RECOVERY WARNINGS 1
Editors Madelyn Fagan firstname.lastname@example.org
WARNINGS Loyola’s Literary and Art Journal Vol. 9 Issue 2 April 2014
Rebecca Heemann email@example.com Editorial and Design Staff Carolanne Chanik Shannon Conley Antonia Gasparis Amanda Ghysel Peter Hadjokas Petra Nanney Diana Parks Wesley Peters Megan Ryan Summer Vaughan Warnings is published periodically. All rights reserved. All content, unless otherwise noted is the property of the author(s). We are not liable in any way for the product of our writer’s imaginations.Warnings welcomes and considers electronic submissions of all genres. Check us out on warningslitmag. tumblr.com, or our Facebook page. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org. If works denoted as fiction or poetry bear any resemblance to actual events, locations or persons, living or dead, it is entirely coincidental. Store in a cool, dry place not to exceed 72°F.
Dear Readers, This time around we explore what it means to work back up from being broken down. To pick up confetti from a party gone by and to get back to work. We’re moving from the old to the newly-recovered, beginning where we left off with gusto. So, what does it mean to the Loyola community to recover?
This issue asks the hard questions. What is it like to forget how to breathe because the weight of the world is pressing down on us tighter than a second skin or a snow peppered parka we cannot unzip for fear of dying from feeling too much? How do we rationalize the cost of college? If love is a drug, how can you follow Nancy Reagan’s advice and just say no? The images that flow through this recovery Thanks to those who helped make this issue raise more curiosity than it sates. There are paper magazine possible: cranes and abandoned roses on benches, but we do not Education For Life, Doug Evans, Crystal know their stories. Join us, and perhaps somewhere between existentialism and the scars of open heart surgery we can Staley, Kelly Gieron, Ned Balbo, Dan Schlapbach, The Writing, Fine Arts, English, relearn what it means to recover. and Communication Departments, SGA, The Greyhound Collective Poetry Revival, Loyola University Maryland, and all those cover image by Petra Nanney who support the arts and creative thought. back image by Summer Vaughan WARNINGS 2
No Money Left Behind “Hi, Mom, how’s it going?” I’m walking from the dining hall during my break between lunch and poetry class. “Badly,” she laughs. My brow sinks. I stop and sit at a table. “Oh no. What does that mean? I was surprised you hadn’t called me yet about the job—” “That’s because I didn’t get it. They called this morning. The one other person they interviewed—you know, as a formality, like they said—well, apparently, she is better qualified.” “Crap! But they said you had the job in the bag.” She’s been out of work for six months now despite her decades of experience as a medical social worker. “Wow, I cannot believe it.” “Gosh, I am just so frustrated.” She has applied for so many jobs and had several interviews, but she’s usually considered either overqualified or not specialized enough in a kind of medical care. Not many places are hiring people like her in Maine.
only this time my mom will be unemployed, too. Mom breaks the silence. “I’m mad at God.”
“It was not fair of them to get your hopes up like that.” “And it gets worse,” she tells me. “Dad had that meeting at work yesterday and they gave them the layoff date—October.” I nod my head. In the silence, we both understand what this means—a reprise of when Dad was laid off the first time 12 years ago,
“I was in third grade when 9/11 happened, and fourth grade when dad got laid off.”
After we talk for a few more minutes, I hang up and sink into the wooden chair. I actually feel a bittersweet relief about Dad. About a year ago, we got the news his department would be cut at some point due to the company merger. I found that out by checking Facebook before philosophy class, and my sister had posted asking for prayers for my dad’s impending job loss. I tried to block the tears of fear and sit through class, but I couldn’t do it. After 20 minutes I gave up, went outside, and called my mom, weeping and hyperventilating to her. That was a year ago in March. Now I look out the window at the grey grass. Why does March always suck? Growing up in Maine, March weather has always been depressing. We don’t have spring, just Mud Season, and March is the worst. The snow piles take months to finish melting, turning the ground into a cold swampland from February to May. March is also the time when my dad lost his job the first time, back in 2003. That was about 18 months after September 11th 2001. He worked for Catholic Charities of Maine as the Director of Social Justice and Peace. I guess that with the war going on and
“I’m mad at God.”
people valuing the ‘charity’ part of Catholic Charities, justice and peace were not high priorities; when the time came for budget cuts, they decided to cut the whole department of Social Justice and Peace, including my dad, the director. His involvement in the supposedly liberal “Voice of the Faithful” group at church was also not too popular with the new president of Catholic Charities, which probably did not help with my dad’s prospects of staying.
I was in third grade when 9/11 happened, and fourth grade when dad got laid off. Everything changed after that. I didn’t realize the larger context of our situation at the time. To me, March 2003 was when I started seeing the Great Recession, although the more official start was is December 2007 (Kalil 232). My family was not unique in experiencing pre-recession financial problems. As one columnist put it, “for most families, the miseries of the Great Recession don’t represent a break from the recent past, just a significant worsening of the stresses they’ve been under for years and years” (Warner). Based on my perspective, it feels like the recession started much earlier than 2007 and never really ended. The official recession was the worst economic crisis in the US since the Great Depression and it resulted from a similar source: WARNINGS 3
investments that fell through. Big American banks lent to other countries and homeowners in huge amount, lending much more money than we or they actually had. A New York Times writer known for breaking down economic news explained the recession’s causes in laymen’s terms: The inrush of capital created the illusion of wealth in these [foreign] countries, just as it did for American homeowners: asset prices were rising, currencies were strong, and everything looked fine. But bubbles always burst sooner or later, and yesterday’s miracle economies have become today’s basket cases, nations whose assets have evaporated but whose debts remain all too real (Krugman).
they had cooler clothes, got an allowance, and didn’t have to bring a bag lunch. I felt like my family was the only one struggling, but I was not the only child-victim of the Great Recession. Research has by Ph. D. Ariel Kalil, director of the Center for Human Potential and Public Policy at the University of Chicago has shown that “parental job and income losses, residential moves, and subjective perceptions of financial strain have negative impacts on children’s human capital accumulation and emotional wellbeing” (245).
“I was not the only child-victim of the Great Recession.”
Economic bubbles burst when people realize that their investments cannot be reclaimed because a bank is not just a big storage bin for money. Ironically, my parents bought a new house right before my dad lost his job. The layoff was so soon after we moved in that we had to cancel our order on the new couch and fridge. My mom still gets bitter about being stuck with the same old blue couch they had since their wedding and the crappy fridge whose freezer is too small. Little things like that seemed so big to me as a 9-year-old. We couldn’t afford cable anymore, ruining my after-school fun. At school I started seeing the difference between me and the other kids. Their parents clearly had more money since WARNINGS 4
My whole family was emotionally severed by dad’s layoff. At about 12-years-old, I developed dysthymia, which is a chromic low-level depression (that went undiagnosed or treated for about 7 years). My sister also starting showing signs of depression at the same time as me. She rebelled a bit in high school, while I just became miserably shy. My mom’s frequent migraines got much worse in those years and my dad became emotionally numb. After about a year of temp jobs and in-vain interviews, my dad accepted an accounting job at a toothpaste factory (the kind of mundane work he never wanted to have). Every day when he came back from work, he shut down. This shutting down continues even now, as he is getting ready for his second lay off after 10
years at the toothpaste company. For me and my sister, this meant going through adolescence with a rather absent father even though he was physically present. My dad’s job loss in a really integral part of my story and my worldview. Kalil noticed that simply the “perceptions of their parents’ job insecurity,” not necessarily actual employment status, “are negatively correlated with the children’s belief in the Protestant work ethic (i.e., that work is inherently good and fulfilling and that hard work can overcome obstacles to success)” (238). I became pretty pessimistic and hopeless about the future of my own work life. I recall being about 12-years old and having convictions that I did not want to go to college because, where did a degree get my Dad? It wasn’t like his Sociology degree was useful for his new job as an accountant. The cost of college seemed too high to balance any benefits. Why get in deeper in debt just to get a job irrelevant to what I learn? Couldn’t I just skip the college step and start working?
“The cost of college seemed too high to balance any benefits.”
Yet here I sit in a college cafeteria. My generation is inheriting lots of debt and a tough job market (Smith). I fear for my impending release into that job market. I recognize and accept that my Writing and Sociology degree won’t make me much money in my life. Money is not the goal for me. Working for money changed my dad. He works harder than anyone I know, yet all his hard work was not really fulfilling or helping him succeed. He has his day job, then
during tax season he works nights and weekends for H&R Block, and in his spare time at home he operates a small eBay antique business. He does not have time or energy for anything but making a living and therefore he is not really living life—and somehow we still don’t have enough to pay our bills on time. I am grateful for the sacrifices he made to keep us in our home and hometown, help me pay for college, and live a comfortable life. But the sacrifice of his time and energy robbed me of a healthy relationship with my father. I vowed to never become numb like him for the sake of comfort and money. I won’t give up work that I am passionate about so easily. My work is worth more to me than a dollar amount. The New York Times recently published a thoughtful refection on my generation, the ‘millennial generation.’ While we have a bad reputation for being lazy, the columnist points out that we “have been forced to rethink success so that it’s less about material prosperity and more about something else […] Millennials appear to be more interested in living lives defined by meaning” (Smith) . My future career in human service nonprofits may not be financially comfortable, but at least I will spend my life doing something I love and find meaning in. That is, if I can even find a job at all! I dread the reality that I might have to settle for less meaningful
work just to make ends meet. Even with my humble ambitions, I may have to accept something less. Looking around the dining hall, I watch my peers laugh and chit-chat and think about the unfairness of the economy. What did my family ever do to deserve this? What did others do to deserve better or worse than us? Injustice is when things are not fair. How is this fair? My parents worked hard and went to college and spent money frugally, yet here we are. If food and shelter are basic human rights, money is necessary to access those things, and jobs are necessary to make money, is not employment a human right? And what of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness? Making money should not control our lives.
“I vowed to never become numb like him for the sake of comfort and money.”
Works Cited Kalil, Ariel. “Effects of the Great Recession on Child Development.” The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 650.1 (2013): 232-50. ProQuest. Web. 22 Mar. 2014. Krugman, Paul. “Revenge Of The Glut.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 01 Mar. 2009. Web. 24 Mar. 2014. Norris, Floyd. “Retreating on Every Front: Time to Say It: Double Dip May Be Happening.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 04 Aug. 2011. Web. 22 Mar. 2014. Smith, Emily Esfahani, and Jennifer L. Aaker. “Millennial Searchers.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 30 Nov. 2013. Web. 22 Mar. 2014. Warner, Judith. “What the Great Recession Has Done to Family Life.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 07 Aug. 2010. Web. 22 Mar. 2014.
But now I have to go to poetry class, which will likely never make me a dime. Still, I enjoy writing poems. I feel like I am producing work that says something meaningful. I feel like those lines document my life and share my perspective with others to impact their lives as well. I hope I don’t give up on the important aspects of my identity like this when I am removed from this college bubble. The future is insecure, but I trust that as long as I focus on living a life that feels meaningful, even if my material needs are not met, my spiritual needs will be satisfied.
by Rachel Christian
Deep Breathing I’m going to let you in on the inner workings of an anxiety attack because you won’t find a good enough help guide on any bookshelf in any store and all of the answers won’t be tattooed by your instincts anywhere on your skin. You might become very overwhelmed but the most important thing you need to remember is you are going to be fine. Your breath is going to lose its steady rhythm and the focus you’ve developed on the soft tenor of your teacher’s voice will shift to the way that piece of minute chalk sliding down the blackboard sounds like burning rubber on hot, black pavement. Your hearing will alternate back and forth from the intense arguments of the sound molecules floating around in your ears to a deep muffled silence, but you need to remember, you are going to be fine. Your cheeks will quickly grow warm in the way a paper towel soaks up a puddle of spilled water on your kitchen counter and your hands will grow clammy and your fingers will feel as if their strength is slowly leaving them and your pencil might slip from your grasp and onto the floor but you won’t be able to bend down and pick it up because the voice in your head says if you move the slightest millimeter, you’ll lose your balance and fall out of your seat and everyone will stare so you’ll sit there quietly instead and tell yourself that you are going to be fine. You are going to start shaking as if the devil himself ran his finger up and down your spine and your stomach will feel like it has dropped from the top of the Burj Khalifa to its foundations deep in the ground and your bones will feel like they’ve been replaced with uranium and your mind is going to race and you’ll start to think of what your mother is cooking for dinner tonight, what cologne the boy next to you is wearing and how expensive it is and who bought it for him, how much a one way ticket out of this town will cost and what it would be like to bungee jump off of a bridge, all in the span of three seconds and the light in the room will begin to dim and you’ll be the only one who notices and finally the sensation of the room spinning will throw you from your seat, out of the door, down the hallway and around three corners to the bathroom where you’ll splash some cold water on your ghostly complexion and you will stare at a dirty spot on the wall and count 50 deep, slow breaths until the earth beings to rotate normally again and the spinning stops and everything begins to make sense again. You are going to look in the mirror, run your fingers through your hair, go back to class and tell yourself I am going to be fine. by Valerie Casola WARNINGS 6
by Antonia Gasparis
by Megan Ryan WARNINGS 8
The Passing of All Shining Things Once, when freckles peppered my cheeks and my eyes sparked with hope and laughter and everything else humanity could use more of, I fell into the ocean, and I think I almost drowned. It wasn’t at all like you’d think it’d be, all flailing limbs and primal panic. I tasted the strange tinge of salt on my tongue and felt gorgeously heavy. And I know my lungs were whispering weakly for oxygen that I could not give them and that the human body is amazing in its frailty, but that is one of my favorite memories. A shining crescent colors the delicate expanse of my foot because I have never been one to give up. It is the only scar I have, and I love the way it mars my skin. Other pale half-moons have found their way to the span of my skin before– sometimes with only the constellations as witnesses, other times in crowded rooms. But drunken clawing does not leave marks that will not heal, and neither do jagged words that tear through muscle and tendon only to burrow deep in my marrow. I may still surrender to the cacophonous whisper of my own thoughts at dawn, and people might have to crack my ribs open to let any light out, but I only have one scar. And I did it to myself. by Shannon Conley
by Summer Vaughan
I’m bleaching my wardrobe pink; it’s what the cancer society suggested.
Let me indulge you with a fashion tip. Swelling lymph nodes don’t suit tank tops. Lacy bras don’t mesh with half a breast. Purpling catheters don’t fit V neck scoops. So what’s left but a wardrobe change? If you can’t hide it, dye it, but I don’t diet. Because the cancer, it does it for you.
I’m trashing all the blues, those hues that accentuate my unfed bones, and tone down the possibility of being more gender neutralized than the doctor’s making me. My lover tells me the fuzz on my head never looked so sexy, and I look like a girl who always wanted to be a blond. People can’t judge you when you’re bald. For once, I let him think he’s right.
by Madelyn Fagan
A Hit of Love I take a hit. Love settles thick upon my heart. It burdens it, makes it unable to perform. It locks in place, Seized by a gargantuan intangible fist, Immovable. Love settles thick in my lungs. Like tar or smoke, it creates a blockage That my lungs Cannot force out, no matter how hard I try to Breathe. Love settles thick in my eyes. It is not the color of roses, nor does everything Suddenly become beautiful. It stings and I shut my eyes to make the world Black. Love settles thick in my mind. Who am I? What am I? Should I be here? It’s all irrelevant. Without love, it cannot be comprehended. Why bother? Love settles thick in my soul. The dichotomy between bliss and guilt, Self-loathing and immense pride; All of the lines I drew in the past have been Blurred. Love begins to thin. I return to myself, judging, reprimanding, “How could you?” Being conscious is coming back to what I was So before I can do that, I take Another hit.
by Sierra Blackwell
Pain and Triumph Pain and I had a relationship for 3 months and 8 days. Pain was watching my family’s matriarch decay into a vegetable and watching my relatives shred her memory so they could salvage what they could for themselves. Pain was losing 25 pounds within 15 days and crying in the shower seeing my ribs poke out. Pain was finally having a meal program and having my body reject it. Pain was realizing my dorm room was never a home. Pain was having my roommate and friend of two years walk past me, paralyzed on the ground, choking on my own salvia, telling me to turn off the light when I am done having my “fit.” Pain was having someone shut the door behind you, sending you into the pouring rain at 3am after telling you, “I never recalled saying that [I loved you].” Pain was going home the same weekend, and burying your Uncle who died from 5th stage brain cancer with a tumor the size of a fist. Pain was losing bit by bit, my ability to read….my ability to write. Pain was people avoiding eye contact while I struggled to get home, having them fear I would wail or collapse, again. Pain was being told by teachers “maybe you should not be an English major.” Pain was having your 21st anxiety attack, signing a contract banning me from campus for this academic school year, returning all the markers of being a college student: keys, ID, and student number. Pain and I broke up November 8. I found someone new. Triumph is realizing the supernatural demon that consumed you is a medical condition, Clinical Anxiety and Depression can be medicated with only $6.50 a month at CVS! That’s cheaper than my phone bill! Triumph is learning that your parents are people. Triumph is keeping a meal down. Triumph is seeing how the immune cells, that your body had eaten in starvation mode, are slowly multiplying from its original 9% to 78%! Triumph is chopping off my hair because it was too heavy. Triumph is getting my morning routine down to a 30-minute recital of me! Triumph is finishing the essays I couldn’t write. Triumph is having the wisdom not to hoard dreams of what college should be. Triumph is recognizing that people with clinical anxiety. 1.) do not Deserve it, 2.) do Try Hard Enough 3.) are worthy of respect. Triumph is my reality.
by Elesa Knowles
by Erin Rizal WARNINGS 13
Father’s Day The phone rang. She stubbed out her Camel Blue into an already jam-packed ashtray, ran one trembling hand through her short crop haircut, and picked up: “Hello?” “I found your father,” said the phone. The girl had been waiting her whole life to hear that. Now, as her nicotineaddled brain registered those words, she leapt to her feet, not really sure how to react. Her eyes shot around the room and landed on a framed Italian restaurant takeout menu. She wondered what clothes she should wear to meet the father she had never met. “I’ll be right there,” said the girl. She hung up. She breathed in and out, mind muddled like the soupy morning fog in San Francisco, where she lived. Her fingers twitched involuntarily. Jesus Christ, keep it together, she thought. The girl slipped into her favorite Rolling Stones tee, stepped into her lucky white Converse All Stars, and started to stuff her duffel bag with things she thought she might need: a bag of Honey Nut Cheerios, a paperclipped clump of Andrew Jacksons, a toothbrush. The girl pulled her mother’s paisley-printed cardigan sweater out of a drawer and folded it neatly on top. Her mother, unlike her father, was no longer part of this world, not really; she could be found in a psych ward somewhere, with some other schizophrenic people, rattling on and on in a language all her own. The girl reached for the old brass doorknob to her apartment, but remembering, glanced at her dormitory-sized bed, the room she had been living in alone for the past nine months. She remembered all the odd jobs she had gotten during all that time to rake together her rent: stocking vegetables at a Food-4-Thought,
babysitting the Japanese twin boys next door, euthanizing animals at a local veterinary clinic. She remembered all the late nights spent closing up at Papa Roppa’s Place, the family-owned Italian restaurant three blocks down the street from her pad. Somehow, she felt that she had been preparing for this moment all along, the moment she would finally meet her father. The girl took a lot of comfort in thinking that everything happened for a reason. She closed the door behind her, drifted out into the humid dawn. The dotted blue lights of the Bay Bridge curved up into the early morning fog, almost out of sight, but there. Her head swam with a comfortable warmth, the kind you feel after three or five drinks. She almost forgot where she was going. But she had never felt more purposeful in all her twenty-one years. “Hey, Dad,” she said to herself, cupping a Camel against the breeze off the bay. “You don’t know me, but…No. Hi, Dad!” She rehearsed the whole scene, adding and subtracting details, pretending that her father had never disappeared in the first place, that he was proud of his daughter, although she knew there was little to be proud of. The taste of her cigarette was suddenly acrid, overbearing. She flicked it into an alleyway, one ember-glowing fleck in the shadow. The girl followed the cracked concrete to her cousin’s apartment. Her cousin was a private investigator; he was the voice on the other end of the phone. The girl felt loose, and the warmth in her head, which swam with blurred images of a man she never had the chance to get to know, shaped itself into introspection… A lot had changed for her in college, at least in her first two years. Lacking
the discipline and compassion of a parent, she melted away into hurtful habits: smoking weed daily, sleeping often, keeping little to no company. The girl remembered looking at her reflection in a bathroom mirror one night. Her eyes, her favorite features, had become someone else’s. They were unrecognizable to her, filmed over, like they had seen too much of something and didn’t care to see anymore. She had a nervous breakdown the morning after an LSD-fueled night spent with a boy she really liked. They hadn’t gotten anywhere. The boy, with dilated pupils and shimmering grin, flirted with other girls at the party they went to together. The girl, knowing that the boy didn’t think of her what she thought of him, caved in to insecurity and paranoia. She left the party, desperately wanting a parent to talk to. A mother—or a father. That night, the girl slung back shot after shot of Burnett’s vodka, alone, until she couldn’t taste the vodka any longer. She passed out on the couch in nothing but her mother’s cardigan sweater. She dropped out the following week, knowing full well how many people didn’t know she was there in the first place. She had since quit coping with her feelings and fears via pot and liquor, uppers and downers, but these things didn’t leave her entirely unaltered; her voice had grown quiet, but her thoughts were always loud. “Mia!” The girl looked up at hearing her name and centered herself in the present. “Mia, over here!” Her cousin was pissing all over somebody’s hedge. He zipped up his Levi’s, lurched toward her. Mia dropped her duffel and caught him in her arms.
“How have you been, Tom?” she said. Tom, a tall, thin guy with an untamable tangle of red hair, squeezed her close, then grabbed her by the biceps and gazed into her brown eyes with glazed ones of his own, very serious-like. His breath smelled like tepid Pabst. He was beaming.
that. She all of a sudden felt let down. She always imagined her dad being a lawyer or a dentist, for some reason. Mia pictured a man in a tacky casino dealer’s vest, the kind decorated with red dice and card suits, spinning a Roulette wheel over and over and over again. It was an unpleasant image.
“You’ve done more than I could’ve ever asked for, Tom.” Then something occurred to her, something she had spent many restless nights turning over in her mind. “One more thing,” she said, “What’s his name?”
“I did good, I think,” he said.
“Oh!” Tom stood up. “I have something for you…” He revealed from underneath yesterday’s edition of the San Francisco Chronicle two Amtrak tickets. “For you,” he said, “Round trip to and from San Diego.” His cheeks were flushed, almost matching his hair. “Thought I’d save you the trouble. Anyway, I hope an eight a.m. departure’s all right.”
Somehow, although she had never considered it, the name seemed right.
“You did great,” said Mia. She picked up her duffel. “Where is he?” “San Diego.” Tom took the bag from her hand and ushered her along a pale, trash-strewn side street. “San Diego,” she repeated. “Shit.” Mia followed her older cousin into his graffitied flat, heart thumping against her breasts. The fuzzy images of her father returned. Glasses. Somehow, she knew he wore glasses. The walls of her cousin’s place ran amok with spray-painted faces and emerald green Christmas lights. Tom, out of habit, swerved into the cluttered kitchenette, poked around in the fridge, and cracked open another cold can of PBR. He looked at Mia, pointed to his beer. “Sure,” she said. They plopped down on a plaid loveseat, raised their drinks and clunked them together. “Mia, you don’t know how happy this makes me. For you. I’m happy for you.” Mia smiled, which always seemed to come so naturally to her, despite the fact that she was miserable a lot of the time. “How’d you find him?” “Well.” Tom took a sip. “It turns out that not too many people have the last name Gounarlios.” Mia laughed at that. She loathed her last name. “He’s a croupier at a casino called Slots-A-Lot, or something equally corny.” “Oh.” Mia didn’t know what to say to
Again, Mia was speechless. She felt like she was spiraling down a rabbit hole. Everything was happening too quickly. She shut her eyes, opened them to see her towering cousin, still beaming, with the train tickets extended. “Thanks, Tom. For everything. How can I repay you for—?” “Just tell him that his nephew says hi.” Mia got up and planted a kiss on his cheek. “How’s your mom?” Tom asked. “It’s been a long time since I’ve visited her. A real long time.” “So it goes.” That was Tom’s favorite refrain. Those three simple, worldweary words, which seemed to both accept and dismiss everything at once, like what Mia had said was sad, but that it was also okay. “Hey! You know what today is, don’t you?” “Sunday, right?” “It’s Father’s Day!” Mia giggled. The revelation was strangely comforting to her. “Seems ironic,” she said. “Apropos,” said Tom. “Listen, if you need anything—”
“Mac. Mac Gounarlios.”
∆ The basis of her extreme optimism, that theirs would be a glorious fatherdaughter reunion, lay in the one deep-rooted, positive memory she had of him. It was ill-defined, like an out-of-focus photograph, but she was convinced it happened, sometime around the age of three, when impressions of things just begin to be retained. It was a dark and stormy kind of night. Rain was thrashing the roof. Mia recalled darting down a carpeted hallway toward a bedroom that was bigger than hers. The thunder seemed to split her ears open every time it pealed overhead. She recalled warm, salty tears on her lips, dribbling off her chin. She was very scared. In the darkness of the bedroom, an arm held her skinny frame. A huge hand massaged her left shoulder. She could almost still feel its callused texture. And the smell of cigarette smoke, like damp urine, lingering on that hand. She recalled the cigarette itself, not the face behind it, one ember-glowing fleck in the shadow. And then he was gone. After about eight hours of travel and only an hour of sleep, Mia found herself standing out front of the address that her cousin had given her. She stared at the small house ahead, a cookie-cutter house that looked like every other one in the neighborhood.
The taxi cab that dropped her off creeped away from the curb, and suddenly Mia felt very alone. It was cloudy and cool in San Diego. It smelled like rain. Mia adjusted the sleeve of her mother’s sweater, which she had put on in the cab, and stepped forward. The grass was dead and prickly. This was the moment. But Mia felt detached, not there. She realized then that she wasn’t ready. How do you show up and expect to bridge such a gap? What did she expect would happen? That life would go back to being “normal”? That she would stay with him awhile, spend their days catching up? Closure, thought Mia, I just want closure. Before she knew it, she was at the front door. Her heart was in her throat, throbbing. Her palms were moist. She knocked three times. She waited a full minute, and then she heard movement—soft, slow steps advancing across a wooden floor.
The bags under his eyes were like bruises, and the eyes themselves had both a cruelty and a blankness in them, as though he were bipolar, prone to violence. In his right hand was a squarish glass filled with cheapstinking bourbon and two ice cubes. He was bald. He didn’t wear glasses. They stood facing each other, both barely breathing. The man swallowed some of his drink, glanced at the duffel bag slung across the girl’s left shoulder, ran the back of a calloused hand across his lips, and said, “What do you want?” “Mac?” “Yeah?” “I-I think I’m your daughter.” The man took one look at the paisleyprinted cardigan sweater, and Mia could tell that from behind his expressionless eyes, the article of clothing registered in his whiskeyaddled brain. He took a step back, mouth screwed up into a grimace. “My name’s Mia,” said Mia.
The man that opened the door was no one she had ever envisioned.
Half a minute later, the man replied, “I know it.”
He had a colorless goatee, two chins, and a stomach the size of a rubber exercise ball that stretched his unwashed undershirt to its limit.
And that’s when Mia saw the man, her father, for who he was: a lonely man, a man who hardly ever laughed. A
man scared of intimacy, who would rather be with his own thoughts and a few drinks than with anyone else. She saw a man who struggled to keep commitments. She saw a lot of herself in him. But unlike her, this was a man who didn’t want to change, who had, for some reason, given up wanting anything. “Go home, Mia,” he said. Mia regarded the sadness in his eyes. She tried to channel an appropriate response, tried to connect with it all, with this chance to meet her long-lost father. But the moment passed. She nodded. There was nothing else to be said. She felt a cold rush of solace shoot up her spine as he quietly closed the door. And she was at peace. ∆ When she finally got home, she cleaned up her room, threw out her pack of Camel Blues. She spent the next night closing up at Papa Roppa’s Place, the family-run Italian restaurant down the street from where she lived, and made plans to visit her mother the following morning, where she would return to her an old cardigan sweater.
by Peter Hadjokas
by Rebecca Heemann
Outside the Walls
by Antonia Gasparis
An Existential Crisis in December Have you ever really thought about it, how death might just be an eternity of nothingness? He poses a question. It crawls from the backseat onto my lap. Brian, stop. Please stop. Please sing to me instead.
I think about it all the time. But I don’t think that I am afraid. Kelly, please. I am afraid. I am sinking into the passenger seat, and I cannot breathe. You are holding the steering wheel. I am closing my eyes. Panic is no longer sweaty palms on an elevator and the fear of being trapped inside. This is panic. Existentialism keeps his foot near the brake and puts a hand against my chest. He is the dark shadows of the trees. No, he is the sunlight shining through the front window of the car. At the end of each yoga practice, our instructor tells us to assume the corpse pose. Lay on your back. Face your palms upward. Close your eyes. Melt into your yoga mat. Melt away from the room. Melt away from your mind. Melt into nothingness. I melt into the passenger seat. Someone please tell me that everything is going to be okay. Someone please tell me that I am here. We are driving on the highway now. Faster. The sun is sinking behind the mountains. Its light pushes blood red through the glass windows. Existentialism keeps his hands on my shoulders until the sun has disappeared completely. Then, there is no light to cast him as a shadow across my body. There is only the absence of light. Darkness. Night. I touch my left arm with my right hand. Something. Breathe. Later, Brian, Kelly, and I will walk through West Brookwood, and it will be raining. I will hear Existentialism’s footsteps trailing behind my own, but when I turn around, I will not see him. The sky will be red. The trees will be black. We will stop in front of a house with white Christmas lights and plastic snowmen on the lawn while Brian plays his guitar and sings Hallelujah. Kelly will say that this is magic. I will think, but will not say, that this is impermanence. I also will not say that I am with two people standing in the center of a neighborhood full of families in houses and that I feel alone. I will not ask, does anybody else feel this way too? The final notes of Hallelujah trail through the air to someplace we cannot see. Once my theology professor said that he is positive of the soul’s immortality after death. He said that faith is a matter of what happens at the end of all time. Existentialism is big enough to swallow the entire world. He is big enough to swallow a rainy night in West Brookwood. But he sometimes shrinks himself to the size of small black car, or the size of a classroom.
by Summer Vaughan
“Forgiveness is for anybody who needs a safe passage through my mind.” ~ BUDDY WAKEFIELD