Wack Mag 02: Play

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wack mag / issue 02 / PLAY issue 02 / play / april 2022

















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The Anthropology of the Kiss


I remember having a dream in which Jacob and I kissed and he kissed me badly. I remember telling people how that was my worst fear—to be kissed badly, that is.

A Texas A&M University professor discovered the first recorded kiss in India.1 Vedic Sanskrit scriptures in 1500 B.C.E. mention a sort of “sniffing,” a pressing of one’s nose: the kiss’s primary sense did not begin with taste or touch, but rather smell. Before that, there was no mention of the kiss in writing or in art.2 The Kama Sutra described different ways people could kiss. Through his conquest of the subcontinent in 326 B.C.E., Alexander the Great learned of the invention and spread it westward by introducing the new practice he had learned about to the Greeks. It was through the Greeks that the Romans popularized it through Europe.

After that, the Christians discovered the invention of the kiss and started to dismiss handshakes. They incorporated “the holy kiss” into their rituals, which supposedly granted its recipient peace and love. At the Council of Vienna from 1311-1312, Pope Clement V banned the holy kiss, as the Catholic Church thought it would lead to sin.3 Judas famously used the kiss to betray Jesus. At the last supper, Jesus learned that one of his disciples would betray him, and he already knew who it would be.4 When Judas kissed him in the Garden of Gethsemane,5 he was arrested by the Sanhedrin,6 tried under Pontius Pilate, and crucified nine hours later. Judas ended up killing himself in remorse.7 To this day, scholars debate his motive for doing so but it doesn’t matter so much. In truth, Jesus knew it was fate, knew that the price of a kiss would be his own demise, and let it happen regardless.

Mary Magdalene also kissed Jesus Christ. The people talked and speculated that she was a whore, maybe his wife. Either way, she saw love as a religion and put blind faith in a man with a radical cause. When Jesus rose from the dead, he appeared to her first. What is it like to love a prophet?

I did kiss Jacob later on. We were sitting on his living room couch. It was summer, but I was cold so he lent me his college sweatshirt. I still wear it sometimes. The dream came true. He was a bad kisser after all.


When Romeo and Juliet meet for the first time, their exchange takes the form of a perfect sonnet. They spoke of hands being used for prayer and touch, the same way lips are.8 Their kiss acts as a prayer, absolving them and condemning them for their sin at the same time.

Cosmopolitan claims that there are 12 types of kisses, and they all correspond to a body part. The hand kiss, the forehead kiss, the neck kiss.9 The Kama Sutra, however, describes different types of kisses by action. The kiss that kindles love, the kiss that turns away, the kiss that awakens.10

In my sophomore year of college, I matched with a boy on Tinder. We happened to find ourselves in an elevator the next day. I knew that he knew me, recognized me, and decided to avoid my gaze. I introduced myself to fill the silence. He lived on the floor right below mine. One drunken night, I asked him to come over. My roommate was gone for the weekend. I kept asking him questions so we would know even just a little bit about one another, and when I no longer could fill the silence of his one-word answers, he asked if I wanted to make out. We kissed under blue fairy lights and to Bruce Springsteen’s "I’m On Fire."

I went on a Tinder date that ended up inside his empty dorm. We kissed and I felt a high from it that lasted maybe a day or two until it faded and I didn’t care anymore. The first girl I ever kissed did not even remember kissing me. We were drunk, and we had been drunk since six that evening. The night must’ve ended around two in the morning. We kissed other people later on that night.

A gold leaf blanket shrouds a couple as they kiss on the edge of a field of wildflowers. After its completion in 1908, Gustav Klimt’s The Kiss was purchased immediately.13 A replica of it hangs in my bedroom in New Jersey and IKEAs all over the world. I discovered the painting when I was 13, in an art class. For years, The Kiss appeared on t-shirts and socks and postcards and mugs and even as a tattoo on my thigh. Its real copy hangs in the Belvedere Museum in Vienna, Austria. On its plaque, it says, “This highlights the artist’s deeply poetic approach to this fundamental theme in human life.”

He was a bad kisser too. Tried to eat my face. I pitied him because he was the type of boy you could tell had never been in a relationship before but was just attractive enough to have these types of non-relationships with girls who were too afraid to tell him that he was bad at kissing.

In her 2018 song “Nobody,” Japanese-American singersongwriter Mitski sings: “I know no one will save me / I’m just asking for a kiss / Give me one good movie kiss / And I’ll be alright.”14

Whenever I saw him on campus, he always avoided my gaze, and it became a mutual effort. But I saw him for what he was: afraid of intimacy for fear of humiliation.

We were sitting in the dark of a movie theater, and my stomach churned at the smell of the popcorn that we were not eating. The smell of you and your Old Spice deodorant passed on to me. You never told me that you loved me but I so badly wanted to believe it anyway.

The kiss that disappoints.

When Dante enters the second circle of Inferno, he comes across Francesca da Rimini in an embrace with her husband’s younger brother, Paolo. They are immortalized in Auguste Rodin’s sculpture, Le baiser.11 The marble sculpture depicts the lovers reading the story of Lancelot and Guinevere and having their first kiss.12 What admirers think is a work of romantic love is also drenched in the sin of lust and adultery.

It was June. We were on our second date. We were watching the same awful movie we paid to see the weekend before. Even now, I can’t tell you what the movie was about because I couldn’t stop thinking of you, your hand on my knee, your hand around me. When you kissed me for the first time, you missed my mouth. Of course you did—the very kiss that changed my life. In 2018, New York University asked its applicants to describe an event in their lives and how it had changed them. I wrote about my first kiss. NYU Admissions rejected me.


In 1930, the Hays Production Code was set in place to censor sex and other obscenities in Hollywood movies.15 In 1946, Alfred Hitchcock relesed his movie Notorious, still infamous today for “the longest kiss in the history of movies,”16 spanning a nearly three-minute scene. Because the code banned kisses for longer than three seconds, Hitchcock directed his actors Ingrid Bergman and Cary Grant to break the kiss after three seconds and repeat and repeat, never breaking their embrace as they moved from the balcony to the telephone then the door. In 1968, the Hays code was abandoned for the modern-day Motion Picture Association rating.17

I discovered Richard Siken’s poetry at a young age. In “Litany in Which Certain Things Are Crossed Out,” he writes: “Actually, you said Love, for you, is larger than the usual romantic love. It’s like a religion. It’s terrifying. No one will ever want to sleep with you.” 18

Someone reminded me that the first boy I had ever kissed broke up with me after a month. He began dating a girl I introduced him to. I was devastated because I was 17 and he thought I was pretty which meant that I was. His word was gospel. His word was truth. I felt like I was being laughed at. Of course, the story ends that way. Maybe the love was something I constructed in my head. Do I excuse my pain? Do I say sorry for feeling it?

I was Austin’s first kiss. Of course, he wasn’t mine. But I was still nervous because we had just watched a movie in a theater filled with children and neither one of us made a move. I knew I wanted to and he knew that he wanted to, but there wasn’t much leading up to it. So he took us to some hidden bridge, and after some talking, I just asked him to close his eyes. I thought he was good. But that must have meant that I was good at kissing too, as it is a combined effort. I had this theory that the first person you kiss sets the precedent for how well you kiss for the rest of your life, so that every girl he would ever kiss would have a glimpse of me, as if I was forever in his lips. I think Austin is the only boy whose heart I actually broke.

Kissing is like a texture of one’s being. Sometimes it’s bumpy, like canvas, with prodding and jabbing. Other times it’s addicting, like velvet, rich and yet uncomfortable to the eyes. The best part is when you glide like cold silk. When I miss someone, I miss the fabric of them.

The first person I had ever slept with kissed me because I had asked him why he hadn’t made a move yet. I wasn’t planning on sleeping with him. But I did because we spoke for hours and I never had to pretend around him. He called me “genuine” once. I liked him because I thought he saw me. He was the type of person I couldn’t stop kissing, wouldn’t stop despite being half asleep. I texted him one drunken night and told him he was a good kisser. I told my roommate about what I’d done and she was appalled. I think if you are good at something, you should know.


In 2008, a birthday card Arctic Monkeys frontrunner Alex Turner wrote to his then-girlfriend, Alexa Chung, circulated the internet.19 In it, he writes: “My mouth hasn’t shut up about you since you kissed it. The idea that you may kiss it again is stuck in my brain, which hasn’t stopped thinking about you since, well, before any kiss.”

I’ve been trying to understand my fascination with kissing. The look of it, the feel of it. This ritual of tilting one’s head and closing the eyes just to breathe someone in, exchange saliva—again, it’s a texture. We must feel joy for doing so because otherwise, it would not have survived this long. Maybe it is the excitement of kissing someone new, or rather kissing someone you had before but doing it again and again because this is someone you have an abundance of overwhelming feelings for. It really doesn’t matter. What does matter is that people care enough to do it again and again and thus history repeats itself. The feeling repeats itself. Anthropologists William R. Jankowiak, Shelly L. Volsche, and Justin R. Garcia conducted a study to see if the romanticsexual kiss is a universal human experience. While surveying 168 cultures, they found that only 77 have a culture of kissing of the lips in an intimate manner. It is not a human universal, or even a near-universal. The other 91 must show their love some other way.20 Besides physical touch, other love languages include quality time, acts of service, words of affirmation, and giving gifts. 21

I thought of how there will be a day when the first boy I ever kissed will inevitably die and no one else will remember my first kiss. And the movie theater seats will be renovated. And the very movie theater will be closed for business. And the whole town will have populated a new generation. And this kiss, the one that changed my life, will have ceased to exist.

1 Bryant, Vaughn M., and Sylvia Grider. “To Kiss: Why We Kiss under the Mistletoe at Christmas.” Academia.edu, 1991. 2 Wilson, Tracy V. “How Kissing Works.” HowStuffWorks, HowStuffWorks, 16 Aug. 2006. 3 Lorenzi, Rossella. “Kissing’s Long History: A Timeline.” Seeker, Seeker, 14 Feb. 2013. 4 Luke 22:22 5 Luke 22:48 6 Matthew 26:59 7 Matthew 27:5 8 Romeo and Juliet, by William Shakespeare et al., Simon & Schuster Paperbacks, 2011. 9 Sager, Brooke. “12 Types of Kisses That Will Have You Both Craving More.” Cosmopolitan, Cosmopolitan, 25 Dec. 2019. 10 Burton, Richard, translator. “On Kissing.” The Kama Sutra of Vatsyayana, by Vatsyayana. 11 “The Kiss.” The Kiss. Musée Rodin. 12 Tate. “‘The Kiss’, Auguste Rodin, 1901–4.” Tate. 13 Dwyer, Chris. “The Legacy of Gustav Klimt and His Enduring ‘Kiss’.” CNN, Cable News Network, 27 Feb. 2018. 14 Mitski. “Nobody.” Spotify, Patrick Hyland. 15 Association of Motion Picture Producers, Inc. The Motion Picture Production Code. 1930. 16 Ebert, Roger. Notorious Movie Review; Film Summary (1946): Roger Ebert. 17 Aug. 1997. 17 “History of Ratings.” History. 18 “Litany in Which Certain Things Are Crossed Out.” Crush, by Richard Siken, Yale University Press, 2005, pp. 11–15. 19 Barton, Laura. “She’s the One.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 30 Mar. 2008. 20 Jankowiak, William R., et al. “Is the Romantic-Sexual Kiss a Near Human Universal?” American Anthropologist, vol. 117, no. 3, 2015, pp. 535–539. 21 Chapman, Gary. The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate. Northfield Publishing, 1995.


These pants are a playful take on growth and decay that is not actively sought after but instead occurs naturally. The textured shibori panels, created by tying fabric around objects and then heat setting it through boiling, are inspired by fungi growing on dead and living organic matter. As decomposers, the fungi literally break down organic matter in order to obtain nutrients and grow. This piece stems from questioning whether this is seen as an evolution or destruction—a positive growth or negative loss—of the original material. When change occurs, at what points do we mourn the death of the old or celebrate the new growth? Often, only time will tell if a change will lead to growth, decay, or both. Thus, with its bright colors and playful silhouette, this piece encompasses and embraces the beauty present in the process of change, regardless of whether it is ultimately damaging, developing, or both.

writer, photographer, and apparel AUDREY CHEN model, hair, and makeup NAOMI CHEN background artist BROOKLYNN SCANTLEBURY



photographer and directer TALIA SMITH













My Letter to You, To You Whom I Spent My Summer With



This summer I grew. But isn’t that supposed to be every summer? The season has always been a transformative experience for me. I wear colors I wouldn’t usually wear. I put on beaded jewelry with flower charms on it. I let the sun color my hair. I see my loved ones and spend time with them like I’ve never left. I sit in the sun and read like winter has never existed. I pick up new hobbies, whether it’s going on a walk every day or trying to learn astrology. I get sad when I have to spend eight hours inside at my minimum wage job, but my energy rises again when I clock out and the sun is still high in the sky. This summer I looked at your face, and every time I did my mind was flooded with a million different thoughts. The first being I don’t want to lose you. Can’t times always be like this? The next being it’s finally summer. Your face engulfed in a smile as you glanced at me from the driver’s seat because I said something that made you laugh. The light from your smile mixed with the breeze from the windows being down gives me that feeling that can only be captivated in the warm golden light of the season.

There is nothing more summer than that. It used to be feeling the grass underneath my feet as I jumped into the blue lake that reminded me that it was summer. But now, it’s you. It’s the way that we purposefully drive around with no destination in mind until we end up in a place we’ve never been before. It’s the way we pass the blunt back and forth to each other while watching the smoke linger in the dry heat. It’s the way your eyes look in the sun. It’s the way I stay over at your house and make you late for work in the morning. It’s the way that when we aren’t at work, we play. To me, summer isn’t a season but a feeling. In the summer I feel like a child, with no responsibilities, just the world before me. Or, maybe that’s how you make me feel.


01 Dirt To Life Mishima ceramic mug 02 Socks Oil on paper artist JANE THAO HUYNH



writer LAURA PHILIPS artist TATIANA GUEL It’s summer 2009 and you’re home early from your day camp at the local repertory theater. What are you going to do with the afternoon? Obviously, show your parents the dances you learned at camp today, but after that ten-minute Radio City spectacular, you still have hours to kill before eating corn on the cob and hot dogs on the back porch for dinner. You decide to play pretend—a great choice. There are a lot of options to consider, so let’s break it down: If you go the Barbie route, know that your position in the game is basically to be the writer of a CW teen drama show. Think seasons one through three of the ORIGINAL Gossip Girl, not a fantasy-murder-softcore like Riverdale. You already have a cast with hot and symmetrical resting faces; now it’s time to cast them. You need a wholesome protagonist, edgy or comedic supporting characters, and downright mindless and petty antagonists. Start the game casually, build relationships, and create tension. This is literally Screenwriting 101. Create a break in the tension by laying out all the dresses you have and take the dolls on a shopping expedition for the “big event” look. You know how the rest goes: They get to the prom and everything escalates, secrets are exposed, and you can make them scissor in the bathroom. Polly Pockets can also be fun, but just fun! They are much too tiny and pocket-sized to carry the weight of a Barbie game’s level of drama. If the Barbies are listening to Melodrama, the Pollys are blasting “Mood Ring” and ignoring the satire of it. They are all about sitting on their cute mini boats and driving their cute mini cars even though they can’t bend their arms or legs. Keep it light, get them a teeny tiny plastic drink, and try to avoid chewing on their clothes.


If you’re feeling more inclined to live-action historical drama, Oregon Trail is always a viable option. With this choice, you get to study history on your own terms, by romanticizing riding in a wagon (bathtub with a blanket in it) and getting typhoid with your family. You don’t have to know where Oregon is or even what year it’s supposed to be. You just have to wear some sort of bonnet or apron and speak in an aspirational tone.

Of course, there’s always the fan favorite: House. If you’re in a group and playing House, you’ll want to consider the roles. Some people are born mothers, some like to do a “how an 8-year-old pictures a 16-year-old” older sister character, but everyone knows the most coveted part is the baby. What is it about getting to be the baby—saying and doing almost nothing to advance the plot—that people look at like they’re Rachel Berry and that baby character is Fanny Brice? Psychologists have tried for years, but can’t seem to get to the bottom of the baby in the game of House phenomena. Whatever it is, book your part before playing. If you’re going solo on the House playing, you gotta be the mom, or who’s going to take care of you? Luckily, this is fun, as you can assemble any of your stuffed animals or American Girl dolls to be your children. For example, a teddy bear and stuffed rabbit as your youngest daughters by your husband, a bigger stuffed polar bear named Jason. Jason is obviously your second husband in this scenario, but due to already having a type as an 8-year-old, your first husband, Jordan, will also be played in this performance by the same polar bear. With him you have your two oldest, Samantha and Nicki the American Girl Dolls. The more you build your 40-year-old busy mom of four persona, the more fun you’ll have. Be nice to your ex-polar bear, cook everyone a nice meal of plastic spaghetti, and don’t forget to pick up the rabbit and bear from dance class! Hopefully you’ve come up with some fun hypotheticals to put yourself, or your dolls, into by now. The options won’t always be the same. Eventually the doll clothes covering the floor turn into bras strewn off after a long day of work. The toy cake you used to celebrate your teddy bear’s birthday turns into a bottle of wine you’re given on yours. Staying up late to sneak playing Fruit Ninja on your iPod turns into sneaking out to give a blowjob to a boy who doesn’t deserve one. It’s not a bad life but it’s a little too real. You hit a point where you’re just making up scenarios in your head before you go to bed about living in different cities and working at something that doesn’t make you want to sleep all day and disappear. Or you’ll be sitting on public transportation daydreaming about loving someone and having a sitcom style group of friends until you almost miss your stop. You can sit in class and zone out thinking up all the outfits you’d wear to friend’s weddings, the rooftop album release parties, the red carpets of the award shows you pretend you’ll be invited to. You’ll be pretending to have fun instead of having fun pretending.



















ode to the breakwater house writer and photographer MARY ROSE SOSSAMAN













April 14th, 2021, at 5:45 in the morning, my family and I woke up to our house flooded, and our last summer was ripped away. I took these photos of my home that is now stripped

sisters in down to

our neighborhood and in our nothing but wood and nails.

It’s an ode to the many summers we spent here, running around barefoot, walks to the marina, listening to John Mayer through open windows, and the many tear filled discussions on the front porch. It’s my way of saying goodbye to the house I played dress up in, the house I had nightmares in, the house I had my Hannah Montana birthday party in, the house I welcomed family in, the house I mourned the loss of a sister in, the house I came to know myself in. It So

was here


the my


best sisters

place in



to to


grow Breakwater

up. house.


photographer ALEIAGH HYNDS





Please remember me squeezing your hand speckled with paint under the summer sun—

when the grass lining your mother’s garden tickled our feet and she begged us to stop picking her flowers while braiding them into our hair when we danced down the sidewalk in chalkcovered footprints, leaving behind a spiral of rusty reds and dusty yellows, the autumn air humming as golden leaves swayed above our trail when your bed felt like a fortress to protect us from the cold— in giggles and whispers we wished upon snowflakes mistaking them for fallen stars, and under piles and piles of blankets i could keep you close to me

before the sky tore open and snow buried our sidewalk, devouring its color, before its weight crushed our favorite flowers and ripped away our golden leaves and with the news of your father’s new job, the winter wind stole you away so when your house is empty and we learn the gravity of a goodbye, more than anything

i will miss your hand in mine.


Nil & Karin Romano are twin female painters based in Tel Aviv, Israel. Creating together with harmony and completing each other, they work primarily with acrylic and oil paint on large canvas surfaces. They do not restrict themselves to a particular medium, also creating works using pen or ink on paper. The use of strong and bold colours, together with the dark, surrealistic scenes that they unfold through their paintings capture the viewer’s eye and imagination. For the Romanos, each work is an opportunity to narrate a story of their inner world. Their interest revolves around the complexity of human soul and emotion, and they communicate these notions through motifs such as chaos, ritualism, and nihilism. Such ideas resulted from a long period of depression and, therefore, isolation from society. They explain that, in “being introverts by nature, we found in art a way to communicate our messages to the world.” Their creations are mutual and simultaneous; their style is intense, ritualistic, and cult-like, dealing with beliefs, religion, relationships between women, the occult, symbolism, queer relationships, magic, and the power of emotions. The Romanos often use themselves as a reference to create imaginative female characters, something particularly visible through their black and white series of drawings.






On South Taylor our hair develops a taste for sun and the front steps welcome cigar smoke and visits from the Browns. The house next door guzzles and burps, spits out the mom’s head. For four years now we’ve heard her son’s name lobbed from their screen door. It lands on our steps, tilted and overflowing like beer cans. Taylor Avenue shakes with our feet—bruising on cracked driveways, plummeting into backyards in pursuit of Winston the beagle, while our parents watch from screen doors, begging the street to push cars onto the next block. There is no face we know better than this one: the curbs scarred by black snakes, the Dutch elm trees white-dotted and dying, the asbestos tunnels in Mary’s attic. Time is a front porch party three houses down and we’re waiting for a ride elsewhere. We played with spare bricks as currency, opened a general store from the bottom of the treehouse, wrote checks on rotting wood. All along, practicing to move on. We waited months for the block party, ditched it to swing like Tarzan on the branches of the willow tree in the backyard. When was the last time we sat on the skate ramp and called it a ship? The last time we were afraid to leave our perch because the entire yard was the ocean?


playing professionally writer MEREDITH STISSER photographer ERINA MCSWEENEY

THE FIRST SESSION For the month of July, I pour myself into the mold of arts camp counselor. My clay is malleable, and I’m embarrassed by how easily I slip into the form. Plastic beads and communal meals. Gentle reminders of how inconsequential it seems to be 11 and how brutal it is to be 16. As I observe untempered, loud kids, I see parts of myself that I am glad to let die. But I also witness admirable pieces of personhood like compassion and instinctual inclusivity; I wish I could embody these things as naturally as the campers do. The plastic fan in my window does little to cool the heavy air in G-18, my assigned room at the High Mowing School in Wilton, New Hampshire. This place is 45 minutes from where I grew up, but it could just as well be on the other side of the country. I toss a frisbee barefoot on the side of a field between golden hour and sunset while the air feels fresh and comfortable. I am covered in sweat from the day and pull a tick from my ankle before climbing into the lachrymose twin XL bed for the night. I sit on my well-worn tapestry with a girl I met 20 hours ago, and we speak like we’ve been friends in the lifetime before this one. I am five minutes late to every training activity today, too comfortable reading in the grass to mind the time. I flirt with the idea of stealing away to smoke weed in one of the many shrouded corners of the campus I’d been scoping out all day, but decide against it. The clarity of thought I experience while sober, staring at expansive skies gives me a high I would be a fool to trade for silly thoughts and mild joint relief. I do not know where I will be in two months, but neither do a lot of the people there, which is a great comfort. I wish I could more easily romanticize the time I am spending there, but summer arts camp is a queer, white bubble full of privilege and pain, as well as the sweetness of the dog days we waited an extra year to see. Nearly every camper is medicated morning and night. Counselors have to break up a clique playing “fruity UNO” because they are not letting the straight kids join. Humanity has a knack for preferring one extreme or the other. But the open-mindedness and newness of these kids, some only six years my junior, is entertaining at its least, and inspiring at its peak.


Days start to drag on, and in the past seven, I’ve decided to move to Brooklyn and forget my eating disorder. I feel the regression of my social skills to the point of my

middle school years. People often speak of how difficult it is to make friends as an adult. Rarely do they speak of the importance of protecting your personhood against being a personality stereotype within a group setting. A petty problem born of extroverted privilege, but one that makes me double back on what it means to be among others at all. The campers all develop tics in the final days of camp. Either from exhaustion, or peer pressure, or both. THE SECOND SESSION On transition day, quite aptly named for the deep sense of unease and the unintentional reflection imposed upon the campers and staff who are there for the next two weeks, I have thoughts of love and the world outside. It is the day only four week campers remain while the staff await the arrival of a new batch. Every emotion I feel on this day is so intense for no reason. Everything at camp feels major in the sense that it is the only setting I have to watch my emotions play out in. There is a gentle irony in being so concerned with whether or not a camper will finish their stop motion project before the end of session. Issues of little consequence are the only issues that exist. I know it isn’t true, but I feel too far away from the “outside world” to invest myself in it.


I have deadlines to meet, five of them actually, and I have approximately four sand-sized grains of motivation left in my body. I was sent to measure out the dimensions of the pickleball court and ran out of tape. So, I sit on the tennis court and look at the sky for thirty minutes. I think a lot. One day they will love the way you need reclusion, the way you act high when you are too tired. They’ll appreciate your eagerness to resign, to say no thank you, or that you cannot. They will be glad for your loudness, your particularity, your in-the-middle-of-it-all-ness. I ask my co-counselor to sip blueberry wine and needle felt with me that evening. They decline. So I make the trek over to the fabric supply room at 11:45 by myself and sober. The moon holds a sick and vibrant burn over itself. Orange and red. Not a linen white like usual, the way I like to see it. But like me when I’m with you, it has adopted the phrases and forms of the sun, likely from spending the day together hours ago. Lightning strikes, and I miss two deadlines. I walk past windows where I have kissed the faces behind it in pseudo-secret. I make it back to my room and try to felt an octopus. I break the needle within seven minutes, allowing only one tentacle and the body to take shape. Then the wind comes so hard and fast it reminds me that nature could decide to end us at any point and still, it doesn’t. For that, I’m grateful, and I find the Earth too kind. How could we deserve the time here? How did we get so lucky, and forget we are so lucky? I get water lodged in my ear and used rubbing alcohol to flush it out. I thought it was sacrilege to put alcohol in your ear. But I do whatever pretty girls tell me to do. In My Octopus Teacher, the octopus lost an arm in a fight with a shark. She faded from her usual cranberry to a washed white and laid low for a day while regaining her strength. A new arm grew after that day of defeat and the allowance of rest. I think we need to let people drain their color and be quiet for a day. Perhaps then we would more easily regenerate limbs or be sweeter to people in passing. I love hearing the rooster down the way. He crows the way he should, but at 3:00 p.m. rather than at dawn.


I move the desk in my dorm room against the window rather than the wall so I can sit at it and feel less dead. I am usually reluctant to move around the furniture in my room. Familiarity and consistency are too comfortable,

so I leave my desks where they are most of the time. It feels nice to move the desk. A switched perspective is essential as often as each month. A thousand things of no consequence happen everyday. Maybe it is because I drink too much coffee. I gained weight and I hate it, but this is a lesson I need to learn. No form is permanent. So I’m softer in the middle now; I can shrink it again. I need to accept discomfort and temporality. All that exists is the present, so do not be attached to it—since it changes every second—but don’t reject it either. The consciousness and physical form that I am must sit softly through each hour. I dress myself in doll clothes because the days at camp feel manufactured. It is a strange thing to choose to go to this place. Summer camp forces me to surrender my autonomy at an age and in an hour where reality becomes more malleable. Restrictions of due dates and federal curfews waned, but before I could play with them, I signed over my moments to a strict routine. Hour-and-ten-minute devotions to stop-motion and tennis lessons. I ran away to the woods for free housing and food and had to accept some consolatory sanitized bonding. I needed to rattle my peace so as to remember where I keep it. To see the ways I’ve grown, I have had to look into the same mirrors as confused 15 year olds. I have had to drive back and forth too much and hug people because they needed it, not because I want to. I ran away for a month to prove to myself that I didn’t need to run away at all, that I quite liked the world I’ve been building.

I said goodbye to the co-counselor that reminds me of my ex-girlfriend. I was grasping for something that wasn’t there, but now I am able to appreciate everything that was there, and I think that is progress. I buy a linen shirt, and I cry while I drive away from them. Now I’m sitting in a Starbucks (forgive me, I plead) in the town home to the co-counselor who reminds me of my ex-girlfriend. I drove past rolling farmland; it seems like the theme for these days between places. I plucked Queen Anne’s Lace from the side of the road and tied it to my rearview mirror. I was going to give the bundle to her, but I felt that would be received as too romantic, so instead of giving her the wildflowers, I stop and buy a dozen fresh eggs. My car was towed in Dover, New Hampshire, and I had to pay $180 to Bob’s Towing and Auto Wrecking— please harass them on Yelp! I cried at the counter to see if that would lessen the blow—it didn’t. They told me, “I know we seem like the bad guy here, but this is what it costs.” As if I had asked for it, like a service was done for me. I wept crocodile tears initially, then something boiled over inside, and I felt the tears turn blue. They were real and I couldn’t stop them. I think I wept for a world that doesn’t let a car sit in an empty spot, and charges their children thousands of dollars for reading lists and date rape. Summer camp was spectacular and brutal. Though it’s hard to shake the hazy feeling of an impending apocalypse, it’s a comfortable death, like being smothered with rose petals.

I’m tying up loose ends in the city I love. The one that I might return to this fall and then kiss goodbye. Bringing boxes to Goodwill and drinking overpriced coffees. I think of all of the bear cubs orphaned in California. I think of when I masturbated on a rock during my off-period and the wind blew extra hard when I came. I think we need to have more sex outside. I can feel my entire cell system being recycled. Other people want a new profile picture, and I want a new profile. Ways I have avoided assisting in the ukulele class: a. Said I had a Zoom job interview that lasted an hour and a half b. Hiding in between the library stacks c. Pretending the toilet overflowed and I had to tend to it


photographer BEN ABSENT model OLIVIA HEINZE



TW: Body Image Discourse As women, we have all been controlled since birth. Controlled by what we are told we must do to attract men. What attitude to have. What kind of bra to wear. How to have our hair. How to sit. What our bodies should look like. How to dance. How to walk. So it’s no wonder that women intertwine their worth with their acceptance from men. But it is more than acceptance; it’s women being told they are undesirable if men don’t want them. Though it is important to make the distinction between emotional and physical attraction because our worth is valued by the latter. And we spend our entire lives trying to heal from the trauma that we endure from bearing womanhood. Like most women, my battle with determining my worth is next to my memories of learning how to spell and playing tag. Growing up plus-sized, I never was unaware of my body. Training bras in third grade and doctors telling me to lose weight at eight years old are some of my earliest memories—as if I wasn’t already wishing on shooting stars to wake up skinny. And because I never felt like my body was normal, I didn’t daydream about unicorns flying. I daydreamed about a life I felt robbed of: the thin one. As a child, I remember being so terrified of people noticing my fatness that I would ignore telling someone about a stomachache because I thought people would think it was because I was fat. I have tried so hard my entire life to lose weight.


And I watched other girls succeed while I never did. And while I have always been a confident person, it’s ridiculously difficult to stay confident when society hates your body. And some people might think that is a dramatic way to put it, but it’s just not. Being fat is the first thing people notice about me when I walk into a room. And any cough, pain, or itch I have gets blamed on my weight. People are so terrified of looking like me they skip meals, try diet fads, and pay thousands of dollars for liposuction. There are whole industries catered to staying skinny and using weight loss products because people are deathly scared of being fat. And I don’t blame people who are, because it sucks. I’m a lesbian KoreanAmerican, and my biggest barrier is my weight. It others me in every single space. In high school, my friends were always talking about boys or were in relationships with boys. I couldn’t bear the idea of being the fat girl who no one wanted. So I got in a pattern of finding a boy to fixate on for months or years at a time, in order to add a dimension to my life I thought was essential. I think it was my defense mechanism against being perceived as the sad, fat girl who no one wanted. I would develop close friendships with most of these boys and then say that I didn’t want to lose their friendship by admitting my feelings for them. But in reality, I had a paralyzing fear of rejection. Because in my mind, rejection would always stem from my weight. The other day a friend asked me about the difference between the physical self and the inner self. “I wonder

how much my inner self is determined by my physical self,” was the only response I could come up with. As my inner self and physical self are in a parasitic relationship, dependent upon what I think I am allowed to do based on my weight. I think this because I know that my life would be so different if I was skinny. I don’t think it would be better, but I can confidently say that it would be easier.

since middle school, but heteronormativity held me in a chokehold meant for death. I was so tangled up in living for male approval I couldn’t fathom being in a relationship with a woman because I would never get any societal validation from it. Even after initially coming out as bisexual, I genuinely thought I would still marry a man and never be in a romantic relationship with a woman. Which is funny to me now because I hate men!

And I am so afraid that if I ever do lose weight that my biggest fear will come true—that people will like me more. Some may think this is a little irrational, but how could I not question every relationship I ever have when I am suddenly on the scale of desirable.

When I came out as bisexual, I wasn’t lying. But taking the leap of pursuing my first female love interest changed my entire world. I was completely enthralled by the universe I found myself discovering. I felt like I was living on a different planet. I was finally allowing myself to act on what I wanted and desired versus doing what I thought people wanted me to do for validation. It’s haunting for me to think about how genuinely attracted to men I thought I was. It’s made me realize that everyone needs to take a second to reevaluate their sexuality and work out any lingering desires they may have. You could spend your whole life not knowing you are living a lie.

Even now as a proud lesbian, I’m still in the pursuit of changing my mindset away from appeasing men. While I think everyone should have this mindset, actually obtaining it is like trying to lift a thousand-pound slab of cement alone. I thought it would be like an overnight switch, but alas that is not how it works. I hate when people bring up my past male flings or pursuits because the person I was during that time was the worst version of myself. I’ve finally realized that the reason I was never happy or satisfied after I got a moment of male validation is because it wasn’t liberating, it was constraining. I was living in a box that got smaller and smaller with every one-night stand or boring dinner date. I feel like the person I once was is dead. Two years ago, I was screaming about the dick I wanted. And now, I daydream about the lesbian commune my roommate and I designed at 3:00 a.m. I’ve known I liked girls

The world around me works double-time to try and keep me in a bubble of self-hate because of my weight, my sexual orientation, and hundreds of other aspects of my being. I’m over it—that world is a fucked up place full of standards I was never meant to be a part of. Every day is an opportunity to loosen the ropes strangling my body; detaching the puppet strings forcing me to cross my legs. Shedding the layers of my mind that want me to keep others comfortable with my existence.


HIDE AND SEEK! HIDE AND SEEK! HIDE AND SEEK! HIDE AND SEEK! HIDE AND SEEK! HIDE AND SEEK! HIDE AND SEEK! HIDE AND SEEK! Sitting at the vanity, my grandmother was like a mirage, soaking in and reflecting upon the orange lamplight. It was a quiet ritual, watching her pin her curls and lean closer to the mirror, her ginger eyelashes dressed with black mascara. Perched on her bed, I would watch her face drift in and out of the frame, the wood-paneled walls shifting behind her. I borrowed her plush robe and she helped me roll up the sleeves. That robe made me feel prettier than any of the princess dresses or plastic heels in the back of my closet. It dragged on the floor when I walked, leaving behind a perfume of hairspray and powder. I wanted something to grow into, something to shed when I would blossom into a flower of a girl.

I washed my hands with her favorite soaps and peeked into the medicine cabinet as if it held the secrets to being the kind of woman people loved. Her golden tube of lipstick was tempting but sacred; I would be embarrassed to leave a rosy print behind if I kissed her cheek when we said goodbye. Instead, I climbed into the top bunk, careful not to let the robe catch on the ladder. Enveloped in quilts and cotton sheets, I imagined that Age and I played hide-and-seek; she would find me waiting here, eventually. Age found me in a CVS makeup aisle, 15 years late— or perhaps, I found her. Fluorescent lights chased me into a wall full of golden tubes, and they felt to me like phantoms returning home.

In my car, I applied it carefully in the mirror, letting the red unfold over me like a remedy for something unnamed. The car swirled with floral air and femininity that could only belong to my grandmother, and I suddenly wished I was still small enough that her robe would drag behind me. The lipstick did not look out of place on my lips, and I knew that my adolescent oracle had been fulfilled. I clasped the lipstick in my hands, stuck in a realm where growing up was still part of playing pretend.

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WACK WEEKLY CHALLENGES When Wack’s online component is moving and grooving (ie. we’re not having a collective mental breakdown or a pandemic-related, months-long hiatus), the social media team collects our followers’ photos and written responses to various Wack Weekly Challenge prompts. Initially launched at the beginning of the pandemic, the series aims to engage the creativity of our Instagram followers, friends, and regular contributors. Wack strives to close the gap between the creators and consumers of our publication, and we hope the series helps foster this sense of community—while giving us a sweet little window into the lives of our followers. GREEN The color green makes us feel like there is goodness to come—especially at the end of a Boston winter coated in various shades of grey. Here are some of our favorite images from the “Green” Wack Weekly Challenge prompt for your enjoyment. There is something so soothing about the natural green of freshly mowed grass or rich leaves dotted with white blooms. And, perhaps unimportant in the grand scheme of things, green is the favorite color of two of our founders. PEOPLE WATCHING You’re lying to yourself if you say you don’t enjoy one of life’s greatest pastimes: people watching. Snapshots of strangers’ lives coexist with our own as we go for a stroll, browse the shelves at the grocery store, or run to catch the T in time. These select photos from the “People Watching” Wack Weekly Challenge highlight the mundane, the love, and the silliness often on full display in public life.













12 01 Kate Cunningham 02 Erina McSweeney 03 Kate Cunningham 04 Kate Cunningham 05 William Rowley 06 Tatiana Guel 07 Hanna Marchesseault 08 Elena Hoh 09 William Rowley 10 Kurt Stuart 11 Kate Cunningham 12 Erina McSweeney








01 Tatiana Guel 02 Sophie Leapman 03 Hanna Marchesseault 04 Zoe O’Neil 05 Erina McSweeney 06 Kate Cunningham











Boston-area band Paper Lady consists of front lady and siren Alli Raina alongside bandmates and friends Will Davila, Rowan Martin, Kenzo Divic, and Alex Castile. The self-proclaimed immortal crone has one EP under her belt—While You Should Be Sleeping (2020)—with more music to be released this year. Their next single “Eve” will be released on April 16. Alli Raina tells WACK about her songwriting process, upcoming music, and future plans for Paper Lady.

are] kind of different live than [when] they are recorded, so I want people to be able to hear the version that they want to hear.

I see that you’re a visual artist, and I’m curious: What comes first—the sound, visual, or lyrics?

I think there are so many different things that I want from music and it’s really difficult—I also just have a bad attention span. I think getting to do [the songs] differently at live shows gives me that little bit of freedom that I need within music. I don’t have to definitively be like “This is what it’s going to sound like every time,” because it’s more fun when you get to do it differently.

I usually always have a little journal with me and if I think of a word that I like—sometimes it will come [to me] in a full poem [or] I’ll get pieces of one—I’ll write it down. Later on, I’ll be playing around on guitar, and if I find a sequence of chords that I like, I’ll hum the melody and I’ll flip through my journal. Then I’ll pick one of the poems that I wrote and fit it to the melody that I have in my head. Sometimes it’ll all come all at once, but that’s kind of overwhelming. What’s an example of it coming all at once? Has that happened recently? That happened with the song “Eve.” I think I was reading something about Adam and Eve and Lilith—the woman before Eve. I got the idea to write a song about the Garden of Eden from Eve’s perspective. That story is kind of the root for the way that women used to be looked at and seen as hypersexual, giving into their wants more so than men—and I think that’s fucked up. In the song, there are lyrics, “I’ll take the blame for it / it’s what I was born to do.” That’s what women were written into the Bible as, the scapegoat [and] the person to take the blame for the man. I wanted to write the song of her being like, “I’ll fucking do it then, if that’s what you want me here for.” That all came at once and I was like, “Ah, I got to get to a guitar!” But that doesn’t happen that often. “Eve” comes out on Saturday, April 16. Tell me about the release! This is a song that we’ve been working on for a very long time. I wanted to do it on a full moon because it’s representative of release and celebration—basking in and enjoying the rewards of your hard work. I think the full moon is the perfect time to do that. Full moons also have a lot of feminine energy, so I wanted it to have a coherence to it. You’ve talked about the lyrics and sounds of “Eve.” Do you have visuals to go alongside it? What’s your vision? We’re going to release a music video hopefully within the next couple of months. It’s going to be a celebration of femininity and the search for people that want to celebrate it with you. And then we’re going to record a live album in the summer because, as I said, [the songs

I love your idea of recording a live set. There is something about being in that environment and actually seeing the artists do what they love to do. I think it’s cool when you get a different experience in person than you do listening to it in your headphones.

I love that perspective because I know people who want something to be done the exact same way every time. Which is also super fair. The recordings are definitely a bit more put together and clean than when we play live. When we play live, I think all of us look at it as this big emotional release. I have a lot of respect for people who can sound exactly like the recording of their songs. I like to do a lot of found-sound stuff, like recordings of wind in trees or birds. For the recording of “Eve,” we used different clips of birds that I got while hiking in Canada. And we used a couple of toy instruments. Would I play a recording of that on stage? I’m not going to do that. So, it’s just fun to do what you can with the recorded ones. Do you have a favorite found-sound in your next project? For “Violet,” I’m going to have ocean sounds. I’m going to get them when I go home [to] Florida, though. When Rowan and I were tracking the demo for "Violet," I didn’t really realize that the ocean freezes here, and we went to the beach. First of all, the tide was so far out [that] I could barely see because it was at night—the night of the wolf moon, so the moon was huge and orange. We had Rowan’s field mic and [the ground] was just mud up until the ocean. He was wearing bright, white shoes, and I had boots on, and I was like, “Give me the thing, I’ll go get it.” I walked through all of this mud, and my feet kept getting stuck and shit. And then [when] I finally got over to the water, I crouched down and it was frozen—it sucked. But I think that’ll be my favorite [sound]. When did you start writing for this next project? Well, the first song I wrote off of this next project [was] maybe last summer. I wrote it because I had a dream that I met this giant space lady, and then she kissed me and I knew all of the secrets of the universe. I don’t remember anything, but I remember the feeling. Then I fell back


to Earth. As I was falling, I woke up and I didn’t know any of it, and I was crying. I wrote it about her and how I love her. That song is called “Violet” because it’s my favorite lady name. What’s it like to be the front lady in a band with men? I love playing with the four of them. We all click very well. I think that, in a lot of ways, I have a lot of masculine energy, and they all have a lot of feminine energy. In philosophy, there’s a lot of talk about Yin and Yang, sun and moon, masculine and feminine, and I think that the perfect spot to be is balanced right in the middle of the two. The four of them are all right there. They make me feel very special and safe and they all always tell me how much they love the music that I’m writing, which is such a huge compliment from them because they’re all so talented. They’re also so soft and beautiful and warm. If it were any four other men, maybe the answer to this question would be different. I’m very lucky to have them as friends and collaborators. What is the future for Paper Lady? Have you thought about going on tour, or what are your plans after school? I think that we just want to keep making music together for a long time and live in New York for a little bit, and [we] would love to tour. Some of Kenzo’s family is in Canada


and some of his family’s in Japan. Those are two places that are feasible for us to play shows, so it would be really cool—it would be fucking insane—to go play in Japan. That’d be nuts, but that’s a huge dream. I might be trying to set up a tour for the end of the summer, but Will and Alex are going to study abroad in Spain beginning in January. They’ll be back sometime in the summer. Once they graduate, we’ve talked about living together in the middle of nowhere on a farm and having a cow. That’s specifically Kenzo’s dream, but he’s allowed us in on all of that. Do you have a favorite figure in mythology—one figure that you think you connect with the most? Maybe Artemis, but maybe Demeter, because Demeter brings the seasons. Florida never changing seasons makes me kind of uneasy. I like [how] the beginning and ending of seasons [is] shown by signs of nature, that’s very cool to me. My guitar is named Demeter, after her, so maybe her. But I love all women in Greek mythology, other than Hera. She sucks.


tt load of bitchin’ Sisterhood orning with a bu m ch ea t y World. ar st I. I love to and a trip to Wall dip in the pool, our e ak m we , ies sauce, a skinny lad nied by my fair pa ry into m ua co an ac -J lly Usua nge mid th spice then plu iculous et m a h eggs on toast wi ug ro dy of water. Th hair Childhood our suburban bo x dye suits our weekend oose which bo ch up and had to spend the ll wi we mmercialism, co e I. When I was growing process, em pr su de breakfast of ma lly les ona ais asi r te occ re ou he e nc dy with dad, I remember its best in the co k or purple? We —with real bacon and k a stranger: pin iches like I'd never had the cat (who is dw , san ke and Allie will as Ja ese ar che de lted t dish orange me s with swee lingering grease, outlan hair in the gras came from tch after us. eggs on a biscuit that wa and to es, ), slic ac tic oz the Pr syn in on uth. mo r you in film and left tch after a container that popped re strong enough es and simply wa we at rts m effo om irl 20 ro t e-g littl ge be d Mornings when my II. We wish to dye our hair an s. y day we could gover were yummy one have one big uld to break the man’s han each other. Ever wo we so ts ats, and I was never se me g clo kin r , ma at ou er d e th ar goo ge Dad was always cats and sh will write to all talk g together, and we the steak during our sm point in our youn quick enough to chew one. We will read low a to ts ge . If life notone. and lady dinners of mournful mo and we will paint her book to read always be anot en arms op th wi in e m lives, there will ll co r rds with. She wi money to call ou II. I am a vegetarian now. to share the wo But we have no . rts Ta ish p W Po . of sh and a box she ury and just wi about vegetarianism, and to in tantalizing lux r—to not have ny III. My mother taught me own, so we rot ve ma re ong fo t Am e. las sag n uld bur nce co aren’t supposed taught me politics, and how to we this era of defia at wh r h. fo hing except showed me strengt things she taught, she care about anyt unity with family y thing could all live in e bility in my life—the onl W sta t. of ou bol ab sym re the is e Sh to ca . sence es pre g liv r gin ou han re. Her unc e rest of breakfast for th that has always been the made is the has she life the and and persistence for me receive. I’ve been lucky. grandest gift I will ever


k on the floor for good luc IV. Sometimes I sleep t ideas will come bes my n The in). e iev (that I don’t bel tion in my s will give to the exhaus inconveniently. My eye when ep sle ing fad a to simmer bones, and I will slowly ent, like rain nol som to me gs sin n the far familiar trai on a window. ulted in lucinations as a child res V. Night horrors and hal n and trai a of nd sou eet the sw self-made comforts, like ays, there have Alw . ers cov er und a warm hug hidden night. ons of a train’s song at been the conglomerati es us istl wh se noi what white For when we can’t sleep, n. trai the is to be okay? For me, it


Womanhood I realize out of no particularity, I. Nights when I wake up et the glaring me s eye my and n I left the window ope on think the crescent mo crescent moon. I like to is mother, the sun is on mo the t tha rit— is a higher spi and n that way since Helios father. It has always bee t and ligh and er pow ngth and Zeus—men of great stre on goddess mo the er, ght dau the heat. Then there is comfort moon, fair and light for Selene. Mothers are the held ays alw e hav the moon at night. The woman and strong bonds. can something I love that I II. I bleed with the moon— road to g lon a of es slic red and do. Dark cherry stains e is symbol of romantic lov feminine completion. The was used pe sha rt hea the t tha a red heart. How ironic a plant haped fruit of silphium, to represent the heart-s ies. tur cen 6th in the 5th and used as a contraceptive

erstand what it is like to III. When I die, I will und we bring a flower—like the ones of appreciate the scent is e (sh ool sch to back my mom on the first day someone rsary of a passing or if a teacher) or the annive have ays alw we y, Da r’s the Mo was just feeling nice. On be to re the sit t kitchen tha flowers in a vase in the n out. glanced at, then throw

VI. The first time I ever rode on a train was wit h my grandmother in Poland . A place I now love to the point that I miss it. I miss the raspy smell of pools of cigarette smoke and the pale gol d auras of wine and bre ad on an aunt's table. There, the y drink real milk and hav e sliced tom ato ily es fam wit ir h the che t ese alone and use the ans originally kep ir legs! I wish IV. Many Native Americ remained right now to be in the living room al lineage. If that value of Warsaw with a lace rch tria ma a h oug thr wh line ite tab er— lec oth loth ndm at gra my hands and ornate crysta name of my l bowls of home-cooked steam today, I would go by the Native ing cabbage and pork, lf holds strong roots to sliced bre Sixkiller. The name itse ad the (alw in ays day ry ), and eve sho ring ts her for the old men in celebratio I wear n American cultures, and ents of our arrival. I long for Poland and the bus and train and —to translate her movem frag attempt to be part of her ran e. ce min of of sw s eet tion fam mo iliar the ity— into yet foreign comfort. te It is one of the only oth and words that she wro d. er places besides hom my name if I get marrie e which I truly know. It is the bon I do not wish to change d with my father—what I would give for Chopin in the rose garden park on a Sunday stroll. If I were to live her e like I do there, it would never ring the same. VII. My grandmothers are the only people wh o ever took me to church. Fro m all sides of all parent s, they all had the same rose per fume. Redolent rose wo men put rosaries into my hands after mass and all I cou ld do was look at them. VIII. The closings of Sun days always put me in a sentimental seat. On my drive home sitting nex t to no one but a disposable cam era, I am at peace. Sta gnant, smooth, and warm pea ce of perfect contentme nt, on the overpass above an orange lake reflected by the sun in set. My worrie s condense to homew ork for the next day and if I hav e time for coffee. I thin k about tomorrow and yesterd ay but not much beyond that.







Nothing grants me so much peace As the sound of motorcycles revving down a quiet residential street, where the sky is blacked out with safety Remiss to the perfect silence and order of the fenced yards who pretend not to hear them Loud and gravelly and without restraint With the cars, I never take much notice But on a weeknight as I lay beneath blankets and atop my familiarity The sound of two tires dragging pavement holds me awake with surmise both for what is certain and what is possible Sometimes floating alone, often together They are the blurry crowd who live just outside of my world; I know I can reach them if I run fast enough, and their faces might render themselves into my rose-tinted vision Trains in the distance remind me of trips downtown, just for the day, where I pretend I don't remember what a mailbox looks like when it withers away But the iron bicycle and its gray rider live as a constant in my mind, in the space between dreams and one-time chances It is both freedom and the assurance that there is always something else out there Who would’ve thought that tires on unmarked pavement could sound so heartening, that an engine could sound this big In essence only motors and mechanics, it is but a faraway, whirring background to the main event of backyard pool parties and hushed exchanges The airplanes fly low over triangular brick-lined summits, everything is mathematically precise But it was never easy to become accustomed to the evasive night riders So when I let the yellowed street lights guide me, the uncertainty keeps a tight grip around my better judgment I don’t imagine the last time I will ever hear the motorcycles in this way, because I have no doubt in my mind Someday my noise will be so terrific

writer CAM AMADO

Topeka, Kansas We ate our burritos in the car with the AC blasting. You went to go run around as the grass sang.

photographer WILLIAM ROWLEY


Maquoketa Caves, Iowa These caves come out of nowhere—you're driving along curved roads that run through farms and suddenly after one right turn you get to feel the inside of 200-foot caves with walls that feel like cool, damp skin.


photographer WILLIAM ROWLEY


wack mag / issue 02 / PLAY issue 02 / play / april 2022


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