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A Cold February Night

by Ryan Miranda ’16

It was snowing. I pulled the collar of my jacket closer to my face to try to warm it up; it worked for about a second. I blew out some steam from my mouth. I looked up to the clouds. Nice timing, big man, I thought.

“Are you cold?” she asked. I looked down. Her cheeks were red as was the tip of her nose. She was probably as cold as I was.

“No, I’m fine,” I replied. “Are you?” I threw a smile in there to convince her. To this day, I still don’t know if I did. She smiled back and it almost took my breath away.

We had been friends for a few months now. I had met her during the SATs, of all places, and we hit it off immediately. She was a showstopper: auburn hair, crystal green eyes, and one of those smiles that could light up a room. One of the nicest people you would ever meet, she planned to go Pre-med in college so that she could join Doctors without Borders when she graduated Medical school. Needless to say, I was falling fast.

When my friends discovered that I was interested in her, they told me that I was crazy and that I didn’t have a prayer, especially because one of the star lacrosse players was after her too. But personally, I didn’t care. After a few weeks of dancing around the subject, I finally summoned the courage to ask her out on a date. To my surprise, she said yes.

So here we were. We had just finished a lovely dinner, and we were now walking along the Charles River. At the moment, my heart was booming out of my chest and the main thought running through my head was: do not screw this up! I was trying to follow the advice of one of my best friends by being myself, but I was really nervous. And the way she was acting made me even more nervous. She was laughing at all of my jokes, even the bad ones, and touching my arm. As we walked, she linked her arm through mine.

Laughing as we rounded a bend in the river, we came upon a street performer playing the guitar. As we passed, I dug into my pocket, took out a dollar and tossed it in the case.

The performer looked down at the dollar and then back at us and said, “If you put in another dollar, I’ll play anything you want.”

While I thought about it, she took out a dollar and placed it the case. “Do you know “See about a Girl” by Lee Brice?” she asked.

The performer smiled and nodded his head. “One of my personal favorites.”

He began to play, and the sweet sound of an acoustic guitar drifted around us and into the night. I felt a slight tug on my arm and turned to find that she wanted to dance. Luckily, one of the classes I took this year was dance, and I hoped to God that I didn’t forget the steps. I took her left hand in mine while she put her right hand on my shoulder and I positioned mine on her back like I’d learned. I took a few hesitant steps, looking down at my feet to make sure I was getting the sequence right. Glancing up, I saw that she was looking right at me. I stared right back into her green eyes that seemed to be sparkling like stars and realized that, somehow, we were moving naturally to the rhythm of the music. Suddenly, she came in closer and laid her head on my chest. I was definitely surprised when she did that, but, at the same time, I didn’t care. I didn’t want that song to end. In what seemed both forever and an instant, it did end, and we separated, clapping for the performance. As the musician began to pack up his guitar, he dropped his guitar pick. I bent over quickly and picked it up for him. I handed it to him, and he pulled me in for a handshake.

“You keep it,” he said quietly. “Be sure that you take care of the girl you got there. You won’t meet another one like her in this lifetime.” I looked back at him, confusion written clearly on my face. He just smiled, picked up his guitar case and walked off with a curt, “Happy Valentine’s Day, folks.”

I watched him walk away and then looked down at the guitar pick in my hand. It had a tortoise pattern with the word “Cupid” etched into the surface. I looked back up to see that the performer had disappeared.

“Hey, could we sit down for a second?” she asked, “My feet are starting to get tired.” Her request snapped me out of my thoughts and I nodded. We sat down on the bench that the street performer had been sitting on before.

“So,” I asked, ““See about a Girl” by Lee Brice is your favorite song?”

She thought about it for a second then answered, “Well, it’s one of my favorite songs because it reminds me of you.”

That caught my attention. “Why does it remind you of me?”

She cocked her head to the side. “For as long as I have known you, you have been the greatest and most loyal friend. You would be the type of guy who would be hanging out with your friends one minute and gone the next because your girlfriend called you. And all you would say was, “Sorry boys, I’ve got to go see about a girl.”

I smiled, “She stole my line,” I said, mimicking Robin Williams She laughed at that, but her laughter was interrupted by a shiver.

“ It freezing,” she said quickly, trying to ball up to conserve heat.

Without thinking, I wrapped my arm around her, and she responded by moving in closer and laying her head on my shoulder. Again, I was surprised. But at that moment there was an explosion of warmth in my chest. Suddenly, I remembered the body language of when someone likes you. The person will do whatever they can to be close to you, find excuses to touch. There was one other thing that, if it happened, was a sure sign that they had feelings for you.

One-way to find out, I thought. I looked down at her, and she turned to look up at me. I looked into her eyes and saw her pupils were dilated to their full extent. I realized that she wanted me to kiss her. I smiled, and she smiled back. Then, our faces came in closer and we kissed.

It was the best kiss I’ve ever had, and even when I went to bed that night, I could still feel her soft lips. The next thought I had summed up the situation: Best Valentine’s Day ever. 

The street performer, Cupid, watched from the bridge overlooking that stretch of sidewalk. He smiled.

“My work here is done.” He said to himself. He then pulled his hat down further over his ears, turned in to the wind and walked away into the cold February night.

Locked Inside

by Sara Perkins ’16

Save me, for I am locked inside
My soul tightly clenched in love’s worn fist.
Please, just let these thoughts shatter when they collide.

I taste your teeth and tongue, for which I must abide.
My cheeks are sweltering from your lips firm kiss.
Save me, for I am locked inside.

Though your flickering nimble fingers are kind,
the rusty bars of love’s prison I have not missed.
Please, just let these thoughts shatter when they collide.

Your scent wavers on my skin, wrapping around me like a bind,
The press of your muscled torso against mine seems to persist.
Save me, for I am locked inside.

The sound of your softly beating heart is slowly taking over my
mind.
My body and soul quiver, for it is me you lust to enlist.
Please just let these thoughts shatter when they collide.

I cannot resist your sultry skin this time,
and I look forward to your hard, intoxicating kiss.
Save me, for I am locked inside.
Please, just let these thoughts shatter when they collide.

Written on all their foreheads

by Kay Wicker ’14

There’s a girl sitting in the back of the coffee shop
pretending she isn’t alone.
She looks through the crowd
catching her insecurities written on all of their foreheads.

Mortification is on the white man with the black woman.
Each word is loud.
Bitterness is on the waitress carrying hot chocolate.
Each word is taunting.
Envy is on the woman with the guitar.
Each word is piercing.
Incompetence is on the man with the longboard.
Each word is right.
Incertitude is on the lady who just stepped in from the cold.
Each word is honest.

She gives up pretending in the back of that coffee shop.
She gives up stifling
and suppressing
and forgetting
and wishing
and hoping
and
lying to herself.

A sigh escapes before she faces
the loud, taunting, piercing and
honest foreheads once more.

This time,
looking for loneliness.

Tend Your Fire

by Emily Klein ’16

You need to kindle your fire,
the one in my heart.
You’d been tending it so tenderly these past few months
but now, all of a sudden,
you’re letting it dwindle.
You’re letting me fall.
The void finally diminished,
full of honey baked smoke
drifting off the sweetest little fire that I have ever known.

Please, don’t let it go out.
I’m afraid of the dark.
And a shattered vase can either be crushed to dust
or glued back together.
I don’t want to be dust lost in the wind…
I thought you were my glue.
But maybe the real dream here
was the chance to love,
to be loved.
The prospect of love.
I’m in love with the idea of it,
the possibility of it.
Hell, aren’t we all?
We hold our hearts out on silver platters,
praying for someone to pass by and sample it.
And love it.
And want more of it.
Forever.
But more often than not,
those passersby simply walk-up,
take a sample,
chew it,
and spit back out in our faces.
And they walk away….
And they never come back….
Just leaving us there
with nothing but a chewed up heart that barely remembers how to beat
anymore.
So maybe I can’t hold you to it,
to the beauty of the flame.
But at least give me this,
was it ever even true?
Because I’m losing my mind losing you.

Love, M

by Joanne Hall ’16

The alarm sounds at 5:40 every morning. First the buzzer, then five minutes later the radio, set to the station with the least amount of static. I don’t snooze past the second alarm. I get up, turn on the coffee pot, and place a pot of water on the stove for oatmeal, enough for two. Five minutes after I’ve dropped a cup of oats into boiling water, I ladle one and half scoops for myself. I carry my breakfast into the den; the lights dimmed low, and watch fifteen minutes of news, weather and traffic. I’ll arrive at campus at 8:05 and park in a commuter space, my first class not until 8:30. Many days as I walk the brick path, I think of my mother. Her morning ritual will not begin until after noon, long after my day of classes has ended.

Tuesdays are the exception. She wakes early to volunteer with her sister-in-law to deliver meals to homebound senior citizens. “We don’t rush,” my mother tells me. Beaming with pride, she pulls the black folder from the closet. One award from the Maryland General Assembly commends her for “volunteer service and continued involvement with improving the quality of life within your local communities”. The President’s Volunteer Service Award thanks her for “helping to address the most pressing needs in your community and country.” Though she does not understand the meaning of the word, I want her to know, she is—leaving a legacy.

School meetings always make my mother nervous. The terminology or the words the teachers use are beyond her comprehension. It always began with the IEP, the Individual Educational Plan, followed by discussions about assessments, or present level of functioning, or annual goals and objectives, or accommodations or a transition plan. We always arrive a few minutes early and check in at the school’s front office. The school secretary escorts us to a nearby conference room. As scheduled, four teachers enter the room; each carrying a stack of neatly organized manila files, each placing her stack on the conference table. One teacher begins to speak, and as soon as she opens my sister’s file, I see my mother’s lips begin to quiver. I reach to gently touch her hand, the lower rim of her eyes fill. It’s complicated, but it always was.

“Your daddy doesn’t want you to be like me.”

By 1955, she had repeated the 7th grade three times. During those years, her school days were spent in one classroom, while other students moved from one class to another. She and her classmates worked on arithmetic and spelling; simple words like cat, dog and house. They read first and second grade level books, and were encouraged to move to higher level reading material when ready. Eventually, her teacher recommended she attend a vocational school which could better prepare her for a job, making it easier to transition from school to the workplace. Instead, my mother’s parents chose to move to a home over forty miles away. The new school district didn’t offer special classes to accommodate special needs. My mother’s parents thought, in her words, she was “too stupid to learn.” All goals for her future—erased.

We sit at her kitchen table, while Buddy the cat sits in the kitchen sink. Buddy was good company for her. He complained about little and my mother allowed him to have his water fetish. She is prepared for what we are to talk about today. I arrive with my purple notebook and black and white compositions. As I place my stack on the table, and open a composition—I see it coming, I see the swell.

I could imagine the answers to the questions. But for this, I want her voice. My mother’s words tell her story best.

I begin by asking her about daily life, she tells me, “Not being able to make conversation with people. I have to ask them to break it down so I can understand. I never kept it a secret from the teachers. I wanted them to know, I couldn’t help with homework. I wanted them to know if a paper didn’t get signed right away, it would get done. I worry about taking medications. The forms at the doctor’s office are uncomfortable. I know my date of birth, but it’s not easy to figure out where to put it on the form. I can answer the doctor’s questions if asked, but cannot answer them from a form. Arithmetic, I’m fairly good at arithmetic if I can write the numbers on paper. Nobody knows what I go through.”

When she explains, nobody knows what I go through, I share with her my struggle with math in physics class, the embarrassment, the inability to hide. She asks, “What is physics?” I tell her I can imagine her struggle. But, the true weight of her experience, I cannot feel.

With no particular order to our conversation, I then ask what is most difficult and she asks, “What do you mean ‘difficult’?”

“What’s the hardest thing, what’s the worst feeling?”

“Lost.” She pauses for a long moment. “I feel lost. How do I fit in? When everyone is playing a game, and I don’t know how to play, I ask ‘Do I belong here?’ At bridal showers or baby showers, it’s embarrassing, a bunch of strangers around me. They hand out a piece of paper and some pens. I want to go hide, but I can’t. Recipes, it’s hard for me to cook sometimes. I can’t read how to put everything together. So, how do you cook something new?”

“Mom, why don’t you pick up with a reading tutor again?”

An answer I want to change, but cannot: “It’s too late to go back.”

The National Center for Education Statistics defines the category ‘Below Basic’ as the lowest of their four literacy performance categories. A sample task one demonstrates at this level is the ability to sign a form. My mother would identify herself as belonging in this lowest level, much like the place where her sense of confidence and self-esteem lived often through the years, somewhere down low.

“Do you know what my father said to Bill the night before we got married?”

“No, what Mom?”

“Are you sure you want to marry a girl like this?”

Somewhere in the middle of our conversation, my mother asks, “Is this helpful to you?”

I feel a knot gather in my throat. She then tells me, “I would love to be able to read what you will write.”

love8

To My Narcissus

by Alex Vidiani ’15, Staff Writer

You must be mine, dearest god among men-
and will be mine, for even as your bones
whiten with my saturnine tears
my image of your youth never fades,
unlike the cloth and canvas portraits
-painted by masters, yes, but not immune
to the constraints of time’s aged hourglass,
nor the crimes painted by their sad subjects.
But, however I yearn for your touch,
(the cool dip of your glazed pristine fingers)
your image would be so distorted,
blurred by my own failings –please, forgive me!
We are one, and yet never together,
my vain darling. Who will crumble into dust first?

Photograph by Emily Klein ’16

The Broken

By Emily Klein ’16

Oh, The Broken, how we crumble,

Shattered, made of glass.

Sharp shards prick our insides till they’re tarnished and they’re gashed.

Our pale bruised hearts beat out of time,

clocks hurtled down flights of stairs.

A baby bird fallen from its nest, not ready yet to fly, will die.

So innocent, so pure, now broken on the forest floor.

At least its spirit can still soar high above the clouds,

As we The Broken stare in spite, crying pitifully aloud,

“Take us with you baby bluebird!”

How us Broken wish to fly,

For our spirits sunk our dreams lower than our sallow cheeks,

And our lungs barely satisfy.

Yet we cry, we cry sweet symphonies,

So Broken.

We are all pianos out of tune.

Neglected.

Violins with broken strings.

Singers never taught to sing.

We are Broken: smashed apart.

Thrown away: cast into the dark.

With our emptiness and despair,

It rains down our faces streaked with lies.

God, please, just let us fly.

For God, dear God,

We The Broken,

We the crumbled,

We the shattered made of glass so frail,

Oh how we tire of being broken.

So tired.

So tired.

So worn.

Sunstroke

by Valerie Dunn ’15, Staff Writer

We’re only two girls and one blanket
in the sand for a day.

Inches away, lips hovering hopefully,
I ache to fill your throat
with the remnants of my kisses.

But beside us the old couple, maybe man and wife,
stare on, their gaze scorching
the place where I wish to melt my mouth.

I will withhold nuzzling.
One brief kiss upon your soft, exposed
chest for safe keeping.

The sand has encroached,
hiding the entanglement of our toes,
covering the breadth of our blanket.

Squirming from the sun you settle
your head upon my chest,
rivaling my heart rate with even

breaths creeping against my skin,
settling between my breasts.
Our closeness gives birth

to tiny spectacles of sweat.
We cling so warmly together,
yet the impossibility of unsticking

ourselves seems grander
than the extravagance of your palm
curled around my side.

Quiet nibbling for nourishment,
suck the water from my forearm.
Replenish.

A buzz and crack of tension
released by the old man’s
fingers unlatching a beer.

They’re really enjoying themselves,
aren’t they?