Issuu on Google+

WESTWIND


WESTWIND UCLA’s Journal of the Arts

2016


Westwind Los Angeles is a crazy collision of intersections, and Westwind, UCLA’s student-run journal of the arts, strives to capture this spirit. We seek to provide a platform for the weird and wonderful voices found all over the greater Los Angeles area in whatever form they arise. For over fifty years, Westwind has been printing poetry, prose, art, music, and everything in between. Help us attempt to define the undefinable that is Los Angeles. Anything goes. Westwind is made possible with the support of UCLA’s English Department. Print journals are currently available in the English Departmental Office.

Cover: “Pool (Positive)” and “Pool (Negative)” By Zach Helper


Staff Faculty Advisor

Reed Wilson

Managing Editor

Natalie Green

Blog Editor

Nahal Amouzadeh

PROSE Senior Editors JP Cavender Daniel Noh

POETRY Senior Editor Dylan Karlsson

Staff Nahal Amouzadeh Winston Bribach Kari Dearie Jenna Gulick Galen Harrill Jeffrey Leaf Megan Lent Sophie Mirzaian Theodora Ng Emily Parsons Kalyce Rogers JoAnna Schindler Celeste Seifert Melissa Villalon Anne Youngdahl Maxwell Zupke

Staff Nathan Bang Zach Conner Libby Hsieh Nicolette Olson Pauline Pechakjian Eunice Shin


Editors' Notes Our faculty advisor, Professor Reed Wilson, spends much of our office hours together discussing the UCLA mentality and its evolution over the past few decades, since his undergraduate and graduate careers here in the ‘70s and ‘80s. He describes today’s classic overachiever, a student able to get into one of the world’s top academic institutions because they can succeed at everything. These students find new ways to fill their time at UCLA. With club sports and The Daily Bruin and Greek life, they continue to stretch themselves too thin. But Professor Wilson understands the other parts of these students that most of the professors at a public research university don’t take the time to acknowledge. The depression and the abuse and the drug overdoses. The C’s. The not so perfectness. He nods and he asks the right questions and he listens. Then, he advocates an outlet for their feelings, for English majors and non-English majors alike: writing. Westwind’s been around for even longer than Professor Wilson, but, like him, it tries to provide an outlet for students’ creativity. To tell them what they do is worthwhile. To keep going and change their pre-med majors even if it kills their parents. With Professor Wilson’s assistance, I’ve come to understand the thoughtfulness required to run a student literary journal— to treat each piece we read with care, nodding about it and discussing it and trying to ask the right questions. This is how I’ve come to define my ideal Westwind submission —which I consider all of the entries in the 2016 journal—a messy


piece of perfection or a perfect piece of messiness that cares. And in the end, I hope we make a journal that you can care about, too. This journal is dedicated to Professor Reed Wilson, who, for over twenty years, has believed in an institutionally-supported literary journal. But more importantly, he has believed in thousands of students, whose work could, and has, filled more journals than Westwind’s decades-long printing can comprehend. Thanks for sharing your oďŹƒce with me. Natalie Green Managing Editor, 2016


Poetry The poems collected in this journal are not idle pieces of language. To say they simply move, however musically, along the page certainly does not do them justice either. They are evidence of language’s most transformative qualities, akin to the everevolving nature of unique experience. Through the lens of the poet we see revelations big and small unfold before us. We are given the image of a bowl of soup exploded onto an apocalyptic sky, or an iPod classic illuminated on a dashboard by the tail-lights of a truck. In these poems, language frames not just the surrounding world, but an interior and political world. Words use their power to resolve identity across gender or geography, or use their important function in overcoming and describing the faculties of the mind. Our poetry staff has spent a lot of time pouring ourselves over poems, picking through the intricacies of their language and at times deciphering code. As we discuss the poems of the week, what grabs us most is perhaps that which works subtly, sticking in our minds as we leave and go about our days. As readers, something in the writing stays with us, and we soon find ourselves transformed. Dylan Karlsson Senior Poetry Editor, 2016


Prose Every Tuesday, the members of the Westwind prose staff pile into a cramped and funky-smelling classroom of Haines Hall to discuss our constantly refilling Gmail inbox. The stories that come to us are often lively, usually odd and always provoking an animated discussion amongst our editors. I am excited to introduce the eleven stories which we have decided to include in this year’s print journal. They involve checkout lines, hoarders, and drones. A snake husband and Cool Ranch Doritos. Long naps, knocked out teeth, and a man named Napoleon. A few are short and eccentric. One is adapted from our Twitter contest. Yet another is a narrative screenplay meant for reading, not watching. Reader, I hope you’ll enjoy our efforts to find, edit, and publish great fiction. And to anyone with a Tuesday afternoon discussion section in Haines: leave a window open when you leave. JP Cavender Senior Prose Editor, 2016


Prose With photographers, there comes a point where one’s city starts to become rote. Always the same landscapes, always the same streets, always the same sunsets—even the pedestrians at that one busy intersection become the same (after all, people follow routine commutes). The easy solution is to travel elsewhere, find new wells of creativity and inspiration. But the greater challenge is to find new ways to see the things and places we take for granted. Reimagine the ordinary, shift perspective. Writing is no different. Four years at UCLA, and I was feeling that I had read and wrote it all. What new could possibly come out of an empty classroom? I now run into the same people at Le Conte and Westwood. Have I not been to this party, this social function, this lecture, this coffee hangout before? Is this not the same girl, that same boy, that same deranged graduate student? But just as I packed my bags and called the uber to the airport, some people came and opened my eyes to the wealth of creativity still waiting underneath the streets of Westwood. There still remains much to mine. I hope that as you read through the stories contained in these pages, you will let yourself be surprised at the new perspectives they bring to the table. And although I must leave regardless, I am grateful that they reminded me of the vibrancy that drew me here in the first place, all those years ago. Until next time, Daniel Seunghyun Noh Senior Prose Editor, 2016


Table of Contents Kiefer Michael Browne

15

iPod, Truck Gabe Pine

16

Like Pulling Teeth Luke Moran

17

Extra Fine Merino Luke Moran

18

And the Heat Goes On JP Cavender

19

I Sip Campari From Your Left Eye Jake Tringali

25

Piece of Cake Tina Lawson

27

Personal Statement Karen Achar

28

Snooze Annakai 早川 Geshlider

29

One Job at a Time Annakai 早川 Geshlider

31


t(here) Tulika Varma

32

Lithuania Living Rachel Berkowitz

34

The Air Man* Hannah Hogen

35

Rage, Rage Winston Bribach

53

The Way to Orange Don Kingfisher Campbell

54

Let's Play Ball Kim and Aliya

55

A Journey into Nuestro Pueblo Miles Mistler

56

FREI Anna Aaryn Khen

57

Swim Lessons Alberto Loaiza

59

Trigger Warning Nahal Amouzadeh

61

Eidolon Eileen Li

66

*Winner of The Writer’s Den 2014 Creative Writing Contest


An Over-Eager Man Eileen Li

67

There is but one truly serious philosophical problem Eileen Li

68

Delicious Wishes Eileen Li

69

Me and Her Stefan Dismond

70

296.06 Isaac Williams

71

Snake Charmed Sean Pessin

73

Frott J.M. Sanchez

77

The Conversation I Never Had Kaylce Rogers

78

Curtain Zach Helper

80

Verso Zach Helper

81

Scene I from Vermont Avenue Donut Shop Max Kapur

82


Friday Night Vera Burrows

83

LA Isaac Williams

84

Gun Store, Liquor Store E-Roy and The Pretentious Pidgins

85

My Cousin Charles Mario RenĂŠe Padilla

86

Johnny Ramone is Buried Here Megan Lent

89

Where the Angels Landed Daniel Noh

106

Martha Stewart Living: Simple Lemon Cake Dante Matero

108

Hoarder, Interrupted Jay Martin

109

Untitled Shavand Taghizadeh

112

Finding Out Alex Goette

114

DR-1 Dylan Karlsson

115

Contributors' Notes

119


Kiefer By Michael Browne

Kiefer Sutherland farts in exuberant bursts. Kiefer likes to hang upside down in his closet and say that he’s a vampire. He has the film to prove it, he says. Once a Lost Boy always a Lost Boy. For breakfast Kiefer Sutherland eats Cool Ranch Doritos straight from the bag in perpetual lethargy on a couch from the set of 24 or Stand by Me. Kiefer likes Kool-Aid. The yellow kind. The purple kind. The red kind called “Rock-A-Dile Red.” Yesterday Kiefer bought the “Pink Swimmingo” flavor on accident. Kiefer hates “Pink Swimmingo.” Kiefer’s eyes got big and wild and he punched a hole in the wall and it was the last time he ever bought “Pink Swimmingo.” He likes his Kool-Aid with macaroni and cheese. The kind that glows in the microwave. When it doesn’t glow enough he slaps the side of the microwave and shows his teeth. The teeth from Lost Boys. The prosthetic ones. Last month Kiefer spent a whole week under his bed. Kiefer lives like a Tamagotchi with a negligent owner. Pixelated poops are lined up in neat rows all over Kiefer’s apartment. Kiefer is waiting for the spaceship. His ride out of here. At 11 p.m. on a Sunday night Kiefer Sutherland is washing Doritos dust off his hands while screaming in the shower not in language but in animal utterances. In short barks. In the modes of men.

1 13


iPod, Truck By Gabe Pine

Jake drives into night. In front of us a semi truck merges into our lane and we stare at its flat white back, read the printed page. As we travel at the same speed the truck floats above our wide eyes. Unblinking and cold, it looks back at us. I think of Ishmael, strapped down and empty-headed, meeting Moby Dick. Jake scrolls through my iPod, stands it up in the center of the windshield. The four red lights on the truck’s stern mark the corners of the iPod classic. iPod and truck. LEFT LANE MUST EXIT LEFT The truck signals right and escapes.

1 14


Like Pulling Teeth By Luke Moran

It’s poetic to pull fact out the mouth of fiction. It’s hygienic to wipe up afterwards. It’s nice to let them choose their own toothbrush (The boys like green, the pink for girls.) It’s a comfort to go home when there’s no work to be done. It’s a privilege. It’s smart to give your boss notice before you leave town. It’s not easy to get up when there’s nothing going on. It’s essential that you share (with patients), as it is polite of you to listen. It’s poetic to pull teeth. It is okay. It’s a living.

1 15


Extra Fine Merino By Luke Moran

She shrugs at the phrase extra “fine� more refined, less fine, less risk of duplication. the smell of coffee infects her breath. Fibers hold on tight as if grasping at meaning. she has one for every day of the week and her piles at home look like this. machine-folded before import. japan denim. yes. factory to us. this is the great domestic industry. this is new housing for the rich or poor (the poor). they make machines to make machines, you know. they make machines to make machines domestic. go be your own (domestic). you can grab your paycheck tomorrow, but you know i’d rather lint roll a sweater until it disappears.

1 16


And the Heat Goes On By JP Cavender

A square of sunlight burned on the white wall of the kitchen and Paul pressed his palm into its center. There were moments, he thought, that went on forever. In the pan beside him, the bacon curled onto itself. He closed his eyes and felt the sweat run down his back. She had asked—demanded—fifteen hundred dollars, but Paul tried to forget about that. He wanted today’s hot evening to stretch on into infinity. His BLT would soon be ready. He would eat it on the couch in his underwear with the fan on and the television blaring and hopefully there would be more than a few bottles of beer in the fridge. Paul removed his hand from the wall and nudged the strips of bacon with an iron spatula. He tried to summon that manic joy he often felt. It would strike like a faint headache, occurring after a whole day shacked up in the apartment. If anyone ever asked him to explain it, he would describe it as the pleasant cousin of cabin fever. Out of the corner of his eye, he could see the telephone’s receiver sway from the cord that connected it to the wall. Move the bacon around. Listen to it pop. When he had hung up he could have sworn the violent snap he felt between his eyebrows was audible. How much money did she

1 17


think he had? Christ, he wasn’t even close to paying off his credit cards— And then he saw the cracked plastic on the floor. Shit, he had broken the phone. But there was an agreement. If he paid up (more than double the clinic’s advertised cost), the history department would be none the wiser. He could keep teaching undergrads and writing about Captain FitzRoy. A flicker of joy in the back of his skull. As Paul stepped into the living room, he saw the flyer that had been shoved under his door. It was the second one this week. Some neighbor’s parakeet had gone missing and the woman had frantically, and unnecessarily, notified the community. He wanted to look up her address just so he could go and tell her that the dumb bird was dead. That’s just the way it worked. Paul found his pants crumpled on the carpet. He yanked a pack of Marlboros from one of the pockets. Was it foolish that after the girl had talked to him, his first reaction had been to think of his father? Once in Reno during Dad’s rapid decline, when he kept his fucking cowboy hat on the table beside his hospital bed, he looked at Paul with those fevered eyes and said, “Do something.” “Water? A nurse? The painkillers?” Paul asked. “Paul,” his father said, “Fucking do something.” His second thought, he knew was ridiculous. While she stood there in her Birkenstocks with her backpack on, he had felt an overwhelming urge to get on one knee and ask her to marry him.

2 18


In that moment as they stood in his office a whole future shot out in front of him. Hard, yes. Complicated, yes. But grounded and purposeful and somehow he could vividly see himself at a faculty mixer twenty years from now telling some new acquaintance how he’d been a grad student when they met. “You’ll never believe it,” he’d say. “I was her TA.” And they’d both get a laugh out of it. But he had not asked. He had looked at her and she began to cry and even though his silence made the answer obvious to the both of them, he said, “What do you want to do?” With the thickness of cooked bacon in the air, Paul tapped out a cigarette from the pack. It was the last one. He put it between his lips and his eyes strayed, as they often did, to the map he’d tacked up. The world in 1830 looked exotic and unnatural—all the same geography, but different borders and nations, outdated names. He had spent hours on the route. First debating the use of pen, then finally deciding on pins and string. The thread ran from England down into the Southern Hemisphere where it curved and looped across the world. Though he had never told anyone, he often dreamed of Captain FitzRoy. He would awake with the image of a whale boat on a gray river clear in his mind’s eye. Paul tightened his lips, bobbing the cigarette up and down. He returned to the kitchen and moved the pan to an unlit burner. He dipped his face to the blue flame and touched the cigarette’s tip to

19


the fire. He took a few puffs, feeling the heat of the stove on his cheeks. He remembered when she had first come to him. One Thursday’s office hours, when she rested her hand on his knee and he felt himself making that sleazy smile he’d seen his father give to too many blackjack dealers. Gimme the cards, it said. My money’s on the table. Paul scooped the bacon onto a plate. One of the pieces had cracked in half and it looked crispier than he would prefer it to be. He scratched his belly. “I’ll read your revisions and give you a call,” he had told her, “But it might be late when I do.” He took a bite into one of the bacon strips. It spilled bacon crumbs onto the floor. He had intentionally waited till just after midnight to call. As her phone rang, he pictured her black nail polish, his mouth on her neck— Pounding bass. Shouted conversation. “Hello?” The word was compacted, each separate sound mashed together unnaturally. “It’s Paul.” A great scuffling then a door slamming and the music and voices subdued. “Hi Paul.” About an hour later, when she came over, he had already polished off a few beers. He handed her the essay and they pretended to talk about it, until suddenly her tequila breath was on his face

20


and he was peeling off her clothes and they were pressing each other into the couch. He looked down at the plate and saw that he’d eaten all of the bacon. Sure, great. No BLT in front of the television. But to be fair, he didn’t need the bread. He noticed that his foot was tapping wildly and that the amber at the tip of his cigarette had nearly completed its short journey to his lips. Paul withdrew the filter from his mouth and pressed it into an ash tray. He needed to get out of here. Maybe go get another pack or two from the gas station. As he walked out of the apartment, he thought about the rent that would soon be due. The student loan payment. The car insurance bill. He stuffed his hands into the pockets of his jeans as he passed the complex’s drained pool. After their talk, she hadn’t gone to class. He emailed her in the professional way a teaching assistant should inform a student that their absence may not only affect their participation grade, but also their understanding of the course material. “So it’s my fault you didn’t use protection,” she shot back. He immediately deleted the email, but he knew that the campus IT department could likely find it if they looked. How old was she? Nineteen? Twenty? From somewhere outside Seattle, he seemed to recall. Another night when she came over (there had been a few evenings they spent together), she had asked what the map was.

21


“Subletter left it there,” he lied. “I never took it down.” “I wish,” she said, running her hand through her hair, “I wish I knew what it means.” Out on the sidewalk, he could feel the sweat staining the back of his shirt. The drab apartments that he walked by depressed him. They all had little trees in front of them. Weird stunted trees— A flutter of yellow. He could feel it now. That wild elation. Bring what you may. It landed on one of the branches. Paul stopped in his tracks and stood stock-still. Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. What did that flier say? Five hundred dollars for the fucking pet? He tasted metal in his mouth. A throbbing in his temple. He could see his father’s bloodshot eyes, the girl’s exposed breast, an oil stain on a garage floor. The sunset burned on behind him as Paul stared at a little yellow bird that cocked its head in the dry air.

22


I Sip Campari From Your Left Eye By Jake Tringali

I sip Campari from your left eye unclothed, yet inhibited your beauty lies sacred before me more nude than naked I sip Chambord from your right eye the house of madam francis holds appetite and fantasy for this eve’s sinful rites I sip Chartreuse from your left ear now, let’s not be craven shallow dives to wet the tongue aural exploration I sip Vermouth from your right ear your nervous giggles abate my dating needs are fickle in this hellfire club I sip Absinthe from your left nostril be still now, as the flower abides to the bee your petals aflutter

1 23


I sip Fernet from your right nostril the sting in your nose may feel deceiving, the warmth is friend, not foe I sip Genever from your mouth share with me this eau de vie our lives and lips locked I sip Whiskey from your cloaca you whisper a low sound animalistic my carnal vessel I sip Brandy from your labia your ceremony ends sweet ninth orifice now drunk, and seeking remedy

2 24


Piece of Cake By Tina Lawson

When I was young I was hungry for something sweet He offered a confection not the kind you eat He led me down the corridor promising promises those yearning fingers searching seeking savouring A gift for my silence: the sugar dissolved into a sour patch on the back of my throat Every year every breath I take: I ask my reflection, Was it worth that piece of cake?

1 25


Personal Statement By Karen Achar Ink on paper in Ziploc

26


Snooze By Annakai 早川 Geshlider

There were once two roommates who lived in room 311. That’s on the third floor. The premise is that one of the roomies took a nap. Set alarum for twenty-six minutes from now, the NASA advised length for a Nap That Doesn’t Make Ya Groggy. The other premise is that the second roomie snoozes the Napping Roomie’s alarum. After hearing tinglering, touch middle finger pad to fone screen. Napping Roomie naps on. This is the universe they made: The alarum sounds again. Wake Roomie snoozes alarum again. Napping roomie naps on. Repeat this for seven years. Then, eternity. Wake Roomie enjoys the peace. Ample time to coordinate Napping Roomie’s birthday party and down a few pieces of fudge while yer at it. Napping Roomie enjoys the dreams. Looks like this situation worked out quite nicely for all parties. Except for Napping Roomie’s TA, who wonders: where’s that essay rough draft? Napping Roomie never did turn draft in. Except for Alligator Daughter, aka Napping Roomie’s boss back at the swamp preserve. Every Tuesday, as the recordbreaker Cali drought keeps sucking the swamp shallow, Alligator Daughter holds Napping Roomie’s timesheet and peers tearful thru unpunched marks.

1 27


Except for Napping Roomie’s gramps, Playfool Peter Jr. , who has been expecting a response to that bday card. Napping Roomie opened that card and used the $9 for a two-foot sub with krinkle chips on the side, but never did write back t’thank. Alarum sounds again. Wake Roomie reaches for snooze button but knuckle brushes Napping Roomie’s temple, so Napping Roomie jolts conscious, catapults from bedsprings, and trips on seven-years locks. Hibernation disorientation. Desperate: Fill me in. Wake Roomie says: You didn’t miss much. They put your degree on hold. But the classrooms are still there, and most of the concepts. Meanwhile the ice cream shop on Weyburn closed, and a ribbony shaved ice joint opened in its place.

2 28


One Job at a Time By Annakai 旊� Geshlider When I journal the night before I am reborn under the covers. So come next day, when rouse to salvage sentences from my hair, cranial channels run clean. I can operate: one job at a time. Like my friend Henry. He fries a salmon, hands move slow and broad, nonscatter. Flop fish upon pan. Fixwholeheart coffeewater. Spatula calm then scoop to plate. Knee thigh balance, frank: eat.

1 29


t(here) By Tulika Varma

There —where i live— at six a.m. every morning—except sundays— my father boils one cup of milk and two cups of water in a steel pan, and adds three teaspoons of darjeeling green label tea, and brews it for twelve minutes. this makes three cups of brown Chai, which we drink, sitting on the floor by the courtyard in our house. americans love their chai-tea lattes, unaware that their name for it translates to tea-tea with milk-with-milk. i have only ordered a chai-tea latte once— i said, “can i get a short chai-tea latte please?” and it tasted like four-syllable lie dusted with cinnamon. in november 2015, the news reported floods T(here), my mother told me—on the phone—about how she woke at 4 a.m. and the lawn had disappeared. white foam settled over brown corpses of children and cows here, i imagined a flood of brown Chai that would tear down the starbucks here, all that would remain is soft brown tea leaves that i could sink my feet into. it would smell like darjeeling green label.

1 30


(here), someone spilled their chai-tea latte and i stepped in a puddle of it, but my feet were still dry. (here), white tongues settle on the brown corpse of tu-li-ka, they say are you from-there, from there? i say yes i am from-there from t(here). if i am such a mouthful spit me out onto the ground so i can wet my feet because the flood is not coming. i hear nothing (here), only the slow hiss of hot Chai being poured from that steel pan, into a cup, and onto my dry, cracked feet.

2 31


Lithuania Living By Rachel Berkowitz I accompanied my father, a keen professor of History at UCL, on a historical holocaust trip to Lithuania in the Summer of 2015. The trip was a mixture of heavy emotions embodied with beautiful, ghostly pictorial memorial sites. The work evokes sadness, yet clings onto the vibrant memories tied in with the abandoned surroundings.

32


The Air Man By Hannah Hogen

There was one time in middle school where the teacher gave us all this research assignment. He wanted us to do a write-up on a part of San Cielo that we found particularly fascinating. We could pick our own topic within reason, and prepare a two to three minute presentation that would include why we chose it and why the place we picked was an important part of the city. I wrote about the little public park on Seventeenth and Harborview that was right down the street from the tiny apartment my mother and I had just moved to. She took me down there to explore while she helped the parks commission paint the graffiti from the walls and play places. The full name of the park was something like “Parque de la gente de mi tierra,” but she and I and everyone else I knew just shortened it to “Parque Gente.” There were these big sculptures there made out of greening metal that dotted the park, bending under the trees and saluting the sky beneath the more open areas. I used a big green poster board for my presentation, splashed with crudely drawn pictures of plants and trees and plastered with pictures printed on lined paper. I got an A- and my mother was very proud of me. Three years ago they tore down Parque Gente to make room for a bigger parking lot to feed the new promenade over on Sixteenth.

1 33


But what I wrote about for that one stupid project back in middle school isn’t important. What is important is what I didn’t write about. Nearly everyone else in my class, other than the handful of other kids who had just transferred from other districts or from the suburbs like me, wrote about the Air Man. After class I asked my best friend at the time, the Scott with a lisp and a garden of flowering acne, why everyone wanted to write about the Air Man. It wasn’t that I’d never heard of him—even if you lived on the outskirts of San Cielo, you still would hear about the Air Man whenever he was spotted in public—but I’d always figured it was something that the general public entertained and used as a gimmick rather than fervently cared about. It had never seemed that important to me. And Scott, the same kid who’d shoved no less than five grape tomatoes up his nose the day before, donned the most serious expression that I’ve ever in my life seen on a kid below the age of fourteen and asked me where the fuck I had been all my life. Scott knew the answer to that—I had not lived in this city until a couple of weeks ago, but it hit me then and there that that did not matter. That something was different in the water of San Cielo, that there was some tiny molecule that was immune or ignored by even the most skeptical of filters. And that molecule would form a protein, and that protein would swim through your blood and attach itself to a receptor on your brain and then pump chemicals through your body that triggered an obsessive fascination with the Air Man. Now that I was living in the city,

34


there was a certain degree of curiosity about the Air Man that I needed to have in order to be socially acceptable. I learned about how to solve geometric proofs, how to spell chlamydia and how to properly grind down the entrance rails at the Promenade on Fourth and Esperanza but I swear; the most vital thing that I learned about that year in middle school was the sheer importance of the Air Man to everyone I would ever come into contact with during my time in the city. Even babies with no concept of anything past their own fingers routinely sported jumpers emblazoned with “Forget the stork, I was dropped off by the Air Man!” as their parents pushed them down the sidewalks. As I grew up I learned more and more about the Air Man and more and more about just how much it was integrated into everything about life in San Cielo. The trinkets and ads and articles in the newspaper that I’d written off as tourist bait were now seen as legitimate parts of a culture that consumed the city from top to bottom and all around in between. It was a phenomenon that had been institutionalized in the year since its inception, and the total penetration was revealed bit by bit to me as I grew and found the proper pieces to place into the puzzle that was the relationship between San Cielo and its Air Man. As it is with most creatures of legend, Air Man doesn’t charge for his services, and doesn’t have a shop or counter or booth or anything like that set up around town. Despite his consumerist culture he’s no corporation. He doesn’t seem to have a set pattern for who he picks up or where he picks them up. There are people who study this kind of thing, and they try to find some kind of

35


rationale behind the Air Man’s actions, but so far most of them have wound up with nothing. And the ones who have wound up with something base their conclusions on conjecture, lies, and leaps of faith. There’s one thing they do know, though, and it’s the one thing about the Air Man that everyone who believes in him is sure about. No one’s ever been picked up by the Air Man twice. The testimonials of the people who’ve been picked up by the Air Man describe the experience as something like this: they’re walking alone, or standing on their balconies, or smoking in the parking lot. There was one guy who claimed he’d been snatched up while jumping off the bridge that connects Isla Corona to the mainland. It can happen at any time of the day, though more often under night or dusk. Some report the overwhelming smell of lavender, or rotting fruit, or piss. The Air Man appears to them, swooping down out of the air or smoothly coming to a stop like a landing plane or just suddenly being there. People used to be scared and confused when the Air Man first started picking up people but not anymore, now everyone knows, so they reach out to him and he takes their hands and then they’re off and up and flying above the city. No one reports feeling cold, or being unable to breathe no matter how high up the Air Man takes them. They lose all sense of time and say that everything else melts away save for a pervading sense of elation. Eventually the flight ends and the Air Man drops them off in a different location within the city than before. Then he leaves, and they never see him again.

36


No one really knows what the Air Man looks like. He’s been photographed several times, but each time he looks a little bit different. That usually leads to people crying hoax, but of course then a host of others spring up to defend. They often site the constant presence of the same purple bandana tied to varying parts of the Air Man’s body as proof that a hoax is unlikely. There are wars in newspaper columns about the Air Man. There are wars about him everywhere. I’ve seen people destroy friendships over the veracity of the Air Man. Every year there’s at least a couple of people who get shot over him. Some people figure that the Air Man is actually a group of “air men” who have banded together, which would explain the variety of appearance and the constant presence of the purple bandana. Like a kind of uniform or insignia. Maybe, they say, it’s to distinguish themselves from other rival gangs of “air men” that comb the clouds and slip their knives out in super cells and when they bleed they bleed clear and silver and that’s why it rains. Warring “air men” is the new urban myth of creation. Some people have reached the conclusion that the Air Man is not a “man” at all. They figure he’s something like a monster or a Mothman. The more spiritual sectors see him as some kind of shape-shifting demon that snatches people away and replaces all their pious thoughts with wicked obsessions and an overinflated sense of pride and worth. All the attention paid to the Air Man is just a modern form of idolatry, they say, and we’re playing right into the demon’s hands. San Cielo is a Golgotha built of ego where we’re going to sacrifice the son of good taste and sensibility! We’re

37


looking to the skies for all the wrong reasons, they say, looking for the wrong kind of invisible man who refuses to show his face! Some people instead decry the Air Man as a corporate fabrication and accuse the social elite of using the Air Man to fuel their plutocratic whims and lord over the public with the help of an absurd distraction, but from what I can see they’re just as blinded by the legend as we are. The emperors all still eat the bread and go to circuses. Some rich old men, riddled with tumors and bulbs of fat, blubber out promises and set up reward bonds for the Air Man, encouraging him to come to them and sell his services. Some have even put a bounty on the Air Man for any individual who will catch him and bring him in so that they can live out their dreams of being picked up before they die. Some have been caught trying to manufacture their own air man experience with the help of stunt men and experimental jet packs, but they almost always get caught and exposed because it’s pretty hard to hide the fact that the guy parading you down through the skies of Broadway doesn’t have a machine stuffed under his shirt and isn’t emitting whirring noises and streams of white smoke from his ass. Sure, they could do it someplace more secluded, but there’s no point in trying to manufacture an air man experience if you don’t get the live public’s attention first. They’ve stopped taking photographs and videos at face value, and in order to impress them, you have to have them see the Air Man with their own eyes.

38


All of these men, without fail, have died in their beds without a glimpse of the city skyline from the view of the safe hands of the Air Man. And it’s not just the people and the private enterprises that take note of the Air Man. Hell, the municipal census even has a section on the Air Man now, and as of last year’s results, only twenty-seven percent of the city’s population has been taken flying by the Air Man. That seems a bit high to me, and considering the huge amount of awe and legend surrounding the Air Man, I’m sure a lot of people lie, even when the only thing they’re lying to is a piece of paper. Lies about the Air Man bring with them a sort of selfsatisfaction that citizens of San Cielo thrive on. It’s a badge of honor and respect and awe, so of course people are chomping at the bit to come up with their own Air Man story and gain the respect of their friends and family. Sometimes it’s really obvious who is lying, and who isn’t. Sometimes it isn’t. I had a friend once, Marquel Eleison, who told me he’d been picked up by the Air Man, and I believed him. He’d been an honest guy; worked himself up from a shitty home and was going to university on scholarship. Told me that the Air Man had picked him up when he was nine years old. Told me that was why he decided to rise above the situation he was in and get out, and make something of himself. The Air Man had given him his dreams. He’d sounded so sincere, so I’d believed him.

39


One night, I was drinking with Marquel, and he had a shot of whiskey too many, and he cried into my shoulder, and I asked him why. He told me he’d never been picked up by the Air Man. I said, don’t you remember he picked you up when you were nine, and Marquel spat a glob of spit and alcohol onto the carpet. He turned to me with sloppy red eyes and told me it was a lie that he’d made up for his university application essay, and it had just been so tantalizing and so special that he’d never stopped believing it. He tried to drink down the last semicircle of booze in his glass and had spilled it down his chin and collar. I took him home and dropped him on the couch with a glass of water and two aspirin on the coffee table. That night I drove out of the city and parked my car on the tiny strip of dirt that ran alongside the highway. I parked right before the big billboard with the mural depicting a sunny day with San Cielo on the curve of the bay, glittering like a rainbow pearl in the sand. Flowery blue letters told passerby they were leaving San Cielo, and hoped that they would come back soon. I’d stopped, and sat on my car hood, and stared up at the sky. I stared until the dark blue started to turn a milky pink, and then I drove back to my apartment and never spoke to Marquel Eleison again. He’d been a liar and ever since then it’s become harder and harder to believe people when they tell me they’ve been picked up by the Air Man, because it’s all too good to be true. Sometimes I don’t know what to believe. The skies have been so clouded with hoax and copycat that I wonder if the Air Man is still there, or if he was ever there at all. If it weren’t for some of

40


the clearer pictures I would have long ago written off the Air Man as a myth, and even then the magic potential of Photoshop places doubts in my head. There was a monster in the town of Flatwoods, West Virginia. This big terrifying extraterrestrial thing with bulging eyes and claws and a great big tapered head. It’d been reported that a UFO had crashed nearby, and those who’d gone to investigate had seen the monster and fled in panic. However, in the end, that had turned out just to be an especially large horned owl that had warped into the monster due to the high anxiety of the situation. I wonder if that’s what the Air Man originally was, when he was first sighted way back after the war. Just a product of hysterical hope. Maybe just a couple of pieces of clothing caught in an especially strong updraft and photographed by some imaginative man who sold it to the local paper where it was blown out of proportion and grew to the size of a colossus that now straddles San Cielo from Isla Corona to Rime Pier. Maybe we’re constantly shadowed by massive thighs of newsprint and television screens and merchandising and tourism. Maybe we’re looking at an idol that’s been mistakenly identified as a god. But every time I think about stopping or hell, even moving away from San Cielo and the poison in the water, I can’t bring myself to. Every time I see a local car dealership advertising “skyrocketing” sale prices with a cheap costumed air man I know I should. Every time I see friends lose friends and gain scars over whether or not the Air Man exists I know I should. Every time I hear a little girl on the street tell her mother that the only thing

41


she wants when she grows up is to have the Air Man take her away and make her a princess in his cloud castle I know I should. But I can’t. I suppose I’m just as much a victim of the mystique and the promise of the Air Man as the rest of San Cielo is. § I get out of classes at 5:50 in the evening on Thursdays. It’s spring, so the sky is dying slowly, currently caught in the throes of purple. I stretch my arms above my head, the strap of my laptop bag bunching up near my neck as I glance around. The university’s campus isn’t much of a campus at all. Rather than being sectioned off, it’s built right into the city, indistinguishable from the adjacent apartment buildings and small businesses save for the banners and pennants of periwinkle that hang from the doorways. I take deep breaths on the stairs. The first inhale after a long lecture is always the freshest. It’s a relief, even if it’s only the replacement of one form of pollution for another. But tonight there’s the scent of something new that rises above the typical mix of gas and grime and grilled onions from two streets over at that little collegiate hole in the wall the sallow science majors call home. Usually I head over there or to a couple of other local hangouts, but I’d just sat through two hours of a merciless psycho-bio lab and was ready to call it quits. The new smell is warm and flowery, with a hint of spice that makes the tip of my tongue tingle. It comes in and out, like music

42


through the fuzzy snow of a radio station nearly out of range. There’s a familiarity about it, but I can’t quite put my finger on it. I don’t pay the smell much mind, because I’m exhausted and want nothing more than to collapse on my bed back at the apartment and grow into the sheets for a few hours until hunger stirs my sleeping giant into heating up the rice cooker. Stowing my hands in my pockets, I head down the underground steps to the metro station. I wait with my eyes fixed on the ground until the train pulls up. The metro rattles and rolls along the track, lighted advertisements blinking outside the window like a disjointed picture show or a child’s flick book. The Gold Line takes me about a block away from my house. The public transit in San Cielo isn’t bad enough to warrant a car, so I make do. The smell is still there when I emerge from the underground, and that’s when it begins to strike me as something strange. Scents aren’t ghosts that haunt you from one part of the city to the other. They are secluded and sequestered within the overpowering Smell of San Cielo in its entirety. This isn’t a smell endemic to the corner of Imminence and Coast, and I should know because I’ve rounded this corner many times since moving to the apartment complex just shy of the old movie palace. It’s a clothing store now, but if you ask the manager they’ll sometimes let you in past the converted lobby and into the main theater where they now store their stock. It’s amazing,

43


even with boxes of scarves and blouses filling the velvet aisles and crowding the chipped plaster idols of Ancient Egypt. There’s a rustle in the alleyway just beyond the underground stairs and I think that maybe it’s a stray cat, and if that’s true I wonder if I should go to it and take it in, even though I’ve never had a love or an affinity for cats. I brought home a stray cat once when I was younger, and I hid it in my closet so my mother wouldn’t find it. I tried to bring it a scrap of pork from the kitchen table, but it flattened its ears and scratched me and fled out into the living room. I’d let it out, but my mother had still chastised me for letting it claw up the carpet. I step cautiously down the alley, following the smell. My fingers curl in my pocket as I glance about, searching for the source. There’s a dark shape at the end of the alleyway that I don’t notice until the very last second, but I stop in mid shirk once I get a better bearing of my surroundings. It’s a man I’ve never encountered before. I know who he is the moment I see him. His skin is olive, darker than mine. I can’t see the exact color of his eyes in the dim cast of the alleyway but they seem pale and mellowed in the traces of amber light. The same light that curves along shags of hair curls and a light brown jacket and a pair of shoes with a bare toe poking through the left end. It wiggles and cracks at eye level. He doesn’t look anything like the pictures I’ve seen, but I can see the dark hang of the purple bandana wrapped tightly around his upper arm and there is no doubt. If there was still any doubt

44


after the fact that he was clearly levitating more than a few feet off the ground. My mouth is a sandstorm as my head hunkers down and boards up its windows. He lowers himself down to the cement and it’s so effortless that I can’t breathe. There’s no whir of engines. He doesn’t move his arms or pinwheel his legs or otherwise try to stabilize himself in an unstable medium. He’s been doing this all his life, of course, of course. All of my doubt, all of my musing and analysis, it turns to ash and falls to the ground as the heel of his soles brush against the top of a crunched trash can. He cocks his head at me and sticks out his left leg, wiggling the toe in invitation. I don’t have to answer. I don’t think I could possibly answer. Nothing is working in my body except for my eyes and my hands; my hands that curve until I’m holding an invisible ball in the air. A ball of apprehension, suspicion, and anxiety, begging him to take it. Take it, before someone sees. Take me, take it. And take it he does. The moment he takes both of my hands we are floating upwards, the initial fear at the absence of solid ground gone as we rise out of the alleyway. The topography of the buildings stretches all around, with the mountains of downtown shining off into the distance. We rise slowly, turning a bit with the push and pull of the wind. Swaying with the current like a buoy out in the harbor; both secure and sovereign.

45


His jacket is mustard yellow here in the clear light out of reach of the musky amber of the alleyway. His eyes are a definite green. Some kind of fuzzy patina has been lifted—and everything is as transparent as the air now surrounding me and the Air Man. My laugh is low and nervous. My skin feels clear as well; invisible flesh placing all of my organs and all of everything on display. I feel vulnerable with the Air Man, like a child being shown a world it is unfamiliar with. But the Air Man seems to understand this, because he behaves like a gentle guide, first leading me in slow skating patterns above my apartment building. All social embarrassment that would usually be tied to such an action seems irrelevant when night birds and noises are the only things to bear witness. Before long we are touching over the tops of buildings like they are slick stones crossing through a creek bed. The same buildings that are no more than colorful blocks during the day have become vibrant monoliths emboldened with lights all around. I always knew the city was more beautiful at night, its ugliness both masked and magnified by the crust of the dark. But now that I see it from a new perspective, a new height; that beauty seems more, so much more than what I can see from my view on the asphalt. We jog towards downtown and in no time at all the tallest building in San Cielo, La Aguja Bendecida, stands before me. The lower tiers are decorated with brilliantly lighted advertisements— some, I think, probably depicting the Air Man. The din of the crowds below is muted and grows fainter as the Air Man drags

46


me up the side of the building, my stomach almost skimming the steel and glass and stone. My laptop bag bites into my shoulder as it trails behind me and I briefly worry about my computer bursting into a flurry of bits and pieces but it’s such a petty thought that I soon leave it behind. We clear La Aguja quickly, and I think the Air Man pushes off the very tip of the spire’s antennae but he moves too quickly for me to see it before we’re streaking up and up and beyond San Cielo. The wind tears at my hair and clothes and threatens to pull them to shreds, thread by thread. Maybe take me along with it. I feel like I’m about to disintegrate when suddenly the Air Man holds me tight, arms crossed over my back. I can barely fit under his chin so I hold my head off to the side, temple pressed up against the stubble of his jaw. The hold would be shamefully intimate if it weren’t for the fact that the Air Man and I were soaring hundreds of miles above the earth. Believing that social conventions apply beyond the reaches of breathable air is ludicrous. The world below has curled away into a slip of lighted coastline. All the individual windows and signs and bits and pieces of neon have swirled into one. A single beacon standing out against the black of both the ocean and the inland desert. The adrenaline has dimmed to a simmering heat. My breathing heaves in contrast to the calm press of the Air Man’s chest. Now that I’m away from the constant stimulation of the city lights, it gives me a moment to process the fact that this is not a dream, was never a dream. Could never be a dream. And I wonder.

47


What had they seen, everyone who had come before me? And there was no doubt in my mind that those people had existed, even under all the lies and commercialization and corruption. There was no doubt. What had they seen? Perhaps powder blue skies flecked with peach clouds in the break of morning. San Cielo consumed in mist blankets below. A fresh and earthy firmament curling over layers of smog and dust. A curve of lime moon rising up against the dusk. Atomic orange clouds scattered like something shot their brains out and splattered them over the sky. I see frost crusting on the edges of the Air Man’s jacket and the curls of his hair but I feel nothing and he doesn’t slow in his ascent, not yet. I don’t know what I’m feeling in this moment. It feels like I’m at the height of something grand measured in more than just altitude. There’s something inside me that’s threatening to burst out. But before that happens the Air Man begins to slow, and then he tilts backwards and gently begins to fall. The descent is slow, like the twirling gait of a scrap of paper falling from the height it was blown up to. The Air Man releases his tight hold and merely holds me by the wrist, using only the barest touch to keep me afloat. I close my eyes and enjoy the moments that stretch out in long ropes of foam against the coastal shore. My heels knock against something solid and I’m jolted out of my trance. I open my eyes and glance around.

48


I don’t know where I am. My surroundings are wholly unfamiliar. It’s a flat roof, fenced in my tiny strip malls and crisscrossed telephone wires. The glow of the city seems farther off, so perhaps he’s placed me on the environs of San Cielo. I’m not entirely sure. A siren peals through the night. I can hear the sizzle of the generator squashed in the roof’s corner. The sounds of the city pull me back, and I begin to touch my body, pressing my hands against my chest as if to make sure I’m still here, still solid and flesh. I don’t understand why I’m still alive, because I’m sure I stopped breathing a long time ago. My legs are hardly legs, more jellied meat than stiff bone. I heave a breath and tremble, placing my hands on my knees to try to keep myself from falling to the ground. I watch the Air Man’s feet, watch him drift a little back and forth. He touches the sides of my head, causing me to look up. Then he pulls back and laughs, and his teeth are bright white even though he’s shadowed and facing away from the light of the moon. I furrow my brow as I plant my feet. He’s waiting for something. He’s still floating a couple of inches off the ground, looking me dead in the eye. With a slight, curious smile on his face. Is he that courteous? Does he allow his kidnapped copilots a last word before he jets off, never to be seen again? He’s still waiting. So I ask him. “Why?”

49


At that, the Air Man’s smile drops a bit. He looks sad, and it hurts. I don’t know why it hurts so badly, but my heart is suddenly swimming in my stomach. It feels disgusting and sick. The Air Man fully frowns and I’m not sure why until I feel something run down my face. I’m crying, and I can’t stop, and it’s stupid. Men don’t cry. Everyone knows that. Everyone cares about that. I’m crying and for the first time the Air Man isn’t a toy, or an advertising gimmick, or a legend, or a reward, or anything, the Air Man is just a man like me and that sucks, that sucks, and why. It’s been a case of mistaken identity all along but instead we’ve mistaken something a god when he’s just a man. Holy holy holy, he’s just a man. He speaks and it takes me by surprise because I’d forgotten what voices sounded like. The words he’s saying don’t sound like English or Spanish and I’m aware I shouldn’t understand them but I do, they’re loud and clear in my head and heart and I understand. Somehow, I understand. § That morning I’m awake in my bed, now knowing all too well why the Air Man doesn’t pick someone up twice.

50


Rage, Rage By Winston Bribach

Sensing the end was near, Napoleon Patton rebelled. He defied his ninety-three-year-old limbs and sprung from the deathbed. Anger encompassed him, and he shoved everyone who stood in the way—his son, his grandson, and even Reverend Schweitzer. His father, who nearly faded from Napoleon’s failing memory, did not go gentle and neither would he. No one could deny him the right to fight. Life had been in his possession too long. He bolted out of the house, sprinting faster than he had in over thirty years, since the surgery to repair the ligaments in his right knee, which he tore slipping on his grandson’s toy Buick. For a moment, Napoleon felt truly alive. He was determined to hang on. Energy still carried vigorously inside him and he raised his fists to Heaven. Cursing at the top of his frail lungs, he defiantly railed against the injustice in death. There were so many things left undone, so many places left unseen, so many words left unspoken. He would remedy that if he had more time. Then everything was over. Like all men in the end, no more light shone through his eyes. The great and final equalizer claimed Napoleon. His two sons retrieved his lifeless body from a neighboring yard, both its hands openly hanging limp.

1 51


The Way to Orange By Don Kingfisher Campbell

I dived in the stomach of a gun metal bug Belched out to walk until I could see A very pretty Ugly Mug so I sat below The twirling fans to drink in the poetry Of other beings still breathing around lava lamps And the giant Oreo in the night window Ready to fall into a steaming cup of neon

1 52


Let’s Play Ball By Kim and Aliya

see it in motion

1 53


A Journey into Nuestro Pueblo By Miles Mistler The rapid eye movement must begin From eye to eye, switching between To jar the sight and feeling of vision That often itches itself into the unseen. Two towers in view – Above, beyond the man-made Placed into make-believe – Multiply: three four five six maybe More. Most ignore it, they walk by To work, wishing you would Stop wandering and wondering And get out of the way. O Simon! Simon the rose in the air, Money never met you, you never seemed To bother. Brother of man’s soul, Why have you left? Where did you go, And why did you take it with you? Fantasy foundation: He looks to the sky, Dead-while-her, she about to multiply Saw him fall sideways, a shot opening up History – for better or worse. Worst It began, there is a human skull In the television set! I expected News, now nothing new except A jade grey – oh, how immune we are!

1 54


FREI For the refugees in Calais

By Anna Aaryn Khen The boy’s ribs, birds’ beaks peeking through skin like a cage. His eyes are hunger, lips are salt, and the ocean his mother music breathing with him in cadences quick and punishing. Nearly a century ago he separated from his mother forever, ill-fated by syllables drawn from fooled lips, “ARBEIT MACHT FREI” We sentence you to die. Now he rides on a wooden dream, filled with others like him, sailing to a land he knows only through fiction. The boy thinks of Life of Pi, how he must survive, how the only tiger on board is synonymous with ‘future.’ His parents reassure him all storms have sympathy under the everwatchful sky. Nearly a century ago messages of escape bandaged Hope. They blossomed like the tiny flowers which now blanket rows and rows of bulldozed barracks, drinking in the land’s history, changing blood, bones, and memory into grounded stars.

55


Now the ocean fingers the little boat, rocking it like a cradle, taunting. The boy grabs onto glass dreams, whispering, The ocean is kinder than people. Nearly a century ago he threw wet blankets over electric fences. Barbed wire, twisting and turning, like the cage he wears for ribs. As he hurled himself over the fence, sirens cried like his brothers at night, like the gasping ocean, like the cold, distant sky. Freiheit macht frei.

2 56


Swim Lessons By Alberto Loaiza

My father placed his big hands underneath my arms held onto my ribs and threw me into the sky whispered in my ear no one is going to save you the river in Mexicali caught me embraced me its cold arms the current tried to swallow my toes never did land reached outside myself to find strength eyes closed found courage kicked the river’s face and tried to drown it until I didn’t A year later beginning swim lessons at the park Natatorium They made us dive on the deep end I sunk until my ass hit the floor sat there with eyes wide open looking up held my breath until the lifeguard jumped The drain dragged me down past so many frowned upons bicycles with no training wheels the gardening tools lost sharp edge Stolen toy from every happy meal Bandages that never fixed anything my voice a heavy knot anchored to my throat my tears lost in the vast emptiness

1 57


But I flew inside the water pushed with both feet hands like prayers cut against current broke the edge of its sky Huge breath coughed up huge grins Lifeguard red shorts matched his face Arm tight across my throat Carried my weightless body To the edge That day my father forgot to pick me up again

2 58


Trigger Warning By Nahal Amouzadeh

“Are you dead?” My best friend is bitter. She has become my masked enemy. When I wake up and decide today is a good day to plug my phone in, it immediately vibrates with messages that don’t give warning. Her texts are bombs and they chip at the foundation I’m still building from the last round. I read them with shaky hands. ‘Are you dead?’ she writes over social media, and I note that seven other acquaintances have ‘liked’ the post. I stare at it long enough for the foundation to dismantle and disappear under my feet. And then I unplug my phone and retreat because I’m reminded that this is a war and I have just lost another battle. “Where have you been? ‘Sick,’ again?” My classmate has a coy smirk on his lips that tells me even when I reply honestly, he won’t believe my answer. He wants to believe that I am a rebel without a cause. I don’t tell him that my rebellion lacks integrity. I don’t tell him that my rebellion looks a lot like lying fetal position in the middle of an unmade bed, staring at the nearby wall. My rebellion has no backbone. It’s a lot like watching every minute tick by in the late hours before dawn and waking up in the late afternoon with nothing to show for it. It feels a lot like the sharp pain in the center of your stomach, when you’ve eaten too much or too little. My rebellion isn’t what he

1 59


thinks it is, but it is causeless. So I smile in response, but it doesn’t reach my eyes. I wonder how he doesn’t see right through me. “You’re missing out.” My teacher’s tone is gentle, but obvious. She’s heard what my classmates say when my seat is empty. She also thinks I am a rebel without a cause, and she is here to put me in my place. She’s gentle, but wrong. She tries to dangle the lust of good memories and good friends in front of me, but I can’t tell her that the numbness has rendered me from feeling desire. When I hear that my friends are getting together, I smile at the invite and it doesn’t reach my eyes. When my phone buzzes beside me, I feel my heart race like I’m standing in a haunted house and something’s brushed up beside me. When I try to remember what it was like before, I am simply reminded that whatever it was, it no longer is. Instead, I tell her I will try harder. Then I run over her words until I’m drained and forget to charge my phone. “You have to think about your future.” My counselor is the easiest to read. Her face is accusatory. Her frown implies that she has given up. Her sentiments have been tossed out the window and she no longer has papers or pamphlets to help me ‘think ahead.’ I don’t mind it; the papers ended up in a pile with other work, anyway. She blames me for this and even though I feel guilty and helpless, I blame me, too. There’s a pile of papers that are Very Important and Need Attention Immediately and they consume my every other thought. Each assignment is a five-pound weight added to my shoulders. I feel malnourished and watch as the stronger kids lift these weights like feathers. As time

2 60


passes, they grow heavier on my weak body. The dread increases. The ability to plan and execute is lost. I lie in my bed and think about my future that entails all the work I’ve been holding onto. That weight moves from my shoulders to my heart. ‘How can I get out of this?’ I think, and am miserable with the same answer that arises, again and again. “If you do the little things, you’ll feel better.” My therapist sits across from me with nude pumps on, perfectly manicured nails, and only slightly frizzy hair. She tells me how she lost weight with soup recipes. She tells me that even twenty minutes of light exercise can work. I struggle to tell her that the line she is drawing as the starting point for my race is miles away from me. I push aside greasy hair with polish-chipped nails and feel ashamed to admit that my starting point is always my bed. I blush when I say that I haven’t stepped foot in my shower in four days. I look away from her carefully fitted pantsuit and feel like I’ve just run a marathon. “Are you home?” This boy is undoubtedly naive, but the best-intentioned. He comes to my door with a smile on his face. He wants to ask me out on a date. Exhausted from an inward battle, I am asleep inside, a story above him. The consecutive knocks don’t do a thing. The doorbell doesn’t startle me awake. In my dream, Cupid is tied to a ball and chain, locked away near the end of a tunnel, and as I step closer and closer, the tunnel only expands. I sit down in damp darkness and give up the chase. I watch as the prisoner becomes a dot in the distance. I tell myself I wasn’t made to be his hero,

3 61


anyway. When I find myself in class a week later, this boy avoids my dead gaze. “I want to understand.” My sister watches me with nervous eyes. I am uncharted waters and she is the boat swaying within me. I am off the map, but she is still desperately searching the colored paper. I am something familiar on the surface, but yet completely unknown to her. I try to explain that I, too, don’t understand. I am the ocean, and I cannot be calculated. I have no reason for being or doing. I try to explain that maybe this is the source of all the confusion, maybe this is why I keep crashing into the boat and causing chaos for her and our family. She frowns and looks away. It’s only after she leaves my room that I realize I haven’t said anything at all. “You’re just lazy.” My father has a frustrated scowl on his face, and I’ve never been on its receiving end. I don’t realize it, but as my eyes stare blankly ahead, I am retreating into darkness. My father’s scowl matches the one of the figure in my mind. They say the same things. Their tone is powerful. I used to fight their notions, their wild accusations, their filthy lies, but now I’m too tired and they seem right. ‘You’re just lazy,’ the figure says, and I nod. I don’t know who I am anymore, but they say it so matter-of-factly, I don’t question that this is what I’ve become. ‘I’m lazy,’ I think, and when I snap out of it, my father is no longer in front of me and I’m left with my new personality. “Everyone gets depressed sometimes.” My mother has bags under her eyes. She hasn’t slept in

4 62


three days. Her hair is falling out. She is obviously sick, and I am obviously not. I watch as she continues with her day. I watch from my bed as she gets dressed, goes outside, interacts with everyone I’m avoiding. I watch for as long as I can, then I cry until I’m lulled into the only void that gives me some kind of break: sleep. When I awaken, my mother is downstairs nursing her swollen legs and I wonder how she does it. I tell myself I’m weak and the figure in my head confirms it. I add it to my ever-growing personality and then slip back into unconsciousness. “I win.” My only frequent companion is that dark figure. We play board games in a poorly lit room and he always cheats. He always takes the first turn. He always wins. He laughs about his victories and sweeps up the pieces, setting up for the next game. I never react to him. He tells me I’m a sore loser. I add it to my evergrowing personality and wait for him to take his turn. I still think I can win. I’m scared for the day I don’t.

5 63


EIDOLON By Eileen Li Most of my art is stuff my mother wouldn’t like to see. It’s a kind of rebellion against years of growing up as a top-of-the-class Chinese-Canadian student. Both my films and drawings are mainly for girls, especially those struggling with mental health issues or low self-esteem. I hope to create role models that are imperfect anti-heroes, but that maybe try harder than anyone else. I attach bold, capital words to my drawings because my girls, like me, are introverted. The words, floating in blank space, more than make up for their silence.

64


An Over-Eager Man By Eileen Li

1 65


There is but one truly serious philosophical problem By Eileen Li

1 66


Delicious Wishes By Eileen Li

1 67


And curiosity grabbed me, she had me, thinking about what I can be, and I can be something greater than dollars or even followers, I don’t what that is, all I know is that Imma follower her.

hear more

Me and Her By Stefan Dismond

1 68


296.06 By Isaac Williams

A NYT reporter went to Salar de Uyuni to bathe in a lake of lithium cupped by the earth— what I wouldn’t give to be wrapped up in soil, to have nobody but the worms look at me. I could spend my life in lithium and never leave the place where time is only a game of tag, the way the moon chases the Sun, instead of the lip smack of a waiting room clock, the imaginary pendulum in tow; here, all pendulums are folded, transliterated into olive branches. I will float with my shoulders and ankles moving further and further away from the shore— in the center of the lake, I will be just an outline to onlookers reclining on the beach. Finally, I am not someone who stays up all night,

1 69


looking out of windows, worrying about glass and gunfire, but I am not someone who is rolling over&over&over again in fields of daisies and clovers, either.

2 70


Snake Charmed By Sean Pessin

The wife of a snake may say: It’s hard to be married to a snake, what with their shedding and all, constantly losing their recognizable faces and becoming larger in doing so. This is a stranger, the wife of a snake may say, waking to find her husband groggily peeling off one face for another. This is not the one I married, the wife of a snake may say. He can’t even wear my wedding ring anymore. This snake prefers the gold bands already strapping his body, bands that, while elastic, are as shiftless and cold as he is, the wife of a snake might say. The world may exclaim: A husband who grows bigger every day sounds like a dream, like the needs are fulfilled, if you know what I mean, the world may say. Those outsiders would not know that they live in a world growing smaller every day. This is not my husband, the wife may shout, but the world would be too busy speculating. He just grows and grows, and his body is ribbed, obviously for her pleasure, the world may say. They may look to the giant who slithers through the front door during an afternoon tea with envy, watch him as he hangs one of his many feathered fedoras, and as he leaves earshot through the door to the kitchen, the wife’s friends may lean towards their matrimonious host and, through a greedy smile, they may ask how is he really, though, which may or may not leave the wife totally flabbergasted, as it will

71


confirm for her that her company was not paying any attention to the problems she was so desperately seeking counsel for. I have a theory, a personal, pocket theory, a friend may offer in an email: If you chop off your husband’s head and jump over a freshly cut log, you may have your marriage terminated, if your years spent in wedlock are fewer than the rings of the hewn tree’s trunk. If the wife lives in a forest ancient and verdant, this may be hard. It may be many years after death that that such a tree could be found, cleaved, and traversed. This is not a helpful solution, the wife may retort, though she may be even more dismayed if, in the postscript of the email that her distant friend sent, they may also request a current photo of her husband, you know, to get an accurate picture of the situation. The wife can describe the horrors of being married to a beast, and the marriage perhaps will be mistaken every time for something more palatable. Her friends may always picture the most dramatic covers of romance novels when she pulls out of a drawer too low to use comfortably—a surprising number of torn blouses—or when the wife describes how heavy her bosom was heaving when her husband, the snake, threw her down on the floor. It was frightening, she may confess, because she knows she cannot trust him anymore. She, when the events are particularly violent, may ask her friends to stay over at their places, just for a little while, just so that she can figure things out; her friends may only respond by asking her to continue her descriptions. To appease the wife, her unhelpful friends may offer that

72


music soothes the beast in many a monster, and this monstrosity of hers, it may be more or less a monster, a giant snake, but is still her husband regardless. And this may often be a problem. And snakes have a very low resistance to music, they may insist. Just play him a song, and he will sleep in the wicker basket he sleeps in instead of sharing your bed. And the wife may try it one day, or more than once. She may put a vinyl on her record player, or an audio file on her wireless speakers, and may sing to herself while doing household chores, may play an oboe late into the night. And the snake may snap the vinyl when he returns in a bad mood from a day of hard work at the oďŹƒce. The wife may ask what it is that is so hard about filling out forms and faxing memos all day and her snake husband may say that it is so very hard, emotionally. It is emotionally draining, the snake may say. Digital music may be hard on the snake’s elitist tastes, as he reminds the wife that binary sound encryption is inferior at mapping out the curves of music, and her underdeveloped hearing may not be able to tell the distinctions as his can. The inferiority, he may say with great hostility, gives him an infuriating headache. The wife’s voice is no better than electronic impressions of authentic music, he may tell her as she is doing his laundry, or washing dishes by hand because the dishwasher is always broken from being slammed into, or when the wife may be working old skins and tending to his collection of fedoras. Someone may ask why the wife is in need of fleeing from her scaly husband, or why she is in need of a scaly husband, and the wife may have specific answers or answers that are personal, more generalized, and it is all of these answers that will never hold up

73


to scrutiny. It doesn’t matter how venomous the snake is, nor how cold-blooded, nor how constricting, nor how all-consuming, nor how backstabbing, nor how secretive, nor how slick. The wife is always the failure, the snake always has forked tongues, and the wife always should have known better than to make this bed she is now lying in. There may be no peach trees to tend to when the switch shackle keeps her beneath the covers. The world may always know that the snake was a mistake and as far as mistakes go, it is one mistake that is hard to undo. After all, they of the world may say, doesn’t he need you to function, the world may say. And the wife, confused, may say that he does not need her as much as she would like to be free. That the impulse coils back on itself. And the world may say, but don’t you benefit from being with him; and the wife may stand in awe of the world, rattled. You would not ask for your loved ones to be constantly snaked, the wife of a snake may say. You would not hold up a snake as desirable. And yet, when the world goes out for drinks and calls in the middle of the night, they call for the snake, call for the fedora with the feather, call for the a fun time that means the evening is fun for everyone but the wife, who must receive the snake’s unwanted declarations, and unwanted bites and unwanted hisses and unwanted kisses. The wife of a snake may say to her husband: You are all fangs. She may say this in broken mirrors to the telephone operator, may say this in necrotic welts and discarded banana peels to the garbage men. The snake husband of a wife may remain static.

74


Frott By J.M. Sanchez

Pardon, don’t mind me. I’m a nor mal guy trying to squeeze past you.

75


The Conversation I Never Had By Kalyce Rogers I know he’s got at least some money, because he’s buying Grey Goose. People with money don’t buy cheap vodka, or cheap rum, or cheap whiskey. They invest in the good stuff, like Grey Goose. Three bottles of it. “How are you doing tonight, sir?” The woman working the register asks pleasantly enough. My eyes are fixated on her hands, veins prominent through tired skin, as they scan bottle after bottle. His own fingers drum on the register wall impatiently as the last of the bottles, a handle of Lagavulin scotch, rolls its way to the end of the conveyor belt. I recall the protein driving his motion, titin allowing for the stretching and relaxation of his muscles, and draw a mental diagram to prepare for my looming final next week. He ignores her until she asks for his ID. The man pulls out his wallet and nearly shoves his driver’s license in her face. “Excuse me for finding my way into your line. I thought cashiers were more competent than this,” he mutters. Now that his hands are busy, he begins tapping his foot on the linoleum. I can see the blood rising from his neck to his temples. Epinephrine courses through his system, raising his heart rate and accelerating his breathing. When the computer signifies that the transaction is complete and the receipt finally prints, he exhales loudly. He leaves the line with four bags of alcohol. I then shuffle my feet forward and glance up, noticing the

76


cashier’s face for the first time. Her brown eyes look heavy, and there is discoloration around her neck, barely visible above the collar of the uniform polo. An amalgamation of black and blue and yellow mix together, in vague forms of fingerprints, marring the translucence of her skin. Time slows down and I swear I can see the fibrin forming the intricate meshwork to mend the broken capillaries. “How are you today, ma’am?” she asks, tone betraying defeat, as I watch her put the few cans of soup into a grocery bag. There’s a cut on the side of her right hand that has been hastily and poorly covered by a flimsy band aid that I did not see before. The wound appears to be somewhat old, darkened by days of healing. Thrombin to fibrinogen to fibrin. I wonder how often her body must endure this cycle of blood clotting. “Fine, thank you,” I say distractedly. I pay for my groceries with old, crumpled bills and leave hurriedly with a bag in each hand. As soon as I’m out the door, it dawns on me that I didn’t reciprocate the question. I didn’t bother to look at her nametag. I didn’t ask how she was. . . I didn’t ask how she was. The car is still parked as I sit in the driver’s seat, staring out the windshield at nothing in particular. Images of alcohol and blood seep into my mind, filling every crevice but never quite homogenizing into a single fluid. I realize that I am worse, in a sense, than the man in line before me; I have no alcohol or expensive things to use as excuses, only my own innate selfishness and apathy. DNA cannot code for compassion, but it can create the mechanism to store this memory and bring it to mind. Thrombin to fibrinogen to fibrin. Mistake to consequence to learning. These are the ways we heal and grow.

77


Curtain By Zach Helper

1 78


Verso By Zach Helper

1 79


Scene I from Vermont Avenue Donut Shop By Max Kapur

His eyes awaken when he scratches the wax off his lottery ticket, the way they did the first time her enraptured nails dug into the joints of his spine.

1 80


The line rings for a few more seconds. The sound of breathing �ills the receiver, then the beep of an answering machine. A quiet hiss �loats through into her ear, followed by a woman’s voice. CAROLINE (v.o.) Welcome to Playa Dorada Apartments. This is Caroline, the Resident Manager. If you’re calling concerning a maintenance issue, please leave your apartment number and a brief description of your concern in your message. Thank you.

listen in on the rest here

Friday Night By Vera Burrows Voice Recording by Westwind Editors 2015 - 2016

1 81


LA By Isaac Williams

Los Angeles is swarmed with small faces on television screens. Bird bones. I want to leave, tunneling through Hollywood & Santa Monica in a small car, on the hunt for the one place I can’t be seen. Even the billboards watch you. Careful not to run over toes of honey-eyed tourists on Sunset. Everyone wants to be a billboard, and I just want out. Give me my battery-powered radio, my Sexton, enough pills to last the winter. The wedding band of smog mocks me. I return home to sleep in the watery bed of midnight, listening to sirens calling outside my window, screaming past studio lots and premieres. I live with the false priest of America. I feel him climb in beside me at 3 a.m. , too close and bourbon-eyed, reeking of fog machines and rolling on his heels, working out the special muscular hell that comes from standing on sets all day. There is always a camera out in Los Angeles. I feel its aperture tighten on my skin.

1 82


Reigning from the rafters Leers the puppeteer Shrouded in self-splendor Pontificating fear Pulling strings won’t move me I cannot be swayed I’m gonna write my own lines No man—I ain’t afraid Puppeteer you profiteer Hey puppeteer, oh yeah—you profiteer Gun store, liquor store, gun store, liquor store... hear more

Gun Store, Liquor Store Lyrics: E-Roy “Seagull Pidgin”/Dave “Pidgin Chef” Dixon Title: Chris “Guerilla Pidgin” Rosales (inspired by a Dave Chappelle skit) Music: E-Roy “Seagull Pidgin”/ Chris “Guerilla Pidgin” Rosales/ Emile “Mama Pidgin” Poree/ Dave “Pidgin Chef” Dixon/ Tone “Fish Pidgin” Rodkis/ K.A. “Bluebird Pidgin” Blue

1 83


My Cousin Charles By Mario René Padilla

she sat in a museum twisting new heels around a size 10 playing with the bread knife no staring thinking back on how she was my cousin Charles who was now a woman we had chosen to meet at the museum because it simply seemed appropriate he being recreated and all and she being the only male cousin who shared my passion for abstract art I couldn’t enter at first I peeked into the Gallery café looking for that familiar head of hair more apprehensive of the figures on benches than the flock of fallen angels on the west wall and that he was “never allowed to get dirty” kept surfacing like Styrofoam on the liquid channel of my memory not noticing anyone I’d ever hugged I turned to move into the next room but a profile stayed imprinted like the shape of light behind closed eyelids I had not seen him since he turned sixteen the year he suddenly disappeared and I was still searching for pimpled skin with black horn-rimmed glasses

84


I watched as she lit a cigarette two mounds on her chest twisting the Italian cornetto around her neck which grampa had given all us boys for love and good fortune my tough Italian cousins from the south end and the angels on the wall began to scream or was it my memories falling out of heaven as something at that moment moved in me from the beginning towards its end I felt the desire to turn and keep going but when I looked she was still there rummaging through her purse for another cigarette glancing earnestly towards the door for someone who might still remember having loved him but it had been twelve years and I was altered too my cousins had kept me somewhat informed (though it was hard for them to say homosexual) family events since my move to California the different stages of his transformation the search for love in gay bars the beatings reports of arrests by a cousin who is a policeman my uncle who disowned him my aunt his mother refusing to see him but no one in the family ever said transvestite he was “queer” that’s all things didn’t get that strange until the Christmas he showed up at gramma’s wearing a wig and a lavender dress God I would give anything to have been there in that basement when he walked down the stairs “it almost killed your grampa” my mother wrote

85


when she informed me of the operation and they think they know what balls are my tough Italian cousins from the south end with a cultivated touch she placed the lighter back into her purse and looking up saw me standing at the entrance and smiled and as I made a slow and deliberate approach all I really wanted was to close my eyes and remember that summer I taught him how to swear and throw bocce balls but the softness in his voice threw out “bitch” like Marilyn Monroe tossing out the first pitch for the Yankees there was something fatal even then in his voice he sang with a beautiful falsetto and every Christmas when we played Nativity at the family dinner we always made him the angel everything stopped when he sang “Silent Night” in that sad and haunting tone it freezes my brain to see her sitting there and hugging him longer than I would have I remembered the story of the Italian castrati who as children gave up human love to sing for God

86


Johnny Ramone is Buried Here By Megan Lent

EXT. BOTANICAL GARDEN - DAY SASHA, 19, nervously feigning self-assuredness, sits stiffly on the bench of a picnic table at her school’s botanical garden, her legs swinging slowly off the edge. Beside her, more relaxed, definitely uncertain, slouches ISAAC, 25. He’s got a trendy haircut and several other hallmarks of the Melrose Ave. brand of cool; she’s dressed how she imagines women on dates dress in a top with sheer cutouts and a snug black skirt. His right arm is in a cast. (It’s okay. He’s left-handed.) As Sasha looks away, and at the necklace she fiddles with, and so on, Isaac reaches down toward his backpack. From inside, he pulls out an In-N-Out bag to place on the table, and then slides a milkshake cup up from the drink pouch on the side of the bag. He shrugs the cup toward Sasha; she pauses before grabbing. Sasha looks in the bag, takes out a large dish of fries, disappointed, and sets it down. She sucks in milkshake for an uncomfortably long time. SASHA You didn’t bring wine. ISAAC You said “something to drink.”

1 87


SASHA I was kinda hoping you’d bring wine. She sips her milkshake. He reaches over to grab at the fries, progressing from one-at-a-time to handfuls. No one’s making any eye contact. Awkward as hell. Isaac shifts, then coughs. Time persists in passing. Sasha adjusts herself toward Isaac (just enough) and points to her eyes. He follows her guidance, and she inches her face toward him.

He nods.

SASHA You see my eyeliner? SASHA It’s not eyeliner.

She’s so proud of herself on this. He’s confused, which kills her pride-buzz. SASHA It. . .it’s mascara. I took the mascara wand and ran it over my eyelids. Like eyeliner. But it’s not eyeliner. It’s mascara. ISAAC (nodding) So punk. She laughs and shoves him nervously. He likes it, and proves it with an offering of a fry-handful. As Sasha eats, Isaac extends his arm behind her on the table. He stretches his legs out more, and Sasha swings her legs up beside her on the bench, leaning more and more toward Isaac.

2 88


SASHA How’d you do it? He looks over to his arm. ISAAC Oh, that. Stupid shit. I’m an idiot. Major fucking idiot. SASHA (laughing too much) You’re so not an idiot. ISAAC Oh no? SASHA Yeah. You’re just, like, stupid. At the very most. And that’s just because you didn’t bring wine. Isaac laughs and Sasha smiles and he puts his arm around her and leans in close. He points to his teeth. ISAAC See this? SASHA Yes? ISAAC Fake. He taps on his incisor. SASHA How’d that happen? ISAAC This dude--this fucking total bro with some asinine fucking

89


neon-ass shirt on--fucking rammed his arm out dancing to some fucking, I don’t know, Red Hot Chili Peppers song or some shit, and he fucking knocked my beer like straight out of my hand. SASHA At a party? He glances at her and remembers that she’s in college. ISAAC No, a bar. A place you’re too young to go to. SASHA Shut up. They smile at each other. SASHA So he knocked your beer. . . ISAAC Right, right. So, I’m pissed, right? So I go up to the guy, and I’m like, “What the fuck, man?” And he acted like nothing had fucking happened. Even though I was telling him what happened. He could’ve just apologized, you know? SASHA But he didn’t? ISAAC Well. So. His girlfriend or whatever gets back from the bathroom or wherever, and he starts launching into this story to her about how I’m this big huge asshole who knocked his beer out of his hand while dancing to whatever the fuck fucking song it was. And then she was like, “Babe, you’re not gonna take his shit, are you?”

90


SASHA Jeez. . . ISAAC So then he looks at me, like kinda almost like he’s sorry, but he’s gotta prove himself to his girl I guess. So he just fucking hit me. Like punched me right in the face. SASHA That’s so fucking bananas. ISAAC I know, right? They both laugh. Which simmers into smiling. Which fades into silent close faces. Isaac takes Sasha’s chin, and they start up with some hardcore making out. Sasha awkwardly swings her leg across his lap, the fingers of his cast-arm lightly petting her ankle. She’s struggling to stay comfortable and so is he. As they get up to rearrange, Isaac starts to take off his belt. SASHA Oh, are we. . . ISAAC Do you not-SASHA No, no. I do. She shimmies off her underwear and lays down on the table. He gets on top of her, reaching for her breasts through her shirt, and lifts her skirt and fucks her. He strokes her hair and kisses her

91


face and mouth and neck. Basically, he’s doing all the things Sasha wants. But Sasha doesn’t know very much. He rolls off of her and they lay beside each other on the picnic table, breathing hard. SASHA What’s your name again? He realizes she’s serious. ISAAC Isaac. SASHA Okay, good. That’s what I thought. ISAAC Wait, so. You just had sex with me and didn’t know what my name was? SASHA I was pretty sure. Just not 100%. ISAAC “Pretty sure.” SASHA Do you know what my name is, even? ISAAC Yes. He pauses. She cracks up.

92


SASHA Sasha. Isaac extends a hand. She shakes it. EXT. SANTA MONICA BLVD - DAY Sasha and Isaac walk down Santa Monica in Hollywood, near the cemetery, around 6 a.m. They’ve been out all night and look rough, particularly Sasha, with her makeup smeared and her heels in her hands. A year has passed since the botanical garden. SASHA Do you think he was serious? ISAAC Who? SASHA The Ouija board guy. Do you think he was serious? He waves this away with his hand. ISAAC Don’t believe that kinda shit, Sash. It’s all a scam. SASHA I didn’t say I believed in Ouija boards. I just was asking if you thought he was serious. Like, if he really believed that he was talking to the ghost lady. Not if there really was a ghost lady. ISAAC I’m not sure I see the difference.

93


SASHA There’s a difference. They walk in silence for more than a few steps. SASHA You’ve been so weird all night. ISAAC Have I? SASHA (nodding) Yes. Yes, very.

More silence.

ISAAC Well then.

SASHA I don’t think you met the candles guy. But he was fucking amazing. ISAAC Who was he again? SASHA Well, like I said, I don’t think you met him. But he’s this guy who has this website where he just sells novelty candles. Like,candles shaped like baby pigs and corn cobs and the Eiffel tower. He just has, like, stacks of boxes of candles in his apartment. No furniture, nothing--just candles. ISAAC That’s funny.

94


SASHA I know. More silence. They approach Hollywood Forever Cemetery and stop to look at the grass outside the entrance. SASHA You know you can tell me if something’s wrong. ISAAC Nothing’s wrong Sasha, god. SASHA But you just seem like--like you weren’t having fun at all all night. ISAAC Were you having fun? SASHA What does that mean? ISAAC Being fucked up isn’t the same thing as having fun. He tries to keep walking but she keeps her feet planted, appalled. He pivots back. SASHA I’m, like, allowed to drink, Isaac. Like. Like I can drink and do coke sometimes and not, like, go batshit. You know? It’s not like I’m like-ISAAC Like me? You’re not like me?

95


SASHA Jeez. That’s not what I was saying. You’re putting words into my mouth. ISAAC You’re right, though. You are right. I can’t do that shit like a normal person. I know that. You know that. So why the fuck do you think I would want to be around a room full of shitheads doing shit I don’t wanna do? Sasha’s near tears, and Isaac levels out from anger to confusion. ISAAC What’s--what’s wrong? She burst out crying. SASHA I fucked Brad. ISAAC (confused still) You. . .what? SASHA Brad. I fucked Brad. I fucked him. ISAAC Brad, like, like the guy who always wears the Lakers hat? That Brad? She nods tearfully. Isaac leans against the cemetery sign. He has his head in his arms. She awaits the worst. He juts his head up and speaks quickly.

96


ISAAC I fucked Sadie. SASHA (with disdain) Sadie Rothdale? ISAAC Yes, Sadie Rothdale. SASHA Like, from my floor last year? With the gross feet? He nods numbly. SASHA But. . .but you hated her! You always said she seemed like a reject from a bad sorority girl slasher movie! ISAAC And you always hated Brad too, but I guess personal preference doesn’t count for shit these days. They both grow quiet, looking around the lawn. Looking at each other would be possibly painful and definitely exhausting. ISAAC Is anyone famous buried here? SASHA Johnny Ramone. Her voice still sounds like crying. Something about this softens Isaac. Sasha leans on the sign beside him. She begins to cry again. Isaac puts an arm around her.

97


ISAAC It’s not like we were really dating. SASHA I know. ISAAC Technically, this is what we wanted. SASHA I know. But it still feels so shitty. ISAAC I know. He kisses her forehead and she closes her eyes. EXT. QUIET STREET - NIGHT A car with serious “mom” vibes rests parked on a fairly private street. One of the streets that eventually lead up to the Hollywood Hills, or maybe a semi-private road just off the PCH up past Brentwood. INT. HONDA CIVIC BACKSEAT - NIGHT In the backseat of the car, Sasha pulls on her leggings half-heartedly. Beyond that, she’s naked. So is Isaac, sprawled on the seat beside her. He pulls her in from her leggings struggle and holds her tight. They laugh and kiss. Another year has passed since we last saw them.

98


SASHA (cutely) I’m glad you’re here. She licks his neck playfully and slides out of his arms to put on her bra and leggings. He watches her gently. ISAAC You know I live with somebody in New York, right? This hits her like an anvil with a knife attached, and she pauses getting dressed. But just a pause. SASHA I know. Yeah. I know. ISAAC Okay. SASHA Does she. . .well, she knows you’re visiting LA, right? ISAAC She knows. SASHA Does she know about. . . She gestures to the two of them. ISAAC I’ve mentioned you. Yeah. Sasha finishes getting dressed and curls up beside him. Even she knows she’s coming across more deflated than cutesy.

99


SASHA Do you think she’d be upset? ISAAC About. . .this? He gestures about the car. She nods. ISAAC I think she’d understand. Isaac abruptly reaches for his shirt, slightly pushing Sasha aside. SASHA Did you mean it? ISAAC Mean what? SASHA During sex. You said you love me. You’ve never said that before. We’ve never said that. That was never our thing. ISAAC No, it wasn’t. SASHA Did you mean it? He takes a moment. ISAAC You said it too. She gives up and gathers the contents of her purse and crawls through back up to the passenger seat.

100


Isaac puts on his pants and slinks out the car to the driver’s. He reaches across her into the glove compartment and takes out a little bottle of Jack Daniels and takes a long swallow. He looks over at her. She’s staring out the window with a harshness he’s not used to in her. ISAAC You know why I moved to LA, right? She doesn’t answer. ISAAC (CONT’D) This girl told me she was going to be an actress. And that she needed to move to LA. And, me being the stupid idiot that I wasslash-am, followed her. And when I showed up outside her apartment building, just a couple weeks after she moved in, she asked me, “Isaac, what the fuck are you doing here?” And I realized: she never even fucking invited me. We were never even fucking dating. I just fucking did that. SASHA What’s your point? ISAAC I fall in love every other week, is what I’m trying to say. But it never sticks. My therapist in rehab would say that I must hate women on some deeper level. SASHA (cynically) You’ve always been nice to me.

101


She watches as he takes another sip and wipes off his mouth, then closes the compartment back up. He revs the engine. EXT. LOS ANGELES STREETS - NIGHT As he drives, Sasha mostly just looks out the window, watching LA pass her by. It’s beautiful. SASHA How do you describe me to other girls? He thinks for a moment. Just long enough to pretend that this wasn’t a monologue he had in his back pocket to apply to all girls as needed. ISAAC I’d say, “She was emotionally vacant, except when she didn’t want to be. She used me, but she cared about me.” What would you say about me? She doesn’t respond. He pulls up in front of her place. EXT. SASHA’S APARTMENT - NIGHT The sound of the car dies down. Sasha can sort of see the moon. She remembers all the times he held her longer than he had to and imagines his voice as a music box that she could maybe place into the mouth of someone else someday. She can’t get “Blitzkrieg Bop” out of her head. He closes the glove compartment again and watches her watching nothing.

102


ISAAC Wanna see something? He leans toward her and she leans in toward him. He points to his teeth. ISAAC These teeth are fake. Got them knocked out riding a fucking BMX bike as a kid. SASHA You lost them in a bar fight. ISAAC (genuinely confused) Did I really tell you that? She considers leaning in closer, and considers shaking his hand and saying “it was so nice to meet you.” But she doesn’t. She just unbuckles her seat belt and quietly opens the car door. She walks up to her building singing “hey-oh, let’s go, hey-oh, let’s go” over and over and over, just under her breath, until she smiles.

103


Where the Angels Landed By Daniel Noh

1 104


City Hall and Union Station are some of the oldest buildings in the city, but they are still integral to the life of Los Angeles. Even with the sudden bloom of new skyscrapers, a sense of stability comes with knowing that the very core and heart of Los Angeles remains unchanged.

105


Martha Stewart Living : Simple Lemon Cake By Dante Matero

In a large bowl, reflexes slop and shudder; using an electric mixer— a cold block of steel, beat butter until light and fluffy kaleidoscopic and pathological. With mixer on low, hum your Hail Mary’s one at a time. Define citric acid as 2 tablespoons lemon juice; coolly drop in— mix just until combined.

1 106


Hoarder, Interrupted By Jay Martin

Debbie suggests starting with one drawer. She says it’s better to focus on a small area than attempt too much and give up. She once told us to meet in pairs. We need and deserve accountability, she said. I was paired with Cathy, a newcomer who lived three towns away. Cathy needed accountability in getting rid of paper. Most of the women at Declutterer’s Group drive in from distant towns. I think I’m the only local. I arrived to her big house fifteen minutes late. I had to stop to use the bathroom at McDonald’s. Cathy mentioned in Group she used her bathrooms for additional closet space by hanging clothes on the shower rod, and I didn’t want to intrude. Her house was just as big as the ones on the Annual Winter House Tours. I love touring big homes. I’m really good at knowing what to compliment. But I knew better than to ask for a tour. I’m not tacky. She ushered me into a room completely filled with stacks and stacks of newspapers. A small pathway between the ceiling-high stacks led to a stack-filled couch. We both stood in this pathway in silence. I reminded Cathy that Debbie suggests removing an object if we want to bring a new object into our homes. I slowly placed a newspaper from 1986 into the trash, but Cathy quickly moved it back, and shot me a look. I wouldn’t be getting a tour. Cathy remembered her daughter’s soccer game. I told

1 107


her my niece might be on her team. My sister lived in the same town, I said. She then asked questions about my sister. Too many questions, I thought. I later realized she probably thought I was going to spread her paper problem, which I would never do. That’s a violation of Group’s confidentiality rules. One time it snowed, and nobody else showed up. Debbie suggested we grab hot chocolate. I told her I had put an end to yard sales, but I came clean about returning to weekly transfer station hunting. Debbie had no idea that rich towns have special rooms at the dump where rich people leave expensive items they feel too guilty throwing out. I told her I left the transfer station last week with three bags of almost-new clothes. Debbie just listened. She doesn’t judge. She also doesn’t make us talk in Group if we don’t want to. One time a man even showed up, and sat through the whole hour without introducing himself. Another time I showed up to the wrong meeting. It was some sort of Weight Watchers Group. The woman next to me shared that her cake cravings had come back in full force. She tried throwing cake in the trash. But she ends up digging through the trash later to eat it. So she then tried pouring coffee beans over the trash-cake to prevent the trash eating. But she admitted she’d still later dig it out. I worried I might somehow pick up their bad habits. When it was my turn to talk, I told them I’d pass. The group leader said if I don’t open up, I won’t overcome my bad habits. I missed Debbie. Last month, I drove by Cathy’s big house on the way to the transfer station. I told myself I’d only pick up toys for my nieces and nephews. It was an almost empty parking lot, so I drove right

2 108


up to the front of the station. I love hunting in peace. That’s when I saw her. Exiting the transfer station, holding three overstuffed bags. I drove away, glancing back once to confirm my sighting. Debbie was staring back at me. I stopped going to Group, but I didn’t stop thinking about Debbie. I sometimes dare myself to drive by Cathy’s house. If I drive slowly, I can see the stacks.

3 109


By Shavand Taghizadeh

1 110


1 111


Finding Out By Alex Goette

Revealed to me then it was as coming across #000000 black eyes in lumpy mollusk soup and realizing you are eating it. The cloud ripped sky.

1 112


DR-1 By Dylan Karlsson

He put his first payment down when he was 28. The TV sat in the living room since 2004, glazing Mr. and Mrs. Vesper’s eyes with a yellow flashing phone number. >Do you feel unsafe within the comfort of your very own home? The TV hummed as Mr. Vesper shifted in his seat, sharing his wife’s expression. He began, resuming an hour-old thought: “Did you see the forecast tonight? Says it’s gonna be another dry season ahead. Dry months. Dry years. Invaded by desert. What next?” With nothing to add, Mrs. Vesper nodded. The news was coming on at the stroke of the hour. She would let it respond for her. >With two people in the world dying each second, it’s scary to think of the future. You think, what does it cost to keep me and my wife safe? Well… for just $19.95 a month, safety and security can be yours with Adopt-A-Drone! That’s right, we put your name on a drone! It’ll fly in the name of freedom and security. Mr. Vesper began to draw himself into the TV, lifting up from the back of the sofa. Mrs. Vesper watched and expected— “Honey, get the phone.”

1 113


A package arrived within 5-7 business days. In it was a framed photo of the drone mounted on a digital radio voice box. >My name is Mr. Vesper Family Drone. It is 7:18 PM, May 27th. I have neutralized 14 targets, with near-certainty of no collateral damage. Mr. Vesper placed the voice box on the dining room table, next to his wife’s faux-faberge egg. The table was set for three that night. “Have you seen the neighbor’s yard? He’s uprooting the whole sprinkler system, says he got a rebate. I say it looks damn ugly.” Mrs. Vesper nodded distantly, thinking, Adoption was just one of our options, decisions are made differently in other homes. But this is ours, and you have to live with it. >My name is Mr. Vesper Family Drone. It is 6:25 PM, June 14th. I have neutralized 38 targets. Happy Flag Day. Every night the box spoke. Weeks flew by. The voice eventually began to falter. The radio began losing its reception. Mr. Vesper called the company for technical support. Only a sales rep was available. He assuaged all doubts and offered a sensible resolution. >Mr. Vesper, are you aware you’re eligible for an upgrade? We can have a new model installed in your house by tomorrow night. “I wasn’t aware.” Mr. Vesper said as he glanced out the window upon the neighbor’s barren yard, scrutinizing its rocky complexion. “Will it cost much extra?”

2 114


>Just a one-time installment fee. As simple as ripping off a band-aid. “Have it sent tomorrow then. I’m sure my wife will be home to let you into the house.” A technician assembled a drone in the dining room, sitting at the table, eager for its supper. Mrs. Vesper prepared a special meal that night. Mr. Vesper proudly sat with knife and fork in hand, “I tell ya they did a great job. Looks pristine! And with a homemade meal to top it off!” Mrs. Vesper’s eyes searched for the tears they wanted. She couldn’t find the source, what faculties made crying so. The drone pivoted its head, facing her. >Thank you for the meal Mrs. Vesper. Not sure she was listening, not affirmed in her presence there at all. “I’m glad you enjoyed it, dear.” Outside, rain began to fall despite the forecasts. The neighbor’s new rock garden flooded over, pouring into the street. That night the news forecaster made an apology on-air, laughing off his mistake.

3 115


116


Contributors’ Notes Nahal Amouzadeh is a third-year English major and Gender Studies minor. She’s a managing editor for FEM Newsmagazine. When she’s not writing half-finished short stories and poems, she’s journaling or watching stand-up specials on Netflix. She’s in constant flux of cuddling her cat when she’s home or missing her cat when she’s in LA. Find her on Twitter (@nahalll). Karen Achar is twenty years old and working towards an art degree (BA) at the School of Arts and Architecture at UCLA. Karen is also working towards an art history degree as she hopes to work in the curatorial field one day. Rachel Berkowitz originally grew up in London, England. She acquired a BA in Fine Arts from UCLA’s School of Art and Architecture and continues to produce artwork in California. Rachel focuses on painting and street photography as her main mediums, and has had solo shows in both formats in London and Los Angeles. She is currently on a journey to discover the city she thrives in best. Occasionally addressing abstract, conceptual approaches, Rachel tends to focus on the power of human connections, evoking spiritual thoughts from everyday banalities. Her work can be very humorous, but a lot of her work address the darker forms of the human spirit in very surreal mannerisms. Rachel looks towards literature, mythologies, and everyday situations as her main sources of inspiration. Winston Bribach is a second-year English major at UCLA from San Antonio, Texas. His interests in writing are fairly wide-ranging, but most specifically, fiction and screenwriting. Also, as someone who’s watched countless number of films from the 1930s through the 1950s, he considers himself an expert on Classic Hollywood.

117


Lastly, Winston is an avid fan of American soccer, and even finds time to write a blog about it: The American Sheriff. Michael Browne is a writer and music publicist living in West LA. His work was recently published in Fractal and he enjoys baseball and tacos. Follow him on Twitter @BrowneLaurence. Vera Burrows is from San Francisco. She is a fourth-year majoring in Comparative Literature and English with a Concentration in Creative Writing, but she’s not done with UCLA yet. Vera will begin work on an MA in Latin American Studies Fall 2016. Don Kingfisher Campbell is down for anything to do with poetry. Anthing. Reading. Writing. Critiquing. Editing. Publishing. Performing. Selling. Conferencing. Awarding. Check out his blog if you don’t believe it… http://dkc1031.blogspot.com. JP Cavender has written for the The Daily Bruin, The Paper Mixtape, and UpOut.com. He studies English at UCLA and is an editor at Westwind. Stefan Dismond is hopefully your next favorite rapper. Though born in Virginia, Stefan would spend the majority of his adolescence in Northern California, and in the humble hills of a Bay Area suburb, he spit his first sixteen. Stefan now resides in Los Angeles, attending the prestigious University of California, Los Angeles. When asked about his experiences at college, he merely replied “follow me on soundcloud.” Annakai 早川 Geshlider wonders: How do I/You/We use words to convince, singe, highlight, omit, flatten, and collaborate? How can I/You/We use words to generate equitable and healthy interaction between bodies, cities, planets? She enjoys interviewing friends and enemies, turning off lawn sprinklers, and eating avocados out of their skins with a spoon.

118


Alex Goette likes simple things. His most current and strongest desire is to catch a mondo halibut, but he has also realized a desire to make writing as central to his life as possible. He lives and works in Los Angeles. Zach Helper is an artist in the fine arts program at UCLA, working primarily with photography and video. He was born and raised in Los Angeles, where the various landscapes and cultural signifiers of the city shape his work. Particularly, he is interested in how the camera can obscure or defamiliarize the viewer’s relationship to commonplace objects and places. E-Roy is an English major and film minor, who dropped back into UCLA after a hiatus spent creating and working in music and film— along with being a social entrepreneur who created and co-produced musical and art events benefitting the National Adubon Society and Sierra Club. He was also an associate producer for the 2010 documentary film Climate Refugees, which premiered at the climate summit in Copenhagen and opened the Sundance Film Festival. His current band, The Pretentious Pidgins, is an eclectic group of musicians/ songwriters of wildly varying musical and ethnic backgrounds offering a mashed-up sound they call “Junk.” They hope to share the groove, laughter, and maybe even some testifying. . .Coup-coup! Hannah Hogen is a habitual writer and former UCLA student currently residing in the Los Angeles area. Growing up in Southern California—an area full of syncretic history and legends—fueled Hannah’s passion for folklore and mythology, and the combining of old and new. Max Kapur is Seattle: a quarter Indian and in love with coffee. He is currently an undergrad at USC studying jazz piano and Korean. His work lives at illusionslopes.blogspot.com.

119


Dylan Karlsson is a second-year English student at UCLA, pursuing a creative writing concentration in poetry. His poetry has appeared in Juked, Babyteeth Mag, and Westwind. Anna Aaryn Khen is a young poet from Los Angeles. She has given poetry readings at the Hammer Museum and at the Newcastle Literary Salon in England. She is a proud mother of two baby turtles grandly named John Keats and Fanny Brawne. Read more of her work at whitecoatpoet.blogspot.com. Kim and Aliya are two cool dudes. They are writers, hosts, college radio DJs, roommates, app developers, fashion designers, and best friends. Check them out at kimandaliya.com. Alberto Loaiza is a Chicano poet from Watts, Los Angeles. He comes from a background of performance slam poetry and struggles to find his words on paper. He is also part of the UCLA Slam Poetry team that competed in the 2016 College Union Poetry Slam Invitational, and helped the team place fifth nationally. Tina Lawson is a poet in Los Angeles. She has been published by Poets.org and Westwind. Find more of her work at www.lawsonisawesome.com. Megan Lent has had short fiction, nonfiction, and poetry featured in dozens of publications, including Vice, Shabby Doll House, plain china, and Everyday Genius. She studies film at UCLA. Her OkCupid profile has 6,092 likes. Eileen Li is a third-year studying film and TV at UCLA. She began with drawing sketches of strangers, then sister, then, when she moved to LA, herself. Eileen’s current drawings are often journal entries about her daily experiences, with a self-portrait attached to a short and “witty” line. Her pencil, ink, and sometimes watercolour drawings are either sketches, comics, or both.

120


Jay Martin is a screenwriter. This is his first story published in Westwind. Dante Matero finds time to write in between episodes of The Real Housewives of New Jersey. He draws inspiration from celebrity culture and class politics. He co-founded a zine collective, whose archive can be found here: nothingnewpublications.tumblr.com. Miles Mistler is an amateur poet from Dixon, CA. In June, he earned his BA in English at UCLA, where he enjoyed writing short films and plays, studying Danish and C++, and discovering the meaning of his human life, Jesus Christ. Now he is enrolled at a two-year Bible program in Anaheim, where he’s getting to know the Person living inside of him. Luke Moran is known mostly as a comedian, and Luke Moran is okay with this. A founder and Editor-in-Chief of The Westwood Enabler, actor, stand-up comedian, and improviser, sometimes, when the weather is just right, he writes poems. He loves the people but hopes he never has to work in retail to survive. See him perform Fridays at The Improv Space with Whale Sounds, Tuesday’s with UCLA’s own Rapid Fire Improv, and read his silly articles at westwoodenabler.com. Daniel Seunghyun Noh is a writer based in Los Angeles. When not writing, he enjoys photographing the city. Now that he’s graduated, he plans to dive back into the chemical vats of analog photography. Check out more of his work at danielshnoh.com. You can find his Japanese/Geek pop culture thoughts on Twitter @nohbrows. Mario René Padilla’s poetry has appeared in numerous periodicals, such as North American Review, The Antioch Review, and INKWELL Magazine. His first collection of poetry, Reaching Back for the Neverending, appeared in 1994 from Red Dancefloor Press. His unpublished manuscripts of prose poems, Postcards on the Invented Road, and verse

121


poetry, Blue Plums and Weeds, have been finalists in poetry book awards and contests. He has recently completed his first short story collection entitled Scales. He teaches creative writing and English literature at Santa Monica College. Sean Pessin has lived in Los Angeles his whole life; he earned an BA and MA in English at CSU Northridge, and an MFA from Otis College of Art and Design. He is the founding editor of agape: a journal of literary goodwill and editor-at-large for Magra Books. His work has appeared in the Sigma Tau Delta Rectangle, Interfictions Online, New Short Fiction Series, and is always fabulous and strange and queer. Gabe Pine is from San Francisco and is now a first year in the fine arts program at UCLA. He is interested in climate change, over-thetop images, and people’s relationships with technology. Kalyce Rogers is a third-year Microbiology, Immunology, and Molecular Genetics student at UCLA. She is fascinated by integrating the sciences and creative writing, and enjoys producing and reading short stories, flash fiction, and creative nonfiction works. J.M. Sanchez is a sociologist, musician, and writer who enjoys the spiciest of foods. You can find John at the California Institute of Abnormalarts, hanging out with clowns and performing with his psychedelic children’s rock group, “A Horse A Spoon A Bucket.” Their music can be purchased or streamed for free at their website: http:// ahorseaspoonabucket.bandcamp.com. Shavand Taghizadeh dabbles in many parts of life, such as making music, writing, painting, photographing, talking, walking, working, watching, and a plethora of other creative activities. He cannot and will not be reduced down to just one label; one may say he is an enigma, though that also is too reductive of a label for this wonderful spark of life. His creations and ingestions revolve around the exploration of the fading glow of youth that surrounds him and also experiment with attempting to destroy the clichés of life that have

122


seemingly submerged life in its entirety, just as a body of water submerges a lifeless body that has been attached to a cinder block and thrown over a bridge in order to be hidden from the eyes of the law. Jake Tringali was born in Boston. Lived up and down the East Coast, and then up and down the West Coast, and currently in Los Angeles. Runs rad restaurants. Thrives in a habitat of bars, punk rock shows, and a sprinkling of burlesque performers. Throughout 2015, publications include Catch & Release, Boston Poetry Magazine, Indiana Voice Journal, and twelve other fine journals. Tulika Varma is a second-year double major in English and Gender Studies at UCLA. She is an international student from Chennai, India. She writes and edits for FEM Newsmagazine, UCLA’s feminist news magazine, where you can read her nonfiction work on femmagazine.com. Isaac Williams’ poetry has appeared in The Nervous Breakdown, Rust + Moth, Potluck Magazine, Punchnel’s, and elsewhere. He is a poetry reader for The Adroit Journal.

123


WESTWIND UCLA’s Journal of the Arts

Westwind accepts rolling submissions year-round of unpublished original works of prose, poetry, art, and music by UCLA students, alumni, and members of the greater Los Angeles community. We currently publish two online journals in Fall and Winter and one print publication in Spring. We’re extremely open-minded, so send us your best work.

For more information, visit us at westwind.ucla.edu

Copyright © 2016 by Westwind, UCLA’s Journal of the Arts



Westwind Spring 2016