Nom de Plume Spring 2014
Presented by the Creative Writing Club
Nom de Plume Issue 02 Spring 2014
Creative Writing Club Editor-in-Chief: Hana Elniwairi Editorial Committee: Helen Hey Amy Higgins Thomas Nicholls Matthew Adrian Cover art “Movement” Tabitha Chan
Copyright remains with the author(s) and artist(s). The sole responsibility for the content of this publication lies with the authors. Its contents do not reflect the opinion of the University Students’ Council of the University of Western Ontario (“USC”)or the Creative Writing Club (“CWC”). The USC and CWC assumes no responsibility or liability for any error, inaccuracy, omission or comment contained in this publication or for any use that may be made of such information by the reader.
In 2012, bestselling author Neil Gaiman made a speech, the center of which is that artists of all kind should use everything at their disposal to Make Good Art. Not long after, his speech was turned into a comic, which depicted all the difficulties an artist can go through, all the reasons they might feel incapable of making art, and showed exactly why these are the reasons that you have to make art. That speech, that comic, have stayed with me for a long time. ‘Make Good Art’ is such a small idea, but it’s powerful. It gives validation to every little artistic venture you pursue, and makes it mean so much more. When Nom de Plume was founded last year, we were just looking for a place to publish our members’ writing and commemorate a successful inaugural year for the club. Now though, I feel that this publication has the potential to be so much more. Western is slowly turning into a place where good art thrives, where people can hone their craft, whether that’s writing the next great Canadian novel, or making beautiful art. I hope that Western continues to do that, and I hope that the Creative Writing Club can continue to contribute to that, whether it is through our activities, this journal, or any other way. Nom de Plume and the club is here for you to let yourself be heard. Although we recieved many submissions, I know there are so many more out there that we didn’t get the chance to see, and I hope in the future you can find the courage to use Nom de Plume as a resource. But in the meantime, please enjoy this edition, and keep on Making Good Art! - Hana Elniwairi, Editor-in-Chief Hana is a 4th year English, Writing, and Psychology
student and the President of the Creative Writing Club.
The Creative Writing Club would like to acknowledge the support of the University Student Council, without whom this publication would not be possible, and the English & Writing Studies department for promoting the journal to their students.
1 Altruism Sam Boer 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
Career Day City Bird â€œMay I Have This Dance? Passing Cars The Night I Drove You Home To Lowell and Some Girl When Eco Met Narcissus
Elizabeth Nash Jasmeen Siddiqui Helen Ngo David Witmer Rayna Abernathy Adam Mohamed Elizabeth Diemanuele
1 Ashes Danielle Whitfield 2 Life Discoveries Kaitlyn Packer On a Barn Roof 3 Oh My Duchess Shelly Harder 4 Recidivism Meg Desmond 5 Slipped Emily Groleau 6 Tell-Tale-Beyond Sam Jowett 7 Words On the Bus Jessica Jackson 8 The Drop Jacob Parkin 9 The Second Tunnel Christopher Beaulieu 10 The Stories We Tell Matthew Tompkins
The Lonely and the Loved Rachel Ganzewinkel
1 Mandala Randi Aiken 2 Lead Wings Danielle Sing 3 untitled Jennifer Hall 4 untitled Kristen Holland 5 untitled Alex Stelmacovich 6 Europe Dragana PrvuloviÄ‡ 7 Ecstasy Tabitha Chan untitled
P O E T R Y
Altruism It’s some lonesome Drip. Drip. Drip. From my thoughts to my chest. Of course and of feeling I know not enough – Devoid of a map I had not thought To bring. My feet repeat: Step. Step. Step. And echo the depths Of a featless run On sentence, of stealing And other imagined atrocities, Gathered up dusty old legs. It’s some irksome Beg. Beg. Beg. Drowned out by incurable Selves and some sick need to Give until some piece of Mind finds itself a home – From your thoughts to your chest. And it Rests. Rests. Rests.
When I grow up, I want to be a dog. Every meal is the same, but there’s the Oh- joy- oh- joy- oh- joy moment Of just being able to eat. Waking up, there’s the possibility Of a hug or a pat or a pet And there’s maybe some beauty in that. Trot- trot into a room, and everyone smiles Eyes half- flick from the TV to you And use you as a fuzzy footrest. When others are sad, just a lick or a nudge Can wipe away the tears or fears and nightmares And leave them with a half- turned grin. Better yet, you get to be a living garbage disposal Of scraps and small pieces of anything That taste finer than any wine. Years later, my mother told me it’s not commercially viable to be a dog So I became a lawyer instead (but I get to be a dog on weekends).
My attention is pulled downward at the shivering grasp of a cigarette that is firmly holding your eyes, so I raise it to my lips to bring your eyes to life. With your mind elsewhere, you miss that. There are so many doors in a city like this and you happened to open this one and now my mind tumbles into the curious wonder of small kisses on the train of my spine. Clenching fists at your deaf ears, these clenched fists squeeze out a veiled thought; anything will move like birds, separate but loyal to you. In the glaze of your eyes I can see that glossy photograph, my fingers twitch with the memory of how well they fit on your shoulder. Saying goodbye, you spin me around and I remember again how to laugh, and I remember the inside of a cage. This is what I am, and so this is what weâ€™ll have to be, faraway eyes, or cracked knuckles allowing memories to fill our joints, my coos falling silent in the smoke, soaring like blind birds over a dark grey city hopelessly migrating to smoggy street corners, then away.
“May I Have This Dance?”
- a sestina
I. It was the coldest night of all the year For us to come and choose to dance Snowflakes settle upon the lashes of my eyes As I open the door to the grand (ball)room Music and laughter greet me, feather-light I know that this is where it all begin(s) II. Strangers, bold behind their masks, make the choice to dance They spin across the crowded room Drenched in dreams as the night begins Lost in romance, forgetting the year Intoxicating—; I could not miss the light Emanating from the depths of their lovers’ eyes III. So I take a moment, breathe it in, only to begin To lose my breath as I meet your eyes Staring me down ‘cross the reams of light The music stops. For the first time this year I cannot move; I cannot speak—my heart, it starts to dance As willing feet carry me across the room IV. The air is sweet; love permeates the room Upon our shoulders, endless possibilities dance A sensation so foreign; so strange; oh, the stories it will begin I cannot resist the spark; the flame it will soon (a)light This is what I have waited to feel all these year(s) And I know that I am falling, lost in deep brown eyes
V. We move together in the truest of dance(s) My head spins as you dip me back; seeing the up side-down room And I am alive for the first time with brightest eyes The music slows, and I can feel the electricity begin We seal the moment with a touch, searing like fireworks’ light Winter’s kiss is no longer the only one that I received this year VI. I read the yet unwritten stories dancing in your eyes They criss-cross the Earth; go far beyond this room As the clock strikes midnight to end the year There is one more adventure that will now begin I find myself breathless; captivated by the (star)light We are forever changed by a single, fierce dance VII. The year comes to a close, yet our story now begins— We will dance with the world as our (ball)room, Guided by (star)light—and as for the music? It’s in your eyes
Passing Cars Rain patters softly against The pane, and droplets obscure My view while catching the orange And yellow-white light of Street lamps and passing cars – the Only colours in the night. Thoughts ride with them, rolling through The paved roads of my mind, Transmuting, distorting – if for Only a moment – the moist Mirror of water and light Forming on my pane of glass. Though I know others are near, If for only a few moments; I feel alone, but not lonely – Left in the company of Passing cars, and reflections Of orange-red light.
The Night I Drove You Home
That night, I drove you home. Your face, ridged in the yellow streetlights, a painted skull. My hands, fumbling, like a blind man down an unfamiliar hall way. We pretended, dolls and race cars, but with a wheel missing, or one eye. Our breath, filled the cracks; we were chemists, discovering what was already there. The wipers, metronomes to our thoughts, you watched them. Never once shifting, to ask.
To Lowell and Some Girl
We are parted, Though to part Is to have been once Seamed. Clutched together, Tight as leather Making one. Cruel Time watches us Wear and fray at the edges Till no more We are.
When Eco Met Narcissus
He said, “You will not touch” She echoed, “Touch” so he did as he was told while she held the word he gave her. He said, “You will not hurt,” then he slid in her folds a rip in the hole, her split tabbed rasa. She echoed, “Hurt” but he left, wet at the stream; she screamed she screamed.
Art & Photography
Mandala Randi Aiken
Lead Wings - Danielle Sing
Untitled - Jennifer Ball
Untitled - Kristen Holland
Untitled - Alex Stelmacovich
Europe - Dragana PrvuloviÄ‡
Ecstasy (top) and Untitled - Tabitha Chan
P R O S E
Fifteen: the number of minutes that Grace had left in the courtroom. Of course, that depended upon a number of things; the lawyers had already extended the trial, prolonging it by an additional fourteen minutes and twenty-two seconds with comments of debateable relevance. At four fifteen she was called to the stand, sworn in with her hand over a Bible that looked to be a few hundred years old. Fifteen minutes left – the Judge never went past four thirty. “Ms. Lancaster,” the lawyer began, “How long has it been since my client, Alanna Zimbert, divorced you?” “One hundred and twenty nine days,” she replied, folding her hands together in her lap. “Could you please tell the court the reason for this divorce?”
“Irreconcilable differences,” Grace answered.
She gave a brief nod, acknowledging this. It had not been the divorce that dragged Grace into that courtroom, through two inch lakes of rain that lined the five blocks between her apartment and the courthouse.
She looked up at the clock again. Thirteen minutes. “And your reason for being here today?”
“To gain custody of my daughter Emily,” she replied.
Again Alanna’s lawyer nodded to acknowledge her answer. She folded her hands in front of her, her face taking on a stern expression. “Ms. Lancaster, how much time did you spend with Emily on a daily basis before you and Ms. Zimbert divorced?” Grace, who was usually on top of her numbers, drew a startling blank. “Uhh…I…I’m not sure…”
“Answer the question, Ms. Lancaster,” the lawyer snapped.
“A few hours, perhaps? Alanna spent more-”
“Thank you, that’s enough,” the lawyer interrupted, shredding Grace’s unsaid words into invisible scraps that fell unheard to the ground.
It was true that Alanna had spent more time with Emily, and initially Grace had not minded, more inclined to drink tea and work on crosswords on the balcony of their home while Alanna watched over their daughter. Grace had grown accustomed to being alone; after her own father vanished when she was five and her mother had taken multiple jobs to look after her and her siblings, solitude had become a familiar companion. She saw nothing wrong with her routine of two cups of tea and five crossword puzzles while Emily pranced around the yard under Alanna’s watch. “So you would often withdraw from these situations and allow Ms. Zimbert to care for your daughter?”
“Well, sometimes, but not al-”
“And is it also true that on more than one occasion you locked Ms. Zimbert out of your shared home?” “That was an accident!” Grace exclaimed. She had only gone to check the door to make sure it was locked, as she did for a third and final time before turning in for the night. She glanced over to Alanna, who sat alone at her table in the room, eyes glazed with a placid smugness. Grace began to drum her fingers against her leg, counting the motion in sets of five. She snuck another look at the clock. Nine minutes. Her heart boomed in her ears. “Ms. Lancaster, is it also true that on numerous occasions, your ex-wife found you with your hands scrubbed raw?” Words crumbled in Grace’s mouth, dissolving into ash before she could form them. There was no answer that she could give that could convey the meaning she desperately needed to. It was just… routine to her. Alanna’s lawyer gave her one final look, her mouth drooping slightly, and feigned disappointment before turning to the Judge. “Your Honour, it is my belief that Grace Lancaster is neither fit to have custody of the child, Emily Zimbert, nor is she mentally stable. I believe a psychiatric evaluation should be conducted to evaluate Ms. Lancaster.”
Six. But it didn’t matter. Grace knew it was over.
In that moment feeling evaporated from her body, leaving her empty and numb in her chair. Her fingers continued to drum against her leg, moving faster than before. Her eyes fell on Alanna, who sat stoically in her chair with the slightest hint of a frown tugging at her lips.
Life Discoveries in a Barn Roof Creative Non-Fiction
Shortly after memory starts, I stumbled upon it. The weeklong snowstorm passed and the drifts were small mountains, reaching their rounded peaks to the top of the barn roof. I saw them do it first, my two heroes, the wild oldest one with pointy cheekbones and the lackadaisical blonde whose blue eyes were almost invisible under the large black toque. So I climbed up after them, pushing my pink mittens into the snow to balance my wobbly legs. When I got to the top, the oldest brother shouted at me, “Katie, you shouldn’t be up here. Don’t go near the edge of the roof or you’ll fall off.” I stuck out my lower lip, my famous face, and sat down on my knees so I could snatch some snow to suck out of my covered hands. Both boys grabbed their GTs and yelled. The pistol shot and they were off to the finish line somewhere far below my perch. And I only wished I was older. Then I was older and five miles high, the sky curling my fine hair in its wide grey fingers. The November world displayed its somber face from east to west; it was a viewing of autumn’s death and I was the one friend who attended while the rest of the universe kept spinning. I could hear the pigs grunting in their pens under my feet, beneath the steel sheets of the barn roof, as I watched to see any action around the house. Mom always made my list of chores so long. I pulled the handkerchief out of my coat pocket; it was wrapped tight around a pair of socks, a mini box of raisins, and my favourite Barbie. It was like the pack the three little pigs carried on a stick in the storybook Mom read to me the night before. I shifted slightly on the ridge of the roof to avoid the rusty screw poking into my leg. I was going to leave home too, just like the three little pigs, but it was too far to walk to the other side of the corn field with the brittle stalks the combine had left behind. So, I found the ladder up to this secret place. I would wait it out here until they missed me. I imagined Mom’s face all distorted in grief when she found out that I had run away. They’d probably call the police and search all the gravel roads between our farm and the five little towns surrounding it. Maybe my picture would be in the newspaper. Soon Dad would hop into his old pick-up truck and spin his tires on his way out the lane, frantic to find me. When I finally came out of hiding, they’d never make me do the dishes again. I could watch it all from right here.
I was the girl dangling precariously on the edge of childhood. “Dear Diary” was my way of figuring out life until I found my first best friend. Once, in August, when the crickets had fallen asleep, we left our sleeping place on the rec room floor. I climbed up on the old pew Mom had re-painted and took out the window screen to let in the smell of midnight. We helped each other through. We held in the giggles until we got past the first barn where we whispered our fears of coyotes and snakes. I knew where to escape. My fingers felt the cool metal of the ladder and I pulled myself up. “Watch the missing rung,” I said, while she followed behind. We reached the highest point, heads bobbing close to the moon and lay back, flat against the steel. The rusty screws kept us from slipping down, traction against the smooth, gritty sheets. Was it an hour? We gazed in silence; boys, the next birthday party, and all the weird people we knew were dull subjects now. Mesmerized, we watched the galaxy spin its glorious show. I couldn’t cry in my bedroom in case I cried too loud and then came out too early with blood-shot eyes. I couldn’t cry on the long empty road in case our only neighbour drove past at the wrong time. I couldn’t cry in the driving shed, between the tractors, where the employees were listening to the top 20 and exchanging ratchets. But I could cry there, on the platform for tears, behind the ridge of the roof and past the view of the kitchen window. I went there when she told me we couldn’t be best friends anymore. The sky was my only witness. I went there when Everyone kept asking me what I wanted to do with my life and I didn’t have an answer. The sky was a warm, comforting shoulder. When my parents argued, I sat on the open stage, fingered the rusty screws, and whispered my heart to God. My world shifted as I made some decisions. I became the city girl who carried a backpack that was too heavy and tried to look like I knew which bus to take. The more people I saw, the lonelier I felt. I went home that first weekend and all I wanted was space, freedom to be someone other than Them, to be more than a face with eyes, a nose, and an imperfect smile. I ascended to my platform of air, my breath quieting slowly. The country was at my fingertips, changing colours as autumn flicked its magical wand. I noticed the screws had been covered with spray paint. No more rust. Now I knew-even new things have layers that can be pulled back to expose kind hearts and quiet places. I was level with the tip of the big maple tree; I watched its yellow leaves swirl gently to the ground, leaving a naked branch.
Oh My Duchess
“That’s my last Duchess painted on the wall, Looking as if she were alive. I call That piece a wonder, now…” ~Robert Browning~
In 1561 the Duke of Ferrara killed his first wife, Lucrezia de’ Medici.
A blue-gray whisper flits and prowls the peripheries of my eyes. I emerge to a beckoning tendril tugging my lashes. Morning, good morning. My Duchess tickles my eardrums. When I had her removed, I did not expect to awaken to her each day. But she follows me. Blends into papered walls, into my satin robe, into weeping skyscapes. She opens the path I follow, barefoot and semi-conscious, over the weed-wild lawn and through a stand of barren poplars to where a surf cadence sobs over the beach scattered with bones and skulls. Remnants of night rituals. Good morning, my Duke, did you miss me? My foot crunches a tiny ribcage. Dancing mountains of brooding vapour delight the deep. Vanishing shards of bone and sand kissed by hesitant rain. I sit on the gravelled seashore sand and stare into the sky’s sea haze. Cold-pricked feet. Wind-eaten eyes. She ruffles my hair and vanishes for a moment. Day devours. Then her stark white face speckled in blood appears in the sand. Collapsing coalescence into slow waves shivering my toes. She wavers on the edges of my skin. Are you searching for me? Sand scrapes my palms and sticks under my fingernails. I stand, rub the grit from off my hands, and stagger down the indented trail through hillocks of dried grass. Rustling leaves sing, insistent susurration. Jagged stones. Stabbing twigs. Blood-marked journey. Don’t worry, my Duke, don’t you worry. I’m here. Race through crumpled leaves. Crush the erect pride of weeds. I’m here, always here. I pause, disoriented. Lift the cast-iron latch, push the solid oak slab, and stand in my doorway. In this house of stone, tapestries ruffle over shuttered panes. Voluminous draperies enfold the day and mute noisome sunshine. Fulsome mahogany and crystal chandeliers. Granite, marble, gold. My house. This grandeur, mine. Reflections dance through long, narrow hallways with muraled ceilings covered in the limbs of
entwinéd nudes. Shrieks wind through chimneys and flues. Burgundy carpets absorb pain and dampen memory. I settle into the velvet-cushioned armchair at the end of the dining hall table swathed in scarlet and scattered with gnawed bones and the half-eaten carcasses of a goose and a piglet. Grab a grease-dulled dagger. Pork fat coats my tongue. She knows not to disturb me here. Her portrait smiles perfection. I grasp a goose leg and crunch down to bone. The pleasure of gristle and marrow and fat oozes onto my chin. On the wall, embedded in canvas and framed – there, in precise strokes – hangs her smile of gleaming teeth and silken lips. Her black hair captures light. Mischief-fraught eyes reflect a satin dress of deepest green. Frà Pandolf, famed genius, rendered her essence in pigment and vanished shortly thereafter. Traveler in unknown lands, beware: ravenous ravines lie to the north. When asked by the authorities if I knew where he had gone, I noted how easily one may fall to ruin in these treacherous regions. I grip my silver fork and poke at chunks of flesh caught in my teeth. Stringy fragments tickle. Her paint-fixed smile finds itself on my lips. She oozes from behind the curtains. She blankets the floor in a slow crawl toward me. You didn’t think I’d left, did you? She penetrates each recess of mind. Oblivion overwhelms. I’m here, here, always here. Consciousness resumes. I prop myself on a crusted elbow, and, sightless still, I reach a hand upward. My fingers twine through supple depths of hair. Hello, my Duke. Her sweet, rose-darkened scent surrounds. Oh, my Duchess! Enflamed, I grip that luscious head and pull it downward. My skull crashes into the table. I yank my hand, caught in a web of strands, and rip out a chunk of my hair. My lush, greasy, goddamn hair. Here, always here. A pool of blood darkens the tablecloth. But that doesn’t mean you can get me. Her smile glitters above. Tiny white teeth and wet dripping lips. I launch out of my chair into the adjoining hall where grins sneer from the ceiling. A tangled reach of arms and legs, of digits forever distended, pursues. Wheezing, I flee through the oak door into drizzled light. Stifling fog coldly follows. I run through the grass-slick, stumble along the twig-sharpened pathway, and spill onto the bone-dense shore. Sea surf rumbles a stricken song to the cloud-mute sun. She skitters along raindrops tickling my neck, she runs down my spine, and she jigs along my goose-bumped arms. Giggles swirl in the wind and curl around my earlobes and lips. Giggles tunnel waxen ears. One year ago. Dizzy loss of balance. 10:03 a.m. you crashed into my quarters. Collapse onto crunching bones. Footstomp. Sand cools my flushed cheeks. The dissolution of my jaw. I grasp a bleached skull. Sea-soft water creeps toward my nose. You dragged me here. I inhale salted, soggy air. The indentation in my skull. Perfect cast of
your fist. Her pointy-toothed grin emerges out of the lapping surf. My crunching collapse. Giggles flit into the horizon. My scream. Do you remember my scream? Waves rise enormously and coalesce into my Duchess quivering before me. She looms silently. Her sweet smile distorts, becomes the reflection of a fist-printed forehead. She wavers and disintegrates. Miss me? Don’t worry, my Duke. An avalanche of heavy, damp sand pours over me. Pins me in paralysis. Here, here, I’m here. Granules fill my heaving belly.
I’m always here.
The moon glows softly from outside, casting shadows across his dark skin, his eyes lighting up in contrast. Anne notices this – the way his features seem at once both hard and soft, the one side of his face made stark and angular by the light, the other soft and impenetrable by the dark. This is why she likes leaving the curtains open at night. It started as an accident, the first time he visited – a result of being too otherwise occupied to close the curtains before falling into a happy slumber – but has now turned into a habit, so that even when he is gone she sleeps with the curtains open. She has learned to sleep through the bright sunlight in the morning. Ever since the train station, she has been lost in thought, smothered by feelings pressed tight as blankets to her chest. There was no time for expressing these sentiments there. At the station, it was all hugs, kisses, and smiles, as it usually is. She held his hand and made a few light comments before they settled into each other again. There was always this slight awkwardness in the greeting, the uncertainty before they got used to knowing each other again. It was as if the love was remembered in the time passed,but not the entirety of the person. Not the familiar groove they fell into after spending a few days together, they fell into after spending a few days together, days that merged into one long day – doing everything and nothing all at once. It was always like this with them: falling into and out of grooves. In a way she liked this. It was like reuniting with an old flame every time they embraced in that train station. She felt as though she got to fall in love with him again and again, between each arrival and departure. Anyway, there was never much time for talking, in the time between the train station and the bed. Passion must be let loose before it can be contained, Anne thought. And, when two people only see each other once a month, or less, the first moments together are just as precious as the last. She would hug and kiss him each time, wanting to press herself against him and absorb his body into her own – except even that wouldn’t seem close enough. Embraces come through where words fail.
She turns over, resting her head against his chest.
“Tell me about your day,” he says.
Her day? It seemed such an odd request to Anne. So mundane. Why, with so many things that could be said; why with so many sweet nothings that aren’t nothing at all, would something like a day matter? “I ran this morning,” she began, always one to oblige. “My hip still hurts.”
“You should get that checked.”
Anne nodded. “When I have the time.”
“What else?” He runs his fingers through the back of her hair, and shadows dance across his bare chest. “I read in the paper about some man in England, who is going to have sex with his boyfriend in front of anyone who wants to see, then ask for their reactions afterwards. It’s a show of art. The man is an art student.” A small chuckle escaped his lips, almost like a sudden breath. “Is it live, or being filmed and shown afterwards? Because that makes a difference.” Anne furrowed her eyebrows. She didn’t see what the difference was. “I think it’s live. Live sex.” He was silent, so she added, jokingly, “Want to go?” This was what regularly passed between them. Teasing, jokes, funny stories. “I’ll pay for our flight to England.”
He laughed. “Sounds good.”
“We can go to Stonehenge and sit on the London Eye and walk through Hyde Park….” Anne considered this, unsure whether she was swept up simply in the idea, or swept up in the notion of seeming swept up about it. “We can go to Greenwich and the Tower of London, The Globe, The British Museum…we can go everywhere.”
“Everywhere in England.”
Someday, Anne wanted to see all of Europe, not just England. She wanted the whole world – Egypt and the Middle-East, Asia and New Zealand, Australia, and perhaps even the Arctic, if she could find a pair of boots warm enough for her perpetually cold feet. “I’ve never been to England,” he said. “I know.” “I know you do.” Anne nodded, imperceptible in the dark, save for the tiny shadow of her hand, illuminated against his chest in the moonlight. “Are you tired?” he asked. “Yes. But I don’t want to go to sleep.” Anne shut her eyes slowly, relaxing against his chest. “Neither do I.” They lay like that as the light from the moon shone into the room, tracing light circles across each other’s skin with the tips of their fingers. Slowly, though no one could say when, or in what order, they drifted off, warm against each other’s bodies.
Nothing crippled, you said, like doubt. I turned this thought over in my mind in the short months after, in the months when you shrank into yourself at your typewriter, the self-diagnosed patient. There’s a finality to tapping hands of those ink branded letters. I don’t think you liked absolutes. Instead, there was finger twisting in the early mornings, flagellation punctuating Sunday hours when the neighbours across the way sat in their confessionals. On that final morning, I wrapped my scarf—the one your mother knitted me—around my neck in a swift, mechanical motion. Did you want anything before I took Shep on his walk? I could warm up some of last night’s soup. No, you didn’t want anything. It was cool that day. Shep lumbered along as he always did, tongue lolling happily to one side as he trudged through sprigs of tentative crocuses. He was reliable that way. Perhaps that was why I stayed out even later than usual, lingering beside the lake and throwing sticks out to Shep along that ice-melting bank. Watching my breath puff up into vanishing wisps. I suppose it’s of no significance. We’d have parted from each other soon, no matter. The only difference was the how of it.
All left behind was a letter, on that last morning. One sentence, the summation of years wrapped into singular syntax. I suppose I could have written of feelings, of how everything had come to grate and grind: your quiet footsteps, the silences, the breathing of the damned dog. You wrapped my mother’s scarf around yourself that morning, and took the damned dog and the footsteps with you. This shouldn’t have comforted, but it did. No one can really leave with sounds breathing down the brain, telling with every familiar creak of floorboards that you’re wrong. I left behind the gathered lack of words, and contributed a final few. I doubt they meant anything at all. I have to go and I’m sorry. ~~ It’s an amazing thing, hindsight, to see on the periphery what was missed. This was a thought as I was pulled under, as Shep barked from the shore, as I saw, in a far-reaching corner of my consciousness, that I could have avoided the slope and the quagmire of rocks and weighted brambles beneath the water’s placid surface. It would have been a cruel irony, had the scarf been what ultimately kept me under. I don’t think things go so poetic. Instead, it was a shoelace, the one I had so carefully knotted that morning, as I did
every morning. In a solely figurative sense, the lace was my undoing. I must have found this strangely funny as useless fingers reached ever more feebly for the boundary line between water and oxygen. I must have been laughing. It was the kind of stupid word play we once liked. Everything was mud and blackness. ~~ The afternoon light was bright, and you weren’t back from your walk. They’d gotten to be longer. I stabbed pen to paper as the sun hung high, and let the well-paced thought bleed out. Words never ran so easy. ~~
You were leaving as I first began the ascent, bloated and pale beneath the lake’s copse of overhanging trees. Your car door slammed; I was already unmoored. You didn’t know that I had left too, that we were vacating together. Wistfully, I thought—still think—that it would have been nice, if we’d departed by the same route. As it is, you took the interstate to California.
The call I had been expecting from Gillispie occurred in the dead of night. Her short, breathless, staccato sentences immediately connoted two things to me. First, that a breakthrough on the project had been reached. Second, that something was terribly, terribly wrong. In minutes I was in my truck, tearing across the salt flats. The sky here was untouched by any form of light pollution. Isolated from urban presence, the stars bloomed above in their full glory. Even at full speed, it was another two hours to Gillispie’s camp. I was fortunate she had called me when she did–any later and we’d have risked the chance of dawn spoiling our sightseeing. I kept the gas pedal flush with the floor, and set a path, straight as a gun barrel, into the heart of the salt flats. I nearly collided with her encampment by the time I had seen it, the truck’s high beams only piercing the darkness by a few metres. But there it was, a single tent and a sprawl of crates, wires, and equipment. At the center of it all, resembling a two metre long spyglass, aimed like a dagger at the sky’s throat, was the product of our two-year’s work. I emerged from my truck as Eleanor Gillispie emerged from her tent; we met in the middle, underneath the spyglass. My bright grin was a sharp contrast to the storm cloud of worry on her face.
“It works?” I asked.
“It does,” she said.
“Is there a problem?”
Gillispie shook her head. “It’s better if I showed you.” Her concern was blunted by the sheer excitement brewing inside of me. I was as eager as a devil to use the spyglass. It was the first of its kind–a portal to view things that could previously only be imagined. The spyglass’s exterior was coated in platinum, reflecting the world around it in elliptical distortions. Its diameter was hardly bigger than a fence pole, though warm to touch–more so than something its size ought to be–an inevitable sign of the fantastic mechanisms at work inside of its body. It was the world’s greatest telescope. Exponentially more powerful than anything else humankind had created. And, I, Charles Atlas, was one of its founders! To use Hubble now would be similar to a mild squint! The technology was the textbook definition of innovative; nothing had been produced like this before. Gillispie and I both knew we would become incredibly rich. Yet money was the last thing on my mind, dear reader. All the money in the world was mere kindling compared to what the spyglass could let us see.
Gillispie opened up the eyepiece. “Are you ready?”
She gestured for me to look. Hardly able to contain myself, I leaned down. Closing my eyes, I felt the rubber socket of the eyepiece fit around the left side of my face. When I knew my left eye was secure, peering directly into the lens, I opened it.
And stared into another galaxy.
To say the vista was dazzling would be a gross understatement. It was a spiral galaxy like ours, familiar, but alien. An ocean of stars wove a tapestry that was so dense I might as well have been staring underwater. The core of the system glittered a deep blue, a raw lapis lazuli. Plasma jets erupted from either side of the galaxy’s poles. My lone eye was overwhelmed at the brilliance that was being captured. I felt my whole body go dizzy. Modesty be damned, it was the single greatest sight a human has ever seen. “It’s spectacular. It’s absolutely spectacular.” We had made it! A window into the universe. An achievement that would reverberate throughout the entire century. “I’m going to zoom in,” Gillispie said. “You need to see this.” She was right beside me but her presence felt distant. I was completely enveloped into this new world. The lens went dark for a second, cutting off my view of the galaxy. When it returned, I was staring at a lone star. Its reds so intense I barely even noticed the small collection of planets orbiting it. The lens went dark again. Zooming in further. When it opened, a single planet filled my vision. Turquoise continents were surrounded by pale oceans, storm systems hovering above. A planet that astronomers have devoted entire lives to finding.
And it was brimming with life.
Intelligent, self-sustaining, city-building life! Each of the continents was encrusted with the glow of metropolises. Lines of violet crisscrossed and connected each major hub, suggesting a global transportation network. Smaller dots moved over oceans like gnats. In the space of three minutes, everything had changed. The progression of science had leapt eons ahead. There was no going back.
We were not alone anymore.
I moved to remove my eye from the lens, but Gillispie spoke up. “No, not yet. There’s more.”
More? The lens shifted. The viewpoint splintered into five–each one of a different planet. The faint red tint glossing over each of their surfaces told me it was the same star system. All of them were saturated with lights. Glowing amethyst gnats. Their surfaces tattooed with cities. “They’re interplanetary,” Gillispie said, still seeming distant. “With terraforming capabilities. Can you see the patterns of development?” Indeed the violet lights seemed to spread out on the surface in the shape of hexagons. Fractals that became smaller further away from the core, but maintained the same distinct shape. Each planet was well entrenched with the pattern, suggesting not only colonization but also exponential development.
“That’s not all,” Gillispie said.
The focus shifted but maintained its five different viewpoints. I was now looking at five completely different stars. The lens zoomed in, revealing five distinct planets, each one glowing a different colour of the spectrum.
Yet stained with the same amethyst hexagons.
My jaw dropped. “To what extent?”
“Almost everything.” The viewpoints coalesced into a single lens again, zooming out to show the entire galaxy. Pinpricks of violet starting to highlight individual stars, showing what systems were colonized. Soon, the entire galaxy was saturated. I could picture it continuously growing. The hexagonal colonies spreading from star-system to star-system like an infection.
“That’s the Triangulum Galaxy,” Gillispie said slowly, as if afraid of her own words. “It’s three million light years away.” “So they’re far away from us?” My shoulders relaxed. The thought, for whatever reason, gave me a sliver a comfort. She shook her head, extracting a cigarette from her pocket. “You miss the point. The light from that galaxy has taken three million light years to get here. When you stare into the spyglass, you stare into the past.” It took a moment for me to fully comprehend. “So, everything I’m seeing…the spreading of the colonies…”
“Happened three million years ago.” Gillispie finished my sentence. “That species has accomplished all of that before we even existed. Which begs the question…”
Gillispie took advantage of the pause to light her cigarette, its amber tip blending perfectly with the starry backdrop. “Three million years, Charles. What the hell else have they accomplished in that time?”
Words on the Bus
I feel his apprehension. Cody slips a folded up piece of paper towards my palm. It barely touches my skin, but my reflexes are quick. If I hadn’t been so quick to wrap my fingers around the note, it would have fallen onto hallway floor: trampled carelessly by the crowds with its blue ink stamped into the linoleum for everyone to read. Students overrun the hallways of my elementary school, pushing past me to catch their buses home. I clench the note as I float to my bus stop. Cody and I are both in grade eight. He has light blue eyes that gleam against this grey February sky. He is quick to laugh, and he tells stories that could put anyone at ease: how his dog, Skunky, chases squirrels instead of coming back when called. My favourite thing about Cody is his height. He’s not overly tall, but tall enough so that when he finally goes to hug me, he’ll have to crouch down a little bit. I find my way to the back of the bus. I slump down in my usual seat, and I prop my knees up against the back of the seat in front of me. Everyday, I look forward to the bus ride home. I’d become comfortably lost in the abyss of my mind, only to be recaptured by a girl in my class, asking me what I thought about the test. “It was Ok.” I’d quickly angle my body towards the window, eager to return to my daydream. I always wished for more time on the bus. I would feel disappointed when my mailbox came into view, signaling me to report back to the real world. I don’t feel calm during this bus ride. I can’t read the note yet because I might cry in front of everyone. I have a bad feeling about the emphatic ink that bleeds through the paper. The printing is small and slightly slanted, as if written with a sense of urgency. My palms tingle, so I press them against my jeans, the note becoming embedded into my leg.
My mom left two months ago. She said she needed a vacation from us, and I figured she needed a vacation from herself. She wanted to go somewhere simple: Niagara Falls. I imagined that she’d reinvent herself for the two weeks: a single woman with an infectious laugh and a willingness to take risks. I was happy that she took off, because I needed a vacation from her. She’d narrow her eyes at me, and my jaw would lock up, as I anticipated the insults that were about to ensue. Hurtful words tore at my spirit. And then my mom never came back from her vacation. She mailed us a letter. Her black printing curved at the parts where she admitted feeling guilty, but the font returned to its typical upright and headstrong form as she expressed her reasons for leaving. I hold Cody’s letter in my hand, weaving it through my fingers. I force myself to stare out the window at brick houses and people walking their dogs. When I was in grade six, a boy called me a “dog,” provoking cruel laughter from the students that crowded the hallway. I had just walked passed him after visiting my twin sister, Jenny, at her locker. I couldn’t turn around and face him. Jenny said that she might be in love with that boy, but she never did date him. Now she has her first official boyfriend. Jenny has greyish-green eyes that always look slightly solemn, and sandy blonde hair that effortlessly falls into waves that stream down her back. Teen Magazine calls this “beach hair.” Jenny is beautiful and blissfully unaware. I wish that I could look like her. Even after a lifetime of being mistaken for each other, I’m not ready to look different. While she’s emerged as obliviously radiant, I can only see my flaws: a boyish figure and a compulsion to cover up my skin. Valentine’s Day was still a couple of weeks away, but I couldn’t wait to buy Cody’s gift. It was such a novelty to have a boyfriend at all, especially in February. There was no rationale behind the gift I chose: a large plush tiger that was burnt orange and slightly cartoonish looking. I’m usually fond of realistic-looking stuffed animals, but I looked past the tiger’s oversized head and buggy eyes. I was drawn to the stiff crimson ribbon that adorned his neck, capturing the essence of an eighth grader’s hopeful and knowingly desperate attempt at love. I drop my eyes from the neighbourhood scene outside the window. Then, I notice that Cody has written “Jess” on the underside of the note, so I distract myself by focusing on a rip in the seat in front of me. The deep tear is frayed along the edges, and I see little white strands that were never meant to be exposed. Jagged leather flaps tremble every time the bus hits a bump. The rip must have started off as a small hole. Someone probably pierced the seat with the tip of a pen. As people kept jabbing at the hole, it became prone to ripping deeper. Now the rip is so severe, it’s hard to imagine that the material was once intact. They will probably need to replace the back of the seat, but I’m sure they’ll just patch it up instead. The bus comes to an abrupt stop and I’m home. I bolt across the front lawn, leaving my sister behind to check the mail. As I’m
running, I manage to hastily pull open the folded note without tearing the paper. I almost double over as my eyes land on the words: “I’m sorry.” I manage to keep somewhat upright and stagger up the porch, almost slipping on a step. I read: “we can still be friends.” My body aches. Our dog, Brandy, was probably excited to see me at first. Now she drops her tail and flattens her ears with a sense of knowing. I pause on the top step as the last line slaps me across the face: “I can’t be with a girl who calls herself ‘ugly.’” I immediately feel a surge of deep regret. I let the front door hit my shoulder after I swing it open and stumble into the foyer. I make it into my bedroom, where the tiger is sitting on my bed. Its ridiculously large eyes are filled with the pretense of love. It implores me, wondering if I’d feel better if I sat down and read the whole letter. I swiftly grab the tiger by its head and throw it onto the top shelf of my closet. It starts to teeter forward under the weight of its oversized head. I slam the door shut, so I can’t watch it fall. I collapse onto my rug because the comfort of my bed can’t fix this. I had shared too much with Cody. And he was right: he deserves someone who isn’t so insecure. I lean against the side of my bed and sob into my blue comforter. It was quite awhile before I lifted my eyes from the cotton folds. And at some point I realized that I had to let my mom go. And not only let go of her—but the insults that had accompanied her presence. Words that stayed behind to haunt me. Words that never belonged to me anyway.
Ten. The rain splattered against the windowpanes in mad bursts and explosions, each droplet cascading in all directions. The rivulet joined with others to make flowing streams and raging rivers. The light reflected against each droplet of rain in front of us as they fell, creating a foggy exterior. There was no thunder or lighting, just the irregular pattern of the rain drops crashing upon the windows. Each one that made contact made me flinch. To me the contact was too much and the sound was too deafening. I could barely keep a straight face. Twenty. I looked at her, but remained silent. Her eyes were fixed ahead, but mine were straying. I wanted to analyze each droplet of water that fell from the sky, but that would require time-freezing abilities and another lifetime. That’s all I wanted: a lifetime. I could only assume that’s what she wanted, too. Her face was unreadable, however, bright blue eyes fixated straight ahead, through the window.
The Tchaikovsky sounded the against the barded by a
music was a dull lull, some concerto or symphony by or Beethoven, or even Bach, I couldn’t tell; they all same to my ears. The strings struck minor chords loud blaring noises of the brass, all of which was bomdeep pounding of the timpani drums.
Forty. We started talking, I remember, mainly about insignificants. Except one topic, which was at the forefront of our minds even when we didn’t talk about it. We talked about what we had done and why. It wasn’t perfect, but nothing is. We weren’t perfect, but no one is. Fifty. The silence instilled upon us once again. Only the dull roar of the music broke our silence. That went on for too long. And then the tumult started. I started shouting and she started shouting, neither one of was coherent or logical. We screamed until our voices broke. Sixty. Eventually our cries became louder than the rain, and we stared into each other’s faces. Neither one of us were looking forward, but the rain kept bombarding the windows. Our deadlock was only broken when she looked away, and I saw a shimmer of a tear
in her eye. dow.
I, too, looked away to stare straight through the win-
I took her hand in mine, and she didn’t pull away, but she grasped my hand even tighter. Our fingers interlocked in her lap, perfectly entwined. I soon felt hot tears stream down my face. I imagined that they were much like the tears outside, only warmer and slower. She brushed away the streak across my cheek and kissed me lightly. I continued to stare forward.
Eighty. We continued chatting quietly to keep our minds off the present, if for nothing more. Our voices didn’t rise above a whisper and they could barely be heard over the sound of rain. Whether we made a coherent conversation was irrelevant to both of us. All we needed was to hear our voices.
Ninety. We saw it up ahead: the curve, the railing, the fall. We stared at it as we drew nearer to it. We tightly clasped out hands in a silent farewell, not only to each other, but to everyone else. All the ones who were with us over the years, they never saw anything but our smiles. But we had a lot more than smiles. One hundred. I checked the speedometer as it reached one hundred kilometers per hour. I heard the crash of the car breaking through the metal railing; I saw the lights splinter, the hubcap cave-in, and the railing fly away; I felt the quick jostle of the impact and then the weightlessness of falling. As we fell the car leaned forward and we looked through the rain-swept windshield and saw the fast-approaching ground a few hundred meters below. I let go of the gas and the whirring of the tires and engine quieted. We looked at each other and smiled. Her hand gave away and I felt myself clutching air. The seatbelt was unbuckled and the passenger seat was empty, as it had been for years.
I’ll be with her soon.
The Second Tunnel
Mark looked back before entering the first tunnel. Weeds had sprouted in patches beneath the train tracks, which continued in a straight line as far as Mark could see. Bushes hemmed the tracks for two metres on either side until a line of slim trees shot up to form a green wall. Farther down the line, some of the taller trees had slumped forward to create a tall and narrow arch. He wanted to make sure that he knew the way out. He had descended a small hill on a narrow path of dirt and rocks that brought him right down to the tracks. He had passed through a thicket and could barely see where he had come from. Mark could make out the figure of a person standing in the middle of the tracks a hundred-metre dash away. He guessed it was a man, thinking he could make out gray hair and a brown coat. He couldn’t tell if the person was moving towards or away from him, or if he was even moving at all. Regardless, Mark hoped that he would not have to pass this person on the way back. This was to be a solitary pilgrimage. The black bricks of the tunnel’s interior were almost completely covered by graffiti. The amount of paint receded as the wall curved up and over Mark’s head, and then returned as it curved back down to the other side. Thick letters with finely cut corners spelled indecipherable names; Mark could only assume that they were the artists’ aliases, but none of them came close to real words. Immense letters of alternating blue and white read “KAS2BAB”; another written in dark purple outlined by light blue spelled “NEAS”. Mark could see evidence of failed attempts at painting the top of the arch from the crude white lettering drawn in thin lines. He wished that he could see those moments of defeat—the realization that they had reached too high, and couldn’t go farther. The tunnel widened after the initial archway. It wasn’t an arch anymore; it became a cave with a flat ceiling and concrete walls. Mark felt safer walking on the concrete plateaus that fenced the track through the length of tunnel. Although it wasn’t very long, he would have felt vulnerable walking so low in so dark a place. The number of large names outlined in paint dwindled as Mark walked deeper into the tunnel, but the population of names returned as he passed the center and reached the other end. The disparate colours of each tag overwhelmed his eyes, and he considered what moniker would best represent him among the phantom names. Mark stepped off the plateau as he exited the first tunnel, then looked up. He knew that he was well below street level, but he hadn’t thought he had gone so far down. Two near vertical walls of stone enclosed the railway line from both sides. Mark guessed that he was at least twenty-five feet below the street, but the buildings that stood on the edge of the walls made the pit seem even deeper. Chain-link fences guarded the border between the wall and the buildings, and Mark could see the sun preparing to sink behind the structure. He felt as if he was standing at the bottom of a giant trench.
The walls were relatively free of graffiti here; the artists hadn’t dared climb past their arms’ reach to spray their insignia. There was a wave of coloured lettering that cut off eight feet high to leave nothing but gray. Continuing along the tracks and looking down, Mark noticed a signature that he could finally read. On a relatively rust-free section of the track, the word “DEMISE” was written in black marker. Mark stopped for a moment to crouch down and examine it, then continued to the second tunnel. The entrance was a perfect semicircle outlined by large cubic slabs of concrete. It was a proper tunnel: an arch all the way through. In total darkness, Mark could see a small green circle at the other end. He thought that he could make out two figures standing on the other side, so he waved. He turned around and saw the person in the brown coat. It was clear now that it was a man, and that he had moved closer. Mark wondered if the people at the other end of the tunnel were approaching him, or moving ahead in the same direction. He imagined greeting their bodiless voices in the absolute darkness of the tunnel’s core, and then stepped inside.
The Stories We Tell Matthew Tompkins “We had been drinking – Grant, Sally, Cole, Joan, and I. We ambled down the streets, howling and barking profanities at passersby. A seedy bar in the Bronx had kicked us out after our third bottle of scotch. They said we were too drunk, but we definitely could have been drunker. I flicked what remained of my cigarette aimlessly and it hit Cole in the face. It was an accident of course, picked up by the wind before I had a chance to warn him. Ignorant toward my miscalculations, Cole was not pleased and gave me a very powerful shove, which Joan soon provoked into a punch. That punch quickly turned into a fight. That night I stumbled home alone.” I finish my story and take a look around to see a tableau of five utterly uninterested faces; Archie is even yawning. As the lads smoke their cigars and sip their whiskey, Winston turns to me and asks, quite unapologetically I might add, “Did you say something?”
They weren’t even listening to me. So I start again.
“The night started innocently enough. We had been drinking – Grant, Sally, Cole, Joan, and I – in a quaint little place near SoHo. Trounced from the saloon like common hoodlums, we took our soiree to the streets of Manhattan. You must see Manhattan at four in the morning, when she is wearing her finest neon… what a lady she becomes! Anyways, we traversed our way through quiet neighbourhoods, the silence interrupted by Grant’s hearty bellows and Cole’s beautiful melodies. It was then that Joan proposed a wager. She bet Cole he could not beat me in a fair fight. Cole and I dismissed the notion with a laugh but Salvador, convincing as ever, goaded us into it. ‘A show!’ he shouted, so Cole and I reluctantly agreed. Well, it turned out, much to my dismay, Cole had an excellent left hook. Bloodied but smiling, we continued on our way.” I finish retelling my story, take a quick sip and furtively glance around the table again. Winston his cigar, Daniel has slowly started leaning in, and time tonight they all look mildly interested. Archie and inquisitively he asks:
of my drink, has put down for the first turns to me,
“What a fascinating story. Daniel, did you hear that?”
“Only the last bit, I missed the beginning.”
“As did I,” Winston chimes in. “Would you mind telling it once more?” I lean back in my chair, a crooked smile begins to take shape, and I oblige.
“‘One drink,’ I had said to them. Next thing you know, I wake up still drunk, waistcoat askew, and the taste of stale blood on my lips, in an empty boxcar roaring towards Mexico. ‘Mexico?’ I asked Ulysses S. Grant – oh yes, he was there too. You see, that previous night, on the corner of West 45th and 7th, I had been out drinking with all of them: Ulysses, Salvador Dali, Cole Porter, Joan of Arc. They were all there. Old friends of mine, every last one of them, and they had come into town to visit, as they often did. Salvador, as always, got himself into a rather high stakes card game. After going all in on the turn he made straight on the river, so of course we were celebrating. After our seventh bottle of the house’s best champagne, we resigned from the revelry and took to the streets of Manhattan. It was during a back-alley game of mahjong in Chinatown that Joan bet Cole he could not beat me in a fair bout of bare-knuckle boxing, and that the loser had to jump a boxcar to Mexico. Well as I mentioned before, Cole had an excellent left hook. So there I was, sitting in a boxcar, laughing with Ulysses – who had been kind enough to accompany me – speeding towards Mexico.” I pause to light fable. I am the toast of intrigue. It seems their the sobering truth. What
my cigar and let the lads rejoice in my this once static table, now buzzing with fixation on the fantastic will always trump they had wanted all along was a story.
D R A M A
The Lonely and the Loved Rachel Ganzewinkel There are 3 different pairs of people in differing relationships. The first pair, Kayla and Mandy, are roommates; the second pair, Justin and Keira are in a relatively new romantic relationship, and John and Brenda are a middle-aged married couple. Kayla and Mandy are in the living room with Mandy sitting on the couch and Kayla standing. Justin and Keira are sitting in the kitchen the morning after. John and Brenda are lying in bed together in the bedroom. All of the rooms are in a single house. Kayla: You are just a drone in the lifeless, one minded society we live in. Mandy: Fuck you. Justin: I love you. Keira: Why? John: I don’t think I love you anymore. Brenda: Me neither. Kayla: Of course you’d say that. You’re so boring. Mandy: Fuck you. Justin: What? Keira: I’m not anyone special. John: What? Brenda: I don’t love me anymore either. Kayla: Insult me. Be creative. Mandy: Fuck. You. Justin: But you’re special to me. Keira: Why? Who am I to you? John: Maybe that’s the problem. Brenda: I don’t really care. Are you going to leave me now? Kayla: I don’t even know how we were ever friends. You have nothing to say. Mandy: You have nothing to say. Justin: You’re the best thing that has ever happened to me. Keira: That’s kind of sad for you. John: Maybe. I’ve been seeing this other woman from work. Brenda: Paige? I know. I’ve known for some time. Kayla: At least I speak and have opinions about things. Mandy: When has that ever been a good thing?
Justin: But my love for you has helped me realize the best person I can be. Keira: Love can’t save you. John: How did you know? Brenda: You called me Paige one night in bed. Since my name is Brenda, I figured an affair. Kayla: Whatever. I make my presence known. Mandy: Nobody ever asked for that. Who would ask for that? Justin: You’re love can save me. Keira: But I don’t love you. John: Oh, sorry about that. Brenda: That’s okay. As long as you’re happy, I suppose. Kayla: It was my choice. Mandy: And it’s my choice not to “make my presence known.”(snarkily) Justin: Why? Keira: I don’t even know what it is. I like you. I think. John: I don’t know if I’m happy. She’s different. Brenda: You mean different than me? Kayla: Fuck you. Mandy: (smiles and shakes her head to herself) Justin: To love means to care about someone more than yourself— to me anyway. Keira: That seems nice. John: Yeah. I don’t know if that’s a good thing or not. Brenda: It’s probably a good thing. Kayla: People like you are useless. Mandy: How am I any more useless than you? Justin: But I want to fix that. I want you to see how wonderful you truly are. Keira: I think you’re looking for something that isn’t there. John: Well she does have more confidence. I wish you cared about yourself more. Brenda: So then you could crush that new-found confidence when you find another younger more “confident” woman? Kayla: Mandy:
I actually matter to the world. I have a personality and opinions and I’m trying to work my way up in the world. Everything you listed is on everyone else’s list for reasons of existing.
Justin: I just wish you could see yourself through my eyes. (beat) What have we been doing for the past 6 months then? Keira: I don’t know. We’ve had fun. It’s just not love I think. John: That’s not fair. Brenda: Remember a week before our wedding you slept with my maid of honor? That’s not fair. Kayla: At least I go out and actually have a life and friends. Mandy: Are you sure? Because up until now you considered me your friend but I’ve never really cared for you that much. Justin: So, what are we? Friends? Keira: I don’t think so. We don’t have that much in common. (beat) The sex is good though. John: I was drunk. Brenda: You always were. Kayla: Mandy:
That’s stupid. We’ve been friends for forever. It’s always been pretty much just you yapping and me nodding my head so it looked like I was listening whenever you talked about the nonsense drama that was filling your life at the moment.
Justin: You just used me for sex? Keira: No. I don’t know. Does it even matter? You had fun. John: But I’m better now. Brenda: If you say so. Kayla: You’re such a little liar. You’re just saying mean things because I hurt you. Mandy: Why would you want to hurt me? Justin: I did. But only because I love you. I always have. I’ve admired you from a distance since high school. Keira: Well, if you were my “secret admirer,” then you should know I don’t believe in your idea of love. John: I am so sick of your patronizing attitude. Brenda: I just…don’t care anymore. Kayla: I don’t want to. You’re just not the same. Mandy: I’m exactly the same. You’re perception of me has just changed. Justin: I thought I could change that. Keira: You were wrong. John: Why? Brenda: Because it hurts too much. Kayla: Don’t get all high and mighty on me now. You changed and I don’t like it. Mandy: (rolls eyes) Whatever.
Justin: I’m not going to give up. Keira: I think you should. John: You were the love of my life. Brenda: Okay. Kayla: Oh, fuck you. Mandy: (exhales loudly, picks up a magazine from the coffee table in front of her, and exits) Justin: But love is fantastic. Keira: It seems to cause you a lot of pain and distress. John: I miss you. Brenda: I’ve been here for 25 years. Kayla: Absolutely ridiculous. Justin: But my loving you has made me so happy. Keira: You’re just lonely. (beat) But you’re still loved. Just not really by me. John: I loved you. Brenda: (smirks) That doesn’t seem to matter now, does it?