Posted in 2018-2019, Issue 02, Non-Fiction

A Mother’s Silence

by Heaven Angleberger

I am from my grandparent’s house. From the little swing on the front porch and the lilac trees out back. I am from my mother dropping me off for sleepovers at their house every weekend. Her picking me up on Thursday afternoons with stories of losing track of the time. I am from disappointment.

I am from arguing with my mother. From telling her that I hated her. Telling her that I wanted to go back to Grandma’s house. That night she had me fill up bags with all of my things. Three bags sat by the door filled with stuffed animals, dora figurines, and size 4T clothes. I am from hopping into the front seat of my mother’s beat up volkswagen. From her slapping my fingers away as I fly through the different channels on the radio.

I am from driving like a bat out of hell down the highway. My mother pulling into a McDonald’s parking lot. I am from my mother ordering a Big Mac and me chicken nuggets and chocolate milk. I am from asking her when we’d go to Grandma’s. From reminding her that she had promised. I am from my mother’s silence.

I am from my dad walking through the glass doors of McDonalds. From his blotchy red cheeks as he tries to pull me from my meal. I am from “It’s okay, dad. We’re going to Grandma’s.” I am from loud voices and being ushered out the restaurant. From my hands fitting into my father’s hands. I am from greeting my dad’s girlfriend in the car. From her hello’s as my dad gets in the car. I am from watching in the rearview mirror. From watching my mother disappear into nothingness. I am from mistakes and new beginnings.

Posted in 2018-2019, Issue 02, Non-Fiction

Around and Around

by Hailey Stoner

The air was sweet. Two robins chased one another from one tree to the next. Sunshine drenched the sky and the tree branches hung low, heavy with thick, green leaves. The tulips in the front flower bed swayed gently with the breeze. The mailman filled the mailboxes on the right side of the road, then moved to the left. I sat in the front window and waited for the mail truck to disappear around the corner. Then, I tore open the garage, hopped on my bike, and rode up and down the street, waiting for the other girls to join me.

Our houses sat in a triangle, my house on one side of the street, Hannah’s and Kassidy’s on the other, separated with an outsider’s home in between theirs. We didn’t see much of the people inside that house, but their lawn was always freshly cut and remained a deep, dark green almost year round. We never knew it was possible for grass to look that perfect. There were ten houses on our road. To the left of the triangle was the twin’s house, and the Hispanic house. To the right of us was the Lorenzen’s, the haunted house that terrified us, the old couple in the yellow house, and the people who always had cars coming to and from their house.

Our garages were always open, exposing all the internal organs for everyone driving by to see. They could see the tall, wooden shelves filled with lawn toys in mine, the couch and table in Hannah’s, and the seven foot tall Santa Claus in Kassidy’s. We would sit at the table and Hannah would teach us how to play blackjack or go fish. We tore down the toys from the shelves in my garage and hosted cornhole tournaments, but we avoided Kassidy’s garage at all cost. The Santa Claus never settled well with us. It felt like his eyes followed us, no matter where we stood.

This road witnessed many scraped knees and elbows. It was the trail that led Kassidy from one house to the next during Girl Scout cookie season. It was a canvas for our sidewalk chalk masterpieces and the road that lead us to school in the mornings. It was where we all met to start our night of trick-or-treating on Halloween. It was where we all met during the summer and ran around on the boiling pavement in our bathing suits before piling into Kassidy’s mom’s minivan to drive us to the pool. It’s where we could do whatever we desired.

Rolling down the hill in my front yard before the bees made their way to the sprouting weeds was the best thing to do. All three of us lined up at the top and layed down in the grass that was soft, yet somehow tough at the same time. Once we were in position, one person counted down. When we heard ‘go,’ we wrapped tight and pushed ourselves as hard as we could down the hill. The entire world spun around, and around, and around. We mercilessly crushed every poor dandelion that happened to be in our path and all the tiny bugs hiding in the tall blades of grass. It was only seconds, but it felt like minutes passed when we finally reached the bottom.

I shot up to make sure everybody knew I was the first to reach the bottom and it was a big mistake. As quickly as I was up on my feet, I was on the ground. The world still spun even though I stopped rolling. But once everything finally went straight, I stood up again to claim my victory.

I basked in the glory. My win made everything seem a little bit brighter. The grass looks greener, the sky bluer, and the birds sounded a little louder. A car drove by and we went silent, waiting for them to pass, making sure they couldn’t steal our secrets. Then, we raced to the top of the hill, ready to do it again.

We thought we’d be able to this everyday, for the rest of our lives. But we didn’t know that you’re not allowed to roll down hills after elementary school. Or jump in the rain puddles. Go on Easter egg hunts. Be excited for Christmas morning after Santa came the night before. I didn’t know that friendships would get complicated. Or the old couple a few houses down would die and the Lorenzen’s would move away. Or that my parents would divorce and we’d all go to different high schools.

I didn’t know my world would always be spinning out of control, even though I haven’t rolled down that hill since fourth grade.

Posted in 2018-2019, Non-Fiction, November 2018

Type of Love

By Gabriella Snyder

She offered the type of love that looked like tired eyes at 4:00 in the morning. I gave her my time, my sleep. Her mornings began when my afternoons started. When rolling out of bed late for school, she woke up to brewed coffee and eggs on the stove. The type of love that rimmed my eyes with dark circles, her eyes bright with energy. Lights in my room remained on when facetiming her, making sure to comeback my desperation for shut eye. Her lights were always off, preparing to drift to sleep. At times I wondered if I should allow my lights to turn off and for my eyes to flutter close. Maybe I should have allowed my muscles to loosen the tight knots of deep care, just as she did. I let my sleep deprived thoughts silence when remembering her. The type of love where I convinced myself that she cared for me, even loved me.

She offered the type of love that sounded like whimpers for attention. I never questioned why I put all of my focus on her. I told myself that she was my soulmate. The type of love where my eyes were fixed on making her wishes my command. I made sure every beg for attention that quivered from her lips were met with my comforting hands. The type of love that made sure her blue thoughts transformed into ones of yellow hope. Her praise was quiet, nearly a whisper. She made sure there was no other sound that could be heard past her whine of seeking security and admiration. I could never match her whimpers of attention. She was the center of my world. The type of love that adjusted my hearing to the pitch of her cries.

She offered the type of love that tasted like honey in my throat. The type of love that was sweet and thick. She didn’t know what love was. She thought it only consisted of the sugary kind of taste. The type of love that only existed in romantic movies, with boxes of chocolates and bouquets of flower. The taste of love that would blanket across your tastebuds but only last a second. She has flooded my taste of love with honey.

She offered the type of love that felt like pins and needles tracing my body, cutting into my hope for us. I loved her past the pain she caused. I told her I would never leave her, never let the pins and needles poke too deep in my skin. I held onto the past experiences I had with her: This is when our love was like flowers blooming in my chest, was like love growing in my belly, vines lacing my throat. Her words of poison unrooted my flowers, leaving stems and thorns behind.

It’s quiet now. The type of love that I’ve been wishing for.   

Posted in 2018-2019, Non-Fiction, November 2018

On My Mother’s Sister

By Patrick McCarthy

I don’t see you as much of an aunt anymore. Sure, you have the same dark, thick hair as the rest of your siblings. You have the same sharp nose. The same creases on your face, running from your nose to the corners of your mouth. The same rigid jawline. The way you cackle, exposing your Long Island roots, matches the rest of the family. Yet my tongue struggles to place the word Aunt before your name. You seem like an old acquaintance.

Dad says that you’re manipulative. He has seen the way you corrode your siblings, has witnessed my mother fall under your hypnosis. Mom stays away from you. She says that you can tug at grandma’s loose strings until she rips open and gushes out cash. She describes how you used to stumble back home at 2 A.M reeking of vodka. She told me about when she called the cops on you. Told me about your first time in rehab, and your second, and your third. Told me how you would spit on her, and kick, and punch, and scream at her. She says that you stole her Beatles records when you were younger. “Probably pawned ‘em for drug money.”

A few years ago — around November — Mom sat me down at the kitchen table. She fumbled with her fingers as her throat began to twist. She said that you probably weren’t going to make it to Christmas.

An immediate silence rushed down the walls and filled up the room. My hands were the first in the room to respond. I trembled as I smeared snot into my sleeve. Tears seeped from my eyes like bubbling tar. I didn’t say anything; the air in my lungs was too thin to create words. Mom brought my chin to her shoulder. She held me in her hospitable embrace as I began to regain my composure. She didn’t tell me about familial dysautonomia, or about how your nerve cells were withering.

I didn’t visit you in the hospital. Mom didn’t want me to see how sick you were. She didn’t want me to hear the rattling of your emaciated ribcage. She didn’t want me to know how much of you had dwindled away.

So I wrote you a letter. I slowly pressed my pencil to the wide-ruled paper. I spent minutes on each word, making sure every curve and angle was drawn perfectly. I told you that I loved you and that you were going to get better.  I don’t know if your achy fingers ever lifted the paper. I don’t know if your tired eyes ever crept through the sentences. I wonder if the letter helped you during recovery. If it helped you sneak past Christmas. Did my blind optimism ever nourish your starving muscles? Did my “I love you”s ever brighten the crimson of your blood?

The last time we spoke was at your daughter’s graduation. We hugged the moment we saw each other. Your shoulder blades pierced through your shirt and scraped my arms. Cigarette smoke plumed from your lips. Your voice crumbled into gravel. “You’ve gotten so tall,” you said with a sharp grin. Your coffee brown eyes were growing misty.

I wonder where you are now. Is my contact still on your phone? Are you still on Long Island? Are you still letting pills release fog into your skull? What tattered house are you inhabiting? Whose fingers are interlaced with yours? Who is falling in love with the deep milky white of your scars? Who are you screaming at with your shattered glass voice? What drink is rushing down your throat, stinging your esophagus and landing in your empty stomach? Do you know about your new niece? Do you know that she looks just like you? That she has your coffee brown eyes? That I feel sick when I stare into them.

Posted in 2017-2018, Non-Fiction

He Planted Roses

By Derek Frazier

Rest In Peace, Robert Frazier Sr.

My grandfather was a great man. He could’ve lit up a room with his laughter and smile. He grew roses, these beautiful scarlet blossoms that ringed the perimeter of his house. He also drank his coffee decaf, and played golf like a professional. Granddad also had a history with heart problems. Nine years ago he had a triple bypass surgery, out of fear that something would happen to him.

I got the text from my father during my Creative Writing class. “Mom and I are at the hospital. Nana took Granddad in an hour ago.”

“Do you want to come up so you can say goodbye?” my mother asked when she called.

An hour later I carpooled with my sisters to Bedford to be with him in his final moments. I held my breath in the elevator to his hospital room. My father told me what happened as we hugged. Granddad had a massive heart attack. He dropped to his bathroom floor and was rushed to the emergency room after my grandmother, Nana, heard him fall and called for paramedics. When we got there my parents and grandmother were already there. Their eyes were bloodshot and their faces were slick with tears. Granddad was wrapped in a blanket, poked in three different places with needles and tubes, and a oxygen mask was strapped to his face.

Each gasp of breath, every shudder of his body, felt like his last.

There were ladybugs in his room. Totally at home, their red carapaces contrasting with the white walls.

“You can talk to him,” my mother said as she pulled me close. “He can hear you.”

I didn’t know what to say. A part of me thought it was silly, he had trouble hearing even with hearing aids. What would you say to a man who came to every birthday party? And sent Christmas cards with checks tucked inside?

What would you say? To a man with milky eyes, and diagnosed by the doctor as brain dead?

“Hey Granddad,” I choked out, “Thank you.” I had to say it several times because I couldn’t hear it over the sound of my own sobs. “I promise,” I said, “I will be a man you’ll be proud of.”

I am a helper, it’s how I was raised. Being told, “There’s nothing you can do except sit and keep him company,” was the hardest thing I’ve ever heard. I held his hand, and I could feel the lead of his bones as his body twitched and spasmed.

And I prayed dozens of prayers that I didn’t remember learning. They spilled from my mouth like pennies.

“Be strong,” I kept telling myself. “Be strong for Nana.”

My father told me once that he was surprised I didn’t want to become a doctor. The reason is because losing people isn’t in my nature.

There’s so much I wish I could have shown my grandfather that now I’ll never get the chance to: my wedding, high school graduation, my first dinosaur discovery, his great granddaughter.

Granddad said he always wanted wanted to donate his body to science. Maybe the Buddhists are right: that matter and life are reborn for new growth or the next life. Even now, planning to tattoo one of his roses on my arm, I keep thinking about all the lives that he will save. It could be anyone; a teenager in Colorado, a transplant patient in New York, a little boy who needs blood. His very cells could cure cancer one day.

So with that thought at least, I am content. And I look forward to seeing him and his beloved roses in his next life.

 

Posted in 2017-2018, Non-Fiction

If You Had Stayed

By Heaven Angleberger

I don’t have any memory of you. You are the one person who has been shut completely out of my life. You left because you couldn’t take care of me. You didn’t have the money or the time or the energy to handle being a mother. Dad says that keeping me away from you is better for my sake. That I am better off without you because where I am now, I can be provided with all the things needed to succeed in life. As I have grown older, I have developed an understanding of what really happened. I think a lot about the life you are living.

I have always wondered many things about you. What you look like. If you are short or tall. Whether you have blonde or brunette hair. Why you didn’t stay. I wonder about who you are and what kind of life you are leading without me. Do you think about me? Do you think about the way you betrayed my trust when you left me behind, how you put all the responsibility on Dad’s shoulders?

I always thought that it was my fault that you left. That I had done something that made you think your daughter wasn’t good enough. That I had not been the daughter you dreamed of every night. Would you have stayed if I looked differently or had been more like you in some extraordinary way?  

Dad and I have the same smile. There is something lopsided about it that can warm an entire room. I wonder if you have the same lopsided, warm grin. We don’t listen to the same music– he listens to heavy metal while I listen to pop, sometimes country. Do we have this connection? I wonder sometimes what little things that I didn’t inherit from Dad, I inherited from you.

If you could only see me now. You would see an intelligent fourteen-year-old who is the goalie for her soccer team. I dive and jump to block kicks and make my team the best in the district. I am a straight A student that has always been at the top of my classes. I stay focused on my work and set an example for my fellow classmates. I write days on end and get carried away into the world of my words. I set the goal of getting into Barbara Ingram, the ninth-rated school in Maryland. After working my butt off for a month, I received notice that I had been accepted in. I am daring for the time I cut off fifteen inches of my hair to show my inner self. I wonder if I am anything like you.

But I am more like my new mom than anyone else.

She is daring for going back to college to pursue her dream of becoming an engineer. She completed her many pages of homework each night while caring for four children. She is intelligent and has completed each year of college passing with an A or higher. She is everything that I have dreamt a mother could be. We go back-to-school shopping at Kohl’s, making sure that I start the year with the latest brands. She browses the store for hours searching for the exact style of jeans that I want, never stopping to complain about how long it is taking. When I am sick, we go to Chipotle to catch up on the gossip. I always order the burrito with rice, which instantly makes me feel better.  She makes sure my homework is completed and ready to turn in the next day. If it isn’t, we sit down together to make sure I have a full comprehension of the assignment. Sometimes she will sit down with me, on my bed, to talk about the important lessons of life. She doesn’t care that I am not “her own.”  She loves me as much as any mother would love her child.  That’s more than you ever did.

I guess I will never understand the reason why you left. But I am okay with that. Now that you are gone, I finally know what it looks and feels like to be a part of a family. My new mother takes your place as if you had never been there at all.

 

Posted in 2017-2018, Non-Fiction

Something Like Larry

By Emilea Huff

In the morning, I see him. His hands are on the wheel, his voice greeting me as I step into the shuttle. He wishes me a good morning with a smile so endearing I feel like I’ve known him in a past life. There are wrinkles around his mouth, not from stress, but from smiling his whole life— just enough to leave a mark for every passerby to notice. I don’t know anything about this figure with the red baseball cap and the stubble that frames his aged face. I imagine his name is something like Larry, or Wayne, or George.

He could have a daughter— ten years old with pigtails and pressed-daffodil freckles. He could have a wife who spends her time drinking white wine and pasting photos of aunts and uncles and cousins into scrapbooks. Maybe his favorite food is lasagna, with the tiny leaves of oregano sprinkled on top. I have not known him long, but I imagine his younger brother has a wife and child, too. Some happy family that I’ve constructed in my head, all before I’ve even taken my seat.

Maybe he has a ranch-style house with blue shutters, like my own house used to be. The Larry in my head has a pug— not for him, but for his daughter who loves them so very much. He has a laugh that sounds like an engine starting, I imagine, something that makes his wife’s heart thump. He drives a bus because he loves the thrill of being on the open road, but now his brother makes fun of him because he’s going the same route every day. It may be the same route, he says, but at least I don’t work in a cubicle. Now his brother is laughing harder.

I wish I could say know him. I don’t know if he has a child or a wife or a younger brother that works in a cubicle. He is all a mystery to me, even his name. Whoever he is— whether he is Larry or not, I hope the life he lives is something he deserves. Nevertheless, I am determined to make him laugh. Just to see if he really does sound like an engine.