“I didn’t agree to this,” Olivia says.
“Um, well, you do have other options. But – come on, look.”
Olivia looks and sees Lily wearing her oops-but-uh-please smile. She also has her hands clasped together just under her chin, which has the effect of squishing the cat, or maybe a kitten, who is now squirming a little behind her curtain of brown hair. It jumps down and pads over to curl up in a bag, thankfully empty, and peers up with wide eyes.
“I have a choice,” Olivia reminds herself, and it’s a little grounding. She lets out an exhale. “I have a choice,” she repeats, and the world feels a little steadier. She looks at the cat again, takes in the way it looks, tries to reasonably calculate how much it would cost to take care of one. She knows there’s a general store a few blocks away that sells cat food at a decently low cost, because for some reason it’s sold next to the candy. Olivia doesn’t want to take in a cat if it will go hungry with her. It’ll feel like a failure, which has never failed to drive her to tears. There are some cardboard boxes that can probably be made to serve as a makeshift playground, and maybe some other things she can scourge up. Could she – no, she reminds herself, could they do it? Olivia crouches down, looks a little harder. Their place doesn’t forbid pets, and their neighbors, who come over every weekend for tea, have no allergies beyond their sneezing reaction to pollen.
“Hey,” Lily says, clasping their hands together and drawing small circles with her thumbs. “I’m ok with it if you decide no.” She looks earnest, a little apologetic.
“No,” Olivia says, and she’s surprised at the amount of conviction that comes with it. “The cat can stay.”
Lily beams, and Olivia offers a tentative one back. The cat has their head raised a little out of the bag, and she wonders if the memory will stay, will remain something hopeful and warm. A little family.
And the rain never seems to stop
The grey, cloudy sky has never felt as serene
Someone is walking down the pier, umbrella in hand
Just a blurred speck of blue and red under this gentle rain
A nameless figure, barely visible through the fog
Rain hits the water in slow, ever-expanding ripples
Cars roaring down the water-drenched roads, the sound of waves
Slapping the shore, over and over again
And for this moment, the world is so quiet, so beautifully present.
Your upper hand beats their lower hands to roll the die
Crooked men lounge on red playing cards
Their cancerous smoke hushes out the children
Big hands rolls six sick sixes on the dice
I hope I’ve got some sisters who out last me
They gonna tell our story
Little men in big suits were on the telly
Static white n’ black threads his white lies so clearly
Problematic white noise hushs our issues
Everything’s still more than just scenes on T.V.
Stills hang on a black screened shutdowned T.V.
Do You Think So Too?
He sits in the corner of my class, not my first or my last . It's one of those boring middle-of-the-day classes everyone dozes off to.
He sits in the corner, wiggling his eyebrows at the girl in the table next to him. He's always partners with her. They're good friends. I think.
He has on a sky blue hoodie, littered with cliche inspirational quotes he’d scribbled on. My favorites are "Where the shadows crawl, light is always close by" and "Nothing is perfect. I am nobody. Therefore, I am perfect." He always takes the hoodie off afterwards and stuffs it in his locker. I know because I've seen him do it. Every day.
When I first heard his voice, frankly, I thought he was a she. He gave off a cool vibe, a dramatic obnoxious drag queen diva. And I wasn't wrong.
First time I sucked it all in and approached him, he blew into my ear, laughed, and walked off. Second time, he approached me, and said he liked scaring me. I don't understand it.
But the way he babbles, the way his smile just gets me smiling with him, I understand that part of him. The way he looks like he's always having fun, even during his science presentation, I like it. He's always smiling. I don't know if he really does, but I like to think so.
It is an indistinguishable day:
gray, cloudy sky and hours that feel too long.
There is someone with a stroller, a child
kicking their legs, asking for food.
The river sloshes, the boats bob slowly,
all the discarded trash bumps up against the wall
Something upsetting has happened, left you
in shaky tears, spilling out water, an inkwell tipped.
You want to run, sprint to the best of your ability
far, far away. You want to make it to that glowing symbol,
that reads PIER and a number, that attracts boats but not people.
You look down, take two steps at a time, trying to
make it a game, two steps in one rectangular block, and suddenly
It is cold, and your face and arms have turned red.
But now you have an accomplishment, something to counter
the failure that had tipped the scales, sent liquid flying.
It’ll be okay, you remind yourself.
It’ll be okay.
like stirring the ceiling
We’re gonna clear up this anxiety
Tell me, when our world’s falling
Will she be your gravity?
Feeling as right as raindrops
Riding on top of this mentality
Breaking the glass ceiling
with her bomb stiletto class.
Art of Growing
“…So I moved my two dark, three-dimensional circles out of the dark, and beheld the terrifying sight of-”
Amber smiles, the corners of her lips quirking up, before she hides it with a long sip of soda. Every time James tells that particular story, he embellishes it a little more. Never to the point of being false, because James rather rigidly sticks to his belief that honesty is the best policy, but substituting in longer ways to say things. The number of ways he’s found to say that his eyes opened is frankly astonishing at this point. But the child he’s talking to and gesticulating in front of begins to stop crying. She’s looking up at him and breaking out into weak giggles every now and then, and Amber feels a rush of fondness before turning her attention back to the other children.
They’re loudly gesturing, and they’ve made sure to include everyone, the way she and James have been encouraging them to do. But it seems that they were nearly done planning, as the mass of students breaks up and attends to their plants. Jake, Edward, and Maria are trying to grow a sunflower, and it’s already starting poking up from the dirt. Abigail and George are tending to marigolds. The others had beamed up at her and said it was a secret, but she had been promised that they were flowers and not trees.
“So hey, everything’s okay. My teacher told me something similar when I broke a cup. We can get a new pot of soil, if you’d like, but this isn’t something that’s being graded, and we’re not upset. The most important thing is that you’re alright. Do you feel better?” The girl looks a little calmer now, and less distraught. She nods. “Alright then, wanna remind me what Ms. Amber taught us?” James asks warmly, and the girl stands up straight, with confidence, and leads him through the steps.
On the horizon of the paper-thin sky, shadow buildings fill the skyline
The sky, almost white, with just enough blue to call it grey
From the window—miniscule, rolling waves, barely perceptible from the brick ledge
A ship slowly wends its way downriver, leaving white, white, white in its wake
The water, almost a mirror-glass, the greys and blues and whites of the winter sky
Closer to the shore, the mirror breaks, rippling with skyscrapers and sea-glass green
The frolicking waves beckon and tease, lurching restlessly under the icy docks
Shimmering with the muted light of the clouded sun
Holding a mirror-world full of mirror-skies and mirror-boats and mirror-cities and mirror-people
A mirror-universe where the lines are so blurred, it’s barely a mirror at all
But clear enough that the city’s outline is unmistakable
Just clear enough
To hold the winter sky
The curfew for 15-year-olds in Greenwich was 8 p.m. That was an hour longer than what Annabel was used to. The driving curriculum wouldn’t be added to her schedule until next year. She saw no point in the extended time frame.
Her peers have already decided to use the free time to pursue their future careers. Ian was on the afternoon junior trip to the Committee of Seniors. He had been talking about getting a spot on the Committee with anyone who would listen. It was a rather tiring way to broadcast himself, but Annabella put up with his antics nonetheless. Propaganda wasn’t the right word for his actions. Annabel liked to call it “campaigning.”
It was part of the required English terms she had to memorize back in January. Though Ben discouraged any use of the word past June, Annabel still secretly used it with Ian. A strange feeling would always accompany her little act of disobedience; a rush, a skipped beat, a giddiness that she found fascinating.
But Ian wasn't here now. He was on the trip.
Annabel has been wandering around the Centre Circle three times. She glanced at the clock perched on the tower.
She had been wandering for 15 minutes.
Annabel contemplated finding Christina. She couldn't loiter in an area for more than 20, or else a bot would swoop down and detain her, and she definitely didn't want to cause unnecessary trouble.
Maybe she should just return home like yesterday. Her mother wouldn't mind extra help for the evening meal.
Annabel activated the GPS in her left ear—she always prefered the left side of her body—and studied the suggested path home on the projected screen in front of her. The translucent blue map highlighted the quickest path home, but Annabel thought otherwise.
I want to go home as late as possible.
Instantly, the image flashed in confirmation, and the green line became a rollercoaster. It definitely looked strange and unnecessary, but Annabel ignored it. She wanted to get home late, and her brain agreed.
Polythemus was especially beautiful at night. Annabella and Ian would always sneak to the Flat Hills when they were still freshmen. They are juniors now, but the starry escapades seemed like they had happened yesterday.
“Anna, can you describe what the sky looks like?”
Anna gave her friend an incredulous look.
“You’re telling me no one has ever shown the sky to you?”
He shrugged his broad shoulders--he had been an early bloomer--and faced her with his sapphire eyes.
“They have, but I’ve never actually seen it.”
“What are you saying? Those eye bots should’ve restored your sight! You even guessed the color of my hair, and I’ve never told you about them.”
His calloused hands brushed over the smooth blue eyeballs.
“But this is different. I can touch my eyes. I can adjust them. And when you try to do the same, you hurt yourself.”
Anna instinctively traced the outline of her green left eyeball. She had to undergo the same procedure Ian did five years ago, except for one eye. The bots weren’t lying when they stated replacement of one eye took more adjustment than two, but Anna and her family unit couldn’t afford two.
Her fingers traveled to the grass between her toes. It had the same texture as her synthetic eye.
“The sky is blue,” she started.
“Like the afternoon one?’
“No…” She struggled to pinpoint the appropriate word in her freshman-year vocabulary.
“It’s a much darker blue. It’s like the dark, but it isn’t scary. The sky just… ”
Anna studied the glittering white balls in wonder. Ian’s eyes picked up on the movement and peered up with her. His eyes could only process a gloomy backdrop - something he stared at for hours during his eye procedure.
“Pulls you in,” she finished. Her eyes traveled back to Ian. “Like you.”
Ian didn’t respond.
“I mean that in a nice way. I know it’s early to choose Friends, but I like talking to you. When I become a Junior, I will make you a Friend of mine. That’s a promise.”
Anna’s ears picked up the family bots finally tracing their location. She clenched tufts of grass in her hands. Walking beyond a 10-feet radius from her parents as a Freshman was an offense. A minor one sure, but bots had been sent after them.
And in the dimness of the nightfall, Anna picked up Ian’s subtle nod before a bot’s beams transported them back to their parents’ sides.
Her heart leapt. The twinkling lights always gave her that feeling again. Even now, even when she wasn’t actually breaking any rules as a Junior.
Annabel couldn’t explain it. Did Ian feel the same after that night? She never got around to ask. It became a forbidden topic to say or even think about. She shouldn’t even be reminiscing such a scandalous act in the first place.
But then again she countered herself. It is near curfew. Seniors start home to the Greenwich community and there won’t be much surveillance from the evening to night bot shifts.
Sure the night bots would most likely catch her in the act, but Annabel had a couple of minutes to spare for a wandering thought or two.
She made a left into the small space between two housing units. It wasn’t according to the map shown to her, but she didn’t want to make the longer walk around the units. A curfew is a curfew. She can be late, but no later than 8 p.m.
Art by Lea Shvarts
a sooted finger graces lucid waters,
a foot too quick plunges past haters
Three quick gasps and thus
He goes fast right under
Silent screams rippled through landlines
slicker and sweeter, as if collected with
mystic morphine and hypnotic heroin
So soon an overdose rings home