Salty Yellow Broth

I had just come back from tramping in the woods. I came into the musty smelling, wood floor slanting kitchen where my mother awaited. I had been gone all afternoon. I was too young to do that. The Campbell’s Chicken Noodle Soup that my brother and I had begged my mom to buy was in a bowl on the table. The table was covered in a blue plastic table cloth, and the yellow of the soup in the bowl contrasted nicely with it. The commercials for the soup had convinced us entirely of the soup’s deliciousness. The kids in the cartoons rocked out eating that soup, went to the moon eating that soup, and sang mmm mmm good eating that soup! But when I sat down to eat it out of a tarnished silver spoon, it tasted like salty, yellow, piss broth. My mom’s homemade soups were better.

“Eat the soup I bought you! That soup costs money. I don’t have money to waste!”

I had been out in the woods all day, and hadn’t told my mom or anyone when I’d be back.

“Where were you?! I almost called the police to send helicopters out looking for you. Don’t! Do this! Again!”

As I filled the spoon with liquid, a helicopter with its spotlight searching, hovered above me in the kitchen.

 

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Niamh McCrohan was born in Rye, NY. She is an English major at SUNY Geneseo. She hates roller coasters and loves the sea. This is her first online publication.

Lost Dog

 

Pine needles travel over water like paw over dirt
the brook trout twist and turn, strong
streamlined, colorful- they smell of moss in my hands.
Tramping through wildflowers, mushrooms
crunching leaves and worn stones slippery with fungus,
I imagine the dog saw all this too.

Light falls through cracks and gaps in the walls. Debris,
hair on a chewed skull, threadbare ribs- forever
sleeping, an abandoned leather collar, brown
glass shards and cold grey breezeblocks.  
Bales of moldy hay stacked in disorganized rows, towers
and cross hatching wooden beams holding this relic erect

as I ascend the wooden ladder, it groans with each step.
More falling light illuminating beer cans, soon to be filled 
with shotgun holes and awful pizza already frozen, rigid
straw scattered across gap-toothed floorboards.
Everyone glowing, so proud, so cheerful to be here
but my beer tastes warm and I’m already dreading

the long walk down the ladder past the dog
out of the crooked archway and past the trees
over the rivers and dirt and over the brook trout
floating pine needles too faint to see in the moonlight
into my car and down the long winding road home.

 

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Chris Rathbun is a junior English Literature major at SUNY Geneseo.  He is a member of the Geneseo Football Club and an active writer of poetry.  His favorite authors are Kurt Vonnegut, David Mitchell, and Cormac McCarthy.

Failure at its Finest

When my history teacher passed back the report that I’d poured my heart into with what felt like a huge “F” on the front, I thought I was going to throw up and pass out right there. I waited until after class, and tried to talk to my teacher, begging him to raise my grade just a few points because there was no way I was bringing home my first fail only a few weeks after starting 6th grade. He refused, however, and my heart sank.

I legitimately thought I was going to die. I was so sure, I even started to say goodbye to all my friends. At the very least, I was sure my parents would send me away to boarding school, but worst case scenario was six feet under.

I didn’t tell my parents at first. I wanted to savor those last few blissful moments, the moments when my parents would still be looking at me with love in their eyes. It wasn’t until one morning a few days later, when my dad was driving me to school, that I finally worked up the nerve to say anything.

Now, I should say something about my dad. He is a very intimidating man. He is 6’1”, a former army man, and could probably break someone’s neck if he actually tried. He’s generally a man of few words, but when he speaks, people listen.

Eleven year old me was sitting in the passenger seat while the car stalled in the garage, my dad hanging his wool coat in the back seat. It was only a few moments before I blurted out:
“Dad, I failed a project.”

I was prepared for the worst. I was ready for him to grab me by my collar and lock me in my room for days.

He looked over at me for a few moments, before calmly asking,
“Did you try your hardest?”

I was dumbfounded. What did he mean, did I try my hardest? Of course I did, but what did that matter? I failed. Why wasn’t he screaming about this?

“I tried my hardest.”

“Okay, then. As long as you honestly tried your hardest, that’s enough for me.”

He then turned on the news and drove me to school like nothing had happened at all.

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Olivia Moran is a freshman at SUNY Geneseo, studying English and planning to major in creative writing.

Epistaxis

 

I feel like a metronome. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6…the time signature rattles through my head. My left foot is tapping on the hi-hat pedal making a metallic click as the pressure sensor underneath the black rubber pad is pushed down. After two full counts the band all starts playing. 

The beat I play is a simple one, just to get our bearings straight. A basic jazz swing, played from memory. After a short time the bass and drums connect; clicking to form a groove that flows and changes as one. This is the best part of the jam; this is where the songs are made and where all our individual music chops show. The drumstick becomes an extension of my hand and arm as I become one with the drum set. A feeling of bliss sets in and I am no longer in a dorm room playing instruments with my friends but I am a part of a cohesive whole, playing music for the world to hear, even if they don’t want to.

…a warm feeling drips down my nose. The world of unrivaled beauty is ripped away from me as panic sets in. It feels a bit too warm and a little too watery for comfort. I blink to realize in terror the little droplet of blood is falling towards my exposed snare. Instinctively, my hand darts to catch the falling blood before it can seep its way into the porous electronic drum head.

A half hour passes, and the trash can is full of red stained tissues. I sit, light-headed, and stare into my reddened hands wondering how much blood has been lost for music.

My mind whirls to my first drum kit, sitting on the carpet so littered with sawdust and wood chips that its blue color is lost under a sea of tan. Next to it a trash can, filled with various Band-Aids and broken sticks. I realize I’m sitting on my first throne, the only one I’ve ever broke, staring at my hands with each finger boasting its own callus or blood blister. By all rights I should stop and let my hands heal but instead I keep playing, gritting my teeth a little harder.

I distinctly remember the next day, sitting through algebra and finding it hard to do the worksheet in front of me. Even the slightest bending of my fingers burns as each blister is squeezed close to bursting.

I am back in my dorm now washing my hands clean of the red stain left by my nosebleed. I move about the bathroom and can’t help but think to myself about all the future things that my love of music will do to me. I’ve progressed from popped blisters to nosebleeds, how much more of my blood will a drum set see?

I walk out of the bathroom and take a seat behind the drum kit the thought of blood still racing through my mind. The count begins in my head, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and the hi-hat pedal begins to click before I even realize I’m doing it. All worries go out the window and I begin to feel the internal metronome start once more.

“Wanna pick up where we left off?” I ask.

“Sure.”

And the room erupts in noise once more.

 

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Greg Gustafson is a freshman at SUNY Geneseo. He is currently an undeclared major and took creative writing as an elective this year. He has played drums for around seven years now but this remains the first and only nosebleed that he has sustained behind a drum kit and he plans to keep it that way.

Stranded

“Stranded,” my grandmother said as she looked up from the Toyota Camry’s hood that had seen more damage than any car probably should and it had finally died sitting outside the community temple. She looked around the empty parking lot, inhaled the spring air, and finally crouched down to my level. She gave me the comforting grin that I knew all too well and whispered, “We’re just on a mission.” I clutched onto her tough skin as I kicked the dirt beneath my feet. I peered up to see her sweet face as she glanced around, her smile slowly formed into a hard line, her soft eyes turned to a squint. She took one step forward, leaving that old silver Toyota sitting in the empty lot as we trekked on.

We crossed the street together, me a few paces behind her. How did grandma know the way home? She didn’t live here and her only job was to make sure I got home from Hebrew school that day, the once simple task now seemed so difficult. I tugged her hand down and she peered at me from her round-rimmed glasses.

“Grandma?” I said as my brow began to furrow and crease. “Do you know where were going?” I looked around and saw nothing but houses. Rows of suburban lawns and picketed fences lined the streets. I heard dogs barking and the sound of a rusty old sprinkler in the distance. It was a scene I was all too familiar with, but this wasn’t where I lived.

“Of course I do. Would I lead you in the wrong direction?”

I thought about her question but was to afraid to say it out loud, I really wasn’t sure if she did. After a few seconds she dragged me away from the empty road and my feet were no longer on the comfort of the sidewalk but instead planted in the soft dirt between houses.

“Look at your feet. You are home”, she said. I did what my grandmother told me and stared at my black Mary Janes noticing how much dirt they had on them. My mom wouldn’t approval. I didn’t understand what she meant, home seemed so far away but I looked up and nodded at her anyway.

She smiled and walked backwards two steps. “I am where we are right now.” She took a long breath in before she took a step forward. “Now I’m at your elementary school.” She took the last step forward so that our feet were touching. With a smile so big and eyes so bright she finally said, “Now, we’re home.” She pushed my bangs out of my eyes and slowly turned her back; continuing on her way down the sidewalk leaving me question what she meant. I didn’t know where home was but it definitely was not two steps away. I disregarded all of my unanswered questions as I ran to grab onto her outreached hand.

We walked for what seemed like miles for my three and a half foot stature. We walked past house after house. Who knew in a town so small, there were so many houses that looked exactly alike? We passed the school just like she had promised, it wasn’t a step away but we got there and suddenly we found ourselves in front of a store with its red sign reading “CVS”.

My grandma crouched down once again and looked at my leg, inspecting the tear that had appeared on my white tights. The tear had started out as a little hole grew bigger with every fall and every stretch that the day provided. The once-small hole had turned into a cobweb of nylon on my thigh.

“Mom won’t be very happy about this would she?”

I remembered the vow I had made to my mom when I begged her to let me wear my favorite purple dress with the pink dots to Hebrew School. I looked down at my Mary Janes with its fresh coat of dust that now covered the shiny black and shook my head. I looked up to find my grandmother staring at me before leading me into the store and straight to an aisle with a wall taller than I was covered in tights of different sizes and colors. She held two different pairs of children’s white tights up to my leg, inspecting the color difference. After a moment of thought she walked to the front of the store and paid for the tights before she led me to the bathroom to change.

As I stepped out of the bathroom I handed her old tights, ashamed that she might bring them home to my mom to show her what I had done. I watched my grandma as she balled the old pair into her fist and threw them in the garbage without another thought. With a smile she whispered, “Our secret,” and we walked out the door.

We walked the rest of the way home while singing, “You are my Sunshine” on a constant loop with her hand in mine until we had reached the tan house with its red door. This house, I knew. We were finally home. She led me in and we both sat down on the living room couch, both of us tired from a walk made for neither of our age groups.

My mom poked her head out of her office, her heels clicking on the wood floor. “Where have you been? Mom, you were supposed to get her an hour ago”.

I looked up at my grandma’s face as she looked at my mom and then back at me, “It’s ok, were home, were safe.”

I smiled back at her. Yea, I thought, grandma got us home; I knew she would.

 

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Rachel Katz is a freshman at SUNY Geneseo and is majoring in Communication. Coming from Westchester, New York, Rachel is ready to explore and write about all of the excitement that Geneseo has to offer

The Watchman

He sits
On a throne of broken wood
Paired and stacked in ordered planks
Engulfed within a scent of coffee
And faint lights

He is the watchman with four legs,
Whose brown skin shows no stain,
nor any wrinkles.

He will see hundreds of youths stagger today
And hear hundreds of hymns
From the youths who chatter and sip
Black.

Beside him is a girl who cannot see
Out of monstrous eyes glazed with tears

He will shield her from her discomfort
And know the reason for each tear the girl gifts
As she sits upon him
Unspoken.

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Patricio Carrasco is a junior Biology major at SUNY Geneseo. He enjoys reading and writing in his spare time, and hopes to become proficient at poetry after discovering a passion for it in his creative writing course.

 

A Special Room

Lights narrowed in on my frame. The smell of Clorox infiltrated my nose. White walls encapsulated the winding hallway that lead up to the dessert room. Men and women towering over me rushed by, plastered with alarmed faces, hands gloved with blue latex. Their eyes big, their mouths moved, shouting commands to those who passed by. Sarah held my right hand tighter as we walked straight through the long hallway. Sarah was my best friend. My mom and dad couldn’t see her, but they always made sure to tell her “good night” after they tucked me in. Sarah and I walked to the cafeteria, careful not to touch the blue checkered tiles on the ground. If we stepped on them, the whole ground would become ocean.

We reached the elevator without drowning. Two beeps later and we were on the correct floor. My left hand had pins and needles from clenching the dollar bill until I finally handed it to the cashier. The Jello cup cooled my hand as we made our way back to the lobby. My dad waited for us. He stood tall in his work suit, shiny shoes, and poufy brown hair.

“Are you ready to go to Mommy’s special room?” I nodded. We walked together through the hallway and into the tan, wooden doorframe.

Her room was small but not too small. Big enough for a bed, a table, two chairs, and a television. Big enough to set up my Barbie pool, which was empty, on the side table text to her bed. My mom’s bed was crisp and warm with spider web wires crawling into different machines around it. People in light blue costumes always came into her room. They all looked different, some tall, some short. My favorite woman, Jackie, came in. She was one of the short ones. She had long brown hair that looked like it belonged to a mermaid, but she sometimes tied it back into a pony. “How are you?”, “Do you need water?” “Are you feeling good today?” I set my Jello down.

My mom smiled, “Would you be able to bring me some water?” she winked at me. Jackie left.

“Mommy, can you put on the rainbow hair? I don’t want Sarah to see the skin on your head.” The rainbow was my favorite. I picked it out when we went to the store. I also picked out the purple. My mom picked out the brown and the blonde but those were boring.

“I will put it on tomorrow, how about that? I can’t right now.”

Her eyes were glassy and full of more apologies than she would ever be able to say to me. She looked away, disappointed. I frowned and placed my hand on her head. The skin on her scalp pulsed under my tiny fingers. As I lifted each finger a white impression lingered for a few seconds, fading as another finger lifted, an impression fading again. Mom laughed and told me she “could just eat me up.” Her hazel eyes reflected the harsh fluorescent bulbs in her special room. I always thought those lights could pierce glass but my mom never complained.

Jackie returned with two cups of water. She knew they weren’t for my mom to drink. “Anna, here you go.” I took the water and filled my Barbie pool to the brim. All of my Polly Pockets lounged around the pool. I had five of them. I don’t remember each of their names but they all looked different. Two with brown hair, two with blonde, and one with red. Two were dressed in fancy outfits with high heels, one was in pajamas, and the others were in bathing suits. Since they were each the size of my hand, they were the perfect toy.

I went to eat my Jello next to my mom on her bed. While I ate, my mom flicked on the television and turned to channel 303, Nickelodeon. “Drake and Josh” was on, but it was an episode I had seen too many times. I grabbed the remote and typed in 3-1-1, Disney. Yes, it was “That’s So Raven”. Our favorite. When the show ended, my Jello cup, emptied, I looked at my mom and she raised her hands, calling upon the sky.

“Anna, I’m having a vision! I see— wait for it, wait for it— I see you playing with your friends, eating ice cream and— Wow could this be? I see you fighting a dragon with all of your friends after getting ice cream.” My mom always had visions, just like Raven in That’s So Raven.

When Jackie returned to ask Mommy more questions I went back to my table with the Polly Pockets and Barbie pool. I thought about how amazing Mommy’s room was. She was so lucky. She could have Jello whenever she wanted. I could only have dessert twice a week, and when I came to the hospital. She could watch television whenever she wanted. Unless I was in her room, I could only watch 30 minutes a day.

“Hi my dumpling.”

When my dad came back into the room he and my mom kissed like they do in movies, I had to look away. He whispered something into her ear, but I couldn’t hear it.

“Okay Anna, it’s dinner time. Tell Mommy you love her.” I looked at my dad and opened my eyes wide, pleading to play with my Polly Pockets for as long as I could. He tilted his head to the left and nodded discretely. “Only three minutes, Mommy needs some rest.”

When my three minutes were up I kissed my mom on the cheek. She whispered “I love you so so much, more than you could ever know.” I giggled. I knew she loved me; she told me all the time.

“I love you too Mommy.”  And I left with my dad. We walked to pick up Chinese food and brought it home. My dad lifted me up to type in the secret code to open the door of our apartment building. I got to open the mailbox— number 7H. My dad took the mail and we went to the seventh floor. He opened the food and got out ceramic plates and silverware from the small kitchen adjacent to the dining table.

“Daddy, what are you doing?” I looked at his face. He had taken the chop sticks from our dinner and put them in his mouth in a very weird way.

“I’m a walrus, hello! Arf, Arf.” He was always doing goofy things like this.

“I wanna be a walrus too!” And I followed suit.

The next day my dad picked me up from school on his bicycle. He handed me my heart covered helmet and I placed it over my head, fussing with the buckle until he helped me. We rode his bike through the busy streets and the buildings that loomed over me. I looked around, there were people everywhere. I wondered if they got to go visit their Mommy’s in special places like I got to. There were cars, and bicyclists, and people on roller skates. There were even people running. The sky was blue, but cloudy. It made it easier to see. I held onto Daddy tight as he pedaled away.

The breeze stung my face with the fall air until we finally decided to get ice cream. We locked up his bike and went into the shop on First Avenue. This was the coolest ice cream shop. One wall had all the candy you could ever want with scoopers to put it into bags. I didn’t get candy, though. I stuck with a Kiddie scoop of cookie dough with extra whipped cream. As I sat with my father his eyes looked droopier than normal, and the wrinkles on his forehead seemed to have grown overnight. But that’s what happens when you have a dad that works a lot. He was just tired from work.

“Daddy, how’s your ice cream?” He was about to answer but got cut off by a yawn and a phone call. He pulled his phone out of his black leather brief case. While he answered it, I made “ice cream soup.” It required only two ingredients: my ice cream and my spoon.

“Do you really want your ice cream to taste like that?” My dad chuckled.

“Taste it, Daddy, it’s delicious.” He took a bite and his face squished like a raisin.

“Hmmm… Try my chocolate flavor, I think you’ll like it.”

“Ewww no. I tried it last time and didn’t like it at all!” I still never order chocolate ice cream.

After a certain point, my mom didn’t have her room anymore. She got to be home a lot more and even go to work. She was usually too tired to play with me though. Luckily, my dad and I kept our tradition of going out to eat. One afternoon, we abandoned the ice cream store and found a Vietnamese shop that had a rice, bean, and milk dessert that filled a glass bigger than my face. “Anna, are you excited for your first swimming lesson after this?”

“Yes! I’m going to be the best swimmer ever. Daddy, will you please swim with me?”

“Sweetie, that’s how the class works.”

“This dessert is so good; can we get it more?”

“We can come whenever you have swim lessons, and you have them once a week. Is that enough?”

“Yeah, that’s good! Will you wear swimmies, too, with me?”

“You bet I will if I can find some that’ll fit me! Do you think I could borrow yours?” I looked him in the eyes and started cracking up, imagining him wearing my swimmies. I got to wear them in the bath so I knew they’d never fit him.

In the summer, I spent a lot of time at my grandmas. Along with this, was a lot of time on the train to get to my grandma’s. “Dad, can I sit by the window today?” My dad nodded as he guided my back with his hand into the maroon and navy leather seat to our left. He rolled up the sleeves on his crisp white button-down and pulled out his yellow legal note pad and blue gel pen, the same type of pen he’s always used.

“The dot game or hangman? You decide.”

My brows furrowed and my eyes glued themselves to the ceiling until I declared “Hangman! But only until we get to Yonkers. From Yonkers to Dobbs Ferry I want to play the dot game.” I smiled with pride after sharing how much I knew about the train stops before Grandma’s.

“And, I get to pick the word first!” I grabbed the note pad from his lap, pulled out the tray table from the chair in front of mine and picked the best word I knew: symphony. I had only used the word playing hangman once before and it was with my mom so there was no way my dad would be able to get it. It took me ten repeats before memorizing s-y-m-p-h-o-n-y— symphony. The best words have y’s in them because no one ever guesses y, they always guess the other vowels first.

The hangman guy was only one eye away from being completed when the intercom spoke “Yonkers, Yonkers, the next stop is Yonkers.”

“Oh well look at that, I guess we can’t finish the game!” My dad laughed, but I knew better than to fall for his trick.

“Daddy, don’t be such a sore loser. You only have one more letter to guess until I win!”

“Hmm, I guess R.”

I drew the final eye on the hangman, a large frown-y face, and the words “Anna wins.” We played the dot game until we reached Dobbs Ferry where we had to walk two blocks from the train station to my Grandma’s apartment. Whenever we made this walk, my dad declared the same things.

“Look! That was my old elementary school!” A few steps later, “That’s where my best friend Jimmy and I used to play Dungeons and Dragons.” We walked and held hands. “And that place-“

“I know, I know, I know. That, was where you used to get guitar lessons!”

We arrived to Grandma’s apartment ten minutes later. Her apartment was small, because only she and Pop, my grandpa, lived there. The walls white, but covered in obscure paintings. The carpeting was tan, and never fully clean. They were a “wear your shoes in the house” couple. Grandma and Pop had a big television though, with giant blue couches. I spent countless hours on those couches crocheting scarves, while Grandma quilted, and Pop read the newspaper. Sometimes Grandma and I would switch; I would sew, she would crochet. Sometimes we’d do other projects too, like collage.

Grandma and I did other activities as well. We went to the library a lot. It was right down the street so we’d walk together hand in hand. She would go to the big book section and I would go to the Movies on VCR section and pick out something for us to watch together. The one summer I spent with Grandma, I watched every single Mary- Kate and Ashley movie. We couldn’t just watch movies though, Grandma always made me read with her too. At the library we’d meet up, and go to the book section for me, and pick something out. I learned that I went to my grandma’s every Thursday, because that’s when my mom was given chemo. My mom would then go home, but needed the weekend to recover. I would go back on Sundays.

When I visited my grandma and my pop, I got my own room. It was right next to their room. Grandma and Pop had this special couch that turned into a bed for me. That room was covered with photographs of my giant family. They had six children, so that means I have a lot of cousins. In my room, there was a corner with buckets of building blocks. My dad told me once that they were the same building blocks he played with when he was my age. Before Grandma and Pop moved into the apartment, they had a really big house and my dad had a huge room that he shared with his brother, Uncle Ben. Uncle Ben used to throw these blocks at my dad’s head! They’re so hard, I can’t imagine how much it hurt.

“I love you, sweetie! Grandma will bring you back to the city on the train on Sunday. Do you need anything else?” His right thumb tapped on his left hand, eager to return to the City.

“I have everything I need!” I looked at Grandma and knew how much fun we were about to have. “Bye Daddy.” And out the door he went. Grandma had a recipe on the counter and I snuck a peek before it was dinner time— the only part I knew was hot dog; the other words were too long. My dad told me I always had to tell my grandma her cooking was good, even if it wasn’t.

“Anna, want to go to the movies?”

My eyes lit up and my head mimicked a bobble head. Every night Grandma and I had fun. This was the best summer ever.

I recently learned that I had only visited my mother’s hospital once when she had cancer. I fixated on all of the wonderful aspects of my visit, and created a year’s worth of memories. Many things I remember were true; visits with my grandma, swimming lessons, the Vietnamese restaurant. Maybe I created these memories because no one felt comfortable enough to tell me what was really going on. Maybe, it was because I found solace in imagining I had the world’s greatest playground, a playground unattainable to other children my age. Maybe, it was because I wanted to have this place where I could break so many rules; whether it be dessert, or television. Maybe, it was because I wanted to believe that I spent more time with my mom than I did.

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Anna Charny is a first year International Relations and Spanish double major and English minor. The inspiration for this piece came from seeing the knock-off brand Jello that downstairs Letch sells.

The Falseness in Bravery

 

A numbness tickles the back of my neck and I pull my jacket tighter around my shoulders.  A glint from the setting sun catches in the shattered glass of the white house and the feeling of being watched sets itself with a tight grip on my chest.  It’s like a weight pressing against my lungs and cementing my feet into the ground forcing my eyes to stare deeper back into the eyes of the house.  I blink and red brick eats up the white walls, the temperature on my skin rises, the pressing eyes are replaced by curious ones.

It’s a two years prior and the same tightness is in my chest as I glanced at the rusted metal prongs that were pushed back in such a way that it made a hole about a foot high.  This was our entrance.   Seen through the barred doorway, a single chair intentionally sat facing the windows; shadows danced along it, stretching into parts of the room unseen from our current spot. My friends whispered behind me and I feel their eyes press into my back as they waited for me to give them some sort of cue.  This was all my idea.

A week prior I suggested a summer adventure into the Kings Park Psychiatric Center, an abandoned mental institution not too far from where we lived.  Built in the late 1800’s and abandoned in the late 1900s, the Kings Park Psychiatric Center, was the biggest of the four mental institutions on Long Island.    At its peak, its brick walls were home to over 9,000 patients, and was the giver of lobotomies, electro-shock therapy and tales of doctors dragging the patient’s dead bodies through underground tunnels.

Today, Kings Park Psychiatric Center, or KPPC, bricks walls are covered in graffiti, and patients have turned into drug addicts and the homeless. Although the horror stories of the past ended with the institution closing, new stories of explorers being trapped inside or being stabbed by the new inhabitants flood the airwaves.  And that’s where we found ourselves, the five of us high school girls, standing in front of an abandoned building daring to explore the mysteries inside.

My heart hammered in my chest as I wrapped a hand around the rusted metal.  I was the self-nominated and apparently brave ring leader whose job it was to show the way.   So I needed to ignore my racing heart.   I pushed down the tightness in my chest that made it hard to breathe and plastered on a fake smile and a sense of confidence.  If I showed fear, then there would be no way anyone else would enter the building. And I knew that if we let this moment of fear shackle us and send us home without having explored anything, soon shame would replace the void that fear once held.   So up goes the mask of bravery.

After dismissing an argument about my ability to fit through this small gap in metal bars that was waist high, I placed a towel down over the bottom bar.  I gripped one hand on Sammie’s shoulder and one on the rung above the hole before I placed a foot on the bottom bar of it.  I slid the foot through, but I froze momentarily realizing my foot couldn’t touch the ground, but continued anyway without anyone realizing the misstep.  I let my foot dangle and placed my other foot on the bottom bar before letting go of Sammie’s shoulder and gripped both hands on the top rung.   I yanked myself through sharply making sure not to smack my head on the top rung but felt a piece of metal scratch down my back.

Their wide eyes watched me behind the bars and I gave them a broad smile hiding the stinging I felt down my back.   I gave them a thumbs up after glancing around the poorly lighted room and mentally decided that it was all clear, but in reality I just wanted someone to be on my side of barred doorway.

I joked that they were scared only to have Sammie throw me her camera and without hast, threw her own foot on the bottom bar of the hole.  I placed a hand on the bottom bar, under her back and helped guide her safely through the hole.  Now having joined me on the other side of the barred doorway, we exchanged a smile and the tightness in my chest loosened enough to let me breath.

The wind whips on my hair and wipes away old memories leaving only the sight of the faceless house that peered back at me.  Here, in front of this abandoned white house, there is no act to sustain, no one to convince of false bravery.  Just a girl alone and fearful with a tightness in her chest unable to look away just in case the house were to blink back.

 

Nicole Logrieco

Nicole Logrieco, born on Long Island in the small town of Greenlawn, now attends school in the even smaller town of Geneseo.  She is currently a biology major with a strong enough interest in English to add it as a minor.  In her spare time, when she isn’t cramming science into her, she can be found writing, boxing, or explore unknown places.

 

Sleep

 

Branches stroked the window, their silhouettes waving against a moonlit backdrop. The faint smell of well water floated through the halls and into the bedroom. The house was still. No pets roamed, no floorboards creaked beneath pairs of feet. It had long since settled into itself and the silence pressed in around me, squeezing the breath from my lungs.

Shadows leered above as I burrowed beneath a worn flannel blanket, my thumbs rubbing the threads that clung to it. I breathed in the musty smell that wasn’t mine, the distinct scent of someone else’s life. My heart fluttered as I stared out at those trees. The dark shapes cast swaying shadows across the whitewash walls of the tight room.

My friend’s slim figure rose and fell, her breathing deep and smooth in the bed above me. She rolled toward the wall and murmured in her sleep.

I shifted on the pad. My hands began to shake. My knuckles whitened as I clutched the blanket, my breath coming out in quick gasps. The trees watched me suffocate. I started pushing the covers off with unsteady hands. I eased myself out of the makeshift bed, ready for another midnight escape.

Then I heard my name.

Her mother’s shoulders filled the doorway and I crouched back down into the covers. She came in and knelt beside me. “Sweetie, do you want to go home?”

I swallowed. My heart fluttered and I started picking at the skin around my fingernails. I bit my lip then shook my head.

She pulled the covers up over me as I lay back down. Then she sat on the floor next to me. We talked for over an hour. Maybe it was about school or mornings. Maybe it was about being afraid. We’re all afraid sometimes. But it could have been anything. We talked and talked until my eyelids slid downward and my heart slowed in my chest.

It was the first time I’d ever slept over at their house. I used to always slip out at one or two in the morning. I would creep down the stairs and find a phone that would take me back to safety, to a home with pets and streetlights. A home where the trees stayed far from the windows.

I woke to the light sliding through the window pane and the trees glowing in the morning light, glistening with dew.

 

We grew taller. By now my friend was a string bean, her long blonde hair straighter than mine could ever be. Her mother was just the same as ever, short and round with short, round hair that got caught up around her face, flanking her pale cheeks.

“She says it’s beautiful,” my friend told her mother, her blue eyes shining in the dim light. “It’s orange and right on the horizon. We can probably see it if we drive to one of the backroads. Can we please?”

It was midnight and the wind whipped across the blackened fields. Her mother stopped the car and we got out. The motor chilled and we stared up at the clouds. We sat in the cool, still air, and waited for the moon. We waited until our cheeks grew cold.

It might have been a harvest moon or a blue moon, I don’t remember. But apparently it was beautiful.

And her mother drove. She was always doing things like that. Once she took us to a toy store and said she’d buy each of us whatever we wanted. It might have even been more than once. She used to take us to the movies, and out to dinner, and bring us little gifts for no particular reason other than to show her love. But teenagers are different. We make a point to disapprove.

We held out for the moon. My friend’s breath hung in the air in soft grey clouds. Her mother wrapped herself in a shawl and her cheeks glowed in the car headlights. I rubbed my arms with my hands, hopping from one foot to the other.

My friend and I grinned at each other in the darkness. “No moon?” she said, a cloud falling from her mouth.

I shook my head. “It’s hiding.”

“Maybe it’s asleep,” she giggled through chattering teeth.

We ran back to the car and her mother followed. It was the last time I was with just the two of them.

I stayed at their house that night, the branches rubbing against the window and the scent of well water wafting through the halls. I slept on the floor beneath layers of flannel. And in the morning the light slanted through the glass window and cast tree-shaped shadows on the carpet.

 

We weren’t scared of the dark anymore. Or at least that’s what we said.

It was a weekday. I was riding in the passenger’s seat and my mother was driving. That’s when she told me. It took a minute to process.

“Oh,” I finally said.

My mother nodded mechanically. “She’d had it for a while and we knew it was coming. I mean, it was terminal.”

I knew.

I asked if my friend would come home from college. After all, she was just a freshman.

No.

My hand roamed the corduroy seat, fingering the grooves of the cloth. I stared out the window at the fields, illuminated by the dying light. My thumb circled the fabric of the seat. My heart beat faster and my breath caught in my throat. I closed my eyes and let my skull fall back against the head rest.

 

I’m no longer afraid of the dark, no longer afraid to sleep. I’m not afraid of the pressing silence of an empty house or of branches silhouetted against a deep moonlit sky. But I was afraid of that car ride.

Out on the field in the middle of the night, in the middle of our short lives, we didn’t find the moon: the one beautiful, glowing object in an otherwise cloudy sky, a cloudy life. But I hope in the end they did. That maybe my friend learned to love and say goodbye. And maybe her mother found that love, learned to feel it and hold it close to her heart.

I hope, in the end, she was finally able to sleep.

 

Headshot

Phoebe Hartvigsen is a freshman Biology major at SUNY Geneseo who enjoys reading, writing, and hugging animals. She was born in New Jersey but grew up in the one and only Geneseo, NY.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Moon image citation: http://www.nasa.gov/sites/default/files/thumbnails/image/as11-44-6667.jpg

The Order

 

 

Beverage splatters
d r i p d r i p

Cheeks turn rosy
r e d

Absorption does not
o c c u r

A glimpse at
t i m e

The dreadful hill
a w a i t s

My hike to
c l a s s

Slowly sleek into my red seat
l i s t e n i n g

For my next assignment.

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Neha Marolia was born in Queens, New York and now resides in Syosset, New York. She is currently a freshman English Literature Adolescent Education major at SUNY Geneseo. She is employed at GLK and will work as an Orientation Advisor for the Summer of 2016.