He sat silently on the front steps of his house, fiddling with the keys in his hands. They were cold, easily sliding in his palms. He breathed in the harsh air. He was waiting, but he didn’t know what for.
His dad had been out of the house all day, no doubt on a drinking spree once again. His aunt was at work, leaving him to fend for himself. He was used to the quietness of solitude by now. After nine years of being left home alone daily, he got used to weird things, like how the refrigerator grunts at exactly two-thirty on the dot every afternoon, or how the left floorboards on the hallway to the bathroom creak when you step on it with your right foot, but never your left. He also learned that grilled cheese was not exactly something you can make in the microwave, and no, it doesn’t help to flip it after five minutes.
“What?” I laugh, half hoping he’s joking and half not.
“I told you I’d do it, Sab,” he says as he pulls the watch from his pocket. He hands it to me without turning his head, but I can tell he’s smiling. “I’m quick.” I stare at the side of his face, the edges of my mouth curving up into an unwanted smile.
“One, call me by my full name. Two,” I take the watch. “How the hell did you get this?” He shoots me a glance.
“Sabrina Alexandra Derosa, that fact may be forever confidential in your favor.” he says, saying my extended name and switching to Italian just to annoy me. I punch his shoulder, and he just laughs again.
“Christian’s not the smartest one in the bunch. It was literally like taking something from a dead man.” He kicks a rock from the road as we walk, grabbing the watch back and shoving it in his pocket....
The noodles sit in front of me, cold an untouched. The noises of other customers scream in my ears, no matter how hard I try to block it out. The bell on the entrance door won’t stop ringing. People won’t stop coming.
I push the bowl away from me, and my stomach churns as it falls to the floor. The clatter echoes. Strangers stare. My face gets so hot it’s the only feeling in my body. I stand up, crack my knuckles. More eyes. More thoughts. More waiters coming to check on the girl who can’t get any words out.
“I need to…I need to leave,” I croak, fumbling for my backpack. Change spills out onto the counter, followed by wadded up dollars and anything else that’s been stuffed in there for who-knows-how-long. I can feel my lunch coming back. “Now. I need to go now.” I whisper and start weaving through people. More eyes. More thoughts. More waiters trying...
The rush of warm wind engulfing my body forces me awake. My hands are caked in dirt, my eyes so dusty and splintered it hurts to plead them open. My whole abdomen aches, my bed of rocks poking my thigh. I push myself up, my breathing uncontrollably shallow and spikes are sent to my lungs when I breath in too much. My head is pounding, and I don’t see Mama or Baba anywhere.
Soldiers march in front of me, one straight line and one goal in each of their heads, the goal I do not know. Their uniforms are alien, green and gray intertwined. They wear hats the same style, names scripted on the back. I can’t read them, my thoughts foggy and racing at the same time.
The last thing I remember clearly was Baba screaming to get down, and then he was struck. I barely have memory of Mama, just hearing her wail and then her voice quiet...
“Where are you going?” I ask her, having to jog just to keep up. She smiles slightly, slinging her backpack over her shoulder.
“Utopia." She says, lighting a cigarette and crossing the street.
“Since when is that an actual place?”
“Since I said so,” her smile fades, and stops in the mile of the road. She bends down to look at me in the eyes, grabbing my chin. “Don’t question me, kid. You decided to follow.” A car honks, and she cusses under her breath, taking a long drag of smoke, spreading the ashes on the other side of the crosswalk. I fix my coat, zipping it up from the cold.
“Well Ma’s gonna be ticked off.”
All I get is a middle finger. “Nice, Adeline,” I tell her, laughing. She hasn’t changed.
There are people in my grade who have massive amounts of friends. They’re constantly out with them, may it be at the mall or at the restaurant down the street from our school. Most of these people are considered the ‘popular’ group, as I’m sure everyone has a form of in their lives. But, I’ve always thought of going out with friends outside of school as more of a chore than a fun time. It’s mostly because it causes me stress – ‘who will pick them up when we’re done hanging out? How long is too long to be out? What if they get bored? How will I get home?’ and all that jazz.
I’ve never been the type of person to have many friends. That’s just how I am. I’ll admit it – I’m a mostly quiet, sorta anxious girl who tries her best to keep to herself. I have days where the second I step foot in my...
“Yeah,” he scoffs, jabbing a finger at my face. “You’re just like Daniel, Nada. You know that?”
I grab my sweatshirt, acting as if he stabbed me in the heart.
“Oh really, Amir? Wonder how I learned to be that way,” I push him, more force in it than I intended. My face feels hot, blood rushing through me like nothing. “Not like I trusted a certain guy who was nice to me for once, not like he left for a month just to come back with a stampede of police looking for him.” I’m screaming now.
“Not like that taught me how to pick locks, not like he showed me stacks of money just to burn it, just to use me to be a look-out, yeah?” I step towards him, his head now down. He’s smiling at the ground, that smile that got me the first time. “You agree, yeah?”
“You’re just like him, kid. Spitting image,” his face...
Last week, my class went on a trip to the Museum of Science is Boston, MA, and something truly amazing happened.
My group was checking out the temporary exhibit that was all about football (I’m not much of a sporty person so I honestly was confused about everything I was seeing, but what can ya do). They had set up all these interactive things for kids, like a jump-wall with buttons so you could see how high you could jump and hit one of the buttons that ranged from 3 – 11 feet. I did that, my score was 7’4, and I spent a majority of the half-hour the teacher gave us to explore running around with my friends.
About halfway through, I was laughing. I was smiling the most I had in weeks. I didn’t feel like a weight was attached to me.
I was happy.
So, I stopped myself in my tracks, and stood there just smiling. I...
Cara sits on her front steps, cigarette in hand and the blank stare she’s been holding against the world lingering on her face. I sit on mine, across the street, staring back at her even though her mind is halfway across the world. I know she’s thinking about her Ma. The whole neighborhood knows by now, but she’s shutting the news out in return. She’s shut pretty much everyone and everything out for six weeks now, and I’ve been counting because she never smoked until those weeks started. I’ve tried everything to get her attention - hanging upside down on the unstable tree basically on life-support in my front yard, screamed high-pitch like a mad-girl, even mimicked her smokes. But she’s never even glanced my way.
The streaks of blue and purple in her hair shine vibrant against the morning rays, and she kicks her shoes off and lays against the hard pavement on her porch, her face out of...
My hands touch the ice-enslaved river, my fingertips gliding over the pure surface and intertwining with the stray, leftover pieces of pine needles from the autumn that seems so long ago now. The memories of Graham still fill my thoughts, but they are thankfully blurrier now than when it happened. My scarf scratches the points of uncovered skin on my neck, making me readjust my body and sit in the cold snow to put the warmth back. Maha walks behind me, circling around the trees and touching the wisps of snow-kissed branches.
“You know, my mama always took me here too,” she says quietly, pulling me away from my daze. “but I do not remember it being this beautiful.”
“Yeah?” I respond, sniffing and standing up to see her. Her black hair is dotted with loose snowflakes as she smiles at me.
“Yes, and when my father would come with us, he would swim with me in this river,” she...
The baby wails as I balance him on my hip. His pacifier is clinging onto his lip, praying for someone to push it back into his little mouth. My phone buzzes, the city screaming around it, and I silence it. I breath out heavily, wondering how the hell my life turned out like this. My jeans are ripped, the cold air circling my knees like vultures. My shirt is so grabbable to the kid that it’s pulled off my shoulder constantly, and my hair is as curly as ever from the humidity. I can tell the stares from strangers are from their nosiness about whether or not this fourteen-year-old is a ‘pitiful’ teen mom or not. I glare back at them, which makes their eyes retreat down to the floor or the crap piece of plaster with water spouting out of it they label as a fountain. The kid won’t stop screaming, and his face is turning red from crying,...
As a lot of you know, yes, I have major anxiety. I’ve had it since I was four, and I’m thirteen now.
I don’t say this to get attention or pity from others, I say it because I want people to know they are not alone in this mental battle. Anxiety drains you, mentally and physically. It makes you have barely any energy at times, and it’s not fun. Instead of thinking positively about the most happiest thing in the world, you have to list and go through the scenarios of ‘what if this happened’ or ‘what if that happened’. It’s definitely not easy, but gives you a strength you had no clue you had.
It shows you that you are tough enough to beat it. Anxiety challenges you, and the whole battle is basically a huge maze with the best thing at the finish – a mind at ease. It puts you through endless obstacles until the only thing...
A lot of people in my class think I’m weird. Yeah, I make silly noises and sound effects to go along with them sometimes, but why have the sound with no music? They made a whole movie about it. Look it up.
They think I’m weird because I wear the same sweatshirt constantly, but little do they know it makes me feel safe.
They think I’m weird because I rarely talk, but the thing is I keep my mouth shut so nothing wrong will come out.
They think I’m weird because I don’t wear makeup, nor do I want to, but why have to cover your face in only sixth grade? Gurl I’m me and I’m here, move over.
They think I’m weird because when I do talk, I’m usually loud. My excuse is that I’m Italian, but in reality, I just get so excited about things that volume doesn’t exist anymore.
They think I’m weird because I have anxiety...
Life at Camp
This war, causing bread to flee along with lives,
causing bullets to fly with a single “Goodbye”,
has made our world, our life at camp
one hell of a place to say we live.
Everyday, every second, every
filling the buckets assigned for rain
filling our rooms with the fleeting sane.
First went the weak,
next the disabled,
then the boy who walked slanted like an old table.
The days are bleak, wet and
not a thing to keep us going.
And yet, the soldiers laugh
when we cry
say we are nothing,
that we deserve to die.
But they do not know,
that our future children will learn to grow.
They will learn to forgive, but never forget
and tell our story, like a gift.
Running after butterflies
used to be so easy.
Chasing, laughing, rolling,
clapping, just like little kids.
Now what we are running from,
are silver tubes with pelts of metal,
staring us down at every glance,
daring to take our peace.
Daring to shoot,
daring to laugh,
daring to just plain be mean,
to take us away from this world.
it makes me sick,
when I see the wings,
of what my freedom
used to be,
of what sweet childhood
I will never get to see.
“Bang, Bang” screamed the gun,
shooting down my only son.
He went last,
my second love,
the only one who stayed past the first morning sun.
“Bang, Bang” screamed the gun,
pointing at me next.
I yelled with it, my son on the ground,
laying in what used to be our room.
“Bang, bang” screamed the gun,
with uncontrollable orders from the man,
the man who took my son.
“Go clean this! Go do that!”, but I only glared before…..
“Bang, Bang” screamed the gun.
And then my world went fleeing.
The bus turns onto Redwood Drive, and pulls to a stop right next to a speed limit sign. I pull my bag up over my shoulders, not at all eager to read the note Mr. Wilson sent home to me. Not Jason, the class favorite, not Winnie, the straight A student, and not Ximena, the one who makes fun of everyone. Out of all people, he had to send the letter home with me. The girl who sits in the back of the classroom and goes to guidance practically every period. The one who cut her waist-length hair up to her shoulders just so people wouldn’t point her out, wanting to come over and ask how her hair grew so long. The one who’s brother isn’t even home right now, and her family doesn’t know the exact reason why he’s not.
The one who’s brother was deployed to Afghanistan the day before her birthday.
I shuffle my...
This is not sugar-coated, kiddos. These are the cold hard truths of yours truly, Faith. This is what you need to know about me.
~I may seem like a generally happy person, but I’m not always. The negativity is hidden inside my thoughts, where it can’t infect others.
~When I’m sad or angry, I barely speak. If I do, I’ll most likely cry or say something I don’t mean.
~I’m a writer. I remember almost everything people say. I might make a book about it, but you wouldn’t know.
~I hate eggplant. I ate it when I was five, and I threw up after. No thanks, amigos.
~I’m Sicilian. I’m loud and I’m freakin’ proud.
~I’m kinda crazy, but mostly on the inside :P
~I have anxiety. I probably won’t go to your birthday parties or social gatherings, even if I know you well. It’s not your fault. Don’t take it personally.
~I’ve grown up listening to Bruce Springsteen...
I nod, my lips pursed, headphones to my ears, just listening. Listening to the sound waves and voice I can never have, listening and traveling to worlds and mindsets that my brain can’t handle going to by itself. Nodding. Tapping. Breathing.
Just breathing. Breathing, listening, tapping.
Humming, hands on my head. Hoodie over my head, the kind with no sleeves that my Papa hates. I start singing, belting the words even though my voice is crap.
My Mama hates when I sing. Says it’s a waste of time. Says I should spend that time praying. Says I should spend it doing productive things. Says I need to stop.
The only one who gets it is Rosa. She may be twenty-nine, have a kid and live alone with two cats, but boy does she get it. She’s the one who was kicked out of the house, chased down the street, homeless for three months. She’s the one that got back on...
Alleyways are the place I call home. The dampness and the darkness, the features that always scare other people away make me feel the safest. Those alleyways, the ones that hold the stories of drop-off street kids, homeless men and women who smell of flowers despite their looks, the stray dogs that everyone flee from before seeing their gentle personality. The graffiti drawings on the brick walls, the ones that only show through the guiding light of the moon and stars. The graffiti that everyone thinks are from horrible gang members, are actually from the nicest group of expressive teens you could think of.
The sounds of people running along them, the thumping echoing off the narrow walls. That is my music.
The laughter of roughed voices, the cursing, and the never-ending jokes are my secrets to keep.
The cries of the scared children, wondering where their Momma and Poppa went, those are my treasures to protect from harm.
Momma, before she was sick, used to take me and Brody to the boardwalk each night, despite the closed gates and signs that differed.
She would set down her favorite Rolling Stones blanket onto the crooked wood of the stretch, and lean back to settle tiny Brody on her chest. She would gently ease his pacifier into his mouth, coaxing him to dream. After his eyes closed and his subtle baby snoring started, she would carefully place him beside her and turn over to face me.
“Gemma, you are my soul star,” She would whisper, nudging my hair behind my ear. I would always giggle when she did that, the way she always blew on my face just to tickle my forehead. “You are my angel from the stars, my tiny one.”
Every night, she would turn on her back and hold my little hand, pointing out what seemed like thousands of constellations. Without fail, she would teach me each...
There are some people in this world who live and breathe the awakening moments when they get to disturb you. When they act like everything is fine one minute, and stab you in the back the next. There are some who poke and prod at your anxious levels, seeing how high it can go and then ease it back down with a force. There are some who simply cannot imagine what you could be feeling on the other end of this, but instead are worrying about how much better it’s making them feel. There are some who don’t care, thinking you’re this “perfect person”, when in reality you often feel like you can’t take the pressure of having friends anymore, feeling like you can’t do anything when nothing is making you feel that way. They smile effortlessly as your smile strains into a frown when you could burst out crying in an instant.
That is what they want.
I remember things too clearly for my own good. The smells, the sounds, the feelings, are all too real even when they are gone. I try to forget, but the images are so clear, so alive, that they cling to my thoughts like newborns to their mothers. There is no escaping it.
The memories of the bombs, the screams, the blood. The memories of having to leave my older brother behind, yelling at me to run before something else collapsed. The shrieks from Baba, desperately searching for Mama through the rubble. The sounds of my world falling apart as jets roared through the skies, not caring of who lived or who died. The memories of not knowing if I would be the one left dead or living.
The memories of seeing my family go one by one will haunt me forever. The memories of our government not caring about its people. The memories of not knowing who was breathing on...
Some days, I don’t want friends anymore. I want everybody to leave me alone, let me be, don’t look at me. I want people to stay away, but at the same time I don’t want them to go. At the same time, I want them to hug me. I want them to hold me, never let me go. I want friends. But I don’t.
I want people to look past my anxiety, to be friends with me longer than until it’s ‘weird’. I want a best friend, but at the same time I don’t. I want to travel the world, but at the same time I’m too scared to. I want 3,600 dogs, but at the same time, I know I can’t.
I want to be more positive, but sometimes I can’t.
I want to be the therapist to the friends I have, make sure they know I’m here to help them. But at the same time, I can’t. I...
November used to be such a fun time.
Grams coming in with the pumpkin pie. Uncle Yin with the cranberry sauce, a trail of cousins and aunts and whoever else wanted to come behind him. Momma, at the kitchen archway, leaning against it with that warm smile of hers. Pa at the stove, ‘secretly’ trying the gravy for the turkey that always came out a little dry on the left side. Me, still upstairs struggling with the pair of dress pants Momma always insists I wear.
Cam, the second his foot touched the inside of our home, was always at the board game cupboard in the living room. Cam, who smiled through everything, even when he dropped his plate of pie on the floor when he knew it was the last piece. Cam, who was more than a brother to me than the drunken biological one who is God knows where now.
It had to take Cam,...
Flower girl. A twelve-year-old flower girl, yet the bride says everyone will think it’s cute. Think it’s cute when they stuff me in a dress made for a four-year-old. Think it’s cute when I have to smile like I’m two, throwing bright pink rose petals only for them to be stepped on by a high-heeled lady I’ve never met. Think it’s cute when the sleeves of the dress puff out enough to reach space. Yeah, the 80’s called. They want their sleeves back.
Wes had to pick Sandra to marry. Or Sandy or Sammy or whatever she calls herself. Aunt Ginny sets him off into the world for less than a year, and now he wants to get married already. He probably just found a random girl at a bar and then got down on one knee that same night. Seems what he would’ve done, saying that he took the time he did to pop the question. My...
“Olwen?” Iris whispers, pulling me out of my dreams. I stretch, yawning.
“Is it time yet?” She asks, and I hear her bed squeak as she turns over. I glance at the alarm clock, flashing a blue glow onto my face. I blink.
Four fifty-six am. The waves crash onto the beach outside, and the noise softly fills our dark room. I kick the covers off my bed, and blindly search the floor.
I find a somewhat-clean pair of shorts to put on, and tug on a sweatshirt. Iris is already up, jumping around the room as I try to catch her to put her pants on.
I open a drawer of the nightstand and fish around for a jacket her size. Once my hand finds its zipper, I pull it out and fit it on her. She smiles.
“I wanna find a snail!” She says, bobbing up and down. I smile back, sleep trying to lure me back...