Mājas

Caroline Hughes

Issue NO. 2 • ARE WE THERE YET?

I wrote this piece for the Brink because one of the things I want to do after graduation is travel. I’m very excited to, and I want to go to Latvia and explore my family’s history, but I feel some guilt for wanting to go there because of my mother’s feeling towards the country. In this piece, I try to explore this conflict.

The first time my grandma tried bubblegum she swallowed it. The American soldier that freed her and her sisters from their Displaced Persons camp in Germany, laughed as they all ate- not chewed- the fluorescent pink gum that he gave them. Having tried the Latvian candy that my great uncles always bring to Christmas, I know that must've been the sweetest thing that had ever touched my grandma’s tongue as a child. A spark of color in a world of gray and ash.

She doesn’t like to talk about the actual Holocaust to my brother, cousins, and I. When shes does bring it up, she talks about the bubblegum and how that soldier was the first black person she had ever seen. When my mother talks about it, she’ll share the stories my grandma had slipped to her as a child. My mom said it was to put her own complaints and issues into perspective. You can’t whine to your mom because when she was your age a Nazi plane dove down to shoot at her for target practice as she was walking to her family’s barn. It makes a fight with your best friend seem miniscule. Makes all of your problems seem insignificant, almost laughable.

My cousin’s girlfriend, a girl whose quiet nature drives my aunt up a wall, studied abroad in Florence last spring. When he visited her they decided to stay a few nights in Riga, the capital of Latvia. My grandma was proud, her own children have never visited, let alone expressed any substantial interest to. My mom and her sister may even be citizens. Their late father, my Pa John, would mention acquiring their citizenship for them after the Berlin Wall came down. However, neither of them has ever checked to see if he left even more uncompleted things behind before he passed too early.

My cousin would send me pictures, awkward selfies in front of tall spiral buildings, the captions in Latvian. I would shove my phone under my mom’s nose, asking her to translate the words, which just looked to me like my cousin scrambled his fingers across his keyboard and clicked send. She would recoil as if it were a bad smell, and claim she wouldn’t know enough Latvian to translate. After pleading and annoying her, she would glance at the phone for a second, say he spelled a few words wrong, or that his grammar was off, and then would produce a perfect translation. All within two seconds, with little to no effort.

I’ve seen my mom perform this trick many times growing up. Whether its her and my grandma following a family in IKEA, trying to figure out if they are speaking Latvian or not, or my mom whispering to her cousin at a funeral, their tongues rolling in ways that the language that WE share never does.

In middle school I asked my mom why she never taught my brother and I Latvian. It was like she was withholding a secret code that we haven't earned the right to unlock yet. When my dad would hear these conversations, he’d butt in reminding us we were also Irish and Italian (but Boston Irish/Italian heritage is boring, and I’d rather eat one hundred Latvian candies than be boring). She said it was because she barely knew it anymore. She was fluent as a child, but then her kindergarten teacher told my grandparents that she sometimes had trouble not slipping into Latvian in class. My grandparents panicked, flashing back to when they first came to America, a melting pot that burns each ingredient as it’s added. For years, they only spoke English at home.

I see her first language spark on her tongue though. Whether it’s at an Easter dinner, singing a church hymn at a funeral, or when she is reading an old to-do lists from the 80s, forgotten in a kitchen junk drawer in our summer cottage in New Hampshire. It seems so personal, like she is the only person left who speaks this sacred and secret language.

I didn’t even know my mother’s real name until middle school. To be fair I practically did know it, but still, I felt the injustice in my bones. On her driver’s license, she is Anna M. Hughes. Pronounced by everyone Ann-a. It is actually Anna, as in Ah-nah. I gave her a lot of crap for that one. Even more recently, she told me she didn’t fully erase her maiden name. She added it as a second middle name. This time I wasn’t upset. In fact, I felt a sense of relief that confused me for why I felt it, but I did all the same.

It's no secret I want to go to Latvia. Finally see the country that I cheer for in every Olympic event that they make it to. See the bitter candies in actual stores, instead of the ceramic sunflower bowl my cousin made in her sixth grade art class. Apparently there is a house in my mom and aunt’s name there, but they don't collect rent from whoever lives there now.

My mom always comments when I plan my imaginary trip, not unkindly, but truthfully in the way mothers can.

“Wouldn't you rather go to Italy?”

Well, yeah I would. I want to go to Italy, Paris, Greece, and Japan. Also, Scotland, and when I think about it more, I have a cousin I could visit in Belgium as well. Even so, I still can’t help but feel like I have to go to Latvia. There could be nothing for me to find there except my grandma’s approval for going, of course. I can’t help but wonder, do I owe something to this country? It gave me my family, my history, and technically my life, and I only know a petty change handful of words in its language. It feels almost like a betrayal to not claim it as a part of me.

This year my mom finally told me the truth. Resentment, not a kind colored in anger but sadness, carried her words from her mouth. Her parents never saw America as their home. Not the country, state, or town they lived in. Not the tiny three bedroom house my mom grew up in. It was her home, and her sister’s without a doubt. That’s where their family was. My mom thinks it was never enough for them. They always longed for a home that was as foreign to my mom as it is to me. I don’t think she’ll ever go because then she’ll have to confront a piece of her parents that she was in constant rivalry with her whole life.

People always try to fix their parents mistakes with their own children. I think my mom made sure my brother and I had her completely. We never had to compete for her against her home. I think her plan worked. My brother studied political science, learning about how OUR government system works. I’m getting my degree in English, the only language my mother comfortably claims.

Travel is Uncomfortable and I Don’t Like it

Pardo, C.

ISSUE NO. 2 •  ARE WE THERE YET?

This magazine counts down the hours to the beginning of the rest of my life. As I stare into the chasm from the brink of adulthood, I wonder what awaits me at the bottom.The concept of wanderlust is foreign to me.

I never wanted to leave where I was. The idea that it’s interesting to see other places when I could just lie at home and watch anime is atrocious. What are you people doing? Why are you spending so much money to leave the comfort of your everyday dwellings? I don’t understand. The discomfort of airplanes, of 12 hour car rides, of airports and unfamiliar gas stations, it just doesn’t seem worth it. I like the security of my place of residence. Unfamiliar places are scary! Who knows how uncomfortable it will be?

I know I sound like an asshole complaining about the mild discomfort of modern travel. I know how lucky we have it now - I’ve played the Oregon Trail. So looking back historically, the fact that I don’t risk shitting my brains out when I go to visit my friends in Arizona is actually an astounding technological feat that I should take advantage of. And for my friends? I will risk the discomfort and thank God that we have better road infrastructure and literal flying with sanitary toilets that I can make my journey upon. For my grandparents, I’ll spend a few days gazing out the car window while we cruise down the coast to the tip of the Floridian peninsula, occasionally rolling in to rest stops that have clean running water I don’t have to pay for. It’s quite a modern luxury.

So though I grouse, I kind of feel ungrateful complaining about how hard I find it to travel. I have so much going for me at the moment - my youth, few debts, no job or family to plan around. But still, there is something about travel that feels particularly daunting to me. Even without a family and work and bills to worry about, there are so many variables. So much organizing to do- where do you wanna go, when do you wanna do it, how much will it cost? Where will you stay, how will you get there, how will you get home? And what happens, if God forbid, something goes wrong while you’re gone? Even with how things have changed, there are still so many variables, so many ways things can go wrong - and what happens when everything goes to shit while you’re all alone in a place you’ve never known?

I’m graduating this year. By the time this is published, I’ll have two months until I am thrust out into the unknown - bounced out of my social safety net into a world devoid of the scholastic infrastructure that has dominated my entire existence. Sure, things are better than they used to be. My parents worked hard to establish themselves in lucrative fields so that when I grew up, I could fulfill my dreams, not dream about having a full fridge. I have their financial stability to fall back on if things don’t work out, properties that they will own no matter how far south the economy falls. But I’m not uncomfortable where I am. As ambitionless as it may be, at least it’s safe. I know what to expect, and I know how little is expected of me. I am afraid of what is out there - to imagine the future is very uncomfortable. I have the chance to achieve things that my grandparents, my parents, never could. How selfish is it to squander that chance?

I’ve never liked to travel, and I don’t like change. Although I know that my family and friends await me at the end of the journey, I freeze in despair at the first step. I look out over the winding path before me, and I can’t see them at the end. But I know they are there, waiting for me. So although I don’t know what may lie ahead, I hold my head high and take that first step past despair and begin the journey of the rest of my life.


Bermuda (A Love/Hate Prose Poem)

Anne Marie Ward

Issue NO. 2 • ARE WE THERE YET?

In this piece, I reflect on mental images of beautiful paradise that clash with the painful memories to which they are tied, culturally and personally. It’s a poem where I reflect on my past relationships and loves, and think about the places I’ve been and want to go, and what they all mean when they’ve been put together. The places you’ll go to are in the context of the places you’ve been. Thanks for reading .

He says we can never go to Bermuda, never make it ours. I ruined the whole place, seeped jealous poison deep into the earth that cannot be clawed out. Marred by a different man I had known there. A lonely island in the Atlantic, off the coast in the middle of nothing. Far from the Caribbean, unlike what some might think. “It’s only an hour flight from JFK,” ads coo, flashing on billboards above the turnpike: alluding to lush Eden a mere stone’s throw from smoggy commuter hell. To an island with no native people. Discovered by the Spanish and named after one of their own. Bermudez. Then taken in the name of the British Queen, which it stays to this day. Also called the devil’s isle. The isle that sunk ships and marooned men with craggy coral reefs in its clear shallows, all around. Isolated paradise: bleached sand and green palms and no people to cross its cerulean lagoon. Until it was captured and cajoled and filled with whitewashed limestone roofs and carnation-pink resort cabins and syrupy blue curacao cocktails, complimentary. With bartenders in frond huts who are tired of making piña coladas, again. With neon bikini bottoms and white linens and designer boutiques in the downtown.  And prior, filled with sweet sugar cane and European money and human misery. Hot wounds in broken flesh. Before we decided to forget about that. Rebrand. Pump more Western money. And it became a place for romantic trysts. Illicitly-dumped lust in Horseshoe Bay. Have things really changed? I suggest that we can make Bermuda ours, reclaim our love. And he says no, maybe we can go to the Bahamas, but I ruined Bermuda forever. But he still loves me, despite past infidelity. Despite airline miles. In spite of my time in Bermuda. If I go into the crystal water, and look back on the island, it will seem like a fever dream. Hips just above the surface of the water, fingertips submerged, torso in the brilliant light. Like it were a mirage, a gem, just floating there: you could swim through and under it, press yourself against the bottom like you could an anchored dock, and listen to its thoughts. The island was lonely, but it also never really wanted us there. That’s why it would run its jagged teeth against the bottom of our ships. Drive us mad with its tree-frog incantations and salt-water libations. It saw what we could do to each other, and figured it was better to remain forgotten. Better to be safe than sorry, it whispers. I should know. I should know, too.

APPLESAUCE

Lizz Bogaard

ISSUE NO. 1 • To Have a heart

Now that I’m a senior, I’ve really been reflecting on my freshman year of college. And it’s been difficult—though not because of nostalgia, regret, or even existential anxiety; thinking about it just makes me cringe. A LOT.

I like to think of this piece as a reminder that, no matter how strange life might seem, looking back will always show us how much we’ve grown. Even if it’s just learning how to not make out like a fucking freak.


“How many guys have you made out with?”   

“Six.”        

“Ooooh. Who?”

“Josh, Joey, Andrew, Tom, Aaron, Stephen. Six.”

“Nice.”

“Okay Paige, now you.”

“Wellllll…” she smirked. “Seven.”

“WHAT?!”

“Yup.”

“I thought it was only—”

“Nope. Philip Smith.”

“What—”

“Yup. Tommy’s Bar Mitzvah. Last week.”

“Oh shit! I wasn’t even invited.”

“Yeah, he was a really bad kisser though…”


“Lizz, what about you?”

Oh no.


I can still remember it: sitting outside of Bella’s, pepperoni slice in hand, Paige and Izzy staring straight at me from the other side of the table, clutching their orange enVs, pink push up bra straps sticking boldly outside of their skin tight, neon yellow Sugarlip tank tops…

While my tank top hid shyly beneath my black basketball sweatshirt, worn only to flatten my stomach and prevent any nipple visibility. No bra.

Thinking back on seventh grade is never a happy process, mostly because it was a period of my life where my self-concept was built entirely upon my inadequacies: I couldn’t swim, couldn’t sing, couldn’t dance, couldn’t play any instruments, couldn’t talk in class without my face turning red, (still) couldn’t do long division, (somehow) couldn’t ride a bike, couldn’t get sidebangs or my ears pierced or a phone that wasn’t a walkie-talkie that my mom used to track my location—

And I’d never made out.

“Oh, that sucks.”

Yeah, I know.

Everyone was doing it. Everyone had done it.

But how did you do it? I had no suitors, though I was determined—and I had to be prepared.

After my friends learned about my inexperience, we fell under the unspoken agreement that—when it came to me—we just wouldn’t mention making out. It was shameful enough that I’d never done it; I wanted to know more, but I really couldn’t bring myself to remind them of my inferiority.

So, naturally, I went to Google. But it gave me nothing besides those confusing, cartooned wikiHows and the oh-so-helpful advice that “it’s natural; you just have to go with it!”

Just go with it?! Impossible.

I thought I’d never do it, and I started coming to terms with that.

Until—on one day of especially laborious web digging—I’d found my classmate Josh Kent’s meant-to-be-secret Yahoo Answers profile, for some reason listed under his full real name. There was one question on his profile: “what song was playing during ur first make out?”  

No one had answered the question, though—well, no one but Josh Kent himself: “we were sitting in my treehouse and ‘city’ by hollywood undead was playing she said i was a good kisser.”

I didn’t even know who Hollywood Undead were. They sounded cool. Fuck. I felt so removed, and I sat there staring at my computer screen, low as ever…

Until something came to mind.

Until I realized that this “she” just so happened to be a friend of mine.

Now I was getting somewhere.

I knew I had to go about this carefully, so I waited for the perfect time to strike: post-gym class locker room camaraderie. (If you were changing alone, you just felt more naked.)

“Izzy?”

“Yeah?”

“Was… was Josh Kent a good kisser?”

“Oh, yeah. Really good. Everyone who’s kissed him knows that.”

“Why?”

“Well, look…” She lowered her voice. “You can’t tell anyone this.”

“I won’t. I promise.”

“Pinky promise?”

We shook.

“Alright… he has a secret method.”

“Whoa…” A secret method?! Hidden even from Google?! I had to know. This would be it, the key to life, love, happiness, success—

“What is it.” I couldn’t help myself.

“Okay, since I trust you…” She nodded, came closer to me, close as could be—then she paused. Pursed her lips. Took a big breath in and let it out with a whisper, sending one single word straight into my ear: “APPLESAUCE.”

Applesauce.

She explained it.

And I made sure I understood.

    

So on that fateful day, in that sweat-laden locker room, I learned that applesauce is, was, and will always be the only way to make out. You have to say it. Mouth it. Move your lips to form the word, slowly, quickly, hard or soft—and then you’ll get it. Then you’ll be good. Natural wouldn’t be good, couldn’t be good, unless your lips were just instinctively carrying themselves in the applesauce-sound formation—and the chances of that were, of course, beyond slim. Josh’s older brother revealed it to him, made him promise he wouldn’t tell a soul. Apparently it was a secret passed down in the Kent family, generation to generation, origin unknown. Trial and error, maybe? Or, somehow, their ancestors just knew.

And now I knew, too.

           

Izzy told me stories of others who didn’t know about applesauce, others who Josh refused to confide in, others now banished to the realm of social suicide for their failures. Apparently Kevin Nolatta just held his tongue there, erect, “like a snake.” It was a (carefully orchestrated) dare, with his crush, on a trampoline, at a party. And they had to hold it for ten full seconds, so said the dare. But the girl started laughing at eight, couldn’t even handle the whole thing.

No one had seen Kevin at a party since.

And now I knew why.

You know what, though? I wasn’t even the kind of person who’d be targeted for a dare. Like, I wasn’t hot enough to be desirable, but I also wasn’t ugly enough to be picked for a punishment. So, in a sense, I was in the clear.

Still, there was always a chance. Knowing applesauce was a gift, but there was no guarantee that I’d execute it—especially if everyone was watching.

So at every party, when it came time for the dreaded Truth Or Dare, I’d lower myself down to the grainy floor of the damp trampoline, crisscross applesauce, place one hand down between my legs to cover all those exposed pubic hairs I was too afraid to shave, station another hand at the straps of my two-sizes-too-big tankini to keep my tabooed tits safe from sight, praying praying praying that everyone would just forget I was there.

And, for the most part, they did.   

Though, little did I know, everything would soon change.

Everything.

•     •     •


The year was 2010. The month was January. It was the start of my third marking period of seventh grade, so—as promised—my mom finally allowed me to get sidebangs. And I started wearing bras. And I started showering more than twice per week.

So I became hot.

And Carter Allford became my boyfriend.

He was a blonde, bowl-cutted lacrosse player who was good at math. He asked me to be his girlfriend over AIM, which I was now capable of using through my iPod Touch.

We talked every waking hour of every single day. We passed notes in class. We held hands under the lunch table. We’d even put our devices in plastic bags to shower text. He defaulted his text message signature to “i<3lizz,” whereas I made the effort to sign every instant message with “i<3carter.”

We even decided that, when we turned eighteen, we’d lose our virginities to each other.

(We were thirteen.)

Well, actually… when that deflowering decision was made, Carter was only twelve. That part’s crucial. Because Carter’s thirteenth birthday was the day that I’d, once and for all, make out.

He’d never made out either, so we were both nervous… but we knew it had to be done. So we planned it all out. And I felt a little okay, cause at least I had applesauce. Though I couldn’t share this shred of confidence with Carter; I didn’t want him to think I was trying too hard, and I didn’t want Izzy to get mad at me, and I really didn’t want to have Josh Kent’s spectral kin haunting me for the rest of my days.

I doubt Carter would’ve even believed me, anyway. It did sound a bit insane.


•     •     •


February 15th: a sunny, cloudless, post-Valentine’s Day North Jersey Monday—the day my life changed forever.

Mom helped me pick up a nice little ice cream cake from Dairy Queen, with a cursive “Happy Birthday, Carter!” impeccably iced on—in blue icing, to be exact. And the rest was chocolate, inside and out. Favorite color, favorite flavor. Excellent.

I walked in, said my obligatory parent hellos, and had Mrs. Allford place the cake in the freezer—for later.

I was tense. And so was Carter.

I don’t even think he looked at the cake.

Post-formalities, we strode over to Carter’s basement door, closed it shut behind us, sealed our fate. We then floated over to his Xbox area—hand in hand, just as we’d planned.

I watched him play COD for about thirty-five minutes, which was fun.

Then, ever so suddenly, he put his controller down, picked up the remote, and shut off the TV. Then, ever so subtly, he put his arm around me. He kissed my head. Okay, I thought, this is gonna be it. I turned into him. You can do this. I kissed his cheek. He pulled back out. We stared. You’re going to do this. My eyes were afraid, and so were his, but we were ready and we had promised so before anyone could chicken out we just started—


Applesauce, applesauce, applesauce…


For fear of the Nolatta serpentine fatality, we—of course—did not use tongue. So Carter let me lead the way and I did the only thing I knew I could. There was no lip sucking, face touching, neck kissing—not even that cute pushing-her-hair-behind-the-ear thing. Just our lips moving around each other as awkwardly as humanly possible.


App-ill-sauce, a-pull-saw-suh, ah-pill-sass…


Though sometimes, when miming the “p” movement with pursed lips, I’d find my mouth stuck inside of his, lips plastered together between his tongue and the roof of his mouth, and I’d just have to mouth the magic word until I got out. I started being more careful, so I did it real slow, and I caught myself whispering it aloud—            

I felt him pushing me away.  

Does he think the sound is weird?

I resisted.

Am I a bad kisser?

He pushed harder.

No way. He’s just playing around.

I continued, normal pace, no vocals.

Applesauce, applesauce…

But he got stronger and stronger, kept pushing and pushing and pushing and pushing

“I CAUGHT YOU SUCKERS!”

I opened my eyes, looked up at the sound.

And there, towering above me, stood none other than Mrs. Allford.

She smiled maniacally, eyes wide, hands on hips. I’d been shoved to the other side of the couch, now feet away from Carter. She looked over at him, eyes wider, nodded—then bent down to me, got right up in my face, saw straight through my watery eyes and sneered:

“Nice try.”

Frozen.

She held her smile, strutted backwards, landed right next to a looming Mr. Allford. They locked eyes. She motioned for him to come closer to us and he did as instructed, revealing, in his hands, the Dairy Queen ice cream cake. It was laid out on a nice dish with a tiny, shiny cake cutter placed beside it; it had thirteen multicolored candles, all already lit, placed atop it; and Mr. Allford even held two little paper plates, with two little plastic forks—for us.

“Well,” said Mrs. Allford. Her grin grew, eyes burned into mine. “Let’s sing, I guess!”

And so we all sang.

The entire. Fucking. Song.

Slowly.

“Make a wish, Carter!”

They left the cake on the coffee table, placed the two paper plates and the two plastic forks in front of us, walked away without a word. But I could hear them whispering as they started up the stairs, and I wanted to cover my ears, and I wish I did, because there’s one line that my brain just won’t let me forget:

“And why the hell was she saying applesauce? 

I sat. Carter sat.

We stared.

Ahead.

At the TV.

We did not speak.

We did not move.

For a very

very

l o n g

time.

“Lizz…” He did not turn.

“Why…” He paused, sighed.

“Why… uh… why did you say applesauce?”

Um…

“Were you doing that… thing?

Uh…

“You know Josh Kent’s brother made that up to mess with him… right?”

Nope.

•     •     •

Nine years later, I’m still embarrassed. But I’m proud to say that, this spring, I’ll be graduating college having fully mastered the art of making out. And this past Valentine’s Day, when the clock struck midnight and I was forced to face February 15th, I sat snugly at a jazz club’s candlelit table, right in the royal company of Hannibal and Thundercat, and I did not hear nor say nor mouth any semblance of that accursed a-word.



Epistolary Enterprise

Asad Hussain Jung

ISSUE NO. 1 • To Have a heart

I wrote this piece after a bad break-up that reactivated some poor eating habits from my childhood, problems I thought had long been conquered. This is a little peek into my idea of self-love, and how food and nourishment plays a role in it. To anyone that has dealt or is dealing with eating disorders or problems, food is a human right. You deserve it.

Dear Body,

Food is a human right. You deserve to be nutrified. I know that after she left us, her, who was our air, our water, our nutrition, our sunlight, our strength, it felt as though there was no more power in us to feed ourselves. We felt so empty that not even food, nor water, could fill us, could make us feel whole. For days we have had nothing to eat, our sleep was accompanied by a vacant stomach, and the lack of energy pushed us further into the bed, further into half-sleeps, waking dreams that were drooling, unsure of what they were craving. When food was laid upon the table, thinking back, it was the most succulent mutton, the naan thick with ghee, a meal that would satiate the hungriest man, the sustenance that normally would fulfill a wanting tummy for days and nights, our eyes could see nothing but things we did not deserve, our nose inhaling scents it was too numb to enjoy. Moments came with a morsel, or a sniff, enjoyment rode in on a blinded horse, pain struck with each step, lashes of guilt. As we went through the motions, a giddy sensation took us over, a borderline hallucination of near-starvation induced euphoria, an intense lack of love forcing us to react, an imitation of self-love. Near tears, in a shifting classroom, we wished for a full belly, for the feeling that came with it, but not for the process, not for the path. Food is a human right, you deserve it, I tried to convince you. I forced you to bite into a piece of something, it didn’t seem to be food, akin to a hologram, a forgotten parcel, a lost message. You rejected it vehemently, but you swallowed.

We build self-love slowly. It’s a process. Bite by bite, sip by sip,

We will get there, together.

Food is a human right. You deserve it.

Sincerely,

Asad.


Does Queer Privilege Exist?

Pardo, C.

ISSUE NO. 1 • To Have a heart

There are a lot of things about Fordham Lincoln Center I won’t miss. The lack of spaces to socialize, the slow and ineffective investigation of “bias incidents” (hate crimes), the restrictions on student free speech - but if there is one thing I can thank them for, its that by steadfastly denying and ignoring LGBT identities in their on-campus housing policies, they have created a place where for the first time, I got to experience a privilege straight people did not: being able to sign my same-sex partner in as an overnight guest myself.

Some say the gays are oppressed. Some say the transgendered shouldn’t be able to safely transition using government health care. Some say the Elgeebeetees are going to hell for their unusual lifestyle choices. But in all this talk of “oppression” and “state-sanctioned violence” and “eternal damnation,” there is one glaring question that we have all forgotten to ask: Are the queers privileged?

Sure, centuries of persecution and murder for having a lover with matching genitals or wanting to go by “Christopher” instead of “Christine” has been generationally traumatic for the larger LGBTQ community. And of course, who could forget the countless gay and bi men who died in the AIDS crisis 30 years ago while the Reagan Administration did nothing? Or the predominantly black and Latino gay and bi men who are still dealing with the crisis today?

Of course, no one will deny that the LGBTTQQIAAP community has had a few rough patches. Life can be hard on us Queers! But still, we cannot let this seemingly sound evidence deter us from our line of inquiry. In the name of intellectual curiosity and the advancement of human knowledge, we must dare to ask this burning question: Does queer privilege exist?

And the answer, my friends? Is yes!

Nestled in the Upper West Side of the shining borough of Manhattan sits a liberal arts school nationally renowned for its atrocious campus food, abysmal restrictions on student free speech, and dorm visitation policies straight out of the 1950’s:

Fordham College at Lincoln Center.

And here is where the Gays™ and the Trans-Gendered™ and the Kweers™ finally get the privilege they have so long been denied: the ability to sign in their same-sex partner overnight without incurring any fees.

That’s right, you cissie straighties, eat it!

While all of you will be running around trying to coordinate which of your “opposing sex” friends with the different crotch models is willing to sign your (g/b)f in for a steamy night of inexperienced Valentine’s Day sex, all the cis gays, and the straight trans people with cis partners, and the nonbinary people who are all matchy-matchy with their partners’ genitals are going to go to the lobby, walk into the RA’s office, and get a guest pass for their own lovers.

SUCK IT!

So what if the Catholic Church refuses to legitimize our existence and perpetuates dangerous stereotypes that threaten the safety of our everyday lives? So what if they’ve remained silent in the rising trend of homophobia and transphobia that is being justified through religious (usually Christian) belief?

At least at this Jesuit University, I can sign my partner in for the night whenever I want!* Truly, this is queerprivilege.

Boy, does institutional invisibility sure have its advantages!

Happy Valentine’s Day everybody! ;)

*Undergraduate residents may host no more than 2 overnight guests of the same sex at a time for two nights within a seven-day period. Regardless of host, a guest cannot obtain a guest pass for more than nine nights within a thirty day period. Guest passes must be obtained 24 hours in advance in the RA on Duty office from 7 - 10 p.m. each night with the exception of Tuesday’s (7 - 8:45 p.m.). In order to obtain a guest pass, a resident must present their valid Fordham ID, must know their guest’s full name, home address, date of birth, and emergency contact number.

Source: https://www.fordham.edu/info/20430/residential_regulations_and_forms/9017/residential_life_handbook_lincoln_center

Under tab “Residential Life Policies and Procedures”, header “Visitation and Guest Policies”, rule 2.


Late Night When You Need My Love

Malcolm Slaughter

ISSUE NO. 1 • To Have a heart


I wrote this piece to let the world know about addition by subtraction. I wouldn't be who I am, and where I am today had I not learned how to let things go.

I remember you gave me these beads that were from your grandparents, allegedly. According to Brazilian tradition, these beads were known to “keep away the bad spirits” in ways we, human beings, were “unable” to. Some people would hang them over their headboards, some in their cars, or, wherever people considered to be their “safe space”. After a long time of leaving the beads in my drawer somewhere, I put them on the outside of the door handle of my room and ironically, I haven’t seen you since.   

I remember telling you I loved you before you went to Ayana’s house. Apparently, this was a “can’t miss” game night and guys were prohibited from coming. That was unfortunate because I had plans for you – or, at least that’s what I told you to make you stay. But, despite my efforts, there would be no me, you, Jameson and a couple climaxes. Instead, it was me and Family Feud reruns and arguments with 13-year-olds on Call of Duty who are probably Trump supporters now judging by the ease and volume in their usage of the word “nigger”. I offered one last proposal for you to stay, “let me eat you until you cry” - you decided to leave anyway. For some odd reason, I didn’t hear from you until 10:42 pm the next night, I know because I didn’t get an hour of sleep.

Sometimes we’d fuck so much that my penis would hurt my entire shift at work. Our energy was deadass crazy. I remember we made these makeshift “beds” on my floor that consisted of 4 layers of blankets because my headboard was too noisy and my twin size bed could not accommodate your “yoga poses” or “things you learned from being a cheerleader”. I told you I loved you at the end of our conquests every time. Sometimes you’d say it back. Sometimes I’d text you on my way home that I loved you after a really nasty session, you’d send me a smiley face back and some picture mail. Now that’s love.

I remember we had this journal that we exchanged every time we saw each other. We’d write in it, hang out, exchange it, then read it once we left each other’s company. Communication was difficult for you, so I suggested that writing how you felt could quell your anxiety. It kind of worked, surprisingly, and we stayed consistent in journaling our relationship, the good and bad. We did find difficulty, though, talking to each other face to face. I guess we were all out of shit to say, and maybe that’s why we fucked like wild animals. My mother and I never talked about anything of substance either so I figured this had to be love, this felt like home.

I remember sitting in Dunkin Donuts on Morris avenue listening to American Wedding by Frank Ocean on repeat for 3 hours. I know it was three hours because that’s how long you were ignoring my calls. I called Ayana, only because you said you were there, and she candidly admitted she hadn’t seen you in days, that’s when I knew.

My mom told me the first day that she met you that she didn’t like you at all. I came to your defense and charged my mother with not wanting to see me happy with anyone else. She said she didn’t care about you, and I told my mom that she barely cared about me. Offended, she went down the list of bills she’s paid since I’ve been born.

-that’s what parents are supposed to do mom

- no, we’re not, my mother didn’t do that.

-your mother wasn’t a good example of motherhood

-well, what is the role of parenting then

- get out of my face Malcolm.

I grabbed my hoody and my keys and I came to see you. For whatever reason, even though we hadn’tt had sex in a couple days, you didn’t want to come outside. You told me your “mom was on some bullshit” so I sat outside for another 5 minutes before I drove to the dark area in the nearest park so I could roll some weed up. This was before the notebook, but if it was my turn to submit an entry I would’ve written some overly dramatic, hopeless romantic shit like “yo, they don’t wanna see us happy”. I called you again before I went home, you answered, then hung up. I called you back and it went straight to voicemail. Apparently, your phone was acting up. A week later my mom bought you a new blackberry. Evidently, that one had the propensity to malfunction at certain times also.

It was thanksgiving 2011, a year and a half into our fling and it was day zero (for me) of us not being together anymore. I got a job offer in South Carolina and after a year of unemployment, I packed my shit and left without telling you. Once I got to my dad’s house, it really sunk in that it was over. I called you, against my better judgment, and you actually answered. I updated you on shit you didn’t ask about and then I told you that I missed you for the first time in a while. You laughed. I can tell that laugh caught you by surprise. I shed a tear before you could even notice you were conveying the wrong emotion.

-aww

-that’s all you have to say…

-Malcolm, you know I love you.

- idk why but I love you too and I miss you…

- same, can I call you back?

- in the middle of me saying how I feel?

- you’re the one who fuckin left me, high and dry, I don’t have to explain shit to you.

You called me a couple days later and asked if you could order some dominos and put it on my credit card. I laughed, then cried, then hung up. You didn’t hear me cry, though, and that was the last time we ever spoke.  

If I had you, I wouldn’t have my degree. I can go down the list of my shortcomings; and things I’ve done wrong, and names that I’ve called you, and hugs I didn’t give you, and kisses that didn’t land on your forehead, and attention that should’ve been yours; but if I had you, I wouldn’t have anything else. I’m not sure if I can call it a bad romance. I’ve been aligned with a higher purpose since we’ve disconnected - addition by subtraction.

Heartbreak is the necessary rite of passage for a boy. I awkwardly advise young men to be vulnerable and be destroyed when they ask me about love. It’s important to learn about themselves and their limits in love in new ways. I sometimes regret saying that though, only because after you broke the news to me, via text, after months of arguments, Twitter battles and speculation, I thought about killing myself for years. And I’m not quite sure if that’s exactly what I want people to feel. That feeling hasn’t left me since.




Peach Fuzz

Caroline Hughes

ISSUE NO. 1 • To Have a heart

When thinking about love for this piece, I thought about a relationship that has affected my past few years at school. This relationship has changed a lot while at school, and is being affected as this period of our lives comes to an end.

When we met you shook my hand

you heedlessly picked it up

already fragile and peach skinned

and held it so tight that your uneven

and bitten-down-to-the-wick fingernails

pierced right through my delicate derma

to my cloying flesh

bleeding nectar down your unabashed fingers

and pooling between where our

shoes were merely kissing on the ground

I predicted I could be your ripe

flavor for at least a month

Till I inevitably became rotten

and you craved something that wouldn’t

pinch your gums as much when

I asked you to take a bite of me again and again

A tear-off paper calendar shows

a pile of weeks that stack into months

I consciously tuck my nose and mouth

into the hem of your moth-eaten t-shirt I stole

Masking my unavoidable aroma

Putrid and intoxicating

strong enough to erode any lingering attachment

You now fit your face

in between my neck and shoulder

and inhale slowly without recoiling

I feel the corner of our lips flick up

“Your hair tickles,”

I go to move it but your hand

Grabs mine with such care

I forget I’m supposed to be bruised

Your nose traces the tiny hairs that never grow behind my ear

“its like peach fuzz.”


Little Monsters

Erin Kiernan

ISSUE NO. 1 • To Have a heart

This piece is just a snippet of my evolving understanding of healthy love. I’m proud to be leaving college with a much better grasp of myself and my relationships than when I entered. This story highlights just one lesson of love.

I had known my boyfriend only in the context of New York—the city where we met, became buddies, where we dated for a year—so seeing him under the yellow light of his Illinois bedroom made him look new. Still lovely, a little softer. We laid down on his dimpled brown blanket. I felt so warm in that room.

I studied his eyes, his regal nose. I always thought he looked like a Roman statue, chiseled, angular, severe. (If you’re curious, I’ve found he looks quite like a second-century AD portrait bust of Emperor Antoninus Pius located at the Castle Howard.) He’s like a Roman statue, but it’s as if his curls rebelled against the sculptor. No, we will not frame the forehead! We will touch the sky! And his eyebrows fought their creator with a similar spirit. We will grow from his brow like weeds! They were horribly furry caterpillars. Maybe a singular caterpillar wearing a belt. It was as if his face had an extra mustache.

I got up from the bed and dug around in his bathroom for tweezers.

“Close your eyes,” I said, sauntering back into the bedroom.

They were closed. I climbed onto the bed, swung my leg over his torso, sunk into his grooves.

I studied his forehead, breathed on his face, poised my tweezers for plucking.

“What are you doing?” I bet he thought I was going to kiss him.

“Just keep your eyes closed.” And I selected the darkest, most obstinate hair, the one sitting squarely in the center of his face. The little hair dared me. How brave. A swift pull and he was dead. I put him on the nightstand.

My boyfriend opened his eyes and demanded answers.


We decided I would be conservative in my plucking and he would let me work uninterrupted. So I sat there, straddling his chest, pulling out tiny trolls, and he winced and ooed and ahed.

In thirty minutes, there were probably a hundred little grisly hairs mingling together on the nightstand. He looked cleaner. Very handsome, like I’d chiseled him myself.

“Go look.”

I lay on his bed, drowsy with the satisfaction of a job completed. He was in the bathroom, studying himself in the mirror, hesitant to say anything at first, hesitant to misjudge himself. Then he peeked out, running his fingers over the naked area.

“It looks much cleaner.”

Over the next few days of my sojourn there in Illinois, he started falling in love with his eyebrows.

“My face just looks cleaner!” “You’ll have to do this every month!” “I can’t believe how much hair I had there!”

And I thought of the pile of little monsters on his bedside table that I’d swept into the trash. What right had I to end their lives prematurely? They had welcomed me with open arms (as best they could) when I was new to him, and I had fallen in love with his Roman face when they were there. He never tried to change me, and they—monsters though they were—never tried to change me. So why should I change them? Change him?

But then I saw him put his face to the mirror in the foyer downstairs, trace the pores where once were hairs, and look at his forehead in wonder. I supposed it alright to change someone if they themselves welcome the change, if they like who they become afterward.

But the next time I pluck his eyebrows, I’ll ask first.



Vignette One

Lucia Bailey

ISSUE NO. 1 • To Have a heart

I wrote this piece because it was something that stayed with me for a while. Every time I wrote a new piece, I couldn’t help to think that I needed to write this one. I like to think it shows the simple beauty of human contact.

His thumb slides over your knuckles in a slow, steady pace. You didn’t know that you needed this, secretly wished for it when he wasn’t there. Another pain comes in your stomach and you groan, his grasp simply tightens.

“Look at me,” you force yourself to meet his gaze, “focus on my hand.”

Such a stupid thing to say, you think. What the hell is his hand going to do? You do it though and you listen as he talks about his day and this bastard new co-worker and how his boss made fun of his tie. About half-way through you telling him about your day, you recognize the pain has subsided.

“Hey, the pain is gone,” you say and he picks up your hand and his lips graze your fingers.

“Human contact reduces pain.”




A Co-Conspirator

Phil Thompson

ISSUE NO. 1 • To Have a heart

I wrote this piece as a reminder of the capacities and limitations of love, especially in these last few months of college.

“Stravinsky’s music identifies not with the victims, but with the agents of destruction” – Theodor Adorno


As rain beats upon a roof

Or marbles spilled on wood

Uneven rhythm taps away and makes a silver cloud


Solid as a cinderblock

Porous as a labyrinth

Around and upon, the truth falls, and down, rapping at the windows of a tightly-shuttered cabin


Duck under the awning of

Aporia and silence

For in the morning you will have to rise and fetch the night-soaked newspaper

Agents of destruction

Meeting on the hour

Conspiring to continue a regime of crime and implication

So atoms beat the inner skull

And other atoms outer

Thrusting at me alibis, excuses, consolations,

Hesitations, so obtuse to make me wonder why I hadn’t realized sooner

That the rain-streaks on my jacket and the ink-stains on my hands

Are not innocent coincidences, traces of remove,

But a jury’s-worth of verdicts on the guilt of my passivity,

Souvenirs of rigorously well-attended meetings

And as I listen, in my ears

Now floats a woman praying that

The next time diplomats convene to work out hostile treaties

And pain like marble hailstones crush everyone in sight

And I find myself in lockstep with pedestrians of night

I will pick a side and pick the right one



In and Out of Love

Olivia Lucas

ISSUE NO. 1 • To Have a heart

I chose to attend Fordham LC because of the location. I always wanted to live in New York City. I wondered how long you needed to live in the city to be a real New Yorker. I realized that when you start to hate New York as much as you love it that you are probably close. When New York is killing you, but you know you can’t live anywhere else, you begin to feel as though you belong. I wrote In and Out of Love based on these feelings. Being a college student in NYC is very different from being a student anywhere else. The city plays a larger role in your education than college itself.

We pop melatonin like penny candy,

plug our ears with toilet paper,

cover our eyes with a stretched out sock.

The radiator is broken so we lay awake

with sharp screeching until we forget

why we moved to New York.

We force ourselves to pretend

our carpet doesn’t smell like rat piss,

the tub isn’t growing mold.

Running down subway stairs

is our only rush anymore,

the only reminder we still feel

when we can’t find ourselves

in empty storefront reflections.

We play memory games

of drunk stories past, times

we walked up Broadway at 3 am,

got Big Macs, and kissed on every corner.

We loved like we love New York,

unrelenting and harrowing,

an exhausting love of ceaseless yearning.

We don’t mind neighborhood smells

because we’re too grateful to have one,

a place where we can perform permanence


in our etch-a-sketch city.

We memorize lyrics and subway routes

in hopes of understanding a way home.



jesus' mom's first name is virgin

Gabrielle Gillespie

ISSUE NO. 1 • To Have a heart

Gabby wrote this piece for this issue on love and sex as her last will and testament as she is reflecting on how for the first time since kindergarten, she will be not be attending Catholic institutions, and she is thinking of how the Church has affected her even in the most intimate parts of her life.

The Catholic Church remains distinguished among other Christian denominations for its elevated placement of Jesus’ mother, the Virgin Mary. Virgin Mary. One name just like Jesus Christ. You can call her the Blessed Mother or the Holy Mother, but at the end, her full name is that. Going through Catholic grammar school, I would ponder this, working backwards to figure out what “virgin” means. It was not as innocuous an adjective as “holy” but I knew it wasn’t a name in the same way just Mary is. I think my religion workbook simply defined it as “pure.” Even after I learned the general definition a couple years later, it took a little while before the whole story took shape. Virgin meant you never had sex. Mary never had sex to create Jesus, and that’s why she’s a Big Deal. Not because the pregnancy, where she faced the risk of being stoned for infidelity, or you know, because she did the actual raising of actual Jesus Christ. After the Resurrection, Jesus’ conception is the most prominent miracle of the New Testament. By the end of elementary, I had had hundreds of lessons about the angel Gabriel, about Joseph’s misunderstanding, and about Mary herself, but no one thought a basic explanation of sex was relevant to this narrative.

That would not be introduced in the classroom until the seventh grade. Like most seventh graders, at this time, we were constantly making dirty jokes. If I could find some way to tie something to sexual intercourse, the joke would kill. I had never seen a penis before (despite many logged hours of unsupervised internet time), but we were constantly drawing them on any available surface. We once played a grade-wide form of tag where we were spreading “chlamydia.” In the midst of this hormonal storm came “Sex Week.” Every teacher gave their own version of the sex talk to us, even my algebra teacher finding a way to squeeze it in. The centerpiece of the week was a visit from Generation Life.

Generation Life’s website advertises their mission of “building a culture of life by spreading the pro-life and chastity messages to other young people.” On their homepage, they lay out their argument that because most abortions are had by unmarried woman, the best way to prevent abortion is to promote chastity outside marriage. This is built on the Catholic belief that sex should not and cannot exist without the intent to reproduce and make a bunch of little Catholics. In this logic, unmarried mothers and, of course, abortion are assumed evils.

But I don’t think that way yet. I am twelve years old, and it is 2012. I do not question that abortion is wrong, and I have been trained in pro-life rhetoric, regularly spouting it for all my argumentative essay assignments (and one particularly cringy student film) because that topic guarantees an easy A. All my sex education is coming from television, movies, and my peers. I want desperately to be seen as sexy or hot to some, to any man (and I am still brushing off admiration of actresses’ legs as a desire to be skinnier). I was recently forced to wear a back brace to correct my scoliosis, and I sobbed on the ride home from the doctor’s, saying “no one is going to want me.” In other words, Generation Life is creeping in at a girl’s greatest period of vulnerability, when sex is a new concept in my life but one I am desperate to understand and, despite my age and my ugliness, master.

The boys and girls were split up into separate groups which made perfect sense at the time. The separate genitalia was enough to render one gender’s experience of sex as completely foreign from another’s. In the girls, there were two teachers. The first was an older woman who had waited until marriage. The second was coincidentally named Maria, and she was not a virgin. She had had a rough life, leading her down a reckless path of drugs and abuse and worst of all, having sex with her boyfriend at 15. Now she was married, but she said she had apologized to God and to her husband (who was currently in the other room teaching the boys) continuously for her mistake. She lamented how selfish she was because her husband had waited for her, and she didn’t for him.

We covered a wide array of subjects. We talked about pregnancy and saw the biologically incorrect models of the growing fetuses that are recognizably human even when they are the size of walnuts. One woman took out the instructions and warnings from a box of birth control. She stressed how condensed all the language was and how if you weren’t willing to read all of it, you shouldn’t take it (Someone pointed out half of it was just the Spanish translation. It was unappreciated). She read aloud the possible side effects, stressing the possible risk of death as a highly likely one. We talked condoms, not how to use one but how not to. First, we were told that condoms were only 25% effective so basically useless (I was told later that in the boys’ seminar, someone had heckled “So use 4!”). The real point they made, though, was that sex was only meant to create life, and if you used a condom or birth control on top of having premarital coitus, you were doubling the sin, the state of your soul being determined with simple addition.

The centerpiece of this was the tape metaphor. Many have heard of this, but I was able to score front row tickets. Megan, an eighth grader who wore the boy’s uniform every day, was chosen to partake. She was smiling like she always did, and we were all, too, because Megan was the class clown, and we were waiting for her to make us laugh. The lifelong chaste woman put a fresh strip of Scotch tape on Megan’s arm and then ripped it off with a surprising harshness.

“Ouch,” Megan said, chuckling but eyes a little bit wide, the ripping pretty clearly a rebuke for her smiling.

The chaste woman then with much flourish tried to replace the tape on Meghan’s freckly arms, showing how the glue wouldn’t stick as much this time. She held up the tape to the light and pointed out the dead skin cells on it. That was us. Every time we had a different partner, we become a little more like that dirty, finger-printed piece of tape.

Something in me snapped. I got the giggles, bad. The other girls looked at me like a weirdo, an older one telling my friends to “control me,” but as self-conscious as I was back then, I wouldn’t stop even for the sake of peer pressure. I looked back at them like, Isn’t this insane? How are you not laughing? The woman continued her speech, and she and my teachers gave me dirty looks, but I couldn’t be stopped. I was tearing up, I couldn’t breathe. Why was it so funny to me? First, there was the fact that the thing we talked about constantly was now being discussed in a classroom by adults. Also mixed in there was a middle-schooler’s disrespect for anyone with a strong conviction about anything. Finally, there was the one small part of it that this topic was being discussed from an insane perspective that even an ignorant tween like me knew crumbled outside the insular walls of a parochial school. I wanted desperately to know what the hell adult sex lives were, but as clueless as I was, I knew this wasn’t it.

I got a grip, eventually. The seminar ended, with everyone getting stickers that said “I am worth waiting for.”  The boys were reunited with us, and they said their talk was fairly relaxed, with their teacher joking freely about how of course every boy masturbated. I remember being a little jealous of that. Our instructors had acted like we were in trouble from the first moment. At the front of the room, our homeroom/theology/science teacher, Mrs. Rentas, who had come to us that year from a nearby school that closed, was trying to get our attention. On Fridays in her theology class, we did scrapbooking and listened to Christian rap, her singing along to the choruses. Now she whispered, as if afraid of anyone outside the class hearing. She said that even though we shouldn’t have sex, we should use condoms if we do, that she’d lost a lot of people to preventable diseases, and that after AIDs, she was upset someone would tell us not to use them. My class mostly wasn’t listening. It was the end of the day, and we were chatting in our coats, but I remember her serious whisper and restrained anger that an educator had just told us advice that could kill us.

Did that day harm us? My peers became neither an army of celibates or defiantly sexually liberated. Even of those that share anti-choice memes on Facebook, none seem to be following Generation Life’s model of celibacy. It was only 90 minutes of toxicity, and despite other reinforcements in our education, we weren’t in so cloistered a space that it could cancel out the outer world. Yet, I can’t separate this from the general culture of misogyny in my twelve years of Catholic school that I still work to unpack- guys touching girls as a game, a disdain for anyone beyond a certain waist size, sexual reputations being written and rewritten to suit the whims of spoiled boys. The Church does not allow women to be priests or bishops or to interpret catechism in a meaningful way, but during my twelve years of parochial schooling, the majority of my teachers and administrators were women. Yet they seemed complicit in the male superiority of the Church. They passed on an internalized misogyny, telling girls to pull down their skirts and wipe off their make-up to mold them in their image- well-off, Church-going wives and mothers.

On our sixth grade field day, it was going to be almost ninety-seven degrees. I wore blue cotton athletic shorts from Limited Too, thinking only of how I’d beat the heat while still running around during flag football and hopefully winning tug-of-war. All the other girls had seemed to have the same thought with our rainbow of athletic shorts. Then our teacher had all the girls line up in the hall, arms straight down at our sides. A group of teachers were in the hall, and I, a total goodie-goodie, was confused by looks of derision in their eyes. They said a few things, asking us how we could think these shorts were appropriate, implying the girls had conspired this attack on propriety. I had never been in trouble before, and never for something like dress code, my shirts being tucked in and collars straightened always, and I was just plain confused by this new attitude. They marched us down to the nurse’s office, and I remember noticing Hannah, whose mom was a teacher, got to hang back even though her shorts were just as short as mine. Our principal Ms. Lily and the nurse, usually nice ladies who complimented my spelling and helped me use my inhaler, sternly told us to call our parents and ask them to bring us new clothes or else we would spend all of field day with the nurse.

My mom hated nothing more than having to come to my school unless absolutely necessary. I took the bus, and she griped about chess club and carpooling and conferences. By asking this of me, it was like they were trying to get my mom in trouble too. I didn’t know how mad my mom would be at me for dragging her into this. I would have chosen the nurse’s office if she wasn’t giving me such a dirty look right now.

“Hi Mom.”

“Are you sick?” My mom is a loud woman. The principal and my classmates could definitely hear her.

“No. The teachers are saying my shorts are too short. If you don’t bring me new ones, I have to sit in the nurse’s office all day.”

“Your shorts? That’s ridiculous!”

My mom was on my side? I was floored. “That’s what I said!”

“Finish it up,” Ms. Lily interjected. I looked up in surprise. I wanted to really emulate my mom then with a classic “be quiet, I’m on the phone.”

“Uh, can you bring me my tan shorts?” I needed to direct my mom so she wouldn’t bring me something ugly, “And can you bring something for Amanda? Her mom’s at work and can’t come.” Amanda was crying on the nurse’s bed over the prospect of missing the whole day.

“I’ll be there.”

My mom isn’t Catholic. She says in southern California, where she’s from, they didn’t really do that whole religion thing. She came to Church with us but didn’t take communion. She is also a Democrat, whereas almost the entirety of our school was Republican.

In eighth grade, after Generation Life, I told her in the car one day that I just didn’t understand how abortion could be legal. It was murder, plain and simple.

“Do you know what happened before abortion was legal?” she said, launching into the high pitch that meant I was in trouble, “Women did it themselves by sticking wire hangers up their bodies. Do you want to go back to that?”

My mom is not one for subtlety.

“I didn’t know that,” I said, “They don’t tell me that in school.”

“You shouldn’t believe everything you hear,” she said.

I didn’t say I agreed with her because that breaks the laws of twelve-year-old girls and their mothers, but that image horrified me instantly and thoroughly. Next year, when other people would still be doing their argumentative essays on abortion, my stomach twisted at my mother’s words.

Yet, this was sort of a mixed message as my mother was the also one who sent me to Catholic school, saying long ago the public school wasn’t challenging enough. When your teacher tells you something, you’re supposed to believe it. Maybe I was challenged there in all the wrong ways, challenged to sit silently and not ask questions, to not laugh when people say ridiculous things, to not look to outside sources except that one big book and the men who were allowed to interpret it.

I was talking to my mom recently, enjoying the new perk of adult child-parent relationships where you finally heard all the gossip that happened when you were a kid. Every Sunday, Mrs. DeMarco’s daughter Nicole asked her to buy Plan B for some of her friends on the cheerleading team who would have unprotected sex the night before in a guest bedroom at the football-cheer parties. I wondered aloud why these apparent jock orgies never used condoms, but I know now how against them teenage boys will be. These cheerleaders’ own mothers would punish them if they went to them, but Nicole knew her mother would help them out, and Mrs. DeMarco knew if her daughter needed it for herself, she would tell her. On the flip side, my mother also told me about the PTA president who led the bus of parishioners and students to the pro-life rally in DC every year. At sixteen, her daughter was pregnant. My mom derided the mother. She said she heavily favored the son in the family, the way many Catholic moms still do, the way I’ve seen my aunts and relatives do as well. My mom had been hearing about that girl acting out from the first grade, but always the PTA president got her out of trouble and gave her none of the attention she needed. Unsurprisingly, the mother took her to get an abortion, none of the slogans she shouted down in Washington mattering. The rules seem to not apply when it’s your own daughter that wants the choice, when it’s your own sins that would be put under the microscope, and when you have the means, when it’s someone you know and not some anonymous girl in a place you would never visit.  

My priest told me that abortion is a sin, even if the doctor says that the pregnancy will kill the mother, that the slightest chance of preserving the child’s life is the sacrifice every mother should readily make. If she wouldn’t die for her child, why did she even have sex? They despise abortion, but if the sixteen-year-old girl had that baby, they would despise her for it, not praise her for the sin she avoided. Women were instrumental in building the Church and doing the work today the men will not, but still the only great thing a woman can do in the eyes of the Church is have a baby. A woman should not have sex if she will not marry, should not marry if she will not have children, cannot be a priest because she must marry and have children. It’s an endless cycle where children are the balls and chains to preserve women as property.

The most important thing Mary ever did was be a virgin. She carried a child to save a world that would have stoned her for being pregnant out of wedlock. If she had had loving, consensual sex just once before, the Church would have thrown rocks too.


Lethal White

Anne Marie Ward

ISSUE NO. 1 • To Have a heart

As my time in college has started coming to a close, I found myself reflecting on my first love, and how I and my world have changed since then, hoping that I’ve been able to change for the better. It’s tough. Thanks for reading. -AM

Nothing is an isolated incident, not even the love two people share. There is context to everything. History. Roots that run so deep and thorny vines that climb so high, so far around you, that you don’t even recognize that you’re engulfed. It’s just how it is. You hate that phrase, and rightly so. But you also have to understand that you’re not an innocent player in this game. Maybe you’re somebody’s pawn, but you’re still making moves. When you were a young child and your father tried to teach you chess with his beautiful marble set, you would steal back your captured pieces with glee, as he laughed at your mischief. The pawns could move one space, knights could jump, etc... Can you steal back your pieces, here? Dad’s set was pink and grey, instead of the traditional white and black. You learned that white always goes first, but that’s just convention. An arbitrary rule. Are love stories arbitrary in the structures they follow? The patterns seem to make so much sense, but what if that’s just exposure talking?

///

You were just friends at first. So it goes. You met, not for real, in Junior anatomy, but it wasn’t until senior year that you started giving him rides in your silver ‘06 Mazda 6 with cloth seats that you paid way too much money for, with money that you got when your Aunt Dottie suddenly died a few years prior. That first time, around Halloween, you talked and listened to music, and wasted a quarter tank of gas driving in circles and dead-ends in his bourgeois Franklin development- with the big houses with tall ceilings and same rustic fencing out front. And slowly this became an everyday thing, and slowly you started talking on Skype after school, with some of his friends too, and slowly you started hanging out.  Slowly and yet suddenly, he became your best friend. You trusted him more than you had trusted anyone in a long, long time. You felt like he cared about you more than anyone had in a long, long time. He was so cool, and he showed you all kinds of obscure music and tech stuff, and he was super into karate and self-defense. He was smart and funny and cute and so easy to talk to.

Then by the time graduation rolled around in June, you guys decided to give the dating thing a try. Both of you agreed this friendship had been leading up to this. And it was great! For maybe a week. And then he decided he “wasn’t ready for a girlfriend” and just wanted his  “best friend back,” and you recall quietly saying, “I just feel so stupid,” before pulling out of his driveway, and out of his development, with tears rolling down your face, feeling like you had been kicked in the teeth. You acknowledged all the not-so-great things about him. He was dismissive. A know-it-all. Things that you said were often met with a snide comment or regarded as stupid. Sometimes, he was just mean and rude. You remembered him saying to you once that, “You’re well-read, but that’s about it,” in regard to your talents, your worth. You’d read a few books, and that was about as talented as you would get. At the time, you laughed it off: it was just Him being his sarcastic, irreverent self. But it actually really fucking hurt.

Summer started, and you suddenly understood why all the songs on the radio were about heartbreak and summer love. It felt like an emotional flu. And even though he said wanted his best friend back, he spent most of the summer not contacting you. You stewed in your heartache and self-disgust, as he worked a weird environmental job, moving rocks, clearing trails, and kindling a relationship with another girl, and not telling you anything about it.

You guys should’ve never talked again. You should’ve cried and listened to breakup songs and gone out with your girlfriends and gone on tinder and swiped and swiped and swiped for a rebound. But that’s not how intensely-toxic relationships ever end. You always have to enter a horrible cycle of on-again/off-again, friends/not-friends, talking/not-talking, before it finally, slowly fades out, after more pain and trauma and false-stops. That summer was just the beginning of the end. A segment in the pattern.

\\\

It’s really not such an unusual story arch, not so different from most young-love and breakup stories, even if there are details specific to it. What if this were the same story, but nobody ever found out that you were white and he was black? You wanted to believe that race didn’t matter in your relationship. You wrinkled your nose at comments like, So you like black guys? And because you hated that ignorance, you tried your best to move past it. But race would’ve always mattered, because of how this world works. How your world worked. You didn’t even begin to realize how ignorant you were, and still are. You didn’t realize that trying for colorblindness didn’t solve any problems, it only ignored the existing ones, creating warped perceptions of reality. What your context was and is. Because context matters.

When you guys first started talking, he considered himself lucky, because he had never met any real racists. He told you this as you drove him to his home in Franklin Township,  a town in a rural county in Northwestern New Jersey, which is predominately white. A county that not-long-enough ago had Klan activity.

You met in high school. In a high school that in decades past had White-Power Wednesdays, and only a decade or two ago, a student sued the school for violation of his first amendment rights when he wore a Confederate flag t-shirt and the school said he couldn’t. The student won.

You didn’t consider this history in your relationship, or maybe you subconsciously ignored it. Wanted to will the past to stay out of the present--pretend this history wasn’t the foundation on which your current lives rested. You wanted to ignore it, think both of you were above it. But that’s not how it works. You were both a part of a much larger history and legacy that while you might’ve not wanted a part in it, you really didn’t have a choice in the matter.  And ignoring it didn’t help either of you.

You didn’t even realize you were ignoring it. He talked to you about black culture, parts he liked and didn’t. He talked to you about Caribbean culture, how his parents came to the US from Jamaica. You talked to him about being a teenage girl, the heinous things that men would say to you, or about you. He would talk to you about the heinous things boys would say about the girls, and you never felt more self-conscious about it than when hearing a guy admit it happened regularly.

Nobody knew about your romantic relationship with him at first, you wanted to keep it quiet because it was so new, and you guys had been such good friends for so long, and dating as a concept was so new for you, personally, that you felt super awkward about it.

But you also lived in a town where girls would admit, in hushed tones, that their parents would never let them date a black guy. You weren’t worried about that, but you were worried and enraged by the dreaded phrase, Oh so, you like black guys, like it were a requirement, as if his individuality and friendship to you never mattered in the transition to dating. Asking if you liked black guys wasn’t seen as a type of fetishization; it was just seen as a type. You doubt even now that you fully understand how these lines work in people’s minds.

///

College rolled around. You were insanely, deeply, horribly depressed, but you didn’t know that yet. And he was there for you, at least for a while. You thought love would save you from yourself.

Right before both of you started college, he had a graduation party. His family came over before any of his friends did, or maybe after they left, and his grandmother came into his room and started questioning him, about college, his major, how he was feeling before she gave this advice:

“Don't be dating those white girls, they have a habit of saying you rape them.”

When he told you about it, he was laughing. Probably not because it was funny, but because it was so not funny. He had already told his other friends about it, and they couldn’t believe it.

You tried to say ironically, “I guess I’ll just try to not say that you’ve raped me,” but it didn’t make things better. You then said, “I feel guilty, but I don’t know what I’ve done wrong…”

“Yep,” he said, “That’s the racial guilt.”

He broke up with you a few days later. Part of you worried that it was because of what his grandmother said, even though she hadn’t known about your relationship, but the girl he started seeing after you was also white. That comment made you feel like you had been punched in the gut, but how could you be angry at her? She wasn’t wrong. White girls used black men as their scapegoats and got them killed again, and again, and again. There is a dark history there. You carry that legacy. You think about being a dumb, white bitch.

\\\

In college, you suffered from heavy depression from the beginning, but you also learned so much, experienced so much. You saw the whiteness and wealth of the private college versus the city outside of it, and that deeply bothered you, but you didn’t know what to do about it besides feel enraged. You experienced being the only white person working in food service or on the subway coming back to campus. You took classes that look at gender, race, and class theory and learned words and phenomena about all the unfair and backwards shit you didn’t even realize you were immersed in back home and at college. The thorns that engulfed you.  You volunteered with smart, radical people and learned about socialism in America, and casual ableist language, and how history was whitewashed to unfairly remember the Black Panther Party. You listened to a fiercely intelligent black professor from Lehman college talk about her new book about the Black Panthers. She called Mumia Abu-Jamal on death row in a PA prison, and we all listened to him talk about revolution. At one point, a young black girl in the audience asked the professor about an infamous comment made by a Black Panther leader, she asked about how, “He said, something like, the only place for a woman in the party is on her back?”

The professor smiled, and said that she loved writing this book because of all the research she was able to do, and secrets she was able to uncover. And she learned that that comment was made in the context of being a joke. She moved on to the next question. You looked at the girl’s reaction, and she did not seem satisfied with that answer. It just didn’t seem funny.

You wondered what the girl was thinking. You wanted to buy the book. You posted about the event online, and you had relatives call the Black Panthers terrorists, as if it were that simple. As if the stakes were the same.

///

You weren’t even talking to him at this point. Not by the time of the 2016 election. Things had finally, painfully fizzled out, and you were both starting to move on from each other. Out of mind. But then the election happened, and you found yourself looking at people you thought you knew, you thought were good people, and wondering how they could vote for such an openly racist billionaire. You wondered if he voted. You started to feel your complicity and complacency. Thinking about your relationships with your friends and your relationship with your first love. You looked around and suddenly saw the thorns everywhere, encasing everyone and everything. Realized that these sentiments had always been there, no matter what sitcoms would like to have you believe about race relations in this country. It was like doublethink. People would insist that they weren’t racist while voting for a racist.

You thought about a conversation you had with him after both of you had started just started the first semester of college. Some guy did or said something to you, and you were mad about it. You were mad about being a woman, you were mad about having a vagina, you were mad at the whole binary system, and you angrily asked him, “I mean, have you ever walked into a room and been afraid because you’re a girl?”

He got quiet and said, “No, but I’ve been afraid because of the color of my skin.” Such a difference from the boy who told you he had never met any real racists as you drove him home.

You paused, suddenly ashamed: “You’re right. I’m sorry. I wasn’t thinking.”

You imagined him shrugging, “We all have our stuff, y’know?”

You didn’t know who would become president at this point; you still thought it was going to be a woman. A white woman for president? Part of a weird political family?

You remembered the first and only time you visited him at Rutgers. You weren’t technically dating at this point, but everyone on his dorm floor still referred to you as his white girlfriend. His new group of engineer friends kept making strange comments about how he was black, and you felt so helpless. You didn’t want to jeopardize his new college friendships, but you also wanted to punch them in the face. You told this to him after, and you guys held each other and loved each other, but you still felt like a coward. You were a coward.

\\\

You cannot stop thinking about Lethal White Syndrome. It’s a horse disease. You learned about it through Eliese Colette Goldbach’s essay,  “White Horse.” Unlike hers, this essay has nothing to do with white horses, proverbial or not, but you cannot stop thinking about it, and the way she described it, as you write. You think about white horses and chess pieces and all the heinous subliminal messages that we all have been taught again and again about what colors are good and pure versus sullied and evil. You think about the thorns digging deep into your flesh, and the roots pulling at your feet, and the constant struggle to be better than the horrible birthright this society ascribes to you. Try to keep learning and becoming a better person. Better friend, sister, lover, coworker, neighbor, adversary, acquaintance, stranger. You think of invisible knapsacks and the lack of black beauty salons in your hometown. You think about how your home county voted red, wear red caps with pride. You think about Facebook articles and Russian collusion. You think of white people who think they can say the n-word because they have black friends, and they think they know the difference. You think of love stories, and break up stories, and what people call “jungle fever.” You think of the girls in your high school and your roommates who only ever dated black guys, and what that means, versus people who never date black guys, and what that means. You think of the 2016 campaign, and the exhibit in the New Orleans WWII museum that showed Nazi propaganda, and the unnerving, repulsive similarities between the two. You think of eugenics and pseudoscience. You think of Lethal White Syndrome again and again and again.

Lethal white syndrome kills baby horses that are unfortunate enough to be born with it. It’s genetic, and they either later die or are euthanized. They are born appearing normal and healthy, with a white coat and blue eyes, but their insides are rotting. The genes connected to skin pigment and the nerves in the colon are somehow connected. They don’t have functioning colons and cannot pass waste. Their insides are rotting and swelling and poisoning them.

You think about love stories. You think about hate speech. You think about your other love stories, your other lovers. You think about how you used to not want to be political before you realized that everything is political. You think about him, and how deeply and passionately you loved him or thought you loved him. You thought about how much you missed his friendship and still often do. You think about how you haven’t texted him in over a year and a half and probably hadn’t texted him six months before that. You think about different kinds of love stories. Nothing is an isolated incident, not even the love two people share.



Malleus Maleficarum

Julia Gagliardi

ISSUE NO. 1 • to have a heart

I wrote this piece as a need to address the margins of my life: parts of myself I have pushed to the edges or have tried to ignore. The piece is an actualization of both the good and bad parts of myself. Either the bad parts come to a close, or they come into the fold. Thanks for reading. -JG

witchcraft is born of the carnal lust of Women

Who are insatiable

Tempted &

enter a covenant with the Devil Unexplained behavior


the touch test

my mind touches a memory of you &

I am seized with pain, fits and ravings

I miss you so much

skin scratched away as silver film is peeled away from a lottery ticket

pinched, burned, or bitten

how to identify a witch.


Accusations

& Mass hysteria

how to test and trial witches


Toss me hand-bound in the nearest body of water

pitched like a stone for laugher

see if I skip

the water would reject my body and titter you cannot sink even if you wanted to!

I disappeared with

lost items

the zipper of my jeans

unaddressed letters for Indiana

Why am I possessed by you?

I vomit cotton, yarn, pins and buttons and

smaller than the palm of my hand

a red tricycle

The nausea disappears So that was the item

I always wanted a red tricycle was I was a little girl but I never one

one because I never got one On Christmas morning what I wanted was never

there

Your grandmother told me this and

I felt the lost things that were never there On Christmas

morning I gave her an ornament, a red tricycle

Sadly for you,

an ornament, cursed,

laced with a hex of my memory

I did not bewitch it but your grandmother

cannot remember

her dementia limits and loses

It pleases me

To think she still remembers my name

& not yours

She will call you by my name and not yours

You can’t get rid of me Don’t rid of me Please don’t forget me

Holy Fuck

No wonder you left I wouldn’t want to be

With me Either witchcraft or

Possession, Bewitchment will explain my

behavior  



Behind the Curve

Jennifer Willis

ISSUE NO. 1 • To Have a heart


Being a commuting student, I often feel that I have a completely different college experience from most of my peers. I wrote this piece for other students who may feel like they’re on the outside, and for the person who was there for me through it all. I see and appreciate you both.

I’ve totally missed the whole Tinder and Bumble and general online dating thing. Not that I’m complaining, but it would’ve been interesting to experience that. Whenever I go out to random places with my girlfriends, one of them will pull out their phones and jokingly go “Let’s see what’s going on out here.” I was hanging at a friend’s place in Plainsboro, New Jersey, when someone started swiping left. She wasn’t actually looking for a hookup; it’s become more like a party game among girls recently, I feel. Nonetheless, I was instantly hooked, like always.

“Let me see!” I’ll beg, and they’ll usually hand off their phone to me, disillusioned with the whole thing and wanting nothing to do with it anymore. I always take way too long, scrutinizing his bio and photos before deciding if this man is a good match for my friend, and swiping either left or right. I realize I take it way too seriously, and it makes me feel like I’m missing out on an entire way of thinking about dating. That you’re in control, and you have the freedom to choose any person you might want. Anytime I swipe left too quickly, I almost feel bad for the man I just digitally threw to the wayside. But then there’s another one there to scrutinize again, and the one from before is forgotten. It’s so fun.

My boyfriend and I started dating in December of 2013. I’m not sure how many dating apps existed by then, but we were under 18 anyway, both juniors in high school. Having been together so long, we kind of have an unconventional relationship for people our age, especially in today’s dating app world. I think we even have an unconventional relationship for college students in general. We’re seniors now, and we go to school in different states. He’s in Washington, DC, and I’m in New York City, so it’s not terrible, but it’s not easy either. Oh, and we’re engaged. We’re going to get married right after we graduate in May this year. And to me, that’s a miracle.

College, specifically commuting to college, was hard for me. I was depressed enough in high school for a cocktail of reasons, but undergrad was an entirely different ballgame. All high schoolers go home at the end of the day, no matter who they are. But not all college students do. And feeling completely disconnected from my campus took a huge toll on me emotionally.

I watched from a distance as my boyfriend, now fiancé, got adjusted to living on his own-- something I wrote about looking forward to doing in all of my college applications. The first time I ever visited him was for a long weekend in our freshman year, and my mom had demanded I take an 11am bus back to New York on Sunday so I wouldn’t be out in the city too late. It was freezing out, and no one was throwing any parties because all the fraternities and sororities were off campus that weekend, doing some kind of Greek retreat. I don’t know. The point is, I was dying to go out and just get trashed because I never had, and I couldn’t at home. That should’ve made me upset, but he didn’t let it. He invited all of his new college friends to his tiny room, and we had a movie night, which I still remember fondly but not too well because there was one of our good friends involved, Honey Jack.

He was there for me in ways I never expected. He showed me that college wasn’t rainbows and butterflies and fun parties like I expected. He’s in ROTC at his school so he worked harder than I had ever seen him do previously in high school. He felt his own disconnect, being a soldier on a very liberal college campus, and we found solace in each other despite being so far away. Don’t get me wrong- being long-distance was still really tough. We kind of had a role reversal: he was originally more clingy than I was, but once we got to college and I was bored at home and he was busy all the time...oh, how quickly the tables turned. It’s pretty funny in hindsight. If you told seventeen-year-old me that all this would happen, she’d cry laughing. Sometimes I still do.

I have not had, and will never have, the typical college experience, at least not the one that white people get to have. You know the one. It’s what they all advertise- some kind of weird individualism or whatever. For some reason, I thought being stuck in a plain brick room with a nightmare of a person was going to turn me into an adult. Try being stuck with your family, unexpectedly, for another 4 years, and see how quickly you turn into an adult.

But seriously, I was really looking forward to going to college the way I’d dreamt it up to be: a time and place where I’d find myself and lifelong friends. I didn’t get that, and it drove me into an emotional quarantine. As a senior on the verge of graduating, I’m still working on reconciling that. But what I don’t have to reconcile was that I spent college falling even more in love, growing and working on a relationship from miles and miles away. His warmth and support that he gifted me and continues to gift me is something that I appreciate immensely and have no words to really express my gratitude for. I’m trying it with this essay, but it feels so inadequate. The whole experience was so difficult. It really hurt me to watch the person I love get to have something I wanted so badly and to figure how to balance those feelings of jealousy and bitterness with the love and appreciation I have for him. He’s seen me at my absolute lowest. And after all this, he wants to marry me; he wants to continue providing for me forever, and call me old-fashioned but that is the greatest blessing I couldn’t have even asked for.

Sometimes I think about getting a Tinder just for fun, just to see what it’s like. I really feel that this thing that my generation collectively does is shaping our entire consciousness. Whether for better or worse, it doesn’t matter- it’s still huge. I don’t think I ever could get in on it though. I’m left to peruse my friends’ accounts, bringing them unnecessarily enthusiastic scrutiny and judgement, which they’ve seemed to either already have perfected themselves or just thrown to the wind. In this regard, I’m behind the curve. So yeah, I don’t know what it’s like to have Tinder. But it’s because I’ve been with someone for the past five years, someone who I really love, so that’s not exactly the worst problem to have. Disconnections aren’t always bad. While it’s fun and strange and totally earth-shattering to just have a catalog of men and women at your fingertips, it’s not something I feel too badly about missing out on. Actually, I’m glad I got a bit of a break. Lord knows I’ll need to save my energy for the new disconnection in my final semester of undergrad: planning my wedding.