2011-2012 Issue 2
Central Student Government
f Contents Friendly Flock
A City in Ruins
As the World Moves Overhead
Dawn of Man
Red Yellow Leaves Amy Wu
empty streets by the bus stop
From the Woods
Investigation by Any Other Name
broken bell tower
Audrey Stanton The Pale Man
Dan Connors, Courtney Duffey, Ben Mason, Teshia Treuhaft
Audrey Stanton Dolores
30 41 44
To Shuffle Off The Immortal Coil
In The Office
The Spring Trail
Matthew Robertson Pyro
Edi Fun with Pteronarcys californica
Phil Phan Phinds Phun
Portrait of a Girl
Waltzing to the Blues
itor’s Note Creativity is the norm on North Campus. Students, faculty, and staff in the School of Art & Design and the School of Music, Theater & Dance do artistic expression for a living; architects and engineers thrive on ingenuity and inspiration. And somehow, they all manage to make time to put their experiences into poems, pictures, stories and other works – even when there’s no course credit on the line. Blueprint is dedicated to showcasing this extracurricular creativity that pervades our community. The artists and authors whose work this volume features hail from all four of the North Campus colleges. Their number includes undergrads, graduate students, faculty, and alumni who study, teach or taught in fields as varied as the pieces themselves. This issue contains works whose subject matter ranges from the familiar to the fantastic; whose tone hits every beat between contemplative and whimsical. Readers acquainted with life around U-M will see reflections of their daily routines; others will find resonance with more universal themes. By bringing together this collection of poetry, short fiction, photography, drawings, digital illustrations and more, we hope to inspire you to keep an eye open for a side of your peers, your colleagues, students, and instructors – and maybe even yourself – that you may not have recognized amidst the tumult of all those quintessential North Campus experiences. You never know exactly what you’ll find – but we hope it might be something like this ...
Friendly Flock Felix Lipke
A friendly flock of sparrows chirps outside. My ivy-hobbled home’s their perfect nest. How charming that our dwellings coincide, Their feathered figures decorative guests. They greet me every sunrise with a song, Offering more worms than I could chew, Then romp and hide and seek in flapping throngs ‘Til dinnertime, when birds have work to do. My narrow speck of sparrows in the sky, A fluid southbound arrow flies away. No longer can this cold abode supply The proper venue for their crowed ballet. The end of autumn casts me in despair, For friendships only last when weather’s fair.
A City in Ruins Matthew Rosner
As the World Moves Overhead Nathan Mattson
Dawn of Man
“Ben!” The blankets flew from my body as I bolted awake, fingers scrabbling at air for something that wasn’t there. Sweat gushed in warm, saltwater rivers down my freezing skin, trickling painfully into my eyes. “Where?” I was in my room, just where I should be. It had only been a nightmare that caused me to rise in such a panic. With a sigh that came out more as an audible shudder, I slid from the bed onto a cold, harsh wooden floor. The soft, woven pouch lay on my nightstand next to the lamp, exactly where it always was. Carefully, I slipped it around my neck and pattered out into the chipped linoleum area that served as a kitchen. “So,” I sighed, making a half-hearted effort to straighten my hair as I slid two objects from the pouch into my hand. “Should I be late to work today?” The dice clattered on the counter, revealing sides adorned with two and four carefully painted black dots. “Even number, I guess I’m late today.” When I arrived to the office ten minutes later than was usually expected of me, no one questioned it. Any other secretary could be given a lecture or made to stay longer after her shift, but people were used to my diceinduced tardiness by now and generally chose not to question it. “Alexandra!” a voice hailed me from the doorway as I sat down at my computer and jabbed the start button. I looked up, already knowing who it was, but pretended to be surprised anyway. “Paul! I never thought I’d see you here.” I smiled, already feeling myself warmed by his presence. “Shouldn’t you be getting to work?” My boyfriend of four years held a job as an architect down at a new building site quite a few blocks away. He waved my question away with an elaborate bouquet of perfectly trimmed roses, revealed from their concealment behind his back with a flourish. He extended them to me, along with an invitation: “Want to go out for dinner tonight?” This time, I was genuinely surprised. He had never asked me out to an event so last-minute, knowing that
plans had to be made according to the numbers my dice provided. “That sounds wonderful!” I exclaimed, accepting the proffered gift of flowers and giving a gentle embrace in return. “Just give me a moment.” Excitedly, I rummaged the ties of my pouch open and took hold of my dice. Rolling them between my fingers expertly, I prepared to dump them onto the desk beside me. “Wait,” Paul covered my hands. “How about you don’t use those?” “Paul,” I shook my head and tried to pull my arms away. “Please just let me roll them.” With a sigh, he released me and allowed my dice to clatter onto the messy, paper-covered surface. I studied the outcome, then straightened with a smile. “Yes, I’ll come.” I thought he’d be happy to hear that, but a frown had now plastered itself across his otherwise beautiful face. “Sometimes,” he muttered, eyes downcast. “I wonder if I’m dating you or two plastic cubes.” I pretended not to hear him, prattling over his concerns with plans regarding times and places for the evening. While holding a carefully constructed front, I was inwardly cringing at his words. Lately, Paul had become more and more opposed to my method of decision-making, going so far as to make comments like this one about it. I always pretended not to hear, choosing instead the safer, argument-free route of ignoring him. Couldn’t he understand how much I needed the dice? He, of all people, should have cause to be a little more sympathetic. After all, he had been there when it happened… Dinner was a terribly expensive affair because Paul had seen fit to rent out half of what was an already overpriced restaurant for us. I abstained from commenting on it, knowing from experience that it would make no difference in how much he spent on me in the future. After I had hungrily devoured the main meal (an Italian dish my dice had demanded), Paul summoned an elegant waiter. The man nodded at a signal from him,
as if the two of them had planned this whole thing together beforehand. The waiter extinguished the lights and laid out a constellation of flickering candles in their place before approaching with a single tray bearing two glasses of dark scarlet wine. After his departure and a short exclamation over how beautiful the candles looked, I bent the glass to my mouth. “Do you like it?” Paul asked, watching me a little too intently, his own glass dejectedly forgotten. As I drew the cup from my lips, something slipped from it and fell, shimmering and spinning droplets from it, onto the angel-white tablecloth. The liquid settled comfortably and glaringly into the fabric, creating an odd yet uncomfortably familiar semblance of bloodstains. Paul’s hand shot out to grab it before it had chance to reach the floor. “What…?” I left my question unfinished as I caught sight of the object after he had vigorously cleaned it on a corner of the tablecloth. It was a ring. Multi-faceted and dancing with candlelight, a diamond had been planted firmly in the center of a thin, flawless golden band. Rainbow reflections thrown from the stone leaped over the table and walls like a weak disco ball. The overall effect was so simply breathtaking that I failed to even notice Paul until he had bent to one knee before me. “Alexandra, my love,” his gentle voice called my attention back to the moment at hand. “Will you marry me?” The silence following his request was so profound that my gasp of joy more closely resembled the sound of an avalanche than the actual small breath it had been. At that moment, I realized that I had never been happier than I was then, sitting in a dimly lit restaurant with my life laid out before me. Everything I had experienced, all the years of my life, seemed inconsequential next to this single instant of pure bliss. I could see Paul and myself, our children and grandchildren, yards and houses, and soft evenings on a porch swing. I opened my mouth to agree, to tell Paul how right it was that we should be together in this way, but stopped just before the words left my lips. Ben. How could I have forgotten Ben? “Paul,” I said with a smile, surreptitiously sliding my
hand into the pouch at my neck. “There is nothing I would rather do.” I withdrew the dice and prepared to roll them across the table when Paul took my hand. His gentle squeeze felt as harsh as if he held not my fingers, but my living, beating heart in his grasp. “Please, Alexandra.” His eyes were forgiving, knowing it would be hard for me to let go of my longtime need. “It’s time to stop.” “You don’t understand!” I was falling into a panic. “I have to roll them.” His fingers were too tight on mine for me to pull away. “No.” He was still quiet and gentle. “I know how much you rely on this, but it’s time to let Ben go.” I was silent and still, apart from the tears that had begun to cloud the edges of my vision. “It wasn’t your fault, love.” His face was level with mine now, pleading with me. “We’re what’s important now, not a decision you made in the past.” I yanked at his arm, “Please. I have to!” “It’s me or the dice, Alexandra.” He drew back from me and released my hand. “I hate to make you give them up like this, but I’ve tried everything else already. You need to let them go.” Fear. I had never known it could be this strong. Fear of Paul, of my now uncertain future, but most of all of myself. My son Ben had been everything to me, and now that he was gone I knew there was no way I could forgive myself of my choice. Paul spoke one last time: “Choose. Me, or your dice.” “So,” I whispered, as I walked from the restaurant with tears like rain dripping from my cheeks. “A bus, or a taxi?” The dice clattered in my hand.
Red Yellow Leaves Amy Wu
It’s weird. To be back in the same places two years later. The sea of unknown faces. The uncertainty of the year to come. (my whole world was about to crash, but I did not yet know) Now. It’s the same feeling but something is different. For a long time, there was only you. The only constant in the murmur of moving masses. And it doesn’t feel right this time There is a seat next to me that is missing you. The moment before everything changed When you and I were just friends I could close my eyes and almost feel the fall cool draft and hear the crunch crunch of the swirling red yellow leaves. I don’t like being in the same places we’ve been without you.
empty streets by the bus stop Amy Wu
these empty streets remind me of somewhere I’ve been in New Zealand the bus stop takes me back to the streets filled with the aroma of home cooking Rotorua reminds me of Cachora reminds me of humid rain reminds me of those ants that somehow found the bag of jerky and my one indulgence was gone when instant noodles taste like heaven but even I could not stomach the oatmeal-like substance from St. Catalina I miss the children who taught me wasa and the woman who introduced me to choclo con queso
and when the glacier spanned as far as I could see as I crossed the pass hand in hand on that snowy day it should have taken my breath away but I initially did not understand sometimes I think this is it and sometimes I think is this it… is this all I have and all I have to give? the streets are ruled by stray dogs running after taxi cabs and some beautiful stairs in Valparaíso lead to drugs and crime standing on top of Pucon I wanted to see lava spew high shower rocks around me but I didn’t want to die the day was hot and the heat burned into my skin the water lapping the volcanic soil was so icy cold.
From the Woods Isabel Talsma
Investigation by Any Other Name Andrew Crow
Most people travel Gilroy California for one thing,: Garlic. Sylvia Watson traveled for a seeming contradiction. According to all of the vampire lore she had transcribed over her years of “service,” the last time and place a person would expect a vampire attack is in at noon in a church in the middle of a garlic festival. Yet, that was the time and place of the most recently reported vampire attack. Most rational reporters would consider the story something for the most disreputable of tabloids. While Sylvia certainly considered herself rational, she had also undergone a series of experiences which had broadened her accepted view of reality. Such experiences included being born in a magical kingdom and enslaved by a witch for most of her life. Sylvia mulled it all over. The evidence showed clear signs of a vampire attack, yet the time and place were impossible. She needed help. Over a thousand miles away, David Watson answers his phone, “Hello princess. Do you have an answer yet?” “Greetings commoner. Sadly, I do not. I could use some help.” “Then why are you calling me? Don’t you know any vampire experts?” “I knew one before you killed her.” “Yes, but if I had not slain her, then you would still be captive under her spell, and you would not have the opportunity to be confounded with vampire hunts.” “I accept confusion over slavery any day, and I thank thee once again for freeing me, my love. However, you deprived the world of one of the great repositories of vampire knowledge when you burned her tower. My memory is the last vestige of the once astounding collection.” “I apologize. The next time I see a powerful collection of writings on the dark arts I will make sure to publish it as a children’s book.” “Must we continue to vex each other?” “I much prefer it over hexing each other.” “Quite. Now to the task at hand: how does one deal with a happening which appears to contradict every bit of accumulated knowledge?” Sylvia inquired. “In science, we take measurements which appear to
contradict accepted theory all of the time. Usually, that means whoever took the measurement made a mistake.” “So, you are saying that it wasn’t a vampire attack at all?” “That is one possibility. Although, there are numerous times in recorded history where an accepted theory had to be completely scrapped because it did not hold up to reality. However, those are usually based on faulty reasoning or unfounded assumptions. The geocentric universe, levity, the four elements, the four fluids, and ether were all accepted then rejected by scholars in their fields.” “That is another possibility, that vampires are not repelled by religion, daylight, or garlic. However, I recall many thoroughly documented incidents in which such circumstances were quite effective.” “Then, there is my favorite possibility,” David continued, “That the rules are not necessarily incorrect. Rather, they are incomplete. Many a physical law which was once thought to be universal was shown to be highly dependent on conditions which were far too subtle to detect. Much like Newtonian motion was thought to be universal for hundreds of years until relativity came along and showed that it was only applicable when the speeds are small. So what will it be?” “I agree that this holds another possibility, especially considering that there is no way to tell how many vampires failed to follow the documented rules because no one lived to tell the tale. I must bring our conversation to an end, my dear. I do not have much time. It has been following me since I arrived, and the scent of garlic which embraces this town does not slow it one bit,” Sylvia said calmly. David was not so calm in his reaction to the news,. “What? Get out of there! I should have made you take my sword.” “It is too late, my dear. I will deal with this presently.” Sylvia walked into the church housing the location of the first attack. The late afternoon sun shone through the stained glass windows. While she could not hear the fiend approach her from behind, she could somehow sense his presence. Sylvia normally preferred a formal
introduction, but she made a concession to both safety and timeliness by speaking quickly while avoiding visual contact. “I must ask you one thing. What is it that you fear?” The fiend replied with a rasping pride, “Nothing,; I fear nothing. Nothing can harm me.” Sylvia smiled, and even though she did not face the fiend she knew it was quite aware of her expression. “That is good for me. For I have brought nothing with which to attack you, and I attack you with nothing as we speak.” The fiend laughed,. “You must think yourself very clever, but if you are attacking me with an idea such as that, then you are not truly attacking me with nothing.” “However, if I am aware that my attack is useless, then I am effectively attacking you with nothing. Of course then, I am attacking you with that idea, but I am aware of that. Do you have anything to add?” Sylvia waited for a response. When she heard none, she turned around. The fiend was frozen. She walked slowly around it and made her way to the door. Looking in was a small gnome with many other gnomes behind him each more afraid than the one in front of him to look at the fiend. Sylvia turned to them and said. “All is well. He will never move again.” She fished a handful of metal trinkets from her purse and offered them to the gnomes. “If you would be so kind as to bury him deep in the cemetery, I will gladly make payment for you services.” A day later, Carl Kolchak looked over the papers on his desk. There were very few editors who would print a story about vampires. Still, given some of the bylines he had authored in his day, he could not say that she was out of her mind without heaping harsh implications upon himself. “So, you are sure that it is all in their minds?” He finally asked. “I am not certain, but when one examines the credible stories of vampire attacks several patterns emerge. The first is that all vampires have a weakness. The second is that the weakness is always something readily available, be it sunlight, garlic, fire, or wooden stakes. The third is that, chronologically speaking, vampires do not start being affected by a weakness until at least one vampire has claimed to have it. I figured my best course of action was simply to confront it. Usually they make their weaknesses apparent when confronted.” “You took an awful risk, but no worse than those I
took in my day. Really, I am no worse for the wear. Although, it kind of turned out to be a mixed blessing.” The mixed blessing to which Carl was referring was that he was once cursed to live until the day before his beloved Cubs win the World Series, thus experiencing the agony of waiting without the joy of victory. On the positive side, this has rendered him effectively immortal. “I was imperative that I try something, even though that something turned out to be nothing. All I had was a theory which I may never truly prove. However, I do have some evidence to support that the weakness of a vampire is that the vampire believes it must have a weakness, and believes this so fervently that its own vile powers force the belief into reality -- a reality of which it is the judge. It must have a decision for its reality to continue. If the judge cannot resolve the laws, then no verdict can be handed out and the court will never adjourn. I like that analogy. I think I will use that in my final draft.”
broken bell tower Autumn Neuharth
it’s always six thirty here. the curtains of nightfall cascade dramatically as we, like ants, rush from A to B with the warm hope of a dinner with friends, or the cold loneliness of a night spent alone. it’s always six thirty here as the harmonica man sits with a powderedsugar dusting of snow on his hat unfazed. casting his line desperately into the sea of students hoping that just one will take the bait and hear, for once, the sound of their own footsteps, offset perfectly by another’s alongside them. it’s always 6:30 here. i know for a fact that kids look at that clock longingly, imploring it with all they know to shudder and start its slow march of time again, taking them away from 6:30. six-thirty. [because everyone knows that nothing is more terrible than the Present.] the homeless man under the Starbucks sign whispered to me that he knew the Secret. that the clock was stopped by a curse only to be lifted if we, tomorrow’s generation, would learn to smell the roses. yet in this twisted fairy-tale there will be no hero. we will always fear time. we will always curse the hands that built that unmovable authority. it will always be six-thirty here.
Mr. White defined it for me Something about not moving Or rather staying put in a state But that was long ago, In high school Over a decade now Yet I sit here today On the wooden desk I bought for the new year I could (should) be working on a million things And reading paper 147 is to-do list number 12 But Iâ€™m thinking of you And the stillness in my body Does no justice to how fast my mind is racing I will not admit it, however. Some might call it fascination Some love Some curiosity I? Iâ€™ll chalk it up to staying put Inertia.
The Pale Man Kevin Anderson
The wind was strong that day, a shout of defiance charging in off the frothing bubbles of sea foam that rode the waves. It flung strands of salt-crusted black hair in front of my face and into my mouth that I chewed with nervous vigor as I watched the proceedings. Berkane, the head of the Council, stepped forward and wrenched at the door, struggling against mounds of rough sand that had blown against it. With a massive heave, the wooden shed surrendered and creaked open, rusting hinges complaining loudly at the second disturbance that week. The interior was enveloped in shadow, too deep to allow in any of the meager sunlight that managed to weave its way down between the brooding clouds. I saw something shift far back in the shed, as if the sound of the door had woken her suddenly from sleep. I tilted my head downward surreptitiously, allowing the wind to sweep my hair in such a way that I was unable to look into the shed, unable to see whatever my sister had become. She must be so thin, with jutting bones like the orphan children had and dark, haunted eyes like the ones of the mothers who were no longer mothers. I imagined her terrified gaze sweeping over me, begging for me to do something, anything, to stop this. “We have gathered on this day to witness a punishment,” began Berkane, his voice loud enough for all the villagers to hear over the wind. ”Rhell, daughter of Tali, shall on this day be given to the waves as a consequence for her transgression.” He continued the prepared speech, but I had stopped listening, focusing only on a single broken seashell at my feet. It was a scallop, as I had learned from Rhell when I was younger, known easily by the ridges that ran along it like sand in the shallow water that the waves pushed into tiny likenesses of themselves. She had played a lot with me in that water, teaching me how to swim and how to best win a splash fight against our older brother. Odd, I thought, that the water of my childhood should be the same that would end her life today. As if I, for having enjoyed what it had given, was somehow to blame now that it was time for the ocean to take something in return.
If only I could go back and tell Rhell what I knew now. That she should have just gone with it, simply been part of the marriage no matter how much she hated it, as long as she would be allowed to live. The laws of the Council were severe, and killing a man, especially one’s own husband, was certainly not permitted. Fiand had been so much older than Rhell, true, but also so much richer. Rich enough so that our family would have been ensured a comfortable life from the moment of the marriage that the Council had ordered. But Rhell would have none of it. She insisted that her heart lay with another, even as the Council forced her into a wedding dress and walked her down the beach into Fiand’s waiting clutches. That night, the entire village was woken by a scream like that of an animal, long and saturated with the mad terror of the hunted. Fiand had been slain in his own wedding bed, a kitchen knife driven through his heart by none other than his new bride. I felt a hand rest on my shoulder and glanced up out of my reverie into my mother’s mourning eyes, gray and windswept as the sea. “Come,” she whispered, guiding me from where I had stood, frozen. The villagers had drifted down into a crowd at the foot of the water, just close enough for the highest waves to barely clutch at their toes. The tiny wooden boat was already there and next to it stood my sister, obediently lifting her sleeves in order for the shackles to be attached. She was not as I thought she would be, after crouching in dark dampness of the shed for a week with nothing to eat but crabs that occasionally wandered in and nothing to drink but the mist of the sea. Rhell’s head was held high and proud like that of a queen in the midst of mere commoners, raven-black hair whipping about her in a blazing nimbus. It reminded me of when I had watched a tornado come down across the hills, swirling and sweeping away everything near enough for it to touch. My sister was a storm of sea foam and hail, defiantly staring down the water that would soon be her death. I, a mere peasant to her queenly gaze, looked upon
her in silent awe at the sheer courage of her spirit. So ferocious, so defiant, fighting until her last breath against that which she did not believe in. I have heard it said that when people are about to die, they finally reveal the true nature of who they are. Cowards run, brave men fight, betrayers yank down their comrades, and my sister stands straight-backed against it all. Shackled with heavy chains to the tiny boat, she sits as if in a carriage as the carpenter bores careful holes into the damp wood. Holes large enough to sink the boat but small enough to do it slowly, gratingly, while the criminal sits within and screams. When they push her out past the waves she does not look back, but stares straight ahead at the foggy horizon. The mist and salty water reach up toward her, pulling at her hair and clothing, dragging her downward. I watch as she drifts into the distance, never glancing anywhere but forward, never letting a single noise pass her freezing lips. When she is nearly out of my sight, just a low-sunken point of color against the gray sky, I almost believe that a boat comes to her and pulls her aboard. I imagine them sailing into the distance far beyond the reach of my mortal eyes, too far gone from where I stand, motionless, on the windy beach.
Dynamic Packaging Dan Connors, Courtney Cuffey, Ben Mason, Teshia Treuhaft
Problem There is an inherent issue with our existing form of packaging: wasted space. The difference between the container volume and that of its contents creates major issues for its shippers.
Criteria - Adapt to a variety of 3D shapes rectilinear and curvilinear - Use least amount of materials - Offer infinite number of sizes - Durable
Research Over packaging is a serious concern that has been documented by consumers for years. It results in both wasted space and materials. This issue is a result of existing static packaging materials that cannot adapt to their contents.
Solution The final iteration of our solution was made using x-forms spanning the width of the corrugated cardboard. This method of scoring gave the material its ability to conform to the shape of its contents without sacrificing structural integrity. The material, once scored, has the added benefit of being flexible enough to wrap cylindrical items using one side or still fold into a classic rectangular box using the other side of the cardboard sheet.
Rithu Srikantha She walks barefoot, making her way along a path of stains deeply embedded into the carpet. The familiar, pungent scent of greasy fried rice and sour, sweaty Chinese men wafts into her room from downstairs. The smell no longer triggers her gag reflex but rather provides a sense of security—a sense of home. Exhaustion takes over when the lights finally go out and she curls into the fetal position on the stiff bed. Sighing with relief, the tension she has been holding within her follows suit. Her limp body is inescapably hot, but the humidity of Southern China is something she has learned to ignore. Subdued moaning from the room next door begins, signaling a mild-mannered Chinese man is likely entertaining a “guest.” Her eyelids are heavy, sealing shut the instant her eyelashes meet. She takes one last deep breath and falls asleep on the exhale. When Elena first moved to China, it was a temporary solution to her monotonous American life. She had grown up in the middle of suburbia -- lived in a house on the cul-de-sac of a cul-de-sac, on a street that mirrored the next five on either side of it. Twenty-two neatly trimmed bushes formed a box around her front yard, fencing her into her cookie-cutter life. Thirty-four sunshine-yellow tulips stood guard along the pathway to her front door, three inches separating each. She knew that because her mother had insisted she measure the distance when they planted them together eight years ago. It was in the town of Fairfield, Connecticut that she had learned to tie her first shoe, ride her first bike, perfect her first yoga position. When Elena first moved to China she was supposed to be a college student. Somewhere along the way, she ended up as a twenty-two year-old yoga instructor. The one thing Elena’s mother had been good for was introducing Elena to yoga. The most vivid memory Elena had of her mother was their preparation for yoga class every Saturday morning. Her mother was one of those women who couldn’t be caught in public without her mask of powder and mascara caked on to perfection—a security blanket of sorts. Every Saturday morning—after putting on her face, of course—Elena’s mother would pull her golden hair into a tight pony-tail with extreme
precision. She would then paint her lips with a coat of rouge lipstick that Elena used to admire: a thick, glossy layer of ruby-red in which Elena could almost see her reflection. They would then attend class with fifteen or so other women who were clearly members of some Juicy Couture battalion with Elena’s mother as their commanding officer. None of this vanity fazed Elena, who aspired to reach her mother’s level of awesome. In Elena’s eleven-year-old eyes, her mother was beautiful. “Namaste,” the teacher would announce once everyone had arrived. It was a small formality that didn’t hold much meaning to any of the women in attendance. The statement held even less meaning for eleven-yearold Elena. The mission at hand was less about spiritual awakening and more about “toning our butts and guts.” The women would bend and twist their bodies into every position they could with a vision of perfection just out of reach. Tree pose, Vrksasana. Lotus pose, Padmasana. Child’s pose, Balasana. Tree pose, Vrksasana. Warriors I, II and III, Virabhadrasana. The beauty and precision of these positions was apparent to Elena even in her youth. Though she had a hard time sitting still for the breathing exercises, she still admired the synchrony in the movements. As Elena grew, she began to study the history of yoga and learned to appreciate its connection to the soul. Her appreciation for yoga and her mother were soon inversely related. No longer did she aspire to her mother’s assumed perfection, seeing her instead as a phony who used yoga purely for the enhancement of body rather than mind. Elena had become a free spirit. She didn’t want to fit into a perfectly trimmed box of shrubbery. She knew she couldn’t grow up to be another perfect Connecticut housewife. She needed to get away. So she left. She chose to come to China because of its sheer distance, but instantly fell in love with its rich colors and vibrancy. Most people traveling to the Far East might have preferred a city like Beijing or Shanghai, but Elena was no tourist. She had read that Wuhan was famous for its spicy food, loud people and its lack of tourists. She knew very few people spoke any semblance of Eng-
lish in the region, but she was ready to escape into the future (twelve hours into the future, to be exact). After a year, she realized she needed a break from school. She was surrounded by so much culture and so many opportunities, but felt she was too constrained to realize these things. She no longer felt passionate about her rigid classes and simply stopped going. As her parents became more accepting of her choice to leave, Elena found her herself wanting more. Craving more. She tried to discuss the issue with her parents but quickly found they were far less concerned with her boredom and much more concerned about what the neighbors would think of their uneducated misfit of a daughter. Elena’s decision-making style didn’t really leave time for full consideration of the ripple effect of her actions. Her path was paved only about two days in advance. The path of a free spirit. Elena wakes up the next morning and opens the splotchy drapery to another cloudy day. The sun is always hiding beneath a quilt of gray clouds. She often forgets what the sun looks like, but it is at those moments that the sun decides to make a fleeting appearance as if to remind her he still exists. She scans the hotel room she has been living in for the last six months, the last five of which have gone by without contact with her mother. She sees the stack of letters her mother has continued to write to her. Elena responded to a few in the beginning, but the most recent ones are filled with passive-aggressive insults, which Elena does not care to deal with. There are few places to look around the room that are not painted with some sort of dirt or mysterious fluid. The room itself tries to feign class with two paintings of pleasant scenery and a giant long plastic vase of fake lilies. The advertisement in the lobby for hourly rooms reads almost as an afterthought. They really aren’t fooling anyone. All the hotels in the city offer a similar sense of moral ambiguity. Nevertheless, the place provides a sense of stability for Elena, and she does her best not to complain. A task easily accomplished in her solitude. She gets dressed for work. After she stopped going to school, money became an issue. She always thought of herself as someone who lived outside the bounds of conventional economic slavery; she grew up with everything a girl could ever want but had never asked for it. When Elena had broken the news of her impending
leave of absence to her mother, her mother had thrown a fit. Elena had expected nothing less, but it still bothered her that her parents couldn’t accept her decision. It had bothered Elena when her parents had not immediately agreed to pay for her Chinese adventure, and it bothered her they didn’t accept her most recent personal development. She no longer had a steady influx of money supporting her basic needs and was forced to get a job. Surprising herself, she had welcomed the opportunity for self-sufficiency because she had heard free spirits were accustomed to such a lifestyle. It was time for Elena to prove something. She wasn’t sure exactly what that was, but she was determined and that was all she needed. The elevator in the building is especially busy on Saturday mornings. Between the hours of 6 am and 7 am, the nightly visitors do their best to escape into the shadows, a ritual Elena is generally privy to. Her 8:30 am class requires her to leave at 6:30 in morning in order to catch Bus 56 outside the hotel. This morning she is running late, so she quickly grabs her bag and bolts down the long hallway. She arrives at the elevator and reaches out to push the down arrow, but her motion is interrupted by the same path of another finger. She follows the hand up a slender, pale arm to a young woman who is equally startled. The woman quickly retracts her arm, her almond-shaped eyes shifting back to Elena. The woman is dressed in a simple yellow dress that hits her knees. Her hair is pulled back in a tight black bun and her face is translucent and flawless. At first glance she is beautiful by any Chinese standards. By Elena’s standards. Elena continues to stare at this woman as they wait for the elevator. She begins to notice the remains of last night’s makeup on her face. A smudged black line traces her aged eyes, which glare straight ahead. Her mouth is stained from what was once a thick coat of red lipstick, slightly smudged around the edges. She focuses on the woman’s pursed lips for a second and quickly remembers why the woman is here and why she is doing her best to leave undisturbed. Elena’s admiration slowly turns to judgment and rests on indifference. Elena has always done her best to accept others for their choices, but there is something about exploiting a body that doesn’t sit well with her. Her yoga training taught her that the body is sacred, that there is no excuse for treating it otherwise. The frequency of such encounters
has forced her to accept but not to approve of their existence. She is a free spirit, after all. The elevator seems to be taking longer than usual. The ride down five floors is quiet. Elena is now used to these once-awkward rides. The girls are generally embarrassed and staring downward, with shy upward glances. They are both curious about and surprised by Elena’s obvious foreignness. The curiosity and shock are common feelings amongst the Wuhan locals. The fact is that very few natural blondes have any desire to vacation in a place with all the heat and none of the sun. Her light-colored hair is always met with stares as she walks down the street. The woman in the yellow dress looks straight ahead, but her facial expression is serious and unembarrassed. She is unaffected by Elena’s presence, never slipping from her stoic glare. Once out of the elevator, Elena walks quickly to the bus stop and catches the 56 just in time. She has made it a point to integrate herself with the locals, and the crowded bus filled with sweat-saturated air is part of this daily ritual. When she arrives at the yoga studio in the neighboring district, it is 8:15. She freshens herself up in the bathroom and waits for her students to arrive. One by one they file in and take their places for the twohour class. The class begins as scheduled. The women in the class know the routine very well by now -- Elena is simply a guide. The women never smile and they never falter. It is a very elite group that can afford to spend their money on yoga in Wuhan. Elena has come to terms with their disconnect, though she can feel her flightiness kicking in. Apparently satisfaction is equally unattainable 10,000 miles away from Fairfield. As the class pushes back into Balasana, Elena is compelled to end class ten minutes early. Elena gets off the bus and walks toward the hotel, but a young girl she sees playing on the sidewalk distracts her. The girl is smiling at a sleeping dog lying on its side. She is attempting to call it over, but the dog appears too tired to be interested. The dog is covered in patchy taupe hair clearly affected by its hunger and homelessness. The girl is focused on getting the scrawny animal’s attention and finally the dog forces itself up. The sullen eyes of the wild animal look back at the girl, confused. The girl giggles, extremely entertained. The dog barks loudly twice as if to stand its ground and the girl goes into a fit of laughter and excitement. Suddenly
a woman comes out of a neighboring shop, noticing the scene. She looks at the dog angrily and shoos it away in loud, inarticulate Chinese. The dog stands there, hurt and more confused than before. The woman takes her daughter’s hand and scolds her too, and the child’s eyes begin to well up. Elena’s stare shifts from the girl to the woman. The woman’s face is stern and unfaltering. A face Elena recognizes. The woman in the yellow dress. The woman feels Elena’s stare and her eyes shift from the child to Elena for a moment. Her focus is deliberate and with that she turns and walks away with her daughter. Elena’s concentration shifts to the stray dog and her body weakens. She sees the longing in the animal’s eyes. She sees her reflection. Elena returns to her room with determination. She opens the door and walks into her bathroom. She stares at herself in the mirror for a second before picking up the hairbrush and aggressively combing her hair back into a tight pony tail. Before looking up she scrambles through the drawer under the sink and pulls out an unused red lipstick. She carefully traces the shape of her lips with the deep ruby then smacks them once. She stares at herself and her reflection blurs. She swallows and closes her eyes. She exhales. Balasana.
I figured this was how I’d end my day: dressed in the same uniform as the majority of the town. We, the town, joined together to work at various plants within a 3 mile radius at set intervals, all wearing prescribed clothes that wouldn’t allow any pills or tablets to be lost or collected in any crevice or pocket. The collars, sleeves, and legs of our uniforms all had elastic ends that dug into the skin to keep only the hands free. In my plant, I’d sit in front of my locker with my head resting in my hands for a few minutes before the clock passed the 11:00 pm mark. I’d steal those undocumented seconds from the company as I walked down the fluorescent hallway to the whiteroomed quadrant of the plant. I breathed in the chemicals, which we were promised were harmless. I held a hairnet in my hand and put it over my head. As I walked forward, I let the chemical dust settle on my exposed face and hands. I put on a pair of latex gloves slowly before I turned into another room that was marked for only authorized personnel who garnished the right protective wear. pulled my safety glasses out, slid them onto my face and pushed my elbow against the swing door, squinting my eyes as they were soon engulfed in the brightness. This has been my life for years now. A life weighted by overwhelming darkness, dividing itself into two kinds of moments: ones of clarity and ones of pain. I started to see everything as fractions of time before I would return to that same room that was a mixture of my life and a bitter dream world. The dream felt longer each time, like I was fighting the ending, and every time it seemed darker. So I tried to fight the dream. I would tempt myself with insomnia, ingesting caffeine pills to keep me awake. The dream always won. I could at most keep it away for a day and a half, but before long I had to go back to my life. I worked at a local pharmaceutical plant. The company produced a high volume of drugs that were distributed both behind the counter and over the counter. I felt that I made the drugs that kept the world sane. I would look at the production line and wonder if this pill or that pill would be the one to cure my dreams. If there was a release in the small compacted powder to breathe some sanity back into my life. I had chosen this life of few variables, had chosen not to continue anything after I dropped out of the lo-
cal community college; I piggy-backed my brother until he continued on to a bigger college. My only connection to the outside world after he left would be to watch his school’s football team on the weekends when I didn’t have to pull overtime. When he was home he would tell stories of school, parties, and women. Each time he visited he grew more mature, and had a manner that I couldn’t understand that started to build on itself. I never visited him at the University, but when he told me of the town, a small part of me wanted to be there for every moment. I would drink and hear tales of women, while I at our town with the same vantage point my entire life. I had one home, and no reason to leave. The air was breathable, and the variances were few. We had a school, I went to it; I didn’t like it. We had a bar, I went to it; I liked it. I nestled into the known, the town; my town lived like a parasite on the back of the constant, our pharmaceutical company. The factory kept changing names due to new owners, which led to the town referring to it as “the company,” slang that allowed people at all stages to badmouth work without being held accountable. The company would be the butt of jokes, and the first thing we’d cheer to go screw itself at the 3 bars in town. The thing about the company, though, was that it never faltered, even with a stifling economy. We always had our jobs. I would look around at the townies I had grown with and I would feel surprised that they could stay employed, so I raised the bottle of beer up to my lips and made sure I felt the hollowness and emptiness of the bottle before it was rested back on the bar, and changed the subject in my mind. I was turning 29 when these dreams started happening. I couldn’t control myself. In dreams, I would be consumed once again by white rooms, but now they were closing in on me, strangling me and generating a heat. Then, in lucid seconds after I awoke, I could see that the constants of my life were my faults. The days started to feel darker. I was haunted by the fleeting moments when I would get home at 7:30 am from working 8 straight hours, and I would need to decide if I wanted to go to bed and revisit the rooms I had just left, or to shift my schedule and sleep later in the afternoon. I thought about changing my shift, but I had worked the others before,
worked second, worked first, and found myself more at home in the late hours. I liked it. This way, I only really met people at the bar. They were the people that accepted the night. I was one of them. I would drink, but only on the weekends. On the weekends, after the drinks had settled and my steps felt lighter, I would walk the town and breathe in a beauty that some seldom saw. I would listen to the water over the smooth rocks of the small river, to the air whispering through the cornstalks and into the vast open fields, and to the wheels reverberating against the cold pavement as the moon reflected off the white and yellow lines of the road. Finding myself off and on the pavement, up the ditches and back into the forest. I’d be staring out to the settling dew and the rising fog. I had been picked up a few times for my walks, but after a while the police would just slow and see me, wave, and continue on. I wasn’t a threat; I was just another bloke who happened to be part nomad at night. I had no definite place to be or go, but my choice in life was to work the third shift, and on the weekends I didn’t have to work overtime I would have nothing else to do during the 8 hours that passed between Friday night and Saturday morning. I slept then. I slept well, after I lost myself in the uncharted paths of the town. Each weekend I tempted myself to walk a little farther across the field, into the dark underbrush, to go up the trees that boasted the highest clearance. I’d have sap or the small chalky residue from bark in my calluses as I twisted my hands on the tree branches to find my equilibrium. I’d stare into the vastness, relishing the outskirts of town, out to the other cities and the rest of the world that wasn’t controlled by our town’s borders. I would look out and see only the stars and the frail echoes of the undefined neighboring lights. In the end, I would always find myself looking back into the town; it held all of my loves and most of all my faults. I would imagine all of our women sleeping under the constellations; they would be hidden in their homes missing the softening reflection that could hold itself on their skin. I knew all the girls that were my age, even those a little older and younger, and had seen them grow with the never-changing men of our town. The men were small fractions of their fathers, and their father’s fathers, and the women followed them contentedly. We became a town of hand-me-down knowledge and lifestyles. My older brother stood out to everyone, when he
came back to work higher in the company, he spoke with good diction and a logic that seemed unfamiliar to all. As he pursued his degree, he would send me his used books and sometimes his essays. I would read them during my work breaks, and after a while I started to enjoy the words he would use. I can remember the papers he would send would always have small glances of our past. I could see in his writings, with his need to somehow build off our lives, that he would inevitably live back home in our town in the end. His scenery was always a Midwestern home that breathed of familiar shapes and feelings. There were major differences between his writing and mine though; his stories had opinions not heard of in town and created characters that didn’t end up in the bar every night. I wondered to myself what that meant, who he knew, what else was out there. He wrote about different religions and how people were closed off. Most intriguing was when he wrote about our family, how to him, our lives had been a source of emptiness. Our lifestyle of drinking and underlying hatred had separated us more emotionally than our physical locations. I remember this vividly, because when you have a lifestyle of few changes, you find that a new perspective can throw everything off. My daydreams followed quickly to the facets of his written creations. I was in awe,; I thought about the stories during the many hours of the night at work. I would pull the barrels of tablets, letting the kilos pivot off the end of my steeltoe boot as I leveraged them with my waist onto skids. I would cover their tops with thin sheet of fabric, as we were taught, to hold the moisture in as they cooled. It was in this monotony that I would lose myself, and I would think to the rhythm of the machinery hums. After a while the movements became so ingrained that I started to push things to the limit. I would slide barrels too fast or rest them off the edge more and more, and finally one day over 100 kilos slipped as I twisted the barrel off of my foot. I shot down with my arm to catch it. I then had to leverage myself too much and I strained my back and without noticing bit my lip too hard. The taste of blood immediately brought back memories- it had never seemed more familiar. I have to think that it was my frame of my mind. I had been reading my brothers words over and over during my lunch breaks. Seeing our past broken into short paragraphs, and slowly expanding as I followed down the page. I let the blood become thick in my saliva before I swallowed and I then
went back to my childhood in my mind as my body continued to work. When I was younger I would be forced to visit my father in his mobile home, which was located in a trailer park on the outskirts of the neighboring town. The park resided as close as legally possible to the main highway, and had a stream on the outside edge of its main street. The stream, although it pressed against many large rocks, made no noticeable soothing noise as it moved. This was because the Department of Transportation hadn’t put up any sound barriers, and the sounds of cars overpowered everything as they echoed against the hundreds of mobile homes. At night, my older brother and I would listen to the 18-wheelers and late night drunks careening from town to town. We would imagine that they were sports cars, and that someday we would be driving the cars alongside those drunks, the ones that didn’t have to sleep on unsteady bunk beds praying to go back to their mothers. We could be free from it all. My father was a product of the Navy, who after serving became a washout from just about every job he held due to his alcoholism. He was always proud first and foremost of himself, and we were led to think that he was something special. Our mother disagreed. She would tell us time and time again that she made the best kids, but she never quite got the husbands right. I was the product of her second marriage. Her first was young love and produced no children. My parents divorced when I was 5, and I don’t really remember them together ever, but my older brother would tell me that I was lucky not to know. The reason I’m telling you about this is for one specific day. On this day, which I remember vividly, my father received a water gun that resembled his 9mm in the mail. He didn’t tell me or my brother that he had, and as an 8 year old who knew very little of the dark sense of humor of a man he saw every other weekend, I was already frightened generally by his presence. So as usual to get away, that afternoon my brother and I left for the community park on the next street over. It was sunny out and we played for what seemed to be hours. We would throw sand at each other, race up the slide, and just simply roll around the patched grass instead of spending time with our father. When we returned home, I walked up the metal grated steps that retracted from the mobile home’s door and stepped up into the living room/kitchen. There he sat,
and as I walked by him he tapped my shoulder with his beer and pointed the gun at my head. When I turned and saw it, I froze. Absolutely froze with only my legs to vibrate as I wondered who this man had become in the sunny hours that I had left him. With what I thought was his Navy pistol pointed at me, he asked if I felt lucky, and being young, naive, and gullible, I was at a loss. I had been forced to see my father. I had had to come back from the park to have what I was expecting to be a microwave dinner for lunch, and now had to choose for my life. I started to cry, and a little bit of pee found its way into my underwear. He then shot me in the face with the water gun and told me in a loud voice not to cry. I held it in with small convulsive motions as I tried to suck back the tears, and I went to my room. There I sat with my back to the rickety bunk bed while my brother sat on the other side of the room and told me, quiet enough so my father wouldn’t hear, that we would be going home soon and mom would take care of it. We knew she was just as afraid, and that if it wasn’t for the law we would never have to be here. When I stopped crying into my knees, my brother told me to come with him back to the park. We were two small blond boys, who stood out with our almost pure white hair. I remember that we both equally took three strides for every concrete sidewalk block. When we went to the park we could see that the other trailer park kids had taken over a majority of the slides, swings, and monkey bars. We hated this, because we weren’t them, we were only weekenders who didn’t have the same connection that they did, and we weren’t allowed to integrate. They’d look at our clothes that didn’t brandish NASCAR, cheap beer, or look like a hand me down and we would be pushed away from the different areas of the park. I remember then, that no matter what situation or whether or not it meant you were better or worse, that being the fewer out of a greater group was bad. That day, that brilliantly colored day, that I had walked around with slightly damp underwear from my father terrifying me, would now be continued for the next half hour in the sandbox. The sandbox, which after age 4 became the worst of worst of the playground, was all that was left. But, this time, in the sandbox we found a baseball. With our feet planted in the sand we flicked it back and forth out of our hands to each other from about a yard away. We sat on the same edge of the box, and faced away from the
other kids. It was then, that the sunlight that shone in front of us seemed to turn immediately black; a flash of pain seemed to match a streak of bright light cutting through the darkness as my neck snapped forward from one of the neighboring kids kicking me in the back of my head. My mouth was in an instant bloody, and I didn’t know then, but I had bitten a part of my tongue off as my teeth clamped together. At the same time, the other boys jumped on my brother’s back, and a few punched him in the face trying to miss the choking body on top of him. As the pain settled, and the tears and screams started to fly from my throat I could see the teenage boys pushing and punching my brother. A larger boy hearing my screams had grabbed my head and forced it into the sand. The blood was dripping from my mouth, and it started to collect the sand around my lips as I gasped for air by moving my head left and right as he held his hand on the thick of my recently kicked head. I swallowed everything trying to breath, the sand, the blood, and the small slice of my tongue. A smaller boy switched off kicking and punching my side, and it felt like my ribs were clenching and expanding as they tried to fly out the other side of my body. I became a tortured and disheveled mess within seconds, and my pain switched off and on as the group gained and lost energy to attack. At some point, within an amount of time that I have no bearing of anymore, my brother had broken free and he threw himself onto the boy who was holding me down, the one that seemed twice his size. In this moment of freedom I fled. I left him there with the group of 4 or so kids mercilessly punching and choking him as one ran after me. I ran with the now completely pissed underwear chafing me as I sprinted back on the same sidewalk, with a now two stride per square pace to the trailer. Back to my dad, who was still sitting with a beer in his hand. I was crying and screaming with blood drooling and dripping out of my lips, off my chin, as it collected on my clothes. I still don’t know what words I told him, but he ran, he flew, and he in what seemed like seconds pulled my brother up the metal grated steps and through the door. Our hair had splatters of redness, and our shirts no longer looked that different from the hand me downs of the other kids. We were broken pieces, introduced and rejected, in a trial to adapt that we never wanted to participate in. My father told us that he went back to each kid’s homes and talked with their families. We knew he
didn’t, he instead sat with his beer and wondered how he would get the blood out of his carpet. He informed us that we shouldn’t have played with their baseball, and it was then, that I started to feel that the splendors of this life were never greater than the pains that followed. For less than 5 minutes of enjoyment from a baseball being held in the air for a second at a time, I was permanently traumatized into thinking that I could always be seconds away from being trapped, held in by fists and hands while choking on my own tongue. I had bouts of claustrophobia from then on, and my brother after seeing me shake for minutes after he tackled me one day knew from then on that I needed something else. I was a broken tattered collage of misfortune that would explode in anxiety and fear at the second things closed in on me. As my mind started to cross and re-cross the many times I had been consumed by my fear, wrapped in the darkness of surroundings holding me in, a worker grabbed my shoulder to inform me that our shift was over. We walked down the white corridor. I listened to the entire third shift speed their steps as they rushed to their locker rooms. The girls disappeared first into the locker room on the left and the men continued on down the hallway before we entered ours. I sat there still tasting the blood on my lip, and pressed my head against my locker. I slipped off my pants with my head still pressed against the locker. The drug’s coat of white chalky film that layered the pants fell off to become a thousand speckles on the dark concrete floor of the locker room. I pulled my shirt off, let the tight collar fold backwards as it raised off my head and it put a few particles of ibuprofen into my nose. As I tried to snort the powder out, I started to think about how these chemicals were mine, granulated and manipulated into working tablets by me. In the 3rd shift, I was forming the active ingredients of a sick world. I was a product manager confined in these white walls that now seemed to be the same color of the ones of my dream. I wondered now, if my work had become my prison, how somehow I could never leave this place whether in my dreams of reality. After this thought, I skipped a shower and just walked out the door to stand in the line for the revolving doors. The revolving doors that require an I.D. scan to go through, have the power to hold you captive. They rest just outside of the hallway that intersects both the
men and women’s locker room. Both sexes would trickle out and you could see the ones that had showered and the ones that just wanted to be home. Past the doors, was a video camera, which looked over your body for anything out of the ordinary. The camera is the last trial of the workday, and is respectively called “Big Brother”. The Big Brother of the company is comprised of 6 rotating security guards that sit two blocks away, and at the touch of a button they can confine me in the narrow 7-foot tall rotating tube. These seconds are the most engulfing moments of my job. My legs shake when I go in, my jaw clenches and my teeth are rubbed slowly back and forth over each other. I look forward; avoiding any eye contact with the camera, because somewhere in my chest my heart is racing too fast, the blood is flowing too quickly and somehow not making it to my brain. The room gets black; my eyes start to cloud, under the pressure that any man behind a camera would push that button if they could see my fear. I could be dead tired, broken and a second to death, but standing in the hold, in the revolving isolation I am never so dark. I breathe it in, close my eyes and wait for the back of the door to push me through only seconds after I stepped in. I take two large steps to the next door, and then I’m out to the world where I let the still settling morning dew fill my lungs and the quake of the moment perspire out of me. I then walk to the bottom of the steps just outside the front door, stop and bend my knees, wait for the blood to start flowing into all areas of my body, and then I walk to my truck. I live down the road, and am always close enough that I can hear the company working at all times. The other shift has already parked in the lot by the time we leave, so the roads are clear for opposing traffic. As I pull into my driveway a few of the cars behind me honk when they cross my driveway, which is their way of saying “see you tomorrow.” I raise my hand out of my truck to say goodbye as I step out, and I walk to my small house and hold my hand on my doorknob. I always leave it unlocked, I know this, but now I am left to wonder if I’m willing to go back to sleep, or if I should just start walking. It’s late September and the sun is just coming out around 8am. I walk into my house and step through the kitchen into my bedroom. I leave the bedroom door open and the blinds open to feel less enclosed. The covers feel as constrictive as my clothes at work, so I lay in my underwear on top of them. I rest on my back with as much
air coming into my throat as possible, which I’ve done since I was a child. The sun rises and warms the side of my face, and soon I dream. In my dreams I travel right back to the white room, back to the undistinguishable emptiness that has held me now for years. The morning had let me sleep for 4 hours and with my heartbeat pulsating as I awoke, I felt more distant from my life that I had in years. I didn’t want to try to sleep again; I instead wanted to embrace the idea that my constants weren’t controlling me. The change in my sleep schedule made my stomach feel unsettled and I decided to eat my lunch earlier than normal. I’d usually be eating around 3pm, as I had for the last 8 years, but a pressure seemed to pull from my mind as I shifted out of my own structure. I instead embraced the trade off of being sleep deprived for another terror, and made soup around noon. The house seemed emptier than normal. I sat on the couch and sifted through the TV channels, and waited for the dinner hour with my older brother. He usually stopped by around 6pm when he got out of his first shift office job. When he arrived I could see the headlights brighter and brighter against the television. The driveway, which led directly to my living room, was always dark at night until those 10 second he drove up and the corresponding 20 when he left. He would bring a six-pack every other day, and I would let him drink his 3 beers as I had a cold pop. I couldn’t drink at dinner, because the hours before work were narrowing down. It was a rule to not have alcohol in you when you were at the company, and it was a rule that everyone was smart enough to follow. The town looked down at the failed company workers who now had to get paid half as much to work at the hardware or grocery store in town, and the current employees avoided such a stain on their pride, so I did too. When he walked in with his beer, he asked “how’s the company treating you?” I responded habitually, “fine, same ol’ shit.” We never talked much, and at times I felt that when he was at college his essays proved to be more communicative than he ever was with me in person. I always hoped that we were of the same ember, and that even with his degree we still had something more in common than the blood coursing through our veins. Instead, against both our wills, we became small etchings of our father. We rarely talked, my brother would drink his beer next to me on the couch, and we would sit watching the shows that never seemed to change. With his beer and my pop, we just became another fixture in
the room, letting the clock spin and close in on the time before I left for work. This time, I folded my arms and tried to focus on the moment. By changing my routine for lunch and sleep, I had an odd perspective that seemed stronger than most things in my life, and I looked back on my situation with a new clarity, as if I were external to myself. I watched the glow of the television reflect off of my brother and wondered why he had returned, if his sliding back into the town, the company, and their schedule had been his way to settle with his successes or his failures. I spent my childhood looking up to him, but now I only looked over at someone who wore a lab coat around the plant, a shirt and tie around the town, and a superiority in every room he entered. He noticed my staring, and stated “times closing in, you gotta get ready for work.” He drowned the last of his beer and used my shoulder to get himself off the couch. I told him I’d see him tomorrow, and he threw his beer bottle in the sink and walked out the door with a wave. The night was nearing 9pm and I focused my entirety on whether or not this new vantage point would show that I had spent my life looking up to someone who couldn’t leave, who tried, but fell back into the same repetitive days that were haunting me now. My brother had been my protector throughout my life, and watching him build himself outside of the town created a vacancy in my beliefs. I would look at the literature and the things he sent me and see that there was a beauty in the mystery, in the absence of prescriptions. It was then that he still possessed a power over me, because he was introducing me to something off the production line. He would talk of towns that weren’t running 24/7, that didn’t only have traffic between shifts, and instead had different souls for each street and people who didn’t all agree but rather spewed ideas back and forth looking for a harmony, and sometimes not looking for anything. I now wondered if I was still following the shadow of someone who had now gone underground. He had quit, and as the hour closed in on 10pm I wondered now if I would too. The clock above my door kept turning and as it neared 11pm I pulled a beer from my brother’s unfinished six-pack, opened it, sipped and then processed. This life, of constants and conformity held no success. I was a cog in rhythm with a perpetual nothing. I took a bigger sip and while looking at the clock felt myself gravitate to the terrors of my life. I raised the beer again
and let the alcohol fill in my mouth, and then I relaxed my throat and let it go down into my body completely. I stood there imagining my father, resting in his trailer on the outskirts of town. The pristine doublewide trailer, resting on deflated and degraded wheels that over time had proven useful for only one move, which was to the trailer park. I wanted to see it in flames, to see that one man that never did anything for me, as cinders on the ground no longer there to hold me back. I was a product of his negligence and hate, and in time was only held back by him raising me as a constricted individual. I had lived this life of being afraid of passing his sight, of him seeing me as anything, and him thinking he deserved any part of me. He was outside of the town, but just like the revolving door I felt that he had some power over me. I didn’t finish the beer, I had a few sips left but I left it draining into the sink as I looked up to the clock to see it reading 11:02. I grabbed the cardboard six-pack carrier with 2 beers left and walked out my door. As I walked down the road with nothing more than the beer and my wallet I felt myself feeding on an adrenaline. Some second shifters going home drove by and honked at me. I flicked them off and walked off the road into the neighboring field. This time I didn’t look at the ground, the field, or breathe in the vastness, but rather stared to the stars. The company was only a few blocks away and the glow from the building clung to the few scattered clouds. I could tell that the third shift was already working at full force. The air was filled with the smell of chemicals, heating and cooling, putting their signature in the air flowing across my face. I remember when my brother left to go to college he told me that for the first few weeks he was sick. He thought it was the air we breathed in town and that it had created a chemical tolerance and fought off certain ailments; without it we were more susceptible. I kept walking; I could hear the distant machines liquefying and compressing all the tablets and I felt like the company would have a hold on me no matter the distance. I wasn’t leaving the hums of machines or the chemicals soaking in to my skin. I was rather avoiding it as I walked inside the town limits. It was in our skin, in our lungs, and most of all our minds. As a town, we became creatures of habit, and as time continued those habits became so dominant that the creatures became unnecessary. We were interchangeable parts, where one left another was easily put in, no change, no delay, and no lag. We became some-
thing beautiful in an industrial sense, but something tragic in a human way. I kept the beers in their holder tight to my side, and only raised them to keep my balance as I walked the straightest way to the city limit. I walked towards the highway, listening to the same cars I did as a child at my dad’s wondering who was drunk and careening without any care. I walked and walked into the moonlight, only seeing shadows of tree branches quivering across the dirt. It seemed to take forever to get to the highway as opposed to hearing it. I continued towards my father’s house, knowing that he would be there. It was late when I reached the front of the trailer park; I hopped the fence to cross the highway and saw few cars on it. When I got to the trailer I remembered everything from it. The trailer, front to back, had a kitchen, living room, spare bedroom, washer and dryer, bathroom, and his master bedroom. On the walls he kept pictures of himself in the navy, and a blanket hung up in the hallway with pictures of different jets landing on carriers. I could remember everything, the nicotine colored walls, the smell of his cigarettes that hazed across the entire trailer, the phone in the kitchen that we would use to call our mother, and most of all the hatred he had that felt stronger and stronger as I grew up around him. I could see that this man was holding me back, choking me into becoming nothing. He had always been a fear that cut through my life, and had made me off-centered in my existence. My brother had stepped over him, continued on into a life of his essays, for only a short time. I thought of the many times in my life that I wanted to feel free, to not only imagine myself in my brother’s words, but to really feel all my senses drenched in something not of this town. I couldn’t I thought to myself, because my father had branded my existence with an emptiness and darkness that was too bold to let me escape. I looked at the trailer and saw it for what it really was; it was a symbol of the hate constricting my life, holding me back. I clenched my hand and stared at the trailer with my eyes becoming glassy and strained as I kept them open without blinking. I wanted it all away from me, I wanted to watch it burn, with the fire starting in the back of the trailer, his room blazing with the heat hitting my face. I wanted to feel for once a warmth from the doublewide, to see the back wall open up and to watch the fire seeping from his room to the blanket in the hallway, and then onto the spare bedroom that my brother and I slept in,
the one that I cried to my brother over and over on how I never wanted to be there. Finally, I wanted the fire to speed up and split the trailer in half, with the ends raised higher into the air as if a funeral pyre to showcase his hatred to everyone. I closed my eyes after imagining it all so vividly, and I then unclenched my hand and raised one of the bottles. I let it fly, cut through the air, and the bottle shattered the window of the door. The second broke as it slammed against the window to the left but was held back by the screen. I watched his light come on, and a figure come through the living room. I felt my anger building, this one dark being was the only thing withholding my life, as he rushed to the door I saw and heard him slip. He opened the door and picked himself up with the doorknob as some shards fell off him and others stabbed into his skin. He was swearing into the night, and I stood there watching the tattered man, the broken and worthless aged man yelling with that same deep voice that made me fearful as a child. The light from the living room hung only on his body and I stood still in the darkness. He didn’t see me, I suspect he thought the assailant had fled, but I watched him curse and it did nothing for me. I looked at his bleeding arms, with him standing in his pajamas, and started to feel that he had never truly had any control on my life. This man that had been my greatest fear was nothing but a shell, founded on a hate that had nothing to do with me. He was his own demon, and I had given him the power over me, but he was not what was holding me back. I turned and walked back toward the creek next to the highway as he continued cursing the night. I reached the creek and listened to a car murmur across the highway. I walked next to the water until I reached the edge of the park. The town’s light no longer hit the same clouds as I walked away. I looked up to the tree line over the highway and imagined the machines and the smell, and let them dissipate as my feet turned away from the border. I would leave now, to be a part of my brother’s stories, and when I wrote to my brother I could tell him of myself, and he’ll know by the postage I made it.
Good Morning Kevin Anderson
Dolores was a young girl who played with wooden dolls. The girl, rosy-cheeked and framed by amber locks, was seldom found away from these friends of hers. In the mornings, she would wash their faces â€“ one at a time, accommodating to each skin type. There were never two days that she brought them to the same place. She showed them the cinema with butter-yellow lights; and the seagulls, with papaya orange beaks; and the first snow. The dolls danced. They circled Dolores until she no longer had her eye on them. She smiled, knowing that they were ready.
To Shuffle Off The Immortal Coil Zachary Thompson
When I surmise that Time hath fleeting been To which my heart withal hath been enslaved ‘Tis meet that I but paint aloft the green Impressions of th’ years left to be braved. Though generous, th’ artful gods at court Of late hath niggardly in lending grown; Sith tenure finite be, ere it deport Mine soul to Charon’s barge, let it be known: That whilst among the living wandered I, Though oft life’s brevity I once did curse, I’ faith, no quarrel did I seek on high, Nor answered I to a celestial purse; And morrow’s failing shall be long delayed Ere shouldst thou find me much, at end, dismayed.
In The Office Kristine Kruppa
A world of gray desks, red drawers, speckled tile. Five-legged chairs, like unfortunate spiders still and sleeping upon scratched wheels. One cradles an aged man with drooping, computer-glazed eyes and whitened hair that shimmers dully under the incandescent glass suns. He is silent, mostly, but for the hesitant wandering clicks of a computer mouse and the occasional clearing of an aged throatâ€” an attempt to soften the squirming un-noise that sprawls between us.
Red Velvet Theo Schear
The Spring Trail Matthew Robertson
the sticks are wet below the willows dark the soil in between the green defines the tire path where recent tracks cannot seen a single step is registered as if a single foot occurred a lonely print pressed in the dirt to hint that hidden life has stirred a word would break the peace of this the yearly rediscovery of sights the winter surely missed and so I hold a momentâ€™s breath beyond a patch of flowers break uprising through a bed of twigs and cut the dark with flecks of pink the first to fill the forest in leaves are lush and seem impatient waiting for the sun to rise vibrant even in the gray of fog that dulls the morning sky the nightly rain of dew has settled beams of light stream bold with heat to melt the last of dirt-ice patches beckoning, the forest speaks: awaken life and vivid youth to thrive because itâ€™s time for spring
thisismyself Mark Yurich
Fun with Pteronarcys californica Kevin Anderson
The Windowsill Somya Sharma
A white window rests on the corner of a country cottage, waiting. Three feet wide and four feet tall, it floats three more feet Above the auburn-rimmed leaf-blower from half a decade ago. A fresh coat of white, this windowsill, like the neck of a stallion, supports the eyes of this cottage. Not even a slight chip in the paint can be seen. There are many who believe that the paint is actually a white tar. There is a ledge that no butterfly wishes to rest on. Yet, it is spoken about at the supper table.
Perfect loneliness Yang Wei
Phil Phan Phinds Phun Jack Woodward
The first Blueprint published a fictional story about football at a mythical university known as Upper Midwest U in a mythical town known as Ehsquare, located (we think) somewhere west of Detroit. A few miles west of… or in a distant universe? Doesn’t matter, since the story was purest fiction. Here again is fiction that’s somehow related to football at Upper Midwest in the long-ago of time coach Buff Chucklebuffer and his athletic director, Dan Cannedham. However, neither Buff nor Dan appears in this story. This time the principal players are Phil and Dotty, though the “playing” they do isn’t football. So, from ancient days we introduce Phil Phann, UMU class of 19-???, affluent manufacturer of chromeplated tail pipes for the automotive after-market industry, civic leader, devoted father and husband, member of the Gluck Hollow Country Club and of the biggest protestant Church between Detroit and Grand Rapids. Moreover, he is a connoisseur of college sport, though the sport you will see in this story should not be imputed to Upper Midwest University. Well, “devoted… husband” a few sentences back. He was, indeed. Except… well, there might have been an occasional exception, and the exceptions make the story. We shall demonstrate via a Friday lunch hour that we are to observe as soon as his secretary, Dotty Duzzit, is introduced. Our fly-upon-the-wall who deals and reveals on football’s inner side has lit by a quite random choice upon Phil’s Cannedham-approved blue-and-yellow beret as our subject leaves the stadium gates late on an autumn’s Saturday. From the report that details his activities over the next seven days, we pick an excerpt. We haven’t bothered to tell of all of the tedium that a week can bring, but an excerpt’s 10 minutes or so might reveal something of interest when we meet Phil on Friday afternoon before the next home game. Phil is of happy mind because he and Dotty… no, not happy, for the phone on the bedside table is ringing. An interruption at this time and place is most unwelcome,
and no small surprise, for who could know…? Phil tries to ignore the jangling summons, but it persists until it convinces him that it must either be answered or allowed to ruin his afternoon. With a curse of the usual Anglo-Saxon origin, he rolls into a sitting position and snatches up the offending instrument. “Yeah, yeah, Phann here, damn it,” he growls from the side of his mouth not blocked by a cigar, “who the hell…? I thought nobody… Yeah…. No, it’s okay, it’s just that I thought nobody…. Never mind. If you’ve got news, let me have it, okay? Something happen at the plant? “What? Hey now, you don’t say! That’s great, Georgie! “Yeah. Damn right I can be there. Nine in the morning? I’ll be out in front of my place. Can I bring anything? Yeah. Okay. Okay, that’s fine.” Hanging up after a few more jollities, Phil turns a happy gaze upon his reclining companion. She, Dotty Duzzit by name, and a blond of mature but active age, has for several recent years been secretary to the executive whom we’ve just met. She is highly satisfactory in at least one of her functions, though we’ll not explore what that might be. It’s in Phil’s playbook, you might say, even if it has nothing to do with football. Now raised on one elbow to stare, questioning, she glares at Phil’s broad back as he talks. Her expression tells us that she has not enjoyed the interruption. Don’t worry about that cigar; she is accustomed to enduring a few crudities as part of her work with Phil. George? From the audible side of the telephone conversation, it must be George, the vice-president for sales at the Phann firm. At least, it is obviously not Phil’s wife, calling to confirm an embarrassing discovery, an event that Dotty had feared when the phone persisted in its ringing. “Hey, Honey, you hear that? That’s Georgie, our sales veepee. Somebody’s cancelled. He’s got a ticket and a spot for me in his motor home going to the game tomorrow. I bet I can scalp off my own ticket outside the gate, and….” “Whaat, you’re goin’ to a stupid football game again this weekend? I thought you said we… you said it was
just Northworst, or some nogood team like that, so you would tell your old lady you’re goin’ while really we would….” “Hey, hey, Dotty, I know I told you something like that, but, well, I’d already been thinking. Roger Crossfoot — he’s the quarterback, you know — he’s only 12 completions away from setting the record for any UMU passer, and against a team like Northworst he ought to do it easy tomorrow. You wouldn’t really want me to miss that, would you?” “You mean… Phil, you mean you just want to see some kid throw a stupid football 12 times and some other kid catch it 12 times? A guy with your money could hire two kids off the playground to throw a ball around a few times if that’s what gives you a thrill. And you said… you promised….” “Look, Dotty, it isn’t just two kids throwing a bleepin’ ball! And besides, after he sets the record Buff ’ll take him out of the game so the crowd can… you know, everybody giving the guy a standing ovation. The band will play The Thumpers, and, well, that’s what you call an emotional moment. I just can’t miss that. And then they’ll put in this kid — he’s a freshman — this Jim Highthrow who’s likely to be the starter next season. I haven’t seen him yet, so I just feel like I have to, well, get a line on how he looks in a game situation.” “Stop interruptin’ me, Phil. I was tryin’ to say you said you had reservations for us tomorrow for lunch at the restaurant in Upper Pointe, that one I’ve always wanted to….” “Oh, come on, Dotty. There’s 52 Saturdays in a year, and only six or seven have football games in Ehsquare. Next week… next week the game is at Ioway — too far to go. I can give the old lady some kind of line about a contract meeting in Upper Pointe with some guys from Colossal Motors right at the same restaurant — just in case she calls to check, you know — and we can go there for sure. Catch the game on TV after lunch, how about? Game time is 3:30, I think, so you’ll have time to sample every damn thing on the menu.” If Dotty has further retort, it apparently will be wasted. With his last words, Phil has turned his back. Ignoring the attractions that seemed to be his sole interest before the phone rang, he is rummaging under the edge of the bed for his shoes. “Hey, what’s this, big boy? Aren’t you even comin’
back now?” “Look, Dot, this changes things. I’ve got to be ready to jump on that camper of George’s at nine in the morning. Have to be getting my Go UMU jacket from the cleaners. Pick up a few bottles of booze. Cigars, and stuff. Want to be sure Georgie will have enough on hand to keep things… well, you know, flowing. ‘Less you would like to be the good little secretary and do all that for me, huh?” “Why, you fat fool! You can run out for your own stupid liquor and that other crap, hear?!” With this, she flings his shirt at his head. “Don’t do that, you! And don’t call Phil Phann a fat fool or you’ll be going back to the typing pool on Monday! Be good, and maybe I’ll call you Sunday while the Old Lady is at church. Okay?” Okay, okay. Early in their relationship, Dotty had learned the hazards of slighting references to Phil’s physique, his age, or his judgments. Now, tightlipped and smoldering, she watches in silence as he reassembles his public façade. Phil, transformed in five minutes time from grunting, zipper-fumbling male, into confident executive and buoyant fan, leaves the discarded Dotty still reclining en deshabille. With a slam of the door, he departs, humming The Thumpers to himself, now bound for the cleaners, liquor store, and the coming joys of Ehsquare’s greatest attraction. Watch for him at the Stadium. He may be that loudand-happy soul two rows down from you — the one whose cigar you’ve been smelling since kickoff. In the days of Coach Chucklebuffer and AD Cannedham (and of Phil and Dotty) many noxious things — among them smoking — were freely indulged in the Stadium. Mercifully, they were banned as the following century began. Of course, what Phil and Dotty did during the off-season, or off-days, is believed by some scholars to be as popular as ever, even if the scholars are too careful for anyone to catch them at it.
Portrait of a Girl Anthony Dedakis
Waltzing to the Blues Lian Zhu
Hey there, hey friend, yes you, Don’t you see that big moon, giant gob of whipped cream That it is And a sprinkling of something, pop rocks maybe Like stars, and you say to me who are you. I’m sorry I’m late, But the stairs to your room, They wind and bend And god it took a little longer than I had planned To see you swaying above the floorboards. First the strings, then the blues And then we dance, alternating leads Alternating steps, tripping all over each other Just like before. I pull my hair back, throw a serious expression on my face While you toss your head back And laugh And laugh. How we just seem to lose everything in this place. Your eyes, they light up, no gravity And mine, they drown, heavy like space, How silly it is when they meet, Spiraling downwards and up, Into valleys of brown and onto ridges of blue. So friend, you’re not shy, Let’s take a ride, throw open that blue Cadillac door And let us chase that gob of whipped cream That is the moon Us laughing and stumbling, waltzing, To the blues.
Contributo Conor Anderson
Shivani Deshmukh is a freshman in
is from Marquette MI, and moved to AA in 2011. Check out more art and music at www.soundcloud.com/ TheodoreCarl
is a senior majoring in Chemical Engineering and Materials Science and minoring in Art & Design. He graduates in December and plans to wing it afterwards.
is a senior in architecture.
is a senior studying cellular and molecular biology. He plans to return to the University of Michigan next year to pursue a Masterâ€™s of Biomedical Engineering.
is a self taught Michigan artist who enjoys making his work appear realistic. He is inspired every day, and hopes to continue his work and inspire others as well.
is a senior in the SMTD studying performing arts technology with a minor in screen arts and culture. she loves analog photography (happy accidents) especially instant and capturing the moment.
is an aerospace engineering graduate student who enjoys childlike wonder, unhealthy doses of perspective, and sending on author bios at, literally, the last minute.
is an aspring mechanical engineer who loves books, coffee, sunshine, and her fish, Boris. She dreams of visiting every country in the world.
is a junior in the College of Engineering.
knows the difference between tella and tej.
is a sophomore SAC student from Oakland, CA. He loves basketball, cats, and world peace. Call him if you’re interested. (510)418-7722
born August 1994, is captivated by use of visual context to convey stories and spur interpretations and new ways of thinking in others.
is an M. Arch. Candidate in the Taubman College of Achitecture and Urban Planning.
sleeps in. Gets up. Works. Climbs. Cooks. Builds. Sings. Writes. Draws. Chills. That’s him.
finds that poetry has always been able to express what spoken word could not. It’s a way for her to put herself into the world discretely, and boy, do poets love secrets.
lives exclusively and reclusively in a bioengineer’s brain. Lucky and loved (etymologically and literarlly), he thanks his inspirations.
is a junior studying movement science who would gladly spend the rest of her life playing rugby and pondering the deep stuff with the friends she loves.
is a creator of emotion, of experience, of the functional, tangible, and intangible; he plans to be an architect.
is a senior in Chemical Engineering.
Barry Belmont Divya Gupta Jessica Jones Kathy Lu Aric Velbel
Jeffrey Chang Alison Christiansen Elizabeth Hyde Trebecca McDonald Shivank Sharma Vinayak Thapliyal Rebecca Wozniak Maria Young
“The only thing I know I want to be when I’m old is young.”
is a transfer student in the Musical Theatre department. Writing is his beloved hobby, and he is fascinated by the evolution of language.
is Professor Emeritus in the NAME department. Engineering, yes... but football is more fun... sex is more fun! Here is a tale where he finds his fun by stirring the two together! (Don’t try this at home.)
is a ChemE senior who likes Latin and cell bio. She lives in the wonderful Telluride house, and constantly wishes for a way to squeeze more time out of her day.
Junior. English and screen arts and cultures. Groundworks consultant. Paper cutter. Photographer. Watercolorist. Knitter. Media mixer. isabeltalsma.com
is a senior in Art and Design with minors in Urban Studies and Philosophy. Her creative work is focused on furniture design and she helps in planning the TEDxUofM
enjoys climbing but is afraid of heights. She enjoys travel but dislikes customs. She wants to do a marathon but hates running. She loves ice cream.
Dr. Elizabeth Hildinger Faculty Advisor
graduated from U-M with a B.S.E. in Mech. Engineering. He has always enjoyed writing and even now as an engineer, if you peeked at his work notebooks, you’d find them bordered by notes for new stories.
is a mechanical engineering student who enjoys discovering the details of his subjects. He believes life is full of surprises and everyone is able to discover beautiful things.
likes to create the images that have sat in his head for a while; they are an insight to who he is, and he loves seeing the images come together in the end.