WORDLY Magazine 'Power' Edition 2 2020

Page 1

wordly MAGAZINE

POWER Edition Two 2020


foreword Welcome to the second edition of WORDLY for 2020.

In turbulent times like these, our self-care usually takes a backseat. What we must realise is that we can’t properly look after others if we don’t properly look after ourselves first.

As we’re at the midway point of the year, we mustn’t be too harsh on ourselves if we haven’t been as productive as we would’ve liked to be. It’s also important to reflect on the things we’ve learnt—the things we gained from life experiences. Here are some of the things I’ve learnt, and maybe you’ll be able to relate to them or learn something from them:

Take time to do deep breathing / It’s okay to have a break and binge watch Friends / Write down important things so you remember to do them / Always have questions prepared to ask the interviewer / Don’t let good free deals expire / Bobby pins can cause washing machines to stop working / Work with what you’ve got, not what you hoped for / You can survive eating alone at a restaurant / Feelings are not thoughts / Your ability to do an exercise is a mind game / Sometimes people just forget because they’re busy / Your day is still productive even if it doesn’t reflect your to-do list. And, above all, remember to be kind—to others and yourself. Julie Dickson Editor-in-Chief

Editor-in-Chief:

Managing Editor:

Communications Manager:

Julie Dickson

Becky Croy

Jessica Wartski

Duyen Tran

Alf Ciriaco

Hassaan Ahmed

Designer:

Front cover artist:

Social Media Manager: Jess Ali

Editors:

Sub-Editors:

Elisabeth Roberts Sini Salatas Jessica Wartski Jason Winn

Grishtha Arya James Barnett Chloe Blanchard Georgie Brimer Matthew Galic

Financial Manager:

Contributors: Sheridan Harris Jessica Hinschen Michael Pallaris Loren Sirel Zoe Trezise

Jessica Ali Grishtha Arya Melissa Bandara James Barnett Melina Bunting Brianna Bullen Laura Clark Alf Ciriaco Rowen De Lacy Elisabeth Gail Chantelle Gourlay Rachel Grey

Jessica Hinschen Julia McAlister Katie McClintock Zach Murphy Hagan Nguyen Anniemay Parker James Patrik Laura Pettenuzzo Loren Rae Venetia Slarke Gaden Sousa Jason Winn

WORDLY would like to acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land and pay respects to Elders past and present. © 2020 Deakin University Student Association Inc Reg. No. A0040625Y All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form by any electronic or mechanical means (including photocopying, recording, information storage and retrieval) without permission in writing from the publisher. Opinions expressed in this publication belong to their respective authors, and it may not be the opinions of WORDLY or DUSA. Unattributed images sourced from Unsplash and Adobe Creative Cloud Assets. Want to advertise? Contact wordlymagazine@gmail.com for more information.


CONTENTS 04

Success – Laura Clark

Queen of the Jungle – Melissa Bandara

Forests of Emerald – Loren Rae

Frida Kahlo – Venetia Slarke

Speech is Silver – Rowen De Lacy

14

A Rising Blazing Sun – Jessica Hinschen

17

The Bird at the End of the World – James Patrik

Greater Than Any Sword – Anniemay Parker

– Melina Bunting

07 09 11 13 16 18 21

23 Sorry

27 Procrastination

– Melissa Bandara

29

Creature of Habit – Rachel Grey

Lonely For You Only – Katie McClintock

31

34

Don’t call Me – Katie McClintock

06

This Girl is a Lion – Jess Ali

Bird’s Eye View – Brianna Bullen

The Complexities of Woman – Chantelle Gourlay

08 10 12

[healing #2] – Hagan Nguyen

The Real HarMar Superstar – Zach Murphy

Within Us – Alf Ciriaco

A Despot’s Reading Hour – Jason Winn

The Parents Came – Grishtha Arya

Wasting Time – James Barnett

20 22 24 28

King of the Suburbs – Elisabeth Gail

Lorry – Julia McAlister

30

32

That Day – Gaden Sousa

35

In the Wake of Us – Laura Pettenuzzo


S UC C ESS Our Year 12 teacher flicks her finger in front of the class. ‘Girls, preferences need to be in by this date!’ But what do I want to be? I have many interests, from sciences to arts. No, I can’t study arts.

‘How are you going over here?’ Ms Mount disturbs my leg jiggling. ‘Looks good, remember your ATAR number though.’

‘Did you study for today’s test?’ My friend, Carla, elbows me. I shake my head.

She nods, satisfied, but we know we both have. Thou must attain thy holy numbers.

The corridors are empty. Girls are bunkered down studying. Stragglers exchange the questions: ‘What are you doing?’ and ‘Where are you applying?’ ***

I decide what I’ll be at a careers expo.

Squirming through enthusiastic faces, hands offering brochures, and free pens, a ‘Nursing’ banner pulls my attention. ‘Make a difference! Be respected! Ongoing opportunities!’ Wow. My grades are high enough. And I guess I’m pretty caring. *** In nursing class, I immerse myself in the theory and wait for the passion.

Since only 39 per cent of Australians aged 24 to 34 manage to complete a bachelor’s degree or higher, I’m relieved to make it through my third year. Relieved that I’m headed towards success, despite carrying an $18,000 debt after three years of study and 840 hours of unpaid clinical placements. ***

I’m thankful to sit among the 20 graduate nurses of 2014 at our hospital orientation.

Neatening my purple collared shirt, I hear that 3,000 out of 8,000 Australian nursing graduates didn’t gain work. ‘Congratulations.’

***

‘I’m still waiting for that cuppa, ya know?’ Greg complains through his oxygen mask.

04

Laura Clark ‘Sorry, Greg.’

After completing morning medications for five patients, each with two to five pages of medications— unfortunately not all oral—my bladder warns me that it hasn’t been relieved since 6am. A cow has four stomachs. A nurse must have four bladders.

I weave between patient rooms. Each day I might complete two bed baths, two supervised showers, four bed linen changes, two intravenous antibiotic administrations, one intravenous cannulation, two drain tube removals, three hourly urinary catheter checks, two bloods, one electrocardiogram, two preparations for surgery, one transfer to rehab, one full assist breakfast, and pestering the kitchen for one ‘wrong’ breakfast, all by midday.

The prospect of leaving on time at 3pm genuinely excites me—with the trivial sacrifice of my lunch break. I set up my trolley and sterile field and complete Greg’s wound dressing change on his barrelling abdomen while he waits for his cuppa. Smiling, I transport old, red muck stuck to the bandage to the bin. I hear more about how Greg expects more.

I say something soothing and deliver his insulin injection, thankful for no name calling. ***

I find myself wondering what success means to other people as I comb bedbound Eleni’s cloudy hair while another nurse helps set up the blood bag for transfusion. I explain to Eleni—an older Greek lady—the procedure. She looks at me like I’m speaking a foreign language. ‘Your room 16 is buzzing,’ my colleague reports as she dashes out. ‘And 17!’ The guilt of spending precious time in one patient’s room hits me. But I hold her hand as she stares at the line of red liquid going into her arm.

I dart into the next room, nursing instruments in my pocket and around my neck twanging. My post-op complains of pain. His chest—a gorgeous surgical site with neat stitching and steri-strips. There is no analgesia prescribed in his chart. I swear.


The esteemed doctor neglects my calls, so I leave the desk of downturned nurses’ heads scrawling their last-minute notes before shift change. Helpless without a doctor’s scribble, Panadol will have to do for now.

‘I’m not in the 40 per cent of Victorian nurses who didn’t get a job,’ I repeat to myself, partly wishing I had been. Eleni is surrounded by family. The contest of who can talk at me the fastest in Greek accents begins.

It’s after visiting hours, but I politely reassure them that an esteemed doctor will be in soon to see Eleni. Some request tea.

I rush back to my post-op. Pain worse, pulse faint, blood pressure low.

And I wait for the switch to flick so I’ll know I’ve attained success. But I can’t find any ATAR number on my forehead anymore, only frightening numbers on the machine.

Understaffed, no other nurse is visible on the floor to help. A crying phone sits at the desk. I hear my whole body in my ears. I call a code.

By midnight, I hand over and sink down the dim stairwell with aching knees. Untouched dinner rattles in my bag. ***

On my day off, I wake up in the afternoon to messages from friends, family and colleagues. I don’t answer. I’ve missed my yoga class.

I eat some noodles from a cup.

I go to bed for tomorrow’s shift. ***

I exit the hospital doors at 11pm one night in 2016, headed towards the train station. I’m eager to hear the results that my family has been waiting for.

My phone tickles my hip. A text message from Mum says she’s in the car park for me. Odd. Terrifying. I get into the car.

But who is this woman asking how my day was? ‘Mum,’ I splutter, ‘what is it?’ Tears answer me.

My insides hollow out.

She’s rambling, telling me that Dad’s results aren’t good. He’s going to die in six months. Wait.

I gaze down at the scene. Two apparitions sit in this car.

He was healthy weeks ago. He’s worked hard since he was 16 to achieve his success. But now he is

going

to die.

I try to rewind so I can pay attention and understand how the lump formed, undetected, how it spread, so I might save him. So I might prove myself a successful nurse, and daughter. But I couldn’t save him from the perverse, humiliating and painful deterioration he endured in the remaining months—something he didn’t want his daughter of 20 to witness. Or to have to look after.

***

My sleep is filled with my family, life, then always morphing back to work. Did I give all medications? What patients will I deal with tomorrow? Will my In-Charge be in a good mood?

I eventually realise, while becoming cosier with death, that I want to live. ***

A nauseated owner of a typical scrappy four hours of sleep, I hold the shoulders of a senior nurse. Amongst the choir of beeping machines and call bells, her tears drop silently. ‘There’s never any thanks, just a spotlight on your mistakes,’ she says.

The warm wafts from the breakfast trolleys battle the fragrance of human defecation. I pray it’s not in my section.

This won’t be my future. Although I can’t go back to fight those numbers at school, I’m grateful for the journey and lessons. But I won’t pay the cost of grey hairs much too early. I become part of the one-third of Australian nurses actively thinking about quitting. Then I tell society’s success to piss off. I’ve re-evaluated mine.

Eventually, it’s just me and my success.

05


This girl is a lion

Jess Ali

This girl is a lion, I think

She hunts me by looking away There are creases by her eyes when she smiles (does she smile?)

and wispy umber tufts at the cusp of her winter coat

I sit on my hands to keep from

reaching

out This girl is a lion, I think

She haunts me by staying away I stumble between teak trunks, drunk

on the sight of a sliver of sable, so soothing I’m sinking

further into the damp heat of the earth she catches my neck by the scruff and—pulls This girl is a lion, I think

She hauls me towards the edge We dance through the flickering night feebly toing and froing

the conclusion is foregone A purr or a growl

(does it make a difference when the ending is inevitable?) This girl is a lion, I think

I let myself be consumed.

06


Queen of the Jungle

@melissa.bandara.design

by Melissa Bandara

07


Brianna Bullen On days like this, Hestral felt he was one of the only beings alive. If he didn’t look down into the rolling Rorschach dust clouds below, and just focused on the complete blue saturation of the sky above, he felt powerful and at peace and powerful.

There was something about blue, and the little white stretch marks shifting in the sky’s body that calmed his racing heart. It was why he came up early for his shift, flying through the brown fog with his beak closed and goggles on, to just breathe. He spread his wings, his primaries spreading out like a giant’s soft fingers. Their brindled markings caught the light. He was surprised that the lines, the absence of colour in the light, could be replaced by sun-streaks on such clear mornings above like this. He was lucky. It was hard work to perch and observe the human and avian crime below, no less dive to intervene, but he was lucky. He was worried, though, that it was starting to get to his head, alongside the thinner oxygen. The power.

From the tower, they looked so minuscule. Ants below, their problems and organisation routine and petty. The air billowed gently through the filigree roof above him, caressing his facial feathers like an intimate friend. The austere pattern had been added in three hundred years ago to commemorate the bicentenary of peace between the Avians, in part aided by the Ciel Task Force’s unscrupulous observances of—and interference with—the crime and shenanigans going on below. He sat down, clawed feet dangling over the edge. He rocked them back and forth, feeling like he was walking on air.

08

The building had archways looking out in all four directions. He sat to the north, watching the ocean, seeing seagulls glide with their feet skimming across the surface to pluck fish for the markets. It was honest work, and so was his. He looked up at the ceiling of the sandstone archway. Names of enlisted officers were graffitied on every brick. If he hit two years of service, he wanted his name to be written—embossed, even— beside Lefere C’iel Augustus, beloved heroic albatross, ace flyer of the first division. Sit above his chickenscrawl. He was becoming an Icarus; he wanted to fly higher.

It was lucky they made him work with a partner. A logical thinker to prevent Hestral from getting too birdbrained, too full of big ideas. They believed he would be tempted to fly away on the job. It only happened one time! But that had been enough. He would sulk that they only wanted him for his sharp eyes and speed for how he had excelled in their tests. An ace flyer, though, needed a champion grounding force. Think of the Devil. Don’t even need to speak his name for him to appear. For such a big avian, Albie was deft and light on his wings. Those wings were over Hestral’s eyes before he had heard him, curled up over his face from both sides. A strange Peeka-Boo. ‘Still dreaming of flying through the universe, space cadet?’ His brother-in-wing’s love-heart face taunted him with what he could not have. It ruffled his feathers. ‘I’m just falling into that blue. Don’t even have to move.’


The small ones with empty minds As we step on your

Everlasting roads beneath

And steal the only thing you give us.

Loren Rae

The only thing that keeps us alive. How dare us

Defy an abundance like yours.

I never noticed how green

I will treat you like royalty

As I drive and pollute you with

Your top line, so far out of my reach

And positively radiant you are Rotting soot.

Die above me so when

You drop onto my bonnet I’ll die along with you.

As you wear your crown so high above Where I don’t deserve to see it,

And you shall blossom without our insignificance And toxic brains, and soul-destroying hands, And rotting hearts, and tell us,

It’s certainly what I deserve

Tell us how beautiful your crown is

You, the beauty,

And being enveloped by your greenness,

Because regardless of when I die, Will continue to wander your

Roots deep beneath my corpse.

Reaching, stretching, and gravitating

Toward something much better than us.

In the sunshine and once we’re gone Keep growing,

Because you’re more worthy than me. You were here first

And you will be here last.

09


Chantelle Gourlay

The Complexities of Woman The warmth of a thousand suns,

They expect her to nitpick,

A tiny creature with a rosebud smile

But not her, she feels happiness,

Envelops a small cherub’s wing. And eyes of rainforest green.

She feels at peace with her vessel.

Her power is beyond reason,

She has no need to explain herself,

A touch of her delicate fingers,

A pool of silvery light licks her,

Not a thing of evil nor sway.

And every worry melts away.

She is no fragile porcelain doll.

Peering down she sees her reflection.

Into the moonlight she steps,

And for the first time in a long time,

By a bad seed or melancholy thoughts.

She takes in her body, her face,

A free spirit not to be weighed down— She allows a smirk to play on her lips.

No grimace mars her features.

Wholly content with her being.

So soft in nature and yet so moving,

She is kissed by the moonbeams,

Delicate as a tulip bud with the

A daughter of Aphrodite,

She truly is a force to be reckoned with. Fire of a demon filling her belly. She does wonder like a child,

The cruel world she tumbles within. Why do those different look down Upon her and assume ignorance?

10

Change an eyebrow, a dimple.

Her eyelashes fluttering beneath them. A vibrant force of nature. She is a woman in entirety.

More powerful than anything.


Frida Kahlo

by Venetia Slarke

@venetia.illustrations

11


Healing 12

by Hagan Nguyen

@hagannguyen


Rowen De Lacy

Speech is Silver Your voice is water,

The vast ocean waves— I’m stranded at sea, No sight of land!

No sight of anything But you.

Your voice is water,

And my throat is parched— I long for, I need,

I crave your words!

I beg of you to slake My thirst.

Your voice is water, A gentle trickle— You slowly erode

My doubts, my mask, Before I can notice They’re gone.

Your voice is water,

Cleansing and holy—

Speak to me your words Of forgiveness

And absolve me of all My sins.

13


Zach Murphy

The Real HarMar S u p e r s t a r Semisonic’s melancholy anthem ‘Closing time’ plays while Steve finishes up his last night as a security guard at HarMar Shopping Centre. This is almost too good to be true, he thinks to himself.

The unsung hero gazes at his reflection in the Famous Footwear window. He’s kept in great shape, he’s clean-shaven, and his crew cut is sharp enough to cut through a delivery package. But for Steve, this job was never about catching shoplifters or looking tough. This job was about returning stray carts to their rightful stores. He’d graduated to transporting six at a time, three under each arm. He’d mastered the proper form for maximum speed and efficiency. A broken wheel was never enough to slow him down. If there were an Olympic event for cart transporting, Steve would be a gold medal winner.

This job was about setting up yellow ‘Caution: Wet Floor’ signs. Perfect placement is key. The signs have to be immediately noticeable, yet not in the way of walking paths. He couldn’t handle the thought of someone tripping over the sign itself. To avoid any slippage, he’d scan the floors and check thoroughly for ceiling drips. Even a slight indicator of condensation would deserve a heads-up. Or a heads-down, depending on how you look at it. Most important of all, this job was about making people’s days just a bit better. He’d pleasantly chat with both the young and the old, and he’d crack jokes at any given opportunity. Some of the jokes were off-the-cuff, and others were rehearsed. A laugh would make his day. Steve was lonely at home, but at HarMar he felt alive. He felt like he mattered.

14

He wonders how the place will fare in his absence.

He hopes that whoever takes over his job will continue to let the eccentric homeless woman, Angela, stay warm during the winter at her usual bench near the food court. She never bothers anyone.

He thinks about how he’ll miss the regular mall-walkers that he now considers his friends. He knows more about some of their families than he does about his own.

He regrets how he never quite built up the courage to talk to the lovely girl who works the front desk at Pearl Vision. He was too shy to even make eye contact.

Steve shuts down the lights in the empty hallways and locks the main door. He re-checks it exactly seven times, as usual. He heads out to his little Nissan Sentra and takes one last look at the place. His pride stands on his immaculately ironed sleeve. His duty shines like his polished shoes. Steve’s next mission is to take care of aquatic animals at the Como Zoo, and he’s completely ready to take the plunge. That joke—that’s one of his rehearsed ones.


RUN BY STUDENTS, FOR STUDENTS


A Rising Blazing Sun

Jess Hinschen

Aiko began her stroll towards her city rising in the sun. She loved how the sun made the shop windows shine like glittering ocean waves and brick buildings warm and inviting. It made living in Hiroshima still worth it. Her feet tapped from left to right, making her radio jolt in time to the music it warbled. She hardly noticed the dome, growing bigger in the distance. Ue o Muite Arukō started playing on her radio. Ue o Muite Arukō I look up as I walk

Namida ga kobore nai you ni So that the tears don’t fall

Her eyes made their way up, doing as Kyu Sakamoto said. The clouds were as fluffy as those in pictures. The sun drifted through them like they were paper. Aiko’s eyes had to come down, though, and they did, over to Hiroshima Hall. The more she looked, the more she was reminded of a sunset all those years ago, of fire and smoke and destruction. Countless bodies lying scorched. Crumbling school uniforms. Blood-flecked eyes.

The more she thought, the more her legs gave way, digging themselves into the crumbly soil. Adrenaline ran like rocket fuel through her veins. Aiko felt the burning sky against her skin. The engulfing smoke choking her lungs. Nose crinkling at the smell of searing overcooked skin and overflowing blood. Hearing the piercing screams of death. The fear of the pain to come. Tears brushed past her cheeks as quickly as acid rain. As she kneeled in the dirt, she heard Sakamato’s voice waft over to her. Shiawase wa kumo no ue ni Happiness lies above the clouds Shiawase wa sora no ue ni Happiness lies above the sky

Only then did she look up at the sky. Tears blurred her vision, but she still saw the fluffy clouds, spun like cotton candy and white as imagined snow. The world hadn’t thrown wreckage from the sky again. It was still a Monday morning, the same as before. The sun’s rays didn’t scorch or burn her. They warmed her cheeks instead.

Though I’m in the past, the clouds are still there, Aiko said to herself, unaware she was thinking out loud. The sun’s still behind the clouds. The hall is still there. It’s not the same, but it’s there. She tried to remember the hall as she loved it, and reconcile it with its now broken dome. The exhibitions. The wonderous lights on its façade, lighting up the night like space, full of stars. She recalled countless visits, but they were tinged with ruin, of a place gone forever. It’s not the same, but it’s still there. It’s not the same, but it’s still there. She had to remember that. Her legs still wavered, but she swung each one forward, determined to get to work in one piece. As she walked, popstars still talked sweetly through her radio. The sun shone brighter as buildings passed her by. Aiko swore she would look up as she walked, so she could see her Hiroshima Hall again. Rokusuke, E (1961), Sukiyaki (). Tokyo: Toshiba-EMI.

16


Within Us

by Alf Ciriaco

@alfieedraws

17


The Bird Max walked alone across the empty plains. His parents had been merchants, but they had passed on peacefully many years ago. Alone in the world, Max had determined that his life’s purpose would be to see as much of the sphere as possible before he too expired. Due to the persistent heat, he walked at night, maintaining a steady pace. Other humans spent their days scrounging for food, but Max found exploration a more noble pursuit and his empty stomach easier to ignore than his burning curiosity. He walked past the crumbling temples of inconsequential belief and the old house of records, it too now disintegrating. Both buildings were now half consumed by the landscape. Still filled with artefacts of forgotten lore, they were the last remaining vestiges of a world long gone, and an absent population devoured by sickness. One day, in search of a place to sleep, Max came across a clearing. It was a peculiar circular space, with great trees lopped off at their bases. Huge sections of earth had been scooped out as if by a giant hand, which made the ground look like an old battlefield Max had once seen in a book. What soil remained appeared chalklike and desiccated. At the centre of the space, there was a lake. It appeared to be filled with black, oily tar. Moving cautiously, Max noticed a small hut, composed of densely packed flotsam and jetsam. He approached the door and rapped upon it a few times. No response. Behind him, the lake of tar sprang to life, and bubbles rose to the surface. Soon, a shape revealed itself. Head. Neck. Arms and legs. Slowly it ascended from the muck.

It now stood a full seven feet tall. The slimy humanoid wiped the dark sludge from his face and revealed a large proboscis. It was a beak, like that of some giant prehistoric bird. If the sight of such a creature wasn’t shocking enough for Max, one could only imagine his surprise when it began to talk. ‘Come inside,’ he said, inviting Max into his tiny hut.

18

at t h e ‘Thank you, sir,’ Max replied, discreetly noticing three-fingered hands concealed beneath densely feathered limbs. The interior of the bird man’s hut was a profoundly grim affair. Grimy, cluttered surfaces populated by dead plants and dust covered trinkets. The bird man offered Max a drink, but he politely declined, noting the foul state of his crockery.

‘Why have you come here?’ asked the bird man as he towelled off the residual oil from his body with a tattered rag. Now somewhat cleaner, Max could properly discern the strange man. He was covered in feathers head to toe, save for his scaly stick-like legs, which stood atop large webbed feet. Free from the tar, yet still jet-black, Max thought his feathers appeared pleasantly soft. ‘I’m a traveller,’ Max offered. ‘You’re the first person I’ve seen in a hundred days.’

‘A traveller,’ the bird repeated as he sat himself down on what remained of a broken sofa and discreetly began loading a bong. ‘I’ve barely even left this house.’ Striking a match, he placed his face upon the mouthpiece and inhaled deeply as the filthy bong water bubbled beneath.

Max watched with intense curiosity. ‘In the old world, it was called ganja. By my father, and his father before him.’

‘Been no ganja for some time now, boy. I’ve had to make do,’ the bird proclaimed as he exhaled a plume of putrid smoke. ‘With what?’

‘Everything. Everything smoked. Plants. Trees. Animals. Ground up and smoked to sustain my power,’ the bird intoned, his rich timbre resonant and masculine.

‘Power?’ asked Max as he sat before the bird, beseeching the giant ornithoid to impart his wisdom.


End of the World James Patrik

‘I discovered it right here in this room. I wasn’t always like this, you know.’ Max leant forward as the bird continued to weave his tale.

‘Hundreds of years ago, this hut was once part of a thriving village filled with people. One day, the sky grew dark, and the villagers became frightened. Through a hole in the sky, I caught sight of the throne. I saw the four beasts awaken. Soon after, they came from the clouds. Faceless men on horseback. They laid hands on the women as they struggled and tortured the men with sticks and ropes. The sounds of their anguish were awful, but I was paralysed by fear, so I chose to stay inside. Through my window, I saw the slaughter unfold. I saw it all and did nothing, said nothing. When the faceless men departed, I watched over their broken bodies until I could no longer stand the sight. I saw the dark man’s hand that day, and it changed me.’ The bird man’s eyes appeared wistful. Remorseful. Max sat in silence, stunned by the surprising intensity of the story.

‘I was once a man just like you. But that day, I cried so much my face changed. Sadness can transform your body as well as your mind.’

‘I’m so sorry,’ Max offered quietly. They were the only words he could conjure. As he spoke them, he was immediately aware of how cheap they sounded in the face of such bitterness. The bird man’s face hardened as he caught sight of Max’s expression.

‘No need to serve me pity. I neither request nor appreciate it.’ ‘No, what I meant was —’

‘It was only from the cinders of my old life did I uncover it. The infinite power of surrender. The value of doing absolutely nothing.’

‘Nothing?’

‘Nothing,’ he uttered slowly, his voice now resonating in the tiny space. Max was aghast. ‘I could never be that cynical.’

‘It’s not cynicism, boy. It’s freedom. Freedom from caring. Freedom from action.’ ‘But don’t you have any places you’d like to see, people you’d like to meet? Don’t you have any questions about the world? About yourself ?’

The bird man pressed his beak against the mouth of the bong again, lit the base, and inhaled deeply. ‘If the question is pointless, so too will be the answer,’ he replied smugly. ‘For a man who claims to be free, you seem trapped.’

‘It’s all a matter of perspective. Yours might change once you see the horror this life has to offer. And besides, as your eyes will no doubt inform you, I am no longer a man.’ A chill ran down Max’s spine. He stood up from his seat. ‘Well then, it appears we have reached an impasse of ideology.’ ‘Indeed, we have,’ said the feathered man as Max made his way to the exit.

‘Thank you for the hospitality,’ he offered politely as he paused in the door frame. ‘Maybe one day, when you stop walking, the power might come to find you,’ said the bird, clutching his bong.

‘Thank you, sir. But I already have my own. It was a gift from my mother and father. It is my life and the very fact that I am living. That’s power enough for me,’ said Max as he strode out of the small, strange house without so much as a backwards glance.

19


A Despot’s Reading Hour Jason Winn Veterans of my tirade line varnished timber

Their fractured spines are an atlas of lesions Tear open their scriptures and blaspheme

Cross or underline their knowledge with neon or blue Mottled stains bleed onto both sides

Plathian dismay and Lovecraftian gloom All are vulnerable under my guise

Stab and then rend with a ballpoint Yeats is the worst victim among all

Between Paudeen and Ephemera his lacerations lie Deep red arrows that stem onto other words Jagged letters not belonging to him Rossetti will tell you I’m ruthless

Her goblin market flooded with ink The fae peddlers smudged in black As sticky notes blindfold

My little paper soldiers that easily wound It’s often more than just fleeting thoughts Your tragedies and victories do inspire Your pages tremble as I draw nearer

20


Greater Than Any Sword

Anniemay Parker

Dear Harrison,

As I write this, I watch our father lift his hammer once more. He drops it with the same force as the ones before, and he seems satisfied with his progress. Even if from my window, little has been made. He has been smelting again, getting the weapons ready for a raid he’s planning with his comrades. I must admit, when I was younger, I admired his strength in lifting that hammer and the power to twist metal. I ogled and cooed at his craftsmanship and felt pride in carrying the Kilna name. But now I see the ignorance in his ways. How stubborn he is to drop the hammer on the metal when it has already cooled too much to be persuaded. I can clearly spot the parts of steel that have been maimed by our father’s indelicate touch. He always catches me staring and yells, ‘If you do not like what you see, then make your own goddamn butterknife!’

He never appreciated the simplicity of my stiletto knife. Nor did those who were impaled by it. Anyway, I pray this letter has found you in a place far from the troubles you encountered when you last wrote. The concern in your words plagued my thoughts, and I fear this letter may land in your unmarked grave than in your artist hands. You and I have always known that art is a dangerous medium. Our eyes can mistake beauty and peace as a symbol of war. I just hope those who viewed your latest exhibition in such a way are now deterred from their violent ways. Your work has been the talk of Crin, and many have stopped to congratulate me on being related to such an influential man. I must agree with them.

When we were but children, do you remember how you would paint whatever I asked? Like the woman who flitted by on her steed or the sunflowers that sing to the stars. You were always so poised— like a trained fighter, you’d attack your journal with precise strokes. Do you also remember Father ripping your journal to shreds just for you to pull another one out from under your mattress? ‘Where was I?’ you’d mumble to yourself before resuming your drawing on the new parchment. You were always so cheeky, Harrison. Always ten steps ahead like Mother. She is fine, before you ask. She stares out into the orchard often. I think she still sees us play-fighting between the trees.

She sat me down one night when Father had left with his comrades. Asking me for some insight on life through the poems and philosophies I teach. She has been reading my papers recently and seems to lose herself in them. I’m glad she has always been so attentive to our passions, it gives me hope that minds like Father’s could be changed. Mother kept circling back to power and strength. What made it true, what could make it disappear. It’s a flimsy thing. But then again, so is everything else in the material and internal world. Our minds associate certain people, animals, and colours as powerful. The government, the calm steed, and the vibrant red of blood. Just saying these words can make someone feel weak and at the mercy of what exists. But what about the subtle strengths? Those that flicker within our souls. I likened these concepts to the hammer my Father lifts and the brush you stroke on each canvas. I told her that power could be artificial, metaphorical, even invisible. But unlike Father, who is stuck in his ways, true strength comes from those who go from canvas to canvas and paint with new colours, new purpose, and meaning. They respect that things, like metal too cool, cannot always be persuaded to change and must instead find change within themselves. For with an open mind comes power and strength greater than any sword.

You may chuckle at this spiel, but I want you to know you are the one I admire, Harrison. I just hope I’m as powerful as you to be admired by others. I send my love and best wishes to you. Come home soon. Yours truly, Sophia

21


The

Grishtha Arya

Parents Came

We stood proud once,

habits, words, and threads; all before the sails set.

Before the shame set in,

quicksand beneath our feet. We stood proud once,

of our unseemly ways,

of our humble knowledge; all before the sails set.

Before brown, dirt beneath our skin, before Indian, a curse on their lips. We stood proud once, of our golden bird,

her kaleidoscopic plume; but then their sails set.

And their parental arrogance, stripped us of all that

we had stood proud of, before their sails set.

22


Melina Bunting

This erasure poem was crafted using a snippet from Mary Poppins by P.L. Travers. The words are not entirely my own, but I did write the erasures.

23


Wasting Time

James Barnett

1Y 3M 5D 14H A digital screen built into the wall counts time. Its beep serves as a constant reminder of how long I have been here. By here, I mean my prison. Four walls, a roof, two fluorescent lights, a mattress in the corner, a stack of books to stop the insanity, and a bucket to shit in. I follow a daily routine to keep the voices away. Voices that tell me to give up or give in to the helplessness. 100 push-ups, 100 sit-ups, 100 laps of the room at a brisk pace, three hours of reading, rinse and repeat until the lights turn off for the night. I time everything with the counter on the wall. I am given one meal a day of lentils and rice with a large cup of water. Not enough to get my strength up, but enough to sustain me. When I lay on the mattress trying to get to sleep, I can hear the sound of cars in the distance. Very softly, but they are there. I count them at first and see what number I can get up to without losing my place. I picture myself in one of those cars, driving into the sunset and disappearing from this place. At least I have something to do. Beep. Beep.

Sometimes my captors visit me and tie me to a chair. Their faces obscured by balaclavas. They take turns in bringing a small knife and a butane torch, you know, the ones you use to brown the sugar on a crème brûlée. I would do anything to be able to eat a crème brûlée. To crack the hard-sugary top, to taste the rich custard on my tongue. The pain always breaks into my escapist thoughts. The knife slicing my skin. They scream at me.

I sometimes picture them as an artist, painting their masterpiece with the blood from my cuts. They let the blood creep over my skin to form patterns, and I try to guess the shapes like Pictionary to take my mind away from the pain. When I think I can’t take any more, the yelling stops, and the torch comes out. The fucked-up thing about it is that I now get excited when this happens, because I know the torture is almost over for the day. They burn me a couple of times, and the smell of my own hair and burning flesh often makes me puke. They then clean me up, dress my wounds, and leave me alone until the next time. It is two different people that come, but only one at a time. They alternate turns inflicting mutilations on me. I swear sometimes I hear laughing, or is that crying? At least I have something to do. Beep. Beep. 2y 5m 3d 2H

***

I don’t get books anymore. The bucket often overflows, and food and water are only given to me a few times a week. My body is emaciated. I can’t seem to gather the energy to exercise anymore. In the night-time … well, what I think is the night-time as I don’t have any windows, there is a sliver of light that comes in from under the door. The light hits the imperfections on the concrete roof and elongates the shadows. I pretend that they are stars in the deep purple void, moving freely around the universe. Shooting from one side to the other and only burning out after a million years.

24

They don’t bring toilet paper anymore, and I’ve had to resort to using the paper from the books to wipe my ass. In death—no! Even in the grave, all is not lost. Else there is no immortality for man. Arousing from the most profound slumbers, we break the gossamer web of some dream. Wipe and in the bucket. Thanks, Poe.


My captors have started to cut things off now. I have very few fingers left on my right hand, and only the big and little toe on my left foot remains. I practice meditation as often as I can now, as I can feel my mind slipping. I often catch myself having a conversation with … well, myself. The meditation also helps to shake the phantom pains from the remaining phalanges. At least I have something to do. Beep. Beep. 3y 9m 16d 6h

***

My skin stretches across my bones, which now protrude so much that they form mountains. The muscle atrophy makes every movement a marathon of hurt. My captors have put mirrors all over the walls and roof, and everywhere I look, I see my wasted self. My abdomen is bloated. My skin cracks and bleeds. I can barely move around the room now, but everywhere I look, a thing stares back. Sunken eye sockets, knotted hair, and a twisted beard with food and vomit mixed in.

My mind refuses to focus, and all I can do is lie here in pain. Some of my limbs are stunted from the amputations performed on me. My brain silently screams constantly. I can never tell if I am awake or asleep as my dreams consist of exactly what I do when I am awake. The ambient dread in the pit of my stomach spreads like cancer washing over me. I bang my head on the floor sometimes to make sure I am still alive. I just want to die. Why won’t they let me die? Beep. Beep . 3y 11m 31d 11h

***

Both of my captors come into the room, and for the first time, they take off their masks. It is a woman and a man, and they are both crying, a darkness sits behind their eyes. They sit me in the seat of torture. They stick a photo of a young boy up on the mirror and ask me who it is. I don’t recognise him, but after all, all I know is this room. There was nothing before, there is nothing after. Their faces become solemn. They explain to me that it is their son and he went missing on his fourth birthday. The pain in my body swells, and I cry out in pain. They show me a photo of a man holding a boy in the driveway of a house. A ripple of déjà vu spreads through my body, setting off the phantom pains as the hair on my remaining limbs stands on end. I am the man in the picture. The counter stops at four years.

The last thing I remember is the mother walking up to me, a knife in her hand, and a whisper in my ear.\ ‘The police couldn’t find you, but we did. You will never again hurt anyone. You will never do this again. You end here.’

25


The Deakin Writers Club is for those who love to read, write, and create.

We hold all sorts of events where you can hone your writing skills, gush about your favourite books, make friends, and create contacts within the writing and publishing community. Sign up to be a member here: https://www.dusa.org.au/club/deakin-writers

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Send in your articles, social commentary pieces, creative writing, half-baked ideas, and anything in between! You can find examples of previously published content and submission guidelines at: https://www.wordlymagazine.com. To submit work or pitch ideas, email wordlymagazine@gmail.com

26


Procrastination

by Melissa Bandara

@melissa.bandara.design

27


King of the Suburbs Elisabeth Gail

tags claim kingdoms carved on the

bottom of public school desks

SKOK scribbled deep into train windows—

five different carriages SKOK plastered orange on the fences that line the M1 freeway

SKOK ruler of the

backstreets, alleys, and a policeman’s car

SKOK a legend

a hero

a god

—Two Youths Stabbed in Shopping Centre Car Park—

28


Creature of Habit Rachel Grey The first time your body stopped responding, your parents were getting divorced. Your eyes had opened, and there was a creature on your chest. At first, you fought against the bonds that held you. On that first night, you saw its long arms hung far past its small, shrivelled body. You could see the beady yellow eyes reflected in the darkness. You strained to breathe against an invisible string that had sewn your lips together. Breathing became short inhales and rapid exhales from your nose. Then there was a moment, a shift. A toe moved, a limb released, and the creature dissolved.

This continued throughout your teen years. Stolen nights of sleep, waking to a demon hunched over your chest. Your first night in Mum’s new house, the first night in your dad’s new house, once your parents finalised the end of their marriage. Getting a job, facing exams, first time having sex— while they breathed softly, you suffocated under the weight on your chest. Trigger after trigger brought your sleep demon back to your bed, always the same. But then, three years of blissful silence. You thought you were over it.

***

Once again, you lay cemented on your back. Shapes flickering in the shadows don’t give you an indication of the time. A sliver of orange from your neighbour’s house illuminates the room through the bottom of the blind, pulled down carelessly in a sleepless rush. Fresh cotton sheets are tangled between your legs from the humidity of the night rising. Your lower leg haphazardly thrown from its cover in search of cooler air. Your lover slumbers beside you, their soft breath echoing your shallow gasps. The heavy weight is ever-present, pushing you into the mattress, but the figure is missing from your chest. Tonight, it is your left hand the creature is perched on. You can’t speak, you can’t force movement into your muscles. Even breathing doesn’t feel right. ‘Do you deserve this?’ its disembodied voice calls to you from your left hand. Low and shrill, it grates on you like when metal scratches on metal, sending involuntary shudders through your body. All you can do is move your gaze towards its yellow eyes that are peering at you from your left hand. Through the barely lit room, you are faced with its shrunken head, while its withered and wrinkled fingers pull on yours. ‘Won’t you leave?’ it croons.

The sheets tug away from your body as your lover rolls on their side, widening the space between you. The creature looks at them and uses its arms to lift itself up towards your face, climbing from your hand up onto your chest. Its foul breath, a smell of mouldy wet socks, washes over you. Decayed, flaking grey flesh and cracked lips fill your field of vision. Its fingertips run down your arm, to your wrist, to your hand. You close your eyes and remember every moment the creature vanished, as its fingers push against the gold ring on your finger, digging the diamond into your pinkie like a fresh piercing. When you open your eyes, the creature is there, still perched on your chest. ‘Are you worried you won’t find anything better?’

The bed shifts as your lover sits up. The creature stills over you, hovering. But your lover doesn’t look at you. They rise from the bed and walk out of the room, followed by the sound of rushing water from the tap turning on in the kitchen. You remember last night, the muffled flirtatious laughs not directed to you in midnight secret calls. You hear your lover’s phone ring, one quick sharp sound before it’s gone.

‘Stop.’ The sound breaking from your lips is no louder than the spinning blades of the fan in your room. The demon scurries from your chest, its nails dragging down your arm as it goes. You wiggle a toe, and a finger twitches. The bonds begin to break, and the weight starts to lessen as the creature drops itself away from the bed. By the time you sit up, reaching for your left hand to rip the ring off, all that’s left is you.

29


Lorry

I wouldn’t be thirteen before Lorry died.

Sorry. I meant Lori. I could just hear her now, between the wet wad of bubble-gum perpetually swishing around her mouth. ‘Not Lorry,’ she would insist. ‘Lor-ree ’

She would stretch the word like taffy, so I could feel all the peaks and valleys it contained. I couldn’t help it though, my Dad was a lorry driver. The word evoked calm; it evoked nostalgia and safety. I’d think of the big steel steps into the cabin, the warm enveloping smell of Dad scent. It wasn’t like Mum smell, of the timber polish and plastic couch covers.

I had known when Dad was going to die too. Couldn’t explain it, but when I looked over at him at the breakfast table one wet morning, I could feel what was going to happen. A kernel of fear, of worry, that slowly grew inside me until it felt like a memory that hadn’t happened yet. I felt the chill of the rain, the scream of horns. He ruffled my hair on the way out the door. ‘Don’t worry ‘bout me, love,’ he said. ‘I’m far too careful.’

It was a fluke, I had told myself, staring at a piece of dry chicken on my paper plate, the gentle murmur of funeral-goers in my living room. A hunch that happened to be right by coincidence. People couldn’t just see the future like that. I never would have guessed what came next, at least. The big move, the putting our life into boxes and moving across the country. Mum said the house was full of too many memories. I disagreed. Dad was in the pictures, but nowhere to be found in the floral throws, the Home Sweet Home embroidery. We took it all with us, and Dad disappeared into the stratosphere, because that is what happens when people die.

Then came Lorry. Um, Lori. The Patron Saint of All Good Things in this World; when the teacher asked for a volunteer to show me around the school, and she could notice the awkward silence that followed, her hand shot up like a cannon. I knew right then and there that this girl was special, that she was my people. I was so thankful that all the love that I had for my Dad didn’t have to go to waste. Because I gave it all to her. Life had been good; I didn’t have to be stuck at home with the silence and the grief. Every day after school, I would go over to her house and eat chips on her bed,

30

Julia McAlister

play board games, and flick through teen magazines. We began doing this to see all the cute boys in the bands we liked, but soon it became about finding the best quizzes.

‘Oh,’ she said, lighting up at one particular one. ‘This is good. What superpower would you have and why?’ The question threw me in a way that I did not expect. ‘Uh … I’m not sure. What about you?’

She flicked the hair out of her eyes. ‘I guess … it’d be pretty cool to see the future.’ Wet roads, honking horns. I winced. ‘Why?’

She shrugged. ‘I want to see all the cool stuff I get to do.’ ‘You really want to spoil the ending?’

She laughed. ‘Yeah! Why not? I can see where to go, what to avoid, who I’m gonna fall in love with—’ ‘I already know what happens to you, Lorry.’ She frowned at me. ‘Oh yeah?’

I blinked, remembering the same feeling that came over me when I saw Dad. The dreaded, despicable hunch. This time I could see white, hear machinery and breath rattling, the sour smell of the dying. I picked up the magazine. ‘You’re going to get spotted by a talent scout, and flown to Paris to be featured on the cover of Vogue. European men will be dying at your feet, and you will live out your days in fame and glamour.’

She took the magazine from me and began fanning herself with the glossy pages. ‘Well, if you say so,’ she replied with a soft laugh. ‘Maybe my adoring public will at least get my name right.’ ‘I’m sorry,’ I said. I’m sorry I didn’t tell you the truth. I’m sorry that I can’t save you.

‘Don’t even worry about it. Come on, it’s your turn to get your future read.’ I smiled stiffly but didn’t stop her. The future is a lie, a terrible but beautiful lie.


Lonely For You Only

@katiemclintockimages

by Katie McClintock

31


That Day

Gaden Sousa

I was one or two—or in-between the two. Mum, Dad, and I were at a friend’s. I’ll never remember their names, but the names aren’t important. They had a son, Josh. We were friends in the way all two-year-olds were friends. We were friends because our parents were. The living room of his house went straight from the hallway out to the backyard. I think there were more adults in the house than just mine and Josh’s. Thomas the Tank Engine was on the TV. I’ll never forget that blue train smiling at all the little boys and girls. Entertaining our small, fragile minds with his wide-eyed stare. His grey face animated in a way to comfort all the children watching. Mum asked for a tea, ‘Milk and one, thanks.’ Dad said he didn’t want anything and nibbled on a single biscuit that had been generously surrounded with hummus, tzatziki, and cheddar cheese. He was skinny then. The adults talked about this and that, in the kind of polite chatter of not-really-close-friends; brought together because their children were the same age.

Eventually, Josh’s dad led us down the hallway, the walls looming above my teeny tiny head. Me in the lead, Josh behind, or maybe the other way around. Outside, the sunlight promised us play. The shine was overwhelming, my little eyes barely able to decipher the brightness of the world. My eyes adjusted, absorbing the grand playground that awaited us. A garden as big as the earth. An endless vista of play and adventure. Rich forest grass, soft to our weak legs. Bushes plump and round for us to run and hide in. A world away at the back of the garden, on a slight slant, was a fence marking the perimeter of our play. Above us, trees splintered the glowing ball of white, carving up its rays so we could watch the shadow patterns run across our chubby skin. I vaguely recall an almost-hill perfect for the yellow tricycle that looked like it had been made by a twoyear-old’s dreams. It waited for us, expectantly. Josh’s dad went into his workshop. We got to playing. The shed had been allowed to flow into the paradise. Cable leads lay dead amongst the grass, off-cuts of pine wood filled the air with their scent. Nails, not-quite-nailed-in, stood upright like rusted soldiers. Tools scattered the ground, drill bits and saws and screwdrivers. We ignored all of it. All that mattered was the yellow dream.

Josh took the tricycle to the top of the almost-hill. I watched. I don’t remember any words. I don’t think either of us knew any. He came rushing down, and I’m sure he was grinning and giggling. Filling the world with joy. Unadulterated, uncontrollable, unimaginable fun. It was now my turn. Except … Josh didn’t agree.

At this point, we started to argue. I’m sure neither of us knew any words, but I imagine that, if we had, our argument would have gone something like: ‘Give seat!’ ‘No!’

‘My go.’

32


‘MINE.’

But I don’t remember any words being shared, maybe it was just angry sounds. I remember trying to shove him off. With all the strength my short, fat arms could muster, I attempted to unseat this dictator of the toy. Pushing. Shoving. Digging my minuscule feet into the ground. He wouldn’t budge. My efforts were futile. I was upset. It was my turn. This world was meant to be fair and, all of a sudden, it wasn’t.

I looked to the overflow of shed with the hope of a solution. My eyes passed over the shavings of wood and the gnarled balls of wire. Searching, looking, until I saw the hammer. It lay innocently away from the mass of scrap. Its dull grey absorbing the sunlight. A sanded wooden handle stretched half as long as I was. The head had a rounded side that looked like it would’ve been smooth to touch. On the other side, it was flat, dented from being hit too hard against wood. It was just behind me, close enough to reach. This would be my first lesson for life. I stretched my arms out and, with two hands, I lifted it … There had to be ambient noise from the adults inside the house, but all I remember was thud. Then wailing. And tears. Most of all: blood.

It all slipped away. The green faded. The sun set. Silence descended. And the weight. The weight of something you don’t fully comprehend at such a young age felt heavy in my hands. There are moments that define us. This was mine. Josh. The hammer. Me.

The rest is a blur. A stupor. I stumbled back into the living room. As if I had been concussed. The world was bent. The straight corridor now creaking side to side. The walk back, now a tilting shifting journey through a nightmare world.

I edged around the corner, Thomas the Tank Engine was talking to the Fat Controller. He didn’t seem so blue. His smile now hollow. His grey face disturbed. No laughter now. No polite chatter. Josh’s mum knew something was wrong. She was gone within seconds, straight out the back door. Then there was Mum. There’s a look. A look that will etch itself into your brain forever. No matter how young you are. No matter how hard you try to erase it, it will be there staring back at you. For most, it’s the look of the person that loves them unconditionally. For me, it was the look on Mum’s face. I was falling from grace.

There is nothing more painful for a mother than the discovery that her perfect, beautiful boy is capable of violence and destruction. That is the face Mum wore that day. Lost and unbelieving.

I don’t remember what happened next. I think I cried. That’d be the normal thing to do, right? Let the tears come and wash away your sins. What made me cry? I’m not sure. Was it that I didn’t understand why everyone was rushing around? Was it the constant mentions of a scary word like ‘hospital’? Or, was it that somehow, I understood the gravity of what I’d just done. Or maybe I didn’t cry and just stood unbelieving at the chaos that I had caused. I just wanted to play.

I don’t know how I could’ve seen this, maybe I’ve made it up, but I can still picture Josh’s head being washed out in the sink. His crimson wound, gurgling blood. Water being flushed over the gash. The diluted pink run-off disappearing down the drain. I can still hear the murmuring and the panic. Like a malignant tumour threatening to spread. We left.

On good terms or bad terms, we left. That was that. Looking back, it’s just patches. Patches of innocence and blood. Joy and anger. Victory and defeat. It’s fuzzy, soft around the edges. But I remember the feeling. I remember the immediate triumph being obliterated by crushing dread. When you’re two, you don’t know what’s right or wrong. I had a problem. I saw a solution. I solved the puzzle. But now I know. We all do. Don’t hit your problems with a hammer.

33


Don’t Call Me 34

by Katie McClintock

@katiemclintockimages


In The Wake Of Us Laura Pettenuzzo We began with a travel agent and ended at the airport. We had Google Maps to stop us from getting lost in Europe, but I didn’t have a map to keep me from getting lost in you.

I’ve lived one-quarter of a century, and only one-twenty fifth of that was spent with you. But if my love is an ocean, then I gave you the Pacific. I’ve never loved or lived in halves. I hope I never will. How can something with such a clear beginning and ending still feel so messy? This disaster is a reminder that pain doesn’t know boundaries or care for how much I tell it—beg it—to leave me alone.

I begged myself not to push you away and, still, I did. I begged you not to stay away, and still you did. We were a storm, and I am depleted in the wake of us; a person reduced. I am relearning how to define myself without you. A task made so much more difficult by the fact that I don’t want to. The child in me wants to dig in her heels and refuse to let go as if I might be able to bring you back to me. I fall into the trap of hoping you’ll reclaim me when really I need to reclaim myself.

You said your universe revolved around mine. I only realised after you were gone how much mine had orbited yours, too. I only realised it when my life seemed empty without you. But one thing I learned from us is just how much my thoughts can lie. For all that you enriched it, my world is far from empty. I have a network of friends who are patient and gracious with me, even when I’m not. Even when you couldn’t be. If my love is an ocean, then they’re teaching me how to swim in it. I remember them and, slowly, I begin to remember myself. I gave you all my power, and this is how I take it back:

I visit all the places we frequented together because although they remind me of you, I can’t avoid them forever. There’s strength in making new memories.

I sleep enough and eat enough. And I call my psychologist whenever I need her because there’s no shame in asking for help. There’s no shame in missing you. I decide, moment to moment, that I am worthy of moving forward. That even though you gave up on us, there’s no way I’ll give up on me.

35


Hassaan Ahmed Jess Ali Grishtha Arya Melissa Bandara James Barnett Melina Bunting Chloe Blanchard Georgie Brimer Brianna Bullen Alf Ciriaco Laura Clark Becky Croy Rowen De Lacy Julie Dickson Matthew Galic Chantelle Gourlay Rachel Grey Sheridan Harris Jessica Hinschen Julia McAlister Katie McClintock Zach Murphy Hagan Nguyen Michael Pallaris Anniemay Parker James Patrik Laura Pettenuzzo Elisabeth Roberts Sini Salatas Loren Rae Venetia Slarke Gaden Sousa Duyen Tran Zoe Trezise Jessica Wartski Jason Winn


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