Waymark LITERARY MAGAZINE
Kennesaw State University
SPRING / SUMMER 2020
Everyone is a storyteller. Waymark is a student-led publication of Kennesaw State University that welcomes submissions online from any storyteller. We are committed to fiction, literary nonfiction, poetry, and art of the spirit and heart, that will mark the lives of those who read them, those who write them, and those who publish them.
DISCLAIMER All literature, artwork, and digital work published in Waymark are self-expressions of their creators and do not represent the ideas or views of our staff, advisors, or the university and its affiliates.
COVER ART "One" by Makda Mulugeta | acrylic on canvas
Editor in Chief
JONQUIL HARRIS Nonfiction Editor
MATTHEW MCCADDEN DANIEL EDMONDSON Nonfiction Reader
TROY DEL FAVERO Poetry Editor
About the Magazine
The Beauty of Confrontation
Blood from Stone
Running Away in Place
A Little Late
Eleven Days 'til Sunday
Untitled No. 1
Serving Size: A Fraction of Myself
For Gal Budgen
You and a Blond
Untitled No. 2
A Man with a Horrible Dent on His Head
Time and Necessity
A Deal Is a Deal
THE BEAUTY of CONFRONTATION By Yan An Translated by Chen Du & Xisheng Chen
我不是一个简陋的自然主义者 就是说我不是一只蜜蜂 或者一条河流 我不是赶着花期或汛期 去接近世界濒临崩溃的目标的人 我是手握铁镐的人 我是手握一把碎玻璃的人 我是手握一把因为使用太久而闪闪发亮的铁镐 走走停停一直在选择和丈量地方 一直在挖掘大地和它在远方的沉默的人 我在旧宅院和荒凉地带撒下一把碎玻璃 像在未经识别的恒星上撒下一把种子 我在没有被蚯蚓耕耘过的沙地上挖掘 我在没有被树根腐蚀过的盐碱地上挖掘 我在波涛拍打过的海边荒地上挖掘 我在星空下在黑暗 使世界变得更加深沉或莫测的地方 有时我失去了挖掘的耐心 像撒下一把种子一样撒下碎玻璃 最终 我也在自己之中挖掘 在身体中 在生与死已暗中通融的地带 我挖掘出另一个星空 和属于该星空的那些奇异的碎屑和垃圾 那些仿佛碎玻璃一样难以驯服的碎片 不为别的 只为亲眼目睹 它与头顶的星空之河 那种棉絮般难以澄清的默契 或者对峙之美
I am not a simple naturalist That is to say I am not a bee or a river Or a man taking advantage of anthesis or floodtime To get close to the nearly crumbled goals of the world I am a man holding fast to an iron pickaxe Holding fast to a fistful of shattered glass Holding fast to an iron pickaxe that gleams due to overuse Walking, on and off, always selecting and surveying the land Always excavating earth and its yonder silence I spread a fistful of shattered glass On an old courtyard and a desolate region As if I were scattering a fistful of seeds on an unidentified star I dig in the sandy land unploughed by earthworms I dig in alkali soils uncorroded by tree roots I dig in a beach wasteland lapped up by waves Under the starry sky at the place where the darkness Renders the world more profound and unfathomable Sometimes when I lose the patience to excavate I spread shattered glass as if I were scattering a fistful of seeds Eventually I dig in myself Inside my body in a zone where life and death Accommodate with each other secretly I dig out another starry sky And the bizarre debris and waste that belong to it Those shards as tameless as shattered glass All for nothing but to witness in person The rapport, hard to elucidate like a wad of cotton That is between them and the galaxy above my head Or the beauty of confrontation
BLOOD from STONE By Robert McGuill
His face took on a troubled expression when he reached the ledge, but it had nothing to do with the harrowing end awaiting him should a faulty step send him toppling into the ravine. It was the strange sound that had come and gone on the breeze that disturbed him. He wasn’t certain it was music—it passed too quickly to tell—but if it had been music, the difficult trek he’d undertaken would run up against the deadest of dead ends. It came again, as faintly as before, and this time he paused to listen. When he stopped, one of his boots struck soft ground, setting loose a stream of gravel that trickled over the rocky lip of the ravine. Pebbles rained down on the water, and after a breath or two tiny spouts jumped from the glassy surface. Jack? Yes, Pop? When I’m gone, I want you to do something for me?
Will you do that for me, Jack? When the time comes? Jack glanced up from the meal he was preparing, lowered the knife in his hand and said, When the time comes, yes. His father continued to stare at the mountains. He stood in the yellow grass silhouetted against the horizon, posed like the figure in the photograph Jack would later see in the International Journal of Earth Sciences alongside the obituary that read: George James Dunstan, fossil hunter and conservationist. Field agent, U.S. Geological Survey. His father was the only man Jack had ever known who could use words like “unconformity,” and “deep time” and make them sound natural to the unwashed ear. He was also the only educated man Jack had ever known who was more at home in the wild than civilization. He had made a life’s work of studying, mapping, and cataloging what he fondly called uncodified phenomenon, and somehow, with Jack at his side, managed to turn it into one long marvelous adventure.
Whatever you want. I want you to scatter my ashes on the Greenback. That was a year ago, autumn. They’d spent the morning fishing the river, and that evening, near sunset, his father stood hunched at the edge of camp and looked out at the snowy ridge of the Gray Fangs, gnarled fingers clutching the handle of his briar walking stick. Eyes dim with the years.
Geology, his father told him, is the bedrock of existence. Books are fine for knowing facts. But if you want to understand the human soul, Jack, look at the land a fellow lives on. It does as much to shape his character as his mother’s touch. Jack accepted this declaration without argument, for the only home he’d ever known was the west, and the only mothering he’d ever received had come at the roughened hands of men.
Why the old man had predicted “the time was coming” Jack never knew. It might have been his father was only thinking aloud. Doing the math old men do when they count out their waning days. But the words proved prophetic. His father died, and whatever he’d seen as he leaned on his walking stick that evening, contemplating the horizon, was a secret that perished with him. His father had been raised in an orphanage, mind urged to early maturity by stern priests in long black cassocks. But it was the wilderness that had shaped his soul. In his scholarship the old man had come to know something about everything, and his days in the wild had tempered him, teaching him to fear nothing, not even death. It’s the way of things, Jack. Without death there’d be no order in the world. The Gray Fangs had glowed that night, giving ghostly account of themselves against the darkening sky, jagged peaks white and shining, roots a soft shade of lavender. Day’s coming I won’t be able to make this trip, the old man said, turning his eyes from the mountains and hobbling toward the fire where Jack was cooking. Terrain’s too tough for me now. Ground I’m able to cover shrinks with every season. Jack looked over, watching from the corner of his eye as the old man took a seat in the grass. Knees, hips, eyes, the old man said, picking up a box of garnets and sorting through them with his rock hammer, they’re all going. The old man enumerated the deficiencies that plagued his body without complaint, the assessment clinical, pragmatic. He spoke of his infirmities the same unsentimental way he spoke of leaving Jack’s mother a year after Jack was born. It was what it was, he said. People changed. The world changed. Jack watched his father hold one of the red gemstones
gemstones to the fading light and scribble something in his moleskin notebook. You’re a rock yourself, he scoffed. You’ll live to be a thousand. The old man tilted his head and smiled, doubtfully. Decrepitude gets the better of everybody, Jack. There’s no outliving it. I toughened myself to the idea of old age a long time ago. Saw it for what it was, and made peace over what it was going to cost me. I can’t say I care for it. I’m like anybody else, I don’t like giving up my old ways. But the world isn’t going to stop turning on my account. Jack jostled the fire with a stick and laid a cast-iron skillet on the coals. The sky was red, the sun already behind the peaks. He took a small tin of oil from his cook bag and opened it, pouring a thin stream of the yellow liquid into the skillet. He didn’t like hearing his father talk defeat. He understood the old man’s argument, but he wasn’t ready to accept it. His father was a spry seventy-three year old, and as long as they looked out for one another nothing would happen to them. They could adapt. Endure the hardships of the mountain as the mountain itself endured them. It’s never easy quitting something you love, the old man said as Jack stoked the flames. But there’s no avoiding it. Your only choice in the matter, if you have any choice at all, is whether or not to go out gracefully. He looked into the flames, eyes far away. I don’t ever want to be one of those people, Jack. You know? The kind who embarrasses himself chasing after what he can’t have? A man has to know when to lay down his tune and move on. You get greedy up here with the mountain, trust me, she’ll put you in your place. And if she does, don’t go looking for mercy. Because you won’t find it. They ate pan-fried trout and wild onions that night. The old man sat before the fire with a blanket wrapped around his shoulders, saying little, though there was clearly much on his mind. They passed a flask back and forth, getting pleasantly drunk, and the more they drank the better Jack felt about things.
They turned in late, tugging wool blankets over their shoulders while a breeze moved up through the woods, and the moon climbed over the treetops. It was a peaceful evening, but a little after midnight Jack was awakened by his father’s cries.
I’m sorry, son. I—
He sat up, stiffly, eyes fighting off the dark. The moaning was coming from the trees, and he tossed aside his blankets and hurried down into the woods.
I lost my walking stick down there—
Moonlight washed the country in a bluish silver light.
He sat the old man down after dressing him and put his damaged arm in a sling. He gave him aspirin. Water. But the injury was worse than either of them imagined. The pain could not be deadened, and the old man grew dizzy, disoriented. He vomited in the grass, then slumped onto his blanket where he closed his eyes.
Pop! Pop, where are you! A voice came, weakly, from the shadows. Jack.
Jack set his teeth and began rummaging the old man’s pack for a clean change of shorts and trousers. It wasn’t your fault, he insisted. It was mine.
Don’t talk, Pop. Please.
Pop? Down here, Jack. Jack recognized his father’s form crumpled on the ground, dark among the trees and stones. It was the whisky, the old man said. I got up to empty my bladder. I stumbled. The old man was hurt, though Jack could not be certain how serious the injury was. He took his time helping him to his feet. Watching to see what, if anything, had been damaged. I pissed myself, his father said bleakly. The words came as a blow. Here, Jack said, taking the old man’s arm. Hold on to me. They made their way back to camp, and the old man pried his son’s fingers from his arm. Will you— He couldn’t disguise the humiliation in his voice. Will you help me into something dry, Jack? Sure, Pop. They looked at one another.
The next morning Jack fashioned a travois from aspen limbs and dragged the old man cross-country under a bruised sky to a clearing near a place called Grave Spring. The Jeep was parked on a deserted forestry road not far away, and Jack carried the old man to it and buckled him into the seat, unconscious. It was half a day’s drive down the mountain, and at the hospital in Story the old man was pronounced dead of a ruptured spleen. The doctor who examined him escorted Jack into a small office off the waiting room and stood with a clipboard in his hands detailing the probable events of the old man’s demise. He spoke in an earnest tone, calling the tragedy a case of old age running up against bad luck. But Jack knew better. It was what his father used to tell him when he was a boy. Poor judgment, Jack. That’s what kills men up here.
He started out again, leaving the ridge behind. He’d been traveling west on the game trail since dawn, but now he turned north and hiked down into the cool shade of the canyon. The trail narrowed, switch-backing through a mangle of great white rocks. It made a stair-stepped descent, boulder by boulder toward the river, twisting through an oldgrowth forest of lodgepole pine where thickets of gambol oak and mountain mahogany snatched at
the legs of his trousers. When the music appeared again he looked up at the canyon rim, wondering where it was coming from. He’d seen rain fall from clear blue skies on the mountain, droplets traveling staggering distances from the clouds that birthed them, and he couldn’t help but wonder if the music was coming to him the same way. Ferried over the mountains on a gust of wind. The sight of the first ATV, half-hidden in the brush, put an end to this notion. The appearance of the second dashed it. It was the first time in fifty years Jack had seen evidence of another man’s presence in this wild, untamed country, and the sight of the machines came as a heavy blow. He stopped and stared at them. Both vehicles, whose yellow license plates bore the red Zia of New Mexico, were caked with gouts of dried red mud, and the small egg-shaped camper attached to the dirtier of the two by a metal tow bar, was decorated with American flags and stickers with patriotic slogans. He walked on, and as he did the music gained in volume. Soon he saw a tent and ice chests, a ring of blackened stones in which a small fire burned, and in the trees not far away, a sagging clothesline strung with garments, swinging lazily in the breeze. His feet slowed. He turned his head and spat, dryly. Under one of the trees, two lawn chairs and a small metal table had been set out, arranged in such a way that the chairs looked down at the river, near the spot where his father had asked to be buried—the spot his father had called the last best place on earth. The table was cluttered with whisky bottles, and beneath it a burlap sack overflowed with trash. The camp looked old, lived in. Jack stopped and shifted his pack. The music blared. The man saw Jack before Jack saw the man, and
when the New Mexican came from behind the trees his face was twisted into an awkward frown, as if he’d been caught in the act of some petty crime. A dog with brindled hair appeared at the New Mexican’s side. It stood rigidly, glaring at Jack with empty black eyes. Change comes to the mountain in its own way, Jack. Might take forty years, might take forty million, but some morning a long time from now, the sun’ll rise and it won’t be the same. Gray Fangs won’t be the Gray Fangs anymore. They’ll be some new range that’s standing on the Gray Fang’s shoulders, and you won’t recognize them. The man was bare-chested, wearing only khaki cargo shorts and a pair of unlaced work boots. He took a slow, deep draw from the cigarette between his fingers and squinted. He was squat, firmly built, and hard around the eyes. He appeared as displeased to see Jack as Jack was to see him. Jack raised his chin, offering a small stiff greeting, and the man reciprocated, guardedly. The music continued to play, but the New Mexican made no show to stop it. He crushed his cigarette under his boot and gripped his belt, a gesture that called attention to the holstered pistol he carried on his hip. Jack looked at the pistol, then at the trees and the water. The New Mexican fondled the pit bull’s ear. The pack on Jack’s back grew heavy, and he recognized the weight for what it was. Sin. He’d promised his father he would bury him here on the Greenback, but now, seeing what the river had become, knowing it was no longer theirs and never would be again, he had already decided to go back on his word. The man stepped sideways, warily, and reached across the cluttered metal table, turning down the volume on the music player.
“Somethin you want?” Jack stared at him. The man rested his hand lightly on the butt of the pistol and jutted his chin, waiting. But Jack said nothing. The pit bull opened its jaws and let out a yawning whine. A crow cawed from a nearby tree. Words gathered in the dark of Jack’s mind, but he was too shaken to speak them. He wanted to shame the New Mexican. Tell him yes, there was something he wanted. He wanted him to know that he’d hiked across this mountain for two days without rest, with a dead man’s ashes on his back, and that the ground they were standing on—the ground he, the New Mexican, had defiled with his dog and his trash and his empty whisky bottles and his ridiculous pistol—was hallowed ground, and that his presence here was a desecration from which it would never recover. But he didn’t say these things. Or anything like them. Instead, he turned and walked away. The man called after him, but Jack ignored his shouts. He’d gone so numb at what he’d seen that even the dog and pistol ceased to concern him. The whole reason for his being here had been rendered meaningless, and there was nothing left now but to endure the long journey home and forget about the Greenback forever. He walked west, and when he reached the game trail that led upriver, into the distant reaches of the canyon, he stopped and closed his eyes. The music from the portable player had begun again. Near a break in the rocks a hawk pushed off from the top of a spruce on the far side of the river, and the boughs shook under the thrust of the bird’s talons. Jack looked up as the branches settled into a
lazy sway, needles trembling. A fine dust of gold pollen sifted down on the breeze, and he watched it fall then shifted his pack and walked on. You can’t hold onto things that won’t be held, Jack, his father used to say. They’ll only break your heart. You need to learn to let go. Take strength from what was, find hope in what is. It’s all a man can do. But Jack wasn’t his father. He loved the mountain for what it had been, and hated it now for what the New Mexican had turned it into. The trail ran north, cutting across a steep rock shelf at the upper edge of the canyon, and Jack, now a hard mile from the New Mexican’s camp, rested and looked down on the river. There was a deep pool set with smooth white rocks, and downstream from the pool, below the rocks, a flat run where the pebbles on the river bottom turned the water the color of tea. There were trout in the pool. Jack could see them making slow circles, and for a few moments he forgot about the New Mexican, and remembered his father and the gifts the old man had given him. What do you make of this, Jack? The old man was holding up a stick he’d pulled from the underbrush and strung tight, end-to-end, with the lace from his boot. Jack was a boy of ten, maybe twelve. I’d call it a bow, he told his father. An archer’s bow. A bow! The old man laughed, nocking a pretend arrow and sending it into the air. Imagine that! We’ve taken a shoelace and used it to turn a humble stick into a tool. A weapon! Our harmless branch is now an instrument for procuring food. Protecting us against an enemy. He looked across the fire, eyes sparkling. I wonder, Jack. Is that all we can hope from our invention? Is this where civilization begins and ends? With primitive acts of violence? Or is there more? What else can be imagined?
Jack shrugged. The old man raised a finger. Watch! Lowering the bow, he set it to a vertical plane and pantomimed the making of a fire with a spindle. What about warmth, Jack? What about light? He raised the bow to his breast and plucked it like a harp. What about music? Culture? He handed the bow to Jack. One bow, three possibilities. Each a gift in its own way.That’s the beauty of change, son. Change opens the world to new purpose. New possibilities. Jack watched the fish turn circles in the pool. Then his eyes narrowed and a quizzical look took his face. On the water’s surface a wrinkled reflection appeared, and the pool rippled and the trout darted away. He raised his head and saw a shape move along the riverbank, and it was only then that his mind was at last able to account for the second ATV. The woman was sorting her way upriver. Her hair was knotted in a red headscarf, and she wore mirrored sunglasses and denim shorts cut high and tawdry around her thighs. Her black tank top exposed the tattooed flesh of her thick white arms, and in her small hand she carried a cheap spincasting rod. Scatter my ashes up on the Greenback. Will you do that for me, Jack? I want to be part of the mountain when I die. The old man’s words played in Jack’s mind like the punchline to a cruel joke, and his face darkened as he watched the woman cast out her line. His opinion of her was already fixed. How could it not be? If she was graceless enough to throw in with the lout back at camp, what more was there to know? Trash was trash. The woman sloshed to the water’s edge and laid her rod on a stone, and there, as if to prove the miserable truth of his observation, unzipped her shorts and squatted in the shallows. Jack turned away with a grimace, toeing the ground with his boot. He’d failed his father in so many ways
he could no longer bear to count them. Yet this was the worst of all those disappointments combined, because it had meant the most to the old man. Enough to be his dying wish. He stooped and picked up a small colored stone that had come to rest against his boot. Turned it in his hand. You can’t hold onto things that won’t be held, Jack. They’ll only break your heart. You need to learn to let go. A cloud gathered in his chest and his eyes misted as he wondered what he’d done that night, last autumn, getting the old man drunk? Letting him take that awful spill? He dragged his shirt cuff across his eyes and flung the stone away. His father could have explained what happened next. What uncodified phenomenon played a role in the stone’s trajectory as it crossed the broken lip of the rocks and arced into the sky. He would have put his scientific mind to the problem, patiently explaining the physics of the stone’s parabola, offering mathematical calculations regarding its velocity. Its acceleration as it climbed and fell. He would have even known the reason why, when Jack shouted out his warning, the woman’s inclination was to turn in the direction of the danger instead of away from it. But what Jack witnessed made no sense at all. The stone struck the woman squarely in the forehead and knocked her sunglasses into the water. Yet her only reaction was to raise her eyes and stare at him. She passed her fingers over her forehead and checked her hands for blood that wasn’t there. Then, for reasons passing understanding, released her grip on the spin-casting rod and sat down carefully in the channel. The river curled around her middle.
The sun went and came from behind a cloud, but the woman stayed where she was. She said nothing and made no sound, nor did she show any sign of being hurt until, without warning, she toppled sideways into the water. She struck her head on a broad flat stone, and now there was blood, a bright red swath of it. Her head sank beneath the current, and her red scarf came loose from her hair, floating toward the flat run where the pebbled river bottom turned the water the color of tea. But there was nothing Jack could do. She lay face down, and the terrain that separated them made it impossible to reach her. She floated among the stones, arms wide. Legs spread like a parachutist’s, suspended in freefall. The pool’s surface reflected a sky both above and below her, but if she was falling she was falling to certain death. He took a step back. Her body bobbed on the water, dark hair swirling, and the blood on the broad flat stone glistened in the sun. He gave a hasty glance upriver, searching the water for the rock he’d cast away, but it wouldn’t be found. It was lying on the bottom of the channel, huddled in innocence among others of its like and kind, and would remain there until the end of time. Evidence of nature’s impartial justice, and nothing more. His father was right, as always. It was the way of things. There was no place for blame here, or regret, or even sorrow because what had happened happened, and nothing could have stopped it. It was the woman’s time, Jack told himself. Her death, however unlucky, had served to correct some niggling deficiency in nature’s plan, and in its wake brought new order to the world. He lifted his eyes to the ridge.
It was a long way, but he could reach Grave Spring by noon tomorrow.
BLUE DAY sketch and color
By Andy Hollingworth
ABSENCE By Edward Lee
A child cries and I am undone. It does not matter where I am or what I am doing—when I hear a child cry, it is only with bone-shaking effort that I do not cry myself. I must close my eyes against the pressure of tears in the corner of my eyes, and even then I am not always successful in keeping those tears from my cheeks. Minutes must pass before I can continue doing whatever I was doing; there have even been occasions when I have felt my legs weaken and have had to lean onto the wall, sit down on the nearest chair, even the ground. My daughter is seven years of age. Seventeen months ago her mother and I separated, and I went from seeing my daughter every day to only seeing her every second weekend. Each day without her I feel her absence as a physical weight sitting deep in my chest. Even now, almost a year and a half later, her absence hangs here, bearing down on me as much as it did in the first few weeks, when the sting of it was fresh. It has not lessened. The only change it undergoes is when it grows, as it does when I hear a child cry, or when I see another girl similar to my little girl, or when I hear the word ‘daddy’ spoken by a young girl or boy. I instinctively raise my head, expecting to see my daughter even as I realize it is not her, and the disappointment slashes through me with such force it is as though all that makes me a father is being ripped from my soul. The relentless burden of her absence may be due to the depression I have suffered from for most of my life, which has always amplified my stress and other negative emotions; that was certainly the case at the beginning of this ordeal before an increase in medication and months long therapy brought it back to manageable levels. Or it may be some other reason I fail to understand. Maybe it will remain
unknown to me for as long as I am feeling it so strongly, blinded to it by it blinding me. It is a void deeper, colder than any grief I have felt before, and one which does not seem to pass, as grief is meant to pass, as we are told it passes, as I have felt the grief I have known in the past, pass. Nor is it becoming a dull echo of what it once was, still present, but in the background, not a hinderance to life and its living, which can be the case when the grief is too great to fade completely away. No, mine is not a dull echo, nor is it a peripheral presence, leaving my life and my living unencumbered. It feels equal to what I imagine it would feel like if— and here my fingers tremble as I type—my daughter was no longer alive. Maybe seventeen months is not enough for this feeling to begin to dwindle. Maybe I need another seventeen months. Maybe less, maybe more. Maybe it will never pass, and I will need to learn how to make some semblance of peace with it. I have spoken to other separated fathers—and, sadly, there are many out there, some made so by their own choices, others, like me, by the choices of others. They have spoken of their own pain at being absent from the children’s lives, yet few of them have said that they experienced it as long as I have, to the degree I have. I thought I might find comfort in seeking out other fathers. My therapist suggested this as a way to alleviate the pain, but it has only added to it, with the pain of the few who cannot seem to adjust to the change causing me the most anguish, as though in seeing and speaking to them I am seeing myself reflected, and in this mirror image my own pain is doubled. My daughter, thankfully, after being upset at the
beginning that Mommy and Daddy were no longer together, has adjusted to the change in her life. She is her happy, joyful self, quick to laugh and smile, eager to help others as much as she can, be it her family, helping with chores, or strangers on the street, giving money to any homeless person she passes . . . if I do nothing else worthwhile in this life, I at least know I had a hand in raising this wonderful being. When I see her, when it is our time together, when I see her see me, see her face light up and hear “Daddy!” spill from her mouth, when she runs to me, eager to be lifted up into my arms and squeezed tightly, the pain dissipates. The weight lifts from my chest, almost as though it was never there at all, but not quite—some pains are still present even when not felt. For thirty hours— beginning Saturday morning and ending Sunday evening—we do whatever she wishes to do, go wherever she wishes to go, buy whatever she wishes to buy: toys and sweets, invariably. I make her laugh and smile and she in turn makes me laugh and smile, and it feels as though I have not laughed or smiled since I last saw her. I feed her and mind her and play with her. I put her to bed and read to her. I listen to her and talk to her. And during all this, I can almost, almost ignore the fact that when our thirty hours are over and she returns to her mother, the weight of her absence will resettle in my chest, like a child returning to his home.
ICARUS WIRING By Joshua Colombo
Scroll, click, scroll, click On a fluorescent perfect circle Framing that airbrushed familiar face A puzzle piece I rummage my mind to place Flashes of a smoldering October fire Reflected from olive green eyes Glancing back to me With the warmth of a solar flare Melanie.. no, not Melanie, maybe it was Margaret Red curls of burning locks, spiraling down her gaunt shoulders draped over the blocked white lettering spelling out Metallica on her otherwise charcoal T The tip of my tongue tickles Was it Molly? Or Miranda? This profile says, Natasha But I distinctly remember an M Just as I remember her soft, closed-lip smile Half exposed by that fire Acting as our sun Its gravity pulling us in, only to turn to soot All the pieces bordering that scene Full of faintly blurred faces Turned away and bathed in artificial blue Like lone satellites drifting in blackened skies That same conjured blue tint That bounces off my squinted eyes As I study her pixelated, pale complexion From the safety of this screen, I use to feel connected
Like how I felt connected to M that night If only for a little while If this even is her Maybe it didn't start with an M at all
SOMEWHERE digital art
By Edward Lee
RUNNING AWAY in PLACE By Brandon French
I was scraping by as a freelance film critic doing movie reviews for Ms. Magazine, The LA Reader and a little feminist journal named Chrysalis, while writing screenplays on the side using the pen name Max Dakota so producers would think I was a guy. I figured if I joined SoCalCritix, an organization of professional film reviewers, I could see all the movies for free. My plan was to corner Bryce Greenberg, the president of the organization, at a screening of Steven Soderbergh’s Sex, Lies and Videotape and invite him out for coffee so I could convince him to sponsor me as a new member. We went to Ship’s on La Cienega, the last great coffee shop in L.A. (with a personal toaster on every table), and discussed this new guy Steve Soderbergh’s film, which we both admired. But the movie must have made Bryce horny because he came onto me afterward as we were walking to our cars. And even though I really wanted to get into SoCalCritix, I didn’t want it enough to screw around with Bryce. He just wasn’t my type, what can I say? Not that I was some great beauty or anything, just a skinny carrot top with almost no boobs to speak of, and five million freckles—like Opie’s baby sister (if he’d had one) on Mayberry RFD. So I told Bryce that I already had a boyfriend named Gary even though I didn’t, just to let him down easy. Bryce got me into SCC anyway, and we became friends. Right from the start I knew he was a funny guy, not funny haha although he laughed a lot, but funny contradictory. Like on the one hand he was a stocky, Jewish tough guy with a big red clown’s bulb of a nose and a heavy Brooklyn accent, whose birth
name before he changed it was Baruch, which means he who is blessed. But on the other hand, when Bryce talked about movies he became as smooth and elegant as Robert Warshow or James Agee or any of the other great American film critics. For example, this is Bryce reviewing Down and Out in Beverly Hills: “Bette Middler’s just had this headbanging, heart-pounding, raunchy sex with Nick Nolte, which culminates in an orgasm that all of Beverly Hills overhears. But afterward, she leans her head back and sings ‘You Belong to Me’ a cappella with a sweet, gentle dignity that billows across you like a cool breeze on a sweltering day, and for a moment she’s the most beautiful woman in the world.” That guy could really hit some high notes.
I gave Bryce my life story - born in Chicago within breathing distance of the Wrigley Gum Factory, a brainy little kid who was double-promoted three times in grade school, ended up in high school by the age of 11 and college at 15, graduating from USC at 19 with honors. Onward to film school where I met and married Montrose, an aspiring director who was an Orson Welles lookalike with a personality to match. “I knew him, thought he was an asshole,” Bryce said. “I agree. We got divorced after four years and now I’m working on a screenplay entitled When Orange Becomes Red about three Jewish women who survived the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire in 1911.”
Bryce told me he got his primary education on the streets of Bensonhurst and then at CUNY, moved out west to be an actor, married a sexy platinum blond who was now his ex-wife, and had two kids, a twelve-year-old son named Damon, and his fourteen-year-old daughter, Beth. Currently he taught English in a San Bernardino junior college (“What a schlep twice a week!” he said with a laugh.) and had a Saturday night radio show called “Cinema Now” reviewing movies on public radio. “My father was a mean sonovabitch who died of Alzheimer’s at 58,” Bryce said. “But my mother stuck with him the whole way, even though he kept abusing her until he finally couldn’t remember the word ‘cunt’ anymore.” “My father was an alcoholic high school music teacher who molested me when I was three. And I’m pretty sure my mother knew what was going on.” Bryce lifted his coffee cup and toasted mine with a dull clunk. “Here’s to ya, Terry.”
The most surprising thing about Bryce, apart from what I found out about him later, was that, in addition to teaching and reviewing movies and rebuilding cars and motorcycles, he was a regular Florence Nightingale, always going out of his way to visit friends who were in the hospital. One time he twisted my arm to go with him to see Isadora, another film critic from the LA Reader, who’d had exploratory cancer surgery. Bryce said it was the bad one, pancreatic, and that she didn’t have a lot of people in her life. We stopped off on the way for a bunch of daisies, a couple of DVDs, and a bag of chocolate covered orange peel from See’s. Bryce also brought a copy of the 1988 Best Movie Reviews annual because it included Isadora’s writeup of Joan Micklin Silver’s Crossing Delancey. “What’s this?” she said when he handed her the journal.
journal. “It’s you,” he said. “Page 122, ‘Izzy’s Hat.’” “Oh, my,” Isadora said, color rising in her pale cheeks as she turned the pages to her review. “‘How can even the ritziest man who sends her the fulfillment of every lonely fantasy, Beauty captivated recited.
Jewish princess resist a perfect hat? It’s the pickle man’s romantic by the Beast,’” Bryce
Isadora clapped her hands together with delight. “Good heavens, Bryce. You memorized it.” “Of course,” Bryce said, winking at me. “It’s a wonderful passage.”
“You know how it is, Ter,” he said as we were wandering through the endless corridors at Cedars, searching for the elevators, “do not ask for whom the bell tolls.” “I know who it tolls for,” I said, trying not to look into the rooms as we passed. I didn’t want to see someone else on death’s door.
Bryce would save a seat for me whenever he got to the screenings because I was always late. Afterward, we went out for coffee or grilled cheese or BLTs or whatever we could afford and talked about the movie we’d just watched, trying out our reviews on each other before we went home and set down our thoughts on paper. I made it a point to mention Gary, my imaginary boyfriend, each time we were together, just in case Bryce got any ideas, but he never put the moves on me after that first night. Still, I was relieved when he arrived at a screening a few months later on his Harley lowrider with a platinum blonde named Myra on the back. I figured it was safe now to tell him that I’d broken up with Gary because I didn’t like lying to a friend. He probably
probably never believed there was a Gary anyway, but he might have. After the screening, which was Rob Reiner’s When Harry Met Sally, Bryce said, “Myra and I would like you to come over for a 4th of July barbecue next Thursday.” His big arm was resting on her little shoulders and he was leaning so hard against her that I thought she might tip over. Then, before I could say yes or no, he bent over and gave Myra a wet, noisy kiss, his tongue deep throating her like he wanted to show off. Like, see, this could have been you, or something. It totally grossed me out, but Myra didn’t seem to mind.
Bryce’s bungalow in Burbank had a bunch of car bodies on the lawn, which had pretty much killed off the grass. They looked like the herd of halfeaten buffalo after the massacre in Dances with Wolves. The inside of the house wasn’t much better. Bryce had turned the living room into a car repair shop, with parts strewn around the floor and piled up precariously on the sofa and all the chairs. The dining room table was buried beneath two or three feet of mostly unopened mail, and newspapers were stacked like end tables everywhere except where end tables belonged. Myra led me through the house, looking embarrassed. “I’m sorry it’s such a mess, but Bryce won’t let me touch anything. He says he has a system—I think it’s called Chaos. He’s in the back barbecuing the chicken and ribs.” “Smells delicious,” I said, looking around for somewhere to sit. “Come on outside,” Myra said, sliding open the glass door for me. “I helped him clear off the patio table and chairs this morning.” “You’re my hero,” I said.
It was nothing fancy outside, just a lot of grass and a
border of pink and orange impatiens that ran along the fence line like a little parade. But there was a big friendly tree full of peaches that already smelled like jam and a chair for me to sit in, so I had no complaints. Bryce was wearing his usual jeans and tee shirt, mostly obscured by an enormous olive-green apron that said RIBMEISTER in ketchup-red letters. He was managing somehow to smoke his Marlboro, wield a pair of tongs like Benihana of Tokyo and suck on a bottle of Heineken. “Hey-hey, Ter,” he said with his characteristic easypeasy laugh. “I got pork ribs, beef ribs and chicken ribs.” “I should hope so. You’re the Ribmeister,” I said, lighting a Salem. “Hey, Myra, get Terry a beer. Beer okay, Ter?” “Sure.” I hated beer but what the hell.
A handful of people arrived over the next hour, members of SoCalCritix who’d show up anywhere the food was free, and a few middle-aged women, one of whom turned out to be Bryce’s sister Fern. There was also a black couple who were Bryce’s next-door neighbors and a tall, fairly good-looking guy with shoulder-length shaggy blond hair. Bryce introduced him as Baker. It turned out that Baker was his first name. His last name was James. And he came unaccompanied on his Yamaha Raider, which definitely upped the ante on the barbecue as far as I was concerned. Baker was not a talker, though, and I began to think he was probably some good ol’ boy with a GED, an ex-wife named Thelma and two barefoot country kids. Instead, he turned out to be a published novelist who taught creative writing at CalArts—a surprise intellectual like Bryce.
Just as the barbecue was winding down, Bryce’s kids arrived. His daughter Beth was a pretty brunette with a show-offy figure in skin-tight Levi’s and a blouse that scooped practically to her navel. Her face was painted like a Glamour Magazine lipstick ad, which made it difficult to identify any expression except boredom. The brother, Damon, had the same thick brown hair and charred oak eyes as his sister. But his eyes flashed resentment like a neon sign in some late 1940’s film noir, and each of his eyebrows had a life of its own, the right one arching up and down and the left one skulking around like a private detective. Bryce was very affectionate with both of them and seemed oblivious to their bad attitudes. “Beth just got a summer job as an intern at Crown Pictures and Damon is helping me rebuild a ’66 Mustang,” he announced proudly. Beth stuck an index finger into her mouth to make a gag-me-with-a-spoon gesture. Damon did a series of stiff boy bows and then grabbed for his father’s Heineken. There was nothing creepy about the way Bryce loved them, no evidence of anything untoward.
I hung out with Baker for the entire afternoon, trying to be quietly alluring, although silent seduction was not my strong suit. But after stalling as long as possible to give him time to ask for my phone number, I finally gave up and took myself home. If he wants to get in touch, I reasoned, he can always ask Bryce. If not, fuck him.
Baker called a week later, long after I’d wished him a painful early death. “Uh, hi,” he said, and I said, “Hi, Baker.” He still said, “It’s Baker.” “No, really?” I said, still pissed at how long it had taken
taken him to call, but then I regretted bitchy. “Hey, I’m glad you called.”
Our first date was dinner at a Mexican restaurant across the street from Paramount Studios, a sort of grungy cult storefront called Lucy’s El Adobe, where Linda Ronstadt and Jerry Brown used to hang out when they were an item. Our conversation was not as satisfying as the food, which was surprisingly delicious. Mostly we told stories about our bad experiences at Mexican restaurants that weren’t the ‘Mexican’ we liked (for instance, TexMex, which tasted to me like it was made from bull’s blood). The rest of the time I fantasized about being in bed with him naked.
In very short order we became a foursome with Bryce and Myra and that’s the way it went for a couple of years, mostly at cheap but tasty restaurants and free movie screenings, Baker’s bike parked next to Bryce’s, nice and cozy, except when it rained and Bryce drove Myra in one of his Mustangs and Baker and I came in my beat-up yellow Miata. Baker listened a lot and talked very seldom, but I loved the way his mind worked. When I mentioned a brain research article I’d read that said the geography of creativity and schizophrenia overlapped, he said, “I hope when they find a cure for schizophrenia, they don’t accidentally cure poetry.” Another time, at Bryce’s favorite cheap restaurant, The Tasty Thai, Baker said, “This morning while I was washing dishes, I crushed a little bug with my sponge, and it suddenly struck me how easily any of our lives could be snuffed out.” “Does that mean I have to co-exist with cockroaches?” Bryce asked, his mouth full of pad Thai noodles. “You already do,” Myra said, and we all laughed.
For a long time, it seemed like the four of us had finally figured out a way to be happy. Then Bryce proposed to Myra and she turned him down.
sound with each spoonful. Mmmmmm. Mmmmmmm. Mmmmmmm. “What’s in this soup, Terry?”
“I can’t live with him,” she told me on the phone, all wrecked and weepy. “I asked him to make room for me, to clear the car parts out of the house, or at least out of the bedroom, and he accused me of trying to ruin his life.”
“Carrots, onions, curry and yogurt.”
“He’s an asshole,” I said, “a lovable asshole.”
By the time we finished the bottles of zinfandel he’d bring, we’d be deep into the postmortem of our lost love affairs.
“I know,” Myra said, sounding angry and sad at the same time. “But I don’t want to marry another asshole.”
“She’s a cunt,” Bryce said on the phone, “and who the fuck needs a cunt? I told her, get the fuck out, and don’t let the door hit you in the ass, bitch.” “Oh, Bryce, I’m so sorry,” I said, knowing he didn’t mean what he’d said about Myra and was just very hurt.
“Yogurt?” he’d say, astonished, “you’re kidding.” But he’d still be mmmmmmm’ing, ahhhhhh’ing and spooning like a piston engine. Slurp, slurp, slurp.
“How could anyone leave a woman like you for some little bimbo at CalArts?” he’d asked rhetorically. “And don’t think I didn’t ask him that exact question.” “What did he answer?” “He said I was right. I bet he comes crawling back and begs you to forgive him.” “I won’t take him back.”
It was Baker’s turn next. “There’s this girl at CalArts,” he said, lying in bed beside me one night, smoking a joint. “Oh, fuck, Baker.” I didn’t even turn over to look at him. It was like the four of us were subject to some Relationship Instability Principle that we could only overcome by staying together, each of us bolstered by the subtle pressure exerted by the other three.
So then it was just me and Bryce again, but still only platonic. I invited him over to dinner a couple times a week, since we were both lonely, and also because he was the world’s most appreciative guest. “This soup is great,” he’d say, making a pleasure sound
“Good for you. Fuck him.”
One night, as we were eating dessert, I asked if he’d heard from Myra. “Oh, yeah, sure, we talk all the time.” “That’s good. At least you’re still friends.” “Yeah,” he said, lighting a Marlboro, “I miss her.” He shook the match out and exhaled a plume of smoke. “I was even thinking that maybe I should talk to somebody about it,” he said, looking down at the grain in his jeans. “What a good idea,” I said, pleasantly surprised. I recommended a friend of mine named Gary who I thought was a pretty good therapist.
we entered the last room on the left, I was surprised to see Myra, sitting in a chair next to the bed. If she hadn’t been there, I would have thought I was in the wrong room, especially since it was barely lit by a wall-mounted television and one small table lamp. The person in the bed looked like a cadaver, with sparse, greasy white hair and eyes that protruded from their sockets, as wide and empty as the buttons on a stuffed animal. His skin was an anemic, raw- chicken yellow and only the nose looked familiar, despite the tubes feeding into it. Beth went over to her father and kissed him on the forehead. “Hi, daddy,” she said, as if it was just another day in the life. Bryce’s eyes fixed on Beth with vague recognition, the way babies seem to recognize their mother’s faces without really comprehending the relationship. “Look who I brought, daddy. It’s Terry.”
Maine lobster or Steak Diane so I could leave that sour-smelling room and go fetch something worthy of her. Myra stood up from the chair stiffly as if parts of her body had atrophied during her vigil. “Would you just sit here with him for a few minutes? I need to go to the bathroom, and I’ll get something to drink from the machines.” I traded places with her, sitting down at Bryce’s bedside. Beth noisily dragged another chair over to the bed and sat down opposite me. “Daddy, I got promoted and I’m doing all the accounting on two feature films now. You should see my office, I painted it myself, three different shades of blue, of course, you know how I feel about blue, and I have a ficus and a palm and two big windows with a little balcony. You’d love it daddy, you’d be so proud of me . . .” I suspected she was saying this for my benefit mostly. “Two windows and a balcony, huh?” I said, holding up two thumbs.
He continued to stare at Beth. I went around the bed to Myra and bent down to hug her. “I’m so glad to see you,” I said, feeling guilty about not calling her for so many years. She looked haggard, with a couple months’ growth of dark roots ruining the illusion of her platinum hair. “I didn’t know you two got back together,” I whispered. “We didn’t,” Myra said. I realized then it was her compassion that had drawn her to Bryce’s bedside. Now I felt ashamed as well as guilty, although Myra looked at me without reproach. It was my own reproach that roared in my ears, and I had no alibi. “Can I get you something?” I asked Myra. “Coffee or a sandwich or something?” I was hoping she’d say Maine
Sullivan’s Travels was playing on the television, part of TCM’s month-long salute to Joel McCrea. I was staring at the screen, half asleep from all the wine, when a commotion erupted in the hallway. Beth got up quickly and hurried out of the room. I heard her raise her voice. “Are you trying to kill him, Damon? Is that what you want to do?” “Get your hands off me, I’m going in there, I don’t want him to die without knowing who I really am.” I turned to Bryce. He was staring at me in the vacant way people look at each other on buses. A red-headed woman with heavy make-up and bright blue acrylic nails burst into the room, pulling away from Beth.
“Hi, dad, it’s me, Damon, but now my name is Deena. You can’t fuck this daughter, dad, because this one’ll kill you if you try, you fucking pervert.” “Stop it!” Beth shouted and began to slap and kick her brother, grabbing hold of his hair. “You bitch,” Damon howled, hitting her flat-handed in the neck and shoulders. “Stop it,” Myra cried, “get out of here, both of you, or I swear I’ll call the police!” Two orderlies appeared, a large black woman with hair sheared almost to her scalp and a stocky, pockmarked Latino with small dark eyes nearly hidden by his high cheekbones. The woman grabbed Damon around the waist, pulling him off balance. He started to kick backward at her with his highheeled black boots, but she wrapped a hefty leg around his calves, and he fell to the ground on top of her. The Latino shoved Beth from the room, ignoring her slaps and screams of protest. The black woman pulled herself out from under Damon, grabbing his flailing arms while he was still down, and dragged him into the hallway. I ran to the door and slammed it shut, leaning against it hard to keep Bryce’s children out. I felt relieved to have finally found something I could do for him.
floor. Baruch Greenberg, I thought bitterly, tasting the irony like a rusted spoon. He who is blessed. For some reason, I recalled the night in 1992 when Bryce and I had reviewed Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven. We’d really been on it that evening, lyrical and articulate like a couple of musicians just rocking out. We made a big deal about the dialogue at the end of the film, something about getting what you deserve, or not deserving what you got, but I couldn’t recall the exact words. Back home, I closed the door to the bedroom where my husband was already asleep and put on the Unforgiven DVD that the Academy had sent all the movie critics that year, skipping to the final few scenes. The gunfighter William Money, “killer of women and children,” was standing over the corrupt sheriff, Little Bill, who was lying on the barroom floor in a pool of his own blood. “I don’t deserve this, to die like this,” Little Bill said. William Money looked down at him pitilessly, ready to finish him off with his rifle. “Deserves got nothing to do with it.” A few weeks later, at Bryce’s memorial service, I spoke about the movie and how it ends with one bad guy dead and another even worse guy living out the rest of his life in peace and prosperity.
Suddenly Bryce started to howl. Then he made some terrible noises which sounded like words he could no longer remember how to say. Myra climbed up onto the bed and took him in her arms.
“Okay, we get it,” I said, “there’s no such thing as justice, and we walk out of the movie theater with the illusion that we’ve grasped something profound.”
“Shhhhh,” she said, “shhhhhhhh. It’s okay, sweetheart, everything’s okay now, shhhhhhhh.” She cradled his wasted body and rocked him back and forth, murmuring reassurances in a lullaby voice. They looked like Michelangelo’s Pieta.
I looked out at the room full of critics. I was glad to see such a large turnout, glad for Bryce’s sake, and perhaps even for myself, that we had this little community, however ragtag.
There wasn’t much traffic on the way home to my condo in West Los Angeles, but I drove slowly, keenly aware now how easily life could slip into death, like losing your balance on a wet floor floor. Baruch Greenberg,
“But I’ll tell you something,” I continued. “When I saw Bryce on his deathbed with all the poetry and vitality and virility sucked out of him, it wasn’t anything like watching some actor who could get up, rinse off the fake blood, and go on to win Academy Awards. Movies about a pitiless world, no matter
matter how great they are, are meant to be digested in comfortable seats in air-conditioned theaters with fresh buttered popcorn. We can’t possibly experience the horror that a universe which doesn’t give a shit can perpetrate until it grabs hold of us by the shoulders, knocks us on our asses and takes a dump on our faces. And “deserves got nothing to do with it.” So let me just say one more thing about my friend Bryce—if you’ll kindly imagine some gorgeous black and white lighting, a tinkling piano, a corrupt and bloated sheriff lying dead in murky water and Marlene Dietrich in a jet black wig.” Some of the critics were already smiling. A few were mouthing the words before I recited them. “He was some kind of man. What does it matter what you say about people?”
CRANE CROSS oil on canvas
By Judith Skillman
A LITTLE LATE By Fabrice Poussin
I read once on the dry fold of an old wrinkle that no reason exists to worry for the morrows; a little twitch threw a smile into the air and was caught forever between the lines of a page. Diving into so many eyes of blue, green and brown, I began to swim within the dreams of those who dared walk the world unprotected, carriers of many tales often already shared. It is always easy to tremble at phrases of love. Sounds of chuckles and sighs, to let those ripples in time become statues, permanent within each pore of our souls. The ruffle of a dress, brush of an old pair of jeans, as each one floats through singular motions, designed in a time unknown, forever, so a memory can be drawn from subtle changes. An aroma carried by the infinite colors of an icicle, racing to find a recipient to its vanishing resilience, ephemeral it is meant to be, it possesses itself alone, the hopes, dreams, and aspirations of eternity. I attempted to capture the apparition, but It was coy, sweetly cunning, and with a mocking grin, she vanished twixt my feeble will, for fearing to pain her, I did not embrace her within the pages of the old diary.
ELEVEN DAYS 'til SUNDAY By Rachael Biggs
The straps of my duffel bag take turns falling off my shoulder and my backpack is relentless in its efforts to tip me. After several sweaty minutes, I make it to the hallway where once cream-colored paint has turned grey, save for the stains splattered and sprayed every which way.
“How long you been dancing?” she asks in a sandpapery voice. “I started last week at The Lion’s Den last week and now here.” “A rookie, eh? I’m surprised Randy sent you here.”
Some of the doors have numbers. Some don’t. 307 does, though the seven is drawn on with a marker. This is my room for the week and I force the key into the shaky lock, near a snap of rage when it swings open and an exceptionally bony girl covered in tattoos stands in front of me.
“Why?” She shrugs. “They usually send you to the nice places first. Make ya think it’s all glamorous or somethin’.”
“Hey, I’m Kimmie.”
“He needed a fill in. Said he’d owe me a favor.”
“Yeah, Caramel Sunday didn’t show up. Knowing her she g-holed or overdosed or some shit. Hey, where are you next week?”
I get all of my miserable crap inside the room and ditch what I can on the bed Kimmie doesn’t appear to be using.
“I’m here for two weeks. Well, eleven days now since it’s already Wednesday.”
“You work today?” I ask. “You doing the island tour?” “Yeah, there’s no one down there.” “Uh-huh. Campbell River next week.” “You live here?” “Nah, Campbell River. Me an’ my ol’ man got into a scrap and I had to get out the house. Didn’t tell him where I was going. Let ‘im tweak a little, you know?” The room smells of her cheap body spray, the sulfur of matches burned in the bathroom and 80+ years of whatever else has gone wrong here.
She scoffs like I’ve said the wrong thing even though I am trying so hard not to. “If you see my ol’ man at JJ’s tell him he’s a fuckin’ goof, alright?!" I nod, a little frightened of the change in her mostly cordial tone.
“You know ‘im? Dave? Beard? Rides a silver Panhead?” “No, nuh-uh. Don’t know any Daves.” She looks at me suspiciously, as though I might be the problem between her and bearded Dave. “You have to cover your tattoos to work here?” I ask. We need to move on from Dave. She laughs. “Nobody’s lookin’ at my arms and legs. They don’t care none ‘bout some ink.” “Can we open a window?” “Good idea. I need a smoke." She lights a cigarette and yanks upward on the window that looks out onto the snow covered rooftop. It doesn’t budge and the room starts to fill with smoke. I try not to cough as I join the effort, pulling as hard as I can on the two metal handles, but it’s painted shut. It is the only spot in the entire building that has seen a fresh coat of paint since it was built. What luck. “Do we have a schedule yet?” “Yeah, it’s on the mirror. It goes me, then you, then me, then you extretera, extretera.” The mirror has several lipstick prints on it and I wonder about the girls that have come before me and why they felt okay about putting their lips on such a revolting surface. I’m on stage at noon tomorrow, then three, six and nine pm et cetera, et cetera. I hang my costumes as best I can from the bent metal hangers in the closet and take a shower that leaves me feeling like I am becoming one with this room and like the only difference between Kimmie and I are tattoos and poor diction.
It’s snowing again. Small, hard pellets hit my windshield as I drive into town and go through the Wendy’s drive-thru. I sit in the parking lot wondering what my grandma would think if she knew I was so close by. Maybe I’ll spend the day with her before I drive to the next shit hole. I’ll lie to her about what I’m doing. I’ll let her think I’m a receptionist at the gym working my way up to $14 an hour and free aerobics classes and she’ll believe me because she can hardly remember my name. When I get back to the room, Kimmie is smoking cocaine from a piece of tin foil. She swears each time she burns her thumb on the spark wheel of her yellow lighter. I’m grateful that she doesn’t notice me come in as I lay down with all of my clothes on, careful not to let my skin touch anything. Through the thin walls, I can hear a loose, phlegmy cough. I wake the next morning to Kimmie’s guttural snore and think about the filthy state of a windpipe that emits such vile sounds. There is no one in the bar when I arrive for my first show. A dozen or so tables are strewn about the room with folding metal chairs of various heights. One of them hosts a plate with some toast crusts and a few cold fries on it. Ants are spreading the word about it, however it is they do that, and I watch them scurry and scuttle, thrilled with their find. There’s a neon Budweiser sign on the fritz and it flashes and pops, its tinny hum the only sound in the place. I give my tape to the bartender and she looks me up and down in my red sequined dress, far too posh for an empty bar in a town of millworkers and fishermen and I feel apologetic for it even though the costumes are my favorite part of this whole endeavor. Nowhere else in my life do I have the occasion to wear sequins, lace gloves, or hot pink PVC. With each elaborate get-up comes the accompaniment of my new alter-ego, Desiree Brooks. Desiree is confident, daring and nearly 6 inches taller in her stilettos. She thinks that stripping is the kind of career that might make her
interesting and that all the men who desire her will make up for the one that left when she was a baby. “We gotta wait ’til at least three people in the bar before I put choo on,” crowed the frumpy barmaid. “Sure.” “You take a seat here and I’ll give you the wave when it’s time.” I plunk down on the swivel stool with my blanket in my lap and look around. Posters of my predecessors hang on the wall, their autographed butts in the air and pumped-up tits showing through trashy school girl uniforms and faux nurse’s attire. When I got my tonsils out I don’t remember any nurses in white satin mini-dresses or tiny paper hats adorned with red crosses, but a stripper’s interpretation of reality varies a lot from a civilian’s. A man with a thin combover and no front teeth shuffles up to the bar in house slippers. Without saying anything the barmaid slides a coffee across the counter and plunks three sugar cubes in it and a shot of whiskey beside, while he fumbles for some change. He turns his unshaven face to me. “You the stripper?” I nod, feeling exposed by the rhetorical question. “I’m Arvin.” He shuffles into the darkness until I can barely make out his gargoyle-like silhouette at a corner table. Twenty minutes later a group of three come. Two of them sidle up to front row while the third goes to the bar and gets a pitcher of beer. He looks me over and I try to be Desiree.
darlin’.” I hear my song come on and the bartender wags her finger in my direction. I strut across the stage, begging my ankles not to give way as I make my way to the pole. Desiree takes over. She wiggles and jiggles, twists and spreads and listens to the music instead of the lewd commentary from the men just inches from her naked vagina. The one with the goatee is especially attentive. She can’t see his eyes, but she knows they’re on her and she likes that he’s interested, even if it is for the wrong reasons. She slides her naked back down the pole, kicking one leg way up and steadying herself with the other. She is still working on this move and hits the floor with her tailbone harder than she would like. She grimaces through the pain and Arvin winces when he hears the thud from his seat in the corner though she can’t see him. Goatee puts a five-dollar bill on the stage and she personalizes the show for him, bending over and spreading her labia with her manicured nails. The nails still feel awkward. She can’t do up her jeans or pick up change if a cashier puts it on the counter, but they are part of the image she now adheres to. Her last song stops abruptly and she hopes that the ghetto blaster hasn’t chewed up her tape as she picks up her fuzzy blanket and wraps it around her nakedness, tucking it securely under her armpits. She bends to pick up her tip and Goatee speaks. “You wanna come join us for a drink, hon?” She doesn’t have a response ready for this yet.
“Hi.” I squeak baring my teeth in what I mean to be a smile. He tips his greasy baseball hat and nods, “Hey, darlin’.”
“Oh, um, sure.” Upstairs Kimmie is frantically throwing costumes
around apparently looking for something. “You seen my Mötley Crüe set?” she barks accusingly. “Your music?” She stares at me long enough to be uncomfortable. “Nevermind, I think I left it in my truck. Who’s down there?” “I dunno, like three guys in the front and some guy named Arvin.” “He was in a bad accident and everyone died, Irene said.” “Who’s Irene?” “Oh, fuck yeah! Here’s my tape! Right on, man I always dance to Crüe first set.” She slams the door behind her and I hear her clomp down the stairs like a Clydesdale. There’s over an hour ’til her show, but maybe she can’t tell time. I’m not sure what to wear back down to the bar. Are those guys expecting Desiree? I have to get these shoes off my feet, so I put on my real clothes and my real shoes and feel real weird when I greet Goatee and his friends with excruciatingly dirty fingernails. They are machinists and I don’t care what that means, but I know I never want a finger that dirty inside of me. We sit and drink. I have three vodka cranberries and a shot of Jameson. We seem to be in celebratory mode now, maybe because we’re getting along so well and they’re so attentive. Roy, the only name I can remember because I have an uncle called that, is giving me a foot rub and I almost fall asleep because it feels so good and my feet are so tired of being crammed into those silly heels. Small town guys are really nice. I’m jolted awake when Kimmie comes on stage singing loudly to her rock music and yelling with a force usually reserved for someone trying to save
her child from being hit by a bus. “Clap you motherfuckers! You wanna see these titties or what?!” No wonder her windpipe is so thrashed. My new friends clap and whistle and Goatee stands up and lifts his shirt, dancing like a buffoon. Halfway through her first song it’s like I no longer exist to them. Roy has abandoned the massage and I put my shoes back on and sit up as straight as I can. I stand, hoping one of them will notice, but I slip out the fire exit without a nod. The air smacks me boldly from my sloppiness and I feel tears in my eyes. It’s hard to decipher what they are for. There’s a pay phone across the parking lot and I think about calling someone, but who? I walk over anyway, wanting a purpose. I step inside the booth and lean against the glass, pushing my head against its cold. I pick up the receiver and push the buttons listening to the beeps and boops they make in my ear. The reality makes me ache. Across the lot I see Roy and Goatee come out and light cigarettes. I turn my back to them and the phone utters a cacophony of warnings for me to hang up if I’m not actually serious about making a call. I put down the receiver and see Roy making his way over as Goatee’s back is swallowed by the door and he returns to the bar. Roy and I sit on the curb and smoke. I just hold mine because it makes me sick. I can smell his breath and I’m aware that he’s too close to me, but it’s okay until it suddenly isn’t. I stand up. “I’ve got a show soon. I should go get ready.” “Nah, there’s no one in there.” “Really? I hope they don’t cancel it. I don’t get paid
if it’s canceled.”
He nods, politely, without correcting me.
“I’ll pay ya to sit out here with me.”
“You gonna go use him now then?” Roy hisses.
I walk toward Arvin and fall into him when I trip over the curb. He catches me and we sway like saplings in a windstorm. I hold onto his neck, feeling its warmth and the softness of the downy hair that still clings to his head. His arms are around my waist I think, and we steady each other after 20 precarious seconds in which we might both tumble to the ground. At first all I can hear is Roy’s steeltoed boots staggering away, as he mutters words like bitch and freeloader, but when he is gone, there are breathy sobs, teeth chattering and noses sucking back snot and whose sounds are whose doesn’t matter. Arvin and I stand in each other’s arms crying hard for a good long while before I untangle myself and hear him say softly, “Sorry.”
“Yeah, it’s cold as a witch’s tit. I’ll go warm up my truck and we can hang out in there.” I’m sobering up. “I’m just gonna go inside, maybe get something to eat. I haven’t eaten anything yet today.” He pulls a chocolate bar out of his flannel pocket. “You like Mars bars?” I eat it in three or four very grateful bites, feeling a peanut fall in my lap, but chewing too voraciously to stop and pick it up. Roy laughs, revealing a gold-outlined eye tooth. “You need someone to take care of you, don’t you?” “I should get back.” I stand to walk, less wobbly now, energized by the sugar. I’m almost to the door when he grabs my wrist. “Hey, don’t go yet.” His nose is red and its blackheads make him the ugliest man in the world.
I climb the stairs two at a time wanting to get away quickly and quietly like a jaguar. I wipe dripping mascara from my face and watch my spray tan streak across the back of my hand. Kimmie is smoking from her tin foil again. “Did nobody tell ya it’s bad fuckin’ manners to sit in gyno when another broad’s on stage?” “What?”
“I’ll see you later. Thanks for the chocolate.” “Oh, so it’s like that, eh? Let me buy ya drinks, smoke my smokes, eat my food, lead me on and then take off?”
“Don’t be such an attention whore. You get your eighteen minutes on stage.” “Sorry.”
“I don’t even smoke.”
“Have you been crying?”
I am about three feet from the door when I see it rock a little and then open slowly as if the person on the other side has the strength of a newly born fawn. Arvin, the guy that drinks whiskey with his coffee, hunches over, trying to light his pipe.
“No, I’m good.”
“Marvin!” I shouted far too loudly.
“It’s alright. I’m just trying to look out for you. Some chicks get pissed about that shit.” By Friday I know that I have to be Desiree in all my interactions. With Kimmie, with the men in the bar,
with the bartenders that try to get me to wait for them to finish their phone calls before they put me on stage. “Hey, it’s 2:05,” I bark, pointing at my watch letting them know that I am the fucking priority. After listening to her call him a limp dick cocksucker and a piece of shit loser, for three days Kimmie decides to leave early and go back to Dave. “I’m sure he’s pretty horny by now, he’ll treat me right for a few days.” “You’d leave me here?” She looks right through me like she’s never seen me before. Dave comes to pick her up after her first show and I am left alone in the room. By Monday the rancidity seeping in from the hallway makes me miss the smell of her body spray and charbroiled drugs.
will have to tell my grandma what I am doing in a place like this. Sunday I only have four shows since even the degenerates that hang out in strip clubs all day have families to be with. I’m too tired to do much and I wish I could just watch TV, but this place is getting to me, so I go to the Tim Horton’s between shows and play solitaire and drink black coffee because it seems edgier than cream and sugar. When I get back, the hallway still smells like rotting garbage and the contrast of the coffee and donut break I’ve just given my nose makes it less tolerable. I burn the incense I tucked in the front pocket of my suitcase and tuck a dirty towel under the door to fill the gap. When I come down for my last show on Friday night Irene is talking to the cook. I hear Arvin’s name, but I can’t tell what they’re saying with the hockey game playing loudly on the radio. Maybe they know why he was crying last week. Maybe that’s why he hasn’t been back. I mention the stink upstairs, but she doesn’t care.
I’m the only dancer here now and while the agents try to find a replacement I have to do shows every hour and a half instead of every three. There isn’t much turnover in the crowd and they are as sick of me as I am of them. I have to repeat costumes and my back aches from arching it. Thank God, I haven’t seen Arvin or Roy again though. I wouldn’t know how to act.
I finish yet another strip show mirroring the lack of enthusiasm from the men that have seen my naked body nearly as many times as their spouse’s by now. I jog up the stairs to get into my room as fast as I can and twist my ankle hearing myself screech in pain. The gasp of air I involuntarily suck in is so foul I gag as I hobble to 307.
After the voices underneath my window quiet down that night and the floor stops shaking from the music, a silence seeps into my bones and hangs out there like a pack of teenagers loitering in a food court. I miss everyone I can think of and people I’ve never met.
I fall asleep at some point and awaken to heavy footsteps, walkie talkies and the snapping of a stretcher being assembled. I get dressed and stick my head into the hallway to see a black bag being wheeled by and a man with a jacket that says Coroner on the back.
The bed creaks under my weight as I let out a breath I hadn’t realized I was holding. I think about smashing a pane of the window to get some air in here, but I worry I will freeze solid and someone will
I cover my mouth, feeling the contents of my stomach push between my fingers. “You should go back inside ma’am,” a clean-cut young fireman says professionally.
young fireman says professionally. A lady in a uniform hands me a handful of tissues and a kidney bean-shaped tray to throw up in. The rest of the crew move through the hallway and we are alone. “I’m sorry about your neighbor,” she says gently. “I don’t live here.” “Did you know him?” “I don’t know anyone.” She looks at me curiously. “I mean I don’t know anyone here. I’m just, I’m just here ’til Sunday.” “He’s lived here a long time, but he liked his privacy apparently. Hotel will be shut down for contamination, I reckon. You have somewhere else to go?” “Who was he?” She looks inside her metal clipboard. “Arvin Livingston.” I fall back against the door, feeling the paint chips on the backs of my arms. Arvin. “I did know him. He had a cough.” “I’m sorry.” She puts a warm hand on my forearm and I see eyes that feel sorry for me. I pull away, close the door and pack my things to move to the next town.
UNTITLED manipulated photography
By Jim Zola
N O. 1
TWO MODELS By Dee Allen
“Game recognises game” Popular saying Used in some Black people’s Conversations Normally blurted out When one sees Their best qualities In another. Example given: Back in the 1950s, A Florida Cheesecake model Didn’t want to Limit herself to being Before flashing cameras. So she switched positions. The camera Was in her hands For a change. The amateur Photographer In this tale—let’s Call her Bunny— Was found by Her other self: A New York City model Visiting Miami On holiday—let’s Call that one Bettie—
Leather corsets Knee-high stiletto Heeled boots Were kept out of Those photo shoots. Bunny believed that The female form Could stand on its own And that was no lie Considering the sometimes Pin-up had Manhattan’s Reigning pin-up Queen Bettie to work with. Potential best seller Who could flex Into any pose, In many guises: A housewife, A vixen, A splashing Beach bunny, A female Tarzan in Leopard skin, A fisherwoman On a boat reeling in Her catch in the raw, Decorating a small Christmas tree with just A Santa hat & a wink— “Game recognises game”—
SERVING SIZE:: A FRACTION of MYSELF By Jessica Hartenbower
It is ridiculously easy to stop eating without anyone noticing. Or at least it was for me. I swear, I didn’t intend to skip meals, not at first. It just sort of happened.
Between the incessant ear, sinus, and lung infections and the regular check-ups, I spent a lot of time at the pediatrician. I think I was around six or seven when the percentages they give kids for growth in weight, height, and body mass index started looming over me. My younger sister Rachel was always somewhere below the fifteenth percentile for weight. I was always above eighty. She was tiny and I was chubby. I started sneaking into my parents’ bathroom so I could use my mom’s scale to watch the numbers go up and up and up. I started comparing my weight to other first graders on the playground, always leaving sad that I was the heaviest. In a couple of years, I would start doing my own hair and learn how to let it fall around my face to make my cheeks look less chubby. The longer my tragically straight hair, the thinner my face looked. So, I became, as my mom would say, “the girl with the hair.”
My awkward, clumsy, chubby body never quite fit with the life of an athlete, but athleticism was the means and measure of love in my childhood home. Rachel was the all-star athlete, the golden child. When we were kids, she was the center of everything, all my parents wanted in a child. Me, on the other hand, they have never known how to handle. I hated every sport they made me try—t-
ball (it was not as easy as it should have been for me to actually hit the ball), softball (it is far too hot in Arizona for outdoor daydreaming when you’re supposed to be caring about the score), tennis (maybe don’t give the least coordinated girl on Earth a racket), and swim (who knew it was possible to move that slowly through water?). Severely lacking in competitive spirit didn’t help me, either —as was evidenced by my parents’ furious response to my “you know, not everyone can win” comments after my failures. I rejected everything my parents thought I should love since I am, after all, their kid. They simply could not understand how a mixture of their DNA could have produced a unique person who shares absolutely nothing in common with them. I learned early that tears resulted in yelling rather than sympathy; my need for any level of attention was burdensome. Hiding from tired and irritable parents proved to provide some shelter from their disapproval. Making myself small was the safest way to live.
I must have been about twelve when I found my first stretch marks. My mom had finally let me quit the swim team, her final attempt to make me into an athlete ending in failure. This meant I was exercising less, burning fewer calories, and gaining more weight in the horrific process of puberty. Those reddish purple, squiggly lines on the insides of my thighs alarmed me. I assumed my extremely sensitive skin was having a strange allergic reaction. After a few weeks of lotion and waiting for them to
disappear, I asked my mom what was happening to me. “Oh, those look like stretch marks.” “What are stretch marks?” “They happen when you gain weight quickly and so your skin stretches out quickly. Sometimes they go away and if you would use lotion regularly, you probably wouldn’t get them. It also wouldn’t hurt you to integrate some more exercise into your life since you aren’t swimming anymore.” In the coming year, I would find myself covered in them, as my chubby kid body filled out into a plump and curvy young woman’s.
I went to almost every school dance in junior high and high school. I don’t think I enjoyed a single one. But I was on student council, and my responsibilities usually consisted of planning dances, so I attended. What was almost worse than my shy-girl-alone-movie-scene dance experience was the personal preparation. I had to get a new dress every time. My classical preparatory academy only put on formal dances with ballroom dancing (in which we were given required lessons) along to classical music. All the girls bought fancy new dresses for every occasion; wearing the same dress twice was social suicide. A few months before my freshman winter formal, my mom and I were out shopping when I discovered what I thought was the perfect dress. It was this flowy, dark brown, sparkly gem from Anthropologie, which also meant it was around two hundred dollars—way too much to spend on a dress I would wear exactly once. “I’ll tell you what,” my mom said, as I admired the dress I knew was too expensive. “If you lose forty pounds in the next two months, I’ll buy you that dress for the dance.”
“Okay, deal.” Maybe this would finally be enough motivation for me to do all that good eating and exercising my mom always insisted on. I don’t remember a time when she wasn’t concerned about her own weight, and by extension mine. I resolved to write down everything I ate every day to keep me accountable and to exercise a few times a week. I didn’t care so much about the dress itself as I did about being skinny and pleasing my mother. Nonetheless, I still failed. I didn’t keep up with any of my resolutions, and I didn’t lose a single pound. Feeling fat and discouraged, we later went shopping for a cheaper dress, more flattering to my body shape. I didn’t make it through a single one of these shopping trips without crying at least once. My mother would always start our dreadfully common negotiation. “What about this one?” Suggestion. “No. That’s ugly.” Rejection. “Ugh, why won’t you just try them?” Rolling eyes. “I don’t like it. Why would I try something on I already know I won’t like?” Frustration. My mother and I never spoke of the distaste we both had with the shape of my body. It was like a silent landmine, ready to be stepped on at any minute. After enough trying without success, I would melt into tears. Brionna, my best friend who I always took with us, would hold my hands while I cried in front of dressing room mirrors after trying on the hundredth dress that didn’t fit right. Nothing fit. “I’m just fat,” I would tell her. “I just wish I were skinnier, that my stomach was flatter, that my boobs were smaller, that my thighs were thinner. I wish I could lose weight.” She would listen and nod and then immediately promise me, “Jess, you’re beautiful. Really, you are. We just have to find you a dress that fits your body type and not mine.” Unlike her perfect size two, I
needed bigger sizes, usually upward of eighteen. As much as I loved her, I often felt insecure around her. Her dark and naturally curly hair, adorably freckled face, breathtaking hazel eyes, and tall, lean structure make her one of the most beautiful girls I’ve ever seen. All the boys agreed. She found her dress before I found mine. But she was always there to wipe away my tears. She was the only one who ever saw them. Every shopping spree was followed by a forced fashion show. My mom would make me display for my dad what I had bought. Sometimes she made me put it on; other times she just let me hold it up in front of him, sitting in his recliner, eyes glued to the TV screen. He’d nod and take a quick glance. “Looks nice.” “Thanks.” I’d stand there awkwardly, not knowing what to say or do next. “Uh, Jess,” he’d say looking around me. “Yeah?” “You make a better door than a window.” Get out of the way. Stop stealing attention from what really matters. I tried my hardest to make myself see-through. I did what I could to take up less space.
It was sophomore year of high school and Brionna was my light in an otherwise dark and lonely world. We were inseparable in that classic-teenage-moviegirl-best-friends-who-never-left-each-other’s-side way. She was popular; I wasn’t. She had the genius, football-player boyfriend; I didn’t. She was invited to most of the parties; I wasn’t. She was social and bubbly and liked by everyone (evidenced by her eventual senior prom queen status); that wasn’t quite my high school experience. Yet she never left my side and miraculously, I was never really worried that she would. Our bond truly was
unbreakable. She was the only one who noticed when I started skipping lunch. I didn’t wake up one morning and decide that consuming one fewer meal of calories would be the best course of action. I wasn’t even thinking about my weight when it started. But at fifteen years old, I had developed anxiety and depression, sorrow and worry twisting together to form a bitter knot in my stomach so severe that it sometimes masked my hunger. It was just easier to skip lunch every now and then, rather than force myself to eat while my emotional chaos made me feel like throwing up. But soon I started using this to my advantage. I realized that if I started skipping meals, I would be taking in fewer calories. If I was taking in fewer calories, surely I would start losing weight, right? Maybe those numbers on the bathroom scale would finally go down. Maybe my plaid skirt and oxford shirt would finally fit like all the size two girls’ did. Even in the hundred- and-something degree Arizona heat, I wore the school-sanctioned, scratchy navy-blue pull-over sweater every day to hide my not-so-flat stomach. I curled my otherwise straight, bottle-blonde hair and wore a full face of foundation, eyeliner, and mascara every day. I did all that I could to make myself look like somebody else. I discovered skipping meals was an easy task. My parents were wholly consumed in Rachel’s early softball career, so I spent most nights home alone. We never ate dinner together. No one packed my lunch for school but me. No one forced me to get up for breakfast. I had been fending for myself for years. I was in complete control of my eating habits, soskipping lunch was easy: I just wouldn’t pack one. Skipping dinner was even easier: I just didn’t make one. I also learned that I could trick myself into feeling full. When the hunger became distracting or overwhelming, I could eat something small and the hunger would dwindle enough for me to continue
ignoring it easily. Usually, I ate a small snack in our morning break in block classes and another small snack for lunch. Coming home from school was the difficult part: by 4:00 p.m. I had never eaten enough calories for my body to stop screaming that it needed to be fed. So I ate. A lot. Then I spiraled into guilt and shame for not having enough selfcontrol. I usually didn’t eat dinner. The cycle would begin again the next day. There were extremes: some days I gave into my hunger and ate constantly, while other days I didn’t eat at all until closer to 8:00 p.m. As time went on, eating less became easier. I trained myself to ignore any bodily signals of pain or hunger. Nobody else cared about my hunger, so why should I? I fell in love with the feeling of drinking cold water on an empty stomach. That chill sliding down through my chest, under my ribcage to the empty pool of my stomach, told me I was valuable. I felt proud when I made it through the day on only a few goldfish, a single mango, and some cereal. The inconsistency of my starvation meant that I didn’t lose a dramatic amount of weight, so most didn’t notice. The little weight I did lose elicited celebration from the few who did. I don’t think my mother ever noticed. One day I came to school ecstatic that I had to buy a new pair of shorts two sizes down from my others. “It’s because you’re not eating,” Brionna replied. She was concerned, not congratulatory.
issues of body image and self-hatred to truly love others because they don’t love themselves. Teenage me was determined to prove those people wrong. For the first half of high school, I was infatuated with an intelligent and moody boy named Gabe. Tall, freckled, and broken, I was sure that if he would just let me love him, I could take all his pain away, and maybe he just might love me, too. Youthful naiveite wasn’t the only thing standing in my way. He was infatuated with the beautiful Brionna. She never entertained the thought of dating him, so it was never an issue in our friendship. But Gabe knew how I felt and took advantage of my connection to the girl he really wanted. After two years of an excruciating dance of flirting with me, not speaking to me for three weeks, acting like my closest friend, refusing to answer my texts, and on and on, I resigned myself to the fact that no one would ever love an ugly girl like me and tried my best to get over him. And I was making progress. Until one night when we all went to the park. It was a warm September day, and we were itching to experience the cooler weather after the abovehundred-degree heat broke, finally making it bearable to be outside. So we went to the park. We sat in swings and hung from monkey bars with our feet still on the ground, trying to capture some old childhood bliss. Gabe and I were on one of our better streaks. I had withdrawn as best I could from the emotional rollercoaster of our relationship, and my decision to detach had offered us more stability.
I shrugged. I never went more than twenty-four hours without eating and was still heavier than every other girl in our class, so I couldn’t possibly have a problem. Eating disorders were things other girls struggled with—you know, the ones whose skeletons you can see and who exercise all the time. Heavyset girls like me didn’t have those. I was just trying to shed a few pounds and fit into a smaller size. Her concern was clearly unfounded.
But that night, I somehow found my hands in his under the dim glow of the streetlights near the jungle gym. Like an idiot, I let him hold them. His touch sent electric shocks through me. He was the one to let go. We walked across the dead, grassy field with our other friends. I made some selfdeprecating comment about how I was overweight and ugly. As everyone else ran to the other side to start a game of tag, he scooped me up in his arms, holding me close in silent protest.
Many people say that it is impossible for those with
“You’re perfect,” he said dreamily.
Wha-what are you doing?” I laughed awkwardly, lost in a flurry of feeling. I wrapped my arms around his neck, hoping he would kiss me. I had lost any semblance of self-control. I should have known by now not to get carried away (literally). His arms were shaking, hard. He was only able to hold me up for a few more seconds before he had to put me down, my heart pounding. I knew I was too heavy to be held like that. How I wished to be smaller, to be loved. Brionna and I deliberated this event in the following weeks. “I was almost over him, dang it,” I complained to her about him for the umpteenth time. “And then he had to go and be all sweet and flirty. Now I’m feeling it all again. All that progress lost.” “You can do it,” Brionna encouraged. “You can get over him. You should. You deserve better.” My shining light. My greatest advocate. She never whittled me down into something smaller. She saw all of me. And she still thought I was valuable.
Four years later, my twenty-year old self sneaked into my baptismal testimony how I had struggled with anorexia before I got saved. My life suddenly flooded with spiritual understanding and loving attention from those in the church. I was able to reveal a bit of the pain of my previous life. I decided that my testimony was only worth sharing if it was honest. I was also just beginning to trust that there might now be more than one person in this universe who cared about all of me. So, as briefly as possible, I exposed that broken piece of my past to my entire church in a small pool of water that represented my new life. My friend Camy asked me about it while we were out for breakfast a few weeks later. “So, I didn’t know you were anorexic. I feel like such an awful friend that I had no idea.”
“Oh no, you’re not! It’s not really something I talk a lot about.” “Do you still struggle with it?” “No, not really. I mean, I trained myself not to be hungry, essentially, so I forget to eat sometimes, but it’s not the same. I don’t mind talking about it. I mean, I feel like I’m so far removed from it now.” I insisted to her (and myself) that morning that I really was fine now. It’s so much easier to admit your brokenness before becoming a Christian. A year later, Camy asked me to be a bridesmaid in her wedding. As her closest friend, I would be second only to her sister, the maid of honor. I felt so honored and excited and valued all at once. But soon I became anxious: another round of fancy dress shopping. I hadn’t done that since senior prom three years before, and it was always a depressing process. And of course, I was the heaviest bridesmaid. So I put it off as long as possible. Camy let us pick out the style, so long as they were floor length and a “dusty sage” green from a specific website. After weeks of much deliberation over which style would be most flattering and the ordering of multiple sample dresses to try on for size, I finally ordered my dress. It was still a size sixteen (better than the expected eighteen) and needed lots of hemming since my weight and height are not considered proportional. But, no tears. When my actual dress arrived, I stalled trying it on even more. I had made it this far without breaking down, but I couldn’t face the dress itself. Eventually, my time ran out as the wedding date approached. I tried it on and fell in love. It actually fit; it was even just a little too big (although not big enough to go down another size). I couldn’t believe it. I did my best to ignore my broad shoulders, jiggly arms, protruding belly, and obnoxiously large chest. Camy thought the dress was beautiful. I agreed.
My routine is different now. I stopped heat-toolfrying my now magically natural curly hair, which I
currently dye a red-purple-brown color that confounds those who try to categorize it. When I occasionally put on mascara for special occasions, I almost don’t recognize myself because wearing more than a veil of foundation is such a rarity. Most days, I put little time into my clothing choices, usually wearing the classic Jess outfit of black leggings and a jean jacket. The visual daily data says I am fine now. But as soon as that relaxed routine is put under pressure, the truth resurfaces. I recently spent at least half an hour trying on who knows how many different outfits for a girls’ day out with my roommates. I held back tears as I suddenly hated all of my clothes—really, I hated how I looked in all of them. I couldn’t remember the last time I had spent that long obsessing over my appearance, but I couldn’t stop doing it now. I was lost again in that terrible regression of self-loathing. No matter how much I pretend that I’m okay, the truth is that I still hate this body of mine. I never stopped wanting to be small. But I did eat three meals that day. Okay, they may not have quite been whole meals. I only finished half of my burger at dinner. But I did try to eat three full meals in one day. And still, I had only avocado cilantro lime Triscuits for dinner at least twice in the following week. I am convinced that no human progress is linear. I don’t fit the neat narrative structure into which I so desperately want to settle myself.
“Oh, sorry, are you a physical touch person?” Being an intense physical touch person myself, I ask this question about once a day. On this particular day, I had put my hand on my friend Mitchel’s shoulder, I think in an effort to comfort him about the crazy stress that is our senior year of college. I pulled away, not knowing if I had accidently made him uncomfortable. “I used to not be. But then I realized it was because I was uncomfortable with having a body, and I’m working on that.” A very Mitchel reply.
“I totally get that. I think that’s why I like it. Because it reminds me that I have a body.” “And that it’s good,” Mitchel rightly insisted. As is characteristic of theology students such as us, we descended into a conversation about the heresies of Gnosticism, Neo-Platonism, and the consequential dualism that has seeped into our understanding of existence. If you take any church history class ever, you learn about this in some way or another. These types of philosophies teach the idea that the physical is inherently evil and our bodies are “flesh-cages” we must learn to escape. Bodies are bad; souls are good. The two are entirely distinct and have no effect on each other. I know now that there is nothing holy about the killing of my body. God created the world in all its physical glory on purpose and repeatedly tells us of its goodness. There is danger in the unorthodox dualism, in the divorcing of my body from myself, yet I still believe that what I do to my physical self has no effect on the rest of my being. I act as if trying to fit into smaller sizes has no ramifications on my understanding of how I fit into the universe in all its complexities. That’s the tricky thing about anorexia: it is a slow and deceptive form of suicide. Those who are “successful” die because of their “healthy” living habits. Denying myself food is the same as denying my right to live. But I have never thought of these implications when skipping meals. I never considered the toll I was taking on my own life—physically yes, but not mentally, emotionally, nor spiritually. The ugly truth behind eating disorders is that smaller is never small enough. Eventually, there will be nothing left to shrink, the ultimate result an utter disappearance. If I really do believe that God indeed created me the way that He did on purpose, I shouldn’t feel the need to shrink myself down in order to be beautiful. But I still do. I still feel that being smaller is safer and better in some way. And it is almost as easy to go unnoticed at twenty-one as it was at fifteen.
The word anorexia still gets caught in my throat. How could I fit into such a word? It feels too big for me. I was never hospitalized. At most, I only dropped two sizes. I never got my flat stomach. How could I classify myself under this disorder? There are real girls with terrible eating disorders whose suffering is far worse than mine. Doesn’t calling myself an anorexic discount their pain? Isn’t mine too small to be labelled something so significant? My body isn’t just an entity that houses me; it is me. I have learned the truth about the worthy nature of my life, but only intellectually. I don’t cry in front of mirrors any more, but I still skip meals sometimes. Even as I write these lines, my stomach rumbles since I only ate about four bites of my dinner. Was that because I really wasn’t hungry, or is my desire to be small making me full? I have no idea how much I weigh now because after moving out of my parents’ house, I vowed never to buy another scale. The forgetting of that wretched number shows some improvement, but wouldn’t real progress be accepting my weight with confidence? This is the uncomfortable gray space I now inhabit, caught between what I know to be true and the dark desires still rooted in my heart. I am forever held by the confusion of finding some healing but never fully recovering. I think the way forward is to stop wanting to disappear. I just don’t know if I want that yet.
EASTERN STORM oil on canvas
By Judith Skillman
FOR GAL BUDGEN By Robin Dunn
You look like the water The algae running fast into the lock The word cousin means 'com sobrinus': with my sister Though I have none With my sister you are dancing, stately Waving your arms as a bull does his feet Over the edges of the marsh
PLUCKED ASPIRATIONS By Joshua Colombo
She exited Pat’s Diner, plucked the half-smoked Marlboro from its windowsill, held it up to the streetlight, and inspected the filter at the bottom. Once as white as cotton, now the same darkened yellow hue as her crooked teeth. She lodged the charred cig between her lips, lit it, and leaned back against the diner’s rocky wall, soaking in the midnight air. This is her favorite place in the world —the sidewalk outside of Pat’s Diner, with her back to the rock and the hard place not yet in sight. She savored the last drag her cowboy killer had to offer, holding it deep in the cavity of her chest before letting it escape. After puffing it down to its stained filter, she tossed its remains into the flowerpot, indistinguishable from the others disposed of there. That’s when she spotted him pulling into the parking lot, country music blasting from the windows of his sputtering Ford, prompting her to adjust her leather purse strap, push off the diner wall, and approach the curb, where the familiar headlights were soon to be. She let out a weighted sigh as his Ranger pulled up next to her, followed by the sound of his electric windows inching down. Here it is. The hard place.
THE TOUCH digital art
By Edward Lee
YOU and a BLOND By Larry Blazek
a young woman reclines in the back of a station wagon with the rear door open parked in a park a toddler plays on the other side of the woman across the driveway a group of white supremacists display American flags and have a quiet picnic
PLEASE STOP By Stan Lee Werlin
The Managing Partner told him to meet her in the D.C. office Tuesday afternoon. Erica something. We stole her from Booz, they said. Tip the scales back in our favor a bit. Nothing wrong with that, Henry, not one damn thing. She's solid. Savvy around the Hill and very well connected. She knows the people it's important to know. Maybe she can write, too. See if you can use her.
At forty-two Henry is mid-career, rising to its promise. Mid-marriage. He thinks he still loves his wife. He tells her so every night, two fingers of bourbon in hand in the hotel room, the phone cradled against his shoulder. He likes to pull the drapes back as far as they will go. The city splays out before him, shadowed and angular, the buildings painted with a dull artificial ochre from the arching streetlights that depresses him, especially when there’s been rain. It seems the color of the loneliness he feels when their conversations come to an end. “Love you,” he says. “Love you back,” she answers. “What would you do to me if you were here right now?” “I'd better go check on the kids.”
The office they're using is claustrophobic, papers and consulting reports crammed into every corner and scattered messily over the entire desk. He'd have to balance his notepad on his knees.
Erica takes the chair directly across the desk from him, her hands animated, never at rest. Her face is three feet from his, six if he pushes the chair back and swivels to look away from her toward the monuments off in the distance. He doesn't do that. Three feet is what he wants. He can see she likes to make eye contact. There is a sheen of something in her eyes, probing. Something intimate, he thinks. She glances down at his hands, searching his fingers. Reflexively, he touches the ring. He makes no effort to turn it under or move his hand away. Her gaze returns to his. They both know she has seen it, but she says nothing more. “You?” he asks. “Divorced. Five years now. Married young, thought it would be for always. One highly disruptive teenage daughter.” In less than five minutes, Henry’s senses are reeling. Her voice is intoxicating. Her words are like birdsong, the soprano-like trilling of cardinals in the spring. He is unable to concentrate. He can't formulate a single coherent sentence. When she asks him a simple question, he stammers out something meaningless. She offers a knowing laugh. Her hair is a gift of auburn beauty, straight and plentiful. In the moment when she gathers it in her hand and moves it away from her neckline, Henry finds himself thinking about all the places he wants to touch her, the delicate way his hands would graze the smoothness of her skin. He says her name. “Erica.”
“Close the door so we can talk freely,” he says.
It feels like gold on his tongue. He gathers it in his mouth as if it were a holy prayer and says it again. “Erica.” She feels the wonder in his enunciation. She looks at him, expectant. “Who else will bid on the contract?” he asks, “Can we win it on the merits? Run it down for me.” She arches her eyebrows at him. He can’t take his eyes off her face and he thinks, something is happening here. Her eyes drop again to his hands. This time, he moves them awkwardly below the desk. “It doesn't matter,” she says, staring at the place where his hands were a few seconds earlier. “It will.” She looks past him for a moment. “Sooner or later,” he says, “it will.” He brings his hands back up, resting them on the desk again. “To both of us.” The corner of Erica's mouth twitches once, the only sign of acknowledgement she is willing to offer before she moves her hand slowly across the desk toward his. She knows he's right. It matters to her, but right now she feels something she hasn't in a very long time.
week. The contract is vital to the company's future, the largest it has ever pursued. Winning it would propel them to a position of genuine market leadership and assure Henry's ascent to the top of the corporate echelon. With or without this contract bid, he would be flying in anyways. There are endless contracts to chase. And there is Erica. They begin meeting for dinner, always in Georgetown where they can stroll the sidewalks in the uncrowded, elegant neighborhood above M Street. They force themselves through endless business issues: competitive strategy, critical contacts, key personnel, specialty subcontractors. Reagan has just been inaugurated for his first term. They need to gauge the realities of political influence carefully, flesh out their plans and tactics. The streets are usually deserted before they've finished dining. By their fourth dinner, Henry is no longer interested in shop-talk. In the few weeks that have passed since they met, his feelings for Erica have spiraled beyond his imagination. He's certain the same is true for her. Tonight, their table is in a quiet corner where the dim candlelight and the romantic ambiance overwhelm the last vestiges of Henry's rapidly eroding self-control. It's late summer; Erica is wearing a sleeveless light-yellow dress, and all Henry can see when he looks over at her is the smooth, tanned, perfect skin at her neckline and the way the dress outlines and clings to her modest breasts. Right now, that's all he wants to see, all he wants to think about. “Henry.”
Her smile is a bright white radiance that seems to consume his entire field of vision. When they first touch, it's as if all the nerve endings in his fingertips simultaneously explode with fire. He wonders if this is what it is like to be tasered. Something is happening here and Henry definitely, furiously knows exactly what it is.
He starts scheduling himself into Washington every week.
“Yes?” “You've been staring at me for the last two minutes. Are you all right? Too much wine?” “No, it's not the wine. I'm...imagining.” “Imagining?” she asks, her voice somehow sultry, rawly beckoning. Evita seducing Juan Perón.
The Bordeaux has loosened his tongue, and the need to tell her how he feels is as urgent and unstoppable as an imminent orgasm. His eyes flicker from a spot below her chin back to her face. Her eyes hold steady to his. No one else is near them. He won't be overheard. “What it would be like to kiss my way along your neck from front to back and around again. What your breasts would feel like if I could hold them in my hands right now.” Erica looks away from him, then quickly downward. “Henry. Henry,” Lately she has taken to speaking this way, saying his name twice, sometimes at awkward moments, more often when she wants to be affectionate or flirtatious. He has come to think of this small linguistic habit as an unconscious gift, a term of endearment that oddly pleasures him. “Nothing much there, Henry. Imagine me in high school.” Henry stays silent for a moment. He moves a hand part-way across the table in her direction and offers a faint smile. Slowly, purposefully, his eyes trace their way across her chest. “I'm sure you'd be disappointed,” she says. “Not a chance.” His eyes stop their movement and he raises his head to look at her face again. “Don't you understand? The only thing that matters to me is that they're yours.” Erica blushes a deep crimson as she grabs her purse. The effect Henry's words have on her is unmistakable. She feels limp, as if her skin is melting away from her body.
little ambient light. Henry stops moving and gently pulls Erica toward him. She fits herself to his body and grabs the back of his neck insistently. The kiss is the longest and deepest he has had in years, and when they finally pull away from each other, Henry is shocked by the tingling that remains as he tries to catch his breath. “I'm glad you did that,” she says. He leans toward her again, but she pushes him gently away. She motions toward the next cross street. “My car is right around the corner.” “Sit with you a few minutes?” “Yes, Henry. Of course.” Erica unlocks the doors and they climb in. The kiss is on both of their minds and neither knows exactly what to say. They've reached a turning point. “My heart's still racing,” Henry finally says. “I'm sure you can hear it.” “Mine too.” He points to the back seat and laughs, an impulsive invitation, thinking of his ridiculous teenage exploits. It's not hard for Erica to read his mind. “No. You didn't. Really? Too cramped for me. I was never a gymnast,” She pauses a moment. “It's getting late Henry. I'll drop you back.” She starts the car. A few turns later, much too soon, they pull up just short of Henry's hotel. His desire is palpable to both of them. “Come upstairs with me. Park the car in the hotel garage and come upstairs.”
“We need to get out of here,” she says. “I can't Henry. It would be a mistake. I just can't.” They haven't walked far along 29th Street when they find themselves surrounded by darkness. There's a streetlight out and the pavement reflects little
Henry isn't able to mask his disappointment any more than he can mask what he wants.
“I was afraid you'd say exactly that.” “I know myself, Henry. I would want more. Stolen hours in hotel rooms followed by days or weeks of longing until the next time? Hoping for something that you can't give? It wouldn't be enough. I would want so much more.” Henry won't mislead her. His words are a stark truth for them as certain as the bitterness of nightfall in a chilly northern winter. “I can't tear my family apart.” “And I would never ask you to.” Erica's eyes are luminous, swollen with tears as Henry opens the passenger door and steps onto the sidewalk. She watches him until he reaches the revolving doors at the hotel entrance. She can't feel the sinking emptiness in his heart. But she knows it is equaled by her own.
For months, through Washington's cherry blossom spring, the beastly land-locked humidity of its oppressive summer, and right on into the slowly cooling autumn, they try to keep what's between them in check. Their dinners together are no longer limited to Georgetown. They favor Capitol Hill, K Street, and sometimes the low-key ethnic spots in Adams-Morgan. It doesn't matter much to Henry where they are; he rarely has any appetite in Erica's presence. She takes away his hunger as she takes away his breath.
They take long late evening walks along the National Mall, where one night they are surprised to discover their mutual adoration of the poetry of Robert Frost. His favorite, “The Road Not Taken,” which she knows well and recites to him flawlessly. Hers is “Birches,” which he struggles with, mangling several lines and completely forgetting others until Erica laughs and waves her hands at him playfully. Henry promises sheepishly to get it right the next time. Often, they will start these walks at the steps of the Capitol and continue past the Washington Monument and Reflecting Pool all the way to the Lincoln Memorial. Here, they climb to the top steps and slow dance together, oblivious to any other visitors and the watchful Park Police. When they dance, Henry half-whispers and half-sings the songs of love they listened to in their teenage years: “Tears on My Pillow,” “Venus,” “Sea of Love.” When he gets halfway through Bobby Darin’s “Dream Lover,” Erica says, “I always loved that song.” “And I always wanted a dream lover.” “So now you have one.” “And now I want more than the dream.” “Henry. Henry.” “Yes?” “A different song, please.”
They won't cross the line into sex, though the tension between them is powerful and ever-present. If they share each other's bodies, Henry knows he will move from the grey, ill-defined realm of infidelity into the black and white guilt of adultery, and he won't let that happen. As much as he wants to, he can't. When the kissing and touching threatens to escalate beyond their capacity to resist, one of them, usually Erica, pushes the other away.
Without skipping a beat, Henry is ready. Joni Mitchell, “A Case of You.” “But if I drank a case of you, Erica,” he says, “I’d be completely senseless.” Erica clutches Henry's head in her hands and looks straight into his eyes. She isn't able to say a word. It's as if her throat has closed around a dangerous thought
thought she will not let escape from her lips. All she wants is to keep hearing these remarkable things from this man. Yet, she can't. She can't listen any longer or she knows she'll be lost inside him. When the calendar slips into a new year, they find themselves in Paris for a week pursuing an international defense contract. They spend their evenings at romantic corner tables in quiet out of the way bistros, each night with a little more wine and a little less inhibition. Henry has written poetry for her, erotic and suggestive. On their last night he takes care to ensure that they dine late. In his mind, he will play the romantic Parisian, Bogart's Rick to Ingrid Bergman's Ilsa Lund. They will be the last patrons to leave, so that, when he recites his words to her, there will be no one nearby who might listen in. “When I dream of the ways you might trail your hair along and down my thigh.”
made a play for the girl Henry had been seeing steadily during their junior year before she became his fiancée and before she became his wife. When she had seemed to be briefly interested in him, Henry had been jealous, impossibly and desperately jealous. Now he is jealous again, shaking with it, and he knows that can mean only one thing. He's been denying it for a long while, but he can't ignore it any longer. He fell in love with Erica months ago, and it's hopeless. It's hopeless. He's only been fooling himself to pretend otherwise. The relationship with Erica, thrilling with or without sex, is a rash and risky ride. The stress it creates, steady and draining, saps the energy from everything else in his life. He has felt unfaithful to his wife from the start. The guilt—untenable yet eerily magical—is exhausting. “We can’t continue working together,” he says. “I understand.”
“Stop, Henry, don't.” “I wish I could give you more. I wish . . . ” “The nectar that falls from your lips will burn your name into my needy, thirsting skin.” “Henry. Henry. Please stop.” “I will dream.” “Please, stop.” A month later, Henry ends it. A meeting with several company executives has just finished when a newly hired VP approaches Erica. There's no mistaking what he wants. A moment or two as he openly flirts with her, a hand placed briefly on the small of her back, and an invitation to join him for dinner that night. The intensity of what Henry feels overpowers him and he leans on a tabletop for support as if he’s been sucker-punched. He has only felt like this once before in his life, when a prominent senior, a handsome, likable starter on the university's varsity football team suddenly
“Henry. Henry. Shh. I know.” When she leaves the firm three months later, Henry is as relieved as he is lost. For weeks it takes every ounce of his self-control not to call her. He misses everything about her, everything, but each time he picks up the phone he somehow manages to put it down again just before he dials the last digit of her number and the call starts ringing through. Though he doesn't know it, Erica does the same.
Three years later, maybe four—when he thinks back to it, Henry will not remember the exact date, only that it happened—he is striding briskly through National Airport to catch a plane when he hears his name ring out in a voice that is unmistakably Erica's. “Henry! Henry!”
He stops on a dime, stops as if his life has been on pause for years and has suddenly, unexpectedly, wondrously restarted. He whirls around, dropping his briefcase, searching the crowded terminal for her face, a glimpse of her hair, an arm waving frantically in his direction. He sees her immediately. She looks impossibly good, somehow younger and more relaxed. The short, fine lines that had started to appear around her eyes smoothed over as if erased. She is with someone, a man. Henry resists the urge to run to her, to sweep her up in his arms and press his body to hers so that she will not see the look on his face, the relief, the wide, spontaneous grin that brightens his features like Broadway stage lights that suddenly flash on when the curtain rises. Instead, he walks to her in a few quick, measured steps, time enough for her to read everything there is to read in his eyes. He throws his arms open wide and embraces her in a hug he doesn't want to end. He wishes the raincoats they're each wearing against the weather would somehow fall away so that he could feel the contours of her body once again. “Erica, how long has it been? You look great. Beyond great. Where are you now?” “So do you, Henry. So do you,” She steps back from him and turns to her companion, “Henry, this is my business partner, Gerry. We started up a small lobbying firm together a couple of years ago. We’ve really begun to take off these last few months. Gerry, Henry and I were colleagues for a time. Chasing contracts, working the Hill.” Impulsively, Erica grabs Henry's hand, “Join us for a quick coffee? Catch up on things? We've still got two hours before our flight.” Gerry is quick to sense the vibe, “Erica, why don't you two do the catching up? You don't need me for that. I've got a few calls to make, some issue papers to get through. I'll see you at the gate. Good to meet you, Henry.”
A quick handshake and he's gone down the walkway. Erica is the first to speak. “I've thought about you a lot, Henry. Too much. I've really never stopped thinking about you. Are you well? Your family? Gerry and I, there's nothing between us. We work well together. Think alike. Each more devious than the other. A perfect match for the business. And there isn't anyone else.” “Erica, listen, no awkward moments here, okay? I never thought seeing you again would twist me so completely inside out, but that's exactly what it's doing. If I don't pick up my briefcase and walk away from you, I don't know what I might do. I wish so much for you. Go out there and become the best lobbying firm on the Hill, OK? Maybe then I'll get to see your picture in the papers or read about you once in a while.” He hasn't gone more than a few yards when Erica calls out after him, “Henry. Henry. Wait.” In three long strides she's next to him again, “I remember the poem you wrote me. Please don't ever stop dreaming.” She reaches up and brushes Henry's lips with a brief, soft kiss before she turns and heads toward her gate. Henry doesn't move. He watches her every step, the lift of her ankles, the gentle sway of her hips. He remembers the way she was always so careful about her posture. He feels as if his body has been flooded with anesthesia and every limb, every function, even his breathing, has been temporarily immobilized. When she steps around a corner and disappears from his sight, he knows she still carries with her a piece of his heart he will never be able to retrieve. It will be the last time they see each other or speak for nearly thirty years.
When cancer takes his wife from him ten years into their retirement, Henry finds himself profoundly and violently seized by an unshakable need to talk to Erica. It's the first thing that comes to his mind, so primal in its force that it frightens him. He knows it's an irrational urge, foolish and misplaced, but he also knows there can be no denying the music of the heart. It's as if all the years since the last time he saw her had never happened.
“I could speak to her husband if she can't come to the phone.” Henry is fishing. He holds himself completely still waiting for Phia's response.
She's not on Facebook. Google and the other popular search engines yield numerous outdated business references. The last is more than a decade old, a brief Washington Post article mentions when she and Gerry shut their doors. For all he knows she's remarried and living in Europe or Southeast Asia. He pays for a search to find people via the internet. She's still at the same address in Bethesda with the same phone number that's etched in his memory as deeply as anything he knows. He taps in the number on his smartphone and holds his breath.
“His name is Henry?”
An unfamiliar voice answers, a woman's, stronger and more youthful than Erica's could possibly be. “Erica?” He knows it's not her, but it's the surest and quickest way to find out if the number is really still hers. “No, this is her daughter, Phia. Who can I say is calling?” “Phia? Phia, hello. This is a colleague of hers from way back in our working life, maybe thirty years ago. We haven't been in touch for a very long time, but please just tell her it's Henry. She'll know who it is.” There's a moment of hesitation before Phia speaks, as if she's weighing whether to pass on the message or just hang up. “Thirty years ago? I should tell you she doesn't get a lot of calls these days. Henry, you said? I'll go find her. She could be sleeping.”
“My mother hasn't been married for a long while. Hang on a bit.” After a minute, Henry hears a few vague sounds, muffled voices.
"Yes, mom, he said Henry. Here, take the phone.” The next sound Henry hears is the sound of a voice he knows as well as any in his life, the silence of all the years instantly erased by a single word he thought would never hear again. “Henry?” His heart leaps. It's her voice, older, frailer. It is as if she had sung the two brief syllables of his name, a melody that causes so many memories and images to come flooding back. He couldn't contain the rush even if he wanted to. “Erica. Oh, Erica.” He wants to keep saying her name. He wants to hear her speak his name again. He realizes how unlikely this conversation will seem to her. How uneasy it might make her feel. He's not sure why, but he suspects the daughter, Phia, may be standing close by, listening in. “It's been so long, so many years, and I'm sure you think it's nervy of me to call you out of the blue like this. But I just lost my wife, Erica. It wasn't sudden or unexpected, and I should have been better prepared. And I know you might think it unseemly, or disrespectful, but more than anything right now I just wanted to hear your voice again, the way the lilt of your words always settled me and made me feel —I don't know—grounded. The way you always lifted me up. Am I terrible for wanting that?” Henry waits through a long silence. He hears the sound
sound of a hand covering the mouthpiece, indiscernible words between Erica and her daughter, maybe his name. He feels like he's been holding his breath for three minutes and his lungs are about to burst when it's not Erica but Phia who finally speaks again. “Henry? Are you sure it's my mother you're looking for right now?”
Driving aimlessly in Tuscany. A ski lodge in Breckenridge in December, just to be snowed in for a month with each other. It doesn't matter where. You joked once that our relationship was like one of the songs we enjoyed together. Do you remember that? 'Henry,' you said, 'it’s as if we’ve checked in to the Hotel California, and we can never leave.' You knew even then. Henry
Henry suddenly feels unnerved by what he's done. “I'm sorry Phia. I don't know what I was thinking. Please, forgive me.” Quickly, before he can change his mind, he hangs up.
In a month or two, when his head is clearer, when the immediacy of loss has passed, he writes to her.
A month passes without a response, then another, then a third. Henry writes twice more, sending his email address and phone numbers. His notes are eloquent and bittersweet. He is certain they can't help but move her. Still, nothing comes back. When he boards the plane to Washington his apprehension is mixed with reckless joy, as if he were ski-jumping for the very first time on an icy and dangerous Olympic slope, leaping into the unknown and praying for gravity's mercy.
Dear Erica, I don't know what to say about the day I called you. All I know is that right at that moment, more than anything in the world, I needed to hear your voice. I'm glad you came to the phone. I don't think there was ever a time in my life that I stopped loving you. All I could do was lock you away, and so that's what I tried to do. It was a fool's errand, futile and impossible. I long ago lost count of how often I opened that lock and let thoughts of you wash over me. Your daughter told me when I called that you aren't married. In a while, when I've regained my balance, I'll come to you and cross my fingers that you'll want to see me again. Even if I had to reach you blind and on foot across the entire country, I know I would find my way to your door. I live in Portland now. I think you'd like Oregon, the coast, the Cascades, so different from where you are. I see us traveling together—Henry and Erica in their seventies! Renting a bastide for the autumn somewhere in Provence, maybe St. Saturnin-les-Apt or St. Remy. Driving
Henry drives his mid-sized rental more carefully and definitely more slowly than he once did the few times she asked him out to her house. His only thought then was to get there in the briefest time possible. Today, he takes the long way around— George Washington Memorial Parkway, Capital Beltway, finally Old Georgetown Road into Bethesda. He does it mostly to calm his nerves and give himself time to think. Understandably, he's unsettled by Erica's silence and by the brazen, risky nature of his unannounced arrival. Still, he sees no other way. The sun is bright in a cloudless, early April sky when he pulls up and parks across the street from her house. The nondescript light brown exterior he remembers has been replaced with a simple white. A brick walkway that wasn't there before leads up to the front door. Her ancient Datsun is gone from the driveway, a roomier Lexus there in its stead. The front door is not windowed but has a sleek contemporary copper knocker with a small rectangular
rectangular doorbell on the left. He knocks twice. After a moment, he presses the doorbell as well. Through the living room window, he catches a shift in light, a blurred shadow that signals movement. He hears the quick, sharp sound of a bolt being thrown and then the door opens. There's no doubt the woman standing before him is Erica's daughter. He guesses she’s in her forties, maybe close to fifty. She has Erica's eyes, the shape of her face, the same tight, compressed lips. “You must be Phia,” Henry says. She looks at him quizzically. Before she can say anything, he rushes on. “I'm Henry, Phia. We spoke on the phone a few months ago when I called for Erica. I shouldn't have called then, it wasn't right and I hope she wasn't upset, but I was hoping to see her today. I came a long way, Phia. May I come in?” With a quick glance backward, Phia steps out of the house and closes the door behind her. “My mother showed me your letters, Henry. She's resting right now. In the afternoon she usually sleeps at least an hour, often two.” Phia points around the side of the house. “We have a little cupola near her vegetable garden where we can sit and talk. I’ll bring some iced tea and meet you there.” When they’re settled, the first thing Henry says isn’t what Phia expected. “You look like her, you know— Erica when I first met her.” “You can tell me about that if you like,” Phia says. “God knows I can't get anything reliable out of her.” Henry looks at her quizzically, suddenly fearful of what might be coming next. Phia sighs deeply and continues. “Look, Henry, there's no point in mincing words. A few years ago, they said she was showing signs of progressive vascular dementia. It's gotten much worse in the past
past two years, though, and now they’re thinking early-onset Alzheimer's. Her short-term memory is pretty spotty. Long-term is not much better.” She pauses, pours herself some tea and takes a sip. Henry does the same. “When she knows me, I'm grateful, but when she doesn't, I'm just that nice young woman what-was-your-name-again who takes care of her.” Henry can't focus. He feels like he's barely able to take a breath. When he reaches for his tea he notices, as if an observer from a great distance, that his hands are shaking. “So, Henry, about you. The day you called she had no idea who you were. When you ended the call quickly, I didn't think much more about it. Hoped you wouldn't call again, I suppose. But your letters changed things.” Henry remains silent while Phia slowly twists a lock of hair, deciding what to say next. “She asked me if I knew you,” Phia says. “She seemed troubled and pensive, as if she were trying to unravel a great mystery whose solution was always just out of reach. Once, but only once, a window opened briefly in her mind. She told me, ‘When I was around forty there was a man named Henry. We danced on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. He called me his dream lover.’ I thought it was just more of her confusion, another jumbled memory, but that was you, wasn't it?” Henry nods, seizing on Erica’s recall of that moment as if it were a lifeboat that suddenly appeared to save him from drowning in a roiling, angry sea. “Yes, Phia,” he says excitedly. “Yes, that was me. So, she does remember us.” Henry is buoyant, filled with a momentary surge of relief and unwarranted triumph.
“Henry,” Phia snaps, more harshly than she intended, “that was the only time it happened. A day later she said,‘Phia, imagine going off to Europe with a strange man. Who does he think he is? That Henry must not be a very nice person. I will not write back.’” Henry sags back in his chair, his exuberance quickly replaced by raw dejection. “Is there more I should know?” he asks. Phia looks at Henry with a sorrowful smile. “I thought that would be the end of it, and I stashed your letters away. But in the last few weeks she’s been flashing on the things you wrote and she’s frightened. ‘Phia,’ she told me, ‘he's coming to take me away. Don't let him do that, Phia.’” For a moment Henry and Phia seem to be holding their breath in unison, saying nothing. When Phia finally exhales, it’s with a weary sense of finality. “She's becoming more and more agitated, Henry, not just about your letters, about everything. How she sensed that you might actually show up here I have no idea, but I can't let you see her. I'm sure you can understand that.” Henry doesn't know what he understands anymore. He can't imagine not seeing Erica now that he's sitting right there in her garden. He can't imagine that she would not know him instantly. “Phia, really? How can she not know me? What we felt for each other once, something still has to be there for her. I didn't come all this way not to know if that's true.” “I'm her legal guardian now, Henry. My mother has become my child. I have to protect her. I know this is difficult for you, but I think you should leave before she wakes up and wanders out here. Whatever you thought might happen, whatever you were hoping for . . . the memory of what you once had with my mother will have to be enough.”
“You won't let me see her at all? How can it even matter to you, if she won't know who I am? You could tell her anything.” “Please, Henry. It won't go well for any of us.” They sit there in silence as a few minutes pass, Phia wary but determined, Henry troubled, unable to resolve his conflicting emotions. He is thinking about choices made long ago. He sees himself standing alone in a yellow wood, a fresh fall of autumn leaves at his feet, and the poet's two roads beckoning to him insistently, an image he knows will haunt him now for days, for months. Finally, he nods once to Phia, a reluctant assent. There's no handshake, no wistful embrace or anything else when he leaves. He wants to be philosophical about what's happening, controlled and accepting. But he can't bring himself to do it. He just can't. Driving away, he knows that he will find a way to see Erica. He returns to her street the following morning, and the two after that. Each day, he parks across from her house and watches for several hours. It's a miracle that the neighbors or Phia herself do not call a squad car to the street to investigate his presence. But really, what would they see? He's just a quiet, well-dressed older gentleman sitting in an unassuming car on a quiet suburban street taking in the weather. Would they perceive in him what he has privately begun to see in the mirror: a vagrant caricature of himself, laughable and pathetic, harassing a dotty, harmless woman who no longer knows him? Something is bound to go in his favor. Perhaps she will come outside to walk along the street, or just pick up mail at the mailbox. Phia will drive her somewhere in the car, a doctor's appointment or a shopping trip for a new spring dress. On the third day, that's exactly what happens. In the late morning, the front door opens and Phia steps out. Her right arm is draped around the shoulders of a woman who can only be Erica. Henry sees immediately
immediately that she walks with a mildly stooped posture. At every step, there is a small hitch in her right hip. Phia opens the passenger door for her. When they are both belted in, she backs the car out of the driveway so that they face Henry's car, and then she stops. It's clear the two women are in the midst of an animated discussion. Henry can see Phia pointing in his direction. In a moment Erica points to him as well. He imagines Phia saying, "That's your Henry over there, Mom. He's been waiting to see you for days."
She looks at him blankly. Perhaps she's searching for something familiar in his face, the color of his irises, the outline of the nose she used to run her index finger down from the space between his eyes to the cleft in his upper lip. He sees no recognition in her eyes. He's not sure she has even heard him, so he says her name again as he leans his head toward her.
Henry doesn't know what he will do. Follow them? Or block them right here, get out of his car and approach Erica? He wants this so much. Surprisingly, it is Phia who takes the initiative. She turns the car around and backs up slowly toward Henry until the passenger door is directly opposite him, the distance between the cars close, too narrow to open a door. Erica has not lowered her window. His heart is beating wildly. Through the window, he sees how she has aged, the grey that now streaks the auburn in her hair, the lines that have changed her face, especially around the eyes and at the corners of her mouth.
Phia says something inside their car that he can't make out, and then Erica's window is rolling down, disappearing into the doorframe. She is close enough that he could reach out and touch her skin, draw slow tender circles on her cheek the way he once did. There is a look on her face that he has never seen. Her lips are trembling. Her voice has the quality of gravel when her words finally come.
Phia climbs out of the car and moves quickly to Henry's open window. “She doesn't know you, Henry. She's frightened. Can't you see that? Look at her. She doesn't want to talk with you, not now, not ever. If she still means anything to you at all, please, for her sake, just drive away. Please.” She lingers in the space between Henry and Erica for only a few more seconds before stepping back into the car. Henry gestures to Erica to roll her window down. He says her name, loudly enough for her to hear it through the thin glass barrier that is still between them. “Erica!”
“Erica!” He wills her to know him. He wills it with the strength of a hundred Samsons, a thousand.
“Harold...or, or, Harvey...or Henry, or whoever you are. I want you to leave me alone. Please. Stop stalking me.” Henry can feel the blood drain from his face. He can't stop the sudden ringing in his ears, the staccato pounding in his chest. There is a harsh, low sound coming from his mouth, plaintive and unfamiliar. He struggles to say the one thing he has rehearsed, the one thing he thinks might reach her, jog her into recognition. “Erica, don't you remember all the times we recited our favorite poems to each other? The nights we walked from the Capitol to the Lincoln and the only stars we saw were in each other's eyes? Earth's the right place for love, Erica. I don't know where it's likely to go better. Can't you remember?” She takes in a sharp breath, and in her eyes, just for a moment, Henry thinks he sees her look at him the way she once did all those years ago. Somewhere, deep in her ruined mind, he is certain she still knows him.
“Henry. Henry,” she says, and then, as quickly as it came, the look in her eyes is gone and her face seems to slacken again into something spiritless and vacant.
name in her voice, the two syllables of his name. It is the memory of a time, now made real once more, when they were uttered with so much raw emotion that they would almost stop his helpless heart.
“Please,” she says again, “Please, stop stalking me.”
He listens a second time. He can probably get his tech-savvy son to enhance it, try to eliminate the dull background sound, perhaps give her voice a little more strength. Whatever can be done, it will have to be enough for him. Henry knows it will just have to be enough.
Henry's vision blurs. As Erica turns her face away from him, he hears Phia telling her that everything will be all right now. She leans across Erica and looks directly at Henry. She mouths “I'm sorry” to him before she places her hands back on the steering wheel. By the time his vision clears, Erica's window is up again, closing him off from her the way a prison door clangs shut with the cold finality of steel on steel and separates so completely the guarded from the guards. Unmoving, he watches for thirty seconds as Phia drives slowly down the street. In Henry's mind, the distance between them, still only a few hundred yards, is a gulf as wide and impossible to fathom as infinity itself. Brake lights flash briefly as Phia's car turns to the right. The silhouette of Erica's face, now only a small, indistinct shape in the distance, shrinks to an unrecognizable shadow and disappears. Immediately, Henry's eyes dart to his smartphone, cradled in his left hand just below the open window where he's held it carefully for the last few minutes. He finds what he's looking for easily in the menu options. Let there be clarity, he pleads to himself, as he starts to listen. Just let there be clarity. The quality of the recording surprises him. He hears her voice, her distinct enunciation. Then his own, “Earth's the right place for love, Erica.” A period of silence. And then, there it is. “Henry. Henry.” What she said before and after is lost to him. It's only the quiet cadence of his name that matters. They are a gift, her voice, the brief sound of his name in her
THE FORGOTTEN By Emily Jobe
Roots gouging continents. A family’s flower stagnated by the hearth’s fire. A widow’s weep choking the day, children’s laughter a poison for a holiday. A voice wafting over linens and cloth, a silence settles. No balm and oil dripping a calm on painted sheets. The aroma and touch cracked under the gaze. A heat leaving a husk with little left but dust. Shadowed figure hunched from stolen smiles now tighten an old face. Echoing greens of eyes drawn black by years of lies. A truth left out in the fluttering light. Speckled ashes and purple breath scattered together in a potpourri’s soothing breast.
UNTITLED manipulated photography
By Jim Zola
N O. 2
A MAN with a HORRIBLE DENT in HIS HEAD By Yan An Translated by Chen Du & Xisheng Chen
他一直低头玩刀子 用刀子削苹果 削菠萝 头顶上的坑 像碗一样又大又深 足足可以放进去 一颗地雷 两个拳头 足足可以住进去一只鸡 下蛋或者孵化小鸡 他旁边缝着塑料边沿的纸盒中 过路人投放的硬币和毛票 寥寥无几 一眼看去就能数得过来 一个在街头的树荫下 自己给自己请求慈善的人 来者不拒 去者不留 一个头也不抬削苹果 削菠萝 送给每一个投币者享受的人 是一个头顶有重大凹陷的人
Head down he is playing a knife all the time With the knife he pares apples peels pineapples The dent on his head Is as big and deep as a bowl Big and deep enough to hold One mine Two fists Big and deep enough for a hen to dwell in Lay eggs or hatch chickens In the plastic-rimmed paper box next to him Are some coins and small bills from passengers Thin on the ground countable at one glance Under the umbrage of trees at a street corner The man is soliciting mercy for himself Refusing no comer stopping no leaver He is paring apples and pineapples without lifting his head Giving it to everyone to enjoy after they drop him a coin A man with a horrible dent in his head
有人把硬币直接扔进他头顶的坑中 他不卑不亢 不嗔不怒 倒像玩游戏一样 不停地摇晃着脑袋 让硬币在凹坑里不停地旋转 一个放弃了屈辱感的人 一边作揖相谢 一边埋头继续削苹果 削菠萝 等着那些享用的人
Someone has directly dropped a coin in the dent in his head Neither humble nor arrogant with neither hatred nor anger Just like playing a game he shakes his head tirelessly To let the coin swirl continuously in the dent Giving up any sense of humiliation he bows in thanks While engrossing himself in paring apples peeling pineapples Waiting for those who will enjoy them
By Robert Beveridge
The song awaits its composer as the gatekeeper awaits the keymaster. You are my minor seventh, though never diminished, my spider who spins only when dosed with laudanum. Within the structure twists the ever-contracting spiral. I meditate on its center, but never come to it; each time we zoom it seems the same, though its surroundings get more and more blurry each iteration. We use the Golden Mean as a ladder, or perhaps a scaffold, stop to paint graffiti on occasion, tweak the tune more to our liking. I emerge and sunlight has broken over the crenellated wall of the Temple District. Someone, perhaps you, has set up a stage. How thoughtful! We ascend the high rise, pick up our instruments, await the hand of someone, anyone, to throw the switch, activate the fake smoke machine.
A DEAL IS a DEAL By Riley Winchester
You are brought into this world with a purple face, an umbilical cord wrapped around your neck, and your mother’s excrement lodged so far up your nose that shit-
you that he’s died, but the caller ID says the name of the hospice and the lady on the other end asks to speak to your mom when you pick up.
for-brains isn’t an insult to you, it’s a near reality. You spend your first three months in the hospital—E. coli
You are brought into this world with a purple face, an
spinal meningitis is what keeps you there. The doctors inform your parents that if you survive, which is not likely, you will come out with a physical or mental handicap, maybe both. Your dad, for reasons unknown, becomes so desperate that he prays to God and proposes a deal: cure my son, and give me a disease in exchange. This seems fair enough, God says. One of your earliest memories is waking up at 5 a.m. on weekdays and watching Looney Tunes as your dad prepares for work. But one day this tradition comes to an end. Paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinuria (PNH) is what ends it. It takes four years, but God finally gets around to it and now your dad must pay his end of the deal. Also, you have no physical or mental handicaps—except, well, flat feet, and your hearing could be better. You have a hard time explaining to people that your dad is “sick” and doesn’t work when people ask you what he does. There are two reasons for this. One, you don’t want sympathy from people; you just want to be treated like a normal person with a normal dad. Two, you don’t like explaining the disease to people, that his red blood cells are holding mass ceremonies of seppuku. At 13, you donate bone marrow to your dad at the Johns Hopkins Hospital. His PNH is cured. At 16, your dad has tears in his eyes when he tells you that he’s been diagnosed with colon cancer. A deal is a deal and God is a man of His word. At 18, you live with him in a hospice room for five days. On the sixth day, you leave him— you’ll just head home for an hour or two and be back soon, you think. In the kitchen at home, the phone rings and it tells you that he’s died. Well, it doesn’t really tell
umbilical cord wrapped around your neck, and your mother’s excrement lodged so far up your nose that shitfor-brains isn’t an insult to you, it’s a near reality. There is a very good chance you will not leave the world this way, so here’s to self-improvement. You don’t think your dad’s deal with God actually meant anything or caused anything, but you still wonder why he did it. What you have learned is this: if your son is born on his deathbed, maybe just keep quiet.
THE CARAVAN After the Reuters photo series, "Children of the Caravan," 11/2/18. By Laura Cherry
The girl on her fatherâ€™s shoulders, eyes closed, hair in the wind. The girl crossing the river in her fatherâ€™s arms, brown water to his chest. The mother pushing her small son in a wheelchair. The man on crutches. They are walking. Some are giving birth. There are no buses. The sleeping bags on the ground, the coughing, the walking. The walking. The tiny girl in the American flag dress and the enormous, lit-up smile.
PACIFIC SUNSET oil on canvas
By Judith Skillman
CONTRIBUTORS DEE ALLEN is an African-Italian performance poet based in Oakland, California. He has been active on creative writing and spoken word tips since the early 1990s. So far, he has five books (Boneyard, Unwritten Law, Stormwater, and Skeletal Black from POOR Press, and his newest, Elohi Unitsi, from Conviction 2 Change Publishing) and 24 anthology appearances (including Your Golden Sun Still Shines, Rise, Extreme, The Land Lives Forever, and Civil Liberties United, edited by Shizué Seigel) under his figurative belt. YAN AN has authored fourteen poetry collections, including his most famous publication, Rock Arrangement, which has won him The Sixth Lu Xun Literary Prize, one of China’s top four literary prizes. He is also the vice president of Shaanxi Writers Association, the head and executive editor-in-chief of the literary journal Yan River, and a national committee member of the Poetry Committee of China Writers Association. ROBERT BEVERIDGE makes noise (xterminal.bandcamp.com) and writes poetry in Akron, OH. He has recent and upcoming appearances in Collective Unrest, Cough Syrup, and Blood & Bourbon, among others. RACHAEL BIGGS is an author and screenwriter whose memoir, Yearning for Nothings and Nobodies, was published in 2012. She studied creative writing at Langara College and UCLA and holds a screenwriting diploma from Vancouver Film School. Her short fiction has appeared in The Dalhousie Review, Door is a Jar, Horror Sleaze Trash, Charge Magazine, 5 on the Fifth, Cliterature, and Adelaide Magazine. Her feature film, Kill Me, is in the early stages of production. Find her online (http://rachaelbiggs.com/) and on Instagram (@rachael_biggs_author). LARRY BLAZEK lives on a small farm where he writes poetry and short stories, as well as plays guitar. He tinkers with mechanical devices and has built his own vehicles. He grows some of his own food organically. Larry has been published in the Lucklow, Damfino, Puff Puff, Panopolyzine, Indicia, and Radvocate, among many others. XISHENG CHEN is a translator and ESL linguist and educator. His educational background includes a BA and MA from Fudan University in Shanghai, China, and a Mandarin Healthcare Interpreter Certificate from the City College of San Francisco. He has worked as a translator for Shanghai TV Station, a lecturer at Jiangnan University in Wuxi, China, an adjunct professor at the Departments of English and Social Sciences in Trine University, and a high-tech translator for Futurewei Technologies, Inc.
LAURA CHERRY is the author of the collection Haunts (Cooper Dillon Books) and the chapbooks Two White Beds (Minerva Rising) and What We Planted (Providence Athenaeum). She also co-edited the anthology Poem, Revised (Marion Street Press) with Robert Hartwell Fiske. Her work has been published in journals including Antiphon, Ekphrastic Review, Los Angeles Review, Cider Press Review, and Hartskill Review. Laura earned an MFA from the Warren Wilson Program for Writers. JOSHUA COLOMBO's work often tackles issues such as mental illness, isolation, and our drastically changing society with a post-modern flair. He is currently an undergraduate at Kennesaw State University working on honing his craft. His work has been featured in Three Line Poetry and Old Red Kimono. CHEN DU has a master’s degree in biophysics from the University of Buffalo and another in radio physics from the Chinese Academy of Sciences. In the United States, her translations have appeared or are forthcoming in the Columbia Journal, Lunch Ticket, Pilgrimage, Anomaly, and several other journals. Three poems co-translated by her and Xisheng Chen are finalists in The Gabo Prize for Literature in Translation and Multilingual Texts. Find her online at ofsea.com. ROBIN WYATT DUNN was born in Wyoming in 1979. You can read more of his work at www.robindunn.com. BRANDON FRENCH has been an assistant English professor at Yale, Director of Development at Columbia Pictures Television, an award-winning advertising copywriter, and a private psychoanalyst. 73 of her stories have been published in literary journals and anthologies. She has been nominated twice for a Pushcart and won an award in the 2015 Chicago Tribune Nelson Algren Short Story Contest. Brandy’s short story collection, If One of Us Should Die, I’ll Move to Paris, is available on Amazon. JESSICA HARTENBOWER graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in English from Colorado Christian University. She enjoys reads of almost all kinds and hopes to communicate both truth and beauty through the written word. She currently resides in the suburbs of Denver, Colorado. ANDY HOLLINGWORTH is a student at Kennesaw State University studying digital animation. Find more of his work on artstation.com. EMILY JOBE is a poet and editor whose poetry has appeared in Aberration Labyrinth. She holds a BA from Kennesaw State University, while she lives and works as an editor in Georgia. Find more at jobepress.com. EDWARD LEE's poetry, short stories, nonfiction, and photography have been published in magazines in Ireland, England and America, including The Stinging Fly, Skylight 47, Acumen, and Smiths Knoll. He is currently working on a novel. He also makes musical noise under the names Ayahuasca Collective, Lewis Milne, Orson Carroll, Blinded Architect, Lego Figures Fighting, and Pale Blond Boy. His website can be found at https://edwardmlee.wordpress.com.
ROBERT McGUILL’s work has appeared in Narrative, the Southwest Review, the Saturday Evening Post, Louisiana Literature, American Fiction, and other publications. His stories have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize four times and short-listed for awards by, among others, Glimmer Train, The New Guard, Sequestrum Art & Literature, and the Tucson Festival of Books. MAKDA MULUGETA is a senior majoring in anthropology and human biology at Emory University. She’s passionate about the educational rights of students in developing countries and serving her community. In her spare time, she enjoys sketching, painting, sculpting, volunteering, and hiking. FABRICE POUSSIN teaches French and English at Shorter University. Author of novels and poetry, his work has appeared in Kestrel, Symposium, The Chimes, and many other magazines. His photography has been published in the Front Porch Review, the San Pedro River Review, and other publications. JUDITH SKILLMAN paints expressionist works in oil on canvas. She is interested in feelings engendered by the natural world. Her art has appeared in Windmill: The Hofstra Journal of Literature and Art, Artemis, The Penn Review, and other journals. Skillman has studied at McDaniel College, the Pratt Fine Arts Center, and Seattle Artist League. Shows include The Pratt and Galvanize. Find her online at www.judithskillman.com and on www.saatchiart.com. STAN LEE WERLIN's short stories and poetry have appeared in the Southern Humanities Review, Los Angeles Review, Sheepshead Review, Prime Number, Glassworks, Futures Trading, Soundings East, Saranac Review, Bacopa Literary Review, Zone 3, Gargoyle, Reunion, The Write Launch, and Roanoke Review. His humorous children's poetry has been published in numerous children’s magazines and anthologies. He holds a BA from Harvard College and an MBA from the Wharton School. RILEY WINCHESTER lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He recently graduated from Grand Valley State University, where he earned a BA in history. His work has appeared in The Writing Disorder.
JIM ZOLA is a poet and photographer living in North Carolina.
Everyone is a storyteller. Waymark is a student-led publication of Kennesaw State University that welcomes submissions online from any stor...
Published on Jun 20, 2020
Everyone is a storyteller. Waymark is a student-led publication of Kennesaw State University that welcomes submissions online from any stor...