the grounds of Eden Park, to be able to breathe the “better” air for just a short time with the cultured people, yet who knew their place and returned to their crowded tenements before evening came. I felt like that at the art museum, “temporarily cultured.” I am going to go back (not just because it is free) when I have my façade clothes on, my attempt to blend. I liked what I saw and want to see more of it. It wasn’t all about portraits of high-fluting people and their busts of likeness. There were glimpses of us little people. I saw them in the portrait of Fountain Square Pantomime 1892. Maybe, the non-wealthy jumped in the portrait much like those annoying people on T.V. Perhaps, a “Hi, Mom,” from the 19th century! There were weapons too! Who doesn’t like locked and loaded art? Beauty has a function? Yes, as furniture! We’re not talking about your Dad’s old smelly Lazy Boy here! Beauty as furniture, beauty as function, I saw it all in the wardrobes, hall trees and beds. My favorite was the hand-carved mantel of grapevines woven together straight from the home of the Longworth’s. How fitting! There was one lovely portrait that caught my eyes. I think it was called “Pattycake.” The woman in the portrait was wearing a dress a shade of blue prettier than any of my cousin’s eyes. The portrait was so clear it was like a digital photograph. I suppose we as humans have been searching for clarity in who we are way before Kodak or Cannon came on the scene. Everything from Rookwood was amazing. But, I loved the humor in one hog-shaped flask. It was an advertising piece for a liquor store downtown. To drink from the flask, a thirsty individual had to put their lips on the hog’s backside! Yes, I am going to go back to the art museum and I bet those doors will seem much lighter now!
Daring to Remember By Kim Asmus She looked at Mrs. Besl and my eyes welled up, standing in the basement, in this place where she always felt so comfortable with the worn cream tile, the sage green pegboard walls. She had grown up here, right alongside Jeff Besl. They were junior high sweethearts. They had been together for two years. And now she knew the truth. Now she knew why she could never feel they were truly finished. She stared down at the tiny wedding ring that Mrs. Besl just laid in her hand. Emmie stared at the small silver circle in her hand. It was tarnished, and the metal was nicked and scraped. She couldn’t believe this belonged to her hand. From around the corner, she saw Jeff come in. He had his hair all a mess, his face still rather full, and an easy manner. No worry lines, save for one thin line that Em had always seen there, even when no one else noticed. He saw Em and half turned around until his mother called him back. “Jeff, stay. You need to know this too. “ Mrs. Besl half cried when she uttered the words. Jeff rolled his eyes, and pushed himself back from the doorway. His polo shirt was wrinkled, and his khakis had a stain from the orange he had eaten as the fire alarm was calling him to his duties. He had just been headed for his own bed. But curious why his ex-girlfriend was in the basement, and about his mother’s tone, he stayed. Emmie, still holding the ring, was in total shock. Mrs. Besl just stood there, pulling the old player piano apart. It had been where Jeff first played her Fur Elise. The sweet, yet poignant notes had resonated in her soul and led to the little jetties of happy little phrases mixed into the sad little tune. Emmie had been so drawn in by watching him play, very much entranced by the music. She had fallen in love with him in that moment. Mrs. Besl took off the handkerchief that was covering her hair from the dust, and slid herself into the nearest chair. She was a slight woman, hardly taller than the five foot stature of Emmie. The strawberry blonde hair that she had styled short when they were young was now gray, pulled back severly into a ponytail at the nape of her neck. She had never dyed it after Jeff’s fourteenth birthday. After the summer Emmie vacationed with them. “Emmie came to me today, Jeff, because she has been feeling a loss and can’t describe why, but feels we have something to do with it.” “Yeah, well, typical Emmie.” Jeff looked contemptible as he snorted this under his breath, but Emmie heard him, and tried harder not to cry at the situation. He was her husband. And he didn’t know. Or at least he had been. Emmie’s light brown hair was already starting to dull, and she could never keep it just how she wanted it; she always looked frazzled. Jeff didn’t mind that in a woman, but he did tend to be frustrated with Emmie’s inconsistent, and often times irrational behavior. She often came to him with crazy ideas that her boyfriends were into drugs, or cheating; they usually were, but he couldn’t let himself see her choosing to be with someone like that. He couldn’t handle the way she took the abuse, or how she wore those stupid oversized sunglasses. He couldn’t bear to feel the pain she was in when she ate her feelings and then quietly wretched over the toilet after each binge. He couldn’t bear her intolerance of her own appearance, which had developed while they were in high school. He just wanted the innocent Em back. The one who held his hand on the bus, who fell asleep on his shoulder, and who was so nervous when they first kissed that she turned her head so that 19
he’d kissed her ear. But after seeing this string of men in her life, he just couldn’t handle her now. She was spoiled. Emmie shot him a look of utter betrayal. She had loved him without repose for all of these years, but she needed someone to comfort the hurt of his dismissal before high school, when his best friend Jon had come in and been her only consolation. When Jon had been suddenly taken from her by a move, Emmie went off the deep end. She couldn’t be alone and now she was running out of arms to hold her, and she was finding dark places in her heart that couldn’t be filled without answers. “Mrs. Besl. I am holding a wedding ring, which you say belongs to me. How can, I mean, what…” Emmie did not understand what the levity of this ring was. Jeff’s Jaw dropped. Both of them were starting to remember. “Both of you, need to sit down right here and wait.” The older woman walked upstairs and they could hear Mrs. Besl argue with her husband. Then Jeff’s older sister Katie came to Mrs. Besl’s rescue, telling Mr. Besl that it couldn’t be kept a secret any longer. Jeff’s parents came down with a video tape, another wedding ring, and a manila envelope that was bulky, but seemed to contain something easily manipulated. “Mom, seriously. Why do I feel like I’ve worn that ring?” Jeff was frightened now.
The Fallen Angel By Bailyn Hogue Winner: Honorable Mention, 10th Grade Writing Contest: Fiction We were waltzing along a little overgrown pathway between my house and hers, triumphant in our quest to retrieve her favorite pink ball. I was young; she was younger. She possessed a certain innocence that made me feel incredibly grown up. The “I’m the babysitter tonight, so I have some sort of magical power” sort of grown up. And I did feel grown up, in a peaceful, youthful sort of way. We were quiet. I had nothing to say to her, and she sensed that speaking would shatter the beauty that held us. We were almost there; ahead was a midget of a stone path. It was only two feet long, and lay in the middle of the neglected garden that was sprinkled with the occasional yellow daffodil and pink tulip. Five more steps and I would be there. Seven, and so would she. But something stopped us. Five and seven steps from the path. A fallen angel. We didn’t notice it until it hit the ground with a seemingly distant “thump”. No flash of light as it fell, no sparkling trail of fairy dust. No glitz and no glam. Just a modest little “thump”, like it didn’t want to be noticed. But it landed right at our feet. We froze, curious as to what it could be. It blended into the ground, and it took a moment for our eyes to adjust to the weak contrast. Nestled among the forest green creepers and ivy, lay a dark blue and gray bird. It was shivering, like it was cold, despite the pleasantly warm weather. Helplessly laying there, wing bent awkwardly under its body, crumpled like a wasted piece of paper, a foreign and unnatural chill wound itself around me. I instinctively reached for the bird. I was going to pick it up, smooth out its wing, and gently prod it back into the air, back into freedom. Crumpled paper could always be saved. This was just another origami project. Someone had bent the wing wrong, and I could fix it. I could make it pretty and new again. I had the directions all laid out in my head, just one little tug in the right direction. I was almost close enough to scoop my hand under its feathery body. My fingers imagined the soft smoothness, the slight weight, the desire to be in the sky again. But, before they could touch and experience, a tiny hand on my arm told me, no. You don’t touch birds. You just don’t. I know you don’t touch birds, I argued back. But it’s hurt, just look at it. It needs me. I can make it better. My fingers cried out, telling me to hurry. My stubborn mind shook away the though of the hand, erasing it like an Etch-A-Sketch. I was going to save the bird. But even as I thought that, a voice told me to give up. You’re not God. With a shaky inward sigh, I stood up. I couldn’t save the bird. But I could save her. This sudden realization jolted me, and I looked over at my young companion. Her face was ashen, pale and drained. Her eyes were wide moons, almost breaking with the swelling tears. Her innocence lay broken around her thin ankles. Broken like the bird, with no hope of being salvaged. Regardless, we needed to go. But I couldn’t move. And I knew she couldn’t either. We were trapped, stuck firmly to the ground just like our little angel. So there we stood, watching the fallen angel die. It shuddered in pain, and we shivered too, hoping that maybe we could lessen its pain by sharing it. We fought to look away. We didn’t want to see the soul leave the body of this poor, poor angel. But we did, because our feet, 21
like everything else, were trapped. We watched as the body went limp, and a soaring aura flew away, gathering our breath like a last gift, a souvenir from earth. Then, there was nothing. The empty bird blended in with the underbrush. All those soothing colors blended like water colors through our tears, and we gently coaxed them out of our eyes. But the sight of the thing that was once a bird balanced the welling tears on our lids, and didn’t let go. Acidic pain sprinted through my face. “It’s… it’s gone. Isn’t it?” she whispered meekly, still startled and unsure. Angels don’t die. They live forever, and ever and ever. “Yes,” I mouthed, but nothing came out. The word fell heavily down my throat, and I choked on it. She was waiting, but I didn’t bother trying to repeat myself. I didn’t have the strength to get anything all the way from my heart to my tongue. Besides, she knew the answer, and she would realize that there was no need for confirmation. A breeze played through the stiff leaves in the tree, and ruffled the elegant feathers. It cleaned out our eyes, washed off our feet. We were no longer trapped with anything but the memory. Gently, I put my hand on her tiny shoulder, and steered her away from what was now the shell of a fallen angel.
“Beatle Beauty” by Brittany Arthur
The Backwards Anthem By Meghan Finke Winner, Honorable Mention, 10th Grade Writing Contest: Fiction My father’s silence is like the symphony—just as loud, just as blaring, and in a language I can’t understand. His stage is our bland, insipid house with too-white walls. I am his lone audience. This is his opus, his anthem. It takes everything from him in a backwards way, as he composes it by doing nothing at all. My silence is lighter, unstable; a tentative harmony to his solo. I am intruding on his grief. “…April?” Dad poses my name as a question now, if he ever calls it at all. An innumerable change that whisks into everyday life after every tragedy, blending in subtly, pretending it has been there all along. The words melt into the silence, a change of key. “Yeah, Daddy?” I reply warily. For a moment the tempo changes. Accelerando, gradually picking up speed. Intensity. I am afraid to talk to my father, terrified of seeing how grief can change a man. I am watching a bizarre caricature of a stricken father who happens to look like my own. He has been rooted to his recliner all day, watching mindless sitcoms. He is engrossed so intently, listening to the canned laughter so earnestly, that I know he isn’t listening at all. He is lost in a happier time. “D—Do you want to watch Jeopardy with me?” My father asks, spitting it all out at once. Accelerando. “It’s on after the commercial break.” “Sure,” I reply eagerly. Too eagerly for an invitation to watch a game show. My reply is a false note, the tone a fraction too high. I curl up on our overstuffed couch, resting my head on the cushion. It is a curious kind of silence that follows—not comfortable, but expected. An invisible weight, stretching the silence out, slowing every moment. Rallentando. Nothing seems quite as bad if you know it’s coming. There isn’t anything to say, so neither of us try. We always were practical. I twitch my head towards Dad, away from the Daily Double. This is our first fatherdaughter moment since the Accident, yet he forgets I’m here. He is studying the screen as he used to my mother’s shopping lists, as if they were written in some outlandish script he had to decipher. Mom. I try to distract myself now, a gut reaction. I scramble hastily for something— anything really. I settle for Jeopardy. Some elephantine woman in an unflattering yellow is beaming, ecstatic. She knows what nation won the most medals in the 1992 Summer Olympics. Dad and I watch this woman do a kind of dance, some ridiculous ballet with the other contestants. Her hand rockets back and forth from the buzzer, rejoicing in her knowledge of completely irrelevant trivia. Yet she’s laughing, now a foreign concept to us. I slowly realize I am jealous of this woman. I wish so much it almost hurts that all I cared about was winning a game show. The show ends. Dad and I exchange more words that neither mean anything nor matter. We return to silence. His silence is his symphony, and as he lives he composes.
Living By Sophia Melnyk, Walnut Hills High School Winner, Honorable Mention, 10th Grade Writing Contest: Personal Essay Here, on one of Cincinnatiâ€™s many hills, a few steps up from the main road in Clifton, where the rush hour traffic mimics the crashes of waves on a barrier reef, there on the second floor of the half-timbered house, through the thin leaded glass panes of the bay window, the â€œoceanâ€? outside nearly calm by now, sits a girl. Her room contains the only light and movement in her sleeping house. She sits in front of her desk, stays up into the darkness, her eyes read the words of textbooks. In favorite pink pajamas she writes: her pen moves rapidly, creating a contrasting rhythm against the slow consistent snores of the sleeping puppy on her lap. Why would she remain awake until she cannot possibly hold her eyes open any longer? What could possibly motivate her sit up into the early hours of the morning? And why would she continue to do this every night? Why would she turn the day into a mere break between the long nights? Her weekends provide her with a chance to catch up on all the sleep she missed during the week. She has only forty-eight hours before she starts all over again. She will do this for forty-two weeks each year; the other ten are yet again a short break before she begins it all again in the fall. As a swimmer, she only gets a few months off between summer and winter seasons. She pushes herself in the pool as well. Her arms move alternately and so do her legs as she swims the length of the pool. When she is almost to the end, she takes a breath, another stroke, flips, pushes off the wall and starts swimming back again. This flip-turn is the end of one lap and the beginning of another, a momentary pause in her swimming. It is the same as the five minutes between her classes, the hours she sleeps at night, the two days following a week of school, or the three months of summer. All of theses are ends and beginnings for her. Short pauses before she begins it all again. Once she begins, she cannot stop no matter what it is in her life. She must keep kicking and moving her arms, for if she does not she will not go anywhere. She has to keep swimming, even though with each stroke she uses more energy and becomes more and more exhausted. She cannot simply stop moving no matter how tired she gets. Not only will she make no progress, but she will also sink to the bottom. Stopping only means she is giving up, which is not something she allows herself to do. In fact, she feels that not trying her absolute hardest is the equivalent to giving up. She feels she will never be able to stop. When she has thoughts of stopping, she thinks of her younger brother with Angelman Syndrome, a severe mental and physical disability, who will never be able to do anything on his own. She sees herself as the one who is able to succeed and will go far in life. She feels she must live her life to help her brother and others, who like him, have a neurological problem. Her brother is lucky to have someone to care for him, but she knows there are many children who do not. She stays awake late into the night, as she continues pushing herself to become a doctor.
Finding Riverside in the Mercantile Library By Robin L. Coronado The Mercantile Library is housed in a (slightly more interesting than the rest) building downtown and is bound by a rather nondescript cover. However, when I reached the eleventh floor and the tiny elevator opened, it was like discovering a wonderful story inside. I stepped into the gentlemen’s world of Cincinnati’s gilded era. The many busts, the wonderful wood chairs and bookshelves (real wood, not particleboard), the charcoal black flourished cast iron coat and hat stands, the teasing spiral staircase all made me feel like an interloper. With just a little bit of imagination, I could smell the pipe smoke of the dapper men who had once perused the isles of shelves. After being seduced by the spiral staircase, I woozily reached the ornate meeting room where the books on Cincinnati had been strewn upon the grand table. I picked up Kenny’s Cincinnati Illustrated 1879: a Pictorial Guide to Cincinnati and the Suburbs, by D.J. Kenny. I cautiously thumbed through the pages and immediately the word “Riverside” caught my eye. Kenny used such descriptive language when referring to the suburb of Riverside as “a beauty” filled with “gardens, vineyards, and orchards.” Kenny suggested taking a streetcar to see the wonderful view of the Ohio River from the many beautiful homes of the wealthy merchants who lived there. Growing up in Riverside, I knew the view that Kenny had written about. However, the surroundings are vastly different now from Kenny’s time. Gone were the wealthy merchants, as much of Riverside is now filled with the lower working classes. Today, Riverside is a sad shell of what it had once been. The hills are peppered with huge Victorian era houses; some are sadly dilapidated. The gardens are long gone and much of the river view is blocked by industry. It was quite the treat to read about what a gem Riverside had once been and it was nice to step back in time. Kenny even mentioned the most beautiful grounds and home belonged to a famous Cincinnati jeweler name Herman Duhme who owned infamous “thorough breeds” (horses). My father told me the story of the silversmith Duhme as a child. My dad had even found a sterling silver spoon with the name “Duhme” etched on it while we lived there. A few people have searched in vain hoping to find more silver at the site of the Duhme mansion to no success. Kenny also mentioned the tiny town of Southside that once occupied the banks of the Ohio, just below Riverside. The last houses of Southside were torn down years ago. Southside no longer exists, except on maps and in memories. Although, the suburb of Riverside seems to be dying, through Kenny’s narrative it will never be entirely forgotten. Just like the elevator to the Mercantile Library, Kenny’s book took me to a time and place, I never expected.
Little Boxes By Stephanie Brokaw A small community nestled in the woods. Mansions line the streets, and parks are around every corner. Everyone knows everyone’s business. Divorces, debt, drop-out kids, and drugs. Drugs riddle this community. No one suspects it, but they are there. Cocaine lined the walls of my high school and kids threw lavish parties when their parents were skiing in Denver, or sun bathing in St. Tropez. It was nothing new, and nothing surprising. This is Indian Hill. Oh sure everything is hush -hush when a person is arrested or caught growing marijuana in the backyard or basement of their 1.6 million dollar house. In high school, everyone knew who to go to if they needed pot, or pills, or even acid. It was always the same people. They haven’t changed in the past six or seven years. The only thing that has changed is the audience and the customers. They’re selling to the young high school kids now. These are the guys who never wanted to leave high school or grow. They wanted to be 17 forever. It’s like the quarterback who just wanted to play one more game. The thing about Indian Hill is that you can never distinguish the drug dealers from any of the other kids. My high school was like an inner city school in an affluent neighborhood. We wore Lacoste and not Sean John, loafers and not Nikes. Kids would pull into the high school parking lot with their systems “bumpin” and rap music screaming implicit lyrics about bitches, hos, and pounds. They all wanted to fit an image, yet only a few of them were smart enough to know that the image is what got a person caught. Every two weeks drug sniffing dogs would come into the high school and go around the halls. Classes would be locked down, and you could sense worry from students who knew they might just get caught. I was worried, only because last time, one of the dogs peed on my new backpack. That’s a hard stench to get out of a backpack full of books and paper. They would rummage through lockers, and pull all of your belongings to the ground and not bother picking them up and putting it all back. If you knew someone who got caught, you didn’t speak a word. You knew nothing, and kept your mouth shut tightly. I was not shocked to watch the news and see mug shots of the guys I graduated with being called “Drug King Pins” of Indian Hill. I remember hanging out with those guys and going hill hopping on late nights with a box of beer in the back seat and one of them telling me, “Don’t worry; this is a Durango. We won’t fly off these hills.” I remember going into dangerous neighborhoods and wondering why we might be sitting on the corner waiting for a sketchy guy to climb in. A quick drive around the corner and we’d drop the sketchy guy off and be on our way to the country club for tanning and beers in the afternoon. They were the guys to be seen with and the guys to date. I was never in it for dating, but they were my friends. We would skip class and go down to the river to laze around. They would smoke blunts and count their money and we were oblivious to how this problem could only grow. Grow it did, no pun intended. When it came time to graduate, one of the King Pins couldn’t walk the across stage because his modified ankle bracelet would have gone off. The house up the street from my own was raided by the DEA and 167 marijuana plants were found in the basement with an intelligent growing system working its magic. One wonders 27
how their parents never knew, or maybe they did and they ignored it. Sad really, considering they had enough money to go to a proper college and get a degree in something they would be good at doing. They didn’t want that option; they wanted all the money in the world. Their idols were people like Lil’ Wayne, and Scarface. My idols were Jane Austen and Jim Morrison. I started to separate myself from them when I came to college. There was no point in being with the cool kids from high school because in college they didn’t look or seem like the cool kids anymore. They looked lost. They sold cocaine, prescription pills, and they could find anything you might have needed. Their motto was, “Please the customer and they will come back.” They were pushers and that was their job. These guys were so smart when it came to prices and quantities; they knew what chemicals made up what drugs. They weren’t dumb. Sadly, this proved true. They sold to anyone at any age, and in the end this is what proved their demise. They sold to informants. They were watched for several months. They had everything taken from them in minutes, including their freedom. I can just imagine one of them sitting in his deluxe kitchen, with beautiful granite counter tops and stainless steel appliances, making a sandwich when the DEA came pounding through the front door, yelling at them to get on the ground. Goodbye beautiful granite counter tops, goodbye stainless steel double ovens, goodbye freedom. They will have only one stainless steel accessory in their new home and those will be bars.
I am from There By Sherman A. Hartley â€œI am from there,â€? a place called Pine Knot, Kentucky. You have never heard of it. Why would you have? Nothing exists in Pine Knot. Not even the old buildings I grew up around. The ice cream shop, the grocery store, and my uncle Darty's one pump gas station that only served leaded gasoline, but always with a smile.
My school is gone. My house is too. Replaced by some fancy new school paid for by the State, but no one really uses. The only thing left are the railroad tracks that used to run in front of my house. I remember running to them after the coal train passed by. My sister and I would collect the fallen pieces as we could not afford to buy our own. And it was much easier than cutting wood to burn because we were so little, and Daddy's mind had long gone since the war. No, you've never heard of Pine Knot because nothing's there. Except me! It's as real as picking up and going home. 29
The Man in the Moon By Hannah Raulston, Saint Ursula Academy Winner, Honorable Mention, 10th Grade Writing Contest: Poetry The Man in the Moon Is a face so familiar; A frown at first, A smile later. But if watched For many moments passed, His eyes slightly shift, His mouth stirs slow. He speaks a forgotten language Of wisdom filled words. “Hear me!” he cries. In a loud bellow he yells, “You will have many loves, And dream many dreams, But keep in perspective The true meaning of things.” And with his departing words Full in the air, His face becomes a sliver And then, poof! Not there.
“Home” by Brittany Arthur
Midnight Canvas By Jordan Crouch BANG! The sight shocked my mind and tunneled my vision, so that I saw only the illuminated blood-red plastic squares on the semi’s rear. The tires locked, shredded, and shrieked across the pavement. The car lunged relentlessly toward the truck, and then I jolted awake. Fear shifted to frustration as I realized it was a dream that had awoken me from my much needed sleep. Restless, I heaved open the door to the deck. Swaying now before the threshold that separated me from what seemed to be darkness as thick as water, I questioned if going outside was the answer for my inability to sleep. I didn’t answer it and the darkness waited. The night surreptitiously enticed me like a bath of warm water. I pushed my hand into the darkness that erased all color from my skin. Nestled not far from the door, I allowed my eyes to adjust. Dissatisfied with the limited transition my eyes made to night vision, I sat making sense of objects around me. The trees I placed from memory like plastic army men. The silence was deafening with chirps of insects. Accepting my surroundings, the day’s main event and nightmare slowly pierced my mind. I contradicted, criticized, argued, and became disgusted with the mental image of myself: knees pressed to the wheel as I yelled into the cell phone, my mouth ballooned with the first bite of sandwich. Escaping the thought, I asked myself for a single time of the day when I wasn’t multitasking, reading, typing, or talking. I could not answer. My brain, constantly overloaded, was never at rest. So worn from a day’s activities, I even dozed off with thoughts still sprinting through my mind like fresh athletes. Blame pulsed through me. If I couldn’t name a time when I wasn’t doing something, I would create one, now. Refusing stimulus and deep thoughts I sat in the simple murky mystery of night, left again with only the dissatisfying night vision and ears drowned with chirps. The especially dark night besieged me. My starved brain desired stimulus, something to interact with, and something to entertain it. I wanted so badly for it to be over as if waiting in line at the BMV or hunched waiting for the green lens of the traffic light. Everything opaque and blanketed by watery darkness left simplistic outlines a mere shade lighter than its background. Drowned by the simple and unknown, I panicked and questioned what to do. Leaving my stress, I turned back to my surroundings. The removed activity forced me to create my own stimulus as the unknown became my canvas. The blanket lifted, and the darkness melted around me into water so weightless and black. The black water became more breathable as though my nostrils were burst clean and clear. The muffled chirps roared back to life as another large wave of water crashed the heavy-bodied foliage with relentless force. The tree branches were willowed like the dying of a large firework and their bodies seemed to threaten the incapability of another barrage of black waves. The surrounding shrieks turned to a synchronized chant, attempting to strengthen the uncoordinated bodies. Standing tall now, their haphazard limbs braced in unison like a football player lowering his shoulder. The chant grew louder and louder. My eye lids slammed with each shout; then the order broke. Screams became crazed. The swirling wall of water approached. All sounds ceased. Arms locked, bodies braced, the leaves splashed. The growing sound proved the wave 32
had arrived. The resistance grew and overpowered the curling wave which crumbled like a train wreck and tapered away. Raging limbs hurled back wildly, their tops nearly touching their trunks. The waves weakened to a current and the trees stood tall together, shaking as they panted. The crowd enjoying the moment never began again; yet, a tapping sound took over. The taps became rapid and louderâ€”so loud I could feel it. I felt the light smacking, first, with my bare arms and then my thick-skinned hands and shabby hair. The sound was second now to the growing feeling of the tapping that bombarded my bodyâ€™s surface. The taps now like prodding fingertips begging for attention pounded my head. Crack! The flash sliced through the sky. Rain, lightning, I snapped back to reality. There I sat in a rainstorm in the middle of the night. I was content, as though I were in a theater watching the credits roll at the end across the screen. The world froze and for those few moments I had escaped. Rain pelted my body as I sat now revived and prepared to take on reality. I was no longer worried about the day because it was over. I was no longer worried about tomorrow because it was not yet here. After I had removed all worries and activity, the darkness and unknown became my creation. The night was mine. The night is ours.
Lost Souls By Vicki Lemen, Princeton High School Winner, Honorable Mention, 10th Grade Writing Contest: Poetry Consecrate thy hollow ground, The bones may have been broken by sticks and stones, But thy words obliterated the innocent souls, Somber and draped in black, Thou are nocturnal creatures that sulk in the world of dreams, Dispatched from the grave, Lost souls embark on a journey of a different kind, If a hand had been reached out, If a saddened soul had been searched for, If only, Thy soul would have been spared, Thou would not be lost in the darkness of the afterlife, Look up there must be something, There must be a light, An empty uncared for grave, No sorrowful goodbye or final condolences, Is what the lost deserves after losing thy flesh, In flesh now look up, I wish to give thou mine hand now, Thy does not deserve such a cruel fate, Consecrate thy hollow ground, The bones may have been broken by sticks and stones, But there were kind words this time.
1,000,000 eyes 500,000 witnesses 50 states 2 countries 1 cause By Megan Cullen, Loveland High School Participant, 10th Grade Writing Contest: Personal Essay I stand among hundreds of thousands fighting for the same reason. Signs, buttons, stickers, hats, and banners say a similar message. I look upon one sign, Stop Abortion! The sign is shaped like a stop sign, the letters in bold white. A voice amplified among thousands, encouraging us to fight for what we believe in, to never give up this fight, to let our hometowns know we are voicing this cause, to let our schools know what we think, to let our friends know what we believe in. The voice ends. The people begin to move. We are among the last of the marchers fighting for what we believe in. I do not care that we are last. It means I get to experience this longer than others. Many minutes have passed and the back has finally moved. After walking and stopping, I’m in front of older women. They each have a rosary in their hands. I hear, “Hail Mary full of grace...” They are praying for all the unborn babies, babies that should have been alive but are not because of abortion. I see four ordinary men. They stand out to me for one reason and one reason only. They are carrying a wooden cross, the height of a fully grown man, on their shoulders. The cross is made of individual wooden blocks, with an individual name on each block. They are trying to get a message across, a message that everyone should hear and know, a message that says, I will carry this cross on my shoulders for the thousands of unborn babies. If Jesus could carry a cross to his death to save each and every one of us, then I can carry a cross. If he died to save us, then why are we doing this to His innocent children? Priests carry a banner and behind the banner is one young man. He carries a statue of Mary, the Mother of Jesus. He, too, is praying the rosary. We finally make it to the Supreme Court building. I find the Dominican Friars banner and stand with everyone else as the priests and brothers chant a Latin prayer. The March has ended but my experience has not. Back on the bus going back home, it’s open mic time. We are allowed to give testimonies of something from the March that struck us or testimonies about something we saw, something powerful. I stand up and take the mike, “It’s my second March for life. Hopefully not my last. It was amazing and just as powerful as last year. On the way up when we played Would You Rather and interesting question came up. Would you rather end world hunger or world hatred? A wise adult said world hatred because then we can end world hunger. That got me thinking while marching. If we end abortion, we can end anything.” I go back to my seat and sit down. I really believe that. It may take years, decades, centuries. It may be after I’m dead. I don’t care. As long as it is put to a stop, I will rest happily. “A person is a person no matter how small.” –Dr. Seuss.
It’s a Pleasure to Finally Meet You Megan Pena Up until a year ago I am not sure that anyone knew the real me. I don’t even think I knew who I was. I thought I had everything figured out. I already knew what I wanted to do with my life, who I wanted to marry, how many children I was going to have, and all the important essentials for starting my life after college. I was only a junior in college and boy did I think I knew it all. Everything I was doing felt right. I was going to be a music teacher in an elementary school; it was what I always wanted. I was going to marry the boy I had been with for five years, Joey. He would propose eventually. It was all established and I thought I was happy. No one would have ever known that all of that was really not what I wanted. I didn’t even know it was all a fake reality and that I was only pretending to be happy. Maybe everything that had happened in the past five years was all a dream. It had to be; I could just wake up and relive it all. I finally came to the realization that I was unhappy after one of the most horrible heartbreaks I had ever been through in my life. It was hard for me to come to this realization because I was blinded by this relationship; I didn’t think things could get any better. Sure, I had had a couple boyfriends before Joey, whom I thought were just ever so amazing, and then they would end; I would be heartbroken and eventually move on. Joey was different though. I had never devoted myself to someone for five years. When he talked about marrying me, I thought it was real. When he told me he loved me, I really believed it, and I knew he cared about me. No one else believed it would last, we were only fifteen, but I knew; it was a fact. *** It all started at a stupid teen club I went to in high school. I call it stupid now, well, I guess because it was the start to the whole mess I considered a wonderful relationship. Don’t worry, I know I am bitter. Anyway, the club was called Pulse, which was in Milford; I went there for the first time on my fifteenth birthday. The club had disco lights going off outside the door when you arrived and it looked completely black from outside. The first room was the game room. There was a pool table, there was air hockey, and there were tons of arcade games. In the second room was the dance floor. I went for the first time on foam night. The room was full of foam; people were wet and sliding around in it, and just having the time of their lives. There was a DJ booth and tables set up for people to have a seat. Flashing lights were going off everywhere and the music was loud. I was there with Scott, who was my boyfriend at the time. It was so exciting, I was going to a club for the first time and man did I have no Idea what I was getting into. Scott used to live in Lockland, and some of his friends who he went to school with happened to be there that night. Joey didn’t live in Lockland, but Scott knew him through some friends and they would get high together. I was against drugs, but I always thought I could change people. “Megan, these are my friends Andy, Chris, and Joey.” He might as well have told me, “Megan, this is Joey. One day he will ruin what you know as life.” So, there I was, with these boys, who were not the typical people I would have been seen with. They were big boys, and when I say big, I mean big. They dressed in what you 36
would consider gothic clothing. They wore all black with the pants that had chains and they had huge gouges in their ears. It looked as if they hadn’t showered in maybe a week, they had dyed hair of every color in the rainbow, they had piercings all over their face, and boy did they smell bad. You know that smell whenever you pass a garbage facility or a sewer when you are driving and you say something like, “Oh man, who just let one?” Yes, those smells. Incredibly horrible. Even though they had every quality that would normally scare the piss out of me, I decided to hang out with this group of people. After Scott and I broke up, I started to go to Pulse more frequently. My first time back I ran up to that Joey kid. “Hey, do you remember me?” “Yeah, you’re Scott’s girlfriend. What’s up?” He already started off the wrong way, but did I turn around? “Well, I am his ex girlfriend, but that’s okay.” Our first conversation; how adorable. I worked up the nerve to go talk to the scary big kid. This time there was something different about him though. The big fifteen year old I remembered wasn’t as big anymore; he dyed his hair black so he didn’t look like a flamingo had pooped on him, and he was almost kind of cute. Oh, and he must have showered that day. Or maybe I was just desperate because the guy I thought was the one wasn’t. I might stick with that last thought. However much I would like to believe it never happened, I hung around him a lot that night. I really liked Joey’s personality. He was always able to make me laugh. I found out that he was in a band and played guitar, and that of course was another plus. I wanted to date the smelly, scary, funny, rock-star kid. There was nothing better in a fifteen- year-old girl’s eyes—other than maybe a car—but I got to date a boy in a band. Did I mention he was funny? I looked past every flaw Joey had, and we had our first kiss exactly four months after the first time I met him, two weeks after we had started really hanging out. I remember that night because it was the first time I ever got to see him play with his band in a show. He really knew how to play guitar, something about that musical boy really caught my eye. He looked like a whole new person on stage. He wasn’t just cute anymore; when he held his guitar he was hot. He was my hot boyfriend who could really let his feelings out through music. Earlier that day, before the show, I ran up to all my friends telling them how they had to come see the new guy I liked. I was so happy because I had finally moved on from Scott. Believe me, they were happy too; they were so tired of hearing his name after four years. “That is the guy you like? That is Joey!” I heard that from every one of the friends I brought along that night. “He is so much different than Scott.” That was what I liked, he seemed different to me. The problem was that he wasn’t different and this relationship would be no different than any of the others I was in before. Sure, Joey looked different then Scott: he had a belly on him instead of being muscular and had brown eyes instead of blue, but really what I liked about them was exactly the same. They were difficult rebels, bad ass boys that were never going to change the way they lived their lives. I was always the person who wanted to help people and Joey and Scott gave me a challenge; I wanted to fix and change them. Scott I gave up on; I went to AA and I was sober, but when it came to Joey, AA was for quitters, and I wasn’t giving up. *** 37
Have you ever watched Melrose Place, or Days of our Lives? They are classic soap operas, filled with drama. That is what makes them so interesting and why people want to watch them. It gives the viewers something to compare their lives to. People can sit there and think, “Wow, my life will never be this dramatic; life can’t possibly be that bad.” My relationship with Joey was a soap opera. The only difference was neither of us killed each other or anyone else involved, even though I am sure we thought about it at some point. Oh, and we never had babies, thank God. Anything else you see in a soap opera, it happened at one time or another throughout our relationship. I fell for someone else and kissed him. Joey tried to get back at me by drinking too much and making out with another girl. We broke up, got back together, and fought almost every single day of our long five years together. Planned our wedding, talked about children, moved in together; the list goes on. We did it all. The turning point of my relationship with Joey was when his mom passed away. Cathy wasn’t only his mom, she was my second mom. I loved her and I considered her my angel. She was so kind hearted and would have done anything thing for me. She treated me like I was a part of her family. Hell, she treated me better than her family. She always told me how thankful she was that someone like me could date her son. She also warned me about him. “Don’t get me wrong, Megan. I love Joey, but you can do better than him. Never marry a McCane man; they are all assholes. You see where it got me.” I can’t count how many times she warned me about him, but I didn’t listen to his own mother. When she died there was no one left that wanted our relationship to work. His mother fought for our relationship more than we did. Cathy would tell Joey when he was being stupid and tried her best to keep him in line. She would go out and buy him flowers and presents to give to me; she didn’t want me to leave. She was the reason we kept going when we thought there was no point in holding on anymore, but when she was gone that turned into my job. I lost track of being a graduate from high school and being a teenager for the short time I had left. I lost touch with my friends and forgot that I was supposed to be responsible for me and no one else. I became Joey’s mom’s replacement; my motto should have been, “Super mom, Megan to the rescue.” I did what Joey wanted me to do. I didn’t have friends. Instead, I had Joey and I had to make sure he was happy. Joey’s friends were my friends and the only time I saw my friends from school was if they were Joey’s friends too. I became Joey’s financial support by paying for everything he wanted and needed, and the person that provided him a place to live. I encouraged him to go to school, get a job, learn how to drive a car, and get his license, most of which he never did anyway. Joey would have never graduated from high school if it wasn’t for my mom and me reminding him to get up and go, to study for his tests, and make him believe he was worth it. I bought Joey clothing and cigarettes, gave my mom money to buy beer for him; she would buy it and sometimes even pay herself. I also drove him around whenever he needed a ride. He was my responsibility. He was who I wanted to help, and he used it to his advantage; he had control of me. *** When Joey moved in with my mom and me, I was a sophomore in college. I lived on campus and this was the year I started to become more involved with school. This was also the year I started to lose Joey. Trying to run your own life and make something of yourself is almost impossible when someone is holding you back. It was like pushing something heavy 38
across the bottom of a pool, almost impossible unless you have that strength. At the time Joey was my strength; I wanted him more than anything else I wanted, so I let him hold me back. He would call me crying wanting me to come home, and I would. He would call me ten times in an hour if I wouldn’t pick up my phone, and I would call him back so he could keep tabs on what I was doing. If I even thought about making plans with a friend, I changed them so I could see Joey instead. Any bit of money I had, instead of buying something I needed, I used it in some way on him. I was in what Dane Cook would call a “relationshit.” This was a relationship where the couple actually hated each other, but would not leave one another no matter what. I had a horrible relationship, I was the only one doing anything; Joey didn’t put in any effort and he didn’t care. I finally decided to rebel for once during the winter break of my sophomore year. It was the time Joey told me off in front of my mom for wanting to see my friends, for going to do something I wanted. Was Joey happy? No. Did that make me happy? No, but could I try for one night of freedom? Yes. Did I feel free being out? No, because Joey still had tabs on me. I ended up telling him some lie about what I did, because if he had known that I was out drinking with my friends at a party, he would have killed me, or thought about it. It was funny because that night I ran into my ex-boyfriend, Scott. It is always a kick in the ass when you run into an exboyfriend and he is not leading a horrible life, but is incredibly happy. Why couldn’t he have been that person when I was with him? That night I realized why I wasn’t with Scott, and it was amazing to know that I wasn’t stuck in his life anymore, because even when you see that person and he seems happy, there is still a flaw that he’s hiding. That night, Scott took home some drunk girl, that he had just met, and slept with her. It disgusted me and I have never been upset that Scott and I weren’t together ever since then. I went to another party that weekend as well. Again, this didn’t make Joey happy. I was being a rebel that weekend, so I didn’t care if Joey was happy; super mom needed a break. There was another guy that I started talking to named Josh, and he invited me to this party. After all, Steve wasn’t dating me and he treated me so much better than Joey. I ended up getting really drunk and kissing Josh that night, and this was when I decided that my relationship shouldn’t be like it was. I wasn’t going to tell Joey about Josh, but I was going to end it; Josh was just what made me realize that it wasn’t what I wanted anymore. I broke up with Joey the next day, and gave him two days to move out. It was weird because I didn’t feel okay about it. I thought getting him out of my life was what I wanted. I was so much happier when he wasn’t there. I got so used to being his mom that when I hurt him, it hurt me and I needed him back. He wasn’t around, I wasn’t talking to him, and I was so uncomfortable with it all. I wanted to know that he was okay and that he wasn’t with any other girl. He called me on Christmas; it was the first one we spent away from each other and I tried to pretend to be hard so he didn’t think I was affected. He was miserable, and so was I. He called me on New Year’s at midnight to tell me he loved me and wish me a Happy New Year; this was the first one we hadn’t spent together and even though we weren’t together I wished him the same. My motto for the night was “New Year, New Boys” but everyone knew I wouldn’t stick to that. 39
I gave into him. I started picking him up, buying him cigarettes, driving him back to my house and letting him stay with me. We acted the same, just like boyfriend and girlfriend, but he wasn’t going to let me in that easily. We weren’t boyfriend and girlfriend, no matter how much we acted like it. I had to work to be with Joey again. I didn’t think it would be that hard but it ended up being one of the hardest fights I have ever fought. This was a new soap opera called, “How many times does Joey have to hurt Megan before she walks away?” The first time was when his friend’s band was playing. He bought me a ticket and wanted me to hang out with him and his friends at the Mad Frog in Covington. I drove myself and walked into what I would now call my worst nightmare. There were all of the people I didn’t like in one room, and I had never felt more unwanted in any place before. Joey’s friends didn’t like me anymore; I hurt him, so why should they? They all were very good at putting on a front, just like Joey, so they tried to welcome me. I met some of the new people he started hanging out with, including a girl name Lindsay, who would eventually become more involved in my life than I would have liked her to. There was something about Lindsay, and I couldn’t figure it out until I saw the way she looked at Joey. She gave him the same look I did when I started to fall for him, and then I knew what I was competing against. Joey was going to come home with me that night, but then he wanted me to come to a party at Lindsay’s instead. I really just wanted to spend time with him, but then the fight began. I started crying and I was so embarrassed. It hurt me that he didn’t want to come back with me, and was willing to just let me leave. He kept telling me that I should just leave, and I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. After all, I drove from Loveland to Covington to come see him; I wasn’t there for the stupid band. He couldn’t do one thing for me, so I started yelling at him. I finally got up to leave and when I went to grab my coat I knocked over his friend Josh’s mom’s glass. I apologized and she saw I was crying and that Joey was walking me out and she said, “You two be good.” I laughed inside. We were not about to go outside to have a happy let’s kiss and make up conversation. This was going to be a fight. Joey didn’t even want to give me the time of day because it was cold outside and he needed to get back in. I made him stay because I was crying so hard I almost got sick by my car and he didn’t want me to drive home like that. That could only keep him by me for so long. I tried so hard to just convince him to be with me and come home with me, but he wouldn’t do it and I didn’t understand why. He finally just left me in the parking lot by myself, because he thought someone would call the cops on us because of the yelling. I just stood there and watched him turn his back on me. *** The next time I tried to see Joey was when our friend Andy was having a going away party about a month later. Andy was being shipped to Iraq, and I thought this would be the perfect time to try to see Joey. After all he would want to see Andy. Again, what I thought and what was right were two different things. Joey was at his own party, he wasn’t going to come to where I was. He told me to tell Andy good luck and then ignored my phone calls the rest of the night. I drank so much that night that I passed out in the middle of my friend’s living room floor. She woke me up and tried to get me to move to the basement and go to sleep, but I said I was okay and passed right back out. She laughed and then made me move. I stayed in the 40
basement by myself and just stared off into the dark. I called Joey one more time and he picked up and said, “Look Megan, I am sorry. There is someone else; I am with her right now.” My heart stopped and shattered at that very moment. I started crying and yelling hysterically, “Joey, don’t do this. You don’t want to do this. I love you. Please don’t do this.” He said he was sorry again and hung up. I broke down. I started crying like someone close to me had just passed away or like I was in so much pain I couldn’t tolerate it. I cried myself to sleep. I was so desperate that when a guy came down and asked me if he could sleep with me, I called Joey leaving him a voicemail saying I thought I was going to get raped, thinking he would talk to me. He still wouldn’t. I woke up the next morning, got sick and couldn’t believe I stooped so low. Who was I? Who had Joey turned me into? *** I wasn’t hurt again until I found out right when I got home from Spring Break that he slept with Lindsay while I was gone, the “other girl” he talked about before. I was crushed again. When I got home I checked his MySpace, because I always wanted to know what was going on with his life. There was a message from Lindsay and I couldn’t believe my eyes. I ran over to my friend Shiv’s room crying. She looked at me and said “Megan, we just got back what could have happened that quickly?” While crying I managed to tell her, “I checked his MySpace. There was a message from Lindsay, and… and.” “Megan, what did it say?” I was silent. “Megan, come on. What did it say?” “He, he slept with her. She talked about how much she loves him and how when they make love, what it was like. He slept with her, Shiv.” After that night, I turned to everyone I knew to take care of me, because I couldn’t be on my own. I was depressed. I used my mom, my friends, a retreat and the musical to keep my mind away from Joey and the pain he caused me. I had an everyday pep talk and I learned to live my life without him. It was about two months later when Joey decided to contact me. He wanted to see me and try to be friends. Was I about to win this war? I thought I was. He would call me and have me meet him somewhere where his friends couldn’t see me. That should have been my first sign to drive away, but just like I didn’t walk away when he called me Scott’s girlfriend years before, I didn’t drive away then. Joey started staying with me every night again. We were a couple; I let him back in, just like that, no matter what he had done. I drove him to school, he stayed with me at night, and he called me on the phone. I talked to him about Lindsay and begged him to tell me why he slept with her. He told me that his friends told him to, and with Joey that really was a good excuse. He did everything his friends told him to. He used to do drugs when his friends told him to, he would ditch school if his friends told him to; it was no surprise to me that he would sleep with a girl he barely knew because his friends told him to. *** The school year was almost over and I knew that Lindsay would be home soon, and I made him promise me he wouldn’t see her when she got back. Of course he didn’t listen to me and I am sure you saw that coming. I even got to see her when she got back. Yay! 41
I received a phone call from a girl named Cara because she wanted a ride home from work to her house, and they were having a party that night. She thought it would be fun to make Joey feel awkward, and he and Lindsay were both going to be there. I probably shouldn’t have gone, but we have all learned by now that what I should do and what I end up doing are two very different things. I will never forget what Joey’s face looked like when I walked in that door. It was priceless, just like the phrase: You looked like you had seen a ghost! I wasn’t a ghost though, I was really there and Joey could not believe his eyes. Lindsay saw me first and tried to act like it was no big deal that I was there. She turned and said to me in her high pitch, preppy, annoying voice, “Hi Megan!” I just glared at her, waved my hand in a not friendly at all way, and said, “Hi.” That was when Joey turned around. “We need to talk.” He knew I meant business. “Uh, yeah.” He really did not know what else to say. I was in control of this situation; I stepped out of my comfort zone and came where I wasn’t wanted to be heard, just like the night at the Mad Frog. We went outside and it was an emotional rollercoaster. Naturally, Joey was drunk so he started crying like a baby. “I don’t know what I’m doing with my life, Megan. I’m not happy, and I don’t know how to make it better. I’m scared you’re going to hurt me again.” In my mind I was thinking for him, “Oh please, Megan, feel bad for me.” Instead of being mean and saying something like that, I just gave into him. “Why are you doing this to yourself then, Joey? You have someone standing in front of you right now, willing to do anything for you and you’re willing to just let it go for some slut who cheated on you with three guys. I have done so much for you, and I don’t know what I have to do to convince you that I am not going to hurt you again. I think I have paid the price for what I did and I’m sorry. Please just listen to me; you’re so much better than you pretend to be when you’re around these people. You’re better than this. Be with me. You have a girl that is begging you to be with her. That has to mean something to you.” “Megan, I don’t know what to do. I’m drunk; I can’t do this right now.” This was when he turned into typical Joey. At that same moment, his friends walked out of the house and he said, “Megan, I think you should leave.” Then, to put on a show for his friends, he got in my face and called me a bitch. Typically, I would just sit back and listen to him say mean things to me. He could call me whatever he wanted to and I would just take it, but there was something different about that night. I was in control and I was not going to let him tear me down when I had just begged for him to take me back, and poured my heart out to him. Joey had called me that name so many times. I heard it daily and, by this time, it had just torn through me so much I could not take it anymore. The sound of that name made me want to hit something, and I did. I swung back as hard as I could while I screamed, “Stop being such an asshole just because your friends are around!” Then I felt the palm of my hand pound into his face. I hit him. I had never hurt a fly, and I just hit the person I loved. I laughed because his friends ran around in the back saying things like: oh she just hit him! I couldn’t believe I could get in a laugh. I had never felt that angry in 42
my life, and while I was angry, I was also scared. Was he going to hit me back? I instantly moved back and put my hands up. Dumbfounded Joey said, “I deserved that.” “I’m glad you realize it.” That was it. Joey still walked away and stayed with Lindsay that night. He left me a voicemail not even three seconds after I had got in my car saying: “Megan, I’m sorry but there is just nothing there anymore. I don’t want to be with you. I am trying to get with Lindsay. It’s over.” What a slap in the face. I had just hit him literally, but what he said struck me harder than that punch. I drove away and went to my own party, a celebration of me standing up to someone that I never thought I would stand up to. I was going to start my single life, we were done. *** I spent the first week of my summer in Chicago, away from Cincinnati trying to forget about what had happened. I spent more money than I had, always talked about finding a new guy and frequently got on MySpace to look at his page or type notes about how I was feeling. I let it all out over MySpace so that the whole world could read about Joey and how much he had hurt me. I was depressed again and didn’t know how to cope. I came back from Chicago and would just lie in bed. I wouldn’t go in my room, because that was “our” room at one point, so I stayed in my mom’s room. I couldn’t look at what used to be my past. If it wasn’t for my friend, Kim, I wouldn’t have gotten out of bed for the weeks of summer after Chicago. She would take me to eat, because otherwise I wouldn’t. She would make me get out of the house, because otherwise I slept, or cried and lay around in bed all day every day. I would only shower when she was on her way to come and talk to me or take me somewhere. I was clay and Kim was trying to mold me into a human again. *** th Friday, May 30 2008, I received a text message from a number I didn’t have saved in my phone. I studied the number and quickly recognized it. It was Joey. I was scared to open it. “Hey, I got a job at the fire department. I just wanted to let you know.” He was trying to pull me in and we texted back and forth all day. He told me that he was worried about me and wanted to make sure that I was okay, and that he heard a song that reminded him of me. He then went on to tell me that he still loved me and that he always would, and how much he missed me. He knew how to get to me. How could I not talk to him though? I missed him and I was so upset that he was gone; it was like I finally won. He was walking back into my life; Joey had crawled right back to me, I knew he would. How would I explain this to my friends? Facebook. Thank God for notes on Facebook, because that was my way out. We were officially back together on June 2nd, and I couldn’t have been happier, while all the people who really cared about me couldn’t have been more disappointed. The summer was amazing. I had Joey, though no friends. I had him and that was all I needed. We spent every day together and we never left each other’s side. Once again I thought I was so happy, I had everything figured out and nothing could go wrong. WRONG! Again, you saw that coming. I was blind again. What did I do for him? Everything. What did he do for me? Absolutely nothing. Once he was happy, it didn’t matter what I wanted anymore because he had me right where he wanted me. I was wrapped around his finger. 43
Every night I cried myself to sleep because Joey wouldn’t want to talk to me on the phone; he wanted to pay more attention to his friends. We would fight and he would let his friends hear everything and it embarrassed me. His friends never thought Joey was wrong. They always thought I was crazy. They told him all the time to break up with me, and even told him about women he would make a cute couple with. They hated me and I was so insecure about what they were thinking about me that it made us fight all the time. He of course claimed that I was making everything up, that I was crazy. I was an RA on the all-freshman floor and the girls next door always came to check up on me because they always heard me yelling, cussing, and crying. *** The week after the Metanoia retreat last year was what finally ended it all. I spent the whole retreat writing a letter to him about our future together. I shared with him that I wanted to get closer to his friends and spend more time with them. I also tried to explain the things that bothered me about him. Things like him not having a job or a license, and the way he talked to me and treated me. I watched Joey read the letter and it made him happy because most of it was about us and moving forward with our lives together. Exactly one week after he read that letter he wanted to spend the day with me. We were going to watch the Bengals game together just us, no friends. I was so excited, but so confused, because we never did things together, and if we did, it was never his idea. I picked him up from where he was staying at his friends, and I could tell right away something was wrong. He got in the car and he was so quiet, and acted really distant. I was hoping he was just acting this way because he was sick the day before. Of course that wasn’t it. We went inside my house and all of the sudden he started packing all of his things in front of me. He had one box left at my house and he was taking everything that was in “our” room. I had my eyes on one item in the room. It was the framed photo of him and me at warped tour with all of our concert tickets surrounding it. He never grabbed it. “Why are you packing everything? It’s not like your never coming back here.” “I’m not staying here anymore, Megan. I want to stay with my friends.” “You don’t stay here anymore anyway, so how is it going to be any different? You’re going to need some of your things. You forgot something by the way.” He looked around, “No, I didn’t.” “Your picture of us Joey, you didn’t pack it.” I almost started crying and I still didn’t know what was going on. He grabbed it and put it in the box. “You have been acting weird. What is wrong? What are you doing?” He sat down next to me on my bed and took a deep breath. I was so scared. Was he breaking up with me? Why would he have me pick him up and drive him to my house to do this? I would have to drive him home afterward, how would that play out? “Megan, I want to go on a break. I think it would help us. We fight too much and I think a week or two without us talking to one another would be good for us.” “What! How is not talking going to solve anything, when the only reason we fight is because you refuse to talk to me? This isn’t fair Joey! I took you back! You came crawling back to me! You should be begging for me to stay with you!” 44
“I know Megan, but I’m not changing my mind.” “Did you cheat on me? Let me guess, you and Annie?” Annie was a friend of mine from high school who was best friends with me and Joey that whole summer. She would call Joey whenever she had a problem and he would be there to try to fix it. Just like Lindsay, I could tell Annie liked Joey and they were around each other all the time. “No, Megan, I would never cheat on you. Although it is kind of funny that you say that, because I hear all the time from my friends that Annie and I would make a cute couple.” That was not the right thing to say to me. I could not believe he just said that after I accused him of cheating on me with her. I turned away and started crying. He tried to hold me and get me to kiss him and he wouldn’t understand that I didn’t want to be near him, he was breaking my heart again. “Why would you make me drive to pick you up and bring you here so that I’d have to drive you home? What were you thinking?” “I didn’t think you would want to be at my friends; I thought that was the least I could do for you.” I just laid there and stared at the wall crying for about an hour until he finally said, “Come on, I think we should go.” I didn’t say a word to him on the way back. We sat in silence; I wouldn’t even turn on the radio. He still felt the need to try to talk to me and touch my leg. I just stared at the road. “Please, Megan, stop crying. You can’t drive all the way home like this. I can’t think of you driving like this.” He should have thought about that before. I still ignored him. We got to his friends’ house and I pulled into the driveway. Part of me just wanted to back out and not let him leave and the other part of me wanted him to get out in front of my car so I could run him over. He got out of the car and went into the backseat to get his things, shut the door and started to walk away. I started screaming and pounding at my window, since I didn’t have a horn. “Joey! Wait! Please come back. Please, for one second!” He opened the door “Yeah, Megan?” “Please just kiss me; I haven’t even gotten to kiss you today.” He leaned in and kissed me and then started to back away. “Wait! Promise me you will at least talk to me before bed and tell me you love me; that’s all. Nothing else will be said, just please at least tell me you love me before bed.” “Okay Megan. I will. Bye.” Then he walked away. I didn’t know if I could drive. Why would he let me drive home like this? I was hysterical. Besides him turning his back on me again, the one thing that I specifically remember from that moment was the song that came on the radio as I was leaving. Perfect timing and perfect words to tear through my heart and remind me of what I was going through. It is called “Shattered” by O.A.R. It was the first line of the chorus that got to me most: “How many times can I break till I shatter?”
That was my relationship with Joey, exactly. How many times would he break me until I just completely shattered? My prayer at that moment was that I would not be shattering on the way home that evening. Somehow I made it back to campus. I can’t remember how I got home, what way I drove, what time I returned, or what I did when I got back. I went to mass that night, which was probably the only thing that got me through the night without just moping around in bed. After mass, the group of us who went on the Metanoia retreat would gather and talk about what happened during our week just so we could stay involved with one another’s lives. The circle got to me and it took everything I had not to start crying. “Well, I just got back from Joey’s not too long ago. And he decided that he wants to go on a break.” All at once everyone looked at me stunned, “Oh no, Megan. Are you okay?” “Not really but it’s alright. It is only a break.” That was what I continued to tell myself the next few days to get me through. It was only a break. Joey didn’t want to break up; he just thought we needed some time a part right? He still loved me. He said so himself. I still texted him all throughout the day, because I couldn’t handle the thought of losing him again. “Joey I love you. Please tell me you love still me and you don’t want to break up.” “Megan, you know I love you,” he replied. This got my hopes up a little. “How long does this have to last? I hate this; I hate feeling like I can’t talk to you.” “Megan, why can’t you just accept this? It is just going to last longer the more you talk to me.” Hope was lost again. He really didn’t want to hear from me. “Okay, I’m sorry. Please don’t be mad at me. I’ll stop. I’m sorry.” How could he not want to hear from me? Didn’t he miss talking to me too? Didn’t this hurt him as much as it hurt me? Clearly it didn’t, even though I tried so hard to believe it did. *** The next thing that happened to Joey and me still blows my mind to this day. The fact that he would stoop so low when he supposedly loved me is just unbearable to me. I would call Joey every night just like we had agreed just to tell him I loved him before I went to bed. The first couple of nights this went fine. I called him late enough that I knew his friends would be asleep so he would talk to me. This particular night, his friends were not asleep. I called a couple times but there was no answer, so I figured that he had just forgotten that night and fell asleep. The last time I called a girl answered his phone. “Hello,” she said. “Who the hell is this? Where is Joey?” “He isn’t around right now. This is his friend. Who are you?” she said in such a bitchy tone. It made me mad because I knew he didn’t let other people touch his phone and he wouldn’t just leave it there for someone to pick up. “This is his girlfriend. Who the hell are you? Where is Joey?” “I told you, he isn’t around.” I could hear laughter in the background. “You mean that this is his ex-girlfriend right?” “No, I am sorry, did I stutter? This is his girlfriend. Who are you?” 46
“Did I stutter? This is his friend. He isn’t here.” My phone went silent. She had hung up on me. I was not about to give up on this situation though. So I called back. “Hello?” It was that same girl. “Who is this?” “Who are you?” she said. She was making me so angry; she damn well knew who I was. “This is Megan.” “Oh yea, you’re Joey’s ex-girlfriend right?” She really knew how to push my buttons. “Listen bitch, butt out of my relationship. This is his girlfriend; give the phone to Joey.” “You listen; you’re not his girlfriend. Stop calling him. Why are you in denial? He broke up with you.” This really upset me. “You have no idea what the hell you are talking about. Who are you anyway to think you know anything about what is going on with my relationship? I don’t even know you. He told me he still loved me today. We are not broken up.” “He can still love you and break up with you,” she answered in her smart-ass tone again. “We are on a break you dumb bitch, stay out of this.” “No sorry, he broke up with you.” Then she hung up again. I then received a text message from “Joey.” “Megan I broke up wit u stop callin meh, I don wanna talk 2 u.” “First of all, this isn’t Joey. I think I know the way he texts and he doesn’t text like some illiterate. Learn how to talk, bitch. Leave me the hell alone and stay out of my relationship,” was my response. I was hysterical. I couldn’t breathe, I was crying so hard. I didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t believe what I just had to deal with. Why did he always put me through these crazy situations? Didn’t he love me? I couldn’t just sit there anymore. I was so angry I was going to punch something. If I hadn’t been so upset and if there hadn’t been a group of people where Joey was I would have driven out there right then and there and kicked that girl’s ass. I decided to run over to my friend Danielle’s room. I couldn’t be alone. “Megan, what happened? What’s wrong?” obviously she could tell something was going on. I was crying so hard I could barely breathe. We went back to my room and sat down on my bed so I could tell her what happened. I needed more support though, so I called my friend, Patrick. I had been getting really close to Patrick because of band and going to Berlin together over the summer. He was a wonderful guy who treated me so good as a friend. He treated me the way a girl should be treated. I talked to him about everything and he always thought Joey was a loser. I called him and woke him up at two o’clock in the morning. He could tell that I was crying and he told me he would be right down. Patrick woke up from sleeping and came down to my room to make sure I was okay and to see what was going on. “Megan, what happened? What did Joey do?” He knew right away. It was no surprise to him. I explained to him and to Danielle again what had happened. This will forever stick with me because I think this was when I finally understood. Patrick looked at me and said, “Megan, this just proves it to you, Joey doesn’t care.” 47
He didn’t have to say anything else to me. He made the perfect point and no one could have ever been so right. As much as it hurt me to hear that and accept it, I did because Patrick was right. What part of what just happened showed that Joey cared about me? People who care about you don’t let things like that happen, especially when the person you are supposed to care about has been your girlfriend for five years. “Megan, you will be okay. If you need me, call me, but I am going to sleep because I have a nursing exam in the morning. I am sorry.” He was so nice to me and I just fell right into his arms and started crying. He gave me a hug and so did Danielle and they left. That showed me what people who really care about me do. Danielle was awake when I came to get her for help. She was busy working on homework but she still dropped everything she was doing for me. Patrick was fast asleep and he answered his phone because he knew I wouldn’t normally call at two in the morning. He woke up, even though he had a nursing exam the next morning and came to me. They cared for my well being; they wanted to be there for me, so why was it so hard for me to see that Joey wasn’t like this? I called him at two in the morning. I could have been dying and he wouldn’t have bothered to pick up. My mom called me the next morning to talk to me about something that I really didn’t care about. I didn’t care about anything at the moment and to me it was her just blabbering. Then she noticed something was wrong with me. “Megan, what is going on?” she said, concerned. “Mom, it’s Joey,” and then I explained everything that happened the night before. “Mom I can’t go to class. I think I am going to get sick. I am so hurt. I just want to lay here and sleep all day. I can’t stop crying.” This is when my mom went into girl-power mode. “Megan, you can’t let this ruin your life. I have always told you that you deserve better than Joey. You can’t let him get to you like this. You have so much going for you. Get out of bed and live your life. Do what you need to do and act like it doesn’t even bother you. You’re worth so much more than the way he is treating you. Don’t take this shit from him.” She was right. I had to get my act together and move on with my life. I got off the phone with my mom and decided it was time. What I was about to do would break my heart, but I was never going to be happy with the way I got treated. I was fed up. I called Joey one last time and he didn’t answer. I wasn’t waiting for a return call, so unfortunately I had to let my feelings out on voicemail. “Joey… What happened last night was just, ridiculous. I can’t believe you would ever do something to me like that. Clearly you don’t care about me, and I can’t go on living my life this way anymore. I cry myself to sleep every night because of you and it has to stop. It is done. I love you so much but I think it is better if we move on with our separate lives. I can’t do this anymore. I hate that I have to leave this for you in a voicemail, because I think we have been through too much to be this immature about things, but I am not waiting. It is over. I can’t be with you anymore. You can call if you have something to say, but I am done. I am sorry it had to end this way.” That was that. I was no longer Joey’s girlfriend. This time it was for good. *** 48
This break up had to have been one of the most eye opening experiences I have ever gone through. Letting go of my past and learning from it was hard. There were a lot of mixed feelings through the process of healing from my relationship, and there still are. First, I was unbearably sad. I couldn’t hold myself together if my life depended on it. I relied on other people to live my life for me. I missed class and they would seek me out to tell me what happened. They would tell me when I needed to do things and I was always by their side because I needed their protection. I needed to be held and cared for. I was fragile, ready to break if anything else happened. Then, there was my angry bitter stage. I hated on every male I knew. It was like a bad round of PMS peppered with feminism. I hated every male I saw. It didn’t matter if they were friends with me, but the male friends I did have understood. They couldn’t stand what Joey did to me either. Nothing nice ever came out of my mouth to a guy, except to Patrick, he was the exception. I was vulnerable and since I was already so close to him, I relied on him to make me happy and replace Joey and the feelings I felt for him, which ended up getting me nowhere, because as my history with males has proved; he ended up turning from a nice guy to a bad guy. He used me leaning on him for help to his advantage, and took all he could get out of me. Getting over Patrick and slowly getting over Joey led me to my last stage in the recovery process. This was realization and healing and this is what I am still in to this day. I have learned so much from the past five years of my life due to a bad relationship. I have learned life lessons of how take care of myself, and how to realize what I deserve. I learned that no one that cares for you will put you through the things I had to go through. I also learned that when someone loves you they work just as hard as you do to be in a relationship. The other person in the relationship wants to be in it just as bad as you do. The most valuable thing that came from my break up was that I was free to be myself again. It has become the greatest relief in my life. The girl that dated Joey was not Megan Pena. Joey’s victim was someone that no one recognized, not even me. I was a controlling person. I was a person who put her friends and family last in life. I was even a girl who was in the wrong major at school and I realized this by being open with myself and finding out what I really wanted. I don’t know who I was. The Megan that called the girl a bitch on the phone is not the Megan everyone knew before Joey and now knows after Joey. This is by far my greatest personal freedom. Some people feel free because they snuck out of the house, or are now in college away from their parents, but not me. I feel free because I have learned to live my life for me and nobody else. I was always known for my smile and my caring attitude. I was known for standing up for myself in a tough situation and not letting other people control the way I act or feel. The person I was before Joey was known for being a crazy outgoing girl, who hung out with her friends and laughed all the time. I was the person that wanted to help everyone, and put everyone before myself because I wanted everyone I knew to be happy. Joey was the only person I did this for when I was with him; I was stuck up his ass searching for a way out and some fresh air. Joey took all of those things away from me. I pushed aside who I was to impress someone for five years and almost lost track of who I really am. After my break up, I was so lost and confused. I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life, what career path I wanted to 49
follow, who I was going to marry, and I sure as hell did not have it all figured out. Everything that I have ever done in the last five years has now been turned into something extremely wrong for me. I don’t want to be a teacher, and I am definitely not ready to get married anytime soon. I read self help book after self help book to get over Joey. Once I finally stopped talking to him and took him completely out of my life, I was finally able to analyze everything that happened and that it was a good thing he was gone. Who am I? Megan. The same girl everyone knew before Joey came along. I can hang out with friends, do what I want without seeking approval, and I do not have to worry about taking care of someone else. For the first time in five years, I feel so alive. I am free from Joey, and free from the person Joey turned me into. I know the real me; Joey’s ex-girlfriend, future activities director at a college; whatever you would like to label me, but the important thing is that I am happy and I am not living a dream anymore. I woke up from my nightmare and said to myself, “Hello Megan, it’s a pleasure to finally meet you.”
A Thought By Linda Brown A Thought My mind is weary I can’t think I hope my faith Is with me My wish, my crave Of becoming real; SACRIFICED
Be Mine Love can bitter taste Haste, it gives Heart troubles a must Strength a plus Can you love me, Like I love me?
IMAGE Bronze Body Innocent Eyes Gracious Smile My Soul Lifts A Simultaneous Bond Twists of Lust Spring’s Breeze My heart Belongs…
“The Life” by Brittany Arthur
Some of the Greatest Treasures Can be Found in a Friend ‘rich with insight, guidance, and strength’ By Jacob Stentz Why do we feel so alone some nights? A rush of sorrow as we kill the lights Contemplating our days mundane actions As our personality splits into factions Tearing off the mask of deceit Spilling out everything we cannot defeat In the security of our own mind We search for that which we cannot find Answers to the pain and strife Wishing for someone else’s life Not knowing what lies ahead Frustrated by the words not said But, I pose this question to YOU! Why do we hide anything we feel? Are we afraid to lose what we conceal Do we expect persecution Or even worse, public exclusion If we exposed who we really are to the world, In what direction would our society be hurled? TRUTH!
Just like SpongeBob and Patrick By Yasmeen Daher, Notre Dame Academy Winner, Honorable Mention, 10th Grade Writing Contest: Personal Essay According to Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, a friend is one attached to another by affection. According to a twelve year old boy with autism who can name every animal in existence, a friend is simply, “Someone sweet who you like to hang out with.” It was 8:00pm on a Sunday night and my right shoe was hiding from me. Ignoring the bold STAY OUT signs, I pushed open the door of my brother’s room. The room always seemed to be the choice hiding space for all things lost. In the corner my brother sat making a “habitat.” His brown hair curled at the tips and you could see ribs protruding on his bare chest. Under a large green felt board he meticulously placed animal figurines. Bright colored plastic birds were in artificial trees, zebras drank from synthetic watering holes, and lions attacked antelopes. “Yasmeen, you have to come check this out!” His voice was high and sweet. Adam was innocence. Putting off the search for my much- needed shoe, I trudged toward the African setting. I had heard the description I knew was coming countless times, yet I always listened. “Wow, it is terrific Adam!” His face lit up with pride, knowing I liked his work. You could see it in his eyes now, the happiness he felt—like he had just won an Oscar and was about to deliver his acceptance speech. “Okay, Yasmeen, this is the African Savanna. This is a lion hunting down an antelope. And do you know why it wants to eat the antelope?” Playing along I shook my head and tried to spread a look of confusion across my face. “Well, it’s because he is a carnivore. A carnivore only eats meat.” His voice was full of confidence. Autism may have impaired his social skills with peers but the disorder had also gifted him with an unusually keen mind for all things scientific. At six years old he was a human dictionary when it came to animals. You could ask him anything. For another fifteen minutes I listened to him pontificate and every so often he would hop up and down in excitement. He was a Cocker Spaniel puppy that never ran out of energy. “That was nice. Thanks.” I knew I wasn’t giving him enough credit for the collegeprofessor-worthy lecture, but he wouldn’t notice. He never picked up on such things, too engrossed in his own mind. I rose to continue looking for my vanished shoe, wobbling a little. My foot had fallen asleep and was tingling like a vibrating cell phone. “Wait!” I glanced over and Adam was bouncing toward me with determination. He stretched out his hand, finger pointing, vigorously ordering me to stop. “Can I ask you a question?” This had to be important. Adam Daher did not just ask questions. “Yes?” I was intrigued. “Will you be my best friend forever?” His mouth was tight and angular with tension. Wringing his hands, he looked nervous, afraid I would refuse. “Of course.” Immediately his feet jumped from the floor. “Just like SpongeBob and Patrick?” To Adam, to be SpongeBob meant you had your own world and there was (and still is) nothing better than to have a world of your own—a place 54
where you can escape everything and anything, especially things you don’t enjoy—like math and people laughing at you. “Just like SpongeBob and Patrick,” I returned. “Yes!” He drew out the last letter in a hiss. “We have to shake on it!” This was serious business; nothing sealed a deal like a handshake. He extended his hand and I felt waves of confidence flow through me. I saw a glimpse to the future—what it would be like if we were best friends forever, knowing if I stretched my arm out, we would be everlasting friends and nothing could change it. I didn’t hesitate. I grasped his small fingers with badly bitten nails, and shook. It seemed something grand should have occurred at that moment—an explosion maybe. But nothing happened. We stood in silence. The atmosphere was pleasing, like the sound of white noise filling your ears. Unhooking from one another, Adam happily skipped back to his habitat, the moment seeming lost to him, almost as if it hadn’t occurred. He plopped down and placed an oxpecker on top of a rhino. A symbiotic relationship. The oxpecker helps the rhino by eating ticks off its back. The rhino provides protection for the bird. They are always there for one another. And nothing can change it.
Coffee, Chaos, and Connections By Alyssa Kaine Winner, 1st Place, 10th Grade Writing Contest: Fiction Steam blows with a whisper out of the espresso machine as I make the thousandth drink of the night. I carefully hand the steaming coffee to the petite blonde woman who is waiting patiently and then sit down on a stool behind the cash register. It’s the first chance I’ve had to sit down all night. Winter is blowing in and the stinging winds drive people into places like the Front Porch Coffee House. The warmth that a coffeehouse gives off is unlike anything else and people of every background are drawn to it. I’ve only been working here for about five weeks and I’ve seen as many types of people come in here as I have on the streets of New York City. Each person that comes in is completely different, and they all have unique stories. I watch them all carefully, and wonder what kind of person each of them has come to be throughout their lives. I watch a handsome young man around my age, sitting at a wooden table in the corner, type vigorously on his laptop. He could be typing anything, an essay, a love letter, or an email to his mother, the possibilities are infinite. Every Saturday night he comes in here with his laptop and types like there’s no tomorrow. I stare at him through the strands of my straight brown hair so that he won’t catch me scrutinizing his every movement. His thick muscular body is hunched over the keyboard while his olive-toned face shows no expression at all. His lack of expression makes it impossible to tell what he’s been working so diligently on. Adjacent to the young man sits an elderly college professor grading tests. Week after week he comes in with stacks of papers so large that the environmentalists who stop by for a drink shake their heads in disgruntlement. I feel sorrier for his students than the trees at this point! The only time I’ve ever seen what was written on the papers, I felt as though I was reading another language. The number of formulas and equations on the papers was overwhelming. I can only imagine that he teaches a tremendously difficult science class of some sort. From what I remember in high school, it could possibly be chemistry, but I wouldn’t be able to tell you anything from that class. I was more concerned with my hair and boys than school at that point in my life. Luckily that phase passed swiftly. The man moves without haste, and his methodic movements make my eyes heavy every time I observe him. But, unlike the young man near him, he will openly show his emotions by pursing his lips or shaking his head according to what kind of paper he has in his hands. He sinks deep into a rhythm of grading papers and is remarkably focused on nothing but his work. Sometimes it seems like he’ll never break the trance cast upon him by the enormous amount of papers. My eyes shift across the room to a middle aged woman wearing raggedy clothes and house slippers. When she comes in every Saturday, she usually has a tear stained face and the body language of a stressed mother and wife dealing with serious problems. Whether or not she has a wedding ring on depends on how her night went. One time she walked in the door looking frantic and had the red impression of a hand on her right cheek. That day she wasn’t wearing her ring, but she ordered a drink and sat down at her usual table as if nothing was wrong. I could see the amount of pain she bore on her shoulders. It was apparent that her life was not 56
where she hoped it would be. I could see tears run down her cheeks and drop silently to the table forming a growing puddle of pain. With each tear that falls, the sympathy and remorse I have for her grows. Her burden must be excruciatingly difficult to handle, and the strength she has to persist is astonishing. I revere the strength and courage she has unknowingly exposed to me. The only other person in the building is an adolescent girl covered in black from head to toe. Everything from her hair to her nails and shoes is black. Each time I see her she has a different skull-plastered shirt on. She comes in and reads anime comics for hours at a time. As long periods of time pass, she stares at a picture in the comic book and her eyes fill with awe. I can see that she really admires the characters portrayed in the comics. Her obsession with the characters in the fiction stories she reads has affected her outward appearance. She projects the feeling that she wants to be isolated and avoid interacting with anyone but her fictional friends. It gives off a notion of strangeness that can affect the way people view her. But it’s obvious that she is oblivious to this, so she continues to submerge herself in a world of fabricated characters. The variety found within the group of people who spend their Saturday nights together is a spectacle. They each use the Front Porch as a place of refuge or where they can get things accomplished. Every week each of them comes into the coffeehouse and forms their own secluded world within themselves and becomes ignorant towards the things surrounding them. There is the sense of an invisible and unspoken bond between these four people. Regardless of anything else, they are always there for each other week after week. I may be the only one to notice it, and the bond may be subtle, but it is there, kind of like they need each other and if one of them isn’t here on a Saturday night, the balance of ambiences would be off. So as I sit on this small oak stool, gazing over the four individuals, I contemplate about how they all are so different, yet somehow connected in this place of serenity. The wind outside blows harder than earlier and the snow begins to fall with tremendous speed. I think nothing of it, and go back to work without an ounce of worry. Since the night has been busy, and there are piles of dirty dishes stacked like the skyscrapers of Chicago, I start cleaning them so that when I close in two hours, it will be much easier. Gradually the weather worsens and concern arises in the back of my mind. My car doesn’t have four wheel drive, so it is scary to drive in the snow. None of the customers sitting in the lounge area notice the weather conditions. They are still too engulfed in their own affairs. Within twenty minutes of the weather worsening, the snow has climbed halfway up the windows and the view I have of outside is shrinking with each passing minute. I grow more and more anxious and become restless. The lack of attention from the regulars also worries me. I don’t know how they’re getting home, or if they’ll be safe in this weather when they leave here after we close. I want to turn on the TV we have in the back room to watch the news, but I’ve been told that it stopped working a few months ago and has never been replaced. With no access to a TV, I settle with trying to find a radio. I have never seen one here, and the odds are slim, but I decide to hunt for one anyway. I go to the back and start looking through drawers but come up empty handed. When I walk back out to the front, the windows are almost completely obstructed by snow. My stomach sinks and I blow passed the zombie-like customers. I peer out the dwindling amount of bare window left and I can see nothing through the deluge of thick 57
white snow. This blizzard has hit so abruptly that no one could have done anything to prepare for it. I decide to look out the front door, so I briskly walk to it, and pull on the handle. It won’t move, so I yank with more force, but it still won’t budge. The combination of ice and snow has sealed the door shut. I try to open the rear door, but the exact same thing happens. The only other access point to the exterior is the loading door, so that’s where I head. When I get there, I immediately know that these are sealed shut too. Ice is budding in the narrow cracks around the edges of the loading door. Regardless of what I already know, I heave as forcefully as I can on the handle. The door isn’t persuaded to move by my efforts to escape. My heart starts to pound vigorously enough that it is capable of being heard and I slide to the floor while the room starts to spin and my head becomes heavy from the immense amount of shock that fills me. After my vision becomes clear, I rise and walk to the phone so I can call someone who can help us. I pick up the phone, and to my surprise the line is dead. Dizziness creeps back up, but I shake it off and rapidly make my way to the lounge area. I get no reactions from the four absorbed beings. At least not until I pick up a wine glass from the counter and hurl it against the wall across the room. The high pitched shatter of the glass forces all four of their heads to shoot up at the exact same second. Panic covers all of their faces. As I give an explanation for my behavior, they sit in silence. I finish clarifying, and we all go to a table to formulate a plan. The young man named Jacob is exceptionally creative and he comes up with the idea to construct a device that would melt the ice on the outside of a door. He jokes about having his imaginative brain turned on since he’s been working on his poetry book all night. Stanley, the college professor uses his vast knowledge of science and numbers to create the measurements for the device. Savannah, the teenager, puts her love of art to good use and draws the blueprints for the machine with the help of Jacob and Stanley. The middle aged woman’s name is Beth and she and I both know how to speedily make coffee, which is a key component in the melting device. Beth justifies her coffee-making skill by revealing the problems that take place in her home. She makes coffee numerous times a day so she can stay awake because the previous nights are spent either fighting with her husband, caring for her kids, hiding from her husband after she is beaten, or figuring out what kind of future she has in store for her and her children. Her openness and honesty is a refreshing change after I have been pondering about each of these individuals for over a month. A short period of time passes and each of our jobs is complete. It is time to break free from the confinement of the Front Porch Coffee House. Jacob carries the tire-sized machine with ease towards the front door. His muscles stretch and conform to the sleeves of his shirt. He places it gently on the floor and steps away so Stanley can make a few final adjustments before we get started. Beth and I pour the steaming coffee into the pump for the device to use. The heavenly fragrance of the alluring aromatic coffee swirls around our bodies and takes us far away for a moment, but we return swiftly and get back to business. Everything is set up properly and we are all eager to get out of the coffeehouse, so we continue on with the operation. Savannah turns the machine on and coffee travels up the tubes that are connected to the top and sides of the door. Steam is being produced from the scorching coffee and the arctic air. This indicates that the heat of the coffee has melted 58
through the seal on the door and it is outside now. The amount of steam steadily increases until the machine starts to make a loud, obnoxious, squeal and stops working. All of the coffee has been emptied from the pump, and it seems as though we are going to have to make more, but Jacob doesnâ€™t want to wait any longer. He pushes the machine away from the door with ease and starts to jump from side to side like a boxer does when he is fighting. Before anyone can get a single word out, Jacob kicks the door just like cops do in movies. The door flings open with the piercing sound of cracking ice and splintering wood. Frosty air rushes in through the doorway, and we rejoice with shouts of joy and everyone exchanges hugs. Using the separate talents each of us has obtained, we were able to break the bounds put on us by the blizzard. Each person used their unique talents from their own personal lives to come together as one and work together to create an escape. I now look upon the patrons of the Front Porch Coffee House as a whole and not entirely separate people. The unity that was displayed by the people who I saw only as divided individuals forces me to believe that we are all connected in a way, even though we each have our own unique characteristics.
Dream On By Symana Dillingham Dream sister, that’s all you have, Hold on to your dreams as long as they last… Dream brother, you have a lot left to do, The future of our people begins with you… Dream father, remember that the message starts with you, Rebuild your shattered soul and let your light shine through… Dream mother, you are the root of us all, Take that hump of self torment out your back, stand proud and tall… Dream my people; there is nothing you can’t do, Dream on; Dream long, until our dreams come true…
Differences By Neil Kelly I am different than you. You are different than me. I have brown hair. Yours is blonde. I have blue eyes. Yours are green. I am liberal. You are conservative. I work in a factory. You own the factory. I am black. You are white. I am gay. You are straight. I am disabled. You use the stairs. I have some rights. You have more. I am no different from you. You are no different from me. I breathe air. You breathe air. I drink water. You drink water. I love. You love. I am an American. 61
You are an American. I pay taxes. You pay taxes. I have rights. You have rights. Differences are constructed, Like a poorly built shack. No foundation, unsafe; Differences are pointless. We could argue, debate About what differences matter most. Truth is we are ALL people. We all matterâ€Ś EQUALLY.
“Coffee Tree” by Brooke Breyley 63
Still By Jacob Stentz I lay still in my bed, Still looking at the ceiling, Wondering why am I still awake? How else is there to sleep? Still in a dark room? Still I can’t fall asleep, Still racking my brain, Amongst the silence and stillness, I realize I still think of you. Wishing we still hung out, Hoping you’ll still be there, Your last words still ringing in my ears. Still trying to figure out what I’m doing, And still I lay here. Within the stillness, A still frame comes to motion. The still ocean blue of your eyes awaken me, And I realize I’m still in love with you.
HAVE A COOKIE! By Not Quite A Rooney I am blessed with many female friends who come in all shapes and sizes; I like them that way. I bet you can say the same thing about your friends, be they male or female. In my case, some of them are naturally slender while some are fluffy; however, none of them are happy with their body image. They will readily admit to this because it is discussed again and again. What have we done to ourselves? Does everyone have to be built the same way – I do believe that would be called the robot society. I emphasize that some of my naturally slender friends are also critical of their body image – I know, because I’ve heard little innuendoes spew from them. And, in my opinion, the worst segment of the population to be affected by this “image” is our younger girls/teens. I have five granddaughters and they are all different shapes and sizes, and I honestly like it that way. They range in age from 14 to 24 years. The 14 year old is not happy about her body's shape, and neither is the 24 year old. Who’s to blame? I have to say that mothers could have a large impact on this situation. Are the mothers also unhappy? Probably so. When they make little comments about themselves the radar on their daughters pick up the comments and process it in the subconscious section of their minds. However, I don’t think this matter entirely rests with the mothers; I think TV/magazines also play a huge part towards this negative image. When was the last time you saw a woman with some “meat” on her on the front cover of any popular magazine – unless the magazine was typecast as being “for the larger woman?” This has to change and it has to change right now. Why? Because the image you hold of yourself in your brain controls a myriad of other actions in your life. For example, will the girl who is thinner get the job? Consequently, should I even interview? Will the girl who is thinner get the guy? So should I even begin to approach him and try to start a conversation? Will the girl who is thinner be more popular? So, should I even try to run for class president? Will the girl who is thinner be more accepted? This follows the philosophy, “If you think you can, or if you think you can’t, you’re probably right.” To put this article into crystal clear perspective, please recall that in December, 2007, Jennifer Love Hewitt, that gorgeous young actress, was beaching in Hawaii and her pic taken. She was wearing a black bikini and they shot her from the back. The news media got hold of that pic and said she was fat. If she’s fat, well, what can I say, the rest of us are really in trouble. Jennifer shot back, and rightly so, and defended women everywhere. I propose that all girls/teens/women start a campaign and boycott any magazine that doesn’t have regular sized women on their cover page and within their magazine. That would probably eliminate any magazine reading at all. No subscriptions, no sell magazines. That would get their attention. Now TV might be a little harder to control, but it’s not impossible. Again, a mail campaign and a viewing boycott would make an impact. Let’s give it a go. After all, what can we lose? (Is that a “pun,” because we won’t lose pounds doing this?) However, our image will appreciably increase and become healthier. Women, in general, will regain a healthy perspective about their bodies, images with which we can live. 65
And while youâ€™re not reading that magazine that contains mainly advertisements with twig-like figures, or not watching that TV program which shows stick-thin humans, have a cookie, or two. And smile.
I want……………………… By Julie Metzger I want to taste that which I cannot touch. The moon, the stars, and the sky above. I want to smell that which I cannot taste. A whisper and a prayer. I want to hear that which I cannot smell. Still water. I want to see that which I cannot hear. My children’s thoughts, my husband’s dreams, and my inner calling. I want to feel that which I cannot see. Reflection in darkness and answer to prayer. I want to touch what I cannot taste. Forgiveness.
Submission Details Initiated in January 2005, Lions-on-Line is a literary collection of works by the College of Mount St. Joseph students and alumni published online with the cooperation of the English Department. Lions-on-Line is published online twice yearly, during the fall and spring semesters. When our budget allows, Lions-on-Line goes “in print”. We take submissions during all twelve months of the year. If you are currently a student or a graduate of the College of Mount St. Joseph and you would like to see your work published, you may submit your work to LOL simply by emailing poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction or digital artwork to LOL@mail.msj.edu. For full submission guidelines, consult our website. As noted above, many of our staff members are graduating this spring. Lions-on-Line is always looking for new staff members! If you’re interested in joining Lions-on-Line, please contact the faculty advisor, Elizabeth Taryn Mason, Ph.D. at the following email address: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Editors and Staff Editor-in-Chief: Poetry Editor: Fiction Editor: Creative Nonfiction Editor: Art Editor: Assistant Editors: Facbook Manager: Treasurer: Faculty Advisor:
Emilie Helman Paul Arrand Rodgers Thomas Ciulla Stephanie Brokaw Jennifer Von Gries Marvin Brooks Megan Hinckley Jamie Mason Danielle Siemer Elizabeth Taryn Mason, M.F.A, Ph.D.