The following pieces of writing are from Elizabeth Hanly’s course: Creative Non-Fiction.
I DREAM OF MY MOTHER
By: Medjyna Moreau
“Even when the darkness shall come
Keep your head up
Cause a new day will come.”
From the small city of Delmas near Port-au-Prince, my younger brother and I used to walk the three miles to school each morning. On most of those days, I would be called to go sur la cour de l’école (the school’s court) by the principal to hear, once again, that I had to return home in shame due to nonpayment of tuition. One of my classmates, Phoebe, noticed that I had been missing extensive school days. She told her parents, and they became eager to support my family. But my mama refused their help because she wasn’t friendly with Phoebe’s parents. They started visiting my family and I more frequently until one day, Phoebe’s parents insisted that they take me to their house permanently, convincing my mama that walking six miles daily was unacceptable for a ten-year-old child like me. Phoebe’s parents persuaded my mama that I would have a better future living with them. Thus, I became a part of Phoebe’s parents’ household. Soon I learned that I would not be treated equally, yet I was glad and grateful that they made it possible for me to gain an education.
After two years of taking care of the household while enrolled in school, a sudden and violent shaking of the ground changed everything. The 2010 Haiti earthquake, a 7.0 magnitude on the Richter scale was so catastrophic that most Port-au-Princiens thought the end of the world had come. I was with Phoebe and her little sisters in the living room of their home when I felt the earth move. Instinctively, we ran into the furthest back room of the house, holding on tight to each other as we had no idea what was happening. When the earth stopped shaking, I opened the door and saw that half of the house had disappeared. One of our neighbors rushed to help us get out. I stumbled outside in bare feet, wearing an ill-fitted dress. Surrounded by too many dead bodies to count, I started crying. Within minutes, I heard calls for help and people rescuing their loved ones under collapsed houses. I wondered if my family and Phoebe’s parents, who were not with us during the quake, were still alive. With neighbors who quickly gathered to take refuge on a mountaintop, I spent the next five days forging for food and shelter. Once, when we decided to move further up the mountain away from the stench of dead bodies, Phoebe’s parents, who had been desperately looking for us, found the three of us – struggling to climb barefoot.
The day after the quake, I could hear the whirring helicopters overhead as they came to our rescue. Later, I learned that the rescue efforts to feed us, clothe us, and give us tents were global initiatives; volunteers from the United States, Dominican Republic, and France also cleared the debris and streets, facilitating mobile transportation. Of course, at twelve, I thought the whole world was ending, and I had lost my loved ones forever. Without cell phones or Internet connections, I could only cry for my Mama. I prayed that she and my younger brother were alive. Later that night, after Phoebe’s parents and I set up the tent, it appeared as if it was going to rain. We panicked. Even I as a child, knew the rain would threaten to raise the stench of the dead bodies under the collapsed houses. As the raindrops started falling, Phoebe’s parents and I join our fellow refugees who chanted and prayed loudly that the rain stops. After just a few minutes the rain stopped as quickly as it had started. Along with all the others, I shouted Merci, merci Jésus, (Thank you, thank you Jesus) waving my arms in joy and gratitude.
Unknown to me, my mama and younger brother had begun walking for miles from a village outside of Port-au-Prince to get to Phoebe’s house. Much later, I learned that along the way, Mama had been repeatedly calling out my name. My brother, exhausted from walking, said to my mama that they would never find me and that I was probably dead. My mama sighed and said, “Je continuerai à chercher pour ma petite fille. (I will keep looking for my little girl.)” For the next ten hours straight, my mother walked and walked, calling out my name. In a dream-like state, I had awakened under a tree on the mountaintop, where I had been stoking coal in order to cook for Phoebe’s family. At that very moment, I thought I heard my brother’s voice. As tired as I was, I thought I might have been hallucinating. But when I looked up and saw my mother’s face, I couldn’t move. I was still in a state of shock. With tears in my eyes, I yelled “Mama, Mama!” But she couldn’t hear me. She kept on walking. I yelled again – this time, louder. I forced myself up and started running to her. My mama turned around and started crying. Hugging her, I felt alive again. We held on tight to each other for a while, weeping. I had dreamed of what it would feel like if I ever saw her again. Now, I was in her arms.
By: Valeria Salazar
Today is Sunday and we are finally going to the beach. I’ve been begging mommy and daddy to go and today is finally the day.
I like going to the beach because I get to eat as much ice cream and chips as I want and build sand castles with Daddy. He lets me pick and give the ice cream man the money because he knows I am a big girl. I love Daddy. He is always happy and likes going to the beach as much as I do. We always joke around by saying that when we are together we become one person because we speak and act the same way. Mommy gets jealous and says I love Daddy more than her. I always tell her that’s not true and give her a kiss so she gets happy.
Mommy told me to wake up early and get ready because we have to drive for an hour to get there. Last night, I left everything ready so that this morning I could be the first one out the door. I am wearing my favorite swimsuit today. It’s the pink with white stripes one Daddy got me when he went to Colombia. I am also taking my purple backpack with my beach toys in it. I can’t wait to get to the beach and play with Daddy all day long.
Ready to leave, I go downstairs to grab one of the empanadas Margarita, our cooking lady, is making. She makes the best food and always pleases me by cooking me whatever I want. She is not coming to the beach with us because today is her day off and she is going to visit her family.
I had just given the empanada a bite when I heard mommy crying. Why is she crying? She tends to cry all the time but this time is different. She shouldn’t be crying, because we are going to the beach. Margarita tells me not to worry about it and to keep eating, but now I hear Mommy yelling at Daddy. I’m trying to understand what she is saying, but I can’t.
I don’t like when Mommy and Daddy yell at each other. I don’t know what’s happening. Are they yelling because Mommy is taking too long to get ready or because Daddy woke up too late? I think it’s because Daddy woke up late, he always has a hard time waking up early because he stays up late watching The Simpsons. Ugh, I told him we had to get up early for the beach. But it’s okay. I’ll go up and give Mommy a kiss so she gets happy and I’ll tell Daddy to hurry up.
With half of the empanada in my hand, I start walking up the stairs and hear a door shutting closed. Oh! I guess they are coming downstairs now. I turn around and go back to the table.
I keep eating my empanada while Margarita keeps telling me about her plans for today. margarita is telling me about her plans, but I can’t stop thinking about what’s happening with Mommy and Daddy I am trying to understand why they are not coming downstairs. We are going to be late for the beach and then all the good spots are going to be taken and I’m not going to have enough time to build my sand castles.
Mommy keeps crying and yelling. She is saying bad words to Daddy, but I don’t hear him saying anything back. I want to go up and see what’s happening, but I’m scared. I don’t want Mommy to get mad at me. She always tells me I can’t interrupt when she and Daddy are talking.
I hear a door opening and see someone coming downstairs. It’s Daddy. I think we are ready to leave. Finally, I’ve been waiting for an hour already. I am so excited.
But wait, why is Daddy carrying a suitcase and all of his clothes on his hands. Why is he crying? I have never seen Daddy cry, and I still can hear Mommy crying upstairs. Why are they both crying if we are going to the beach? They are supposed to be happy just like I am. Daddy is talking to me, why is he saying sorry so much? He is hugging me so hard I almost can’t breathe, he is still crying and telling me how much he loves me. I know he loves me, but let’s go, we are already late. He starts walking to the door, says bye to Margarita and me and leaves. Why did Daddy leave without Mommy and me? And why did he take all of his clothes with him? He doesn’t need that at the beach. Is he going on a trip? I thought we were ready to go to the beach, guess I’ll have to wait a little longer.
A LONG-DISTANCE LETTER
By: Maria Torre
Dad puts his plate aside, and it means lunch time is over.
Today, Mom prepared her cannelloni and although it was delicious, it means that there is a pile of dishes to wash, bigger than any other normal day. Each of my five siblings has a chore to do after lunch, but I’m pretty sure I got the coolest one to do. Even though my hands will look like raising by the end of the day, I always get to turn on the radio to listen to the afternoon music and programs. The sun from the summer afternoon always comes through the kitchen window warming my body, making me feel I’m at the beach and not washing dishes.
I have around eight more plates to go when suddenly, the music from the radio stops, and the radio broadcast guy starts announcing that they are doing a special program. In the program, they help people from around the world to meet each other. According to their instructions, all we have to do is call them, give them our address and apparently, someone will contact us back via writing.
The eight plates left to wash seemed eternal by now. I rinsed them with only water, hoping no one will notice. I dry my raisin-looking hands and I find the phone to call the radio. Mom always locks the phone so we don’t make calls to weird places. However, my best friend Jenny taught me a trick to make my calls even if it was locked.
I made the call and I gave them my address and my personal information. If anything were to be arriving it would be specifically for me and not any of my other siblings as usual. As I hang up the phone and put it back quietly. I feel that my hopes of having a friend from another country are nearly useless. Who would want to write back to me?
A month had passed. While I was sitting on the patio playing with one of our cats named Pepe, I heard some noises coming from outside of the house. I ran with Pepe to see what it was. I see our mailman putting some correspondence in our mailbox. Sadly, every time the mail company comes, there is never anything for me. I left Pepe inside the house to quickly grab the mail. As I’m looking through the letters. I suddenly see one with my name on it. Coming from France, the sender signed as Christopher Galon. I hug Pepe and start dancing around the house.
I tried to read the letter but it was all in English. I waited for my older brother Ramon to arrive since he speaks English. Ramon translated the letter for me. The letter came from a young French boy. He was from a small town just like me and he wanted to be friends. He sent pictures along with the letter so that I could see what he looked like. He was very handsome and his handwriting was fancy. As soon as I finished reading what Ramon had translated for me, I knew I had to write back. I didn’t know a word of English, so I made a deal with my brother. The deal was that I would do some of his house chores and in return, he would translate the letters for me.
At every beginning of each month, I write a letter for Christopher to tell him about my dreams, my life, and anything that I can think of. We have been writing for over a year now. He tells me he loves me, but I’m not quite sure that I can be his girlfriend if he is so far away. I feel I love him too, but my parents will never let me travel to France alone. I’m only nineteen.
He has become quite more fluent in Spanish although most of his letters are in English, he always signs in Spanish saying that loves me and that I’m special. In his letter, he tells me about his times abroad from home, and he sends me airmail from each place that he visits.
I started my first year of law school this month, but I don’t really understand anything. I still dream and want to be a singer or veterinarian. Do you think that If I moved to France I could be either one?
I will be turning twenty years old in a month; will you be coming to my party?
I miss you and I feel like you are not writing as much. Is everything ok?
I had some wine and cheese the other day and you told me that in France you always have wine and cheese. I don’t think it is the same cheese, but it tasted really good. I really wish I could be in France. The pictures you sent me of your place are beautiful. I love the flowers and how green everything is since green is my favorite color. I promise to go one day so we can drink wine together. I wrote a song for you about how we became close friends and I always sing it for my friends.
We got another cat that reminds me of you because he is very handsome. I’m sending you a picture of the cat so you can see him.
Con todo mi amor,
I wish you a happy new year with a lot of joy, fun, and love. I hope you had a very nice birthday. I’m really sorry about my long silence, but I don’t feel well during this time. I was obliged to stop my studies in December. Every French boy has to give one year of his life for the army. I have left everything. They have sent me very far from my place. Nothing to see nothing to learn. Nothing to hope. Just war, war for… nothing. They have my freedom for one year.
I am now for three short days at home. No green clothes for three days. I am sorry this letter is so pessimist it will change when all this black period is over. Thank you very much for your last letter. It was like a piece of the sun. My sun.
I have nothing to add for now. Sorry for my delays, but be sure you stay by anyway in my heart.
Please if you are not too busy, write to me soon. Give my hello to your family.
Besos, Te Amo
Someday the sun will be back!
As 1987 goes by, Christopher still writes me letters but very randomly. I know he is serving his one year in the army and that he is not happy there. I pray for him every day to return to his beloved home. I fear that as time goes by my letters are not enough to keep him strong. Maybe he does not think about me that much anymore.
Mi querida Betsy,
I feel bad for you for my long silence. I am really sorry but please, forgive me! Thank you very much for your letters; It is always and always nice to hear from you. I have very good news to tell to you. I have finished with the army!
They sent me back in spring. God has heard your prayers!! I have not written to you before because I was very busy and I needed time to write a letter for you. It is nice to know that somewhere somebody is thinking about me, especially if it is you.
Te Quiero mucho también, Besos
Reading through his letter, I felt relief knowing that he still cares for me. Now he was back at home and he was arranging everything to go back to school and finish his last year of studies. Towards the end of his letter, he confessed to me that he has had a girlfriend for two months, but that they had broken up. Despite having a girlfriend, he said he could not stop thinking about me. He said that I was always in his heart and that he would be waiting for the only things that he could see from me…my letters.
With summer in the air, the city is hotter than ever. Since it is Saturday, I don’t have to go to my university. This gives me plenty of time to go to the postal office and send my usual letter to Christopher. We have been writing to each other for almost five years now. Over 40 letters coming in and leaving out between Venezuela and different countries.
I have been praying for years for him to be happy. Through the years in his letters, he has told me that his true happiness would be to have me by his side and to have his own winery in France. I know I might never get to see him. Not at least until I finish law school and I get a job to make enough money to buy a ticket to France.
While leaving the postal office, I start walking back home and I sink to my thoughts on how I have lived an unimaginable friendship/romance with a French boy. Even though he has been far away this whole time, he feels closer than most people in this town.
“Senorita, disculpe,” I heard someone calling behind me, and I see a taxi driver parked on my right side.
“Yes?” I replied willingly to help
“I need to get to this address and I know is around here.”
He hands me a piece of paper that looks like an envelope with an address written on it. I started reading it and I notice that the address is practically right next to my house. Even though I find it extremely odd.
I start explaining to the taxi driver how he can get to his destination. I told him that he could follow me because I was going to the exact same place. As I was about to continue walking, the window from the back seat of the taxi starts to slowly roll down.
I see someone with hazel eyes and white skin. He is handsome. He is here, he is Christopher.
By: Lena Rodriguez
New Year’s Day 2017, 1:00pm
The ER doorbell rang.
The door was close to me, but I was busy with my favorite patient of the day. I slid the curtain open, glanced over the nursing station and saw our tech sitting in one of the chairs.
Yeah, he’s probably going to get that. Closing the curtain again, I returned to the adorable elderly man that was sitting in front of me. I started labeling the blood that was by the bedside table, and let him continue talking about his younger days in Costa Rica, and how he learned Spanish.
The ER doorbell rang again, but there’s was a voice this time. A man was arguing but no one seemed to reply back.
Quickly, but slowly enough so my patient didn’t notice that I was starting to tune him out, I placed the labeled blood tubes in a biohazard bag, ready to be taken up by our tech that still hadn’t opened that door.
“I’m sorry Mr. Jones, would you excuse me for a minute?” I sighed, hoping he noticed I wanted to listen the rest of his story but had to attend the door.
“Certainly,” he smiled in agreement.
I rushed to the door, opened it, and through came a young man, very tall and looking like three of me could probably fit inside of him. He was cuffed, behind him were two officers that looked like they had run a 10k marathon.
“Where do you guys want him.” one of the officers panted.
“Uh,” I gulped. Veryprofessional, Lena. “Bed 8.”
As they lead him in, the young man took a look around his surroundings and finally landed his eyes on me. He furrowed his brows, let his mouth curl into snarl, and started ranting nonsense again.
What a great way to start the new year.
One of the nurses came, along with our tech and the ER doctor. They watched as the officers uncuffed him.
“I’m just going to say it right off the bat,” one of the officers said. “He’s going to have to be medicated eventually”
Yeah, no shit, Sherlock.
Minutes later, the officers were gone and we were left with an uncuffed not-so friendly man, who kept telling our tech he was going to crush him.
…I’ll leave this one for the boys.
I got the blood I had left on the counter for the tech to take, and took it to the lab myself. I was literally gone for five minutes, and when I get back, I see nurses and techs from other floors, running around like the world was going to end.
“What’s going on?” I asked scanning the room.
“We had to call a Dr. Strong on him, he’s getting more aggressive,” one of the techs responded.
“Nobody in this room can put him down, look at the size of that dude!” said another tech.
I made my way through the small crowd of people.
Even though every nerve in my body was screaming for me to get away, I reached him. I stood in front of him. And I looked into his eyes.
“Hi, my name is Lena and I’m one of….” before I could finish he started roaring, spit flying everywhere, ranting again. People kept calling his name but that just spurred him on.
I was lost until I hear him say something about District 12.
Profile him, I ordered myself. He doesn’t like eye contact. It makes him hyperverbal. Calling him by his name triggers him too. This dude is somehow into The Hunger Games. So, I tried one more time.
“What name do you go by?” I asked as I was putting on my gloves.
“Call me Versace,” he snapped.
If you are stuck in some weird Hunger Game split reality how can your name be Versace? I guess it didn’t matter.
“How…how are things going in, uh…in, uh…District—District 12?” I managed to choke out, hoping this would work.
Behind me I hear one of the nurses telling him they need to give him medication.
“But only if Katniss does it,” he grumbled. I grinned in victory. Guess I’m Katniss.
I got the syringe from the other nurse, and gestured my left arm so he could position himself for me to medicate him.
“Things are just getting crazier and crazier, man,” he sighed.
You’ve got him.
“Rest easy, man,” I went on as he lied down in bed.
Me and two other ER nurses, Jake and Carl, got in the elevator to take Versace to the psych ward after finally processing him in the unit. He was still in bed, knocked out. We moved him through the stretcher to avoid waking him up. Pressing five, the elevator takes off.
I hate elevators. Watching the little screen, the floor as we go up, 2, 3, 4…the elevator stops. Somebody must be going up as well. But the elevator only opens about 3 inches and we hear no one on the other side.
Fuck, fuck, fuck. This can’t be happening.
Our eyes widened, we stared at each other as we circled Versace’s bed.
We couldn’t ring the alarm. We texted our coworkers letting them know they needed to call the engineer to come get us out.
Carl stood a few inches in front of where the elevator was opened, like he was running out air. I sat down in the corner and took off my jacket. Deep breaths. But it was useless, my entire spine was all tingly. I started playing 2048 on my phone while Jake mumbled shit to himself. Fifteen minutes later, the engineer gets to us and starts working his magic.
After what seemed like an eternity of tinkering, he sat back groaning. “Yeah, I’m going to have to call rescue to get you guys out.”
“Shh,” Jake put his finger over his lips, “If he wakes up, we’re done.”
Finally, half an hour later, we hear the engineer and the rescue team. The noise starts incrementing but all three of us just kept looking at the door hoping it would open. One of the rescue guys tell us in about ten minutes he should be done.
There’s pounding on the one right side of the elevator. Looking over to see where the noise was coming from I lock eyes with Versace.
His eye wide open. Mean boy mug look on.
By: Samantha Yi
My hair was patchy with salt and sand, slicked with seawater down to the strands. I hastily tied my hair up, wincing slightly as my wet hair caught onto the rubber. Today we would be departing from our stay at Myrtle Beach. My beach towel wasn’t in my luggage bag, meaning I must’ve left it hanging outside.
I skipped, barefoot across our small hotel room and towards the balcony. As I stepped out onto the warm cement floor, I caught the scent of liquid sunscreen from far below and felt the wind carry a spray of water across my face. My mind faltered at the comforting presence. I knew I was supposed to be packing, but I just needed to sit out here for a minute.
Closing the door behind me, I bent down and sat cross legged on the floor. There was a plastic chair next to me, but there’s just something about sitting on the floor, with the bare skin of my thighs melding with the heat of the crusty pavement that makes me feel more real. I placed a tanned hand on my cheek, gazing at the distant waves, splashing onto the sand like firecrackers, and then receding back into the blue.
Suddenly, thoughts of themcame flooding in all over again. I bit my lip hard. It was like watching my mother and sister fight. I hear shouts and feel the walls quaking as I try to study. The yelling grows—becoming larger and larger until my sister would tell our mother to leave. They would stop talking. And slowly, each would part ways back into their rooms, leaving behind only a thick tension. It was like feeling my heart clench with worry, knowing that their fighting was tearing them apart further and further each day.
I watch them from afar as they burst and fizzle apart like seafoam. From early morning, when my sister puts on her earphones while leaving the house, to avoid speaking to our mother on their ride to school to late into the night, when she would cook her own dinner to avoid eating our mothers cooking.
The wind suddenly picked up, breezing away at the tears that had formed in my eyes. I reached out a hand, palming at them. I focused on a colorful umbrella below, seeing four pairs of feet stretched out, all close together. Maybe it was the harsh reflection of the sand that caused my eyes to start stinging.
The closest my mother and sister and I have been was during a trip to Disney World, when I was eight and my sister was five. My father absolutely insisted that the three of us get on the Aladdin Magic Carpet ride so that he can record us “flying”. Since each carpet only seated two, I took the carpet behind my mother and sister’s. As the carpets slowly began to rise from the ground, I watched as my sister let out a gleeful giggle. My mother held onto her tight, smiling with her and waving to my father below, who was still fumbling to retrieve his Sony camcorder. As we began to fly, the background faded into a colorful blur, and the only thing in focus was the sight in front of me. Of my mother hugging my sister tight and my sister’s tiny hands holding onto her just as hard. I smiled wide as I watched them, too young to know that this would be the last time I would ever see them so close.
My eyes drifted up into the skies. I was on the verge of spilling tears, so I held my head up high to keep them in. There were a few seagulls swirling around up there, crying out for something. I didn’t know what, but I agreed with them.
Suddenly, I heard the “zip” of my stepmother’s Olympia luggage bag. I sighed and hugged my knees close.
I just wanted to stay here, near the shores of Myrtle Beach. To have breakfast at the ocean view café downstairs. To walk down the sunny Pier 14 every day and watch the carnival goers. To have dinner every night at the River City grill and bar and pretend to be a part of the carefree atmosphere. To forget what awaited me back home, at my desk, beyond those walls. I love them, so much.
But I can’t choose one over the other. If I choose my mother’s side, my sister will feel betrayed. If I choose my sister’s side, my mother will feel alone. I don’t want either to be upset. So, I have remained a mediator between them. Being pulled in opposite directions with a force that tears at the middle, bit by bit. Feeling like a wet towel that is stretched wide, then sprung hard. I just wanted to feel whole again.
To feel like my genuine self, away from it all. I needed to be here, like this, for just a while longer. A moth landed on my knee, but I allowed it to rest there. I wanted to pretend like their moments of love were frozen in time, and I could just start off from there. To cherish those memories as I surrounded myself with the salty breezes of the sea, and to cast every other memory of them far away. The lump in my throat began to swell. I knew I needed to be strong for them. If not me then who else? But I also needed to cry, without them here. I needed to let go, and to just—
“Hurry up! We need to leave the room by 10 o’clock!”
My father’s booming voice sounded from the kitchen. I sniffed hard and swallowed the now painful lump. Then, I blinked harshly, and began scrubbing away at thisuselessness. I didn’t have time for this right now. With a heavy feeling, I picked myself up from the floor, wincing as a few specks of rock had stuck to my skin. The wet strands of my hair had dried and curled. The moisture down my cheeks had glazed over into a sticky mess. I looked back one last time and tried to remember every feeling I felt down to the toes. The view, and the sounds that would soon be replaced by shrill yelling. I released a shuddering breath and promised myself that the next time I come things will be different. I slung the towel over my shoulder.
I just need to be stronger, is all.
I stepped out of the balcony and into the air-conditioned room. Then, I slid the glass door behind me, sealing it all away.
The author of this piece has chosen to remain anonymous. As such, the names in this piece have been changed to protect their privacy.
It had been about 2 months since I last saw you. A year maybe, since you sat on my couch. Longer still the last time we were honest.
I wasn’t planning on seeing you today. I wasn’t planning on seeing you for at least two more weeks. That way it would be easier for me to hold back all the things I want to say and not ruin the possibility of traveling with you again.
But you showed up, said you wanted to see my face, if only for a minute. When I opened the door, you said I looked like I was going to cry. You told me not to and that it hadn’t been that long for crying to be necessary.
I could only ever smile in front of you.
You never came over. Not in elementary, not in middle school, barely in high school. I was in your house so much I knew who in your family was over by the cups that were left in the sink. The centerpiece on the table in the foyer would only show up when your uncle came over, and flowers were only present when your aunt thrice removed would show up after being broken up with again. The doors are never closed and the walls are never stained or to be picked at. If the house needed to be cleaned, you always focused on your room while I would scrub down the kitchen. I didn’t know how to use the dishwasher so your step dad always did it for me.
You always say my house hasn’t changed, and have to ask to use the bathroom. You don’t know where the cups are and didn’t notice how I hung up a picture of us in our prom dresses by the fridge. This never bothered me before, I didn’t want you coming to my house anyways. Where you lived was always pristine, elegance strictly maintained by the couch which you could not lean into because doing so would crease the cushions and Tata, your grandmother, would start with her lecture about how beauty should always be precise.
In my house, the floors are never fully clean, and the furniture doesn’t match. We got a new couch but it’s covered in fur and all scratched up from my cat clawing her way onto it. Your dog was barely allowed to come out of the garage, the presence of a pet as palpable as air.
I always wished you could sleep over at my house where doors can stay closed and our voices can stay loud, no need to be quiet.
In my house, we wouldn’t need to sleep so far on the edges of the bed because I have a full so even in the dark I could see your face. But you don’t like how I burrow myself into your arm when I sleep or how my hand tends to squeeze you at night and I say I can’t remember because I was only dreaming. Sometimes, you ask me to sleep in the other room because you want to get a good rest but you want me to be there in the morning. So I squeeze a pillow instead.
I don’t even know what you’re saying to me. You’ve been talking this whole time, telling me something about how it’s so crazy that after you transferred back from North Carolina, you see me less than ever. I try to focus, but every time I look you in the eyes, they dart away and I’m reminded again of what was our ‘normal’.
You’re repeating yourself again, all you can talk about is how weirdthat now that you’re home we seem farther apart. I ask you if you remember what you thought of me, who I was in your eyes before we were this. You laugh and ask me what do I mean and a prick of annoyance ripples down my spine. I try to find the words to tell you what I wanted to wait a little longer to say. I choose to not mention your home and my homes just in case it will drive you away further than I felt I would.
I keep letting sound come out of my mouth but all I hear from myself is static.
You don’t seem surprised and I don’t know what to do. I thought I hid it well, and I was going to ask how you knew but then you start to speak. You say you kinda had a feeling back in middle school, and how sometimes you would even think how great it would be if I were a boy. Because then maybe you’d go out with me. Then you say that sometimes I made you question your sexuality and how you would wonder about ‘trying it’, and I think about how you’d rest your forehead on mine in your study while doing homework, or slip your hand out of my palm if you heard your mom walking towards your room. I wonder if you were just ‘trying it’, like you try on the earrings that are too expensive for you as though you were going to buy them.
“So is there any girl in particular that you like or maybe have liked?”
I bite my tongue to keep from scaring you. I wrestle with my brain to push down the thought that prevails when you say words like that.
But the thought’s always there anyways.
The author of this piece has chosen to remain anonymous. As such, the names in this piece have been changed to protect their privacy.
I FEEL IT TOO
Katie and I sit facing one another but not looking at each other. Our heads bow down. She’s on the wooden chair in front of her writing desk. Art tools and pieces scattered on it. She sits sideways. I pulled a chair from the dining table of her dorm to be in front of her. My right hand is in my left and my fingers intertwined pulling at each other. Her palms rest on each knee not doing a thing. They’re just existing, like her, with no will to move. I feel it too.
There are no words to say that she hasn’t heard or read already. I wish she’d just look at me. Feel some comfort that even though she’s hurting, she’s still here with me and that’s something to be thankful for girls like us. I’d like to tell her that it’s okay but, I know that’s not true and we don’t lie to each other. We exhale loudly. It is the only sound in the room. I can see her pulse matching my fingers, throbbing in her wrist. I know it’s also pounding against her chest violently. I feel it too.
I tear my hands apart. My knuckles hurting from the friction. I extend my right arm to reach her shoulder and I lower my hand on her gray sweater. As soon as I touch her, she jumps the opposite way as if I had shocked her with electricity. I feel it too.
He was my cousin’s best friend: a friend of the family. I went to school with him since we were seven and I attended every birthday party to date. I trusted him and had no reason not to. He used his whole body to hold me down and his weight sunk me into the mattress. I put up the hardest fight I could and, he laughed at my pathetic punches. My vision was blurry. He had three times my reflexes. That’s when I realized that he had planned it all along in a way that he knew I wouldn’t have had a chance against him. His claws grasped my shoulders and slammed my body against the headboard of my bed.
My hand is still suspended and frozen where her shoulder had been. I am back in front of Katie only now she’s slanted to my left opposing my touch. I retract my arm to my body. I want to cry but, I try hard to keep it in. Only one tear escapes my control and I brush it off quickly. She doesn’t know about it and this isn’t about me. I want to be here for her. She must feel like a body with no soul, like an object: something dirty and to be thrown away. I feel it too.
Lucas broke up with her over it confirming to her that it is her fault. What a piece of shit. Just what she needs, the people she’s closest to to abandon her now. Well, I am here and I am not going anywhere. I know it’s not her fault. I know that she feels guilty of all the choices she made leading up to it. I know she has been replaying that night over and over again and making up scenarios where she could’ve done things differently. I know the remorse has been eating away all other emotions. I feel it too.
Her hair is still covering her face and the strands in her bangs stick together. Wet from the tears or the sweat or both. I just want her to see that I am here for her. I gulp my feelings down and once again prepare my arm. Up, left and forward to brush that silent tear off her cheek. My fingertips touch a few of her hairs and trace down the hairline to tuck them behind her ear. With my hand in her hair, I send my thumb to wipe away that tear. As soon as I feel her skin, Katie jolts away as if I had struck her with a hot rod. I feel it too.
He brushed my hair out of my face to kiss me and, every time, I shook my head against it. At a point, his patience grew thin of my defiance and he clawed my face sinking a nail in each one of my cheeks. His force sinking my head into the pillow. He leaned to my ear and kissed my neck. My tears poured with anger and my vision became even more blurry than before.
I turn my body to the back. I don’t want Katie to see me crying. More tears than I allow flow on my cheeks and onto my jeans making them look a different shade of blue. I cover my eyes, trying to fight the memory away. I’m afraid it will never go away. It has only been a year but, his touch is still in my body, fresh, like it is in Katie’s. I haven’t told anyone and I don’t want to. Katie told her boyfriend and he left her, she told her family and they scolded her, she told the police and they brushed her off. Now, I know that I have her and she should know that she has me.
For the first time in hours, I realize that the only comfort in this is to be understood. I strain my voice to whisper. “Katie.” She struggles to pick up her head just enough to look at me. Her bottom lip showing a tear from pulling at it incessantly. Her nose is irritated. Too many tissues tend to do that. She has bags under her eyes. I can tell she has been losing sleep. Her green eyes are glazy. I can see my reflection in them. I see the shame and the anger and the fear. “Katie, I feel it too.”