The Anthem 2012-2013

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THE ANTHEM 2012-2013



SUBURBIA, gregory bennett.....................................................................................................................................4 THE ROSE PATROL, julia maddera...........................................................................................................................6 SUCCUMB, arienne calingo.........................................................................................................................................11 A HAIR’S BREADTH AWAY, henri watieu........................................................................................................13 NO ONE THERE OT HEAR IT, philip layfield....................................................................................................14 RED DELICIOUS, jacquelyn m. stolos.................................................................................................................17 SHE BEATS HER WINGS, brian fritzsche.............................................................................................................26 ALASKAN SALMON, amy reavis............................................................................................................................27 MORE THAN I COULD SAY, kate brody..........................................................................................................29 APOLOGY TO THE QUEEN OF DUST, bassam sidiki...............................................................................37 FREEZING ICARUS, zach busch............................................................................................................................38 ALONE AMONG FRIENDS, david dixon...........................................................................................................51

MONOLOGUING TEDDY, victoria maung........................................................................................................4 WHIMSICAL BICYCLE, christina eickenroht.........................................................................................cover, 5 IN BLOOM, kasia clarke............................................................................................................................................................7 TWISTING TOWER, aman shahi..............................................................................................................................11 SYNTHESIS, timothy markatos.................................................................................................................................12 SLEEP, kasia clarke..............................................................................................................................................................16 UNTITLED, timothy markatos..........................................................................................................................................21 BLACK HOLE, timothy markatos...........................................................................................................................26 KNOTS, allison kim...........................................................................................................................................................27 BLUEPRINT,daniel munana.........................................................................................................................................28 ROOTS,allison kim..........................................................................................................................................................37 UNTITLED, amelia l. hall..............................................................................................................................................38 SOLITUDE, sarah lipkin...........................................................................................................................................................50 NATHALIE, christina eickenroht................................................................................................................................52



gregory bennett

chocolate peanuts sweet plastic goodness hydrogenated soy bean american dream sugar rush joy ride astronomical caloric source of energy. show me the peaks and valleys of your processed landscape

christina eickenroht, WHIMSICAL BICYCLE

victoria maung, MONOLOGUING TEDDY


kasia clarke, IN BLOOM

THE ROSE PATROL julia maddera

I’d just lost the latest hand of bullshit and my last cigarette with it when the white van skidded curbside in front of us. The five of us huddled together on the sidewalk, bumping shoulders and bony knees. A cheater’s paradise, and Jeremy had been shameless, craning his ostrich neck to peer at everybody’s lot. He hadn’t bothered with me. I’d dropped my cards twice from how much my hands were shaking. Jeremy planted down his final card and flipped it over before any of us could squeak out a syllable. A crumpled two of spades. “Shit,” Charlie muttered. He hiked his pierced eyebrows up his forehead and slapped his last three cards on the pile. Petra clucked his tongue and snatched up the deck. Last week we’d lost the queen of hearts when a semi had gusted by, sending it cart-wheeling into the gutter. No matter who won, he was always the dealer. Jeremy snapped his twitchy fingers. “Pay up, bitches.” Charlie flicked Gauloises at him one by one, like rubber bands. When the van honked, Petra beat us all to it, scrambling to his feet. He stalked up to the

passenger’s side window in red sequin stilettos, not a single wobble. “Feeling lucky ‘cause you’ve got those Dorothy shoes on, huh?” Charlie teased. Without missing a beat, Petra clicked his heels together three times. He sang in a vibrato that would shame Judy herself, “There’s no place like home, right, boys?” Anyone else I would’ve called a ham for that one. Home on our corner at the east end of Santa Monica Boulevard. Cars sped past us, gunning for the lights. The onslaught of exhaust fumes turned my stomach, and Jeremy had called me a hick from corn country. The others had agreed, even though I’d hitched here from Idaho, not Iowa. Petra didn’t even wrinkle his nose. Earlier that day, I was checking his face for stubble and he’d spooked me just as my fingers ghosted above his upper lip. “You should join me sometime.” he’d said, dropping the falsetto for a moment, like he was inviting me into a confidence. I’d flinched, folding myself smaller into the graying shirt. “What? Why?” I’d squeaked and then coughed

to cover it. “That pipsqueak of a voice you’ve got. What an asset.” He had pretended not to notice when his nail hooked one of my zits. “And your face is still soft like a girl’s. Even with that buzz job that makes you look like you broke out of the chemo ward—a wig could cover that.” My chest had unclenched itself for the first time in weeks. Petra didn’t think I was girl, just a boy who looked like a girl. Some days I felt like both and some days I felt like neither, but I’d never found a good way to explain that to anybody yet, not even myself. “But I can’t walk in heels,” I’d blurted out. I wanted to tell him that my voice would never break. I wanted to ask how he felt when he wore that red dress dripping sequins and the rhinestone choker that cloaked his Adam’s apple, like maybe it was the only time of day he felt right sitting in his own skin. I’d had a pair of boxers like that, a jean jacket I hadn’t managed to grab in my rush out the door. I wondered if Dad had given them to charity, or burned them. But what if it was just a gag for Petra, a way to

camp it up and attract more johns? I’d only been running with them for a couple weeks, and so I could only guess. “You could learn.” He had started applying eyeliner, but when he saw me watching, he’d winked at me through the mirror, smudged with rouge lipstick from his practice. When the guy didn’t roll down the window, the rest of the boys swarmed behind him. Jeremy hooked his thumbs through the belt loops of his jeans, tugging them lower. Charlie bobbed his head and brushed his spiked collar, a riotous mass of ginger curls falling around his face. Petra held them back with both arms flung out behind him and almost lost his precious wig in the process. You’d think he’d scalped the Queen of Sheba, the way he went on about that hair. Charlie shrugged out of his leather jacket and slung it over my shoulders. His ribs bulged like a xylophone beneath his yellowed wife beater as he swaggered forward. His nipples had pebbled in three seconds flat from the bite of the wind. As I rubbed my hands together, I hoped

it wasn’t hiding a bunch of undercover cops. They called us leeches when they caught us, and they wouldn’t even let us fix our clothes before they hauled us out of the john’s car. Not that many were inclined to stick around once the cop started waving a badge in one of those alleyways where all the streetlights had been knocked out. Last week, Jeremy had been picked up one with a handlebar mustache who made Jeremy suck him off in the men’s room; he kept telling Jeremy how much he looked like his son. When the window finally rolled down, Petra’s shoulders slumped. “So what are y’all handing out?” he asked. I wormed my way to the front. “Do you have any of those cherry-flavored condoms, because let me tell you, we are clean out—” “Condoms?” The guy squeaked like Petra had suggested they were handing out crack. “We’re from St. Paul’s College youth ministry,” he continued, tripping over his words. His tutor must’ve been better than Ms. Tate, because you could barely tell he had a lisp. Not like me. I rubbed my throat. Some days, I thought my voice would vanish from a lack of use. “They’re in the wrong neighborhood,” Charlie drawled, shaking his head. Apparently, the other occupants of the van had taken notice, too,

muttering amongst themselves. They were pointing at the bears and leather daddies loafing around The Eagle’s entrance, oiled latex cuffs gleaming under the glare of the sign’s red light. “Don’t they know this is Santa Monica?” “Maybe they do,” Jeremy said, pushing his greased hair back with three fingers like he did when he was trying to impress a john. He sniggered. “Didn’t I tell you about the guy who wanted me to sing hymns last week? Like a fucking choir boy.” Charlie stopped bobbing his head. “You’re so full of shit, Jer. Worse than—” I stared at the kid in the passenger’s seat, my skin buzzing. Crew-cut, forest-green college sweatshirt, all wide eyes and dimples like my brother Matt’s. I imagined he smelled like laundered cotton and pine needle aftershave. Like two showers a day, like home. Wholesome, my mom would have said. A church boy. How could you not trust a guy with dimples, who led the family grace? He was looking down at his lap, fiddling with something. Spare change? I wanted to ask him if I borrow two quarters, please, anything for fifty cents. I’d run to the pay pone and punch in the number I’d written on my arms in case they ever found me dead, listen to Dad’s corny recording, hang up at the beep. That’s all I ever did. Once Matt had picked up and I’d slammed the pay phone back down quick, before

I could do something stupid like stick out my thumb and hop in a trucker’s rusted cab heading east. “We’re giving out roses to, uh, girls like you—” I snorted. Apparently, I’d done a good job hiding Petra’s five o’clock shadow today. I could tell he was preening. Vain bastard. I had to admit, he made a beautiful girl, if you liked hard-jawed Scandinavian models who wore too much blue eyeliner and leather mini-skirts. “—because you’re, you’re beautiful—” The kid stuttered on the word, and we all laughed, nudging each other in the ribs. He went brighter than El Cid’s radioactive sign, squiggly neon lettering with a waterfall of glitter behind. I wanted to tell him that we weren’t laughing at the way he stumbled. We just knew that Petra would regale us with the story of that time the Christian hunk called him beautiful at least ten times before breakfast tomorrow, and that it would change with every telling. I scratched my wrists. My skin was buzzing again. If Matt were here, he’d nudge me forward. Go on, Avery, say it. The hypocrite. Like he was so great at speaking up when it mattered. What had he been doing the day I’d left? Bent over the desk doodling pundit squares in his biology notebook, as if he couldn’t hear them yelling. I told myself I should be better than him. I opened my mouth,

but Petra jumped on it before I could begin, batting loaded eyelashes. “Why thank you, sweetcakes,” he drawled. That drew laughter from the girls inside the van, and the kid tugged at his collar, like he wished he could hide. “Inside, I mean,” he insisted, glaring. I shuddered and drew the jacket up around my ears. The kid pressed on, determined to blunder through it. Like the star in the school play who’d just forgotten half his lines, standing there with his eyes closed, trying to stick to the script, instead of ad-libbing his way out of it. “And God loves you and wants the best for you. He wants you to get out of this life any way that you can—” We all bristled. The kid opened his mouth to walk it back, but Petra rolled right over him. “And you think roses are going to do that?” Petra swelled up and jammed his beak nose into the window. “When’s the last time you tried to pay your rent with roses? Oh wait, your parents probably do that for you!” His voice cracked. Beneath the white glow of the street lamps, his face had gone shiny. “You want to know the last thing my parents did for me?” Charlie tried yanking Petra away from the van, but he just dug his heels in and gripped the side of the window harder. I bent down and checked that my shredded laces were tied. My calves twitched

and tightened. I’d always known when to run. Better now before the moon rose over the crooked streetlights. The blood beat in my feet and sent my toes tingling. “There’s, uh, no need to be rude, ma’am,” the kid mumbled like he’d been slapped. Dull red rose in his cheeks again. He started drumming his fingers against the dashboard, like he was itching to split. “We just want you to know that God loves you and He can help you—” “Honey, I know God loves me,” Petra began, squaring his hands on his hips as he rose to his full height. Then he let his voice drop to baritone, and I felt a shiver run through me. “I don’t need a bunch of goddamn church kids to tell me that.” The way they shrunk back made me want to press my face up against the glass and bug my eyes out. Let them be the zoo animals for once. They weren’t ready for it. I could tell they weren’t used to being stared at by the way they burrowed together in their hoodies, two girls actually clutching hands, which would have been funny if my throat felt loose enough to laugh. I wanted to look away, but hadn’t they started it? Hadn’t they stared first? Weren’t they still gawking at us? They eyed us warily now: boys in fishnet tights and secondhand stoles, their Adam’s apples winking, crowded against the car. And me, boyish with my shingled hair and open face but

not quite right, my body drowned in Charlie’s leather jacket, hiding all my inconvenient parts. I could tell that the two girls tugging on their ponytails in the backseat were playing the guessing game by the way their eyes darted up and down my body. “You shouldn’t take the name of the Lord, your god, in vain.” “And you shouldn’t have paid good money for a haircut that belongs on a sexually frustrated middle-aged accountant,” Petra snapped. “But we all make mistakes, right?” “Shut up!” The kid knitted his brows like he was searching for something he’d forgotten. “Faggot.” He tried to spit it out with a sneer, but his stutter came back, making it sound like he was just trying the word out for the second time in his life. “What did you just call me?” Petra tapped his heels against the concrete. Click. “You heard me.” He stared through the windshield like the wipers fascinated him. “Oh, I heard you alright. I just didn’t realize suburban colleges sent their boojie motherfuckers into L.A. to state the obvious. Your daddy know he’s paying thirty grand so you can spend your Saturday night insulting a bunch of homeless kids?” “We’re n-not boojie—” “Please. You’re n-n-not boojie?” I bit my lip and looked away at the sign flickering above the taco

was something rigid in the way his face was set, his cheekbones hard enough to poke through the skin. I’d seen glimpses of that in the rangy feral cats we used to take inside during the winter, the ones that’d been beaten, when they felt cornered. “If you were out here, you’d have to get down on your knees and pay for anybody to want to touch you. Besides the priests, I mean.” Jeremy hooted and even Charlie’s shoulders shook, sending the collar rattling. The kid went full-on burgundy then, and the girls in the backseat started clutching hands again. Petra stuck his jaw out, but his shoulders were trembling something awful. He kept leaning further into the van, finally tottering on his heels, and the kid shrank back. His eyes darted between Petra’s mouth and his throat. “Get off, tranny!” Petra’s head whipped back, and he fell, clutching his nose. The kid had clocked him at close range. Petra’s wig went flying off, half landing in the gutter. I scrambled down to save it before it fell into the sewers and wiped the grime off. A bouquet of roses flew out the window in its wake, landing sprawled on the sidewalk. Petra hoisted himself to his feet and stalked back to the bench, wobbling all over and swearing worse than my dad, and the others followed. Bending down, I

plucked the three driest roses from the bunch, and tucked them into my jacket pocket. I sat down beside Petra on the bench, who was sobbing noiselessly and clutching his nose. The others had gone back to playing bullshit, eyeing him nervously. The last time he was in this state, Jeremy’s arm around his shoulders had set him off shaking for hours. He looked up at me, the eyeliner gone running around his eyes, but he didn’t push me away. “Why?” I saw the track marks on his arms and the bruises around his neck from where a john had grabbed him and I knew he wasn’t just crying about those assholes and their van. I rubbed my eyes and steeled myself because I didn’t want to go the same way. “I don’t know, Petra.” I lifted the wig and placed it gingerly on his skull, covering the muddy tufts of his hair. I teased the silicone through my fingers, working out the knots. He swiveled, his back trembling against me as he cried, and I combed the strands into three bunches and started weaving them together, plaiting roses in his hair to hide the stench of the sewer water. I wrapped an arm around his shuddering chest as we listened to the streetlights hum and the rush of the tires down the boulevard, all those lights zooming past us.

SUCCUMB arienne calingo

aman shahi, TWISTING TOWER

shop. “I’m about to pass out from your cologne! What did you do, bathe in it?” “Well, at least I’m not a...” He looked past us, up at the dead vines sprawling across the balcony above Chang’s Liquor, searching for the word. “...a homosexual fornicator.” “Fornicator?” Petra threw back his head and slapped his leather-clad thighs. A high laugh flew from his mouth, bordering on hysterical. “You can’t even say the word, can you? Is that what we are, guys, a bunch of run-of-the-mill fornicators?” “No, you’re right.” The kid eyed each of us in turn. I counted the acne scars streaking his forehead, so I wouldn’t have to see my reflection in the glassy whites of his eyes. Right then, my ankles twinged, but I knew that it was too late. His lip curled. “Fornicators don’t get paid.” Behind me, Jeremy sucked in his breath real quick. Petra stiffened, then recovered. “Oh, you bet they pay. Sometimes, they even beg.” Petra bent back and sized up the guy, letting his gaze linger a little too long on his lap. The guy fidgeted, but Petra wouldn’t let up. He shook his head finally and arched an eyebrow. “With you, it’d be the other way around,” Petra added, leaning in closer. He smiled, lipless. Maybe it was the way the overhead light hit him, but there

e.e. cumming( all over sheets of pages pressedtoget[her] by skin, fingering letters, finger tips tracing b {rack} et {s} … el (lips)is \backs\ lash, opening up for [e]nter pretation, his exclamation Mark’s screaming through s)ext.

A HAIR’S BREADTH AWAY henri watieu

A suspended glow, and I know because I swipe my hand beneath, and the sweep clears all roaming suspicion dwelling in the middle of the road or sitting on the fence. I sail against it, the ship’s bell swings, the ringing burns away the time, the anchor dives. I need a hold, somewhere. It’s losing me, it needs a static force, the gaseous flare is just a cloud. I need a hold, to rip it out and spew it but it passes over, withering, and I can’t make it mine. Shame, because it’s beautiful.

timothy markatos, SYNTHESIS

NO ONE THERE TO HEAR IT philip layfield

It had seemed so brave, so simple, back in the town square, with the light of the bonfire dancing over cracked old bricks. There had been laughter there, and boasting, and music a little out of tune as the players’ ale-dulled fingers slid, and sloppy kisses to be eagerly forgot come morning. And when he’d made his passionate appeal no one had been thinking straight enough to reason with him. There are no cowardly drunks. The tree was taller and broader than he’d ever imagined; it would’ve taken five of the lads to circle their arms around it, and ten atop each other’s shoulders to equal its height. The rest of the forest kept back from it, the oaks and elms drooping their aged, knotted limbs in reverence, moss hanging down like a curtain to veil things man was not meant to see. It stood atop a little hill within that ringshaped clearing, branches drooping out every which way as if the body of a bull had grown a thousand knobby spider legs some rejected child had decided to twist backwards. Dark eyes and dark feathers, their night-gloss reflecting the torchlight from the distant mob, hid among the half-fallen leaves, a murder of beaks and talons. But the place had earned its name for the

bodies. They swung slowly back and forth like the mayor’s mechanical clock, heavy and awkward and limp, twisting in a wind that seemed much colder in the deep woods than it had back in the village. Some were held by chains, others by hempen rope soaked and mouldering after the late summer rains, others by the tough braided gut the woodsmen traded. Some hung by their arms, some by their necks. Some had fallen to the ground, their ropes rotted through, to join the piles of bones at the base of the trunk. The cold wind blew again, carrying the thick scent of cloying decay. It was sickly sweet, like the batch of candy that peddler had gotten wrong. Several of the torches went out. Despite the wetness of the dead leaves underfoot, his mouth was dry as bone. When he cleared his throat, the speech he had practiced running all jumbled through his head, it echoed in the near-perfect silence. The only other sound was the rhythmic creak of ropes straining, the clink of chains swaying. He turned back toward the crowd and saw that the blacksmith’s apprentice had already run, the youth’s heavy, panicked footfalls and ragged

breathing breaking the stillness again. That settled it. This was his moment, his only chance to keep them to their purpose. If not now, they would not dare return. Their children’s children would not dare. “This is what we live in fear of,” he cried, and his voice sounded smaller, shriller, in his ears. “This is why we cut only dead wood and leave the blood of our sheep at the forest’s edge. It’s what our fathers taught us, and their fathers before them. But we are brave men, rational men, and the time for fear is over. It’s only a tree! It can be felled! Together we’ll show them-“ The apprentice’s scream stole his words and his breath; the wet, pulpy crunch that followed stole a flagon of ale and two of the harvest’s first apples, spattering them over the forest floor. For a moment his pleading eyes stared into theirs, all as wide and white-edged as those of a horse in a burning barn. And then they ran. Better their children’s children learned the tale from their shamed mouths than from their broken corpses, strewn throughout the wood. He stood there in the light of the waning moon, the smell of sweat and soiled breeches on

one side and the cold wetness of an open grave on the other. He knew that the forest stared into him, saw in him the one who had caused this breach of the ancient contract. It would not let him escape. He would be the next to swing from those branches. Lifting his lantern high in one sweat-slicked hand, he turned and advanced into the clearing. Though the oil was still full its light seemed to dim with each step he took, struggling to escape the polished glass panes. The sounds of the mob’s escape vanished from his ears. There was only the wind and the swaying. Mud stuck to his boots, dragging at him as he struggled forward, toward the Hanging Tree. He could see shadows at the far edges of the circle of trees, disjointed and malformed and impossible. He forced himself not to look. The base of the hill was rocky, its slope steeper than it had looked, pierced through with roots thicker than his carpenter’s arms that dove up from and into the ground like the coils of a sea serpent snaking its way through the waves. The whole of it was littered with bones, for he was beneath the furthest branches now. His boot struck a jawless skull and sent it rolling, rattling, down the hill, snapped a weathered thighbone, squelched as it crushed something he dared not look at. He was breathing hard when he reached the top, but his sweat was cold. All around

him he could hear wet-nosed snuffling and the heavy tread of cloven feet. He fixed his gaze on the massive trunk, blocking out the wall of matted, mangy fur and crude, rusted blades that advanced unevenly in the corners of his eyes. He put the lantern down in the long, wet grass and its light was smothered immediately. A mercy; with the many branches and their grisly adornments between him and the sky, the moon’s weak light barely reached him. He would see only flashes of his own end. Shrugging his burden from his shoulders, he unslung the long-handled axe his father had pressed into his hands at the age of seven. He turned it over and over in his strong, wellcalloused fingers and felt a moment’s flash of familiarity, of comfort. His own son would never have it now, but it would serve a worthy purpose. The trunk was rough, encrusted with lichens that even when wet tore skin that rubbed against them like jagged iron. The two-man saw would have served better, but strong as he was he couldn’t have carried it alone, much less used it properly. He would have to make do. In two hundred years, the people of Karynshafn had never felled a live tree. That custom would go on, but not for his lack of trying. His first stroke scattered chips of bark in every direction, several stinging his face and bare arms as they flew. He struck again and again, deepening the uneven wound in the wood, and

it was not fear that fueled his broad shoulders but anger. His wife and son would be told to forget him. Never again would the villagers speak his name, for fear of offending the dark things that closed in around him. Without him, they would not dare to intrude again.They were content to live in fear of the forest, bowing to the demands of the hateful things within. He was not. This was his stand; he had done what no one else had the courage to do. When he swung from those branches, twisting in the wind, he would wear a fierce smile.


kasia clarke, SLEEP

jacquelyn m. stolos

I’d never smoked before the summer that you came home. Smoking was for trash, the type of guys who dropped out to work in their dad’s garages and the type of girls they got pregnant. The kids who weren’t going anywhere. Not like me. Not you. But Meg, when you came home after four years away getting educated and urban, I noticed the yellow stains on your fingers and bought myself a pack. That summer, when you graduated with a Bachelors in a subject that no one here had never heard of and took the receptionist job at the Rockingham County Veterinary Clinic, I starting slinking away from whatever declawing I was supposed to assist around 10:15, when you took your first break. Behind the vet’s office, I’d try not to cough as you leaned against the brick and told me about the nights when you’d picked up the habit. It was midMay, a week after you’d stumbled home in a postgradate haze. I faced you and the building, trying to look casual balanced with one foot on the seat of a rusty picnic bench. In Paris, you said, you’d practiced your French outside of bars between hits of nicotine. Those nights, you said, looking past me towards the ravine that ran through town, were much more worth your while than all your classes that semester abroad. “Dylan?” You said my name like a question, turning your cigarette in your fingers. I threw mine to the ground.You were wearing

flip-flops again today even though Dr. Claudel had reprimanded you last week. “Do you like weddings?”You asked.You flicked your ash onto the cement. Last week in the parking lot, you’d explained to me how first dates and bathing suits reinforced gender norms as I pondered the soft skin around your collarbone. Our gendered behavior is a product of society, you’d said, telling me that I didn’t really like baseball. I guessed that weddings might do the same. “No,” I said. “I don’t like weddings.” “What about New York?” “Never been,” I said. I hoped that didn’t make me seem small. “I should bring you to my friend’s wedding in Manhattan this weekend,” You said, biting your lip and laughing. I twisted the toe of my sneaker in the dirt. My palms dampened. We went inside. I returned to brushing out cages as you answered phones. Between cleaning the mammal room and the reptile room I snuck back out to call my brother and ask if I could borrow his suit. I hoped you’d wear something green and tight. You look incredible in green. It’s your eyes, Meg. They’re like fucking emeralds. You didn’t mention it again before Friday, though I’d spent more time than usual hovering around the front desk. I passed the weekend rearranging my apartment and staring out my

window, avoiding the suit that hung over my closet door. You came into work Monday morning shining with the residue of the weekend. You whispered things into your cell phone like just a little time to figure things out and snapped at pet-owners who asked if you were studying to be a vet, and I started having a hard time sleeping. Then came those late-spring nights, when, while I waited to fall asleep, I could think of nothing besides you. I thought about how everyone had a theory about why you were home. About why you were working a job that only required a few years of high school after graduating from that fancy university. People whispered of nervous breakdowns, pregnancy, and drug abuse with smiles, like your homecoming was their victory. I thought about the deep breaths you’d take when we first stepped outside, before you lit your cigarette, and wondered if you’d just missed New Hampshire. Just missed the smell of home. Those nights, as I twisted and stretched to the drone of late-night television, I’d imagine that you’d come home for me. I’d imagine that you’d secretly wanted me all this time and that you were braving cat dander and small town monotony just to get close to me. As I pulled my pillow over my head to block out the wails of the baby in apartment 4C, I’d imagine you rising out of my creaky mattress beside me to nurse our future children. You’d have traded in the silks and laces that you’d slept in during our early

years for one of my t-shirts, but you’d look just as incredible. I knew, in those sleep-starved hours, I knew it was going to happen. I knew it from your smile, the way you played with your hair, the way you bit your lower lip every time we talked. I knew it from the way you laughed louder at my jokes than you did at anyone else in the office’s and from the way you always re-applied your chapstick when I walked by reception. I knew it from how you chewed through an entire pack of gum every morning and from the red of your broken nails and from that tiny freckle behind your ear. I knew it from the way that you always got to work a few moments before me, but then pretended to look for something in your car until I pulled into the spot next to you. I knew from the way you’d always say something bland like, oh hey Dylan, funny that we always get here at the same time, and then I would say something stale like, yeah, so funny. Race you here tomorrow? while I was really thinking something more along the lines of Jesus your hair smells good can I put my face between your tits? I just knew it, Meg. I knew it was going to happen. They’d written this story a thousand times before, binding it in thick leather or plastering it up on the silver screen. The ending had always been the same. We’d fall in love, get married, and live happily ever after.

While the sky outside my bedroom window turned from black to light grey, I’d roll to the dark corner of my bed and remember how in high school you used to wear tight jeans and tighter t-shirts. Even in the winter you made sure your top was thin enough for us poor teenage boys, starving for just a peek at a real, flesh-andblood female, to be able to guess the color of your bra. When you first came home from college you wore large, frizzy sweaters even in the mid-May heat. You’d looked smart, indifferent, and annoyed. It was a Tuesday in early June and the Sox were playing the Indians. We expected an easy win. Everyone was at Halligan’s besides you. I imagined you at home, sitting across the living room from your dad. You’d have changed into sweatpants and grabbed a book to read during commercials. I imagined you reading The Marriage Plot, though I knew you’d already read it. You’d recommended it me, learning back in your chair and tapping a pen against your teeth, telling me that it had changed your life. We all had beers except for Jake, who’d promised Whitney he’d go dry the whole nine months along with her. I hoped for the sake of the baby that Whitney didn’t sneak sips as often as Jake did. The Sox went up four to one in the fifth and conversation turned to you. How’s working with her, they asked. I told them you

were fine, you were great. Everyone wanted to know if you were on drugs, if you had flunked out, what Gender Studies was, and if we were fucking. I told them about you, filling in the blanks where I was unsure. I realized I knew a lot about what you thought about your mother’s garden, Josie’s divorce, and the books on Oprah’s list, but not about what you thought about you. The Sox scored another run and we ordered another round. Jake waved away his beer. “This is bullshit. You’re whipped.” Everyone said to Jake. “I’m almost a dad.” “But you aren’t yet. Top of the eighth!” Everyone pointed to the TV. I would have defended Jake, but I was too busy thinking about you. I pondered your chewed nails and the perfect little pimple that had just appeared on your nostril yesterday. I thought about how happy Jake was, taking care of Whitney. I could take great care of you. My salary at the clinic wasn’t much, but we’d make it work. Making it work was romantic, all the books and the movies said so. By the middle of June, you wore scrubs to the clinic and I was still having a hard time sleeping. We were eating lunch together every day by then, and you were checking your phone less often. Between carrot sticks you told me about the strange things your mother did now

that you were home, how you caught her crying as she watered the azaleas and talking to herself when she thought no one was around. You licked organic yogurt from your fingers and told me about the moment when you’d realized that every man you’d ever been with was just an imitation of your father. After that, I started reading Lord of the Rings and watching Star Trek since I knew he was into those kinds of things. You’d laughed one afternoon when you saw The Fellowship peaking out from underneath fast-food wrappers in my passenger’s seat. I didn’t realize that I was caught and embarrassed until I was a mile down North Broadway when the buzz of your attention wore off. You’d walked with me to my car, even though you were parked was across the lot. You wanted me; I knew it. I’d never exercised before the summer that you came home. Exercising was for jocks; the guys who’d captained teams in high school and grew up to coach the same teams while making ends meet teaching high school gym. The kids who were reliving their glory days. Not like me. Not you. But Meg, when you came into work with a Planet Fitness tag on your keychain, I went out and bought myself a membership. I preferred the elliptical machines to the weight room, but quit those once I realized I was the only ellipticizing man in the club. You laughed and told me how odd you thought it was that exercise

should be gendered, and I started getting on the elliptical next to you. “Dylan?” You said my name like a question, squirting water into your mouth. “Do you want to do abs or arms after this?” “Whatever you want.” I said. I wondered if you knew that your nipples were visible through your tank top. I wanted to ask you if I could bite them. I asked you if you wanted to do a circuit with triceps and obliques, instead. During the last week of June, as I learned against the reception desk and you slurped cheap iced coffee, you’d told me you didn’t talk to your high school girlfriends anymore. You claimed that they had stayed in New Hampshire to get engaged to the hockey stars while you went to school in St. Louis to exchange your contacts for thick-rimmed glasses, have drunken conversations about Nietzsche in French, and lose touch with the alumni association that appointed you chair of your class for your school spirit. “I just don’t have anything in common with them anymore,” you said. You bit your lower lip and pushed your breasts together with your arms. You glanced up at me to make sure I was looking. I looked. “I don’t know what to say to all those girls who got married out of high school. Their lives seem so small,” you said. I knew better. The crowd you hung out

with wasn’t the crowd that stuck around after high school. They were the kids that called my crowd townies when they came home for the holidays. Sure, Bailey had gone to school in state, but she’d made it down to Boston by now. Alan had made it all the way to California and the rest of you were sprinkled somewhere in-between. It was the first Thursday in July and the Sox were playing the Oriels. No one was too worried. Everyone was at Halligan’s besides you. I imagined you soaking in the tub, not worried that your book was getting soggy as you balanced it on your knees. You’d probably read it before. Darrel arrived late cursing his foreman. A week back from six months on disability and he’d been given the heaviest job. No respect, everyone said, no courtesy. We all shook our heads. The Sox went up five to three in the sixth and conversation turned to you. How’s working with her, they asked me. I told them you were fine, you were great. They wanted to know if you were on drugs, if you had flunked out, what Gender Studies was, and if we were fucking. I colored them a picture of you. I gave you the reddest lips and a flower in your hair. Someone hit a double and then no one was listening. I leaned back in my chair and thought about us. I knew it was going well and I knew it

was going somewhere. I knew it from the way you added an extra wiggle to your hips when we walked together and from the way you smelled at the gym. I knew it from your eyes and the tiny hairs above your lip.Things would happen. I knew how stories like ours went.

wanted to know. Were you a vet? “The current economic climate makes it difficult for recent grads to get jobs,” you said. You chewed through the words like cardboard. “I’m lucky.”

You went away for the fourth. Michigan or Minnesota they’d said, nobody really knew the difference. I brought my lawn chair to the Walmart parking lot for the fireworks and parade. We all sat around grilling burgers and drinking beer. High school kids set out blankets on parking lot medians and made out once it got dark. I tried not to look at them and thought about how you went with Curt Veering for a while in high school. He was a Marine now. Stationed in Germany or Prague. You returned to work on the sixth and didn’t smile when I brought you coffee. You told me you’d started a book. You wore heavy sweaters and a puzzled look like you had back in May. You went back to the expensive brand of cigarettes that you insisted upon lighting yourself. You checked your phone often, though it never lit up or buzzed. I imagined that, if it had, you would have whispered those same things into it. A pet owner asked if you weren’t Barry Costa’s daughter, the one that went to WashU. What were you doing at the clinic, she

On a Friday afternoon, I stopped next to you at the red light at the intersection of Skylark and Island Pond. Your forehead was pressed to the steering wheel and your torso shook like you were hiccupping. When the light turned green I pressed hard on the accelerator, leaving you there. The next week you were back in scrubs. You were even wearing crocs instead of flip-flops like Dr. Claudel had begged. You told me that writing books was for desperate people and asked if I still lived with my parents. I said no and you came over. You were disappointed that I didn’t have hummus or sesame kale chips but you stayed the night anyways. I bought an air-conditioner the third week of July. You were coming over after work, and I was speeding home ahead of you to turn up the air full blast and shower off the smell of kibble. I was throwing all my dirty clothes in my closet and smoothing the sheets on the bed before febreezing over the smell of dirty socks and hot dogs that steamed up from my carpet.

timothy markatos, UNTITLED

You didn’t fit right in my apartment. You looked odd and angular standing beside my wilted sofa. You’d always arrive half and hour after I expected you, and throw your bag against the wall, and ask for something to drink. You never wanted beer or lemonade. Just a water, please, no ice. After drinking half of your water, you would set the glass down, smile, then walk around to my side of the table to wrap your arms around my neck. I’d stand up and we’d walk to my bedroom where we’d have quiet sex, the type of stifled sex I imagined that parents had while their children were asleep. I’d fumble with your bra and you’d leave my socks on. We both tried to please ourselves with short, jerky motions and I could never tell when you came. You told me afterwards that you always did, little ones rolling in at long intervals. When I exhaled and rolled off of you, you’d report how many, usually two or three but sometimes a boastful five or a sad lonely one. You didn’t like to lie in bed long. You’d wiggle back into your jeans and stride out into the kitchen, claiming thirst. You’d drink the second half of your water much more slowly than you’d drank the first. I would tell you about things I’d been doing and you would tell me about things you’d been thinking. I spent my time with the same friends, seeing movies and playing poker.You spent your time twisting around on deck chairs and sofas, remembering.

On the Thursday that those thunderstorms rolled in and broke the July heat wave, you drank two glasses of water and we talked about melanoma. You told me you knew that you shouldn’t spend so much time slathering yourself with oil and spreading out a towel on the dark asphalt of your driveway, but you were struggling to make yourself care. Cooking yourself, you called it.You told me about how you were usually so good at doing things that were good for you. You’d spent your life going to bed early and organizing each day to fit in homework and socialization and exercise and rest.You’d been wearing a face cream with spf 15 everyday for three years now and you ate lots of vegetables. You’d always done community service and done yoga and done unto others as you would them do to you, but this summer, you’d been tanning, browning your outsides as your insides sizzled and steamed. “I know people who have had skin cancer. My aunt, Bailey’s mom,” you said. I thought about how each of your breasts was a tiny white triangle laid on the golden skin of your chest. When I’d unbuttoned your blouse I’d imagined you were still hot from the sun. “It’s no joke.” “Then just stop,” I said. “Just don’t tan tomorrow.” I pictured your third tiny triangle of pale. It frustrated me. I would make it through your jeans with all the buttons and zippers then past your panties only to discover another layer.

Even naked, you weren’t naked. You remained modest in a bikini made of skin tone and tan lines. Your nakedness seemed make-believe, nipples and hair magic-markered onto a pale string bikini. It was a joke I couldn’t figure out how to untie. “I can say I won’t. But I know I will. I can’t stop,” you said. “I’m just usually so good at doing things the right way. But, I mean, look where that’s got me.” I didn’t know how you wanted me to respond so I remained quiet, drawing circles on the back of your hand with my thumb. You didn’t react to my touch. You kept talking. “I did high school right. Turned in all my homework and participated in all the right activities to get into college. Then I went just how I was supposed to. I studied what I was passionate about like they said I should, and I studied real hard. Things were supposed to happen to me after that, but they didn’t. Just like how nothing will happen to me if I keep baking myself. I won’t get cancer.” You rolled your eyes. “Sorry, I’ll shut up,” you said. “I’m being crazy. Of course I’ll get cancer. Everyone gets cancer.” “I mean, you look great,” I said. “Shut up. I’m killing myself, slowly roasting to death” You sipped your water. “I think I’ll pick up a rotisserie chicken for dinner tonight,” I said. “I hate you,” You said, smiling.

It was a late-July Wednesday and the Sox were playing the Cardinals. We were jumping out of our seats and spilling our beers at every play. Everyone was at Halligan’s besides you. I imagined you in your bed, one hand holding a thin paperback close to your face and the other burrowing deep under your sheets. You were careful to be quiet because your parents were home. Roger leaned over to glance at my phone. “He’s texting her again.” The Sox tied it up in the seventh but conversation turned to you. Just spill man, they said, grabbing at my phone. I told them you were great, you were fine. They wanted to know if you were on drugs, if you had flunked out, what Gender Studies was, and how often we were fucking. I laughed and told them nothing. We won in the eleventh inning and I bought everyone another round. Roger slapped me on the back and took away my keys. I woke up in my clothes and with a missed call from you. The second week in August my air conditioner unscrewed itself and fell out of my window. It had landed with a crash that sent the neighborhood dogs into a frenzy. You came over the next day after work. My thermostat read

eighty-eight and you drank your whole glass of water immediately. In the heat you were loud and restless. I didn’t need help counting your orgasms because with each you let out a low grunt and gritted your teeth. We had to use the sheets to wipe the sweat from our bodies before you wiggled back into you jeans. At the kitchen table you sniffed your second glass of water. The entire apartment reeked of sex. I got up and closed the bedroom door, but our hands, our bodies were still thick with odor. We smelled so human that we reminded ourselves of animals. When you left there were still a few sips of water, warmed by the heat of the apartment, left in your glass.

everything you’d said to me that day. I’d kick of the tangle of my sheets, thinking up the witty, sexy remarks that I couldn’t get out while sitting across from you at lunch. Alone in my apartment, I was brilliant. You’d told me that you felt like a bad American because, though you’d read books and books on Degas’ nudes, you knew nothing about what happened in our country between the Civil War and World War I. Staring at the water-stain on my ceiling, I though about how I should have told you that most American didn’t even consider that anything happened between those wars. The ignorant ones, the townies. Not like me. Not you.

You were busy, you said while you filed your nails with the phone balanced between your ear and the crook of your neck. It was the third week in August and our euthanasia supplier had put you on hold. You were working on your book that day after work and the next you had a Skype date with a friend interning in Hong Kong. Maybe Thursday or next week. I made sure to invite you over only on cool days, worried the smell of my hand-me-down sofa would seep up in the heat, driving you farther away. On those hot nights, while I was lying in bed contemplating if I should get up to turn on the fan or just wait a few hours for the heat of the day to seep out of the air, I would recall

It was a Saturday in late August and the Sox were playing the Yankees. The crowd at Halligan’s was thinning. When the Yanks went up 7-3 in the bottom of the eighth you tugged on my sleeve, asking if I’d drive you home. We hadn’t slept together in two weeks, but you were still smiling at me. On the first Wednesday in September you threw a pen at me as I passed reception and told me you’d forgotten your lunch. Kids were back in school, the entire town smelled sickly sweet of apples, and the tourists were starting to come around. The apple capital of New Hampshire, kids joked as they threw the rotten

ones at cars with Mass plates. “I hate ordering in. I want something fresh.” The smell of your hair was unfamiliar. I wondered if you’d switched shampoos. “What do you want?” “Just something fresh.” You hadn’t mentioned your book in a week. We hadn’t slept together in three. “Okay. I’ll drive.” I snuck a tic-tac before we left. I knew from the way that you swung your shoulder as you led me to my car that you wanted me. That this was how the story would end. You made me turn off the air conditioning and roll the windows down all the way. You told me to take lefts and rights down streets I’d never even noticed. I imagined that you’d been this way a million times before. I imagined you at sixteen, speeding through these back roads in a car full of loud friends and empty beer cans. We hadn’t had the same friends in high school, but the school was small enough that I knew their faces, their parents, the gossip about their aunts. We parked and you had guided me up a grassy path only wide enough for tractors. “Are we allowed to be here?” I said, looking left, then right, then left. You had plucked an apple off a tree and took a crisp bite. You offered it to me. I bit in even though I thought Red Delicious was much too sweet. I preferred Cortlands.

“When I was away at school I used to tell people I grew up on an apple orchard.” You had unlaced your shoes then dug your toes into the grass. “They loved hearing stories about making apple cider and winning apple pie contests at the county fair.” “Funny what people think about New Hampshire.” You were silent. It made me nervous, watching you look past me. At school, you’d become one of those people who think funny things about New Hampshire too. But I still knew it. I knew it when I got up at 3 am for water and imagined bringing you back a glass, too. I knew you didn’t think that you were here back permanently, just a stint between college and real life, but I was sure of how stories like these ended. “They’re not too far off. I mean, I’ve gone to the Deerfield fair every year of my life.” You wrinkled your nose. “There was definitely an apple pie contest.” “And I bet you could win that apple pie contest.” I said. “Have you ever tried to make an apple pie, Dylan?” “No, Hostess makes them good enough for me.” I said. You wrinkled your nose. “My mom and I tried to make an apple pie once. We sliced over a dozen apples and

covered them in sugar and cinnamon,” you said, stroking your stomach under your scrubs. “We heaped them in the ready made crust and made a grid of dough strips on top of them. It was beautiful.’ “See you totally could’ve won.” I said. I wondered if you were trying to tell me you wanted me to put my hand under your shirt. “I’m not finished. When we took it out of the oven all the apple slices had shrunken down. There was no delicious heaping mass. The pie was flat.” “Well, did it taste good?” I said. “I don’t remember.” You turned away from me and looked down at the ground, plucking up fistfuls of grass then releasing them to float back towards the earth. I tried to imagine what could be so upsetting about flat apple pie but was distracted by how pretty you were when you were thinking about something sad. I thought about leaning in to kiss you, but as I was contemplating if I should lift your chin up with my hand or twist my head down under yours, you looked up to the sky and started to laugh. “Where are we?” I said. “I can’t believe I’ve never been here.” “Hamilton, New Hampshire. America.” You giggled and punched my shoulder. “We’re in one of Rockingham Orchard’s back fields. The corner near the Frost farm.”

“Have you ever been in the Frost farm?” I had. I had broken in on a summer night, maybe sophomore year, with a water bottle full of stolen liquor and a gang of boys who I didn’t know would be my friends for the rest of my life. We sat on a bed too short for any adult to lie on without his feet dangling off the end and passed the crinkled bottle, taking swigs and talking about what we wanted and would surely get. I was the smart one so I would be a doctor, or perhaps a lawyer if I got tired of all that school. Darrel, with his half smile and shining eyes, would make buckets money and have a supermodel for a wife. Roger, tortured and vain, would be a famous novelist. Jake was sure he’d die young and alone. We agreed. We also agreed that the quilt below us was most certainly a reproduction and that this might be the bed that Frost screwed his wife in. When the bottle was empty we remembered all of Frost’s poetry we’d been storing up since recitations for annual Frost Festivals or fifth grade book reports and took turns showing off. I’d shattered a porcelain chamber pot while flinging my arms open and exclaiming “The woods are lovely, dark, and deep!” “No.” You said. “I’ve never been in there.” You’d been to college, to Europe, and this hidden orchard before me, but, with the Frost farm, I had one up on you. I thought about kissing you again, Meg, but couldn’t figure out the logistics.

You rolled the windows up on the way home and made me turn on the air conditioning and the radio. You directed me back to work with less winding rights and lefts. We took main roads back, passing that shopping center they were putting in where they took down the old tavern. The Sox didn’t make it to the playoffs, but we all went to Halligan’s anyways. Everyone but you. I’d had never met anyone who’d gone to boarding school until the November your friends came to visit. Everyone said they were from Connecticut or Dubai and no one gave a fuck about the difference. You’d quit your job at the clinic and Cocoa Littleton had taken your place, bringing me cookies and gossip about my own mother. I preferred your jumpy, uneven conversation. I ran into you and your friends in the freezer aisle on a rainy Tuesday. You were back to your big sweaters and sad eyes. It always was your eyes, Meg. Like big, juicy emeralds. I wanted to suck them out when they looked this sad. “This is Dylan,” you said nodding your head towards me. I waited for their snorts of recognition, for a wink or a smile. “Nice to meet you,” I said. “What brings you to Hamilton?” “Just visiting Meg,” a girl with frizzed

hair down past her waist said. “Just checking up on her.” “What do you do?” the other girl asked me through a thick lipstick. “I work at the Veterinary Clinic. The one Meg used to work at. You?” “I spent the summer after we graduated volunteering at an orphanage in Uganda. Now I’m just traveling. Taking a little time to figure things out, you know?” I noticed a burgundy smudge on her tooth. “I didn’t know you worked at a vet’s office, Meg,” said the longhaired one. “Aren’t you writing?” “Yeah,” Meg said, turning towards the frozen edamame to signal it was time to move on. “You know, working odd jobs doing research for the book. Experiencing humanity. Nice running into you, Dylan.” I watched you walk away, waiting for one of your friends to elbow you or giggle. Is that the Dylan, I expected them to whisper. The three you were stoic, discussing the merits of different brands of edamame. I realized you’d never mentioned me to them. You’d never sent any texts asking for advice about that Dylan from work or called looking for consolation when it was over. I wondered if you’d even mentioned that you were seeing someone. Or just sleeping with someone. Frozen peas were on sale. I grabbed three bags with nicotine-stained fingers.

She flutters her eyelashes against my ears. “My, my, how you have aged over the years! Tell me, is your soul still passionately dull? Why have you been tempted into this life’s lull? Another stillborn captive to youthful fears?”

money, they cut their hair short, the smell too deep for a shampoo fix. Drenched love and rubber overalls, frost and guts, salty kisses…

She dangles my compass from her hand, “Turn your eyes to that impending land. You strive for better, your heart wants more. Does it matter if that is Ithaca’s shore? Let me show you lust upon the burning sand.” I want to set myself free and say, “I was not destined to die this way! I have seen kings drop like flies in turn, Seen the topless towers of Ilium burn! Beat still my heart, do I die today?”

Allison Kim, KNOTS

She places her claws upon my breast. “Now is your time, your time to rest. Let Eurylochus or Perimedes take their charge! Let someone else bear the burden on this barge! The war is over, you have passed the test.”

timothy markatos, BLACK HOLE

brian fritzsche


The salmon never stopped squelching, one after the next. All summer she scraped guts and ate scraps. They had no heads, it was nothing personal – In Alaska with a guy, an odd three month date. Through flipped guts she would see his face, beaming across the slime line. They made decent

She beats her wings aboard my mast. “Follow me, follow me, the die is cast! Your wife, your son, dead are they! Gone with Agamemnon, gone away! Break down, love someone else at last!”


Come back to Truro in August if you can... It took me years to find my way back to Truro in August. To heed the suggestion in the opening lines of a poem that I found in one of my father’s notebooks. Four years after he died -- years that saw me move out of the house that he died in, my sisters grow into real people and my mom begin dating again -- my sister Emma and I packed up my car and returned to Cape Cod. We packed sundresses and sneakers first, getting them out of the way. Then we packed books and notebooks. Pens and reading glasses. I guess I could say old habits die hard, but my father forbade me to use clichés. ********** I come from an entire family of writers, though they’d never admit it. My mom has found herself empowered by the technological revolution and now writes exclusively in text messages and emails. Enraged by the injustice of the Holmdel Recreation Department for double-booking a soccer field or insulted the audacity of Verizon

to leave her on hold for twenty whole minutes, she breaks out some wine, gets herself good and drunk and rattles off a five hundred word email. She returns to the work in the morning for some quick edits before she -- click -- sends it out. Hemingway would be proud. She reserves texting for her more personal messages. Here, she’s pioneered a special brand of her own innovative diction as well: hi hon. sad state of affairs that i am grinning like an idiot cuz a chick on wheel of fortune won a convertible... supaluza ur mom If you asked her though, she’d probably tell you she was a nurse. My sisters fancy themselves the local street artists of our suburban New Jersey hometown. They tag wall paper in doctor’s offices, shelves in the school library, the refrigerator in my apartment. When we were younger, Emma once wrote on the ceiling of my dad’s old Volvo in permanent marker: Emma was here. Of course, I got blamed for it and was sentenced to a day of cleaning and waxing his car. Now 18, somehow Emma hasn’t gained

much more subtlety in her writing. Mary, on the other hand, currently 12, attempts to conceal evidence of her authorship. Just last year, she wrote on the wallpaper in my bedroom at home: My name is Kate. I love Mary and I hate Emma. Love, Kate. Immediately identifying her large, clunky, fifthgrade handwriting, I attempted to have a serious discussion with her about the facetious note. Why would anyone believe that I would write “Love, Kate” on my own wall? Why would I have to hate Emma to love her? She just shrugged. It was there and it was staying. Yet, if you asked either of my vandalism-happy sisters, they would tell you that they hate writing. My father might have actually told you he was a writer, if you had asked. All that’s left of him in our house is his shoe-shining kit and a cabinet that exists just to house his linen paper and good pens. My mom gave everything else to Goodwill. No one shines shoes anymore. On five pages of unlined ivory Crane stationary, my father wrote me a letter that my mom gave to me after he died. His scrawling penmanship is perfectly uniform and without


kate brody

a single mistake. I often wonder if he had to rewrite any pages. Dearest Kate, By now you’ve tasted the bittersweet irony that becomes one of the dominant flavors of life. You’re smart enough too, to understand how little of life you’ve yet to know. A product of the 50s, of his FBI father’s “spare the rod and spoil the child” upbringing, Jim Brody was tough, frank, hard-working. My mother, all sweetness and light, married him at 23 and had little in the way of a personal history that preceded our family. She moved straight from college into marriage. My father was a different story. One that I didn’t hear for many years. I sometimes feel that life should have been less of a struggle for me. Seems like I fought a battle, small or large, around nearly every corner. Never tall enough to take advantage of the occasional “ally oop.” Darwin was not wrong. Maybe he didn’t get it all figured out, but the theory finds profound purchase in much of life even though it leaves one flat ultimately. Not that I’m not sincerely grateful for the many kindnesses and generosities family and friends have given me. But life is what you make of it and that means what you win by competition. Make no mistake about that girls. Still, there are endless ways to compete.

He was 37 when he married my mother. In the two decades between his own father’s premature death and his union to my mother, he had been many men. While I knew he graduated from Brown, I had no idea that he majored in English. As my grandmother tells it, junior year he had a change of heart, dropped his pre-med classes and decided that he was going to be a novelist at the recommendation of a few professors with whom she would very much still like to have a word. While he was alive, my father had allowed us to assume that he was a Biology major. Then again, in my letter, he confesses to his eldest daughter, “your own father made a life’s act of lies.” Blame me if you feel like it, bad mouth me if you care to, but it will be your problem if you let my flaws subtract from your life. Forgive me my sins -- honestly there was no malice . Find the beauty and the wonder of God’s gifts in your life each and every day. Love as I have loved you. (Even more). After college, he played triple-A baseball for the Indians, modeled for Ford in Europe, taught high school biology at a Catholic boys school in New York. Anything to pay the bills. And when he finally decided to go to medical school, he was already thirty. He had an English major from a hippie school in Rhode Island and eight-year stale recommendations.

With few choices, he accepted a spot in a Spanish medical school in Pamplona. He didn’t speak a lick of Spanish. Listen most carefully to the silence. Feel it best in places you can’t touch. Taste it while you may. I always understood that my father was a logophile; he was pushy about it. Even still, he had a reverence for dictionaries that surpassed reason. I have a theory that it was in Spain where this regard for them as sacred texts took root. When I was young, he received a Spanish-English dictionary as a gift from a patient who was grateful for his translating services. He brought it home and showed it to my mother in the kitchen while I sat at the table, doing my homework. “Look at this,” he said, holding it open on his forearm, flipping through the pages as she watched on. “Can you believe this?” “That’s nice,” my mother said. “Who is that from?” “One of my patients,” he said, brushing off the question. “Kerry, look though. Look how big this font is. Why would anyone make the font that big? This is garbage.” It was a strange moment and I remember being confused by the personal insult he had obviously taken from the dictionary’s font size. He knew that if you made a dictionary with words that big, you’d never had enough room for

a whole language, let alone two. It was an affront to his vocabulary. Life, I still feel, is meant to be lived deeply and enthusiastically. When I erred, which was often, it was usually on the side of adventure. In Spain, my father took all his classes in Spanish, teaching himself the medicine and the language simultaneously. He was obsessive, writing out translations for full pages of his textbooks repetitively. Over the course of two years, he rose to the top of his class and transferred to Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in the states. Take the time girls to do it right. Getting there, slowly, surely is all the fun. Nobody can fool you about what really counts if you only step back and think. Nothing’s more rewarding than the tender crafting of your life, be you mother, entrepreneur, zoologist or schoolteacher. I thought it was amazing that he spoke four languages and could communicate with the hospital patients better than any of the other physicians, but when I was in middle school, he explained the stigma of his academic history to me. The fact that he began graduate school in Europe made him inferior in the eyes of the other doctors. For Jim Brody, The Jim Brody, child prodigy, nationwide high school German scholar, Ivy League student-athlete, it was a serious blow.

One that he never stopped trying to compensate for it at work. In the hospital, he was a teacher first and a doctor second. Year after year, he won the residents’ award for best professor, always striving to provide them with lessons outside of the hospital, bringing in speakers, even dragging me into an exam room once when I was home sick with a particularly nasty case of strep so that his students could stare down the back of my throat with tiny flashlights and wooden tongue depressors. Every third Saturday (when he was oncall), I would get up with my dad at at six am. We’d drive to the bakery where I got a huge cookie for breakfast (we didn’t tell Mom) and head to the hospital. A regular feature in the ICU, I was jokingly referred to as the hospital’s youngest resident. I knew the entire nursing staff and all the secretaries who would ask me about school and laugh at how much I looked and spoke like a tiny version of Dr. Brody. During grand rounds, I learned how to listen to patients’ breathing with a stethoscope, how to check pulses, what questions to ask to gauge someone’s level of pain. In short, I was my father’s apprentice. “Jim,” a young doctor said once when I joined him for rounds on a Saturday. “Do you really think this is an appropriate thing for your daughter to be witnessing?” I was nine at the time, dressed in

one of my father’s oversized lab coats and my freshly shined black little girl shoes. I had spent all morning running down the linoleum hallways just to keep up with my dad’s swift strides. Now, we were standing in the room of a female patient who was in a permanent vegetative state. Her eyes rolled back in her head and her skin was a grayish yellow. Tubes shoved down her nose and jammed into her arms connected her to a series of machines by the wall. Above the cacophony of heart rate monitors and the steady whoosh of her ventilator, I could hear each of her desperate labored breaths. “Kate is fine,” he replied to his coworker, turning back to me and explaining what a nasogastric tube was. “What do you think about leaving patients like this on life support?” he asked me. My father didn’t believe in sugar-coating things for children, at least not for oldest children, and he always spoke to me as he would have spoken to a small adult. “Would you want to come into a meeting for the ethics committee one of these weekends and let them know what you think?” he asked me. My father was a big believer in “from the mouths of babes.” “Okay,” I said. Ultimately, the committee shut it down. He was the chairman, and it was a conflict of interest, never mind inappropriate. I was secretly glad; I didn’t like public speaking. Kate struggles to make the world

adhere to her own internal code. Obviously she is bound to endure bruised knuckles as well as bruised feelings. Her emotions will often direct her path, to her excitement and to her dismay. She thrills me at times, worries me at others. His teaching wasn’t confined to the hospital. At home, he ran dinner-table conversations like he was working off of a lesson plan, quizzing my sisters and me on current events, vocabulary, social studies, you name it. And when he got sick, it only got worse. My father had to take some time off work for the chemo. The leisure time didn’t suit him. He read the entire Physician’s Desk Reference cover-to-cover, sent my mom on impossible scavenger hunts for obscure books, even hooked himself up to a portable oxygen tank and tried to make a run for it once to “pick up a few things from the hospital.” My mom flipped. Bored and stir-crazy, he invented a thousand academic experiments of which Emma and I were the guinea pigs. It drove me insane. I need to beg your indulgence for my painful shortcomings. My temper and the rough way I tried to teach you things remind

me too much of my own father. I should have been better able to overcome those aspects of paternal instruction that make me wince in memory. His logophilia exploded all over our house. Everywhere were little yellow Post-it notes penned in his meticulous handwriting and stuck to surfaces in places I might find them. One read, “‘Much is expected from those to whom much has been given’ Luke 12:49.” Another: “1. Salubrious, 2.Treacly, 3. Sanguine, 4. Je ne sais quoi, 5. Draconian.” I discovered Post-it notes on my door, on my dinner plate, and on my notebooks, knowing that he expected me to look up these words and phrases, memorize their definitions, and prepare thoughtful sample sentences to share with my family at the table. At this point, I was in middle school, and the days of my Daddy’s Little Girl idolization were numbered. These activities began to feel condescending, a seemingly constant reminder of my academic inadequacy. Yet I obliged my sick, eccentric father and grudgingly participated in his scholastic initiatives, although “cheating” occasionally by looking up terms online rather than manually in one of his precious dictionaries. According to him, you didn’t learn the word if you didn’t have to really search for it within the pages of the Oxford English. While I slaved away behind the worn

navy cover of his bible looking up the definition for aplomb or curled up in between couch cushions refusing to enjoy A Separate Peace, he quietly began his own writing projects. My father never owned his own computer. We had a family computer that I tried to teach him to use to no avail. He couldn’t master double-clicking. (Click. Pause, two, three. Click. “Kate Ann, this machine doesn’t work.”) Instead, he wrote everything out longhand, even articles that he was working on for medical journals, passing his papers along to Kathleen Casey, his secretary of a decade who painstaking typed everything out for him. I assumed, when I saw him emaciated from the treatment, hunched over his desk, reading glasses teetering on the tip of his nose, scrawling out pages upon pages of text, that this was what he was doing. I had no idea that he was writing us letters. Kate - love well and wisely. And when he pulled small moleskine journals out of his back pocket, somehow I chocked it up to a great word that had popped into his head, or assumed that he was jotting down a quick note of something that he needed to tell the residents when he got back to the hospital. I never could have guessed the introspection and doubt that was filling those tiny pages. Friends fade into the distance as new ones come into focus, but none compare to

your soulmate. That’s why there’s only one in the world. Her preciousness makes you eagerly put all your chips in without even a thought about winning. Time and earnest work mold you both inextricably into one. Otherwise, your heart will break and you may never be whole again. Two weeks before my father died, as my mother and I were in the car, she told me that he was not continuing with treatment. No more hospitals. Apparently, no one else was surprised by this news. It had been three years and it seemed obvious even to Emma. He had lost an entire lung with the first surgery, half of the second when the cancer came back, and most recently, he had undergone cranial surgery to remove a large tumor from his brain where the disease had metastasized. Once a burly Irish boxer, my father now weighed less than I did at fourteen. His t-shirts, stained with blood and vomit hung on his gaunt frame as if from a hanger. The pink skin on his chest and scalp was blistered from radiation, a huge pink scar ran in a deep six-inch crevice down his bald skull, and a small machine that he carried in a shoulder bag constantly drained fluid from the open wound on his chest where a breastbone should be. Still, it had never occurred to me that my dad dying was even a possibility.

I shall be mightily disappointed if you do not make sure you are happy. Because it is within your grasp, because it is your duty, to smile and make the world a brighter place, to let that inner light shine so that others may know how wonderful life is. Bear your cross cheerfully so that you and others will know what a blessing it truly is. Remember t h a t those who have gone before you are where they always wanted to be, that they are at p e a c e , that they expect you to be happy. After his funeral in May 2006, my mom gave me the letter. It was the end of my freshman year of high school. By the last line of the fourth page, I realized that these were the last new words I would ever heard from my father. He was gone and I finally knew it. I savored the last page of that letter the way you read the last chapter of a great book, knowing that once you’ve read it, it will never be new again. You can’t unread it. It will just be over. It wasn’t difficult to stifle myself in those odd moments when I was briefly tempted to bare my soul to you. I have come to understand that you already accept me with all my warts. Your love gives me great peace. The letter was beautifully written. It rewrote his death as a planned occurrence,

a bittersweet passing. Reading it, I fell into its seductive haze of his words and forgot, momentarily, that his death had been a rather violent affair. A fall alone in his bedroom on Mother’s Day caused him to bleed out on to the armchair next to the bed. He was unconscious by the time we found him, but he hung on for several hours in that state before the last of his organs ground its activity to a halt. My grandmother was there, my aunt was there. He lay in bed, eyes glazed over, his breathing shallow and imperceptible, punctuated by desperate, wheezing gasps that unnerved the entire room. Mary, six at the time, crawled into the bed and read him a picture book from her collection. She’s always been braver than me. Mary owes much to her sisters. Still, her own spirit already exceeds her small body, her laughter too hearty for one so small. But you best catch Mary in those moments when her brow furrows and her mind whirs behind darker blue eyes. She has brought so much to us all. We love our baby. As we waited there for the end, I tried to remember the last thing that I said to him or him to me, but I couldn’t. I had been avoiding him for weeks. I know that several days prior I had dropped off some food for him. He was in the

armchair before it had been stained red-brown with his blood. As I turned to leave, he asked, “Kate, am I scaring you?” “No,” I lied. “You’re not.” I walked out of the room. I hope those weren’t our last words, but I can’t be sure. Can you will yourself through each and every difficulty? Should you be tempted to try? If you’ve been lucky, experience teaches selfreliance and confidence. If life’s been unkind, more the sense of dependency, maybe even helplessness. But my soul will not allow that this is caprice, accident, luck, chance. So I must conclude that it is both. For months after his death, I kept the letter folded in thirds in the inside pocket of a large handbag with the three-fold picture frame that my aunt Megan had given me at the wake. The frame was a silver number about the size of a matchbox with two sets of hinges that allowed it to fold up neatly. Inside were three pictures of my dad, two from work, one from a formal function that he had attended with my mother. In one, he is addressing his students, unaware that a picture is being taken. All business. In the other two, he smiles up at the camera from opposite angles, his light blue eyes reflecting the light of the flash. You can see his dimples and, in one picture, even the tiny hole in his cheek from where an angry classmate had stabbed him with a compass

in high school. I folded his face back on to itself three times and did the same with his words, keeping them in symmetry just under my arm all day in case I needed him. Ah Kate, my sweet honey -- so beautiful and so bright, so strong and so pure, so clumsy (I’m sorry). How I miss you so -- my heart breaks even now as I think of the day when I will hold you no more. I began digging at home, shamelessly trying to find the rest of the letters. The ones that weren’t addressed to me. When my mother left the house (which was rarely in the months after he died), I snuck into their walk-in closet, investigating for all traces of him. I craved his voice. I needed to know that there were things that he had left to say. You’re never alone. On one of these expeditions, I found a stack of black and brown moleskine notebooks and a pocket calendar. I recognized them immediately as the kind that my father used to write in. So I took them all. The pocket calendar was 2005-2006. He had written down things for appointments in May and June that he would never live to attend. He had circled my mother’s fortieth birthday, May 12, 2006, two days before the day he would die. “Call Megan,” he had written. For my

mother’s birthday, he gave her a gold watch that his sister Megan helped him to pick up from the store. On the back he had engraved a heart with an arrow through it. Above the heart, her initials: KB, below it, his: JB. I briefly thought about taking the watch from her room. My dearest honey, never have you looked or felt so good to me as you do today. Truro air and light surround and bathe you as though you were born in it. I dedicate myself to you, my trivial suffering offered as a token of my fierce determination to stay at your side. I promise every moment to live up to the honor and pleasure of being your husband.

“Then I don’t care. And I don’t want to talk about it.” My father was going to tell Emma and Mary when they were old enough. But then, he died. Emma has since found out. It felt to her like a brutal betrayal. If I have any say in it, Mary’s fragile memory of her father will be left unblemished. She doesn’t need to know. Let his letter to her rewrite history; let it fill in the cracks. I have little notion of the female despite a fair range of experience. But I know firsthand and well the side of man that is cruel. Only a woman could accept this bargain. Only a woman could save such a piece of work.

Putting aside the calendar, I opened one of the journals. The first page read: Ryan, my son. I took a sharp intake of breath. The words hit me like a whip. Ryan, my son. When I was thirteen, my parents both sat me down at our kitchen table and informed me that my father had an illegitimate son, Ryan, a boy just a few years older than myself. My father asked me if I wanted to know about him or meet him or if I had any questions. I didn’t. “He’s not in your life?” I asked. “Not really,” my father replied tentatively. “We’re your family?” “Of course.”

Ryan, my son. Ryan, my brother. While Emma received this news and struggled to find out The Truth about this family, I strived to cover it up, to hold up my letter as reality, to shout: “Look it says so right here! We were perfect. We were all perfect.” Ryan. Undoubtedly, it was with him in mind that my father wrote in his letter to me, “a moment’s indiscretion may prove terribly costly.” The reopening of this wound forced me for a moment to consider putting my father’s things back before they revealed truths about him that I didn’t want to face. I didn’t want to think about the older brother I didn’t know. Or the fact that we both lost a father. The same father. I didn’t want to think about him having a name or how backwards it was that what theoretically

should have been a source of comfort became a source of additional pain. I considered stopping there. I was violating my dad’s efforts to control our memory of him laid out neatly in those four separate envelopes. But I simply put this notebook at the back of the stack and quickly found in the next journal a passage that seemed to encourage my snooping: My girls must think it queer that I sit quietly scribbling in this peaceful place, far from my usual notebooks and disciplines. I’m sure they try to understand in ways that take a lifetime to but partly grasp that I’ve already started to leave them well before I’m gone. Silly to want to leave behind these scribblings - an old man’s keepsake to perhaps share absentmindedly with their own children some day.

vacation, in Truro, possibly the sleepiest little beachy town on Cape Cod, where we went every summer. I flipped past his amateur drawings and dark introspections about his own abusive father to a poem for my mother: Kerry, my love, the only woman I have ever loved, my soulmate, my sanity, my sanctity, my wife, mother of my children. Please hold me tight to you your strength sustains me I cannot stand without you Please forgive my sins I love you

My children who he will never meet. With this half-endorsement, I pressed on into the great unknown of his personal journals. I offer you little or no wisdom -- that is a prize only you can win. What I give you is my love. There will be days when my love won’t seem like much. You may wonder just who that strange man was, your father. How could you not have seen better?

On either side of this entry: notes about dosages, topics for discussion at upcoming ethics committee meetings, favorite quotes and to-do lists that included vague directives like: “play with Mary, read with Emma, be with Kate.” Each page addressed someone else: me, my mom, Emma, Mary, all of us as a unit. It became increasingly unclear if he wanted these journals found or who he expected to find them. He was dying, and he knew it in the journals just as he knew it in our letters. He wrote down the exact sound of Emma’s laugh, compared her to the ocean, to her mother, “constant and good.”

Sketches of a seal that he had drawn from the shore appeared on full pages, making it clear that much of this writing was done on

Emma is cool sweetness to all in her orbit. She naturally guides other spirits to peaceful places, skillfully and quietly. At times she tempts me to consider her my favorite- I think because she embodies so much of her mother’s beauty and grace. He wrote about Mary, then four years old: Mary inquires (precociously as usual) about my scribblings. What am I writing about? Who is it for? The only explanation that she’ll consider is that it’s sort of a secret. I laughed reading this passage. I laugh now rewriting it. So perfectly Mary. I imagined him writing these things, sitting just feet away from me on the sand with thick white sunscreen in indiscriminate clumps on his nose and forehead, un-rubbed in. The way it used to drive my mom crazy. I wanted to hear his husky voice read those words, prove that they were his. I didn’t want his life lessons, doled out in vague axioms. I missed him so specifically. The way the skin on his thick paws hardened into yellow callouses in the spring time from gardening. The way his chest rose and fell under my head when we’d watch movies on the couch on some lazy Sunday afternoon. The way he smelled on weekends like lawnmower gasoline and sweat. The way he smelled after work like antiseptic and cologne. The visceral. The immediate. The things

his words couldn’t save. So I went back to Truro. After four years, I went back to the spot where he had sat next to me with a leather notebook on his lap and a pen in hand. There, Emma and I sat together on the sand facing the cold New England water that the same black seal still haunted. I remembered an entry from one of his journals dated August 6, 2004, my thirteenth birthday. We had celebrated it on the Cape, like always. He got me a pair of blue earrings and a orange skirt. My sisters made a cake and we put on some old records and danced on the porch. He was such a great dancer. Happy Birthday Kate. You’ll forever be cradled in my arms high atop an old Truro hill overlooking the vast expanse of the Atlantic. Unfolding the worn creases of the letter that I had brought with me for the trip, I re-read the last lines from the ivory page even though I had memorized them. When you should think of me, don’t judge me too harshly. I always loved you more than I could say. Dad.



Come back to Truro in August if you can Let this place serve for one of those essential interludes for reflection and renewal. Clear your minds of the residue of regret and recrimination. Look out over the ocean up and down the beach And realize how much is out there ahead of you and down around the bend Be tickled by your imagination And laugh Just know in that instant To look out and see Emma idly bobbing in the surf her eyes meeting mine and we discreetly waved. Mary takes my order for surfside drinks and requires only a smiling face or my napkin as payment Kate, much like me, is content, to sit and read, keeping quiet company. Kerry shepards and cements us We would surely wither and fall apart without her.

bassam sidiki

Allison Kim, ROOTS

I deserved it when you flung a piece of dead earth at me when I had the nerve to vex you with your own weapon. We built castles of sand that sprawled the apartment complex when we were children. I swear to you, I was made to put sand down the back of your shirt by those girls who claimed your down-syndrome was funny. They then ran away and left me alone to face your wrath as you picked that broken earthen vase and did me justice. I still bear the scar on my right cheek like an insignia of disloyalty to your realm, to your dominion. After that you never came down your tower to play, and I never saw you again. Today, my friend said to me, ‘Their daughter jumped to her death this morning. They had locked her in her room as punishment for misbehavior. Perhaps her disorder was too much for her. I would not bear to get picked on for all my life.’ He pointed to that patch of earth where we built castles; it bears a dent the size of you, the size of my treason, the earth slapped into awe like my cheek you once slapped into conscience, into this request for a chance to make amends. I stare at the window of your room on the fourth floor from where you flew away like the dust that you once mastered so proficiently. I cup my cheek and weep again, but only for a second. This is not a coup. You still rule a castle of dust beneath these unkind pavements.

amelia l. hall, UNTITLED


Chapter 1 The homeless man sitting outside my building has a face with lines like soldiers’ trenches and his beard is a mass of gray clinging to his chin like a dead animal stuck on with glue. Flecks of soot and dust have work their way so deep into his skin that they have become a part of his complexion. His clothes are draped over his bones rather than worn, and the smell coming off him—that unnatural odor that comes from weeks without washing—scrambles its way up my nostrils, making me gag. He hasn’t moved in half an hour; a life spent sitting on concrete steps and sleeping in old subway terminals has a way of making a person patient, I suppose. I can’t stop thinking about him. Always outside, sitting, waiting for something. I wonder if he even knows what he’s waiting for, sitting there with that weathered trumpet in his chapped hands, metal so tarnished it looks black. I wonder what I’m waiting for. Part of me desperately wants me to return to the window and see if he’s still there. But I can’t bring myself to do it. Like when you’re lying in your bed and your closet door

is open, and you feel like something’s in there, watching you. And you want to get up and see where the noise is coming from, but you can’t bring yourself to do it, because a part of you is afraid of what you’ll find in there. I feel like I’ve seen the homeless man before, in a nightmare, in the instant before waking up with my heart pounding. And in that final instant of the dream, I knew something horrific, something I forgot as soon as I woke up. I’m staring at the window, wondering whether to look out of it or not, when there’s a knock. I’m jolted as if from a dream. The knock at the door that shocks me to my senses is the beating of a heart high on adrenaline. The sound of irrationality with a purpose. Frantic. Fluttering. I stand on legs weighed down by sand on a floor that seems to tilt, even though I only slept about half an hour, and make my way to the sound. The apartment is a warzone. The debris littering the floor tells stories.The yawning window taunts me with the stormy air it invites in and I don’t remember opening it. I wonder how long it’s been like that. I wouldn’t know. Now at the door and struggling to say

upright, my mind races while I turn the handle— I’m in that half-dream state where nothing makes sense and everything makes sense, where I’m aware of the state of things but my mind is still explaining it with dream-logic. So when my hand opens the door for me without consulting my brain, I’m ready for anything. Well, anything except this. Seeing Colette’s silhouette in the door gives me that horrible dream sensation of falling. There’s a long pause as we stare into each other’s eyes. At least I’m staring into her eyes—she’s staring in my direction, but it feels like she’s looking past me. Through me. Her eyes do that.They pull me over the edge of something that was once safe. Finally: “What are you doing here?” I say, stupidly. There’s nothing else to say. She doesn’t move. She stands perfectly still, at a strange angle with the floor like her body doesn’t need to obey gravity. I know that look in her eyes, her eyes that look like an artist’s long strokes. It’s a look of absolute, mind-bending terror, a look of seeing the world and not recognizing a thing. I’ve seen her like this before, when she works herself too hard. But

this is worse than usual. It’s going to be a long night. * The dance floor is a living thing, pulsating in and out as the music blares. The colored lights flash in such a way that each instant is captured like a snapshot. The air reeks of sweat and overpowering perfume and watery beer. She’s off to the side, sitting upright on the edge of a massive armchair that’s much too big for her. Her features are elegant and fragile, like an artist painted her, and her figure is very slender, a caricature of a dancer’s body, unnatural and stretched-looking as though out of an El Greco painting. The colors in her eyes, her hair and skin, her clothes both compliment and contrast each other, colors carefully selected from a fantastic palette of paints. She doesn’t look quite real. I don’t know her, but as soon as I lay eyes on her I feel like I’ve known her for a long time. Or rather, that I’ve been waiting to meet her for a long time. She sits in a way that is controlled but somehow relaxed, and her eyes are intensely focused on something on—or beyond—the dance floor. Her posture is so precise, so in sync with the surrounding world, that it looks like someone designed her for this exact instant in time, just so she could sit there like that. A dying cigarette is balanced between two fingers. There

is something about the way she holds it that makes me think of black-and-white stills from the early days of Hollywood. Just watching her fascinates me. I don’t really like dancing anyway, so I approach her slowly, trying to seem casual and confident. “Hi,” I say. “Mind if I join you?” She looks startled when she hears my voice, like she didn’t know there was anyone else in the room. But she gives me a smile and motions for me to sit down next to her. I sit, clumsy and self-conscious, and try to act casual. She doesn’t seem to notice, but instead resumes staring at whatever she’s been staring at this whole time. “Hi,” I say. I can barely hear myself over the throbbing bass. “Hey,” she says. “What’s your name?” I say. Her name is Colette. She isn’t even looking at me. “I’m not distracting you, am I?” I ask. “No, why would you think that?” Her accent is distinct but light enough that it doesn’t distract from her words. French, I’m almost certain—it would match up with her name, for one thing. I consider asking her where she’s from but it sounds terrible in my head. “You look very concentrated, that’s all.” She finally turns her gaze to meet mine. Her eyes are blue in the way that space

is black but a cold, toxic blue like chemicals that make you go blind if you drink them, and they are long and slanted and elegant and I want to look away. Her eyes fascinate me. They scare me even more. “I’m watching the world move,” she says, her eyes now locked on mine. Behind her them I can see her mind racing, a mass of spinning gears, intertwined. I feel like if I look too deep I will fall in and never come out. Those eyes hold secrets. Beautiful, terrible secrets that I don’t ever want to know. “I’m watching the world move,” she says, again, relishing the way the words taste in her mouth. Something in her eyes makes me believe her. * We watch each other in silence for the longest time. I can almost hear the gears turning frantically in her head, but she’s so still. I’ve never understood how she could be so still. It’s not until I come closer that I see that she’s shaking, shivering ever so slightly, like a statue in a hesitant earthquake, or the rumbling ground that precedes an oncoming train. I take her hand and lead her to the couch. She doesn’t resist but follows my lead in that too-fluid manner of hers. She’s always a little too graceful, a dancer who can’t seem to stop, and her movements never look quite natural,

like her entire life has been choreographed. But as she follows behind me, letting me guide her through the unfamiliar nightmare world she’s trapped in, her actions are chaotic and nervous, graceful in the most desperate possible sense, a leaf being tossed about violently in the wind. I sit her down and look for a blanket. Her hands are freezing, and I wonder how long she’s been wandering the icy streets looking for things that either weren’t there or were sitting right in front of her. One of her sleeves has been torn open, and her forearm is covered in densely packed musical scribbles and geometric patterns. She is painfully underdressed for winter in New York. It’s getting worse. I’m constantly worried that one day she’ll go a bit too far and won’t be able to find her way back to reality. Colette has a beautiful mind, and no one doubts it, but her gifts come at a price. Her world is spilling over with sounds and colors that the rest of us will never catch a drop of. And she loves every minute of it. But she’s always a step away from sensory overload. From being consumed. And her work brings her closer and closer to that line until she trips over the edge. Productivity comes at the expense of reality, and she falls headfirst into a vibrant, unpredictable state of non-reality. The petty concerns of real life fall away. And it’s easy for her to accidentally wander into uncharted territory. Or get pushed. That’s when the nightmare begins.

I boil some water for tea and force the steaming mug into her icy hands. She’s pale and unresponsive. Dark circles highlight her eyes. I wonder how long it’s been since she’s eaten. I wonder how long it’s been since she’s slept. Days, most likely. I can’t imagine being in such a profound state of fear that I can’t sleep for days, but then, I can’t imagine most of what goes on in Colette’s mind. “Are you okay?” I ask. She grips the mug hard but doesn’t drink. “I’m not sure,” she says. “Where is he?” “Who?” I ask. “The man who lives here.” “I’m here,” I say, softly. “I’m right here.” “You don’t look like him,” she says. Her eyes are wide and frightened, but her voice is strangely indifferent. “You look like someone else wearing his skin.” “It’s me,” I say. “It’s just me.” “This doesn’t look like your apartment,” she says. “It sounds wrong. It’s in the wrong key. And your walls are wind chimes.” It always takes me a second to process her words when she starts talking like that. It’s not that I haven’t gotten used to the whole synesthesia thing, but it’s still a little unnerving. Of course, it’s not really synesthesia, not just anyway. But it’s easier to explain to people than the truth. She’s doesn’t talk about it much, but when she’s like this it’s hard for her to keep track of which

sense is affecting which. “What’s that noise?” she says. Her voice is a whispered scream. “There’s no noise,” I say, like I’m talking to a small child. In a way, she is. She’s so delicate when she’s like this, as if the wrong words, or a little gust of wind, will shatter her like ice. “I’m not talking to you.” She’s biting her lip. It’s bleeding, running over the already bloodred lipstick that’s smeared haphazardly across her mouth. “Then who are you talking to?” I ask. My voice is hushed, gentle. Like I’m talking to a spooked horse or a little girl who woke up from a bad dream. I must sound ridiculous. “It’s ok,” I say, reaching out for her hand, but mine isn’t in the air for very long. It doesn’t seem to want to touch her. Then suddenly it does. “No!” she screams. “Don’t touch me!” The tea goes flying. It leaps onto the table, the carpet. My clothes. Burns my face. There’s a Part of Me that I can’t control. That I don’t understand. It’s always been there. A second me, hidden just beneath the surface, jealous, spiteful, insecure. It’s not my bad side, per say—it’s not me to begin with. But sometimes, he likes to crawl out and take control, just for an instant. He says things for me, things I have to make up for later. I’m always cleaning up his mess. The Other Me is the one who wants

to lash out at her for ruining my evening, however pointless an evening it was. Who hates her for always taking and never giving back. Who wants to beat her until she coughs blood and leave her there, to hold her up by her throat and squeeze and never stop. In my mind I do this, and I want to vomit. I want to vomit because the Other Me is purring in delight at the idea of it all, of settling the score. I shove him back into his hole. You’re a terrible person, I say to him. You’re a terrible person and how could you think of doing something like that. I don’t hurt my friends. I never hurt my friends. He lets out a sound like Ha! and I feel my lungs clap shut as the same sound shoots out of me. I hate that second me sometimes. Always getting in the way. * We’ve known each other for a few months now, Colette and I. We go everywhere together. Everyone thinks we’re dating, always. But we’re not. At least, I don’t think we are. She always acts like it too, except when we’re alone. She’s a hard woman to read. We’re at another party. She’s always going to another party. It’s an addiction. We’ve both had too much to drink, and I don’t think she even knows what she’s drinking. She’s done herself up in that artsy way of hers, elegant and slutty at the same time. Stylized makeup, hair all

done up, clothes like she stole them from some edgy art fashion show. People are noticing. Lots of attention. Personally, I think she looks like a whore. The second me is peering out of his hole. Right now she’s sitting between a big guy who thinks he’s Duke Nukem and a wellgroomed pretty boy with a hairdo taken right out of a cologne ad. Definitely not students. Red eyes like they’ve been snorting something or other. She’s laughing like there’s no tomorrow and seeming to flirt with the entire room at once. I watch their red eyes, then look over to hers, trying to see if they’re red too. But whatever she’s on right now, she’s still in control. I see it in her eyes. She’s got them on a leash. She’s giving me that look, and for a second I hate her. The woman I’ve been chatting with, from my literature class I think, is trying to keep up the conversation. She’s getting a bit impatient—I keep getting distracted. Half an hour later, my actions are sluggish and my world teeters gently as I walk. It’s relaxing, really. Colette and Cologne Ad Guy are making out viciously, with plenty of touching and grabbing and smeared makeup and reduced clothing. Colette, forever held in the power of sound, moves in time with the music, but not just following the bass, it’s like she can predict every note, every chord before it happens. I find

myself staring at them for a long time, not even aware that I’m standing in everyone’s way. I must look pretty intense because no one’s telling me to move except a short guy who bumps into me and says, “Sorry.” The whole place is hazy cause of all the smoke, but I don’t even know what kind of smoke it is at this point. I don’t really care. I sit down and glare some more, until my vision begins to fade. The last thing I’m aware of is the Other Me rising up in the back of my brain. I don’t know if I fell asleep or passed out, but whatever it is, it’s a deep and potent sleep. Everything’s black, but the blackness is a background for images from an old-fashioned projector behind my eyelids. I dream a strange dream. I’m at the same party, but everything’s different, slanted and tinted as if I’m looking at it through a filter. Colette and Cologne Ad Guy are still doing… something, but I can’t even discern what. All I know is that their forms merge into each other, into an eerie, twisting mass of dark clothes that have lost all texture. The music pulses like a living thing, the smoke eats away at people’s faces so they all look the same. My fists are drawn out in front of me, clenched so tightly I’m actually in pain. But pain is numb in dreams, a dull throbbing that doesn’t even feel real. Because the pain doesn’t exist. I’m walking up to Cologne Ad Guy, and suddenly he’s on the ground and I’m on top of him, and

I’m pounding his pretty boy face so that my skin sinks through his and feels the bone beneath. I don’t know why, but I can’t stop. I’m hooked. He doesn’t seem to understand. Like he doesn’t know what he did wrong. (what did he do wrong?) And he’s calling out for me to stop. But I don’t. The dull roaring in my ears is the excited nervous voices of the people behind me, and they’re not sure what to make of this. What’s he doing? they ask. Who is he? What’s the story? But it keeps going, and I keep pounding, and soon they don’t think it’s exciting anymore.The room is dead silent except for the sounds of my knuckles on his flesh. The low, guttural sounds he makes when I bring the red flying out. He can’t shout any more.Time passes slowly and quickly at once, and I don’t know how long it’s been going on. I feel hands on my shoulders and I’m lifted up, up, up off Cologne Guy who doesn’t look like a cologne ad anymore, and my arms are still making the motions even though there’s no one there to hit. Dull, mechanical motions. I’ve lost my fervor. “What the hell, man?” says the guy whose house it is. He’s not angry, or even loud. He’s standing there, in shock, utterly perplexed by what has just happened. I feel like I’ve known him a long time, but then again, this is a dream, I remind myself. And I let it go. I say nothing. I wonder if I jump out the window if I’ll wake up.

I take some deep breaths and sit back down on the couch. This is turning out to be a weird dream. * “Don’t worry about, it, I’ll clean it up,” I tell her, because she can’t stop staring at the shattered mug. My face is still numb where it was scorched by the runaway tea. There’s something about the way she’s looking at me that makes my skin crawl, like she doesn’t get it. Like I’m some exotic specimen in a lab and she’s trying to figure out what makes me tick. * As I slowly, gradually, emerge out of my dream, everyone’s staring at me. “What is it?” I ask them, and I rub my eyes and see something red streak my field of vision. I see the blood on my hands, and my insides plummet in slow motion as I realize I wasn’t dreaming. Colette is giving me the most peculiar look. * The second me has always been there, as long as I can remember. He was always there, waiting for me to let my guard down so he could sneak out and cause trouble. He was the one who had the balls to sneer at the bullies and make them feel like the little shits they were, and he was the one who laughed with my voice even as they beat me up, faces like they were going to cry instead of me because of the things he

said. When my dad got to be too much, when he yelled and raved and oozed disappointment and judgment, he was the one who took it out on Mom and made her cry. It wasn’t that I didn’t stand up for my actions. I did. But these actions weren’t mine. It was like I was two people. And I’d just helplessly watch as my voice and my hands did his bidding. I used to make up names for him, because when he did something I’d blame it on him like it wasn’t me, cause it wasn’t. Like it was my jerk friend who I hung out with for the sake of self-preservation. One time when I was eleven a friend’s mom saw him a little too closely and hysterically called my parents and told them to have me exorcised. I didn’t get invited there again. As I look at her now, broken and scared and fragile, I can feel him stirring inside of me. Damn, he murmurs in my mind’s ear, won’t you just look at her. Shut up, I snap. How about it, old buddy? I’m in the mood to destroy something beautiful. Shut up. He shuts up. But it’s true. I can’t take my eyes off her. And I’m always worried that it’s actually me saying those things and the Other Me just takes the fall.

I’m in the mood to destroy something beautiful. “Do you need anything?” I say, softly, reminding myself that she needs my help. She ignores me and then looks at me intently. “Darling?” “Yes?” Don’t call me darling. We’re not together. We’re not in love. We could be, but we’re not. So don’t call me darling. “Darling, I want a cigarette.” She’s looking at me wide-eyed and hopeful, like a kid who’s pushing her luck at a candy store. Don’t fucking call me darling slut, I’m fucking warning you. In spite of myself, I let out a frustrated sigh. The air whistles strangely in my mouth and she cringes slightly as the faint sound reaches her ears and sets off some weird sensation in her own little world. “You know I don’t smoke,” I tell her. “I don’t have anything to give you.” And besides, it’s a small apartment and I don’t need her polluting the place. “I really, really want a cigarette,” she says, innocently, like if she asks nicely enough a pack of Sobranie Black Russians will just magically materialize. “You don’t have any with you?” I ask. She thinks hard for a moment. “I think I left some here a few days ago,” she says, suddenly excited in a way that makes me feel cold. “Can

you check?” I feel like absolute shit and want nothing more than to go to sleep, but since I’m up I might as well. “Sure.” I stalk around the room, not really looking, and nothing catches my eye. “I’ll check my bedroom, ok?” “No!” she says. The terror is back. “Don’t leave me here with him!” She’s clutching the side of the couch. “Who?” “Him,” she whispers. “The Other You.” My feet have frozen in place before I even have time to process her words. How does she know? “What Other Me?” I ask. “The one who was here earlier. Who doesn’t like me.” “He’s not here anymore,” I say. Again, like I’m speaking to a small child. “Yes he is!” she says. “He’s there next to you. He’s distracted right now, but if you leave me here you won’t be there to protect me!” I feel a sharp jab to my chest. Those are the magic words. The reason I can’t just walk away. She needs me. I’m there to protect her. Right now, stuck in her nightmare world, I’m the only thing she can trust. * The host and the DJ—the only people who aren’t too drunk—are carrying Cologne Ad Guy

on their shoulders to the car, to take him to a hospital. The room is very silent. The music has stopped. No one says anything. Most people are packing up to go. Colette is still staring at me with the strangest expression. She’s a little frightened, but she’s staring at me with a kind of awe. Maybe it’s the liquor, but it looks like the awe you see in movies when the girl just watched the guy save her life and she can’t feign indifference any more, the mutual attraction is too strong. Love, or maybe just hormones. Either way, that’s the look. She’s always had this unnerving fascination with violence. “I’m sorry,” I say, still in shock. “Has anyone ever told you that you’re more than one person?” she asks, and her voice rings with that eerie awe. “What?” I say. She always says things like that, and usually it’s just that she sees things in a different way. But I wonder nervously if she’s finally caught on to… him. “Your voice,” she says. “It has more than one color. When you speak, it’s two streams, not just one.Two textures that change like you’re flicking a switch. Like there’s two of you, inside the same body.” “Good thing that’s impossible,” I say, looking away. “No, it’s possible,” she says, triumphant. “I just saw it.”


And again, that curious sensation of

* “Don’t worry,” I say, “he’s stuck with me. He has to follow me. I’ll only be gone for a minute, and he’ll be with me the whole time.” “Ok,” she says, half-convinced, but her eyes are still following me. To my displeasure, it doesn’t take long to find the cigarettes. It’s a slender pack with a long name, some fancy European brand. The box is sitting on the nightstand, and I try to remember when she would have had a chance to put them there. She visibly perks up when I return. In spite of everything, I can see the hunger in her eyes, the tentative smile at the prospect of taking in a big lungful of smoke. She sits up very straight, excited, waiting for me to give her what she wants. Tell her no, the Other Me sneers. It’ll be fun to watch her squirm. I let her retrieve an elongated cigarette from the box and perch it between her deep red lips. Those lips twist into an eager smile. She leans forward, waiting for a light. Her entire body tenses, every movement so controlled. I feel sorry for her for a moment. Her usual flirty routine is gone, and she reminds me of a dog waiting for a treat. Always at the mercy of that nicotine fix. I don’t like feeling that kind of

power. It makes me feel unclean. The Other Me feels otherwise. Poor abused little sex toy, he coos, even though he knows she can’t hear him. Why don’t you beg for it? Beg for me. I fight him, but he keeps it up. Who’s superior now, slut? he says, voice turning vicious and angry. Who’s the one with the power now? Who’s on top? No one’s here to save you now—you’re in my world. Beg! I take a match from the box on the counter and strike it, and she leans forward to let me light her cigarette. As I bend over to do it, our eyes lock, just for an instant, and I see a flash of that cold power of hers, that femme fatale smile. It’s her way of letting me know that no matter what, she’s still in control. She’s still the one calling the shots. She’s the reason I’m up at in the middle of the night, serving her tea. No matter how deep she stumbles into that nightmare of hers, she can count on me. The Other Me takes it like a slap to the face. He recoils, and proceeds to glare at her from his dimly lit corner of my brain. Colette falls back onto the couch as the smoke fills her lungs, reeling with pleasure. The elegant precision of her body makes the furniture around her seem grotesque and inadequate in contrast. As the smoke passes lovingly through her lips, she still looks more like a painting than real life, the colors too perfect,

the shadows too vibrant. Her very being mocks the real world, and the Other Me seethes with rage in his corner, sputtering all the crude insults and derogations he can think of. * “I’m watching the world move,” she says. “What do you mean?” I ask. My first thought is that she’s still new to speaking casual English and just worded it badly, but something about the way she says it makes me unsure. She looks a little frustrated and slides a little closer. Maybe a little too close. “I like the way this music bends the room,” she says, like she’s explaining something to a five-year-old. “It pulses. Like a heart.” We sit in silence for a long minute. Despite all my logic, I absentmindedly look around to see if I can see the walls pulsate. “Why did the music stop?” she asks me, and she sounds almost scared, like she had just discovered that the room was running out of air. “Everything’s too still.” The DJ is clearly having issues with the sound system. It must be something big. His face is murderous. “I’m sure it’ll start again in a minute,” I say, a little confused. I assume she’s on drugs, and I wonder if sitting next to her is a good idea. “It stopped too quickly,” she says. “It has to decelerate first. Otherwise it might keep spinning.”

“Nothing’s spinning,” I say, and I start to stand up to leave. “Nothing’s moving.” She takes my wrist firmly and says, very calmly, “You’re moving right now. It’s your voice. Your voice makes you change. It’s stretching you, but just a little. You’re not very loud.” “I don’t know what you’re talking about!” I say, wrenching my arm. “That’s because you are like everyone else.” Something horrible flickers in her eyes. * She’s still quivering and pale by the time I finally lead her to my room and lay her down on the bed. I’m painfully gentle as I slide off her shoes, like I might break her if I’m not careful. She’s calmer than when she first arrived, but she still seems afraid to move any part of her body, so I have to ease her into it. Her muscles are still nervous and tense, so I massage her shoulders gently. I lay there with her for what feels like forever, feeling her breaths go in and out, holding her softly. Her perfume blends with the smell of burnt tobacco to create a foreign, strangely pleasing aroma. She finally falls into a troubled sleep. When she breathes, it’s erratic and nervous, like a small scared animal. She moves slightly at times, small, jerking movements. It always goes the same way, more or less. When the trip starts, it lasts a few days and

keeps her awake, so when she finally gets it, it’s a deep and uncompromising sleep.You just have to let it run its course, and if all goes well she’ll wake up happy and normal and good as new. In spite of myself, I have on several occasions pictured long, romantic nights with Colette, or fallen asleep wishing she was there to fall asleep with me. I feel none of that now. Instead of romance, I feel like I’m a father helping his sick little daughter through a difficult night. I feel no longing. No peace. At long last I decide that I can’t take it anymore, and I get up and leave her wrapped in all the blankets I can find. The fever’s getting worse, and I feel badly leaving her there by herself, but I just can’t spend another minute in there. I sit down in front of the TV and turn it on, but I can’t focus. It’s so late that there’s almost no point going to sleep. I think I can see a hint of daylight breaking the blackness beyond the windows. I think of the homeless man with the trumpet and wonder what his night has been like. Cold, certainly, but it must be peaceful, somehow. I just feel like it must be peaceful. I wake again less than half an hour later. In the depths of her long-needed sleep, Colette is screaming like she’s being tortured. It’s painful to listen to, and I want more than anything to go in there, to wake her up and tell her everything’s going to be ok. But I close my eyes and bury

my head under my pillow and savagely refuse to help. At this point, I care more about my sleep than I do about hers. I feel like a young parent whose baby is crying all night. All parents need to learn to ignore it eventually. And all babies grow out of it eventually. Right? Surely a baby can be trained. I finally fall into a deep and restful sleep. And when I wake up, not twenty minutes later, it’s the Other Me who rules my mind and body and pays Colette another visit. * In the white room with blue curtains, the little beeping displays here and there on little stands and the little vase of yellow flowers that seem only to add pity to the somber atmosphere that feels like too much ADD medication, we watch the broken body on the bleached hospital bed jerk and moan his way through a medicated slumber. A couple of IV tubes crisscross their way from his trembling forearm to the little clear baggie hanging from what looks like a recycled hat stand. The hospital gown, powder blue and depressing, is frequented by a couple of visible pink patches where the oozing red beneath has bled through. No pun intended. His face itself is a patchwork quilt

of purples and reds and little yellow blotches. One cheek looks visibly dented, while the other is swollen up so he from one angle he looks like a sunburned Marlon Brando with a grape juice mustache. Breathing is ragged, hoarse, uneven, like his lungs have been patched up with sandpaper. They’ve clearly tried cleaning up his hair a bit, but they did a half-assed job, and in some spots bits of leftover congealed blood act like hair gel, but he hasn’t had a chance to do any styling. He sure doesn’t look like he belongs in a cologne ad anymore. He doesn’t appear conscious, and I can’t decide whether that makes me feel even worse or just relieved because I don’t have to talk to him now. It feels nice to put it off just another hour, another minute longer. What do I even say? How does one explain something like this? How do I explain to this guy that it wasn’t me that put him in the hospital, that it was my psychotic alternate personality even though I’m not technically diagnosed with multiple personality disorder, that he—I—did this for literally no reason that is relevant to either of us, and that his face will likely never fully recover? He’s going to think I’m a fucking lunatic. Or he won’t even believe me and just take the whole thing as mockery.

Either way he’s going to hate me. I’m starting to wonder if I should just tell him I meant to do it, and blame it on the tequila. I just know I need to say something. It wasn’t easy to get the host to give me his name, either. He probably thought I wanted to finish the poor bastard off. Anyway, it took a while to track him down, and I’m running off a couple of 10-minute subway naps and some strong coffee that tastes like it was served by a flight attendant in economy class by the time I make it to the hospital and manage to make the nurse let me in to see him. She looks a little suspicious, especially since I look and feel thoroughly hung over. My eyes are redrimmed and glazed over and my breath is bad coffee mixed with that taste you get in your mouth when you fall asleep on an airplane and my hair is all over the place and my clothes reek of smoke. He looks like those pictures from the more graphic war documentaries. One of his eyes is swollen shut like Rocky, the other is just blackened, but not really black, just a deep, ugly purple with little red highlights. Colette stands on the other side of the hospital bed, eyes red and filled with a dazed sort of wonder. She’s very still for the most part, but with a subtle, underlying restless motion.The look in her eyes is the look that pharaohs must have had when they looked up at their finished

pyramids. Part of her looks like I’m her dad and she’s my teenage daughter who’s dragged her along to visit some friend or relative she doesn’t care about. But that wonder in her eyes as she looks down at Cologne Ad Guy’s battered face, makes me feel like the temperature in the room has dropped twenty degrees. I look at her and I no longer wonder why they nurse is suspicious. “I’m cold,” she says, and she doesn’t look up. Her hair is sloppy today. Not noticeable to anyone else, but I notice. It’s strange, to see it like that. I wonder if she’s sober. Probably not. “You’ll be fine,” I say. “It’s really cold,” she says. Her arms are folded tightly across her chest. She’s still wearing her slut clothes from the party, but the black jacket throws it off. The air conditioning is on pretty high but isn’t really that bad, yet her lips are vaguely purple. It’s really not that cold. “I never knew you were such an artist,” she says, and her voice is a whisper layered in shades of awe. “I don’t think he can hear you,” I say. “I was talking to you,” she says. I close my eyes. I know what’s coming. Stomach already growing queasy, I watch her manicured index finger slide along Cologne Ad Guy’s cheekbone with a motion

like she’s inspecting the dust on a countertop, a harsh, clinical motion but precise, and her gaze is soft and intense at once because the dust, to her, is beautiful. “Look at these colors,” she whispers. “I didn’t even know colors like this existed, they’re so bold and they merge so beautifully. Everything else looks faded in comparison.” “You’re sick, you know that?” I say, a bit too abruptly. There’s an unpleasant burning sensation in my chest, that sinking feeling like you just wish it was a dream and any minute you might wake up. Here I am, standing over a man I beat to a pulp without meaning to, here to apologize, and there she is, complimenting me on the color scheme of his injuries. She ruins everything. I can’t help but stare at the half-dead battered form on the white bed and even though these must be fresh sheets they’re still being dyed pale red by the continuous low oozing from the wounds I inflicted. In that moment, I know that this isn’t the other me’s fault. It’s hers. This is her own depravity, her disease, running like paint out of her reality and infecting mine. We’re not just opposites. She is not the yin to my yang. If I am the yang, a bent white teardrop in an eternal dance with my black, black

counterpart, she is the black paint that sweeps away evidence that there was ever white in the picture in the first place. She is the black yin teardrop that’s actual painted with gasoline, so that when she feels like it she can send us both up in flame. And now the sickness of her mind is bleeding into the real world around me, reveling in the destruction that I never wanted. Blossoming into being around me in billowing flowers of red in the air and on the walls like drops of blood blooming as they fall into water. I feel my fists clench again, feeling the dull throbbing pain from where I hurt myself hurting him. For every force there is an equal and opposite reaction. That pain I feel in my knuckles is pain that she inflicted. Why isn’t she the one lying on the hospital bed? This is my plague. My obsession. Her. Is a man with cancer ever able to stop thinking about his tumor? “You are an artist,” she repeats. “Why can’t you take a compliment? Why can’t you embrace your own creation? It’s like you’re in denial.” “I came here because I feel bad,” I say. “Do you have to make it worse?” She looks at me like I stood her up on our wedding day.

“You’re a selfish, self-pitying prick, you know that?” she says. “You’re looking at the greatest accomplishment of your short life, and you’re whining about how you feel bad. Mozart didn’t feel bad for changing music forever. Salvador Dalí didn’t regret painting what the world wasn’t ready to see.” “This isn’t a canvas,” I say, and my voice rages with an acid that sits deep in my soul and is beginning to ooze from the cracks she carved in it laughing. “This is a man.” Her eyes are cold fire. “The world has billions of men,” she says. “It can sacrifice a few for art. We destroy the world’s natural beauty; isn’t it fitting for us to destroy our fellow men to create beauty of our own?” * Looking through her purse while she sleeps through feverdreams, The Other Me finds A Mysterious Photograph. And he looks at it for a long time before he stands up and leaves to oh god oh dear fucking god the little girl in the picture her eyes * Sitting on the end of Cologne Ad Guy’s bed, she gets that terrible look in her eyes again. “What I saw last night,” she says, “was you transcending your mortality. For those short minutes, you were something more than a man. You were a creator.”

She’s leaning as close as she can. I’m trying to step away. Her eyes seem to exert a magnetic field, trapping me here. “Let yourself go,” she says, and her voice is very soft. “Let yourself go, and you will build wonders.” The bloody mess beneath me begins to stir beneath white sheets. “I want to taste the blood on your hands,” she says. “I want to watch you raze mountains.” * Dawn finds me sitting on the balcony, watching the sun rise. Sleep was not kind to me. I’m holding Colette’s purse. I’m not sure how it ended up in my hands, but I know it’s the Other Me’s fault. I don’t even remember getting up and going out to the balcony. It’s all a blur. I didn’t wake up on the balcony per say, I just can’t remember what happened. Here I am. Ta-da. Laid out on the little table beside me are the contents of said purse. Some lipstick. A silver lighter. A small handheld mirror. An empty cigarette case. A couple of credit cards. A pack of tissues (some of them look freshly used). And a photograph. It’s not a large purse at all, it’s one of those little fashion purses that can’t hold anything. Well, besides this crap here.

The photograph is what interests me. It’s a faded black and white shot of a little girl between a very young man and woman—the parents, I guess. It looks like a family shot, except the little girl isn’t smiling. Something about the little girl unnerves me, and I can’t say why, (oh god oh dear fucking god look look at her eyes dear god her eyes) but she looks frightened, agitated. Her clothes are too small and covered in little stains, and she’s sitting in a large cloud of smoke coming from the man’s cigarette. She’s a bit too skinny, and she’s got a faded bruise on her cheek. And the parents don’t look great either—their clothes are worn and ill fitting, and they’re sitting on a filthy brick porch. But that’s not all that bothers me. What bothers me is they’ve got no faces. The parents’ heads have been violently blacked out with pen, so much that the surface of the picture is riddled with scars. The girl must be Colette—strange, but I can see the resemblance. Are these Colette’s parents? Having completely given up on sleep, I return to the apartment and scoop some grounds into the coffee maker. I know how tomorrow will go. She’ll wake up late, cheerful and back to normal and extra sweet. And she’ll act like nothing happened tonight. If I bring it up, she’ll just go into work mode and that’ll be that.

Work. I’d tried to forget about work. Not that I don’t like my job. But the people Colette works with unnerve me. There’s something strange about them. About the whole business. But that can wait till tomorrow. Shit, it’s already tomorrow, isn’t it? The coffee’s almost done, so I take a stroll across the apartment and slide quietly into my bedroom. I leave the purse on the floor so it’ll look like she left it there. I don’t even know how it ended up with me to begin with. I’m a little worried about what state Colette will be in when I see her, but I’m pleasantly surprised to find her sleeping very calmly, her breathing slow and stable. I feel her forehead and find that the fever is a lot better—I was worried I’d have to force-feed her the medicine, or worse, take her to a hospital. And her face—her face is not troubled at all, not the least bit frightened or stressed; it is absolutely peaceful. Pure bliss. I’ve never seen that on a human face before. Except once. In a dream. And that’s when I hear it. A soft exhale. A single world, over and over. “Disappointed,” she says. “Disappointed.”

six hundred twenty four acres of sorrow, marble honeycombs of pain, on the banks of the Potomac, vestiges of heroism indelibly cemented into our nation and into my heart


david dixon

some unknown, but none are forgotten. when will I join them here? silence, stone, bitter cold I am surrounded by brothers. yet I mourn by myself six hundred twenty four acres of sorrow, symmetrical fields of grief. I collapse alone. among friends

EDITOR IN CHIEF: alanna mcauley TREASURER: maciej kietlinski POETRY EDITOR: kasia clarke PROSE EDITOR: lindsey shea ART EDITOR: alison ku OUTREACH EDITOR: bassam sidiki

christina eickenroht, NATHALIE

STAFF: meghan amorosa mary burgoyne luke casassa christina eickenroht mary margaret ryan

john seymour jennifer tubbs rae underberg mia von gal mary zost

Special thanks to Erika Cohen Derr, the Georgetown Media Board, and my fantastic staff for your dedication and support in producing this magazine. Alanna McAuley Editor-in-Chief