Waldorf College’s Literary Magazine: The Crusader
“Back to You” – Published 2012-2013.
“Reasons Why I Love My Mother” – Published 2012-2013.
Salveson Prize 2012-2013:
“Back to You” – Honorable Mention in Prose.
“Reasons Why I Love My Mother” – First Place in Poetry 2012-2013.
Streamlines Undergraduate Inter-Collegiate Literary Conference:
“Little Wonders” – Selected for presentation at the 2012-2013 Literary Conference.
Back to You
You passed me the water bottle. I held it loosely in my hand, tipped it to my lips and felt the heat as the vodka melted down my throat. I passed it back to you. You were leaned up against the bumper of Laz’s jeep, your faded jeans hanging down below your hips and a plain black t-shirt stretched over your muscular frame. I lay on the hood, legs dangling down the windshield, my naked feet parallel to your head, close enough where if stretched, my toes could tousle your brown hair.
“Do you think you’ll stay here forever?” I asked. We were parked outside your townhouse, hidden by the branches of the thick maple tree out front. I was thankful for this privacy. My hair had fallen out of its protective ponytail and was spread every which way across the hood of the car. The hem of my red sundress had slipped up my thigh revealing a thin line of sun-tanned skin. I felt rebellious, disheveled, hidden.
As I waited for your response, I listened to the sounds of the cars rushing down Route 59 and watched the stoplight on the street corner flicker red to green in unwavering rhythm. This was the same stoplight that you ran two years ago when you were high; I had been sitting in the back seat screaming for you to stop, watching the cars across the intersection blur as they hit their brakes to avoid crashing into us. We had turned, ever so slowly. Or maybe it had been quickly. It was hard to tell with the fog of marijuana coating the car. My legs had been shaking. I struggled to catch both footing and breath. I made you pull over just so I could yell. You were still trying to convince me that it had never happened, that I had just been paranoid. You had that way about you—always trying to argue. You had to be right. Just like me.
You sighed, warm breath mixing with the summer air around us. “I’ll probably stay here for college,” you said slowly, “take a few years to get myself figured out, then move somewhere.”
I didn’t respond. I took in the deepness of your voice, the way every syllable sounded so poetic, so real.
“What about you? Do you know where you’re going yet?”
I took a long swig. My body shuddered at the harshness of the alcohol. I felt the rush in my head, my stomach, my spine. I lay back on the hood. The world around me was spinning: a blur of shadows mixed with distant streetlights. I looked up at the stars, as I often did, to ground myself. They were so beautiful: removed, yet consistent. They always put me in perspective.
The first time I had really admired the stars was the previous summer, traveling with my mother to Iowa for my first round of college visits. We had been driving down a quiet two-lane highway for hundreds of miles. It was the first moment I had really spent with my mother alone since the start of high school; we found ourselves talking about clothes and boys, fears and the future—conversations that I’d always kept in the back of my mind, too afraid to speak to her, yet more scared of what I might discover about myself when I opened my mouth.
The highway had seemed to expand endlessly. It was nine or ten at night and the sky was pitch black. The only lights had been our own, the occasional cross-traffic, and the small reflections of headlights on the mile-marker signs. We had come to a lull in our conversation. I felt a sense of peace, a sense that things were going to be alright, that even though I had no idea what the future held, somehow I would figure it all out. I had looked out the window then, and felt my breath catch in my throat as I saw millions of stars decorating the night sky. These Iowa stars were nothing like Chicago stars, hidden by skyscrapers and airports and cars and streetlights. These were magnificent. Thousands of specks that reminded me of my second grade fieldtrip to the planetarium—a projection of lights on a dome-shaped ceiling. It had been surreal.
I thought about those stars now, lying on this hood next to you. I had always loved my hometown; the simple things, like the worn-down gravel path that stretched all the way from Naper-Plainfield street, past Book Road and the skate park, to the back of the high school and across that old bridge; or the McDonalds on 95th where we would spend our high school nights; or the football field, and the way it smelled like stadium popcorn and sweaty, painted bodies and churned up grass. But these hometown stars, they were nothing like the Iowa stars.
“I think I’m going to Iowa.”
I let my words hang in the air, stagnant, as they caught the humidity and seemed to lay heavy upon us. You shifted back and forth on your heels; to anyone else it would seem as if you were just trying to adjust your position against the bumper of the car. I knew better.
I knew a lot of things about you: the way your hazel eyes always betrayed your deepest emotions, how you pushed yourself at everything you did, the fact that you almost always drove fifteen miles over the speed limit, your inability to deny any form of steak, how you were the toughest guy I knew yet you had a white poodle named Sophie—I knew you. Yet there was always this feeling that I could never really get close to you. I couldn’t describe it if I tried. It was a forbidden tension; we were caught between what we could never do and what we really wanted. Things had always been this way. A pull. Sometimes a nagging tug, but sometimes a rope, like a noose that kept us tied so tightly we could feel each other’s heartbeats. It was so close to killing us; it pushed you away, made me run. Yet we always came back.
You were the only one who understood what I was talking about with the stars. You had lived in small-town Iowa. I thought it was a perfect coincidence that we were connected like that. There were always little connections.
“That’ll be a good fit for you,” you said. I could hear the reluctance in your voice. You were telling me what you knew I wanted to hear. But I wasn’t sure if I really wanted to hear it. You ran a hand through your hair. I watched as the curls fell perfectly back into place. It was a simple gesture, but it made me appreciate the way you were emotional, carrying the weight of your feelings. I appreciated the simple things about you.
I changed the subject. We started talking about sports, plans for the week, anything to get our minds off college and the future. As you talked, I fought my feelings. You were my best friend; you were my ex-boyfriend’s best friend. We could not be together. It just couldn’t happen.
“You want a swig?” You held the bottle out to me. I put it to my lips. Sometimes things were just that easy.
In the end, it was that stars that pulled me out of that town. Months later, I found myself driving home: never-ending highways, tears pouring down my face as an unexpected John Mayer song played on the radio. I had looked at the Iowa sky and remembered that night, lying on the Jeep, talking about life with you. I hadn’t understood the significance then—the simplicity of a single moment—how a mere piece of time can end up defining who we are—that what is left unsaid is often the most powerful—how love between two people just happens, effortlessly.
John Mayer’s song echoed a simple lyric: back to you, it always comes around.
It was the stars that pulled me away. But I had to come back, back to you.
Reasons Why I Love My Mother
not what you say
though my scrambled eggs
are always runny
corners of wheat toast brown,
Purple and yellow
are complimentary colors—
I forgot this
just as I failed to remember
it was cranberry you wanted
not orange juice.
Our front staircase
now holds carpet casualties
shards of the kitchen china
small pieces: gold, red, blue.
You woke, sitting up on your hands
commotion called you from sleep
my failed attempt
of breakfast in bed.
I am not a disappointment
ribbons, balloons, streamers
handwritten notes on napkins
paper signs happy mother’s day
Forgiveness speaks loudest
in our shared fork,
two lip prints on the orange juice glass.
RAIN — I am standing naked in the pouring rain. It’s late on a Friday night. Or early on a Saturday morning. It depends on how you choose to look at it. The rain is hitting my body and it feels like hundreds of little blunt needles. They don’t hurt. But people always tell you that. At the doctor’s office they look at you and say Just count to three and think about Santa Claus! It’s just a little poke! It won’t hurt a bit! They lie, those nurses. And they’re pretty good at it too.
But this rain really doesn’t hurt me. It feels cleansing. It’s entering my pores and washing out all the dirt like a microdermabrasion. Microdermabrasion: a light cosmetic procedure that uses a mechanical medium for exfoliation to gently remove the outermost layer of dead skin cells from the epidermis. The exfoliating process uses crystal or diamond flakes to rub on the skin and make it brand new again.
The average cost of a diamond engagement ring is between $3,500 and $4,000.
Meanwhile, at the dermatologist, diamond flakes are used to exfoliate a pubescent teenager’s pimply face.
This rain makes me feel brand new.
LOVE – March 6, 1993: A mother gives birth to a nine-pound baby girl. This baby was stubborn and in breech-position. A caesarian-section delivery was required.
The mother looks down at her child. Despite the pounding in her head, the aching in her back, and the numbing of her abdomen, she sees the most beautiful creature in the world. She cannot fathom that she has brought this life—this breathing, crying, blinking, life into the world. She would do anything for that nine-pound lump of flesh. So this is what love feels like, she thinks.
CHICAGO – It is August 2002. There is a man on the corner of Canal and Jackson Street, right across from Union Station. He has a saxophone with rust on the lip of the horn, and a worn black instrument case sitting on the pavement.
He plays song after song on that street corner. Once in a while, someone will stop and drop a few coins into his saxophone case. He’ll smile with his eyes; the corners of his mouth will turn up, but he won’t stop playing. He never stops playing.
Sometimes a little crowd will gather—mostly made of tiny children pulling on their mother’s arms, or couples, swaying to the music, calling it romantic and lovely. But I’m not so sure if there’s anything romantic about poverty.
This man on the street corner wears a ragged sweatshirt and green cap on his head. It’s the middle of the summer, but that faded sweatshirt stays on.
His favorite song is “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” Somewhere over the rainbow skies are blue.
Do you ever wonder why some people have it so good?
Some of them have millions. Others spend their summer days on the street corners, every breath for a quarter.
LOVE – Is love real? What does love mean anyways? To tie ourselves fully? To tie a knot? To become one with another person in mind and body and soul?
Soulmates: An idea invented by online dating services that promises love for each user. Soulmates: Concept taken from Aristophanes’ Speech on Love that explains a process for creating offspring. Soulmates: The concept behind Adam and Eve—Eve was made from Adam’s ribs, thus they are joined both physically and emotionally.
Humans spend countless hours searching. There is that sense of incompleteness. There is that fear that you will never find another to complete you. We all want love so real that it can never be broken. Will we ever find it?
John 3:16For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
TIME – Every 10 seconds, an instance of child abuse is reported. Every hour, 78 rapes occur. Every day, 80 people commit suicide.
The clock on the wall ticks every second.
While you’re waiting for a shift to end, while you’re standing in line for your sandwich at the deli, people are dying.
Do you even notice?
RAIN – I am not drunk. I just love the rain. And what better way to enjoy something than to feel completely free?
Standing in the rain I am free from thoughts. I am free from judgments. I am free from insecurities. No one is here. I am alone.
What better way to enjoy something than to feel completely free? I am free from everything. Even clothes.
CHICAGO – June 28, 2012: The city of Chicago decriminalized marijuana.
I was walking down NorthAvenueBeach to the bus stop on Lake Shore Drive when I saw a homeless man with a sign. This sign was plain black sharpie on a faded piece of cardboard. It read:
Fuck a cheeseburger, I just want to get high.
TIME – There are 86,400 seconds in a day. There are 10,080 minutes in a week. There are 52.2 weeks in a year.
How much of that time is wasted?
None of that time will we ever get back.
LOVE – The United States has the highest teen pregnancy rate in the industrialized world—750,000 teen pregnancies every year. According to the Center for Disease Control, one-third of girls get pregnant before the age of 20.
Love: a profoundly tender, passionate affection for another.
Love: a deep romantic or sexual attachment to another.
Have we lost what it means to love? Instead of giving our hearts, we give our bodies.
So many are bringing a child into this world so young…but who is to say this young mother can’t love?
The mother looks down at her child. She cannot fathom that she has brought this life—this breathing, crying, blinking, life into the world.
She would do anything for that nine-pound lump of flesh. So this is what love feels like, she thinks.
RAIN – Every minute, 1 billion tons of rain falls on the Earth.
A single droplet of water can move up to a speed of 18mph.
Before falling to the earth, a raindrop may travel thousands of miles.
I am standing in the rain and I am singing. I am singing and I am laughing out loud because no one can hear me. I am crying because I am both happy and sad. I am singing and laughing and crying because this life is so confusing and sometimes that’s all you know how to do.
In 2007, singer Rob Thomas released a track about life and rain.
He named it “Little Wonders.”
These little wonders, these twists and turns of fate.
Time falls away, but these small hours still remain.