You were a warrior before God had even struck your soul with life. You were a vision born by the collision of two humans, a love that would last an eternity thrusting you into the living world. Your veins had been destined to bleed liquid gold before you had ever been hurt, your tears crystals that would bless the earth as you took your first breath. Your smile was created to bring light back to villages that had been dark for hundreds of years. Your heart was born heavy, tired from carrying those who could no longer carry themselves, a guardian angel delicately placed into the body of a newborn. Your laugh would restore life into those who had forgotten their purpose.
The day you sung your first word, gravity became a myth, and the gate between humans and the afterlife was opened when you took your first step. Within each coil of your hair, strength and courage laid to...
The grass seemed greener every time we went somewhere new. The plane rides and train tickets piled up, miles traded for fuel and sorrows for beers. Majestic oceans, cheap motels. Our aesthetic was tragically beautiful and no one ever seemed to care enough to stop us. We were just living while we could, a blissful ignorance blanketing our senses as the liquor softened the blow of past mistakes. We were in love with the idea of happiness, scouring the country for any last bit of hope to support our ignorance of thinking we had a future together. Kids, white picket fenced house, steady jobs. We were told the world was ours and believed each lie fed. They say love is blinding but we hadn’t a clue what we were, what we should’ve been, what we could’ve and wished we would have turned into as time went on.
Heroin and oxy and fairy lights and loud friends. Beer pong, sunken couches,...
We all wondered if this was how the world was going to end when he walked in the room. We all wondered if that gun was real, if the threats he screamed were truthful, if the mask he wore was covering his identity or more rather his dignity. His voice was loud, yet it wavered, empty but dripping with pain that gave its vocals to heroin. The drive in his eyes was from the adrenaline rush, no one able to tell if he would regret this action or not once the mania wore off. No one was able to tell if they would still be breathing to ask once it did.
We’d seen him on the news, a figure that was a fairytale through the screen now spitting in our faces. We tried to pretend it wasn’t happening, surrendering to a man who’d sold himself to the streets long ago. Hands up, heads down. It wasn’t new. We’d been through...
The music still played, overhyped and unneeded, just like the rest of us. We sat in a circle on the floor, ignoring the couches and just listening for any movement. A pulse could’ve been Genevieve laughing, but we fell silent as she wrapped her blue flannel around her waist, neon orange sweatshirt vibrant in the dark. She breathed in, let her Adidas bucket hat fall over her eyes, pulled her knees up to her chin and closed her eyes.
Geneva, Genevieve – all the same. All the same leader, all the same lost soul, all the same goofy girl who forever drowned herself in fluorescent bathroom lights and singers with raspy tones. She called it an aesthetic, we lovingly called it a problem.
The reason we ended up in a karaoke bar in the city with less than fifty dollars in our pockets combined and drunk on sleep deprivation will never make sense, but at that moment it didn’t have...
We live in a world captivated by negativity spread by our own kind. We say to save this world we have destroyed ourselves. We say protect us, from others, from ourselves, from uncertainty. We fear life and everything in it but love it just the same, even though the task has taken lives in so many ways and granted new ones daily. The daunting thought of living has killed. The negativity has killed. The diseases have killed. Our own neighbors have killed out of rage, out of fear, out of dominance. Yet no one knows why – in the long run, no one will remember. Yes, it’s awful, but there’s only so many generations a story can be held onto before it’s strained to lies.
There’s so much negativity, so much unfairness, so much sadness, and we can only take so much of everything. So when is enough, enough? When will you learn that every pessimistic decision you make will...
Pride was so deeply bestowed into her heart that she didn’t care to flinch when the cries of people she’d hurt silenced all else. She spoke as though seeing herself through the eyes of God, a cherished child who deserved the world, just as her parents promised. Narcissism wore her clothing, shared her smile, mimicked her walk and stole her voice just as fast as she took your hand. She swore to lead you to greatness, a journey worth the everlasting pain that would come back to haunt you for longer than what was thought to be necessary. A friendship built so densely on the art of being fake that even a bullet could pierce through it.
Yet you couldn’t see the flaws until it was too late, until your heart laid shattered on the floor in front of you, broken in ways you could never explain.
She walked in a way that intrigued some and averted most others. The way she carried herself, confident in such a way that made her radiant, was often what intimidated newcomers. Her lipstick told the stories of the men she’d kissed but vowed never to love, her tattered boots the tales of miles wandered too far. Yet when commitment showed its face and smiled, she ran as far as her legs would carry her. A friendship too strongly built, a lover turning into someone who mattered, a baby whose giggle became contagious – was the mixture of a real life, a real sense of being that she could never bring herself to handle.
You could love her as much as you could ever love someone, but she’d never feel the same about you.
It’s scary when people start to see the beauty in things that aren’t meant to be beautiful. His soul was blinded by ignorance as the world burned behind him, a smile set on his face as the warmth of growing flames set the mood of comfort within him.
She disappeared again silently that night– into the crowd, music blaring, slowly seeping into the trench of people that wouldn’t do her any good. I knew what would happen, what would become of her, but at that point no one could stop her. Not even me, and that fact ate me from the inside out for months.
Natalia, when her mind was made, turned into the most stubborn person to ever walk planet earth. Her confidence carried her to the achievements she made, the cautions of others merely registering in her brain as reasons to continue. She did what she wanted, spoke to whoever she pleased, ate whatever food was put in front of her, and never questioned anything twice.
“If I’ve only got one life,” she told me one morning after I had slept over, stuffing her face with a forkful of eggs. “I really don’t have anything to lose. If I die, I’ll die doing something epic, you...
Ma never seemed to care where I was, as long as it was out of her sight. She never payed any mind to who’s car I was in, what drinks I bought, what songs I played on the radio at midnight. She never hesitated to go out, to waste her nights away with yet another man who would break her heart.
Ma only spoke to me in English when there was no other option. Korean was her go to, raising her voice with the guilty pleasure of knowing no one could comprehend her scolding. She liked to pretend I wasn’t there – just this little girl who came into her life and wouldn’t leave. She had me young and still refuses to accept that she’s a mother. I’m the dead weight and she’s the burdened.
I ran away three times in one month at the age of seven. My windows were never locked, the hug of drunken sleep holding my...
Why I Write
I write when spoken words aren’t enough.
I write to cope with the monsters inside my head, to put myself into other shoes, to imagine infinite lives of people that only exist within my mind.
Stories explain life better than any guidelines that could exist. An imagination is priceless, so not using it would be dehumanizing.
What people don’t understand about writing is that you are constantly, constantly, evolving as both a person and a writer. The more you see, the more you know, the more you begin to comprehend the world, is when your sentences grow and your mind wanders.
When bad things happen, I shut down. I’ve been numb for long periods of time because of my mental health, but writing has kept me going. I write it out, whether it be through a rant that no one ever sees, or a story about a random person I made up who’s going through a similar situation to mine....
Memories come in the form of bruises. Memories from when Pa had too much to drink and took his anger out the wrong way, memories from Jamie’s jealousy over a text sent to another boy, memories from when I had no choice but to fall to the ground in defeat during fights.
Fights were more verbal than physical when it comes to my father. He learned that words could cut deeper than wounds, so I quickly filled his place in my heart with music. It drowned out the name-calling, the screaming, the never-ending ‘discipline’ over me stepping with my right foot rather than my left. So, surrendering before something could even start became muscle memory. No one ever stopped to ask if I was okay. No one ever wondered about my well-being, if I was being fed at night, no ‘oh, Viv? How’s your day?’ It was shuffle along to your next class and drag your weight with you. Join...
Xavier was the type of boy who never said much. Eye-contact and small talk were never his things, so he was seen as an outcast by my peers and quickly forgotten about. People mumbled his name on the off chance they spoke about him, worried he’d hear and finally speak up. Zana used to tell me it was the quietest ones that should be feared. That the ones who had the least to say had the most genius minds. But, of course, that was before we met the kid and realized he was just as stupid as the rest of us.
Zana was whimsical. She acted like a hippie and took it as a compliment when people called her such. She drank cold tea, had a diet that mainly consisted of croissants, and had come to the conclusion that her sister was, in fact, a little shit. The second Zana got her license, she bought a yellow BMW and blasted...
My father never told me about the real world. He never wanted me to know about the violence, the hatred, the never-ending blanket of despair that enslaved the city. He only told me about the good things, which rarely came up. When they did, people held onto them forever and clung to them like life support. Hope was a hard thing to find where we lived. I had to find out about the negative side of living on my own.
The heater broke again last night. My face still presents the fresh bruise from school, and half the food in the apartment is gone. But Dad’s still smiling.
“Did you see the paper?” he asks, sliding into the chair across from mine. “Your football team won last night.”
“Yeah. Pretty cool, huh?” I stir my spoon in the lumpy oatmeal. I’ve never had the heart to tell him half of them are junkies and the coach cheats his way through...
Waking up every morning quickly became unbearable when we moved. The traffic outside no longer lulled me to sleep. The people walking along the streets never seemed to have interesting conversations anymore. The joy of eavesdropping disappeared, and the coffee never seemed to be enough to stay awake.
I gave up on makeup, the bags under my eyes too heavy for any brand of concealer to hide. The carefree part of my style started to become noticeable by others. Sweatpants and the same shirt with a different cardigan no longer made the cut. People started to notice, and rumors started spreading. Apparently, I’m homeless and the school let me in out of pity. That works for me. Friends were overrated anyway. My friendships always failed eventually, so putting in work for nothing seemed unnecessary.
Putting in work for anything seemed unnecessary. Homework, projects, drawing for fun, going outside, was all bigger than me. Everything was scary and tough and vulnerable...
I pull my jacket on, stuffing my feet into boots that are two sizes too big. Daniel refused to buy me new ones when my old ones got too small, and Pa just didn’t have the energy to care.
Daniel tells me to hurry up and get ready each morning, chucking a pillow at my face and dragging me out of my bed. He never fails to tell me how lazy and stupid he thinks I am, how bad my hair looks. Ma used to say it was because he loves me, but she’s been gone since last year. A new job in New York called, and she had no hesitation to leave our broken souls behind. Pa stopped working and Daniel joined a gang at school. As for me, I’ve had no friends since November and have never felt better.
Kids around here have never known life outside of the city. They’ve grown up in the middle of violence,...
I constantly long for autumn. I constantly wish for the crisp air, the annoying leaves that I secretly love, the cozy sweaters and comfortable boots. I await the mornings that dew covers the land, where walking to the bus stop is both refreshing and unbearable. I love the feeling of running through the chilled air with only a t-shirt and shorts on during cross-country. I love being able to feel at ease when I peer outside, how the sun sets early and sleep calls quickly.
Autumn is when I do miss the sun, when I’m feeling down often and I don’t feel motivated. Autumn is when I constantly long for spring, even though a treacherous winter is looming in the distance. I always need something to do, or else my thoughts will catch up with me and my anxiousness will arise. I can’t handle the seemingly never-ending darkness. I don’t want to put up with the multiple layers of clothing...
Mama didn’t want me going outside anymore after school since the neighbors started talking. A group of eighteen-year-olds had started infesting the streets, smoking weed every night and drinking like the sun would never show again. No one knew where they came from, and no one knew when they would leave. Police cars would make rounds daily, but they always let them be.
I’d pass them in the morning, huddled in a corner on the side street and whispering. Their eyes were red, tired expressions drawn on all of their faces, longing for some sort of comfort. I’d pull my hood further over my face and hurry away. Everyone said they were punks, to not engage them, to just stay away. But Mama saw their faces as well. She saw them when she’d get into her car long before I started my walk to school. She would put the key into the ignition, ready to go to work, but just...
“Chiyo,” my brother says, shaking my shoulders. “you gotta get up, kid.”
“Get out of my room, idiot.” I groan, rolling over and burying my face into my pillow. He sighs.
“Well it ain’t my fault if Ma beats your ass, then,” he laughs, and I hear him start sprinting down the hallway as I get out of bed.
“Hey!” I scream, pulling sweatpants over my pajama shorts and running out of the room. I swerve around the corner, into the kitchen. “Baba!” I shout.
“Baba ain’t here, shorty,” Taro yells, standing at the front door and cramming his foot into a sneaker. “He’s already there.”
“Then why the hell did you wake me up so late?” I yell back, stuffing dress shoes under my arm.
“I woke up ten minutes ago. It’s both our faults.” He throws my gym shoes at me. “Now stop being dramatic and start running.”
I glare at him.
Nobody wants to hear that their brother was arrested. No one wants to hear that he was selling drugs, the one thing his Momma made him promise to never do. No one wants to hear that, yes, he’s just like his father - going straight to prison, and hell too.
It was a Friday night the cops rolled up. Damion had just asked me to the school dance, and I was high on life and loving everything. Momma and I were in the living room, me sitting in between her legs on the floor, while she sat on the couch and braided my hair. She wanted to watch that crappy TV show she never stopped talking about, and for once I didn’t fight her on it. I was so stupidly in love with a boy I’d had a crush on all year that I didn’t care. The dance would’ve started in an hour, so I didn’t have to suffer all...
The moment someone stops breathing is when everything can come crashing down instantly. The moment they look at you, a scared yet peaceful look on their face, is when the whole world starts to unravel. You replay every moment you’ve ever had with them in your head, silently whispering ‘no’ over and over again. No, this can’t be happening. No, this isn’t true. No, just hold on for one more minute, but they’ve already made their choice. They shake their head gently against the pillow, squeezing your hand for the last time as their eyes water. They take one last drink of the living world, looking deeply into your eyes, and telling you that everything will be okay.
The moment they set your hand down and slowly close their eyes is when the ground starts to slip beneath you. The moment the monitor flat-lines, the moment you fall back into your uncle’s arms, is when everything that once made sense...
Leah sits next to the pond, her legs crossed and her sad eyes searching the sky.
“You ever wonder if aliens are up there, Mei?” she asks quietly, picking at the dirt on the ground. “You ever wonder if there’s more to this world that what we know?” I look at her then, the only friend I ever had who showed up again yesterday after four years of no contact, with her ripped jeans and a fragile look on her face that I never thought I’d see on her.
Her mother would have never let her out of the house wearing what she is now, but with the Instagram and Twitter stalking I’ve done, ole Mallory Ross is out of the picture now. Sometimes drinking takes over your life, and that’s what happened to the cookie-cutter mom Leah had.
“I don’t know,” I respond. Her gaze hasn’t left the clouds. “Why?”
“Sometimes what we got isn’t enough, you...
I stare at the ceiling, the weight of my body sinking slowly into the unfamiliar mattress of a bed that used to belong to someone I will never meet. My eyelids become heavy, closing slightly as the soft wind blows in through the window. Lights from the city below flash against the wall, creating a silent show for anyone who wants to attend. My aching feet start to soothe as I rest them on the bed, my mind starting to finally slow. Smells of soft spice and fresh rain fill the air, traveling around the small room and onto my warm face. People talk in the streets and the languages mix into one beautiful way of life. Calmness washes over my body, and a long day starts to quietly drift away into dreaming.
The paint itches against my skin, making the urge to wipe it off even more irresistible. Her little fingers trace the brush across my nose, onto my cheeks, up to my forehead. My eyes are closed, the smell of the pigment making me want to gag. But she’s happy.
She giggles every time I smile the slightest. She tells me not to move and dips her brush in a random color for more paint. This time she colors my arm, turning it into a wild creation of purples and blues and pinks. Her small eyes study her work and she sighs, telling me it needs more ‘something’. A sharpie comes into view as her fingers outline the now dried paint.
“Wren – “ I start, but she cuts me off my pressing her finger to my lips. I laugh. For some reason, my face and limbs are always the ones being used as a canvas. I don’t mind, though. Her...
“Do you think anyone ever cares?” I ask, laying on the cold grass and staring up at the sky. The moon shines bright around us, casting a glow onto the water below.
“Cares about what?” he responds, a heavy tone dragging out his words. A yawn escapes from his mouth and fills the air.
“That we come out here,” I turn my head to look at him. He’s looking straight ahead, resting his chin on his knees. His brown hair is roughed up. He still hasn’t remembered to duck the branches in the woods when we walk. “It’s almost midnight.”
He just laughs.
“You’re the one that dragged me out here. I was fine with sleeping at home, but no,” he side-eyes me, grinning. “You have to act like Bear Grylls and lay on rocks all night.” He picks up a pebble and chucks it at me, stopping next to my head. I sit up.
“You have three seconds before...
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...
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...
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...