Winter Issue 2020
Everyone has their own story. Everyone writes their own theme, their own blurb, their own take. Like one’s reflection, the reader can have a different idea of the message being sent, a different image. The message the author is sending may or may not resonate with what the reader thinks, but that’s the point; we all come to the story with our own pre-existing experiences that impact how we perceive and portray life.
This collection of stories is connected by one central conflict: reality versus perception. Many of these stories are psychologically driven. Some are based in fact, and some are fictional; it’s the reader’s job to differentiate. The reader must learn to seek out the truth in the fantasy and the fiction in the truth, to find dreams in reality and reality in dreams.
Read between the lines. As the Joker once said, “Life can be a tragedy, but it can also be a comedy.” Enjoy.
–Rafael Flores, Jae’da Brannigan, Berenize Garcia Nueva, and the Creative Writing Class 2020
Berenize Garcia Nueva, Sydney George, Timothy Rodriguez, Sade Bonas, Vanessa Bailey, Rafael Flores, Marco Garcia Nueva, and Jae’da Brannigan
Georgina Lee, Sydney Green, and Marco Garcia Nueva
AJ Bastida, Atley Lawrence, Mary-Ann Ford, and Matthew Santiago
——————————— The Guest ——————————
A chair. A desk. A wardrobe. A window.
I stared at the furniture in that order. Every night without fail. My eyes, adjusted to the night, slowly and steadily drawing out the outline of each item. The cool night air blowing softly against my face. My room was illuminated by the crescent moon that stared down on me. Even incomplete, I thought the moon was still useful. Still beautiful. Still needed.
While I enjoyed looking outside the window at night, after my eyes completed their nightly journey, they would always be dragged back to the same empty chair. I stared at it, longer than any other things inside and outside my room. Removing my eyes carefully from the chair, and up to the ceiling, I read the Biblical verse I had written onto a poster and taped meticulously.
Can you read this?
But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one.
2 Thessalonians 3:3
I inhaled sharply. Evil one, I softly whispered. Evil one. I squeezed my eyes shut again and attempted to fall asleep. Please, I thought to myself, please fall asleep. But my body refused to fall into the safety of my dreams. I felt like the dolls neatly stacked at the end of my bed. Doomed to only move when the puppeteer decided to move them, create their plastic lives to his delight. Their lifeless eyes always seemed more alive at night. They dreamed, too.
And almost as if on cue, I heard the door groan its familiar screech. Nothing prevented him from getting in, not a locked door, not the chair I had left underneath the doorknob, and most certainly not the rosary that hung at the end of the outer doorknob.
I like the detail you left me at the door, he chuckled. I heard him drag the chair across the room, right next to my bedside. Wakey, wakey the uninvited guest giggled, sounding more like a strangled cry. Now, is that how you treat a guest? Once he realized that his toy was turned over and her eyes were closed shut. We can do this all night, after all, I have all eternity. He laughed cruelly at his own joke. Evil one.
I began to murmur the same Biblical verse plastered on my ceiling, each time with more desperation. “But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one. But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one. But the Lord is faithful—“
Cut the crap the voice snarled as I felt an unhuman pressure on my throat. Do you really think He listens to you? After all He may be a figment of your imagination, just like your therapist tells you that I am. But we both know how real I am. He said as he dug his nails into my arm. I stifled a cry.
Why don’t we play a game? It will make the night go faster and you might fall asleep. He laughed knowing that if I did fall asleep he would shake me awake. Or worse. Evil one. The game tonight will be a classic he sneered, truth or dare. Truth or dare? He asked.
Truth, I whispered.
Favorite Color? Blue.
Favorite Movie? The Passion of the Christ.
It started as a small chuckle, and erupted into a full blown mocking laugh. Good one, he sneered. Hearing feet shuffle, he paused. My mother was waking. He simply sat down and crossed his leg over the other, delightful he smiled smugly and tilted his head, another guest. “Don’t hurt her, please” I whispered. He didn’t respond.
“Niña, you still on your phone!? I heard someone laughing. It’s 3 in the morning, give me your phone!” my mother whispered angrily. “Ni dejas dormir, pero eso sí, la señorita se duerme todo el dia.” I looked at her, confused. That’s when I felt something solid in my hand, and as quickly as I felt it, it was snatched away. I watched her walk away and place my phone on the kitchen counter. Behind her was a shadowy figure that made the motion to stab her from the back. Before anything could occur, my mother swiftly turned around and entered my room again.
“Move over, if I go back into the room, your father will wake up and he needs to sleep.” I heard my mother whisper. Feeling her body sink against mine, she curled up and quickly fell asleep. That’s when he returned again.
Now where were we? Before we were rudely interrupted he whispered as he feigned being hurt. Right, he smiled cruelly as he stared at my mother. Truth or dare? Just beware, there is now an incorrect answer…
Wrong! He growled, as he lurched to my throat. I chose dare for you! He laughed. Say it!
Dare! I said as I felt tears rolling down my cheeks.
For a moment he glanced at my mother, and then at me. I’ll have mercy, just like our God. Do what your God says. Brothers and sisters will betray one another and have each other put to death. He dares you! He whispered, as I felt the weight that strapped to my bed come off me. Walk. He ordered. I felt my feet touch the cold ground. In my hand, I felt a knife.
A hand guided me through the dark, into the dark hall, and into my brother’s room. As much as I could, I tried to stop walking, I tried to turn back. But the weight on my shoulders prevented me from doing so. I loomed over my brother’s bed with the knife in hand.
“But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one.” I murmured as I walked closer to my sleeping brother. His breaths were low and steady, his face was peaceful. He was dreaming. My hands were raised and before they dropped down to my brother’s stomach, they turned to mine.
I felt terribly hot, too hot. But my feet were still cold. I began to feel dizzy, slowly walking back to my room as a warm liquid ran down my legs. The already darkened room began to grow darker, blacker, embracing me. Then I saw nothing. Then I heard nothing. Then I was nothing.
“…she’ll most likely try to do it again” I heard someone say softly. I slowly opened my eyes, and squinted at the bright white light above me. I felt hot and groggy, my throat dry, my stomach was on fire. I heard a sniffle, “I thought she went to the kitchen for her phone not for a knife. I don’t understand why she would do any of this.” Sighing softly, another voice whispered “Depression is a silent killer, it would be best if we transfer her to the psychiatric ward. There she’ll get the mental help she needs and how to—”
I felt myself slipping again. No, not slipping, I was being dragged into a deep, dark slumber.
She stared at her daughter. Her small frame was being strapped down by cloth chains, her breathing was steady. But she could not ignore the large patch of blood on her baby’s stomach. The sharp white patch, making the dark red seem more predominant. She felt like a failure, she should’ve seen the signs, she should’ve been there more.
But she had felt something in the room. No, she had seen something in the room. She could’ve sworn it was a trick of the eyes, but her emotions, her emotions could not trick her. An infinite darkness wrapping around her neck, her body, her soul. Valgame Díos.
When I woke up again, it was night. The lights have been dimmed and no one was in sight. That’s when I realized that my arms were being restrained by straps. I leaned forward, as far as the straps would let me. I could not see someone down the hall, but I could hear people murmur softly. Close enough to hear bits of their life, but far enough to just be background noise. As I leaned back on the bed, I heard footsteps, getting louder and louder. Slow and steady. Tsk, tsk, tsk, I heard someone murmur. I immediately slammed my eyes shut. You can’t do anything correctly, you fail at everything, I heard a voice taunt. Did you really think you could escape me, after your little stunt? Open your eyes! But I must admit that my game did get a little out of hand. He chuckled softly. Then I felt him near closer, hovering above me. You are not afraid of me! You’re afraid of being left alone. I help people like you, those who feel that they are nothing, or feel nothing. I’m not the evil one, maybe the man upstairs is. I give people like you purpose. People like you are more valuable in death than in life. How ironic is that?
Then I heard the ruffle of papers. Self harm victim, knife to stomach. Ouch. How does that feel? Blood loss. In and out of coma. Etcetera, Etcetera, Etcetera…
“I am not the enemy, I am just a doctor.” He whispered softly, mimicking a doctor’s soothing voice. “I want to help you, but I realized that I can’t help people that don’t want to be helped. So I must end it.” I opened my eyes to realize that he held a needle, slowly reaching for my IV bag. “I am going to miss you, but not really, we’ll see each other in the afterlife,” he laughed.
“GO AWAY! STAY AWAY FROM ME!” I screamed, as I continued to squeeze my eyes shut, feeling hot tears stream down my face. “I don’t want to go.”
“Hey, hey, hey… it’s okay. It’s going to be okay.” I heard a gentle voice coo. “It was just a dream. I’m Doctor Johnson, I’m the doctor in charge of you. It was just a bad dream.” Warm hands wrapped themselves around my arms, gently pushing me down again to the bed. “This is going to help you get some sleep,” he said. I presumed he was referring to the needle going into my arm. “You’ll feel better in the morning, I promise. Everything is going to be just fine. He’ll never bother you again.”
“She had a rough night. One of the staff members handled the situation well…we’re not sure who. I swear doctors on night duty are always so disorganized.”
“Did you hear who died yesterday?”
“No, I don’t think I have.”
“Well last night, the President of the hospital died on his hospital bed. He sure lived a long time. Old man was 80 years old.”
“What!? Doctor Johnson died!? No wonder there are so many reporters in the lobby. He was a brilliant heart surgeon.”
“Guess he died by his motto… ‘You don’t stop working until the day your heart stops pumping blood to your head.’” Both nurses laughed.
“Let’s quiet down. Before she wakes up again.”
It was the break of dawn. The warm light filled my room. I felt groggy, but warm. The morning sun welcoming itself into the room, every once dark corner filled with orange, bright red light. I felt light. The straps were no longer around my wrists, just the IV bag needles. The drips and the monitor were moving in unison. Slow and steady. Creating a comforting sound. Beep, drip, beep, drip. I was alive. I was alive.
After days of questioning, and a couple of get well laters, I was finally released from the hospital. My mother was packing my bag, as I sat on the bed thinking. I have been able to sleep without any interruptions, except those of course from worrisome nurses. It could be the medications I was given. It could be the prayers and vigils of the known people and the unknown people. Or both. I also thought of the Doctor that had saved me that night. I wanted to ask for him but I couldn’t remember his name or his face. But I knew it was something with a J. Was it Jackson? Joseph? Jonathan? Jacob? Jacobson? No. None of those names seemed familiar.
The sun was fading, slowing dying at the horizon, to let the moon live. It gave its final breaths of color by the time we were ready to go.
As I was rolled down the hallway that once seemed too short, now seemed eternal. My mother thanked all the nurses and doctors. But before we reached the end of the hallway, I began to feel the same feeling I felt that night. I felt stuck to my wheelchair. Frozen in place, feeling lead filling my stomach. I tried calling for my mom, but my throat was too dry and my lips refused to move. And she was too distracted, continuing to thank the doctors.
Everything around me was darkening. Until the only thing left was the full moon and I. I slowly got up from my wheeler chair, walking closer to the moon. To the light. But from the corner of my eye, I saw him, the guest.
——————————— A Thousand Pennies ——————————
By: Sydney George
Well … I should’ve just gotten in the weird man’s car. It was probably more lively than where I’m laying now.
“You think you’re grown now. Right ?” said my mom earlier that day. “Since you think you are, go take the car and pick up the groceries. Straight to Walmart and right back home.”
She raised her tiny little eyebrows.
“Do you hear me?”
I didn’t think she was for real as I stared back at her.
“I said do you hear me?”
What great timing it was for her to give me the oh so sought after pleasure of using my “grown-ness”.
It took me 20 minutes to clean the crunchy snow off of the car before my actual departure.
It took me 30 minutes to get to beloved Walmart.
An hour to do all the shopping. The woman bagging my groceries was clearly uninterested.
A minute to get to my car with the product and receive help from the good samaritan.
A second to inhale his “homemade perfume.”
Then I went to sleep.
I thought Mom would kill me if I didn’t get home at a reasonable time with the product, but this man might beat her to it. She’ll find some way to get mad at me for that too. The pitch blackness has my nerves on the edge.
Claustrophobia has entered the chat.
The veins on the left side of my forehead have been throbbing for the past 4 minutes. I don’t know why. I just needed to get the groceries home.
Cold air permeates my lungs. Everything is hazy, but there’s no noise. Except a subtle ringing in one of my ears.
What brand of beans what is that mom wanted? She’s really gonna let me have it-
“Bruh, excuse me!”
Some weird man just pushed past me as if this aisle isn’t as wide as ever. His musty stench lingers. And I thought upstate New Yorkers would be more considerate than than ones in the city. That’s what I get for that thinking. Now I need a tylenol. Which aisle is that in ?
The air smells aged. Like a thousand rusty pennies.
“Hi baby girl, it’s been too long… but that’s your mother’s fault. Daddy looks like an old man now, but it’s me. Your brother is preparing a room for you in the house. You’ll recognize him from earlier. Welcome home.”
——————————— Letter to Grandpa ——————————
You will probably never read this letter, your memory lost wouldn’t know who wrote this letter. I remember the frequent trips to the horse track both you and my dad took me and the yelling you would create when you wanted your horse to win the race. My dad often told me that you hardly ever went out so I was glad I was there to experience. You were a very quiet painter, sluggish who would spend countless days in your room refusing to leave and often admired looking out through the open windows in the gloomy skies. Sometimes I don’t know how grandma was able to put up with you, the family currently struggles but she always had a smile when she took care of you due to your Alzheimers. I remember that phone call my mom got when she found grandma passed out on the floor, you were out with Uncle Luis. Grandma used to love giving me soup and crackers even when I told her I was not hungry, she used to take good care of you I know she did her best.
While we went to the funeral home you were left with Uncle Luis. The pictures of your relationship and of her were never at your home to remind you of her. You weren’t able to say goodbye to her but that quick smile flashing through the missing presence of Grandma ensures our reassurance to continue moving on. The day after her passing, I remember Aunt Carol mentioning to my mom that she woke up to see you sitting down staring at the empty dinner table while innocent on the surface I believe you. His smile ensured that we had to keep grandma’s promise and while she was gone, grandma would live through grandpa’s actions.
Our 1st holiday after she passed was Thanksgiving and it wasn’t the same from our previous holidays. We usually had Thanksgiving at Grandma’s and her cooking of beans, chicken , lasagna were often common amongst the family table. Without grandma there was an empty void that left behind sadness and despair. During thanksgiving, he was silent, often showing confusion while continuing to have a wide smile across his face.
The day we lost grandma, mom lost her happiness. I hardly do anything with her like I use too. However taking care of you took a lot out of her, I’m often at home alone now by myself where I’m taking care of myself I have , I’m doing more chores then before and I gained responsibility as a result. I’m telling you this not to make it seem like it’s your fault because it’s not but I just wanted to tell you what’s going on at home for us. Her voice reflects sadness and feeling stressed. She constantly gives up alot of herself to look after you.
If you were able to talk back, I would ask about your relationship to grandma and about the stories of the fun times you used to have together during your younger years. How was life in Puerto Rico before you decided to come to America and what made you come to this land ? How was the family in P.R ? What were your hopes for your children when you arrived in America and how did you adapt to American culture? While we might not see each other like we used to, I can say that the family is strong willed and mind and we will get through any challenges that will occur. I don’t want the family to give up on hope and to continue smiling. I will remember that legacy you left behind wanting to help others the smile you always wore through bad situations and through great moments. You taught me to never give up on hope when setbacks occur and to continue to smile even if one is having a bad day.
——————————— The Cursed Ones——————————
Rule #1 – Never interrupt the summoning
Rule #2 – The Conjurer’s spirit is always feared
Rule #3 – Never speak the words unspoken
the roses have wilted, the violets are dead, the demons run circles around their heads.
Life in Deadwood was just that; dead. After 7pm, all doors are bolted shut, windows sealed and families safely inside. Every soul in this town feared the one thing they could not say, every spirit locked away and protected by their keeper, The Conjurer. The beginning of the end came with three names, three girls, all born on the night of the summoning, seconds after each other. As they grew older they were known as the Cursed Ones, the ones who would destroy everyone and everything on the night of their 18th birthday.
On December 13th, 1998
The Cursed Ones Were Born…
First there is Desdemona, the ill-fated one, the source of misfortune.
Then there is Lola, the sorrowful one, the cause of misery.
Finally there is Thana. the deadly one, the bringer of death.
From the beginning of their lives they were isolated, like many children in order to teach them the ways of the Conjurer, how they are expected to behave and what not to say. For the adults in Deadwood everything was normal. But for the girls it wasn’t.
December 12th, 2011
On the eve of their 13th birthday, Des, Lola and Thana have one more lesson at Deadwood Primary School. This school while teaching the basics in learning, also taught them how to survive in this town of mysteries and danger. Until now these girls were always separated; never to have the same recess block, never allowed on bathroom trips together, and definitely no classes together either. Des and Lola never thought anything of it, but Thana, ever so observant took notice and was suspicious but as one 12 year old would, she forgot about it until now, because this was different she could feel it in her bones.
Mrs. Morana spoke loudly in her thick Romanian accent, “take your seats, and prepare for your final lesson…’’
Although it wasn’t odd for the classes to be relatively small, it was strange that it was only these three girls,
Desdemona was careful as she sat down, being cautious to her surroundings so another mishap was avoided. Her parents told her she was just a little clumsy, but she thought she was just unlucky… misfortunate if you would,
Lola in her usual dark attire, sat down quietly next to Des hoping to avoid conversation. Her parents told her to try and be more sociable, but she was just too stuck in her own hole of darkness.
Thana on the other hand, was more focused on her upcoming birthday.
“ Your final task will be fairly easy but be prepared.’’ Mrs. Morana speaks as she walks towards the other side of the classroom, getting quieter as she moves. But her eyes are staring, as if she was scared or worried, and Thana noticed this right away.
“ Are you alright, Mrs. M?’’ The curiosity dripping from her tone.
Mrs. Morana nods as she scurries away.
“Weirdo..’’ Lola scoffed as she stares at the ground.
‘’Wow! she speaks,’’ Des’ sarcasm shines through as she stares at Lola through her thick glasses.
“ I don’t understand why we’ve never met,’’ Thana says, interrupting the brewing argument between the girls.
‘’Well I’m Desdemona, my mother’s idea not mine. Just call me Des.’’
“ Okay… I’m Thana, nice to meet you guys.” she chuckled.
Thana extends her hand to greet the other girls, and as their hands near each other, bright white lights burn through their skin, as a sizzling pain shoots up their arms.
Within the same second, images flash through their minds of misfortune, misery and death.
Des pulls away horrified as she falls out of her chair, Lola stares blankly as a lone tear slips from her eye.
But Thana jumps up in realization, “I knew it! I knew I wasn’t crazy. All of the separation, the wary looks, the whispers.. How could you guys not realize it..’’ Thana’s chest thumps and rises rapidly as she tries to explain.
“What in the world are you talking about?” Des questions lowly, as she stares at Thana.
“ Psycho..’’ Lola grumbles under her breath.
Thana begins to move their hands together again, and once again they begin to glow.
All of their eyes light up with curiosity, fear and uncertainty.
‘’ I still don’t get it.’’
“I don’t understand.’’ Lola and Des say looking to Thana for the answers.
“I know you might not believe me, but I think we are the Cursed Ones.’’
December 13th, 2011
After the ‘glow’ happened Mrs. Morana walked in the room with shaky legs and tense shoulders, she was like a deer in the headlights as she stared at the girls, Des laying in the same spot she fell in, Lola drying her traitorous tears, and Thana pacing back and forth in realization. As soon as they felt her presence they snapped up and sat in their seats and finished their last but most important lesson.. just follow the rules, and oh.. the American Revolution.
The girls never forgot that night, their parents were excited and putting up decorations one minute and then after a call from the school everything.. Switched.
Des’ parents sent her to bed early with just a slice of cake, leaving their home quickly after.
Lola, wasn’t upset her party was over, as the introvert in her jumped off the rooftop. But she did wonder why this was happening now and what would happen to them?
Thana’s father wasn’t even home when she arrived, all he left was a note, and scribbled neatly he said, “ i will make it up to you :)” But this was nothing new for her since her father was apart of the town council, and the annual secretly important town meeting unfortunately fell on Thana’s birthday every. single. year.
When they all escaped their
confinements, they were drawn to each other and to an old abandoned home at the edge of town.. All of the children were forbidden to enter but their curiosity took them every step of the way.
“Are you sure we should be doing this..” Lola grumbled lowly, missing the dark comfort of her room.
“Yes, Lola we should.. I could sense the secrecy dripping off my father’s note. He would never miss my birthday over this stupid meeting.” Thana speaks bitterly as she creeps around the dusty old living room they’re searching.
“ What exactly are we looking for T?” Des says this as she dodges overhead beam, one that shouldn’t have even reached her 5’0 height.
“ I don’t know for sure.. Just something. I know something is here, there just has to be.” The last part is more to herself as they fall into a focused silence.
Some time passes before they speak again.
To be continued…
——————————— Canada: Surprisingly Nice ——————————
By Vanessa Bailey
Okay let’s see how this goes: Thursday, August 17th. My mom was packing a suitcase for me, and I wasn’t sure why. She said we were going somewhere, but she wouldn’t tell me where. She wouldn’t tell me where, till the day that we were going on a road trip to Canada.
At first, I was worried that I would have to go on a plane due to Canada being, you know, another country! I was worried that I might have to go on a plane, but luckily it was a road trip. One that lasted for hours. My mom always gets offended when she takes me somewhere, and I don’t know where it is. She always says, “What so you don’t trust me?” or, “What, you don’t like spending time with your mommy?” I never answer that question, and I never plan to. Some things are better left unanswered right?
My mom had to go to her job to take care of some things before our trip could start, so I got to go to work with her while in my head wondering where she was taking me till the end of the day. Mom rushed out of work the minute she was done. I don’t remember ever seeing her run that fast in my decade and a half on this earth. Her phone rang–it was Steele. She said her bag was packed and asked where we were. Of course Steele was coming, I thought in my head, because why wouldn’t she? There’s no way Mom would’ve come up with the idea of a road trip on her own, she can barely decide which pairs of shoes to wear in the morning.
We all met up on a small street and headed for Canada, making plenty of pit stops for gas and food on the way. Luckily we had tons of snacks. Early into our trip, we passed by a bunch of cars that ran off the road thanks to a deer. I think we came the closest to running him over for real. He must’ve been hit before because he looked injured. I thought it was awesome, but they were terrified. By the time we got there, it was 2:00 in the morning, and we were all tired so we checked into the hotel and all passed out on the beds. The next morning, we went to Ihop under the hotel. I had confetti pancakes. Mom and Steele wanted to do a bunch of crazy things like go zip-lining near Niagara Falls and drive go-karts. I didn’t really want to do anything in those pamphlets except the mirror maze. All of those other things looked I would die. On the bright side, I had a strawberry funnel cake. It was good, though the birds wouldn’t let me finish it. Speaking of birds, we got attacked by a flock of geese while walking through a park to get somewhere. Now I don’t know if they targeted us because of our race or being American, but I was mad. And the crazy part is that they landed a few feet away so there wasn’t even a point in them getting up. I don’t like geese now just to be clear, those things are vicious menaces to society.
Anyway, we went to the Dairy Queen which was cool because it was my first time going. I went to a lot of places for the first time this summer to eat like Denny’s. Denny’s in Canada was awesome. I stuffed my face with cinnamon and chocolate pancakes and couldn’t eat for the rest of the day. I refused to let anyone take my plate until I ate everything. I was sick for like an hour or two but it was worth it. One time, we were eating and there was a lady that kept looking back at us. I didn’t notice at first, but when I did, I just figured that she hadn’t seen many black people before, you know with this being Canada and all (I didn’t know Canada had black people, sorry). Then all of the sudden, she walked to our table and gave us the ihop coupon she wasn’t using because she thought we seemed like nice people and left. I was so surprised, and I felt bad for thinking she was racist or something. Guess I shouldn’t have judged a book by its seemingly apparent cover. In the evening, Steele decided that we were going to go kart driving. I couldn’t get out of the pit stop without crashing into something so they told me I couldn’t drive, but on the bright side, I didn’t have to try and race down the track.
After all that, it was finally time to go home, so on the last day, we packed up our stuff, ate some Denny’s and began to head back to the USA, only we got lost so we spent most of the day trying to find a way out of Canada. Eventually, we got to the border, which had a bunch of traffic. We drove for miles, and I was hoping that we didn’t run into another deer on the way. We finally got to New York late at night and saw a really bad accident while driving on Linden Blvd. I saw an extremely wrecked car and a lot of injured and distraught people, though a lot of them looked like they’d been drinking too much so someone probably got a DUI charge. I already missed Canada–at least there people could drive.
——————————— To Capture A Heart ——————————
By Rafael Flores
The sun’s rays hit the meadow of flowers causing them to shimmer with excitement. A travelling bee flies over the meadow looking for a flower to rest on. It is picky, only choosing the flower that looks the most aesthetically pleasing. After hovering over flower to flower, it decides on the one. The one that looks the most beautiful. It lands on the flower’s center and begins to pollinate the flower, pollen flying through the air as the bee moves around. When the bee finishes pollinating it decides to rest a bit. The flutter of its wings move the flowers petals ever so gently, like a light breeze. It lies there waiting for the sun to arrive again. Suddenly, a breeze so strong, so mighty, so fierce, blows the restful bee off the petal. The bee is awoken to being flung across the peaceful meadow. Smack. The bee hits the windshield of a car that’s moving along the dim path next to the meadow.
“Uh…A bug just hit the windshield,” exclaimed my father as he moved his hand to move the wipers and scrape the bug off.
“Dear…Are you sure you’re going the right way? I swear we passed that same house before,” said my mom in mere panic as she frantically looked out the window of the car.
“Honey, there’s no need to panic…And yes, I know where I’m going, it says here on the map,” said my father as he almost crashed into a mailbox trying to look down at the map.
He never seemed to like being told that he was wrong. He was straight forward always thinking that there was no way to prove him wrong. That’s why he demands to hold the map and drive at the same damn time. He can’t trust my mom giving him instructions on where to go. I swear that man is such a brick wall never opening up to even his own children let alone his wife. How they met, you may be wondering, I have no clue.
My father sped along the dirt path. Swerving left and right like a mad man trying to avoid large sticks. I felt sick to my stomach as I closed my eyes and wished for this road trip from hell to end already. Why couldn’t I be that bug, able to be free not bound to this old car on this road trip from hell I thought so lucky. My annoying little brother, Noah, was resting his head on the car window letting the bumps hit his head. This was going to be an interesting trip I thought as I held my eyes shut.
The chilling air hit my face like a slap. I woke up to the sign that said “Welcome to Stowe, Vermont.” Can’t believe my mom convinced me to go on this trip. She said “oh you’d like it Violet…you need to get out of the house more, give that phone a break,”. I guess she’s right, but I do go outside, I’m not a total hermit I swear. Noah notices that I’m up and hits me in the head with a cheerio.
“Score one point for me that was a headshot,” he said with a smile on his face and a giggle.
“Stop attacking me with your snack Noah,” I said with an annoyed glare.
Of course that didn’t stop him from doing it again. As he grabs a handful, of cheerios and throws them at me. See I told you that he was annoying.
“I said stop Noah,” I shouted at him. Striking him with the meanest glare that I could make.
“Quit shouting at your brother Violet he’s only six,” said my mother as she looked at the backseat.
Gee mom way to defend him a defenseless puppy. I can’t stand my brother. I just want to get out of this car already.
We stopped by a gas station that seemed relatively small like a father and son shop. Yes I can finally leave this car and stretch my legs. The car stopped near a pump and my father and I left the car. He walked swiftly to the door of the shop I scrambled along behind him like a shadow.
When we entered the shop the smell of old hot dogs and cigarettes filled our nostrils. How was this guy able to stand the stench of this dump I thought to myself as I walked to the chip aisle. Score they have these I thought they were discontinued I thought to myself as I grabbed two bags of Lays potato chips.
My father was talking to the guy at the register telling him that he wanted twenty dollars on pump three. I quickly moved over to him nearly knocking him down as I shoved my items on the counter.
“I thought I told you that I wasn’t going to buy you anything,” he explained as he looked at the items.
“Come on dad please…I am starving I can eat like a whole cow,” I told him with my best attempt at puppy eyes with my practically sleep deprived face.
He looked down at the items and gave a sigh.
“Okay sure, but just this once we are almost at our destination,” he said as he pulled out a ten dollar bill on top of the twenty for the gas.
I walked out of that store with the biggest smile on my face. Mission accomplished I thought to myself, my stomach was growling and it was becoming unbearable. I opened the door of the car and sat in my seat with a bag in hand. Noah was being nosey and trying to get a peak from his booster seat. My dad came out and started to add gas to the car. Maybe this trip won’t be that bad after all, I thought to myself as I ripped open the bag with urgence.
“We’re here,” my mom said with excitement.
That might be because she had that coffee with 2 spoonfuls of sugar than her usual 1. My father looked dead. Gee dad even your bags have bags I smiled to myself. Damn Violet you’re such a comedian I thought to myself. I stared out the window of the car to see an old building. It looked like a castle from a fantasy book. Where the hell are we I thought to myself with a look of confusion.
“Hello dear,” said a voice that sounded weak.
It was my grandmother. I can’t believe my mom convinced me to go on this damn trip. Noah rushes out the car with lightning speed nearly breaking the inner door handle.
“Grandma…Grandma,” he said with arms out extended to give a big hug.
“Hello Noah…Come here and give your Grandma a hug,” said my grandma as she struggled to extend her arms to catch the fast six year old.
I walked out the car hand covering my eyes as the sunlight seemed more blinding than usual. The feeling of mosquitoes landing on my arm and laying a bite leaving their mark. So itchy and annoying I thought to myself as I tried to smack them off my arm when I could. My mom and dad were unloading the car. They seemed excited one more than the other. These were my mom’s parents and they seemed to not really see eye to eye with the choice of her marrying a man whose head is so mighty for his own good.
“Hello Violet, how was the trip,” my grandmother said with a smile. I wish I could tell her that the road trip was hell and that I hate it here already like seriously I already have mosquito bites that I could play connect the dots with I thought but it would be better to be nice I suppose.
“Yeah grandma the trip was alright just can’t wait to sleep in a bed,” I said faking a smile.
As I opened the door to my room avoiding the big spider web near the handle.This room looks like it was never cleaned since it was built I thought to myself as rested my backpack on an old chair near the window. I attempted to open the window of my room but it wouldn’t open. Damn why won’t my window I might suffocate under all this damn dust in here I thought in a rage.
“Violet come down here…dinner is ready,” said my mom from downstairs.
I guess I’ll deal with you later. I walked out of the room into the massive hallway with numerous old fashion paintings on either side. My grandpa was an antique art collector when he was younger but now it seems that all his paintings just rest on the wall to collect dust. My grandfather died when I was still young so I never got the chance to talk to him and ask questions on the paintings. My grandmother was going through a lot when my grandfather was in the hospital. My mother told me how she would always visit him in the hospital and stay by his side. My grandmother loved that man with all her heart. They were meant to be. I wish I knew you grandpa I thought to myself as I observed a painting of a beautiful sunset along a beach. I walked down the stairs and into the dinning room where my mother, father, Noah, and my grandmother sat at the large oak table.
“Violet, how was your room?” my mother asked as she assisted Noah into his high chair.
“It was okay, I just can’t get the window open to get some fresh air,” I said as I pulled out a chair and sat in it. The chair made a creaking sound which made me think it was going to collapse under my weight.
“Oh dear, I can help you with the window. It is quite old fashioned,”my grandmother said as she scooped some food into her mouth.
“So how was the drive?” asked my grandmother when she finished chewing her food.
“It was okay,” said my mother as she glanced at my father from across the table.
“What was that look for Karen?” my father asked with a bit of anger in his voice.
“Nothing it’s just that you always think your right and maybe if you gave me the map you wouldn’t have almost crashed in the mailbox,” my mother said.
This angered my father the grip of his fork tightened, and his face grew red with embarrassment. I could tell that he was embarrassed by the way his eyes paced back and forth from my mom to her mother.
“The reason why I didn’t give you the damn map was because I don’t trust you with directions, you always get lost and that wasn’t a thing I would like to do, I honestly can’t stand you anymore Karen I just can’t,” my father said as he slammed his fork down onto the plate nearly breaking it under the magnitude as he got up from the dinner table and stormed out into the backyard.
The room was silent. So silent. It felt like the atmosphere was sealed, and it was getting hard to breathe. I looked at my mothers’ face and could slightly see a tear running down her cheek. She quickly wiped it away when she saw me looking at her. She didn’t want to show her soft side, especially in front of her mother and her children. My mother got up from her chair and grabbed everyone’s plate except for her husbands’. She stumbled across to the sink she felt weak like she was stabbed. Stabbed by the sharp words of her husband. I felt sorry for my mom and sorry for Noah. He was only six and to see his parents fight, gee. I looked at my grandmother to see her face but it was hidden. Like she didn’t have a face nor a reaction.
I enter my room with a sigh of relief to be out of that tense environment. My window was open a crack letting a cool breeze in. I walked toward the window and looked out into the sky. The stars above twinkle and smile at me causing me to smile to myself. Why can’t I have a perfect world like you just to float up there without a care in the world and mock me from down here I thought to myself. My thoughts were interrupted by the sound of a knock on my door. Who could it even be at this time of night. I got up and walked towards the door. It was Noah.
“Violet, can I sleep in your room I had a nightmare?” he asked with a tired hand rubbing his eyes.
I hesitated at first but agreed he’s only six and what he has seen at that table, maybe he needed someone who he could feel safe, feel protected. I laid a blanket on the floor beside my bed and rested a pillow on it.
“Hey Violet,” he said as he got comfortable on the makeshift bed. “Are mom and dad going to be okay?” he asked
“Noah, things happen in this world that are unexpected, and I wouldn’t worry about it,” I said, hoping to stop him from asking any more questions.
I turned off the light next to my bed. While I rested my head, I thought to myself and hoped with all my heart that my mother and father would be okay.
While I slept I dreamt a dream where I was back home in Connecticut. I was at my first ever prom. The smell of smoke from the fog machine filled my nose as I entered the gym with my boyfriend by my side. I looked around to see people awkwardly dancing in the center of the gym and girls in a circle gossiping about who people came with.
“Hey Vi, I’m gonna grab some punch would you like me to get you some?” he asked as he let go of my hand. His warmth went as the cold air came and took its place.
I travelled through the gym to find somewhere to sit. Trying not to bump into anyone as I moved around. Yes, finally a seat. I rested my coat that my mom let me borrow when she went to her first prom back in the 80s. I looked around to see my boyfriend talking to some girl. I couldn’t make out who it was at first until a light gleamed over her long dark hair. It was my best friend. They were talking by the punch bowl and then they walked over to the group of girls in the dark.
I quickly got up trying not to lose them in the sea of people. I saw him talking to her. I can’t believe this. Why is he talking to her, does he even know that I came here with him? I peeked over some shoulders to see what was happening. My boyfriend’s face met with my best friend’s face in an exchange of a kiss. I couldn’t believe my eyes.
I trusted him. I thought that he cared about me, but to go behind my back and do that. I could feel a tear in my eye swell up. I rubbed my eye and approached him.
“How could you, I trusted you,” I said as I choked on my sobs.
“It’s not what it looks like, Vi,” he stammered as he pushed her away in a panic.
“Don’t you Vi me…I thought I meant something to you. I thought you cared,” I said as I ran away to the exit .
“Violet, is everything okay?” Noah asked as he shook me awake.
“I am okay Noah thanks for asking…How was sleep?” I asked as I rubbed my eyes.
“It was okay,” he said with a smile.
We left the room in haste. I could feel my stomach growling like a rabid dog. While I was walking down the hallway, I couldn’t stop thinking of that dream I had. I remembered the pain that I was in as I ran to the stairwell. I stopped myself from drifting off when my grandmother asked me if I would like one pancake or two.
“Two, please,” I said with haste as I snapped out of my thoughts on the dream.
Noah sat on the sofa with a plate of waffles with a ton of syrup. My mom would usually be the one that would add the syrup to his waffles to stop him from going overboard. He grabbed the TV remote and turned on cartoons and began to eat making a mess in the process. I sat at the table pushing my pancakes with my fork. My grandmother noticed and sat next to me with her plate of breakfast.
“What’s wrong dear? You barely touched your pancakes,” she asked with concern in her voice. I hesitated at first, but I came clean. I needed to get this off my chest and needed someone. Someone who I could actually trust.
“I had a dream of when I was at my first prom in 7th grade…When my boyfriend kissed my best friend in front of me,” I said as I stared down at the plate of food. The warmth of the food warmed my nose.
“Oh dear, I’m sorry to hear that,” she said as she rested her hand on my shoulder. The touch of her hand on my shoulder felt warm like a cozy blanket. I felt safe.
“Grandma, can I ask you a question,” I said, as I turned my attention toward her face.
“Sure dear, ask me anything,” she said with a warm smile that made me feel calm.
“Why do people cheat?” I asked
“Violet, people aren’t ever perfect you see that boy you was with he messed up…You Violet are a powerful, intelligent, beautiful, young woman and he just couldn’t see that…Violet learn this: that you have the choice over who you allow in your world and who you shut out…Find yourself…Love yourself,” as she said that I hugged her. I felt tears swell in my eyes. I rested my cheek on her shoulder the warmth of her body warmed my soul. She made me realize that life is not going to be perfect. You must go with the punches of life and learn that everything you do is a choice.
I got up from the chair and walked to the sink and placed my dish in it. I needed to talk with my grandmother badly. I’m glad I got that off my chest. My father stormed into the dinning room. What’s his deal, I thought to myself. The look in his eyes were shadowed with an ominous haze with bits of rage. Then in the blink of an eye he swung at my grandmother.
My grandmother flew towards the counter and struck her head with a heavy thump. A pond of blood started to form from the impact.
“What the hell, Dad!” I shouted at him with rage.
“That old hag had it coming to her anyway,” he said, as he walked towards Noah with a stagger.
The calmness in his voice showed that he was for real. I jumped on the back of my father, scratching and clawing. He shrieked in pain and flung me off of him. I struck the coffee table knocking over the centerpiece. He got closer to Noah with every menacing step. My father raised his hand to swing at Noah. I got up from the floor and nailed him across the back of his head with a nearby glass vase. He fell with a thud on the carpet, glass shards sprinkled around him. I grabbed Noah’s hand, and we rushed to find my mother.
We hurried down the hall towards where my parent’s room was. I opened the door, and my mouth dropped to the floor. I covered Noah’s eyes with my hand.
The mutilated body of my mother laid face down on the bed. I couldn’t believe my eyes.
The room smelled of corpses and blood. Blood splatter along the wall and headboard of the bed showed dark red as it seeped into the comforter. My mother’s body was lying in the past frozen in time. Her mouth in awe as she must have screamed when she was being attacked. I felt my stomach grow nauseous as I moved into the room leaving Noah by the doorway. I looked at his face, and he was just scared and trembling at the sight. Poor kid, I thought to myself, he doesn’t deserve, this no one does. I reached the counter near the bed and reached in my mom’s purse. I quickly moved the items around in the bag. I know that blow to the head would wear off any minute. I pulled out her phone that she was always attached to. Thank the lord, I thought as I swiftly moved to where Noah was standing.
“Noah, I got mom’s phone, I’m going to try and call for help,” I said to him, gripping the phone with a tear in my eye.
“Is mom okay?” he asked with a frown.
“She is going to be fine, Noah,” I said hugging him tightly, how am I supposed to tell him that his mom was just murdered by his own father?
We hurried back into the hallway with quickness. As we turned the bend of the hallway the door stood there. Like as if a gateway to freedom. A gateway out of hell. We walked towards the door handle to be stopped by my father with dried blood stains and a knife in hand.
“Where do you think you two are going…You have seen too much,” he said with a sadistic smile.
“I’m going to call the police and you’re going to go to jail,” I said with tears in my eyes.
For the first time in my life, I couldn’t recognize my father. How could my father commit such a horrific crime? I could feel Noah’s grip on my sweater as he hid behind me.
“I would like to see you try…That phone is dead,” he said with a laugh at his comment.
I tried to power on my mom’s phone but it wouldn’t turn on. Crap, I thought to myself as I looked up at my father. I turned to Noah and told him to grab my hand. We are going to make it for the backyard.
“Now,” I yelled.
We ran for the backyard door. I felt the rush in my blood as I didn’t look back. I gripped Noah’s hand tightly and opened the backyard door. My father ran at such speed that he seemed as if he was a ghost. I could feel his eyes peering into my soul as I ran with Noah to the fence.
“You can’t run forever,” he said as he waved the knife around his head.
As we neared the fence we had to hop it. On the other side was just woods so we could probably hide out there.
“Noah, we are going to have to hop it,” I said to him as we got closer.
When we got to the fence I had to give Noah a boost. I made my arms into a basket and told him to stand on my hands. When he got on, I boosted him up to the top of the fence, he went over with the sound of leaves crunching under his weight.
I turned my head and saw my dad running towards me with full force. I felt my heart almost jump out of my mouth. When he got close to me, I screamed and kicked him in the balls. He dropped down to his knees and dropped the knife in the grass. I hopped over the fence and made it back to Noah who was worried when he heard my scream. I felt my heart pounding like a drum. I couldn’t believe what had just happened.
“I thought he hurt you,” said Noah with a voice of concern.
“Nah, he didn’t but I sure as hell did,” I said with a reassuring smile.
“So what do we do now,” he asked as he looked into the woods .
“We have to keep moving. Who knows how long it would take until dad gets back up,” I said, trying to catch my breath.
The woods were damp and cold. The sound of crickets making songs under the leaves. I was hoping to find some sort of shelter for the night and some food for Noah.
“My feet hurt Violet, when are we going to eat and rest?” he asked with a stretched out voice.
“We are going to rest soon, be patient, okay,” I said with compassion.
We walked for another half hour when we came across an abandoned home near the river.
“Hey look Violet, shelter,” he said with excitement.
We went into the home, and the whiff of dust and animal poop filled our nostrils.
“This place smells like crap,”I said curling my nose.
“Yeah it smells like crap,” he repeated mocking me.
“Hey don’t say that, okay that’s a bad word,” I said looking at him with a stern look.
I looked around the home and found some food in the kitchen. It’s probably expired knowing my luck. I turned the can and it said 07/2015. Damn it’s expired, it’s the year 2017 can’t eat it. I thought to myself my stomach growled in agreement. I covered the broken window frame with a plank of wood that was on the floor. Hopefully this could keep the breeze out, I thought to myself, looking at Noah with sorrow. He doesn’t deserve this, no one does.
“Hey Violet, I am cold,” he said with a shiver.
I took off my sweater that I was wearing and gave it to him. The warmth of the sweater made him glow like a light bulb. He rested his head on my shoulder, and I rested my eyes but was still paranoid of sounds.
I awoke to the sound of birds chirping on the treetops. I tapped Noah to wake him up. He was drooling on my shoulder–gross.
“What is it?” he asked with a stretch.
“We got to move, we need to find food,” I told him as I helped him up.
The morning was not cold or warm. The sun’s rays tried to beam on me from above. We walked through the woods, looking for some sort of food. My hunger couldn’t be clouded as I was also scared that my father was near us trying to kill us for escaping. The splashes of a stream were near so we walked towards it with haste. The frogs croaking on the water side. I told Noah not to splash the water but he was excited to see the frogs.
“Look Violet, froggies,” he said with glee as he tried to grab one.
“You’re going to scare them away if you run at them like that,” I said as I sneaked up behind on and cupped it in my hands.
I held it out for Noah to see his smile with happiness.
“Can I hold it can I can I?” he said tugging at my shirt.
“Sure,” I said when I placed the frog on his hand with care.
The frog moved around at first and then stood still like a statue. Noah was so excited he thought of a name to give it.
“I’m going to name you Mr. Frog,” he said as he held it in my face with confidence.
“Okay, I think we should continue moving on,” I said, trying to get the frog out his hand.
The frog got startled as Noah grabbed its hind legs, so it peeped. Noah screeched and threw the frog in the air. I laughed at him, that was pretty funny to me but not much to him.
We found a gas station near the edge of the woods that looked really run down. We quickly rushed across the cracked road to avoid the massive crater sized pot holes. I tried to open the door of the gas station, but it wouldn’t move. Come on, come on please don’t be closed I thought to myself.
“What happened, Violet?” Noah said, as he looked up at me.
“The door won’t open,” I told him as I paced back toward the road and sat.
The feeling of the rough pavement underneath me felt cold. I looked out into the woods on the other side and saw a deer and its child. Moving so peacefully with such grace. I wished I could feel that free. The adult deer watched out for the child with caution as they traversed the leaf-covered ground.
Noah came over to me and sat next to me looking down at the ground. He was playing with a piece of rock that he found.
“Noah, I’m sorry…I truly am,” I said with a tear in my eye.
“It’s not your fault, Violet,” he said as he placed his hand on my shoulder.
“But I feel like it is, I’m sorry for not being the best sister that I could be for you, sorry for not being able to help you feel safe…” I said as I looked up at the passing clouds that traveled in unison.
“I don’t understand why he would go crazy, Noah,” I said with a whimper. “I just wished that this nightmare would end already.
I buried my head in the inside of my shirt as streams of water rush down my face.
“I’m a bad sister I can’t bear it any longer,” I said my voice muffled by the fabric.
“You’re not a bad sister, Violet. You are the best sister in the world,” he said as he gave me a hug that was warm with love.
I wiped away a tear in my eyes as I tried to form a smile.
The sound of a car disturbed the peaceful atmosphere. I looked to my right to see a truck that seemed rather new. It was painted red but due to the dust and dirt the color started to fade giving it a tough appearance. How can this be, I thought to myself.
As the truck pulled up to the gas station, out stepped a young guy. He looked tough as he had a distinct scar under his left eye. He wore a leather jacket and wore tall army boots. He approached us.
“Hey, y’all need help?” he asked with a look of concern.
“Yes we are lost,” I told him, trying not to sound like I was not crying minutes ago.
“Well I don’t normally do this, but I have some space in my truck and some food I can share with you and your child,” he said as he stretched his hand to pick me back to my feet.
“Thank you for your kindness…this is my brother not child,” I said as I walked with him to the truck Noah followed along side.
When I entered the truck, it smelled like old food and socks. I had Noah sit in the backseat and told him to buckle up.
The air hit my face while in the car, the smell of the wilderness filled my nostrils. The passing trees were gone in the blink of an eye. The silence was broken by the young man.
“What’s your name, if you don’t mind me asking,” asked the young man focused on the road.
“Violet that’s my name, and that is my little brother Noah,” I said looking down at my feet.
“What is your name?” I asked.
“Nathan,” he said with a smile.
“Why are you helping us?” I asked.
“Because why not help those who are less fortunate? It’s always okay to save a life,” he said as he stared off into the road in front of him.
I thought to myself while I looked out the window to the fading image of the tall pine trees that lined the road. Why do I feel so calm, I thought to myself, should I trust this guy who practically came out of nowhere like a knight in shining armor to save the day? I looked into the mirror to see Noah fast asleep with piece of food still in hand. He fed us–he couldn’t be an evil murderer.
“Hey, almost there yet?” I asked with a slight ounce of concern.
“Almost,” he said with a smile of reassurance.
We stopped in a driveway to a house that looked rundown with patches of lawn missing as the sprinkles spraying rampant over the ground causing mud puddles to form. I looked out the window and looked at the sky. It seemed dead. No color in sight. Nothing but a colorless atmosphere with the overcast of clouds on the brink of letting go of their stored rain. I turned to Nathan. He seemed neutral like he didn’t notice the bad condition the place was in. My inner thoughts were interrupted when Noah shouted at the top of his lungs.
“I HAVE TO PEE!” he said waving his arms back and forth in the back seat.
“Okay, Noah we’re going to leave the car now,” I reassured him.
We got out of the truck and walked towards the house steps. The neighborhood also looked dead. Not even a bird was in sight singing songs. Nathan reached in his pocket and grabbed a set of keys and opened the door.
“The bathroom is on the left down the hall,” he exclaimed as he took off his shoes.
Noah hurried down the hall with lightning speed and haste.
“Make yourself at home, it’s the least I can do,” he said as he closed the door behind me.
“Hey thanks for the care, like seriously, it means a lot,”I said with gratitude as I bent over to take off my shoes.
“Don’t mention it,” he said with a warming smile.
The inside of the house looked dark. It lacked proper lighting, but I wasn’t surprised since it was so dead outside. I walked towards the living room where a fairly nice TV stood. Near that was a photo of what I assumed to be Nathan with an older gentleman.
“Hey Nathan who’s that you are next to?” I asked trying not to be rude.
“That’s my dad. This is my graduation photo,” he said with a hint of sadness in his voice.
“Where is everyone,” I asked.
“This was my parents’ house, they were my everything, my world, but they aren’t with me anymore…” he stopped a bit in between and then continued. “He was the best dad ever to me I wanted to be just like him when I grow up,”
I noticed that Nathan was starting to tear up. He quickly covered his face when he saw me notice.
“It’s…It’s okay, Nathan,” I said trying to comfort him.
I rested my hand on his shoulder and he shoved me off and looked at me. Why did he do that? What did I do wrong? I was trying to be supportive.
Then Noah ran into the living room.
As Noah entered the room, I wiped the confusion from my face. I glanced at Nathan, he looked lost like he was conflicted. I wanted to help him but couldn’t figure out how. Noah stood next to me wiping his hands on the sweater I gave him.
“I think you should leave… I’m sorry but you can’t stay here no longer,” he said looking down at his feet.
“I’m sorry for overstepping my boundaries…really I am,” I said trying to change his mind on the decision he made.
He walked to the door and opened it. The chilling breeze of the outside hit my face causing me to shiver. We walked to the door and stepped outside. The closing of the door was the last thing I heard.
“What do we do now Violet?” Noah asked, holding onto me for warmth.
“I don’t know Noah…I really just don’t know,” I said as I looked into the dark street ahead.
To be Continued
End of Part 1
——————————— Peaceful Solitude ——————————
The rainy day showers the city in a blue tint. Everything seems monotone as if time stopped moving. But the city moves on as it always does. I watch how the train arrives at the train station, emitting a golden light from the inside as people hurriedly walk into it. The train departs, carrying people away. In the distance, the skyscrapers stand imposing and defiant.
I exhale and see my breath before me. The drizzle falls lightly on my face. The beat of my music is soothing. My hands grasp the hot chocolate between my hands, seeking warmth. As I look out, I notice the striking difference between the rundown, three-story apartments and the monumental skyscrapers that stand far away. It is a beautiful irony.
I dreamed that one day I would wake up in an apartment which overlooked the city. The sun rising over the skyline with no worries at all. I would eat my breakfast and stare at the skyscrapers and just feel good.
Except I never relate sunny days with good feelings anyways. I always feel most at peace when it is cold and rainy. Whereas some people feel miserable, I feel most alive.
There wasn’t a specific moment when I figured out that I found serenity in the rain or cold or other miserable weather. I just remember enjoying every time it rained. My mom would send me off to the Mexican store, and I enjoyed these little trips because they would get me out of my small apartment, and I felt a little more independent everytime I did so. If I was lucky, it would be raining when I went out. My mom discouraged my going out when it rained, but those days were the days I insisted I go. She questioned it but allowed it.
And then I would walk out the front door of my house with my hoodie on and headphones in. And I smiled. And then that smile turned into a laugh. I happily strolled down the street, observing how different rainy days were from sunny days. It kept people at home, leaving the streets empty. Cars swished by, pushing water away as they went. I reached the train station, hopped on the train, got off three stops down, and popped out into
I arrived at the Mexican store and inhaled the the familiar and hypnotizing smell of conchas and cuernos and an array of other delicacies. I chose the Mexican bread very carefully, to make sure it went perfect with the cup of coffee I would drink later.
I wondered why I enjoyed going out in the rain so much. Then I figured it out. It meant being alone but not out of place. It felt like the right type of alone. Not the lonely type but the peaceful type. Because my emotions and thoughts were finally in sync with what was going on outside. Here, the sadness didn’t have to be hidden as tiredness. Instead it could be let out. And it reminded me that sadness could be beautiful. It felt right. Because I felt out of place and wrong when it was sunny, yet I wasn’t feeling sunny on the inside. And so I smiled. This time genuinely.
All those times where I felt at odds with my reality: when with family or friends or at parties or at school events or at any enjoyable moment. Where I had to be happy. Where it was expected to feel good but I didn’t. Making me question whether I would ever actually enjoy these moments which were supposed to be enjoyable. But at least I could find temporary happiness in this weather.
In the rain I feel in tune with myself. It finally feels right. There isn’t a disconnect between the outside world and the world inside me. Finally there is no incongruence between what I feel and what is going on. Finally I feel at peace.
In this kind of weather, my failures and disappointments don’t feel as heavy on me. It feels ok.
I don’t have to ask myself what is wrong with me. I don’t have to ask myself why I wasn’t happy. I didn’t want to know. I just want to get over the feeling.
While yes I loved the rain and the cold, I wish I could feel the same in sunnier and warmer weather. I wish I didn’t have to like this weather because I’m sure it was nice to enjoy the sun.
But for now, I go off with my coat into the grey.
I’ve experienced the death of a loved one four times in my life. At first, I never really know how to react in the moment. You’d think I would break down into tears or be overwhelmed with sadness, but I just become numb. I’ve always been a private person, so I prefer to dwell in my thoughts when I can be alone. My first instinct is to always try to comfort those around me to try to mask my own feelings. The first time I experienced a death was within my own family, and I pierced my bottom ear lobe. I was 7 years old when I watched my uncle die of a heart attack. I remember standing in the hallway of his bedroom door as he laid in pain on the floor. With both my aunt and mother standing inside the doorway trying to help my uncle. They were too late, and I just stood there. I did nothing to help, and it felt like it was all my fault. At 7 years old, I couldn’t really grasp the concept of death too well. When my uncle passed, a small part of me was excited to attend my first funeral. It wasn’t until the day came, and I couldn’t contain my tears that I’d realized my uncle was really gone. After crying nonstop for hours, I could no longer see through my puffy eyes. I could see my uncle laying peacefully in the casket through the blur of my tears. Seeing him with the faint smile on his face gave me the peace of mind that he’d made it to heaven and was watching over me.
The second time I experienced a family death was when my great grandmother died and I pierced my upper ear lobe. I had only met her a few months prior to her death because she lived all the way in Jamaica. The last time I got to visit her, my entire family overcrowded the hospital room. My little brothers and cousins got louder and louder as they chased each other around the hospital room even after being told to stop. My family had given up trying to calm them down because they didn’t have the energy anymore. After a while the room fell quiet. The only noise was the beeping of the monitor on my grandmother’s bedside and the thundering rain beating on the windowsill. Nobody spoke for a while but they didn’t need to. We all realized that this might have been the last time that we’d get to spend with my grandmother all at once. Nothing brings my family closer together than weddings and death. About three days after the hospital visit, my grandmother passed away at home. When we heard the news, my father began to cry, and it was the first time I’d ever seen him cry. I understood that he was trying to stay strong for me and my brothers, but I didn’t blame him for breaking down because I did, too.
The third time I experienced death was when my aunt passed away, and I pierced my nose. Her funeral was the first time I had seen her in 5 years. As I stood in front of her casket all I could think about was the time we used to spend together at her house. I missed visiting her. Christmas was my aunt’s favorite holiday, and this year will be our first time celebrating without her. Every year, the entire family would gather around the tree and we’d enjoy each other’s company. Despite my neverending number of cousins including me and my brothers, my aunt never failed to buy each and every one of us a new pair of pjs, clothes, and toys on Christmas eve. Christmas was one of the few times we’d get to visit my aunt because we all had busy schedules most of the time. Whenever we were together there was no way that you could tell any time had passed.This year we’ll be celebrating Christmas at her house, and I don’t know if I want to go. I haven’t been to her house in 5 years. Nobody knew that my aunt had been sick because she didn’t like when people worried about her. I wish she would have spoken up so I could’ve seen her one last time before she passed.
The fourth time I experienced death was this year, and I got an industrial piercing. Christian wasn’t family but when we were together you couldn’t tell the difference. We met in detention last year and from there our bond grew stronger. My mom used to get upset with me for having detention every week but I didn’t mind it because Christian was always there to give me company. Every Friday at table 5 in the Caf. Despite not wanting to go to detention Christian gave me something to look forward to even though we shouldn’t have been playing around in the first place. After Christian passed, I was in shock and didn’t know how to feel. None of it felt real. Sitting in the cafeteria during the memorial made me think of all the fun we used to have in the same space. Now I’m almost afraid to go to detention because I know it’ll never be the same without Christian.
By using piercings as a coping mechanism, I’ve been disguising my pain for years now. Despite the adrenaline rush I get each time a needle touches my skin, I am still broken but fix my lips to tell people that I’m ok everytime they ask.
Fall Issue 2019
By Michael Green
On comes the evening, both seeking ends
Peace in my hand worth twice than a friend.
Imagination begins to wonder, life becomes a blunder.
The moonlight takes its toll, my thoughts are never bold
Like what’s a bird without its wings, unable to fly up to things
I think and feel, but it’s not real
Time flies when you’re having fun, but that’s not always the case
The moonlight tends to hinder things, reveal the truth
I learn about myself and the character I love to portray.
He races my mind, and fills the time,
until through the blinds the sunlight shines.
In comes the morning, haunting us with the beams
Solace ain’t as far as it used to be, it begins to blur as we get older.
Summer’s not as long as it used to be, everyday counts like crazy
That night I reminisce about the past,
I notice that the seasons don’t seem to last
The family begins to spread, and now half the clan is dead
Now what’s left is the last two, we cling together like a bad hairdo
In comes the morning, haze
Off to better things, listen to the church bells ring
On comes the evening,
Here is the moonlight, all of our troubles slightly out of sight
Nothing else can run my mind
Now it’s time to say goodnight.
Inspired by Frank Ocean
By Sydney George
First I look up at my ceiling
the first feeling is a yawn
Then I look for myself in the bathroom mirror
My post sleep face shows this girl
She didn’t wake up “like this”
Eye crust is normal
Third. my eyes find the floor of my bathtub
And finally with each soapy scrub my senses emerge
On my skin
Then I’m seemingly awake. Consciousness is necessary for the school day. My lips hidden from view as I try to win the war with
My Own Hair
My relaxed lips as I walk out of my bathroom holding my victorious weapon called
My mother. Woken up before me, she walks in for her turn to whiten her peary smile
Fourth. i search for the smell of something cooking
Leaving my nose highly disappointed and
My guts to a boxing match
Ding ding DING
Syd’s Guts vs. Syd’s limited amount of belly skin
aaaand the weight of my infamous- very much a burden- backpack
adding approximately 6 pounds to my 140 pounds
If only I could flip off the fifth
The mta.bustime website telling me about a bus that’s 10 stops away
But it’s 7:40 already
My feet walking to school
Trying to imprint my legacy of my own on the sidewalk
By Marco Garcia Nueva
I woke up wondering what time it was. Was it night time or was it the morning? Having no windows in my room made it impossible to tell. This was of importance because it would dictate whether my homework would get done or not. I looked at pikachu who was propped up next to my desk and stared at me blankly, telling me that he too was lost.
I groaned and rubbed my eyes. My hair is itchy and filled with static and it bothers me, and I know immediately that it is a mess. Usually my hair isn’t too messy and I can go to school without fixing it too much. When that happens, I know it’s going to be a good day. Not this time though, it’s going to take me a while to fix my hair today.
“Great” I say as I sit on my bed. My chest is itchy with sweat because again, a windowless room isn’t the coolest place in the world, especially not on a hot morning. I decide I will take a shower – if I don’t, I won’t be able to live with myself for the rest of the day.
I walk into the bathroom and look in the mirror. I contemplate the mess that stares back at me. He has poofy red eyes, his face is red, and his hair is awkwardly pushed to one side. He grabs his toothbrush and applies toothpaste and begins brushing. This is one of the best moments of his morning routine because after he finishes, he can show off his teeth to me and I smile back at him, feeling proud of him. One of the very few times I ever feel proud. My teeth aren’t particularly special but I think they’re nice. So after I finish brushing and rinsing, I smile to myself, now I look like a happy mess.
I get into the shower and imagine the warm water wash away all my stress and problems. I could stay here all day and just relax with the water gently falling on my body. The shower serves as a kind of therapy, it helps me clear my mind and organize my thoughts. I think about what is to come: the rush to school, the first two hours of calculus ready to mentally destroy me, the friends I will see, the assignments I will have to finish last minute, the amount of homework that I will receive today, the tiredness I will feel after soccer practice, and the battle against exhaustion later today as I try to complete homework without falling asleep. I think about how I will have to repeat this all over again tomorrow. It’s a terrible, cruel cycle and thinking about it bothers me.
A banging on the bathroom door brings me back to reality. “Get out! I need to brush my teeth!” my brother says. I grab my towel and dry up with resentment, knowing this is the only time in the day where I will feel relaxed and now it has come to an end. I long deep sigh.
I get out and walk towards my room and get dressed. I feel better but knowing what is to come keeps me annoyed. I put a hat on while my hair dries because if I don’t it will fall in my face and it will make me want to pull my hair out. I have a love hate relationship with my hair. It can be nice and just the way I want it to be sometimes, and other times it could be unbearable. I put my lucky socks in hopes of making my day just a little better. I put my pants on, the pants which I hate. I put my shoes on, ones which I think are nice. I proceed to put on a light undershirt. I do this because if I don’t, I feel naked. Then I put deodorant on. If I had put deodorant without putting my shirt on first, the deodorant would have adhered to my shirt on a particular spot, right under my ribs, it would’ve looked weird. Finally, I put on my school polo and look at myself in the mirror. I look alright I guess.
The open window gave way to sunshine glimpsing my face as the sun started its day just like me. The blue screen caused my adjusting eyes to cry out in pain, I cursed out at my forgetfulness. The water droplets of the dark abyss of the room filled my body, mixed with the bubbly sensation of the bar of soap. The breezy air of the hallway gave me shivers as I got dressed for the day. As Rosanna and Lori chattered about the drunk school bus driver who was accused of drinking while driving the students, I left my living compartment as I reflected on my dislike for Mondays and the beginning of the week. The quiet streets stood silent as I managed to pull a fast act and chase the bus. I reached and pulled out that slim book and metrocard and began to read the story to myself.
Entering the foyers and compartments at Uncommon I head through the double doors and make my presence known by swiping my identity into the Uncommon computers. Making my way to the Caf I’m greeted with teachers and students from previous years to new as I head to get breakfast nonchalantly. The open void of the caf was filled with that scent of that mystery muffin and the voices of students enjoying themselves. As the bell rang for the day of classes to commence, those staircases filled with a uproaring yell of the 4 grades going up one set of staircases.
The bathrooms were my daily pitstops away from the voices of several hundred, a place of comfort and alone time. The mirror reflection revealed the eyes, body and face of one who hasn’t heard of the word “Sleep” before. The chilling water mixed with the soap cleaned away the stains of the morning meal. The second bell rang abruptly and for a longer duration as I head to the end of the hallway to start my government class. I wonder how much time I have left until school ends so I can go home and sleep drifting to the endless nights. The sunny clear skies returned through the classroom and lit the room with that good day sensation.
Dreams and our imaginations are what keep people feel alive from the commoner life and what drives people` . As I attempt to close my eyes and head into night slumber, I look into the night sky at the many stars in our galaxy compared to the vast number of people that wander our planet. As I remember the long lectures, the off task students whispering to one another and the amount of work my body endured during gym, I fall asleep wondering what new experiences might come and what my future will hold. Soon, the sunny clear skies of the next day will bring about a new day with a shiner horizon towards the future, I look out wondering what will come out of the new start.
Some Things Just Stay Broken
By Vanessa Bailey Matthews
Late night stroll through the city.
He was of darkness and
Photograph by Sydney George 2019
she was his light, going separate ways for the night,
Sad farewell in sight.
Car came to take her away, it’ll be awhile before they see each other again,
He wanted her to stay for she was his motivation, his reason for breathing.
She’d only been gone a little awhile, but hours turned to days, weeks, years.
He still had questions but no answers. He’d cry for her sometimes. Time didn’t make him miss her any less.
Little did he know that she cried out for him too,
For in her heart he was so close, yet in reality so far. She was still full of light but her sadness filled an inner darkness,
She wanted him to move on though it would hurt.
Luckily, she couldn’t feel anything at the moment, but heartache and sadness.
A selfish part of her wanted him to be with her, but she knew that wouldn’t be fair.
He’d visit her sometimes, hoping that bringing flowers will somehow make it better, just trying to make it one day at a time like everyone’s been telling him to.
They’d say “It’s okay,” that “everything will be fine,” or that “you need to move on.”
They say time heals all wounds, but some wounds just run too deep. Too deep for them to ever be fully sealed. Too deep to swim out of so they drown, drown in their misery, and their pain.
Some things just stay broken.
Sometimes there just isn’t enough glue to fix a broken vase, enough dreams to fight the nightmares or enough needles to stitch up a broken body, some things just stay broken. Time heals all wounds but try telling that to the families of black men and women who were shot and killed by police, to the mother who lost her son to gang violence, to the parents that lost their children to a school shooter. Try telling them that.
Try telling that to the man who lost the love of his life to the incompetence of a drunk driver, who was released on bail and paid his way to a “not guilty” verdict.
Some things just stay broken.
By Rafael Flores
The boom of thunder crashes
Across the limitless sky,
The wind sweeps across the blades of grass
The feeling of water droplets against my face,
The cool air refreshing like a cold glass of water
With the slight smell of smoke from passing cars,
As I stroll along the path
The crunch of leaves underneath my feet
The sound of geese flying to reach warmth
On this cool November morning
By Berenize Garcia Nueva
No le vamos a hablar español aquí, Mr. Freddie remarked as my four-year-old hands held onto my mother’s arms tightly. My mother seemed scared, not because it would be the first time we ever spent apart, but because my tongue would be twisted into the harsh, hard words of los gringos.
Ms. Monzella. Ms. Monzella. Ms. Monzella, she repeated. Now everyone with me, Ms. Monzella. Ms. Monzella, my ESL teacher, she was an angel.You should come to my birthday party I mentioned jokingly. But I guess she didn’t get the memo. Because she appeared on our doorstep. I have never been more ashamed of los compadres o los tíos.
Your family must be from one-town, Mr. P said. This was after we read a short story about a Mexican family. Everyone in class had pointed out that the town only had one TV, one house, one dog, one everything. You must be from one town, his coffee and cigarette breath now burning away my nostrils and dignity.
No, I had two TVs.
Start of Middle School. Start of puberty. Too many horny sixth-graders. Sex education? A disaster. Sex pamphlets? Left on the ground near the supposed pee puddle of an eighth grader. Condoms? Used as water balloons at the annual carnival. Pads or tampons? So, my mom uses diapers? The teachers were not paid enough. Enough said.
Mi hija, levantate, my mom said as she shook me awake. It was mid-August at the early hours of 11:00 am. Te me vas a la escuela hoy. As I walked down on what seemed like the longest hallway, teachers smiled at me. The students stared at me, their eyes expressing welcome to prison. And that’s how I became an Uncommon student, with oversized khaki pants, and a navy blue shirt.
Inspired by “Indian Education” by Sherman Alexie
By Jae’da Brannigan
My birthmark cuts straight down my body like a blade,
Sharp and defined.
The hated image in the mirror is me, prevailing as a
Mutual disappointment amongst my peers and
The abstract art of a five year-old,
Scattered across my skin,
Messy and multicolored.
You tell me that I’m beautiful, but I can’t
My self-esteem is growing in proportion to my
Looking around at the different displays of skin,
Mine more decorated than others,
My birthmark cuts straight down my body like a blade,
Sharp and defined.
The loveable reflection in the mirror is me,
Prevailing as a mutual bliss amongst my peers and
You tell me that I’m beautiful, but this time
Thanks to Arkeen Dunlap (Class of 2021) and Brandon Gayle (Class of 2023) for their help creating and designing this issue!