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And, when yyou want something, g all the universe conspires p in helping p g yyou to achieve it. I am riding g on a limited express, p one of f the crack trains of f the nation. Hurtling g across the p prairie into blue haze and dark air g go ffifteen f all-steel coaches holding g a thousand p people. people p I have ve been one acquainted quainted with the night q night. g I have walked out in rain --and and back in rain rain. I have outwalked the f furthest cityy ligh light light. g In the room the women come and g go Talking g of f Michelangelo. g Do I dare disturb the universe? Even so, I f find myself y f thinking g of f her, wanting g to o f feel that wind. wind It s a secret wanting, wanting g like a song ong g I can t stop p humming, humming g or loving g someone yyou can never nev have. have In the g great g green room oom there was a telepho telephone p e aand d a red balloo balloon aand d a p picture of f the cow jjumpi jumping p g over the moo moon. Her to f fo forgive g now ow he craved w with good g ood g ground of f her allowed that that of f him swiftseen f f face, face hers, hers her so young y g then had looked. looked The horror! The horror! Mrs. Mrs Dalloway Dallo y said i she would buyy the f flowers herself. herself f On O the dayy theyy were g going goi g to kill him, him Santiago Sa tiago g Nasar g got up p a ffive five-thirty thirtyy in i the morning mor i g to m wait f for the fo he boat o the he bishop hop p was com coming om g on. o O,, that h this h too oo too oo solid o f flesh e h would o ou melt, me , thaw h and resolve e o e itself e f into o a dew! e It is death. death th Death ath is the eenemy. emyy It is death agai against g st whom I ride with myy spear p couched aand d myy hair fflyi flying y g back like a yyou young g ma man ss, like Percival P rcival s, s when he g galloped p in India. India I st strike strik spurs p into myy horse. horse Against g yyou I will f fling g myself, myself y f unvanquished q and unyielding, unyielding y g O Death! She had a p perpetual p sense, as she watched the taxi cabs, of f being g out, out, ffar out to sea and alone; she always y had the ffeeling g that it was veryy veryy da very, dangerous g gerous ous to live even eve one o e day. day ay. y Did it matter then, the she asked herself, herself f walking walki g towards Bond Bo d Street, Street did it matter th that she must iinevitably evitably vitablyy cease completely; p y all this must us g go o on without her; did she resent rese t it; or did it not ot become consoling co soli g to belie believe that death ended nded absolutely? y It was do done; it was f finished. finished Yes, YYes she thought, tthought g laying y g down her brush in extreme f fatigue, fatigue g I have had myy vision. vision Do not meddle in i the affaires ff of f wizards. wizards ar I adore simple p p pleasures, pleasures theyy are the last refuge f g of f the complex. complex p Not all that is ggold gglitters, glitters Not all ll that h wander e aree lost. o Happiness H pp e in intelligent e ge g peop people p p e is the he rarest e thing h g I know. o Beauty e uy o of f whatever h e e kind,, in it s supreme p eme development, development e e opme p , iinvariably variably iablyy excited the se sensitive sitive soul to tears tears. Elrod Elrod, like all F Florida co convenience ve ie ce store clerks clerks, had th the Sere Serengeti g geti alert alertness ess of f the tastiest gazellee in the herd. He was believed to be the onlyy self g f inflicted f case of f shaken-babyy syndrome. y The creatures outside looked ffrom pig p g to man, and f from man to p pig, g and f from p pig g to man again; g but alreadyy it was impossible p to sayy which was which. Onlyy those who ggo to soirees and legislative g halls must st have new ccoats, coats coats to change g as often f as the man changes g in them them. FFor myy g greatest skill has been to want but little. It is well to have some water in yyour neighborhood, g to g give bouyancy y y and to ffloat the earth. I have ffound that no exertion of f the legs g can bring g two minds much nearer to one another. another And g graduallyy f from week to week the character of f each tree came ca out, aand out d it admired itself f reflected f iin the smooth oo mirror of f the lake lake. Twas brillig brillig, g aand d the slithyy toves did gy gyre aand d g gimble iin tthe th wabe YYou do not do, wabe. do yyou do not do, do anymore y black shoe. shoe I don t know his name name, but I know kno his g game gam game. He is a whaley whaley. y I want to stand as close to the edge g as I can ca without g going goi g over. over Out on o the edge g yyou see all the kinds ki ds of f things thi g gs yyou can ca t see f from the center. ce ter Be still when whe w yyou have nothing othi g to say; y when whe g genuine ge ui e p passion passio moves yyou, you ssayy what yyo you ve g got to say, sayy aand d sayy it hot hot. IIn the sile silence, ce our stage g whisper p might g carry. carryy And, A d whe when yyou want wa t something, somethi g all the universe u iverse conspires co spires p in i helping helpi p g yyou to achieve it. it I am riding ridi g on o a limited limite express, expr express p one of f the crack trains of f the nation nation. Hurtling g across the p prairie into blue haze and dark air g go f fifteen f all-steel all steel coaches holding g a thousand people. p people p I have been bee one o e acquainted acquai q ted with the night. ight g I have walked out in i rain rai --aand d back iin rai rain. I have outwalked the f furthest ci cityy light. light g In I thee room the women come and g go Talking g of f Michelangelo Michelangelo. g Do I dare disturb the universe? Even so so, I f find myself y f thinking g of f her her, wanting wa ti g to f feel that wi wind. d It s a secret wa wanting, ti g like a so song g I ca can t stop p hummi humming, g or lovi loving g someo someonee yyou ca can never ever v have have. IIn the g great green room there wass a telephone g p and a red balloon and a p picture of f the cow jjumping p g over the moon. moon Her to f forgive forgiv g now he craved with g good g ground grou d of f her allowed that that of f him swiftseen swiftsee f face, f face hers, hers so yyoung you g then the had looked. looked The horror! The horror! Mrs. Mrs Dalloway Dallow y said she would buyy the f flowers her herself. herself f On O the dayy theyy were g going goi g to kill him, him Santiago Sa tiago g Nasar g got up p a f five five-thirty thirtyy in i the m morning mor i g to wait f for the boat the bishop p was comi coming i g o on. O O, that this too too solid f flesh would melt melt, thaw aand d resolve itself f iinto to a dew dew! It is death Death is the enemy. death. enemyy It is death against g whom I ride with myy spear p couched and myy hair f flying y g back like a yyoung g man s, s like Percival s, when he g P galloped p in India. I strike spurs p into myy horse. Against g yyou I will f fling g myself, y f unvanquished q and unyielding, y g O Death! She h had a p pe perpetual p pe u sense, e e, as she he watched che he the he taxi ccabs,, of f being e g o ou out,, o ou out,, ffar o ou out to o sea e and alone; o e; she he always y h had the he f fee feeling g that h it was very, very y very eryy da dangerous g gerous to live eve even one o e day. dayy Did it matter then, the she asked k herself, herself f walki walking g towards Bond Bo d Street, Street did it matter that she must m i evitablyy cease completely; inevitably p y all this is mustt g go on o without her; did she resent rese t it; or did it not ot become consoling co soli g to believe tthat death ended d d absolutely? b l t ly? It was done; d it was f finished. fi i h d Yes, Y she h thought, th ght laying l yi g down d her h brush b h in i extreme t f fatigue, tig I have h had h d myy vision. i i Do D nott meddle in the affaires ff of f wizards. wizards I adore simple p p pleasures, pleasures theyy are the last refuge f g of f the complex. complex p Not all that is ggold gglitters, glitters Not all that wander wa der are lost. lost Happiness Happi pp ess iin intelligent i tellige g t people p p is the th rarest thing thi g I know. k ow Beautyy of f whatever kind, ki d in i it s supreme p development, developme p t invariablyy excited the sensitive soul to tears. tears Elrod, Elrod like all F Florida convenience sto store clerks, clerks had the Serengeti g alertness of f the tastiest g lle in gazelle i the herd. herd He was believed to be the only o lyy self f inflicted i f flicted case of f shaken shake -baby babyy syndrome. syy drome The creatures r outside out looked from f pig p g to ma aand man, d f from ma man to p pig pig, g aand d f from p pig g to ma man agai again; g ; but already adyy it was impossible p to sayy which was which. which Onl Only O lyy those w who ggo to soirees and a d legislative g halls must have new ew coats, coats coats to change cha g ge as often ofte f as th the man ma changes cha gges in i them. them FFor myy g greatest skill sk has been ee to o want but u little. e It is well e to o h havee some ome water e in yo yyou your neighborhood, e gh g o hoo , to o g givee bouyancy o y y and to o ffloat o the he eearth. h I h havee f fo found that h no o exertion exertio tio of f the legs g can ca bring bri g two minds mi ds much nearer earer to one o e another. a other And A d g graduallyy f from week to week the character of f each tree came out, and it admired itself f reflected f in the smooth mirror of f the lake. Twas brillig, g and the slithyy toves did gy gyre and ggimble in the wabe. YYou do not do, yyou do not do, anymore y black shoe. I don t know his name, but I know his g game. He is a whaley. y I want to stand as close to the edge g as I can without g going g over. Out on the edge g yyou see all the kinds of f things g yyou can t see f from the center. Be still when yyou have nothing g to say; y when g genuine p passion moves yyou, sayy what yyou ve g got to say, y and sayy it hot. In the silence, our stage g whisper p might g carry. carryy And, And when yyo you want something, something g all ll the universe conspires p in helping p g yyou to achieve it. it I am riding g on a limited limit express, express p one of f th the crack k ttrains i of f th the nation. ti HHurtling tli g across th the p prairie i i iinto t bl blue h haze and d d dark k air i g go f fift fifteen f all-steel ll t l coaches h h holding ldi g a thousand th d people people. p eople p I have been bee one o e acquainted acquai q ted with the night. ight g I have walked out in i rain rai --aand d back iin rai rain. I have outwalked the f furthest cityy light. light g In I the room the wome women co come aand d g go Talki Talking g of f Michela Michelangelo. g gelo Do I dare disturb the u universe? iverse? Eve Even so so, I f fi find d myself y f thi thinking ki g o of f her her, wanting anting ng g to f feel that wind. wind It s a secret wanting, wanting g like a song g I can t stop p humming, humming g or loving oving g someone yyou can never have have. In the g great green g gree reen room there was a telephone telepho p e and a d a red balloon balloo and a d a p picture of f the cow jjumping jumpi p g over the moon. moo Her to f forgive g now o ow he craved with g good g ground of f her allowed that that of f him swiftseen f f face, hers, so yyoung g then had looked. The horror! The horror! Mrs. Dal Dallowayy said she would buyy the f flowers herself. herself f On O the dayy theyy were g going goi g to kill him, him Santiago Sa tiago g Nasar g got up p a ffive five-thirty thirtyy in i the morning mor i g to m wait f for or the boat the bishop p was coming g on. on O, O that this too too solid f flesh would melt, melt thaw and resolve itself f into a de dew! It is death. ath. Death is the enemy. y It is death against g whom I ride with myy spear p couched and myy hair fflying y g back like a yyoung g man s, like Percival s, when he g P galloped p in India. I strike spurs p into myy horse. Against g yyou I will ffling g myself, y f unvanquished q and unyielding, y g O Death Death! She he had a p perpetual p sense, se se as she watched the taxi cabs cabs, of f bei being g out out, out out, f far out to sea aand d alo alone; e; she always lw y had the ffeeli feeling g that it was w very very, ery, y veryy dangerous g to live even one day. dayy Did it matter then, then she asked h herself, herself f walking g towards Bond Street, Street did it matter that she must mus inevitablyy cease completely; p y all this must g go on without her; did she resent it; or did it not become consoling g to believe that death h ended nd absolutely? y It was done; ne; it was f finished. finished Yes, YYes she thought, thought g laying y g down her brush in extreme f fatigue, fatigue g I have had my my vision. vision Do not meddle in i the affaires ff of f w wizards. wizards I adore simple p p pleasures, pleasures theyy are the last refuge f g of f the complex. complex p Not all that is ggold gglitters, glitters Not all lll that wander are lost. lost Happiness pp in intelligent g people p p is the rarest thing g I know. know Beautyy of f whatever kind, kind in it s supreme p development, developm development p iinvariably v variably ariablyy excited the se sensitive sitive soul to tears tears. Elrod Elrod, like all F Florida co convenience ve ie ce store clerks clerks, had the Sere Serengeti g geti alert alertness ess of f the tastiest gazelle g zelle elle in the herd. herd He was believed to be the onlyy self f inflicted f case of f shaken shaken-baby babyy syndrome. syndrome y The T creatures outside looked from f pig p g to man, ma a and a d from man ma to pig, pig and a d from pig to man ma again; agai ; but already it was impossible to say which was which. which Only O ly those who go

And, when yyou want something, g all the universe conspires p in helping p g yyou to achieve it. I am riding g on a limited express, p one of f the crack trains of f the nation. Hurtling g across the p prairie into blue haze and dark air g go fifteen f f all-steel coaches holding g a thousand p people. p I have been one acquainted q with the night. g I have walked out in rain --and back in rain. I TUFTS’ STUDENT MAGAZINE APRIL 11, 2008 have outwalked the f furthest cityy light. g In the room the women come and g go Talking g of f Michelangelo. g Do I dare disturb the universe? Even so, I f find myself y f thinking g of f her, wanting g to f feel that wind. It s a secret wanting, g like a song g I can t stop p humming, g or loving g someone yyou can never have. In the g great g green room there was a telephone p and a red balloon and a p picture of f the cow jjumping p g over the moon. Her to forgive f g now he craved with g good g ground of f her allowed that that of f him swiftseen f f face, hers, so yyoung g then had looked. The horror! The horror! Mrs. Dallowayy said she would buyy the f flowers herself. f On the dayy theyy were g going g to kill him, Santiago g Nasar g got up p a f five-thirtyy in the morning g to wait f for the boat the bishop p was coming g on. O, that this too too solid f flesh would melt, thaw and resolve itself f into a dew! It is death. Death is the enemy. y It is death against g whom I ride with myy spear p couched and myy hair f flying y g back like a yyoung g man s, like Percival s, when he g P galloped p in India. I strike spurs p into myy horse. Against g yyou I will f fling g myself, y f unvanquished q and unyielding, y g O Death! She had a p perpetual p sense, as she watched the taxi cabs, of f being g out, out, ffar out to sea and alone; she always y had the f feeling g that it was very, y veryy dangerous g to live even one day. y Did it matter then, she asked herself, f walking g towards Bond Street, did it matter that she must inevitablyy cease completely; p y all this must g go on without her; did she resent it; or did it not become consoling g to believe that death ended absolutely? y It was done; it was f finished. YYes, she thought, g laying y g down her brush in extreme fatigue, f g I have had myy vision. Do not meddle in the affaires ff of f wizards. I adore simple p p pleasures, theyy are the last refuge f g of f the complex. p Not all that is g gold g glitters, Not all that wander are lost. Happiness pp in intelligent g p people p is the rarest thing g I know. Beautyy of f whatever kind, in it s supreme p development, p invariablyy excited the sensitive soul to tears. Elrod, like all F Florida convenience store clerks, had the Serengeti g alertness of f the tastiest g gazelle in the herd. He was believed to be the onlyy self f inflicted f case of f shaken-babyy syndrome. y The creatures outside looked from p f pig g to man, and f from man to p pig, g and f from p pig g to man again; g

TUFTS OBSERVER

the literary issue


CHARLES SKOLD

Featured Works

POETRY | Sunset O’er New Orleans, by Charles Skold

10

RACHEL TAN

POETRY

| An Epistemology of Eggs and Rosebuds, by Alene Rhea

JULIE FURBUSH

PROSE

| Test Site, by Kanupriya Kapoor

The Observer has been Tufts’ weekly publication of record since 1895. Our dedication to in-depth reporting, journalistic innovation, and honest dialogue has remained intact for over a century. Today, we offer insightful news analysis, cogent and diverse opinion pieces, and lively reviews of current arts, entertainment, and sports. Through poignant writing and artistic elegance, we aim to entertain, inform, and above all challenge the Tufts community to effect positive change.

21 26

O


Editors

Contents

EDITOR-IN-CHIEF Mara Sacks

11 April 2008

MANAGING EDITORS Lydia Hall Patrick Roath Mike Snyder EDITORIAL EDITOR Peter Shaeffer

Volume CXVI, Issue 7 The Observer, Since 1895 www.TuftsObserver.org

The Literary Issue

NEWS EDITORS Daniel Rosen Joshua Aschheim

3 Editors Note, by Natalie Polito

OPINION EDITOR William Ramsdell

4

ARTS AND EXCURSIONS EDITORS Michael Tucker Eliza Walters CAMPUS EDITOR Molly Posner ART DIRECTOR Natalie Polito PHOTO EDITOR Erin Baldassari ONLINE EDITOR Matthew Koulouris COPY EDITOR Julie Lonergan EDITORS EMERITI Timothy Noetzel Michael Skocay

Photo by Meena Borolouchi Photo by Julie Furbush

5 Adam explains Chicago winters, by Adam Roy Charcoal by Rachel Tan

6 December, by Anonymous 7

Photo by Meena Borolouchi

8 The Well, by Ezra Furman Photo by Julie Furbush

9 Savta, by Aviya Slutzky Photo by Rachel Tan

10 Sunset O’er New Orleans, by Charles Skold 11 Look, by Shreya Maitra Photo by Meena Borolouchi

Staff

Sarah Leenen Kate Schimmer Michael Schecht Ryan Stolp

SAM WEBB


E

Contents, cont’d

D

art rec of wi

12 How We Remember Them, by Chaeyeong Yoo Photo by Meena Borolouchi

the thi

17 The Big Black Hat, by Ferris Jabr 21 An Epistemology of Eggs and Rosebuds, by Alene Rhea Etching by Roxy Sperber

dis trb An tio po iss wo to

22 Red on Black, by Kristen Surya Charcoal by Ryan Stolp

24

rea co mu

Charcoal by Ryan Stolp

26 Test Site, by Kanupriya Kapoor Charcoal by Rachel Tan

27

cre bu

Etching by Roxy Sperber

28 Dandelion Child, by Ferris Jabr Photo by Elizabeth Herman

MEENA BOLOURCHI 2

THE OBSERVER

April 11, 2008


EDITOR’S NOTE Dear Reader, Welcome to the first-ever Literary Issue in Observer history. As Tufts’ oldest publication, the Observer has regularly published news articles, reviews, and commentaries, but up until this year had never regularly published creative writing. Last semester we introduced the recurring Poetry and Prose section of the magazine which served as a follow-up to the annual Creative Writing Contest. Since the inception of this section, we have published various forms of creative writing, often accompanied by outstanding art that would not have otherwise been printed in the magazine. The Literary Issue serves as the culminating emblem of the new role that creative writing has taken in the magazine. It also marks the evolution of the magazine into a publication of increasing diversity and substance. One of my biggest objections to on-campus publications is the constrictive nature that many of them possess. Especially in the realm of creative writing, magazines on campus tend to be limited to only poetry or only prose, and there are also restrictions on the accompanying art. I concede that specialization is sometimes beneficial, but at a private, medium-sized institution like Tufts, there is only so much funding to go around for these small publications. When it comes down to it, there are only a couple of publications on campus that are given enough funding to be published and distributed regularly throughout the semester. Those that are on the smaller and more specialized side are published infrequently and distrbuted erratically. Thus, it’s not necessarily difficult for creative writers to get their work published, but it’s difficult to get their work read. An easy way to obtain readers and encourage the spread of creative writing on campus is to publish work in a widely distributed publication. Enter the Observer. With this issue, we’re not discriminating against any form of creative writing or art. In these pages, you will find poetry, prose, and MEENA BOLOURCHI several media of art. Moreover, we’re producing and distributing it with the same fervour that we would in any other issue. It should be known, however, that it was not originally on the the production schedule; it’s not taking anything away from what would have otherwise been completed this semester. It was added as evidence of our constant evolution as a magazine and as a response to the success of creative writing as a much-needed addendum. I am so proud to be a part of this landmark issue of the Observer. As a staff, we are constantly seeking progess and innovation, and creative writing is a medium of writing that cannot be ignored. Some may call it a non sequitur to this publication’s history, but we see it as nothing more than a necessary complement to the legacy and future of the magazine.

Please enjoy.

N t li P Natalie Polito lit Editor, Poetry and Prose

April 11, 2008

THE OBSERVER

3


A

— Ba ba an lib an ca It da co

Ca an pu ve Di un cre It th co

Ca to on wa an th an bu of co

Ca po th an so se an D th co

Ca lik lik Li fro An an th co

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THE OBSERVER

April 11, 2008

JULIE FURBUSH


USH

Adam explains Chicago winters —for those of you who don’t know. Back then, beaming new mothers brought baby back home, baby already wrapped in cap and parka and Preschool nap-time meant hibernation, liberation in choral snoring and no-warning snowstorms, and I screamed when I saw the carrots in the fridge cause I thought they were severed snowman noses. It was so damn cold. Cause when it snowed, my mom went down to the basement and kicked around until she found the box of winter clothes, pulled out toe socks, wool mittens, wool sweater, vest full of feathers and a coat filled with down. Didn’t so much dress as upholster myself until I just looked like some evil doctor created a monster part child and part pillow. It was just that cold. Cause I learned early that cold and snow don’t always go together, learned hard lessons betting five pages and a problem set on the forecast. Worried at dry skies, bedtime found me watching The Weather Channel until I found religion at midnight and prayed for snow, begged for snow, did Snoopy snow dances, then passed out on my 2 AM plans to sabotage the snow plows and woke up to school day dread, no snow but lots of cold. Cause I grew up but never bothered with nice clothes, polos or new shoes, why bother when I knew that cold snaps meant snow boots, snapping on ski suits and slip-sliding out to the car, to frozen locks and stuck doors. so I’d pop the trunk, squirm between the seat and the floor, settle in at the wheel, feet on the pedals, turn the key-and the engine would sputter and die. I’d just give up and mutter Damn this cold. RACHEL TAN

Cause after nineteen years, this cold’s gotten under my skin now, like thawing flesh all pins and needles now. My skin’s like Siberia, like permafrost and malaria chills now. Like the grin I can’t keep back when the SoCal girl from down the hall shivers in and cries about the awful weather. And I chuckle “Darlin, it’s still September, and it’s not that cold.”

—ADAM ROY April 11, 2008

THE OBSERVER

5


December BY

ANONYMOUS*

She inhaled shallowly: cherry, jasmine, lemon, all grey tendrils tracing up the walls and converging at the ceiling to form a second, smoky vault. Her lungs were already tight and her eyes dry from days of smoldering dimness. As hours of shins and knees passed by, she shifted her gaze upward as she slumped, gradually, towards the floor. Her neck, tilting upward, acknowledged the shifting shape of the roof, and the lights in her eyes recognized the increasingly familiar architecture. In a hookah bar in an alleyway in an ancient city of sin, she saw the hallowed aisles and form of Santa Maria del Popolo. Only hours earlier, she fell into the Metro and emerged, four stops later, brushing its putrid breath from her clothes with futile swipes of her hand. She checked that her bag was unmolested, embarrassed to seem a paranoid foreigner, and hastened her step towards the city gate, an interloper both in the country and on those streets. Her feet, her legs, her arms did not belong in front of those impatient cars, growling and belching as they waited for her to pass. As they rushed ahead, breaching the pristine verdant shadows of the Villa Borghese, she stepped more calmly through the Porta Flaminia, and from its citadel shade into the immense expanse of the Piazza del Popolo. Skirting around lampposts and tables blanketed in black-clothed figures,

she hurried through the grey-white tendrils of smoke sneaking from the tips of cigarettes: tumbling carefully upwards, they dodged the new rain-bullets as they fell. She had come to September wideeyed and fervent, with afternoon dust and immaculate art on her mind. She ceded evenings to churches, fingering stone floors and rosaries, slipping into endless chapels with the subtlety of a librarian’s daughter. She had vibrated around the sullied city with her caffeine turning avenues into alleyways as she echoed from side to side, the stones welcoming the mere whisper she had become. That day she cautiously padded up the stairs of Santa Maria, stepping awkwardly to avoid the puddles forming in depressions that pilgrims’ feet had formed over hundreds of years. What happened to August and her virgin hopes for a year graceful, yet torrid, yet pure? Now with the new night biting with December’s raw will, the frigid gusts of air that rushed into the bar with every opening of the door were harbingers of the sharp Roman winter, scraping the smoke from her eyes with each new draft. Sprawling on corners and cushions, she noticed her companions again. After hours in the dark bar, they continued to drink, though their stomachs were full and their bodies intoxicated. Their shoulders, their heads, their necks were draped with veils of smoke. Layers of deepening grays shrouded them so that only their faces were

discernable as breezes scraped the smoke back and forth. Engrossed in discussions of women, America, beer, their mouths did not address her, their eyes gazed past her, their hands extended to their drinks and their pipes, but not to her. Unpunished, she reached for the pipe in front of her, sliding farther down as she inhaled and her muscles relaxed. Unpunished, she reached now for a stranger’s drink, now for a stranger’s wine, and drank. Unpunished, she cherished the drops of fire lighting cigarettes for shadowy figures in the shadowy room. What happened to August and her virgin hopes for a year graceful, yet torrid, yet pure? With the worn steps ascended, she pushed on the dusty weight of the immense doors, and pushed again; they hesitated on the threshold, reluctantly creaking open. Stepping into the musty dank sanctuary, she faced straight down the nave towards the apse, past the chapels which lined the aisles, across the transept and under the octagonal dome, which spilled stale cloudy light into the basilical crossing. Angels lounged above the arches that line the nave with a steady rhythm, supported by travertine piers with attached columns. Each aisle had five chapels: the Chigi, Cerasi, Orsini, Aldobrandini, Carafa chapels, adorned with the work of the genii: Filippino Lippi, Pinturicchio, Fra Angelico, Raphael, Michelangelo, Bernini. With the gold of the

Sh had vibrated around the sullied city She with her caffeine turning avenues into alleyways as she echoed from side to side. de

6

THE OBSERVER

April 11, 2008

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chapels echoing off of the groin vaulting on the aisles, she kneeled, spreading the palms of her hands over the cold, silky marble of the floor. She traced the edge of a stone with one wary finger, then two, then another stone and another. Though her body crouched, shivering from the transferred cold of stone and rain, her eyes shifted progressively upwards. They made orthogonals of the walls, tracing them down and down until they burst into a flash of bronze on the organ wall. The organ bloomed with perpetual oak leaves and acorns, twisting flashingly upwards towards God and St. Peter at the gates. The artist was immortalized in its casting, the patron was immortalized. Here were her hopes for a year graceful, torrid, pure. Unpunished, she tried to rise on unreliable legs. Smoke darted through them, and with her view of her feet obscured she doubted she might be able to steady herself. They rose, instead, together, on a trinity of unstable unpunished legs. They pushed down the hall, over scattered tables and legs; they pushed down the steps and out the door (light, glass), into the burning bladed currents pushing over the Tiber. Trying to maintain anonymity, they ran unpunished: three pairs of feet and a remnant bottle of illicit port buried deep in the battered womb of his jacket. They were pounding, padding, gasping ecstatic, pushing their way across the bridge. Passing blackout cascades of tumbling white bottles and soccer balls, they shuffled unpunished through December’s cruel chill. For false warmth, they sipped port, unpunished, as they tripped across sidewalks and cobblestones, shrouding their faces in bottles, shadows and scarves. Marching across piazzas, intersections, train tracks, her feet blindly followed the four stumbling ahead. What happened to August and her virgin hopes for a year graceful, yet torrid, yet pure? She shivered down the aisle to the center of the transept, overextending her neck to gaze at the very top of the dome. The drum, bathed in rain-light, was a perfect octagon above her; its eight sides recalled Christ the Son, Christ the Man, resurrected on the eighth day

following his entrance into Jerusalem. Directly behind her, one of Rome’s few rose windows scattered muted reds and pinks down the soft silent aisles. Turning instead to embrace the apse, she barely beheld the golden candles, and gilded massive frames on the altarpiece. She glanced beyond to the vault of the apse, to the deep velvet of Perugino’s fine frescoes and the drapery on Borromini’s confessionals. As one foot crossed the altar-line into the dark hazy private

of the apse, curling fibers of smoke again curtained her eyes. Blindly, she stepped into the confessional. What happened to August? Unpunished, she dashes up Viale Aventino with seconds before curfew. Winefilled, smoke-bathed, joyfully iniquitous, she shivers through the gate. Welcome, December. O *The writer wishes to remain anonymous.

MEENA BOROLOUCHI

April 11, 2008

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7


The Well 1. At the edge of a European village is an old stone well whose mouth implores the sky thirstily. It is dry, this dark O in the ground, and no one lives nearby anymore — it is a place perhaps for a picnic, if there were not already parks built for that purpose. The uncut grass paws at its curved edge with a soft sound, a wild inanimateness — the inexpressible love of forgotten things. It is a place for death, and for unnoticed life. 2. The philosopher, curious about suffering and death, took a day trip out to this well on foot, and crawled in, and fell forty feet and broke his leg. He was dead before his watch battery ran out. Now he is among the wisest philosophers in history. They are all dead. There is nothing more to say about this. 3. I have been lying to you. The well is not at the edge of a village at all. It is not even in Europe. I invented the whole situation. Philosophers do not climb into wells, and the dead are not wise. I apologize. I was only trying to help. JULIE FURBUSH

But if a seeker of the truth were to fall into a well and starve, well, what I mean to say is: how very appropriate! —EZRA FURMAN

8

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April 11, 2008


RACHEL TAN

Savta She splits I by a generation, stands and watches her seeds blow in the wind, pull away from the hopscotch bricks and stray cats. Blows her seeds for miles, crossing where terror shakes hands with innocence to a city of blinding lights, half-smoked cigarettes, squirrels. She is one among the tattooed numbers, six million numbers, too many to count. Loss of faith in the immeasurable divine, she stands above the mounds of cracked knees and scattered hands. One brown, one glass stares at the broken pavement of Ramat Gan. I forget to savor my wet cheek and brush off Polish love. But this will be the last that I shall receive no more second servings, hidden chocolate endless card games. Across the seas, her burial goes on without me, and I wave at the passing train. I don’t know how to revolutionize grief. But I cry dry tears. Damp streets remain dry, creaky swings swing with fresh oil. I slide down the oversized ramp. —AVIYA SLUTZKY

April 11, 2008

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9


Sunset O’er New Orleans

Them saints have marched back in, oh there they go again. The spirit is back in the ol’ French Quarter, jazz and café au lait, but its wake doesn’t reach hardly across the street or bridge into Orleans or Saint Bernard’s or the lower Ninth. Everything is fine. Don’t take off the royal fool’s gold mask or beads bought for the parade (or walk a block that way). You need such a feathered facade to keep that smile, or stupor, on your face.

I sit on the concrete llevy with ith th the warm wind i and water SAM WEBB of the wide m-i-s-s-i-s-s-i-p-p-i. The ant-strong tugboat returns once more, oil barges and lethargic cargo decks charge by, the sun is going down — I guess west is that way. The cruise ship demands more attention. Aboard the Norwegian Spirit everything is fine, A sea of waving passer-bys, entranced by people on the shore. Look Mabel isn’t that sweet. Well they don’t look too bad. Wouldn’t it be nice to live here? Well sure. Sure. Forgetfulness in its passing wake. Birds glide, skim the waves like sunlight on the gilded surface. But that shallow sun halo doesn’t reach the deep beneath, to face the darkness of the dead man’s float. Dredge the river bottomless to purge the scoured bed.

Mardi gras green and yellow don’t blend well with industrial brown and brick broken down and entire neighborhoods in disarray. Shredded aluminum siding and mildew furniture and empty playgrounds, pigeons and government provisions playing hide-and-go-seek. A sinking city of sinking dreams, the sun is sinking too. No one lives there anymore, That house with the sunken roof.

—CHARLES SKOLD

Dead like dirty water’s edge, where sticks and logs and plastics lapse the concrete cage of the Mississippi. Breaking banks drown houses in watery debt and everyone left is treading up to their necks, or trapped in their attics.

Lo

“C Yo

Bu Th Th Th

Th It

Sh

Sh Sh vei W

An Bu bre sh

Bu

An

Flood waters recede and leave heaps of rubble by the road In front of gutted ghost houses, where have all the people gone? Sift through overgrown grass piles of past lived smiles in eroded portraits of yesterday, holding the memory of what once was wood and fiberglass. Maybe the garbage man will finally come today. Dredge the streets and dump old sewage in the gulf, sweep and clean and scrub the walls white. Rebuild, rebuild, rebuild, they say, but residents just get billed and forced out of transient trailer parks. Look at those pretty buildings against the setting sun, I’ve been there; I’ve seen the carriage tourist rides. 10

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April 11, 2008

SAM WEBB

ERIN


Look “Can you help me?” she asked. You looked back with eyes expressionless. She understood that you didn’t. But she kept that quiet gaze which echoed her passion. The passion that coursed through her relentlessly. That made her feel and live so intensely that it made her want to die. That passion that lived and breathed inside her but she didn’t know how to show. You felt uncomfortable under that stare. Like you were trapped under a blazing sun with no shade in sight. You looked away but she didn’t. That made you feel vulnerable. It made you feel. She wanted you to burn with the fire she felt within her. But you crumbled under the heat. You melted, sank and fell like your expressionless eyes. She could feel what you were. She could taste it in your mouth and smell it in the air and feel it pulsing through her veins. What she felt was what you were. But you never understood what she was. And just like you she looked away. But she didn’t melt or sink or fall. She looked away with that passion that she breathed and felt in her blood. She was stronger and bigger and more fearless when she looked away. But you. You turned to dust, and shattered to pieces, before you could even try to pick yourself up. And she knew this and looked away.

—SHREYA MAITRA

ERIN BALDASSARI April 11, 2008

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11


How We Remember Them Everything after time will cool down and you can soon put them in your mouth. All I want to do with Grandfathers, (when I see them in my dreams) I want to drink hot chicken soup with them. All burning tongue, I will swallow the rice — just so they teach me, again. I am their child. It is no mistake that our mouths so close to our brains, that memories falter themselves and retrieve themselves, again in their unnoticed manners. In haziness, I will hang on to the silver spoon as if it equals my death. All white knuckles, I will scoop the rice just like they told me (from top layer and slowly to bottom). Daniel drives the red Saturn: Christmas lights and children scooping snow for silver coins and papers. Snowmen and angels emerge from front yards of cousins he doesn’t know. After all, they do not have faces — handful of snow he handed to me. I said, my gloves too thin, my hands too cold. But he just smiled (and told me he loves the muck). How do you tell a child that someone has died. Against his white body he hangs the coat and waits for the wind to knock him through. I asked aren’t you afraid of the wind. For two years he knew. Heavily clothed, I called him foolish back then. Now, I take off the gloves and swallow failing crystals by mouthfuls. I choke on their coldness, the wind they carry from heaven. Yet, how sweet is the manna against our forgotten tongues. It is no mistake they are kept in a jar for generations to come. Yes, they are cold. They are chilly and sleepy bodies of unknown. And neither he nor I could tell where they were going after falling down or eaten. Can’t tell one apart from another melting against the warm smallness of our hands. He said, it’s ok. After once, they’re all the same. KELSEY BELL 12

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April 11, 2008

— CHAEYEONG YOO MEENA BOLOURCHI


Lauren Herstik


Lauren Herstik

Elizabeth Herman


Lindsay Hinman

Roxy Sperber


Elizabeth Herman

That is, after all, how one earns happiness — there is no viable alternative. And would you stop your teasing!


KELSEY BELL

The Big Black Hat BY

FERRIS JABR I

T

he big black hat — though laden with décor, burdened by rippling ribbon and clusters of bobbles, by imposing velvet flowers and especially by those useless billowing plumes — managed to fly before it fell: for a few brief moments it spun lightly through the air, as though alive, twirling in undeniable grace, only to lose the wind’s favor, to trip and topple towards the pavement, where it came to rest neatly on its brim, still dignified, still elegant, as pretty as a chocolate cake in a pastry shop window. Yes, it really was a magnificent hat — any of the onlookers would have agreed. But no one paid any attention to the hat, no one bothered to pick it up and dust it off, to say, “My! what a lovely thing. Such style.” or to comment on how far it had fallen, for there was something far more pressing, something else on the pavement, which captivated them all. II That branch beckons me, scraping against the windowpane like that, tapping on the glass — see the brown wrinkled hand? see its twiggy fingers? — the wind, the branch — together they summon me, thought Mr. Smythe, lifting his gaze above the edge of a large book. But stop it! stop your teasing, he cried silently. For he was just fine as he was, ensconced in the armchair, reading, thinking — resting in his own house. And such a fine house it was: two stories; balcony and porch; a yard in the back and front, such lovely yards — especially the front one, with the roses weaving all about the white fence, the crimson blossoms draped in heaps over the side; multiple guest rooms, more than enough bathrooms and a most modern kitchen: the very kind of prize one works towards. I am allowed to enjoy myself, to rest like this, he considered, I may permit myself this

pleasure — for I deserve it, after all — I do, I do. He must not think himself unworthy because of his past, his origins — and they had been rather poor, hadn’t they? certainly nothing like this house, no, no — but he had worked so hard, he’d persevered and now he was here, in this splendid house! living here with his own family, with his darling wife and son. A son whom he would see achieve similar success; a son who was on the right track. Why, right now my Alex is on his way, on the train, off to University. Mr. Smythe thought, Heading in just the right direction, no doubt there, though I had been worried for a while, worried by those low notions of his — his ideas about mechanics and engineering and always talking about that Thomson boy, that blasted Thomson boy who spends all his time amongst metal and machinery, collecting bits and parts of God knows what, scribbling down his absurd inventions. And he’d found that notebook, too, a little notebook in Alex’s room filled with ridiculous doodles and diagrams and foolish thoughts. But that was over now, that was all over — he’d put a stop to those notions of his. Imagine! his son, his Alex — working with machines. The very idea. That line of work is not for him, not for us, Mr. Smythe thought, That line of work is too low, can’t possibly end in the right way. He’d worked so hard, after all, so very hard — and for what? Was his son — his own son — to forsake all this, to abandon the path, the prize (and he looked about the room: the fine furniture, the Persian carpet, the shelves stuffed with volume after volume — all the greatest authors, the most brilliant thinkers) — how could he? Here was everything, everything that mattered! Here in this house, in these books. One must learn; one must work; one must struggle; one must do it all in the right way and then — only then — will one achieve success. That is, after all, how one earns happiness — there is no viable alternative. And would you stop your teasing! Mr. Smythe wanted to yell at the branch out-

side the window, the branch which continued to tap, tap, tap the glass. But he was fine. He was perfectly fine as he was — what could be out there, beyond the window? Why did they call to him like this? What could they want? He had no time for their silly games, no desire to leave the armchair: everything he could ever want was right here, in this house. He’d followed the right track, followed it with complete obedience; he’d earned everything around him; he was…he was happy — what more could anyone ask? Tap, tap, tap. There was no need to think of the past — oh, his poor parents! — to think of other paths he might have followed, to think of anything but here and now. He was here, in the armchair — his armchair — in his house; Alex was on the train, off to University. Tap, tap, tap. Everything perfectly aligned. Everything as it should be. Tap, tap — oh, do stop your teasing! III Alex Smythe pressed his palm to the cool glass — the sight of it all! everything hurtling past the window. Or, rather, we rush past it all — isn’t that it? Alex wondered — the trains speeds by, heaving and straining, racing down the tracks: and everything beyond this glass sits by and watches us pass, everything outside remains still, stays in place, only the plants are swept this way and that — as those branches there just waved about — swept by the force of the train, and some pebbles fly up and the clouds keep changing, keep gliding, but really we are the ones moving, the ones moving forward, forward. And compared to him — compared to the train — could anything else really claim progress? Well, there were those clouds and the birds and all sorts of unseen creatures — all moving about — and far away the city and people, alive, changing, but here — right here and right now — there was only the train, really, following the path of the trackway, cutting through the countryside: a swift black streak April 11, 2008

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17


slicing through all the stagnant green. Oh, yes, we stop every now and then, Alex considered, we do make stops at these small towns — and we are slowing even now, entering the next station — but we will move again, we have a destination. Here were all the people waiting to board, waiting with their luggage — the friends and couples and families embracing, saying farewell — and who is this girl, this young girl about his age who has no suitcase of any kind, who wears the strangest hat, a ridiculous hat, fat and overstuffed, full of feathers and ribbon and everything black! no color at all. How could she wear it? Why would she? Oh, but she was not coming onto this car — that was good — she was heading for some other car. I don’t think I could have contained myself otherwise, he mused, I would surely have let slip a laugh or two had she come in here. But the image of the hat remained: so ridiculous, so silly. And the train started once again, began to leave the station. The train had a purpose, a goal; it kept moving. What else, what else here could really claim that? The people, he supposed, the people might claim that too. They were all going somewhere, all together — so many lives, so many individual and separate lives

ing into one another, merging with this great black vehicle — and off they went! moving once again through the green. The train was going somewhere. They were all going somewhere, together. But where am I going? Alex asked himself, Where do I think I’m going? his fingers reaching for the ticket in his pocket. No, no. There would be no answer there. The train knew its destination — but what of his own? His would not be written on that little piece of paper. For he’d made a choice: a choice between the planned and the unknown, between the appropriate train and the one on which he traveled now. It had all been so wonderfully easy, so exciting. His

parents had seen him off — he’d told them not to wait, not to worry, he would find the train, he would be fine — he had seen the signs: one for his platform, the platform from

up his mind, just like that. Yes, he’d chosen to forsake the plan to leave, to go — not to University, not there — just to leave, to get out, to go — but where? where? But what will I do? he asked silently, How will I get on? Such foolishness! It all seemed so silly now — as silly as that girl’s hat. And he could still see the stupid thing, the image still stuck to his mind, all black and obese and preposterous, like some pompous bird: puffing itself up, thrusting its breast this way and that, so everyone might see: the grotesque symbol of a life devoted to preening and strutting. The hat was so — what was the word? how to describe it? — impractical! Yes, yes — so impractical; that was it, that’s why he hated it so. Life should not be wasted on the impractical, no time for it, no time for frivolity. One must always move forward. Yes, forward — just like this train. Now the train, the train: here was a thing of beauty: a magnificent machine, a wonder of form and function. How I would love to study such a wonder, Alex thought, How I would relish an intimate underSAM WEBB standing of something so perfectly practical — and I wouldn’t mind the dirt or the grease, I wouldn’t mind it at all. But here he was, on the very train he so admired, off to University, to study — to study what? — why, Philosophy of course. And he could hear, now, his father’s voice — his father, The Philosopher — those familiar words surfacing in his mind: studies, skills, degree, profession — and, worst of all: future. The future, the future! Perhaps it was as his father said; perhaps he had only to follow the track — and what was this track, this path? A line extending from this moment, reaching out

Who is this girl, this young girl about his age who has no suitcase of any kind, who wears the strangest hat, a ridiculous hat, fat and overstuffed, full of feathers and ribbon and everything black! no color at all.

joined here. And he could see those lives, like thin red threads, running together, passing through the doors, entering the train, stream18

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April 11, 2008

which he was meant to leave — and then all the rest, all the other signs! calling him, beckoning, teasing — and in an instant he’d made

fro en Ic can lon en ine sur it? sim wh

W wo — Wo fin wa fin kn as mi He he He int No sh tra big utt

ob cas by — on sh wi for rig he wa co the kit the fun he ver wi tho Bu did co Bu


en to get hat n? ow till to erelf so bol ng. d? yes al; at’s it uld on al, no ity. ays d. — in. he s a ty: mader nculd ch ex w I an ermen’t nd he — hy, se. ow, his oiar his dend, he erher ack ne out

from the now to the later, bridging the present and future? Yes, yes perhaps — I believe I can see that line, he thought, I believe I can see a solid black line: absolutely straight: long but finite: two clear points at either end, one a beginning, the other an end — an inevitable termination: surrounded by white, surrounded by the unknown. Why abandon it? He had only to follow the track, it was that simple. And it did make everyone so happy when he did. What was I thinking? Alex wondered, Where was I going? That was it, then. He would leave this train at the next station — and how much money did he have left? Would there be enough? Yes — he would be fine — and the train was slowing now, here was the station. He would find the right train, find his way, resume the plan. No one need know, he thought, no one here need suspect, as I gather my luggage now, that I’ve made a mistake — that I was not meant for this train. Here were others preparing to depart, just as he was, and people waiting to come onboard. He walked past them all now, walked briskly, intently past the passengers, past the train. No one needed to know. And look! there she is, Alex noticed, There she is inside the train, sitting by a window — the girl with the big black hat. How ridiculous it was — how utterly ridiculous!

never be content merely looking through windows — no, no! — she would find the door, find the opening and scamper right out into the lawn, chase after those feathered darlings. Of course, it was so easy to think so — so easy to tell herself that she would, as a cat, as someone else — as her real self — be bold and assertive, that she would chase Life itself! So easy to think so — but where was she now? Here, in this kitchen, she reflected, Here, in this house. Was this what she had imagined for herself ? This kitchen, this house — what was here? A table; folded napkins; chairs; countertop; a kettle; an empty vase; stacks of china; oven and sink; a loaf of bread, a block of cheese, a chocolate cake — and, of course, little kitty and the window. Where was the worth? What was anything here worth? Even herself — what had she done? How am I useful, Mrs. Pane asked, What has become of my life? Only two things — she could only name two things: her hat shop, her small but rather popular hat shop on Glast Street, and her daughter — her Alice! So that was it, then? A milliner; a mother. Those were her gifts to the world, everything that constituted the purpose, the value of her life.

IV Well, here comes the cat, Mrs. Pane observed, Here she comes, strolling in so casually — such nonchalance — sitting, now, by the chair, sitting with such calm about her — and oh! she has jumped, leaped suddenly onto the chair and again onto the table, here: she walks deliberately towards the kitchen window, raises her paws to the glass, leans forward — so carefully — presses her nose right up against it, her whiskers twitching — her tail too, swishing back and forth. What was it? What did she see? Ah! the birds, of course, the robins out there, hopping about the lawn, playing in the stone fountain. Little kitty wanted those birds — how she wanted them! But the window, the window — how funny to see her at the window like this, with her face and paws to the glass. For it was so very human, this act of gazing through a window, the look in her eyes — and what thoughts must ripple and wave behind them? But what was it like, really, to be a cat? How did it feel? I might be happier, Mrs. Pane considered, I might just be happier as a cat. But if she were to become a cat, she would

Well, it was something! It was something, wasn’t it? There was Alice. Yes, yes — lovely Alice, loving Alice. Alice who did so well for herself. Alice at the top of her class, with such a promising future. Alice who knew everyone, whom everyone knew — why, she might be at the market, browsing amongst the vegetables for a good tomato, perhaps, when she’d chance upon Mrs. Baker or Mrs. Fields and “How is Alice?” they would ask, “Such a charming girl!” they would say, “My Lily just adores her!” — oh, the smiles, the praises, the sincerity of emotion which that name — Alice! — summoned, demanded, commanded. She did not see this kitchen, this house, in her daughter’s future. No. Alice would not end up like this — she was different. Maybe that was it, then — maybe that amounted to something. For she was Alice’s mother, after all — she was Mrs. Pane. And Alice was going to be, to be — well something wonderful, no doubt! She would find her own way; she’d already done so well. So independent, her daughter — and such hope. She would be home soon, too — why not get something ready for her? Something to drink, a little meal or a slice of cake, perhaps — yes, something for Alice. Oh! and there goes kitty, jumping down from the table. Had the birds flown away? No, no — they were still there, playing in the grass. Well, should she open the door — show the cat the way out? Ah! but she had to get something ready for her Alice. She would be home so soon. V

KELSEY BELL

Such strange clouds, those are, thought Alice Pane, They remind one of ripples and waves — yes, they remind me of ripples on the surface of a pond, of the wrinkled surface of the ocean; waves coming closer and closer, rolling towards me; I should keep this image in my mind — this image of the sky, of the strange clouds, I must preserve it within me. And (turning from the window to look about her bedroom) everything here too: she must remember it all, every color, every detail. Especially you! (reaching for the big black hat, which sat on the bed beside her, running her finger through one of the feathers) — she would never forget this hat, never forget the day she’d found it — in the backroom of her mother’s shop — looking a little silly, yes, but so beautiful too. And what had her mother said? That she’d made it for a costume? that the customer no longer wanted it — yes, that was it — that she April 11, 2008

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19


could keep it. And she had, she’d kept it this whole time — never wearing it in public, of course — but now, now it was just the thing. She needed something a little silly — but it wouldn’t draw too much attention would it? was anyone ever stopped over a hat? — she needed something precious to her, something encouraging from which she could draw courage when bereft of her own. For she’d made the choice. But it wasn’t much of a choice, really — more of an understanding, a realization. Yes, she’d come to accept something, something very great and beyond her control. The voices, always the voices! “You might as well” — “It’s for the best” — “We must do this.” And she was sure it wasn’t normal, it couldn’t possibly be normal — she was not well. There was no point in denying it — and no point in staying any longer. She had nowhere to go; she didn’t want to go anywhere. But she had to go, regardless. She could not see any future whatsoever — nothing but darkness. But she had to try. Oh, it was so easy to get along most of the time — only, then she’d fall — suddenly! — fall into the dark, into the sadness and each time further, further. It had been happening for so long, so very long, but it was different now. How did I manage to climb out each time? she wondered, How did I manage that? It was impossible now — the chasm far too great, the walls

too steep. She had to accept it. She could not bear the days anymore KELSEY BELL — and especially not the nights, the awful nights: the tears, the stifled wails, the great pain upon her chest. Something pushing down, weighing her down — something so dreadfully heavy. It never left her. When she was down here, down in the dark abyss, the weight never left. Well, they might call her a coward; they might be angry — they would surely be sad, wouldn’t they? “I can’t believe it!” they would say, “Such a shame! She was doing so well for herself, we surely thought…Why! Why!” But she had to leave — why play in the show any longer? why pretend? — she had to get out 20

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April 11, 2008

— get out of this house, this place, abandon it all. It was her only chance, the only option — no alternative. There might be something beyond, there just might, and she had to leave this — all of this — to find out. But I will remember, too, she thought (picking up the hat and walking out her bedroom door, down the hallway), I will remember — and that is part of why I need you, my beautiful hat — I know you will help me hold my memories, help me preserve them. And here was her sister’s room, the door ajar — here was Angelica — playing with a dollhouse, moving the little plastic girl up an imaginary front path in a rather funny manner — the doll bobbing up to the front door in just the way a bird jumps about, in just the way those robins hopped about the lawn every morning — and, approaching the door, now, Angelica suddenly lifting the doll to a window — which could open, just like a real one! — and dropping the tiny girl inside the house. “That’s not the right way!” Angelica said and swung open the front façade, “You must use the door, not the window! You silly!” It wouldn’t be so difficult, really. She had her ticket; she was ready. She would take the train — through the country, to the great city, to that wonder, that cluster of towering metal and concrete — a n d s h e ’d find it, find just the right one, a nice tall one, stroll right through the doors, into the lobby and up to the front desk — and she’d say: “I need a room.” Not “I was wondering — do you have any vacancies?” nor “Might I have a room, please?” nor “I’d like a room” nor even “I want a room.” She would not greet; would not chat; she would not mumble or hesitate. She would only demand, simply, clearly, firmly: “I need a room.” “Of course!” they’d reply, “Does Miss have any preferences, a particular room in mind?” “A view. The higher the better — yes, on the top floor if you have it.” “Oh we do, Miss, we do! You shall see the whole city from your room.” No, it wouldn’t be so difficult. “Won’t you play?” asked Angelica, bringing the doll up to the door again. Oh! Could she really say no? Would she

dare to use that harsh word, that vile word? But she’d made a choice — she had! She could permit herself the memory — the memory of Angelica, of this house, of all this — but she could not stay. Already the great waves of sadness began to roll, began to loom before her, surging nearer, nearer — threatening to drown her in this dark chasm. She would drown if she stayed; she would sink. She would be crushed beneath the unfathomable weight of it all. Nothing could remove this weight, now, nothing — except… “I’m sorry,” Alice said, fixing the hat upon her head, “I’m going out.” But Angelica did not seem to notice her reply. She was too busy with the doll, which she pushed — rather roughly — through the window, just like before. “You silly!” she cried after the plastic girl, lowering her eye to the dollhouse window, “Can’t you do it right? You must use the door, not the window.” The window — the window! VI What a funny hat! Alice thought, Why did mother make this? Where could she have found these feathers? What kind were they? Some sort of strange bird, a large bird. Ostrich, perhaps — was that it? — see the size of these feathers! And the ribbon was rather pretty, ringed around the brim, flowing all about — and tied in a little bow, here. But that one flower, there, almost ruins everything, it almost takes over. That flower should be smaller, Alice said to herself, It is too big, quite too big. All in all, though, it was a beautiful hat — even though everything was black — and it would be a little silly looking if one wore it about town — still, so very pretty in its own way. Let us try it on, then, Alice thought, Let us try it on before the mirror, here — it is rather heavy! It was all that decoration, all that stuff on the hat. It weighed it down so. But look how elegant it is, resting on my head — as good as anything mother displayed in the shop window. Well, it didn’t suit her at all, really — she was far too little — her head too small — she was far too young, and this hat was meant for a grand lady, a rich and serious lady living all by herself. Still — it was great fun to wear the big black hat. There was something very curious about it, something exciting and wonderful — something captivating. How she would like to keep this hat for her own. If only it wasn’t so dreadfully heavy. O


An Epistemology of Eggs and Rosebuds I know my hands are birds — not jays or hawks, only small puffed chicks. I’ve never seen them fly but I’ve heard their excited heartbeats, felt my wrists lifted with so many small wingflaps that pull me up until I smell rain that hasn’t fallen yet. It is delicious and sweet but when I try to look at my hands they freeze. I never knew about the birds until I knew about Sam and about Sam’s favorite park in all of New Milford. I met her under bleachers with a pipe in my hand, pushing upward, trying to catch up with something I couldn’t yet name. “Drugs will never do the trick,” she told me, “but birdseed might.”

I don’t know Sam anymore, but I like to think that someday I will feed myself enough birdseed that the good in it will seep in to leave tiny seedling-embryos in my skin that will burst into feathers, and my body will be all softness, fluttering understanding that will draw the chicks out of hiding, and maybe they will forgive me, maybe my hands will fall in love with me and bring me to live among the waiting raindrops.

—ALENE RHEA

Everybody knew Sam was smart, but I was the only one who knew why she said she didn’t believe in magic when she never agreed with laws of physics. She would tell me, from her perch on the left-most swing, “they will fly away someday.” She wanted me to treat them better; she wanted me to know that I was like her and my hands were going hungry. Sam reminds me of milk, the kind in red cartons, and I don’t know why. I don’t know if Sam drank milk or if it’s because she showed up early to school and happily parked beside the Hood delivery trucks so everybody else would have room, or because her words blinked back at me the way a soft milky morning can make you forget what it was that made this place so hard in the first place, or if she just went well with coffee, with apple pie.

ROXY SPERBER

April 11, 2008

THE OBSERVER

21


Red on Black BY

KRISTEN SURYA

M

arlowe Reed straightened his crooked tie-knot in the narrow locker mirror. It was most important to look presentable today, without a doubt. Black shirt, red tie, black jacket with a folded red ribbon pinned right against the breast. The colors were appropriate and coordinated. He glanced downward, checking the crease line of his pants. Yes, it was all in order. He had been preparing for today for quite some time now, ever since they approached him about it last week. He had felt afraid to say the least, because no one ever approached him about anything these days, but then again he should have known it was about that. “There will be an opportunity for those who have been affected to identify themselves, for the benefit of their peers,” said the principal. Would he be willing to do that? Would he? Had he not, all these years? Was he not a marked man? If it wasn’t the daily suit and tie, then it was certainly the baggie. The baggie had made him the center of attention on several occasions, much to his dismay. He was Baggie Boy, the Ziplock Kid, Ash Guy. He no longer had to hear their words to feel them. They were there, in his head, every time he lifted his hand to his back pocket and felt the old, worn plastic and the powdery ash inside. He did not know if the bag held an arm or a leg or a nose hair or a vein or maybe an aorta or — could he dare to hope — a chamber from the heart. He knew that whatever was there, however much (three spoonfuls to be exact, he had measured from the urn so precisely when it happened), it was more than the abstract intangible “ashes.” It was his father, and no one could tell him that they had to 22

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be separate. Not that they hadn’t tried. When they noticed, at first, anyway, they were vicious: “Hey, Marlowe! MARLOWE REED!” And they pushed him into a wall or a locker or a glass door. “Was your daddy a fag, Marlowe? Was he a theater fag?” One thousand words rang through Marlowe’s ears and nose and throat and brain

and guts but not his mouth. No. He wasn’t promiscuous. He wasn’t gay. He was a father, he was human. A human with botched blood. Bad blood — did he have bad blood? They took the baggie and tried to open it. And then he made them give it back, and he was suspended for four days.

Now he unfolded it, laid it out in his hand — it was rare that he did that, because the baggie was supposed to be an emblem, not a deadweight — to read the label he’d written by hand four years ago. Now it was wrinkled and faded, but the text was legible just the same: “Brady Reed, 41, 6’2”, 155 lbs.” And while so far the ashes and broken chunks of burnt bone had been his, his own, a silent mantra that was perfectly visible yet intangible to everyone, he was certain that today made all the difference. It was because he remembered the day he stopped talking. It wasn’t the day they told him, not even the day of the cremation, but he didn’t have much to say then either. The funny thing about his own father’s death was that he most often found himself comforting those who came with the intent of comforting him. Certainly they were all well-meaning people, having come in the first place to say, “My condolences, he was a great man, he would’ve been proud,” and then blubber away into their hands or their husbands’ chests. But he found himself more gripped by the sight of eight consecutive crying women than by that of his father’s own body, and so he drove his knuckles into the deep seam of his pockets, fingering the lint there. He was left in the awkward position of finding something to say, of patting strange shoulders and kissing foreign cheeks. The heavy funeral scent of perfume and tobacco unnerved him, and at the end of the day he imagined himself numb, in his nose and perhaps elsewhere, too. Marlowe had read books about boys at the turn of the century who never cried a tear when they lost their fathers. They put on a brave face and clapped the arms of all the funeral-goers and took up jobs and paid

the Ma mo the co on sen of int the the an to him

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the bills. They became Man of the House. Marlowe didn’t know if that was what his mother expected of him then, at 14, but the overwhelming thought of responsibility combined with the sight of so many tears on the day of the cremation was enough to send him howling a far way from the path of manliness. He sobbed and curled his fists into his carpet and tasted the salt of tears and then he vomited from crying too long. And then his mother came in and cleaned it up and held him and put an ice towel to his face to stop the itchy soreness. And she showed him the ashes in the urn.

people to come and lecture the kids, but also because they were in New York and it was the right liberal thing to do. The irony still floored him. “It’s a growing epidemic,” they said. “It’s important to be educated.” And yet the suspension still burned high and heavy on his record. Educated my ass. Nevertheless, it was a day he waited for almost every year. A small part of him reckoned it should have upset him. Maybe he shouldn’t have been able to sit through the hordes of young men and women coming through to tell them about their experiences with midriff weight gain and sexual inter-

lis was tall like him and walked around with Magic Cards. Marlowe saw him playing with freshmen in the hallways, crouched down like it was serious business there, hunching his back and scratching his pits like no one was watching. And sometimes he just stood there, shuffling them and taking them in and out of his pocket. Maybe they were his baggie. And sometimes when he was sitting and eating his cheese sandwiches alone outside, even he, the great lone Marlowe Reed, would wonder what it was like to have a friend. Ashley Budnikas came in. She had her hair in a ponytail, as usual, and a big black

They probably hated him, he suspected that. “So he’s here,” she had said. “He’s here with us, forever.” That was when he did it. He went to the kitchen and found the baggy and measured out three spoonfuls — here with him forever. And he labeled the bag and then he stopped talking because wasn’t it easier that way? Well, for the most part, anyway. There was the yes, please or no, thank you to the lunch lady, and every now and then an incident like with those boys where he’d opened his mouth and sound just came out — not words, but hard, roaring sound, a sound he wasn’t familiar with but felt somewhere deep inside of him — and accompanied itself with wildly violent gestures of the body. But yes, for the most of it, he didn’t say much of anything. He found it easier (no, that was not the word: less complicated) not to meet the wide eyes of expectation. Instead, he chose to prove everyone right. If they had all decided that he was something, who was he to say they were wrong? He never kept the baggie out of sight from their eyes. Let them decide. Let them assume. He couldn’t help it, anyway. But today? He pressed a shaky breath out between his teeth and crunched the baggie into the creases of his fist. Today he would not have to say anything. All he had to do was stand, and they would know the truth. That was the plan. Every December his school hosted an Awareness Assembly, about the disease. They usually had several speakers come in with new statistics and billboards and updates from Africa. And, of course, a plethora of volunteer opportunities. It was in part because they were a private school and they had the money to pay speakers and important

course. But for some reason, hearing their stories filled him with a distilled pride. After all, Brady’d fought too. Brady’d fought and won. Did it matter if he was ash in a baggie? Did that make his victory any less substantial? And today was the year they would know, every last one of them, that there was one more story to tell. Marlowe Reed’s dad, the only adult who had made a daily appearance in school for four years, would finally come into his own. He closed the locker and made his way to the auditorium. He opened the door and looked at the expanse of it, the well-lit, sound-testing expanse, and wondered from which angle it would be best to make his big move. He saw the few lumps of crowd unevenly ticked about in the front rows and decided the back would have to do. Fourth row from the exit, three seats from the aisle. Close enough to be visible, invisible enough for mystery. He liked the idea of people busily turning their heads in a commotion to see who was standing. He sat down, back straight and tailbone pressed firmly against the seat hinge. He squeezed the baggie. Ellis Cole entered the auditorium across the row. He chose a seat in Marlowe’s row, also three seats from his own aisle, and eight seats from Marlowe. The boys exchanged a wave of acknowledgement. Marlowe liked Ellis. They’d never talked before — it was policy, of course — but Marlowe’d always had the sneaking suspicion that they might’ve been friends if he’d had the courage to break his own rules. Maybe it was because Marlowe had this habit of looking out for anyone with a Gameboy and shunting anyone with color in their face. Or maybe it was just Ellis. El-

T-shirt with the Ramones all over it. She sat down in front of Ellis, lucky bastard. He saw her look around — where were those pesky girls anyway? — and lean back in the wooden hinge of her chair. She lifted her right buttock off the seat and dug into her back pocket, her hips escalating above the chair. When her hand emerged, there was a stick of gum between her middle and ring finger, and he watched her unwrap it and stick it in her mouth. It was green Orbit, which meant it tasted like spearmint. She tossed her eyes around at nothing and no one, looking for looking’s sake, before setting on plucking the hem of her shirt. She was one of those horrifically normal girls who never seemed less than perfectly happy all the time. Every time he managed to pass her by she was locked in deep, grinning conversation with eight other girls about some band he’d never heard of: the Ramones, the Sex Pistols, the Clash. He kept their names in his brain, partially with the intention of researching them as soon as he got home, just in case he found himself skilled in conversation one day, and also partially because they belonged to her. In his mind, he built a bridge between classic rock and Ashley Budnikas — it was a habit of which he’d never be able to rid himself. And it wasn’t just the bands — it was her big T-shirts and the chipped tooth she had right in the front. She was always just in front of him and that was the real truth of it. Maybe it was simply that he could never get a close enough look at her face. She might have turned around to say hello, for she’d never ignored him the way he was so accustomed to expect with others, if April 11, 2008

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23


her friends hadn’t appeared in hordes out of thin air. They sat around her, on her sides, in her row, their heads taller and frames wider than hers, which made it virtually impossible for him to see the fat, oily, brown and blonde ponytail sticking out from the back of her seat. It was as though they’d calculated the maneuver in a protective instinct. They probably hated him; he suspected that, and they had more than once caught him staring at her. All the more reason to hate him, maybe. He wasn’t sure what made a girl hate the boys that liked her so much, but certainly it was the same venom that made girls hate the boys who liked their friends, too. His greatest fear was that one hate would breed another, especially two so closely related, and his carefully devised (yet easy to follow) plan of distant aloofness would collapse beneath his feet. The motivation that never crossed his brain was jealousy, because it never occurred to

There was nothing said that he didn’t know, though he wouldn’t have been foolish enough to credit his education entirely to Brady. Likely, each and every one of his classmates knew the facts that were being thrown carelessly at them, and no matter how well thought out

on giving them as much information as possible before his nine-15-ay-em-exactly appointment. And Marlowe knew right away that it was not now, that it would not be during Charley’s time that he would have to stand. For although Charley was interactive (“How many

facts that were being thrown carelessly at them.

24

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April 11, 2008

his

an

wa an fer he of on co him Pro ne of de Ma an Wh

Likely, each and every one of his classmates knew the

him for more than a few seconds that these women were less than perfect, that they were anywhere below the cream in the vat. When their glares turned his gaze elsewhere, he found himself book-ended by people he didn’t know and saw that the lights were darkening. Relief and nerves knotted and caressed him simultaneously; the resultant feeling was a desperate need to urinate. And then, as though a deafening crash had exploded about the room: he didn’t know when. The thought just struck him down — he didn’t know when! What if, after all his preparations, he was caught off guard and missed his moment? It would be tragic. It would be catastrophic. When? When when when when when? In all normal circumstances he might have asked for a program, but to do that would illustrate excitement on his behalf, and would that really be a wise decision on today of all days, today his comeback? Certainly excitement for such a banal ceremony would exude disapproval from his classmates, and with Ashley Budnikas so close by— no. No, it wasn’t a wise decision at all. He would have to wait. He would have to wait and, however droning and repetitive the subject matter might be, he would have to listen.

in,

and researched a presentation it was, there still remained the overused nature of the whole procedure, successfully cut down any effort or consideration the PTA had bothered to inject this time around. This time, of course, there was the traditional PowerPoint presentation that was blasted into their retinas using the large projector screen at the front of the auditorium. HIV and AIDS may be transmitted by release or exchange of any bodily fluid, with the exceptions of saliva and urine. More people have AIDS in Africa than any other part of the world. Use a condom. He knew that that was, really, the message behind it all. Use a condom. He wondered if anyone could be so stupid in this day and age not to remember a rubber, but he reminded himself that he had yet to feel the thrilling anxiety of sex, the grand-scale necessity that seemed to involve and consume people in the act. Could it be possible, he asked himself, to truly lose oneself to such a carnal urge? And then he found himself thinking, much to his own disturbance, if he would ever be able to part from the baggie long enough to connect with someone in that way. Ashley Budnikas. Maybe. The leader of the PowerPoint presentation this year was a hyperactive man in a suit named Charley, who seemed to be Hell-bent

of you have used a lubricant?”), he wasn’t nearly patient enough to wait for “those affected” to stand or raise their hands or perhaps even show some form of insignia that yes, they were, and yes, they would always be. Then came the usual scout from an AIDS-based organization. These were usually the ones with humorous but morally poignant anecdotes relating to the virus. This one called for volunteers, and Marlowe watched as eight kids (from the front row of course) stood onstage with him and did an exercise relating to stigmas associated with AIDS. “‘AIDS is a gay disease.’ If you agree stand on the left, disagree on the right, don’t know in the middle.” Marlowe had to give his classmates more credit because almost all of them had the common sense to stand on the right every single time, despite their honest feelings on the matter— it was, after all, an exercise called “The Myth-Buster.” He thought he might have recognized one of the boys who’d tried to steal his baggie all that time ago and the embarrassment of a private irony flooded him. How could he sit there and let it continue? It was hypocrisy. He felt the same urge creeping up his esophagus, the one that had nearly expelled him all those years ago, but instead of giving

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as tly way ng For ny

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an ere orus. we of an ith ree n’t ive ost nd eir ter r.” ne gie of he ochis ed ng

in, he shunned it. No time for that now. He would have his retribution. And then a familiar face took the stage, and he knew the moment had come. The guest speaker of this year’s assembly was a short, squat little man with a smiling face and whimsical demeanor. His job was no different from any guest speaker of years passed; he was to share with them a personal anecdote of his relationship to the tragedy, so as to demonstrate how accessible the disease was. How it could affect them, any one of them, as it had him. It was, in its own way, an indirect warning. Protect yourself or feel the same cheerful sadness. Be aware or come to terms with the end of your life as this man undoubtedly had. But despite the inevitable presence of this message, Marlowe nevertheless quaked with excitement and recognition. Certainly it would be now. When else was a better time? Sure enough, the speaker began with a quick story. “When I was your age, I felt unsure about my identity…” It usually began this way. A lifelong struggle with homosexuality. Was Brady…? Marlowe didn’t even have the energy to wonder if there had been men in his life. He had always ruthlessly defended his father at the taunts of his classmates, but a divorcé of 15 years dying of AIDS was admittedly suspicious. However, Marlowe found himself returning to the same familiar path his thoughts had adjusted to treading: He would have told me. But what if he hadn’t? The squat man seemed to wrestle with Marlowe’s heart. “I ought to have told my daughter sooner, about the disease, about who I was, but…” But what? Was there a but in Brady’s head before he died? His breathing quickened and an icy hot washed over him. The father he had been defending was a lie. Who was Brady? No, it was not that simple. People were complete figures, this he knew. They could not be divided into parts. It would be impossible — impossible, against improbable — for Brady to have put on a show all those years. How could something so large and overpowering live dormant inside his father without succumbing to the inevitable urge? Only crazy people told lies so magnificent. He tried to wriggle out of the lingering doubt and still he found himself choked by it. He began to fill in gaps — so many men he’d

met in the presence of his father! Had any of them—? Fear gripped him. He gripped himself. The skin on his fingers matched the skin in his pocket and yet again he was driven to ask how much of it was skin. He was a Milk White Marlowe. His hands were shaking and he scratched the tips of his finger against the vein on the inside of his arm, trying desperately to see through the walls of cells. What was inside? Was his blood botched too? He resisted the urge to clutch his heart and instead clawed at his tie. It was suddenly so tight around his neck — his windpipe! With each exhalation, was he releasing miniscule pieces of the disease into the air? He had to — there was a door — he felt for it with his bare hands until the light flooded his eyes and the clean air-conditioned hallway filled his nostrils. In and out. Relax, in and out. He felt the baggie in his pocket and didn’t dare ask himself how much of its contents were lies. Marlowe stood there rubbing his face and promising himself that he would return

too, who hung close together like dewdrops and family. He was desperate to know why they’d left — had his time come and gone so soon? — but felt so jarred by the looks on their faces that he felt it inappropriate to do anything but resume his usual position of silence. Words and whispers filled his ears. “I didn’t know,” said a thick voice. “She never said anything. She just stood up.” “Was this the first time she’s ever brought it up?” “I think a few people knew. The school knew, obviously, they have records. But this is the first time she…You know, she’s always so careful. When she has her period, it must be awful.” “Relax, it’s not a big deal,” said the voice of a crier. “It’s no problem. They have treatment, remember? She knows how to treat herself. Anybody can live with it these days, that’s what they say.” The generality of an assumption he’d long scoffed at slammed him, jerked him to his toes, and he felt himself coming undone as panic released his inhibitions. He found himself barreling through the horde of students to the center because he had to know — he was certain he already knew, because everything was cruel and nothing was beautiful — and he felt torn between curiosity and certainty. And when he slid through the masses his eyes locked with Ashley’s and they said nothing. He wanted to find a word or maybe a hundred and yet he couldn’t make his lips move after all these years. He felt as though he was standing at the point where the ocean meets the beach, his heels in the sand, as the waves draw back into themselves and not knowing who was moving backwards: the sensation of unsure motion. He searched her eyes for some kind of answer; he was doing, he knew, exactly what all those mourners of Brady’s had done to him. He did not know if he expected a saintly gesture, an open arm or a warm smile, but he felt the need to keep this moment alive, to keep her eyes locked with his and not blink because if he did he was certain the effects would be disastrous. And through the shallow skin and retina and hazel black lines, he thought he felt a nod from her and he nearly collapsed with the weight of it. Never, he knew, had silence been so magnanimous. O Drawings by Ryan Stolp.

He searched her eyes for some kind of answer; he was doing, he knew, exactly what all those mourners of Brady’s had done to him. the moment he caught his breath. He shoved his thoughts aside. He couldn’t let his moment pass in the heat of doubt. He had been waiting too long. He shook his limbs, pushing the baggie as deeply into his pocket as it would stretch. Let it be invisible for now, for this one moment. And though he felt a thick blanket rolling over in his chest, he moved toward the door determinedly. It was at this moment he heard the second entrance to the auditorium open, across the quiet hallway, and two of Ashley Budnikas’s friends, two members from the entourage he had seen earlier, emerged with their temples pressed together, clutching each other’s hands as though in prayer. Students followed them out in twos and threes, huddled and curled into similar positions, and Marlowe was struck by the shaken look on their faces. He peeped inside the door behind them and saw that the auditorium lights had been switched on, though students still sat inside, a small portion exiting quietly now. When he turned from his trance, he was met with a slew of girls in a crowd in front of his face, maybe 50, maybe 25, and a few boys

April 11, 2008

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25


Test Site BY

KANUPRIYA KAPOOR

H

ow doth the little crocodile improve his shining tail…’” Humming it, muttering it just loudly enough to interrupt the chickens in their mindless dirt-pecking and have them glance up at him inquisitively as he passed by with a bucket of fodder, Crawford went about tending to his tiny farm. He’d finally decided in ’43, while gazing from an unreachable distance at the cattle that surrounded him in his marketing meeting, that it was time to head back. London does have a charm that reaches unstoppably into your being, but Crawford could now feel, after so many forcibly oblivious years, that the earth below him was not his own. “I’m done with this city, Ma, and don’t you want me to come back anyway?” he had hollered into the receiver that evening. “Dad? Yes, I am coming back…because I want to…I’ve made enough money…I won’t live at home with you…listen, can I just borrow your car?” He’d spent 12 years fortifying himself in London — her distracting expanse and her rain, her bunkers, her identical, drab houses stretching street after street, and her antiquity. But now doubts, tremulous like the touch of cold fingers, crept through his brain: that she might be married to a New English brat; or that she’d forgotten him, that she did not want to see him again because it was too painful or perhaps, just a bother. And what of the ardent but unsaid belief that he was made for simple but special things, that convention was an ugly mould into which he was loath to fit; and his counter theory that “one man, all tasks” would outdo the productivity — but really, lucre — attempted by this “modern” world in a thousand ways? There had been a vengeance, 12 years strong, in these thoughts that drilled insistently through his walls. But the fortress had stood. It had taken much squabbling to get his parents to believe in his farm in the desert, and even more to convince them of his harmless intentions with their almost new Lincoln. 26

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April 11, 2008

“The Bailey girl is lovely, you know, and she always asks about you,” his mother had attempted listlessly as he’d packed the car with the little he’d decided to take with him. He’d waved jovially to their somewhat sour faces as he’d pulled away. “‘And pour the waters of the Nile on every golden scale.’” The high ridge that shaded his farm for most of the day eased up to the freckled sky while the simmering sand receded before him, offering its ancient and vast self to him as if his unabashed protégé. On the second of two trips that he’d made to stock up his farm-to-be, he’d brought, in a two-piece tow behind his car, ten chickens, two horses, three cows, two bulls and one brown lab. “How much water you got up there?” the filthy mechanic had leered at Crawford in a shop he’d located in the “closest town,” the stench and sight of tobacco suffusing from his mouth. Crawford remembered now how stale the man’s breath had been, probably from not having to talk much. And with this reminiscence came the comforting relief that any civilization was over three hours away. “Enough,” he’d replied. “It’s a pond, you could say, about six feet deep. Not very wide, but enough to keep the bush alive.” “What’s with them animals in your truck?” “I’m keeping a farm,” Crawford had said, quite ready for the cackle that followed. “Well, mister, don’t let me keep yer.” The old hick’s sarcastic suggestion of a

gruntled mother, Crawford contentedly scrutinized the small barn that he’d finished over a year ago and that, impressively, still stood. The desert sun bore its relentless swelter through slits in the heavy roof, but was cooled in his barn, as if it dared not question his toil. He remembered how he’d had to sleep there for weeks so he could still smell the dull must of the chickens’ corner on his clothes. And every night he’d dreamt of her startled eyes. Light gray, exactly as he remembered, maintaining an odd stillness that belied the alacrity with which she moved. Not to say she lacked grace…no, the slightest gesture riveted him entirely… and how uneasy she’d made him sometimes! His pride, strength and even self-gratifying mystery were penetrated, though hardly forcibly. He’d driven against all will, but for every desire, through Chicago — where it seemed she now lived — on his way to his envisioned farm, hardly letting himself think that perhaps, he might not make it to the desert. And he had not been prepared to see her again. It was with an icy shock that he had beheld her through the off-white film of her curtains, looking out to the street quizzically. He hadn’t stopped the first time, but rather circled the block, breathing deeply all the while. She had still been in the window, hand against the glass, when he stopped shudderingly outside the small but pleasant house. Startled eyes in a still face; she made it to the car in three seconds. He could not look at

Crawford remembered now how stale the man’s breath had been, probably from not having to talk much

in an up he kn

ho be Wi bu asi It he yea sm of his fla be ba

him ora an it t wa en tin

en yo at

dis the qu Cr He did his act thi tha the les ha en yea

ha few more hands had nagged intermittently during the seven weeks of his steady labor on the low, dim barn. At least the animals had kept close to the water, as he’d anticipated, so he’d rested for a month before setting up his even more basic shack. As he tried to feed the three-monthold colt that still shied away behind its dis-

her for long, and had heard her hand come to rest on the wound-down window. “Where did you go?” Her tone had been accusing, though, of course, deliberately so. “I’ve been in London, lovely.” Crawford had managed to smile. “Did you bring me anything?”

ne Cr ch

me


dly ed till ess but not e’d till ner

her reess he no, … es! ng dly for ere to elf to

see he lm eet me, ep-

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,

me

ad er-

w-

With agonizing frequency he’d awoken in the unfinished barn to torrents of tears and shame, the somnolent suburban air still upon him, shielding them from all eyes as he held her face but did not kiss her as he’d known he should have. “‘How cheerfully he seems to grin, how neatly — ’” A crack down two crossed beams behind the bulls’ stall caught his eye. With a grunt he left the colt to explore the bucket on his own, and gently patted a bull aside to examine his chore for the morning. It was not a difficult fix — especially since he’d gotten better at them over the past year and knew exactly how to smooth any particular part of the wall in with the rest of his construct. With his palm flattened against the cracked beams, he looked around the barn one last time. His dog ran out before him into the soft, spreading orange, as if to fetch his tools, and Crawford laughed when it turned around suddenly, tail wagging off, hoping for an energetic break in their routines. “All right, chase the chickens if you must, but mind that you don’t kill them…that’ll be a thrashing.” The cows grunted their disapproval as he hammered the third of four nails required into the beams, but Crawford paid no attention. He thought instead how he didn’t mind that any damage to his farm was only ever inflicted by a rather active nightmare of one of the animals. All this was a reprieve to him from the grind that society had churned itself into under the pretext of post-“Depression” convalescence. He’d escaped it successfully, as he had the draft, by sailing away from his parents’ — and his own — scorn. It’d be three years before they spoke again. “Did you get the money?” Crawford had asked his father cautiously. “Yes, and we’ve saved it all…we don’t need it,” had been the clipped reply. But Crawford had pressed on, determined to change at least their minds. “I know how hard it’s been there — ” “You don’t know anything, son.” “Well, it’s been rough here too…for me. But I’d rather this than Ma’s whispering

ford had been strangely aware of his hands. There remained one around the cup, the other in his lap, but in his mind they held her face. “Not us, Julianne?” he’d thought as she’d walked on, head down in the cold, thinning rain. He fell back into his mutterings — “Not us, love…‘how neatly spreads his claws, and welcomes little fishies’” — as he surveyed his patch-up. Remembering with some annoyance that it was time again to visit civilization to stock up, Crawford dropped his tools and wondered if he could possibly put the trip off any longer. He could do without ink and toothpaste for a while yet; and what did those people and their televisions, papers, and money hold for him anyway? He couldn’t recall the last time he’d ventured into the town five hours from his farm, but it had hardly been a breath of fresh anything. He didn’t easily forget the disgust that had erupted in his mind for the futility of their lives and their world — a newspaper declaiming the “American supremacy in nuclear realm” fed the fools with an enumeration of “Allied lives lost” in an adjacent column. Crawford had dropped the paper back into its stand, refrained from looking at the woman behind the counter, and hurried back into his desert with sparse supplies. A wild squawking from roughly the direction of the water ROXY SPERBER trough brought him lazily out to rebuke his euphoric dog. He checked of his flight. Now the desert conjured her his pockets for something he could offer to daily; the moments he’d tried pathetically to the perpetually hungry chickens, and found stay, when she’d really played a game with several peanut shells. Dropping them in the him, her newfound perspective was a bit too flurry of feathers, Crawford dipped his face fancy for his simple mind, wasn’t it? His be- and hair into the water. Two paws appeared longing to her — and he had — was given beside his head and he withdrew, laughing, from the trough. an embarrassed sidelong glance. “Back to the barn, you crazy dog!” “I have hardly seen you this month beCrawford followed the dog, and was cause of the job. You’re busy too, no doubt. But come downtown once you’re done with at the barn door when he saw the flash, classes. It would work, you just have to try though it was almost behind him. The dog it…” He’d written her from across town but whined and Crawford looked curiously at the tremulous ground. “‘And welcomes lither responses had gotten steadily rarer. The night he’d visited her at the dorm, tle fishies in with gently smiling jaws,’” he she was not home. Sitting at the college café, thought, before his incinerated skin mixed he’d noticed her walk by the window and with his crystal marrow and was blown called her name. Only the second time did to a shadow on the door, reaching for its she stop, but had looked at him through the handle. O glass, saying nothing, blinking, and Craw- Background art by Rachel Tan friends. I know how you felt, but it’s better here. The money is in support only of my decision.” “I did well, though the accounts all left for a while. Some came back eventually, so we were better off than some.” His father had sounded too casual. “Where’s Ma? I can’t talk much longer…Ma — no, I’m not married. Listen, use the money; I’ll keep sending it anyway… thanks Ma.” He had enjoyed London more since that conversation. And he’d managed increasingly to mostly ignore the other cause

April 11, 2008

THE OBSERVER

27


Dandelion Child You walk beneath a sky of flint, rain needles prick the slick pavement. Ask your umbrella to give in — Beg its surrender to the wind — so the great gusts can pluck you up and out, away, in a rash rush, you’ll fly, full-fledged, until you know why dandelion children go so quick and quiet, as if told they have no choice in how to grow.

ELIZABETH HERAMAN

Dare to reclaim the ggolden crown, bear its teeth as you bare your own? Or always trade dde the sharp for soft? To wish, whisk, ssk, wilt — ripen, then, rot?

—F ERRIS J ABR

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How was the O’s first Literary Issue? Email observer@tufts.edu and let us know what you liked, what you didn’t, and what

28

THE OBSERVER

April 11, 2008

we should change in the future.


PARTING SHOT

Photo by Rachel Tan


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Spring 2008 - Issue 6  

Tufts Observer (Volume CXVI Issue 6)

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