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vol 95

issue 2

spring 2014

THE COLUMBIA REVIEW est. 1815

Contents

RO L F

Serena Solin

5

A Motet of Commons

Becca Liu

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S e l f - Po r t r a i t o n A c a c i a Leaf

Becca Liu

10

One Continuous Glovebox

Becca Liu

11

The shadow and the path

Ivan de Monbrison

12

F o r, O f , a n d F r o m Lebron

Michael Menna

16

Beata Kasiarz

19

Growths

Natalie Molina

25

There Will be Consequences

Natalie Molina

26

The Neurology of Love and Rats

Kal Victor

28

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Editor’s Note Aider, why aider why whow, whow stop touch, aider whow, aider stop the muncher, muncher, munchers.

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Diana Flanagan

Ethan Plaue

AJ Stoughton

Managing Editor Rachel Taratuta-Titus

Layout Editor Ana Camila Gonzalez

Cover Art Alex Chang

Editorial Board Jasmine Akuffo Madeline Pages Phil Burnett Amelia Pitcherella Sariel Frankfurter Channing Prend Julia Goodman Antony Qian Cathy Guo Gabrielle Reynoso Gaby Kirschner Rachel Taratuta-Titus Jacquelyn M. Kovarik Kal Victor Daniel Listwa Bethany Wong Hunter Augustin Prybil -Huguelet

THE COLUMBIA REVIEW

Editors-In-Chief

The Columbia Review is published twice yearly by the students of Columbia College, New York, with support from the Activities Board at Columbia. This issue is sponsored in part by the Arts Initiative of Columbia University. This funding is made possible through a generous gift from the Gatsby Charitable Foundation. Enquiries to: Columbia Review, Lerner Hall, 2920 Broadway, New York, NY 10027. Email: thecolumbiareview@gmail.com. Books and media sent for possible review become the property of The Columbia Review.Visit us online at: http://columbiareviewmag.com/. Copyright Š 2014 by The Columbia Review. All rights reserved. Reproduction or translation of any part of this work beyond that permitted by Sections 107 and 108 of the US Copyright Law without permission of the publishers is unlawful.

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ROLF

Serena Solin

I. My brother calls me Liesl all through winter / precipitating / the month our mother kills a tuna in the sink / thimbles garlic / antivivisectionist / remaining eldest / wrap the fish in foil / take a vitamin every day this year / my beautiful father left to stop the war / my captain / my prow / my ocean ending / my open rain rolling yard down / his shadow touching the estate / my brother in the kitchen deep / tempering dough with ice water / fill me with ice water / put a tuna steak frozen on your tongue / bear him / whistling / you would never fire that gun 5


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II. Dear Rolf / stop / I needle a new sweater / knit clenching in the purple dark / don’t stop / I do not know what I ever saw in you / Dear Rolf / salt me all over / don this /

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III. I teach my brother oysters / will you remember his name my father rips a flag down from the balcony / a big party / tall always / taller / decorated with tassels pale slips / coming in from the storm / why can’t you hear me / little shells of them flattening / hand in the water / a flag licking stairs / I listen to singing in Swiss mountains / six months straight / black circles getting slicker / he thinks I will get married but he doesn’t know

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A Motet of Commons Becca Liu

Nothing is bigger than the tip of an autumn hair. Mt. Vesuvius is small. No one lives longer than the unadorned child and the sages died young, each poplin effigy like so many unlined pits on the windowsill. The effect of time like watching the reverse of a world subsuming constant shadows, while it acquires a taste like the lacquered radiance of a bruised pomelo. I had been a yellow-bellied dreamer now, in the vulture’s white night when the stale hunger pushes like the fizzle of clockwork. Anything is a world of its own, and its geography

etched in my palm. It was a wrongful wooing,

ruinous as a myth revealing the cartographer’s arsenal: a cloying mess

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of illegible maps of finch’s nests and the wide rivers that criss-cross your body like a continent. I have always had a propensity for exaggeration like so many finches, dividing.

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Self-Portrait on Acacia Leaf Becca Liu

This gully & stream has my lemon laughter My pier plaster my hotly suture motley burn Heather smoky as dog dung my star-spangled stolen I the tongue the faulting to What molt is made of me Each hand unpolished as the next each planet on acacia leaf what holt & heath a coming to this gully & stream my honey foam my succulent a shoulder marrow My mouth a bottle cap & fists a seersucker sunset My fibula for carpentry twice-motioned bowl-cut My cuneiform rainmaking its token teeth or is it me who sleeps gnashing my teeth My spindle a lemon- eyed child suspended which snout what beaker what dollar-coin baby

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One Continuous Glovebox Becca Liu

An ear curls into itself. The sky is an ear curling into itself. I’m sorry I have eaten all the peaches. I’m sorry I have eaten all the peaches in the glovebox. You have forgotten the goat in the glovebox. The sky is over the desert where the goats comb their hair. There is a goat in the glove box combing its hair. A sky goes in search of a glove. I have found the goat having sex with your sister and she left her heart in your glovebox. I’m sorry I have not eaten the glovebox. Sajnálom, I’m sorry I have eaten — Is the sky a peach like a hand in a glovebox? I have eaten all the hands. Sajnálom. Megettem az összes barackot. This is just to say.

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The shadow and the path Ivan de Monbrison

le bord de l’horizon le paysage est rond le chemin en fait le tour plus loin il y a la mer qui borde notre voyage l’équilibre fragile d’une silhouette qui passe la main tendue nuage et cette ombre les pieds cloués au sol s’en va jusqu’au rivage le sentier jamais pris

***

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the rim of the horizon the landscape is round the path goes around it further away there is the sea bordering our journey the delicate balance of a passing figure the hand held out a cloud and this shadow its feet nailed to the ground moves away to the shore the never trodden path

***

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la ville le soleil a peint les façades des immeubles une à une ton cadavre avance tout seul dans la rue une fenêtre s’ouvre une silhouette apparaît bascule et tombe dans le vide et puis s’écrase sur le sol où elle fait un grand trou la main qui sort du corps en ramasse les morceaux qui restent étalés là tandis que ton cadavre fixe encore le soleil avec son oeil unique comme s’il voulait ainsi perdre la vue

***

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the city the sun has painted one by one the facades of the buildings your dead body is walking in the street a window opens up a figures comes out tumbles down and falls into space and crashes on the ground leaving there a big hole a hand comes out of the body to pick up the pieces still spread out there while your corpse is still fixing the sun with it sole eye as if it wanted by doing this to get blind

***

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For, Of, and From LeBron Michael Menna

I It’s a wonder that chair can hold you son, My god, your limbs, they’re waterfalling off. You might as well lay some weight on its plush And for once let gravity help you crush The prism to shards. Each splintered leg might then become A makeshift stake for you to plunge Into the glaring lenses. Yes—apocalypse is what you ought to wage, Torpedo arms eviscerating that stage Before dated videos cage you in its notches.

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II “Shit kid you’ve got no idea What L-B-J stands for, Or what saying ‘Fuck L-B-J’ even means.” “Man these glyphs adorned picket signs during anti-war strikes during the sixties, been lifted straight from then to now, off yellowing headlines onto LeBron James.” “Lebron James?” “LeBron James.

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III Reach for the water. Get there first. Danger, that body. Got to reach water. Quench my thirst. Danger, that body. They keep shouting— Won’t stop shouting— Danger, that body. Drink this water. Got here first. Danger, my body.

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not c h r o n o l o g i c a l l y next but the other

: it’s crowded

to unwear to outwant to already know  

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hint origins did not take the there as it was then there thread tied to tooth neithered through sometimes when leaving the room –  

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it’s not fair to say: rotting fruit rots the same way everywhere but I do a solid origin story:
 my excuse to exit not much before that long vacation mentality we weren’t always: parallels shriek:
 (not enough to paint that arrow red enough but the real surprise dries quickly) real nothing stuff 21


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eventually, escape retells creation : creation repels becomes too vivid

the understander of isn’ts

arrowed shapes disguise the slowness : pretend, not like this


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not like this


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asymmetrical sleep
 it’s been pleated
 it’s been a worn out centipede repeat repeat recall
 it is not

it what is

recoil

amplification simplifies away towards
 the root a boiled seed stinks it does what it sees

the twist is no invention

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or. the snakes through the vent had not the Kaiser
 left open the door or. the skill to be born in the same century
 to not desire more or. beyond the Beyond stains less ? the-smaller-the-gravel

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things look soft from a distance


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Growths Natalie Molina

I was thinking today how resistible I am when the ladies and gentlemen of America said no, you have a pretty face, and I’m still growing my hair out long enough to hang myself with and shooting for a really nice tableau of chickens bleeding and plantains roasting in the pyre at which I am determined to hang because I am dramatic and inconsistent and a misbehaved witch who leaves her sisters like the chickens whose throats I’ve torn open in all this ritual I don’t believe in and I was thinking of those plantains so irresistible like my death will seem to be when I am fresh immortal and canonized without miracles even to my name, or significant growths other than being open enough to believe you when you tell me I am beautiful.

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There Will be Consequences Natalie Molina

Everyone in the bakery menstruated uncontrollably Even the old ladies Even the babies The CEO found a bloody tampon in his bagel It was heavy and leaking It weighed a whole lot “This is heavy,” he’d said when they handed him the bagel “The customer is always right,” said a sign somewhere by the espresso machine It looked like peppermint in the cream cheese, the tampon did The CEO started to menstruate too The CFO looked at him funny He was focused in a red tie It was the holiday season at the company He was warm He sipped the pumpkin-spiced latte from a holiday cup So did the CEO to wash down his bagel “This is heavy,” he noticed again looking at his cup Which was red and other shades of red Lighter and darker reds And green for the holly My one true love entered the bakery in a cute crimson dress “Aren’t you cold?” asked a priest eating a donut He pointed at her bare legs with blood running down the insides “Where is the bathroom?” said a toddler with a heavy flow It was urgent My one true love pointed the way 26


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The CEO’s phone rang to the tune of a Christmas carol It rang louder and louder It gave the situation another layer of urgency The dog with sensitive ears was deeply affected His owner concerned The dog howled The priest had red jelly on his collar My one true love was in heat and her blood boiled like the teawater The dog smelled it and prayed “She’s got the Christmas spirit,” said an advertisement on the TV The bakery smelled like several evergreens Paper snowflakes hung everywhere Some of them were stained Pagan and red The CEO slipped on the bloody floor He broke his back The priest noticed the dog in prayer and closed his eyes There was a solemn feeling in the room An old lady shot herself in the head She bled The toddler came back from the bathroom “What a mess,” she muttered And licked her lips 27


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The Neurology of Love and Rats Kal Victor

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D

avid sighed as he stepped through the doors of his apartment building. It was a heavy, painful sigh he didn’t want to let out, another in a long string of concessions made in the face of his condition. It was certainly pathological, worthy of some sort of clinical diagnosis, but there was nothing in any textbook or diagnostic manual about anything sounded even remotely like his addiction—if you could even call it that. David was falling in love multiple times a day, every day, falling again and again before he even knew he got back up. This morning, there was the girl in the floral dress whose hand had brushed up against his on the subway going to work. Her smile pierced right through him, made him shiver knowing how happy they could make each other. Then the girl with the thick eye shadow dressed in all black who waited in front of him on line for a coffee. He knew


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exactly what everyone else failed to understand about her, how her woefulness was a cry for affection only he could answer with his compassion. On his way home, he met the greengrocer with the tragic bags sagging down her big brown eyes—he could provide for her, raise her up from the rat-race to the life that she deserved. He got into the elevator and stared at the floor while their faces still lingered in his mind, indistinct but still their own kind of real, like the faded scenes in that old ViewMaster he had shelved somewhere in his apartment. He could just click a mental switch and cycle through lambent stills of black lashes, a dark-lipped smile, a locket on a backdrop of pale, almost crystalline skin. He realized that he could look back at most days and only really get a sense of what had happened—what he had done at the lab, his worthwhile ideas, the conversations he had—if he processed time through the same cognitive mechanisms he used to love, if the girls he fell for became punctuations throughout his day to arrange and consolidate the fragments of his world. Elevators always made him pensive, made him retrospect in an effort to counter their inexorable momentum. He began to see

the arcs of his strange and erratic sexual development unfurl in front of him like party streamers, but as hard as he tried, and he tried often, he couldn’t pinpoint exactly when this whole thing had started. When did steady dates, peppered with the right amount of random hook-ups (enough for him, at least), warp into the hideous mutant bastardization of a sex-life he knew now? There was, of course, no denying a change had occurred somewhere along the line. Four years ago when he was a senior in college he very nearly hunkered down after two years of monogamy, but the relationship ended almost right after graduation, imploded as soon as he and Karen had made contact with the real world. Maybe it was more him than Karen, if he was being honest. It was like that experiment he did in third grade science class, where the teacher took a Coke can with a little bit of boiling water in it and then dunked it into an ice bath. It looked like some outside force was crumpling it in on itself, but it was really just the internal pressure build-up. Karen and everything she represented—his past life— seemed incredibly distant, eons more than years. He admitted 29


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without balking that this new reality was already so ingrained in his brain, what he knew and remembered to be love and this thing, this love of falling in love, had already melded together completely. Some sub-conscious mental piston had kicked into overdrive, pounding the two ideas and experiences into an indistinguishable pulpy mass— that was the best even his precise scientific mind could do when he attempted to describe the change. Even lust had become a function of elaborate fairytales constructed around women he barely knew, even the ones he just glimpsed on the street. He wasn’t aroused by a low neckline or curve-hugging yoga pants anymore; now it was imagining a Saturday brunch on a sun-drenched veranda in wine country, it was intricate fantasies about long walks and matinees and clothed snuggling that had begun to quicken his pulse. The elevator stopped suddenly, halting his dizzying loops of autopsychoanalysis. Even though his questioning always seemed somewhat futile, it didn’t feel any less important—what could be more relevant to his life than understanding how he ticked, then understanding how he had the ability to even ask that question 30

about himself? That craving to anatomize, to dissect and explain the mechanisms behind humanity’s humanness, even long before the onset of his condition, was what made him first gravitate towards neuroscience. He had to admit, though, that the stakes were a little different when it was your own head on the operating table, not some nameless rodent. The doors opened, and on his way out of the elevator, for the second day in row, David’s eyes snagged on a flyer: “Seeking compassionate and tender sitter for well-behaved seven-year-old boy and four-yearold girl, no experience necessary. Call Linda at 212-505-7138.” He wondered who Linda was, why she’d resorted to posting a flyer in the elevator in a building full of strangers. Maybe she was just lonely. A chill tickled his spine, but he shrugged it off, walking towards his apartment. As soon as he stepped through his door, David rested his briefcase and groceries on the floor and glanced at his wall clock—six on the dot, after a day at the lab that never seemed to end. For the past few months, they’d been studying self-awareness in rats. Using what the molecular biologists summed up to the cognitive folks like


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David as “genetic trickery,” his lab engineered a dyed isotope to bond to a neurotransmitter thought to be implicated in metacognitive brain activity. The hope was to observe in a mouse-sized PET scanner (David always laughed at his own PET/pet puns) which brain regions, if any, effected the rats’ equivalent to “self-awareness” when they were shown their reflections in a mirror. The deceptively simple goal didn’t prevent the process from being extremely painstaking, though. Especially when you had to do it hundreds of times on dozens of specimens. David would secure the rats in a surprisingly intricate metal apparatus that might pass for a medieval torture device if it were bigger. Once one was strapped in place, he could turn on the miniaturized PET scanner and watch as surreal glimmers of neon-green and red flickered to life on the display screen. Something about it was just incredibly gratifying—the bursts of color basked in the iridescent purple backdrop of the brain tissues in the PET display made the whole thing startlingly beautiful, almost symphonic. He could follow the lights with his eyes, relishing the knowledge that their sequences and trajectories were windows into

a creature’s entire conception of the world. When he was staring at that screen, David would always remember those times when he was young and felt scared, when he’d close his eyes as tightly as he could manage and then rub them until his wrists started to feel sore, just to see soothing colors trickle into the blackness. Sometimes he thought that those rats and their lights were one of the most touching, life-affirming things he’d ever seen. It was still goddamn exhausting. He collapsed onto the couch and smiled at his living room. The decor could only be described as ridiculous, maybe juvenile, but it made him happy, and guests always gave him credit for some sort of kitschy or ironic commentary that he was never quite sure really existed. Somewhere between the shelves lined with vintage toys, the small Lego sculptures, the anime figurines, the bad movie posters, his eyes settled on a picture of his nephew. It went against every rationalistic intuition he held dear, how much he cared about a creature that didn’t have much going for it beyond contiguous rolls of fat and some gurgles now and again. The baby was smiling wide in the photo, but did he even what a smile meant? Did he know 31


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how much his smiles made David smile? * * * The next day at work, the new undergraduate research assistant started hitting on him. He began lunch alone, content with his thoughts and a caprese salad, when she popped up from nowhere and sat right across from him. Oddly enough, confidence didn’t pose a problem for David and his condition, especially during the drive-by chitchats and flirtations scattered throughout his days. He knew that things (whatever “things” were after filtering through his warped sensibilities) would never really gain traction in those types of casual encounters, so he tried, above all, to enjoy them for the fun and imaginative fodder they were. The truth was, even in situations that did stress him out, talking with girls who he was crazy about, when his heart felt skittish in his chest and his brain seemed to flood his stream of consciousness with contrived fantasy after fantasy, he always surprised himself with his poise. “Hi there. Those rats been giving you any trouble? They weren’t that well-behaved,” the intern said, ruffling her bangs. 32

“It seems like you had a good influence on them. They’ve started reading Kant. Picked up the violin, too.” He took a bite of salad. “Yes, I read your resume.” Her cheeks flushed. “Oh, yeah. I’m not that good at violin anymore. And I might be dropping the philosophy minor. Don’t fire me.” “Actually, it was working against you in the application pool,” he laughed. “I find neuro a lot more… substantial, I guess.” “Yeah. I went through a “paradigm shift” like that back in my glorious college days,” he said miming air quotes. “You seem to have a knack for it, though. Or at least for tagging lab rats, which is about 80% of the job.” “Well maybe I should have stuck with philosophy, in that case.” She looked down for a moment. “But thanks.” He smiled and she turned pinker in the wake of his charm. “Let me know if you need anything. I got a lot out of my college internships—I hope we’re not too awful here.” “I really appreciate it.” “Oh, no. Don’t worry about it. It’s my self-imposed duty to make sure that anyone interested in this bullshit gets the hell out before its


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too late.” And then he stood up and left her there, laughing. The rest of the day passed by in an uneventful blur. Before he knew it, he was looking up to see, for the third day in row, Linda’s flyer taped on the elevator wall. He decided to put the number in his phone before he stepped out. The ad, the way it was written, those two adjectives, “compassionate and tender,” could only be a cry for help, a just-subtle-enough hint to the just-perceptive-enough stranger that Linda needed somebody. Maybe him—he still needed time to decide if he would actually go through with it and call. Again, he plopped onto the couch, wracking his brains over the same never-ending line of questions that seemed to resurface every night when he was home alone, when the entrancing spell of the lab’s methodical, calculated universe was broken. He tried to trace it—his condition, addiction, compulsion, fixation, hysteria, whatever the hell it was—back to something, anything concrete. Science told him, even if the change was gradual, he would be able to identify a turning point precisely where the smooth and predictable progression of his sexuality, his life for that matter, began

dipping into another direction entirely. The exact moment, at the crest of the parabola, where the ball changes from upward to downward momentum. He spent immeasurable amounts of time combing his mental records for memory of some trauma, some epiphany, maybe a blow to the head, but he could never settle on anything definitive, as if his mind would deliberately confound his searches in order to allow the elaborate illusions that comprised his love life to thrive. He still marveled at how efficient a mechanism the brain proved itself to be, especially when it came to lying, and especially when it came to lying to itself. One suspicious occurrence did stick out noticeably, and he often came back to it, but its relationship to his condition was purely conjectural—he couldn’t connect the psychosomatic dots, no matter how hard he tried. One night, not more than a couple of years ago, at most, he’d begun weeping uncontrollably during sex with a girl he’d met at bar, for no apparent reason. He could remember with certainty that he’d liked her, that they’d had an incredible conversation, especially granted they’d just met by chance, but its contents had already 33


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completely evaporated from his mind. After drinks, the next thing his memory deemed worthy to preserve was the instantaneous transition from near-orgasm level ecstasy to defeated whimpering, the same split-second when up became down that he was searching for now. He had apologized so profusely through stifled sobs, explaining how he had no idea what it was all about, that it was certainly not related to her, and that this had never ever happened to him before. But the moment she left he had laughed to himself as if the whole thing were just another impersonal, trite irony he had seen in a sitcom. And he was pretty sure that the next weekend he performed like his usual self with a different bar girl. The details of the whole scene faded into the murky recesses of his mind, like a childhood memory. He couldn’t even picture the girl’s face. Every time he thoughts he was getting close, her image would pour away like sand. He looked up at his shelves and admired one of his favorites, which seemed relevant now—a faded version of his own face drawn on an original 1960 Etch A Sketch (the year they came out). The question of origins, though, wasn’t everything for him. 34

What he did know was that his transformation, whenever it had started, had happened for a reason. There was empirically demonstrated merit to all the fawning, all those wistful glances and heart-heavy sighs. He knew the whole thing was ridiculous, neurotic, corny, chauvinistic, pathetic, but he felt relatively certain he wasn’t an ass even though he knew his mind spent an inordinate amount of time in ass-range territory. He knew that even calling what he experienced “falling in love” reeked of delusion, but when it came down to it, he thoroughly enjoyed treating his life like an airport paperback. While it confused the hell out of him, while he thought about it constantly, he wasn’t in the slightest eager to “repair” himself. Falling in love time and time again was an exercise in humanity, or at least an exercise in what humanity should be. Turning strangers into soul mates necessitated a steady torrent of vulnerability, the type of giving and selflessness that made empathy a fact of life. Of course, he knew that the martyrdom narrative only went so far—there was definitely an entirely selfish thrill involved. His heart could be stolen at any given moment, his life teetered on the


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edge of love on a second-to-second basis, a tight-rope walk over pulpyromance-infested waters. The primary downside was that any real, substantial engagement with the girls he fell in love with would shatter the illusions. The Dizzy Wishingwell Weeble he kept on his nightstand (mint, in package from 1973) captured the situation better than he ever could: he’d wobble and wobble, maybe even lurch, but never quite fall all the way the down. * * * Today at work, he thought of Linda. It came out of nowhere. In passing, staring at his computer monitor, pouring a cup of coffee, listening to a blathering colleague, probably while talking to that undergrad, too. Linda had just crept up on him, like a lingering fog slowly diffusing into the back regions of his thoughts. But there were a few moments, while he was hypnotized by the slowly migrating hands of a clock, that made it clear to him that this wasn’t any ordinary woman. He saw their kid. They were feeding her mashed peas together, laughing carelessly at the mess she was making. It had happened only a few times

that he could remember, getting less and less frequent as time went on. Each instance that his mind had wandered there, he felt something halfway between terror and sublimity. That was when his fantasies reached a level of heightened emotion, of dramatic tension where the divide between the two opposites just fizzled out. He couldn’t really explain it. His freshmen year Classics class, before he switched to neuroscience in a sudden bout of pragmatism (now his operating mode in the lab), told him to qualify it as something Platonic: the purest incarnation of exhilaration. But that wasn’t it. It felt too personal. The kid, his kid, was always the same. Every time it happened, no matter with whom, as rare and sporadic as it was, he would see the same wideeyed, dimpled face of a cherubic little girl. When he got home, he opened his phone and pressed the 5 key three times and saw her name appear on his screen. Was he actually going to do this? Part of him thought that taking the job would sully, even destroy that delicious subtext in the flier: the single mom (that was his read—it seemed plausible) who needed some heartfelt attention and care to be her antidote to solitude. To rebuild 35


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a family. He thought about it hard, trying to account for all the situational permutations and risks he could think of. The game he had crafted was a precarious one, and it required a lot more thought and precision than one would think was needed to construct borderline psychotic fairytales about women he barely knew. Both intuition and experience delineated the contours of the system, like any good experiment he’d ever designed in the lab. The more details involved, the more authentic and engaging the love story could be. But only to a point. As soon as reality entered the equation—and it often inserted itself rudely like that— proportions became critical. If too much was real, that empty stretch of existence where his fictions and his life could cohabit would recede, stranding his fantasies in the process. And if too much was fiction, sometimes even he grew tired of pure imagination. It lacked the existential heft that made his constant rides through the Tunnel of Love even the least bit genuine and worthwhile. When reality or imagination tipped the scale, the lights would flash on and his swan-boat would stall, and he would notice the clunky animatronics, the shit36

colored water, hear the cheesy porno-esque music. He hated those moments of clarity. But when a good balance was reached, it was heavenly. He thought back to Linda. Sitters are generally only called for when parents went out, which meant he would have a debriefing in the beginning, undoubtedly, but that wouldn’t reveal too much about her. And their kid was really an indicator of something special, here. It seemed tenable, all things considered—he would call. * * * The next day at work went by even more quickly. David didn’t get much done. Thoughts of his elevator soul mate prevented him from any deeper level mental processes throughout most of his time at the lab. Her voice had been so dulcet, so calming over the phone that he couldn’t help but allow it to run its way through his head over and over again, hypnotizing him for minutes at a time, even more effectively than the Newton’s cradle on his desk he’d always stare at. He had spaced out so much towards the end of the day that he wound up being the last person out of the lab. He left in a hurry, hanging


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up his white coat and shutting off the lights in one harried sweep of his hand, giddy, suckling like an unabashed toddler from his daydreams. He didn’t have time to go home before the babysitting started, so he got off the elevator on Linda’s floor. David was sweaty, his stomach was fluttering, he worried about his breath and his hair, and he loved it all. He rang the doorbell and waited expectantly, smiling. This was what he relished about falling in love. The anticipation, the sensation that the impending moment that was pregnant with infinite possibilities. About thirty seconds passed before the door swung open. He directed his gaze downward, and there stood, in place of the woman he imagined in his head—hair greying just slightly, well-dressed and wellproportioned—a little girl, the one he knew to be four from the flier. He took one look at those wide eyes and dimpled face, abruptly turned around, and sprinted to the stairs. He nearly tumbled down three flights, skipping steps and landing on his ankles more than once. He wasn’t prepared for that. That face. It was her face. David ran all the way to his apartment. He jammed the key into the bottom lock and turned,

panting. His love was supposed to be a vector of his own controlled illusions, something that only intersected with the real world from time to time, just enough to keep it relatable. What had just happened was never supposed to happen. He couldn’t bring himself to think about it too hard—it just didn’t compute. He needed to recompartmentalize his life; he needed to redraw boundaries that should have never been crossed. His thoughts immediately turned to his lab, the realest thing he’d ever known. It preoccupied itself with observable phenomena, with quantifying and measuring things that actually existed, unlike his love life, the pulpy mass held together by chewing-gum fictions. Somehow, it had deteriorated even more now. It was a mess, getting worse by the moment, the fragile latticework of assumptions, emotions, and self-deceptions beginning to crumble. The fact that he studied cognition and its neurological schema professionally had never seemed to help him sort his own problems out, but it was all he could turn to for the moment. The brain, all things considered, was supposed to be an orderly place. Consciousness boiled down to positive or negative 37


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charges cascading along neural pathways. He just needed to convince himself of that. It popped into his head, panic engulfing panic. He was the last one out today; he’d rushed. He’d left the PET scanner running. On a Friday, too. The machinery couldn’t be left on too long: it could overheat, it could burn a hole in their electric bills. There could be serious repercussions if anyone found out he was responsible. It was only six o’clock, thankfully. He could leave immediately to take a taxi back to work and turn it off before anyone noticed. It wouldn’t take more than ten minutes, even at rush hour. The right distraction—just what he needed. He went down in the elevator, eyes glued to the floor in an effort to avoid the flier and the avalanche of confusion his mind was just barely keeping at bay. As soon as he stepped out into the nighttime air he hailed a cab—the lab took precedence. The cab was quick, and David kept his eyes closed and his window open, grateful for the coolness of the wind on his flushed face. He got there quickly and told the desk-guard the situation, and he was let up with no problems. In the elevator mirror, he saw 38

himself, hair a sloppy mess of black, sanguine cheeks on a sickly pale complexion, bags under his eyes. He wasn’t a father. He was an experimental neuroscientist, a toy collector, a man whose life orbited around a near cosmic-level psychosis. Not a father. What the fuck did it even mean that he had seen her, that his manic visions had crept into the real world? What did that mean about anything he would think about, anything he had ever thought about? Could it really have been—he shook his head repeatedly, unsure if his brain had tricked him or if he had tricked his brain, if anything he thought could be trusted. The door opened and the lab was black, no faint electric glow or humming machinery like he expected. He stepped out and walked over to the back of the room, leaving the equipment swathed in darkness. And then he heard something. A commotion in the rat cages. David flipped the first switch his hand grazed, and a light flickered on over his desk. He looked closer at the cages and saw that he had left the ones containing the males and females side by side, his only absentminded blunder, contrary to all the harried panic. There were two


spring 2014

rats facing each other, one in each cage, frantically scratching at the metal that separated them. He stared at them, watching intently as they clawed and squeaked in futility. Before he knew what his hands were doing, he opened one a cage and took out the male rat, his grip hard on its warm torso. His fingers began to tense, and he looked down at the rat’s darting face as it struggled to escape. He picked up the tiny metal constraints from their resting place across the desk, gingerly fitted each little paw into each latch, then closed the main clamp around the rat’s body. And then he surprised himself even more by booting up the PET scanner, by slowly placing the rat in the machine, by lifting the rodent’s female counterpart out of the cage and thrusting her in front of its small beady eyes. The scanner started to hum, and lights started to flash as the male rat watched David dangle the helpless female in front of him by her tail. He stared at the fettered animal, wondering what it felt, wondering what the hell it was doing, what the hell he was feeling. Then the images generated on the display, small flecks of neongreen and red erupting out of the

purple backdrop, infinitesimal supernovas. He looked at the screen and carelessly dropped the creature in his hand, which darted away into the darkness. His buzzing head didn’t know what any of it meant without the mirror in front of the rat, couldn’t fathom the implications of the images in front of him, if there even were any. The room started spinning, and he closed his eyes and clenched his teeth, trying hard to replace the swirling red and green with the bursts of color on his eyelids, his comforts from childhood in times when reality escaped his jurisdiction. He rubbed intensely, as if his vision were stained, but the colors wouldn’t materialize this time. Instead it was that dreamy-eyed little girl with her dimples, finally breaking through his mental blockades. And then his brain seemed to relent under the pressure of the moment and the little girls face started to stretch and sag as his head sunk down to the surface of the desk in front of him. She was aging, slowly but surely. He rubbed harder, trying to erase the haunting metamorphosis out of his eyes—that face, that face from his dreams, from Linda’s door, was changing into something he 39


the columbia review

knew he couldn’t bare to look at. He heard the rat still in the PET scanner squeaking, and the noise was deafeningly loud in the silence, feeding into David’s ears with thick squirts of blood. He opened his eyes to stare as the rat struggled, but felt so viscerally repulsed by its desperation that he slammed a fist on the outside of the machine. He slammed again and again, until the squeaking went quiet. The images on the screen slowly faded as the scanner started to boot down, engulfed by the forlorn silence. He closed his eyes again, and finally he recognized the beautiful face from the bar so long ago smiling in front of him, a wide-eyed and dimpled angel.

40


CO NTRIBU TO R S

spring 2014

B e a t a K a s i a r z is an MFA poetry candidate

and translator at Brown University. She is currently a Translation Fellow at the National Yiddish Book Center, translating modern Yiddish poetry into English. B e c c a L i u , CC ‘14, is Editor of Columbia New Poetry.

Her poetry has recently won an Academy of American Poets Prize and the Glascock Poetry Prize.

M i c h a e l M e n n a adores the pantheon and the petri

dish that is the NBA.

N a t a l i e M o l i n a is a misbehaved witch. Her poems

have appeared in The Columbia Review and Columbia New Poetry, and her first collection of poems Coming Up Roses was published in 2013 by The Columbia Review Press. After graduation Natalie will be living in Brooklyn, casting spells, and playing with her pet snake Stevie. She can be stalked or courted at www.nataliemolina.com. I v a n d e M o n b r i s o n is a French poet, writer and

artist born in Paris in 1969. Five poetry booklets of his works have been published: L’ombre déchirée, Journal, La corde à nu, Ossuaire and Sur-Faces. His poems or short stories have also appeared in several literary magazines in France and in the US such as Jointure, Arpa, Friches, Phréatiques, Les Hommes sans Epaules, Harfang, The Boston Poetry Magazine, Penny Ante Feud, The Coe Review, and The Germ. His visual works have been shown in a few galleries in both Europe and the US, and also printed in several art and literary magazines and can be seen on his website: http://artmajeur.com/blackowl S e r e n a S o l i n has no middle name. K a l V i c t o r is a sophomore at Columbia majoring in

psychology and English. He enjoys long walks on the beach and a fine box of wine. 41


The Columbia Review, Spring 2014  

The Spring 2014 issue of The Columbia Review, the oldest college literary magazine in the nation. Volume 95, Issue 2.

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