finding the mean
they were losing oxygen, one more than the other
while they were still not of this world. premie
chef’s babies, both perfect, one hurt.
her leg was twisted, and smaller, and thin
her leg was wholesome, and healthy and
they grew in the face of their mirror hung over the door
and twin beds side by side and not much
room for walking,
but walls covered in picture perfect frames
taken from mother’s work in the hostel
on blindtear strip. the shine hung by girl one,
five minutes older and revered by both,
but followed in the same light
of sister catastrophe. each day became bleaker
as the other students all looked away
keeping to themselves
but feeling themselves a little more sneakier
eventually good will hugged them all:
don’t look at the girl,
don’t look it is rude.
and she knew averted gazes too
but wanted them to look
just like they did to her sister
just because she didn’t have to twist
and she didn’t fall down
and lift herself
every time a little bit quicker
when you said i love you
what i couldnt say
was how i knew i loved you from the summer day when i forgot my shoes while you walked me to your favorite beach
you forced me to wear yours even though the ground was so hot it gave yours sores
and from the first time your hand wrapped around mine leaving a smile cemented on my face causing my heart to go off pace
or insisted we take the scenic route so you could spend more time trying to count my freckles
or because when i got tongue-tied trying to explain my feelings for you and ended up burying my face in the pillow
you just sat there smiling because i was in front of you or the fact that i was never really sad anymore because even when i was sad
on the back of my mind i always had you and just knowing that you were mine was enough to rebuff any scratches in my day
and my friends were starting to get annoyed because the only words that formed on my tongue involved something youd say
and you sang songs to me that youd never sang to anyone and i gave things to you that id never gave to anyone
and the only thing that felt more divine than the warmth of the sand was your body pressed next to mine
but instead i said me too
when you said i have to go now
what i couldnt say
was that i was so mad at you for leaving me when we both knew you didnt have to choose a place so far away
and that the day i had been dreading for what felt like eternity had finally come today and that no matter what everyone said to me about this love fading out i knew in my heart that you were someone i couldnt do without
because of the way you understood me and laughed at all my stupid jokes or took me to see my favorite band
even though you dont like folk and that everybody who told me to break it off now was full of shit because they werent in it
this was between me and you and i knew my heart would always have a space big enough for you
but i couldnt lie i was scared you might slip through my hands like the sand
but instead i said ill miss you
I’ve been diagnosed! Given one name to answer all the questions. My symptoms,
They told me, proved too tumultuous to keep anonymous. So each one was dragged
Out of hiding, naked and shivering, under a spotlight and waited
To be introduced to DSM-IV. I was told
I run on hazardous electricity and the high voltage was a programming error.
My amygdala was a wild little fucker they told me that rascal danced
At some radical pace until one of the pathological spikes
In volume finally blew the speakers out of my cochlear partition. Or
Until the only music left was a manic echo crawling
Further and further away from recognition until
Finally swallowed into a melancholic deep. They said episodes of grandeur
Lost their charm after too many reruns—but I was only following dis-
Orders from my unsympathetic nervous system. So they, those of order, ordered
Olanzapine dreams to consume my radioactivity,
Baptized my ecstasy in lukewarm lithium pools
Tepid enough to freeze the tempests. I still wonder sometimes
If those waves will ever thaw out. I asked them once but they said
The still waters keep my dopamine from splashing around whenever it decides
A reaction is better adrenaline is better than sitting motionless on a flatline
Drunk on antipsychosis. I didn’t understand I was told
I lack the capacity to tame those goddamn neurochemicals from shifting
Their weight, racing from one polar end to the other, never sure where to settle,
Never finished, never stopping, just occasionally slowing
Somewhere in the middle
When I’m starving for balance
Only to tease the hunger with a single bite
Before screaming back toward some direction or other. I told them perhaps
This thing on my shoulders is nothing short of a circus playing
Host to the defective freaks they call Hippocampus and Corpus Callosum
And all the other characters hunting for answers
In an intricate web too mad to solve. But I told them
So is the world.
Thinking Forward and Thinking Back
I’m not an existentialist, but humor me for a minute. Here is what I know to be true; I know that every week that passes by seems to blur together into an optical illusion of eating the same food at the same places with the same people after I do homework for the same classes in the same seat that I go to at the same library, every Sunday. And I know exactly where I need to go, physically that is, from place to place. At this point I could do it with my eyes closed, I’m on autopilot all the time. Sometimes I walk to a more familiar place just because I am so used to going there, even though I meant to go somewhere else. Like ants in a line, I follow the same path: to and from, to and from, and on and on and on. But the other thing I know, is that these places and faces that I couldn’t forget even if I wanted to, right now, will one day be just like the memories I barely have of that boat trip to Catalina with Dad…or was that a boat in Coronado? Because that’s just the thing, I know that the world inevitably turns at the fastforwarded rate of our changing lives. And all the things that I pour every inch of myself into, losing sleep and wasting time obsessing over, will probably be as significant as a forgotten, faded photograph left in the attic of the house we moved out of when I was six. I also know that the worries that invade my mind, leaving my brain numb with confusion of what to do next, will soon be replaced with new ones. Just like when my goldfish died leaving me to be a weeping seven-year-old child, grieving the death of my pet, until Dad came home with a new one, Bubbles. So, I guess you could say, that the only thing I really know is that everything I know right now, I’ll have forgotten soon enough just to start the cycle over again. Life is just like doing loads of laundry; you push the same buttons until everything gets jumbled together, so mixed up until you finally find the time to sort it all out, then once everything is in its place, repeat, just with a different load of shit. The irony is when I think too hard it becomes so obvious that nothing really matters. Well, maybe I am an existentialist after all. Not that it would even matter.
normally avocados do not fall from the sky, but here they did.
swaying leaves, vines, green,
pushed forward by the rough santa anas
we made a game of it,
i watched him dart, wasp-like,
waiting in the shade,
with the white plastic colander
clasped in his hands
like he was losing grip,
back and forth, sidestep
back and forth.
he held the bucket as it vibrated,
and the avocado landed,
another catch from the sky.
i took the elevator up to the next level of endearing branches,
eyes covered by my hand
keeping the sun
out with a roof of one story clear in sight.
almost at the top
and push the next
green, plastic-y vine
they still fall
avocados came down from all ends of the branches,
and some had been eaten by rats. each were scavenged,
and this time,
we are the scavengers.
he went in with a plastic clutch,
and presented a basketful to the white-haired woman uneasily confined to the couch,
held back by the comfortable leg-
elevator technology and
gratitude across the wrinkled landscape
held only for a moment.
inside, they watch television while I watch the avocados continue to fall
from the sky.
no colander to catch
and the sun fades,
and the words on the page scramble. i slide down the fire pole
to reach the safety
of bare toes in cold dirt,
another heard falling from the sky.
through the screen door, where the light is on, shining,
and tv land scorns
we both attend to the cutting and the serving and the peeling,
ripe green meat; made with the seed, traditionally just how to add flavor.
with salt, the plate is served, sky-made avocado and home-made delicious, almost-
it takes the most familiar flavor
to help hide the bitter white taste
the avocados continue to fall.
Tonight we get to pretend
That what we intend
Goes beyond filling
My otherwise empty bed.
Donde sea que estén
Las manos de mi mama
Allí está mi hogar
When I think of home,
I see my mother’s hands.
Her plump, earth cracked fingers,
With the imprint of a wedding ring,
Always welcome me, with an illogical type of love
The curvature of her palms
Has shown me more love
Than any man’s affections.
The numerous hand-given corrections
Are more than enough indication
That for her, everything I am is important.
The way her hands caress my forehead
When we lay down to watch TV,
Brushing my hair away from my face,
They make me feel safe.
They remind me of mornings
back in elementary,
when she would brush my tangled mess
because I was afraid I lacked her magic touch
that seemed to tame every flyaway
In the evenings,
when I come home to visit
her masa covered fingers embrace me
along with the aroma of homemade pupusas
Whether we are getting the weekly shopping specials
or when she first came to campus
and I showed her all around, our locked hands, intertwined
Always bring me home.
Whore For Dinner
Take a bite
Chew me for a while
Then spit me out
Before anyone sees
What’s between your teeth.
Numb to the feelings:
Fingers trace my spine.
Almost make me believe
The lackluster sparkle in your eye
Only sees mine.
When you are born, you will find yourself thrown out of a warm abyss and into a cold, dry world, placed on a flat, elevated sheet of metal, and have part of yourself cut away immediately.
The moment the world touches you, it takes something away.
In Kindergarten, the teacher will assign you “advanced” reading. Read twice the amount you were assigned, and get bumped to first grade. Never mind that you’re only three years old. Be angry when Mrs. Green with her green car and her green earrings and her green plastic chairs tells you that you can’t use the bathroom. Pee your pants in your seat out of spite, and laugh when your friend tells her that your chair is leaking.
In fifth grade, a boy will hold your hand in a planetarium at Astro Camp. He will tell you on AOL instant messenger that you are smart and you are cute and that you will be together forever. You believe him because you’re both on the honor roll and because he can sing and because his name begins with the last letter of your name and ends with the first letter of your name. Five months later, you will break up with him, and you will think that it was the first heart you broke. Little did you know he is actually gay.
When you are thirteen, you will realize that you’re not as smart as you thought you were. You will cry when your report card comes home and is wrought with Bs, B B B B Be better, is what your mom will say. Be better, be smarter, work harder. You have so much potential, she will say, as if it will make you feel better. Your Kumon box will mock you from the kitchen counter. This is the first time you will feel inadequate.
When you are fifteen, you will fall in love. When you meet him, you will think that it’s cute that he always looks down at his desk and stares at you when he thinks you’re not looking. You will feel superior, because you can tell that you make him nervous. When the teacher shows a movie for the class, you run your fingers through his hair. You will feel powerful, because you can tell your touch gives him chills.
You won’t realize it until three years later, when it’s too late to ask him to love you back. Ask him anyway, when you’re high and crying and lonely because no one in college loves you, and smile when he gives you a second chance. The next day when you are sober, break his heart. Again.
You’re nineteen now, and finally you understand the gravity of experiences. Have one. Invite someone you’ve never met to your apartment. Explicitly state you don’t want to have sex with him. When he comes over anyway, feel special. Watch Friends with him because he said it’s his favorite show. When Ross says Rachel at the altar to another woman, and he doesn’t remember this episode, realize at that moment that you despise him. When he kisses you, wonder if every kiss you ever have will be this slobbery.
The moment he touches you, he takes something away.
Feel uncomfortable. Laugh, because you’re stoned, and stop laughing when you realize this kiss means nothing to either you or him. He will tell you after exchanging a cup of saliva that he has a cold, and then he will demand that you have sex with him. He will say, why did you invite me over if you didn’t want to have sex? Tell him you explicitly stated that you weren’t going to. He will be angry anyway, and you will feel like it is your fault. Wonder if it’s too late to kick him out, but instead, ask him if he regrets coming over in the first place. Feel your heart drop when he says yes, but pretend like you don’t care. The next morning, after he leaves, he will message you and say, I don’t like you. Please don’t contact me anymore. You will laugh because you know he only said that because you didn’t have sex with him, but be offended anyways. He will say this is an “inefficient allocation of my time.” Laugh harder at this asshole.
Be alone. Be sad. Be angry. Be self absorbed. This is college. Post Facebook statuses, hoping someone will like them and relate to them. Post Instagram pictures of your face in a car that you took yourself, hoping everyone will like them and say you’re pretty. Post passive aggressive remarks on tumblr, hoping someone will see them and reblog them. Listen to Explosions in the Sky on Spotify, name a playlist “i’m sad” and listen to it for hours, hoping someone will see and feel bad and talk to you and comfort you. Maybe it’s all the same person that you want to notice you. But it’s just some kind of electronic footprint you leave, hoping someone will see them and care enough to follow.
But the truth is just that no one cares enough to see. No one cares enough to make your day with a compliment. No one cares enough to like your posts. No one cares about you, because they’re all too busy dealing with their own lives. So deactivate your Facebook. Stop using Instagram. Listen to music privately. And your quiet pitter patter on the internet goes unseen.
Be high, and crying, and lonely, as always, and call the only boy who ever cared enough to buy you a pillow pet for your birthday. Sob as he tries to comfort you. Feel the air become empty when you talk. Fall asleep on the phone. Make plans to see a movie with him. Let him pick you up, boba in one hand, flowers in the other. You never cared for flowers until now. Let him buy tickets for Her. When he is too nervous to speak, text him while he watches. He’s sitting right next to you in the theater. Feel what you think is nausea when he laughs, but realize it’s just butterflies. Feel happy when he calls you a loser. Hold his hand during the movie. Cry in his lap three times because Her is just so fucking sad. Afterwards, pretend to be cold. Let him give you his jacket. Look cute in his jacket. He will tell you that it looks better on you than it ever did on him. Pretend you agree.
The next weekend, tell him that this time, you’re not leaving. He will say he is not going to leave either. Laugh, because you know he will. Everyone does, eventually. Let him tell you he is serious. Tell him a stupid joke that you made up to lighten the mood. Ask him, what do you call a female dog that goes to Starbucks? When he asks what, tell him, a basic bitch! Laugh too hard at this joke like you do at every joke. Watch him as he gives you a look of pity and awe and awww all mixed in one.
He will take you to Joshua Tree in the middle of the night on a Thursday, and you will drive halfway there. Get your first speeding ticket going 105 on the freeway, and drive like a grandma the rest of the way there. This will be the first thing you pay for together, like a puppy or a child, but instead, a $500 fine.
When he kisses you, under the stars in the middle of a dusty road, you will feel light headed. Realize at this moment that you don’t need to be high to feel high. It will be cold and the wind will tear your soul apart, but you’ll be happy. Think that this is what it should’ve been like, a slow, innocent dance, not an ambush of spit. Run your fingers through his hair like you always used to do with him. Feel powerful, like before, but powerless at the same time. This feeling is new. Lose yourself in him. Be vulnerable.
The moment you touch him, you realize he will never leave.
I didn’t want this to be about you, but I guess it always is, isn’t it?
Thalia Henderson is a junior studying creative writing and social sciences with emphasis in psychology. Writing, coffee and community service are what keep her moving.
Shaina Woolley is a sophomore studying Media Arts and Practice, from San Diego, CA.
Linyan Tian is a sophomore studying Philosophy, Politics, and Law and is hoping to minor in animation. She loves browsing Deviantart, reads Cartoon Brew, and her favorite person is Norman Rockwell.
Natalie Reyes is a sophomore studying Law, History and Culture. When she is not busy studying, tutoring younger students or working on her research projects, you can find her chatting at El Centro Chicano, contemplating life near one of the many fountains on campus, or exploring historical areas of Los Angeles.
Xaq Rush is a graduating senior who’s constantly trying to remember how damn cool it is that he’s been painted into this masterpiece of life. In gratitude for being included in this beauty, he just wants to add a bit more color to it all. And writing is favorite way of doing so.