“Viva” By Emma Henson ’19
“Shaabi” By Bryn Miller ’19
“Brexit” and “Nan’s” by Melia Wong ’19
“The Indifference of Rock” and “The Noble East” by Blake Lapin ’19
Untitled Poetry by Alex Lombardo ’17
“A Reflection” by Makella Brems ’17
“IT,” “FEAR, a collection,” “EMPTINESS, a collection,” “LOVE, a collection,” “ECSTASY, a collection,” and “UNITY, a collection” by Jake Hudson-Humphrey ’19
“So Close” and “Smolder” by Emmanuel Feleke ’19
“Angry Words” and “We are Close, You and I” by Kylie Harrison ’20
“Haunts,” a zine by Jordan Bosiljevac ’17
Photography by Alex Lombardo ’17
Photography by Grayson Gunner ’17
Photography by Matt Dayton ’19
Alex Lombardo ’20
It runs with itself,
Concentric masterpiece of thought
Overlapping at the edges;
Built in to every moment a time
And I think I hate that.
The constant evaluation of compromise,
Or, what must go out
When I think to think
Give nothing to nothing
Beget an emptiness
Convey purpose shot
Coerce the self
You are creating a self.
You are yourself
I’ve worn out my welcome
The old skin is loose
I see the others
They are not so lost
Sharp outline of taut brow
Casual suggestion of arson
It’s good for the soul
If you know what I mean
The shroud falls
The coins melt
I stand and stumble
Black ash bruising blind flesh
I saw you one morning,
Resplendent in my hatred
I thought to speak
But acted otherwise
The difficult halo you cast
Stayed my throat
As the bile rose frankly;
Disdain feeds itself
No one cares if you leave—
If no one knows you’re there
Where are you?
Blake Lapin ’19
The Indifference of Rock
“NO PARKING. NO STANDING. FIRE LINE.” the sign reads. “BY ORDER OF ST. GEORGE FIRE OFFICIAL.”
Five unshaven and battered college students sit in the narrow street leading into a parking lot, obviously blocking the cars but not caring. They are disheveled, dirty, and satisfied. Although they look like the homeless of Southern Utah, they attend a prestigious school in Southern California, and are only borrowing the unwashed look.
Jim rejoices at their predicament, sitting under the brick wall’s shade, eating crumbly gluten free tortillas garnished with peanut butter and Honey Nut Chex cereal. Jim is tall, well built, and kind.
He has lived his life under other people’s orders. Not because they commanded, but because he found his niche following his family’s guidance. In high school, he played sports during every season: football, hockey, and lacrosse. His father had been a football star, and his one-year older brother started playing hockey and lacrosse, so he followed in their footsteps. Every male in his family had gone to the school he was now attending. Completing the revered engineering program was a right of passage.
But now, he is on his own adventure, an adventure he is sure no one in his family has gone on, a climbing expedition. Passersby leaving the Smashburger they are leaning against quicken their pace as they see the five boys. He is excited about being a bum on the side of the street. It is nothing he had ever experienced, but the sport is nothing he has ever experienced.
He is a smart guy; there aren’t problems he can’t solve. Those problems enthrall him. Math is exciting, but physics is unbelievable. There are so many variables, not just variables, but applicable variables. Math is abstract. Physics is real. He can feel physics. Physics is every time someone puts his foot on the ground and every time someone turns in her car. AP Physics in high school was the only class that really made him think critically.
One night, on a drunk binge, he was with a buddy who couldn’t shake his hand. “Sorry.” Max said. “I’ve just been climbing and I don’t have any skin on my hands. Shaking hands would be very unpleasant for both of us. For me, the pain, for you, the blood and dead skin.” Jim laughed.
“No way.” Jim responded. He had had countless blisters on his hands from cradling a lacrosse stick, but he’d always been able to shake a hand. Max opened his hands, and true enough, they were rubbed raw.
“I’ll take you later next week, I need to let these guys heal. If I go tomorrow it’ll be all pain.”
It was the greatest thing Jim had ever done, great in its rebellion. He walked into the gym and there was a stale odor he hadn’t smelled before. It was a slight musk, the combination of chalk and sweat, but the place was filled with sleeveless rebels. Grunts resounded through his ears, and there was a group sitting on mats clapping for a monkey-like individual who hung from the top of a wall. To his left, there were walls fifty feet high with ropes dangling from the ceiling. Right next to that wall was another the same height, yet there were no ropes. He saw a fit lady, with bulging shoulders, climbing up with a rope attached to her; she seemed to thread it through bolts on the wall as she went higher. Then there was a shorter contorted wall that snaked around the rest of the gym. Its topography changed in every location. There were walls that were at a ninty-degree angle, one obtuse wall, slab problems, overhangs, and even a cave with holds on the ceilings.
“This is top roping” Max said, pointing to the 50-foot high wall with ropes attached. “Lead climbing,” the fifty-foot high wall with no ropes. “Bouldering,” the twelve-foot high wall with no ropes. “Today we’ll start with bouldering. Give it a try, I’ll give you some tips when they come up.”
Calculative, Jim waited before making his first attempt. He slipped on the tight shoes and continued surveying the area. It was a trance. But, it looked like something he could do; it looked like something he could do well. He tried one of the easiest climbs, V0. He did it easily. He wondered why some people had to yell so loudly. Then he tried a V1. This was harder, but doable. Then he tried a V2. He couldn’t get a foot off the ground. Stubborn, he eyed the problem. Wanting to succeed, he knew it must have been his body position. “Can I watch you do this?” He asked Max.
Max scaled the wall with ease.
Jim took careful score of Max’s body position and tried to emulate it exactly, but even better. That was Jim’s niche, emulating but better. That’s how he had become the captain of all three sports teams during high school. Once a coach criticized his ability, he immediately fixed the mistake and rarely made it again. But, for once, he couldn’t fix it on the spot, it was tantalizing, it was entrancing, it was physics.
“Is there any organized competition?” Jim asked that day at the gym.
“Yeah,” Max responded, “But no one I know does it. You’ll understand if you stick with it. That’s not what it’s about.”
Jim, Max, and Brian had a week off from school during spring break and they were spending it in Joe’s Valley Utah, where there’s some of the best bouldering in the country. They drove up early Friday morning. Jim and Max didn’t know Brian very well, but that was the nature of the sport. Climbers propose outdoor trips in the gym, where they only knew one another from the hours testing their endurance pressed against fake plastic rocks. At the gym, climbers talk climbing. Understanding words like gaston, sidepull, mantal, knee bar, beta, and flash are paramount to maintaining conversation. There was rarely talk of family, school, or other hobbies. Speaking about work was prohibited. Eventually, climbers gather enough people, pads, and time to go on an expedition. It makes the trip more adventurous; they are not only learning about the landscape but about their companions.
They arrived at ten p.m. Only the stars and the moon lit the road, but that was enough to keep the area from complete blackness. They wandered on a dirt road until they found a camping area. Thankfully, there were open spots. The temperature dropped 30 degrees from school. Bringing their warmest gear, which was still only a thick sweater each, was a smart idea. They whipped out three pairs of gloves from the car and began trying to figure out how to put up their tent. Max made the mistake of not setting it up when he got it from the school’s outdoor shop. Eventually, they got it standing, lopsided. They stuffed the tents with comforters and nodded into sleep.
“You need the guidebook to find the problems, but they are sold out in the only store in town. There is some decent advice on MountainProject.com,” A couple camped fifty yards away told them the next morning. The boulders were spread throughout hikes and there was no way to tell which climb was which along the rocks’ faces. There were no trophies for this, no awards, not even defined climbs. Jim’s life was order and routine. That’s how he grew up. He was raised in suburban New Jersey. He played town sports growing up and his family frequently had fellow well-established families in town over for dinner. He was expected to do well in school. He was expected to excel at his sports. Now there were no expectations, just his drive to use his mind and body to solve the way up a boulder.
It was important to know the grading of a problem before hopping on, otherwise climbers could spend all day working on a problem completely out of their skill level, thinking it’s just within their grasp, assuming the first move is the hardest when it’s actually the easiest. The three boys asked the couple where they should start.
“New Joes has a lot of problems, a bunch of beginner problems too, and all the boulders are pretty close to each other.” The three boys looked at each other in approval. “Take a right from the parking lot, then another right, and you follow that road for about five miles until you get on highway 39. Go north for 2.7 miles, there’s no marking when to stop but just look at your odometer, and pull over on the side of the road, there’s a faint path leading up the mountain that takes you right to New Joes.”
“Odometer? No markings?” Jim thought.
They pulled over at the 2.7 mile mark. Jim’s phone started ringing. It was his dad. “Jim, I just got your message from yesterday. What’s this about going to Utah? I was upset that you chose not to come home for spring break, but I understood. I went out on adventures starting sophomore year at school, and same with your brother. But I went to houses on the beach. It sounded like you had almost no plan. And you’re spending a lot of time climbing. What’s that going to do for you? You can’t put it on a resume. Employers will understand club lacrosse and club football. It requires communication and sportsmanship.” The signal was shaky but Jim knew what the call was going to be about before he picked up the phone.
“Look dad, I don’t have time for this. I’m busy right now. I don’t know when I’ll have service but I’ll talk to you later.” He hung up.
“Everything okay?” Max asked. Jim nodded.
The three lugged out their crash pads and began trekking to New Joes. Two men in their early thirties were behind them, there was a point when the three boys kept walking straight and the two men turned off to the right. “The boulders are in this direction.” The men told the boys.
The men began leading. Soon enough they came to three boulders creating a nest of dirt in the middle. Five climbers lounged between the rocks. They sat on six crash pads lying on the ground, covering all the dirt. No one was climbing.
“Which problems are these?” Brian asked the newly encountered climbers.
“Monkey’s Tale, No Return, and Jedi Deathforce.”
“Do you guys happen to have a guidebook we can look at? We’re just getting to New Joes.” A woman handed Max her book. She looked like she was in her mid thirties. She was tan, wearing a sleeveless shirt with a flannel wrapped around her shoulders. She was rugged. “You’ll fall in love with this place. I’ve been here for three months.” Jim smiled. This is probably what his dad was afraid of. Jim was beginning to understand that a good job might not be the most important qualifier for a prosperous life.
The three students thanked the older group and kept walking. The next boulder they arrived at had a V3 and V5 problem on its face. Jim was climbing up to V5s in the gym and was excited to hop on some challenging climbs outside. “Where is Grapes of Glory?” Max asked a crowd of eight sitting around this new boulder
“You’re looking at it.” A shrouded figure responded.
“Chris?” Max answered.
The obscured person emerged from the other side of the boulder, “Max?”
They embraced. “I can’t believe you’re here!” Max followed Chris to the other side of the rock. Jim and Brian followed. There were five young adults reclining on crash pads, two others were eyeing up a section of boulder. Jim, Max, and Brian introduced themselves to the crowd. The new acquaintances were from Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington. They had two weeks for spring vacation and were spending the time driving south to climb. From here, they would go to Bishop, and then Joshua Tree, before heading back up to school. Chris was actually the one who got Max into climbing in high school. They grew up together in Springfield, Missouri and played high school soccer together. Now, here they were, coincidentally meeting up in Utah.
Chris led Jim, Max, and Brian to a good warm up boulder. They laid their crash pads underneath the problem. One by one, each of the three boys walked up to the boulder, planned out his route, softly placed his hands to feel they types of holds he would have to rely on, chalked up, and tried to ‘scend. They worked out the beta aloud, strategizing as a group, cheering when one successfully topped out. Jim could finish V4s in the gym, but outside he was struggling on V2’s. During indoor climbing sessions, climbers go to the gym and have two hours to wear themselves out. During outdoor climbing sessions, climbers are outside all day. Climbers would burn out if they continuously worked on problems. Jim soon realized that lounging was a necessity in outdoor bouldering. Almost all of the fun was simply being outdoors, lounging with friends, or newly acquainted climbers.
After about an hour the Whitman group walked up to the SoCal boys and laid their pads around the same boulder. In indoor climbing there was a set route with specific holds for each climb, to be used in a predetermined way. In outdoor climbing there was still a route and a predetermined line but any part of the rock was game. Jim enjoyed the freedom, more possibilities for him to consider.
The Whitman crew left around 4 pm Max walked back to the car to pick up his cousin and uncle, who were meeting the boys in Utah. Max’s cousin was much better at climbing than the three of them. He was a senior at the Baptist University of Missouri. He seemed to already know each boulder they passed. “I’ve been watching YouTube videos to prepare for the trip.” He explained. The next three days was more of the same, going to new locations, working on problems, trying to ignore that all the skin was scrapped away from the fingers and that every muscle ached from places they didn’t know had muscle to tear. When Jim walked up to a problem, he closed his eyes, in preparation for the pain he was about to beset on himself.
Max’s cousin and uncle brought a trailer with them. They cooked dinner at eight; the five of them ate at nine, talked for an hour or two, and then headed to bed. It was different living. Jim enjoyed its hedonistic undertones. When it rained on the third day, they drove south to Zion. It was a three-hour drive for a day of climbing; they decided it was worth it. Jim still hadn’t responded to his dad. He sent his family a message, “I’m okay, talk to you when I get back to school.” and turned off his phone. He could never before turn his phone off for an entire week. There was always someone, somewhere, he needed to communicate with. Not for this trip. He had enough cash for food and gas. He didn’t want to be away from his experience for a moment.
During the drive, Max and Brian texted everyone they knew who went on the school-orchestrated Zion trip. There were two friends on the Zion trip who were also climbers. The three arrived at their friends’ Zion campsite at midnight; their buddies had waited up for them. They were greeted with a hotbox in a tent. The tent filled with smoke and their heads filled with happiness. The five of them slept in that four-man tent. They woke up the next day to the smell of bacon and eggs. Jim left the tent and was greeted by ten of his classmates around the picnic table, which comprised the kitchen.
“Hey everyone.” He smiled.
“Woah, Max? When did you get here?”
The five climbers loaded up into two cars and followed some more sketchy directions. “When you get to highway forty, turn left onto Frost Road and follow it for 2.1 miles, pull into the parking lot on the left and take the only trail for about a mile or two,” MountainProject.com instructed. It took the five of them awhile to find that parking lot. They walked down the pathway and ate lunch around the red rock boulders. All five of them ‘scent a V3. It was the first problem Jim ‘scent that was also challenging for Max. They walked back to the car. “I need Smashburger.” Said Evan. They blazed the quickest trail toward the fast food establishment. They sit, in the middle of the parking lot, some eating Smashburger, others eating Chex and peanut butter in a taco shell.
“I don’t think I’ve ever felt or looked more like a bum.” Max says.
“But a climbing bum.” Brian answers.
They stay in the parking lot for an hour until Evan says, “Alright, how about we go back to the campsite?” The four others agree.
Jim, Max, and Brian decide to stay with the Zion group for the rest of the week. They each have aches that could escalate into serious, climbing preventing, injuries if they keep barreling through the pain.
Jim calls his dad when he gets back to campus. “Let me talk before you do.” He tells his father. “You don’t understand this sport. Bouldering climbs are called problems. That’s what they are: problems. They are problems that you solve with your body. The sport is a combination of critical thinking, strength, and perseverance. By the third day of our trip, my hands were bloody and muscles I didn’t know I had were squealing in protest of my continuation. People from all over the world sit around boulders, these large chips of rock that people chalk up and attempt to climb. People lie on pads around the rock, supporting whoever is challenging it, whoever is trying to tame the untamable, whoever is learning they are nature’s bitch. Every climber knows there is a rock he can’t ‘scend. It’s so humbling. I’m not going to stop.” Jim has never been a talker, or a poet.
“Alright.” His father responds.
The Noble East
1920’s jazz is the inciting action. Black dress shoes squeak against the marble floor. Hard like money. The money that flows like curses exchanged in three languages. Everyone in the kitchen knows four words: fuck, shit, pendeho, puta. New faces are our soul. During quiet days we rot. When we want a customer to come in the door we want to be home. There’s no money without tips. Every night we’re mad. Mad because there are too many tables or too little. Mad becomes customary, and then necessary. How else do you live taking home minimum wage or ten times that, depending on the night? You have to be mad. You’re upset at the host for seating two more customers in another server’s table, or the waiter for not clearing-mid meal. Noise is good. Noise is money. Money is money. Noise is customers; noise is yelling hosts, managers, runners, busboys, waiters, dishwashers, prep cooks, sous-chefs, head chefs.
Anger is mistakes that can’t be made Saturday night. Soft-spoken advice is for slow days. Everyone hates slow days, standing and preparing for action that doesn’t come. You should come high. You can’t come high, either the restaurant’s busy and you’ll fuck up or it’s empty and you’ll fall asleep on the job. Either way you’re fucked. Tabletops get set and wiped, they stay vacant, the last customers finish desert. You sweep, mop, and get your cash. You say farewell and hope tomorrow will be busier.
Bryn Miller ’19
Bryn spent her summer working at an English-language newspaper in Rabat, Morocco. Between high school and college, she spent a year living in Marrakesh, Morocco to learn Arabic and was happy to return this summer to see her friends, improve her Arabic, and learn more about Moroccan culture and politics. In addition to writing for the newspaper, Bryn wrote a series of essay about language and other aspects of her experiences for her Appel Fellowship writing.
We don’t really have one word for “of the people” in English, but they do in Arabic.
I first heard the word shaabi used to describe a neighborhood in the middle of Marrakesh’s packed streets. It was sunset, and my friend Hiba and I were riding our bikes in circles around the outskirts of the city though the falling desert night, dodging donkey carts and motorcycles. Throngs of boys began crowding the streets to begin the three-mile walk to the soccer stadium, waving flags and chanting, so we turned into a dimly lit side street to avoid the crowds. Uncomfortable in the dusk, I asked Hiba if we should go back to the main street. She said no.
“This is a shaabi place,” she told me. “We are safe here.”
In the cracked streets of the neighborhood, toothless, wrinkled men had set up a table in the middle of the street directly between their homes and were playing Moroccan cards. Motorcycles and cars driving by slowed to avoid the men. Little girls and boys with patches of dirt on their limbs played with a soccer ball, running barefoot across the sidewalk. Their faces flashed by as Hiba and I rode through the block.
As we passed through the streets, I instantly correlated the word shaabi to its false cognate in English: shabby. A neighborhood like the one Hiba was describing — unfinished walls, rusting grates on the windows, laundry fluttering over the street, and children running loose and naked on the streets – was a portrait of urban third-world poverty. Through most American eyes, everything on the street would have fit the definition of “shabby.”
In Arabic, however, shaabi means something very different. It means popular, but carries a different meaning than the conventional definition of the word in English: of the people.
I asked Hiba whether shaabi was a positive or negative term, and she looked confused.
“Of course it’s good,” she said. “Shaabi neighborhoods are where your child can play outside and not be scared, and where you can go to your neighbors’ house for dinner without an invitation.”
For the rest of the summer, I was intrigued by this word. I had never truly associated the themes of poverty and commonality with virtue, since the sector of American culture that I was raised in largely emphasizes personal consumption and status. The more I thought about it, I realized there is no word in English that carries the same meaning as shaabi.
When I took a train from Rabat to Marrakesh during my last weekend in Morocco, the first-class cabins with guaranteed seating were sold out. I was lucky to find a seat in the second class cabin in a compartment for eight crammed with ten women and children. It was 115 degrees, and the air conditioning broke. My nine compartment-mates spoke only Moroccan Arabic and wore tattered clothing.
After sitting in that train for four hours, I better understood the value Moroccans give to the word “shaabi.” Most people from my culture, myself included, would have borne out the heat in solitary discomfort, silently resenting the thighs pressing up on either side and the sweaty bodies of children thumping around. Instead of complaining about the heat, these women all shared food and water and fans as sweat dripped down our backs. Their children ran up and down the corridors playing.
One woman’s toddler moved from lap to lap in the compartment, grinning as she ate. She stood up with a manic energy when she moved, spreading her arms and twirling in the small open space between our legs. Every time she stood up, she would screech with excitement and recite the first lines of the fatiha, the introduction to the Qur’an. The women, all strangers, immediately got to know each other and attempted to include me in their conversations throughout the four-hour ride. They shared cooking tips and stories and laughter while passing around crinkled packets of tin foil-wrapped food. All of them called me binti – my daughter — and asked concernedly if I was seeing my real mother soon.
When I told my friend Zineb about the train ride when I arrived in Marrakesh, she smiled. “You were with shaabi people,” she said. “I’m so glad.”
Emma Henson ’19
Viva is a historical fiction novel I had the pleasure to work on this summer with the help of funding from the Appel Fellowship. I attended two session of the Iowa Summer Writing Festival through the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, which greatly helped me as I worked to finish this piece. The below excerpt is actually the very end of the novel. It would be more logical to offer up the beginning as an excerpt, but I thought the ending embodied the theme of (e)motion much more fully. Viva tells the story of a fictional woman, Dasha Winterton, who meets Ernesto Guevara when they’re both in medical school in the 1950s in Buenos Aires. They begin an affair that spans a decade, several continents, and three marriages. Viva explores how we tell the stories of cult figures in history, how we rarely consider them fallible, and the sentimentality in relationships and growing up.
Dasha stood at the window and looked out over the soldiers in the square, singing and celebrating and drinking stolen rum. He sat in the chair and looked at her looking out the window. Santa Clara was at their feet, spread out like a rug that curled ever so slightly at its edge where the brown sugarcane was made red by the setting sun. “I’ve gotten it for you,” she said mildly, “right here, it’s the moon on a string.” He did not respond, but she had known he wouldn’t, and she leaned out of the window, resting her sternum on the sill, breathing the first truly cold air of winter.
It was strange how people couldn’t always remember the beginning of things, but the endings were sure to stick around like poorly healed wounds. With the sounds of celebration and the smell of stale cigar smoke in the room, she knew as she lived it that this was the ending, that this was the wound, and it would be an ending and a wound forever.
In the end, it was this. It was her and him. It was a love that was nothing more and nothing less than a love. It was a revolution that was nothing more and nothing less than a revolution. It was a decade of life that could not be absolved, though she wasn’t sure she wanted it to be.
Dasha knew that back in the times when war was made on horses by men with bows and swords, the Mongols had left their dead naked on an open plain to be picked clean by the birds. They thought that it freed the soul. And now in this room, living this wound where she finally felt old, so old her soul was achey, she knew that was what they had been doing for seven years, from Buenos Aires to Cartagena to Santiago de Cuba. They had been lying their bodies down to be picked clean, freed somehow through subsumption. No one had ever told them that people were just people.
Dasha turned to him, looking at the good, familiar face. His hair was too long, and he’d cut the flat of his cheek shaving. It was a scar of red against his skin. “What if I said I’m afraid?” he asked, and for the first time she could remember, he looked small to her. She wondered how he had seemed so large for so long.
“You’ll always lose a bare-knuckle fight against the world, Vara,” she said. He came to her, and sat in the leather chair at her feet, and leaned his face against her stomach, pressing his forehead into the skin below her ribs. She ran a hand down the back of his skull. “But you’re the only one who’s ever thought you have to win.”
“How is it that you always know that to say?” he asked.
“I don’t comfort you,” Dasha responded, voice aimless and small in the drafty room. “I’m just your mirror. When you can’t see clearly, you find your way to me, and I give you back to yourself.”
“I’m not your mirror,” he said softly, the sound muffled against her shirt. “I’ve never been anything for you.”
She laughed, a short, sad sound from her dry lungs that still burned from the smoke. “You’ve loved me through all of my forms with all of yours and you’ve been my greatest friend.”
There was a long silence, and neither of them cared. They were sick of words. Good words and bad words and love words and war words, and now they were here. He was a person in the world with her, a person with two hands and a beating heart, and he was neither a stranger nor a lover any longer. He kissed her skin over the shirt and leaned back, taking a cigar from the box, lighting it with a match longer than her ring finger. Vara exhaled, twin tusks of smoke obscuring his face.
“You and I were happy in a different life,” he said.
“Oh, God, Vara,” she muttered, “of course we weren’t. We were Antony and Cleopatra in a different life.”
“Caesar and Cleopatra,” he amended softly. “Caesar conquered more.”
“Antony lived longer.”
“But they both died young, didn’t they?”
“Querida?” she asked.
“I’m going home.”
Emmanuel Feleke ’19
ur reversing my polarity:
expanding like the limits
on the ways that i receive u,
hold u closer than the words
i use in place of how i feel,
and as they’re rolling off my tongue,
i know the after-taste, insipid—
mixed emotions make me nervous,
’cause i wanna be committed,
but i need reciprocation,
and if heaven isn’t open,
we can take another lap,
enjoy the sulfur of the moment,
’cause the afterword of passion
burns the brightest till it smolders.
Kylie Harrison ’20
Lining up to shoot quivering words
At my heart
To watch which ones stick.
Those angry words
Slip through the patchwork armor
That I built with small hands and hardened memories
The door from a boarded up store where a homeless man yelled at me.
The glittering granite of my kitchen table where
My father’s harsh voice tares tears from my eyes.
The cracked clay pot of an angry woman calling me a stupid girl.
Vulnerable, red, beating,
The knife-like words puncture the silky skin
And sink into the soft underbelly of my soul
Blossoms of poison
Unfurling with every beat
Red to black
Red to black.
We are Close, You and I
We are close, you and I
We are authentic, real
Full of a passion
That fills our hearts
And overflows into our veins
A fiery burning
With our red hot veins
The twisting lines
Years of desperation and love
Hope and chaos
Millions of lives etched within our hearts
We are part of those who came before us
We are part of those who will come after
We are one of many
And completely ourselves
Melia Wong ’19
Melia Wong traveled to Glasgow, Scotland over the summer to work with a music education project. Sistema Scotland sets up disadvantaged students with music instruments and lessons, and eventually places them into community orchestras. After arriving, Melia found that writing about travel was just as interesting as writing about music.
My flatmates David and Kevin go out on the town with an ease that rivals many college students. David works from Manchester and London, and is rarely at our shared flat, but when he is, the two put on their hippest outfits to meet their group of gay friends.
“Mayyyy-leeee-ahhhhh,” David whines from the other room. “Do you think this jacket looks okay on me? Kevvie says it doesn’t.” He bounds into the living room where I’m curled up on the mod couch. The jacket is real, slightly reflective black leather with countless metallic touches.
“Of course it does!” I give nothing but encouragement in this early stage of our relationship.
“We’ve fallen out, Melia,” Kevin calls snippily from the other room.
“He’s just jealous.” David postures proudly, as if looking in an invisible mirror.
“And, we’re going to have to see him tonight!” Kevin shouts adamantly.
“Oh, just a friend who won’t shut up about the Brexit.” David rolls his eyes. “It’s all anyone will talk about, hun.”
“Have you voted yet?” Rosie asks with a feverish concern to everyone we see. It’s election night, and the polls close in four hours. The prospect of leaving the EU has frightened Rosie for the past few weeks. “I’ve actually gotten really, really nervous about it,” she tells me as her art school friends laugh around us. Gordon and Jamie discuss about a show that Gordon is ‘curating’ (“But I really hate using that word,” he moans, pushing his wire-rimmed grandpa glasses up his nose). The topic of the Brexit slowly pulls them away from the world of modern art and into the throes of politics.
“Is it mostly conservatives who are voting to leave?” I ask. As a Government major, I have many, many questions.
“Not really,” Rosie sighs. “Mostly racists, if we’re being honest.”
“Don’t forget the extreme socialists,” adds Gordon. “People who think the EU is beyond repair. And the anti-immigrant folk.”
Do they know anyone who is voting to leave? No, according to Jamie, but there are “plenty of them out there.” Rosie’s entire friend group voted to remain in the EU, but leave the UK. This distinction confused me: in some ways, weren’t the votes quite similar? According to Rosie, not at all.
“When we voted on leaving the UK last year, it was about what Scotland could do on its own,” she explaines. “It was about pride, about what we could offer as a country. This, this leaving the EU….” A pause. “This is about fear.”
The votes are in, and the UK is out of the EU. Kevin texts me after the announcement. Well, you are in the UK at a historic time, he writes. When I ask how he feels toward the outcome, Kevin does not mince words. I hate the EU. They refuse to listen to the populous and think they can dictate from afar.
On the other hand, Kevin hates that England basically made the decision for Scotland and Northern Ireland, both of which voted to remain. It’s triggered the second Scottish Independence Referendum, Kevin types. Bit of a chaotic mess. The whole campaign has been smoke and mirrors. The prospect of a second referendum looms above us, squeezing everyone into a slightly more tense version of themselves.
The next day, Rosie invites me to the Glasgow School of Art’s Degree show, where graduates display their best work in hopes of praise and even sales. I accept immediately, grateful that she’s taken me under her wing. She and I will start volunteering at a music charity on Monday, but getting to know her outside of work is its own reward.
We spend a few hours wandering around the installations: video projects, sculptures made out of vaseline and ebony wood, and paintings that decidedly belong in museums. After our eyes tire, we stroll over to the MONO cafe, a vegan place with a delightfully outlandish chef.
“May I ask…” I swirl my straw around my mango lychee lemonade. “How do you feel about the vote?” George, Rosie’s boyfriend, puts his face in his hands despondently.
“I haven’t had time to rant to anyone yet.” His response is slightly muffled. “I haven’t really processed it, you know?”
“Same,” Rosie says. “I was so nervous for so many weeks, and now, it’s actually happened. I can’t believe it. I guess I’ll have to get over that.”
“I’ve noticed quite a bit of talk about a second Scottish Independence Referendum.” They nod solemnly over their vegan fare. “Do you think the outcome will be different?”
“Oh, yes. This is what’s going to happen. Boris Johnson will be elected Prime Minister.” From the little I’ve gathered over the past week, the former Mayor of London is the ultimate pre-Trump. “Then, Scotland will hold the second Referendum. And what is the UK without Scotland? If you just look at a map, it’s incomplete.” Rosie turns her gaze away from the table, searching.
“And we,” says George, pulling Rosie’s eyes back onto him, “will most definitely be voting to leave.”
Rachelle, my manager, finds me in the hallway after my second day of work. We’ve had a full day of herding kids from session to session, occasionally correcting their behavior, musical or unrelated. “Nice job with Antonio today.” She gives me a winning smile. “I noticed that he stood close to you after you talked to him. Whatever you said, it worked.” I tell her it was no big deal. Antonio sought attention during our cricket match at Sistema, and I spoke to him as an adult. He loved being treated as an equal.
“We’re on our lunch break now. Do you know where to go if you need food?” I shake my head no. “On the next street over, there’s a great place called Nan’s. They sell sandwiches and things, and it’s inexpensive. Actually, come to think of it, ‘Nan’s’ might not be on the sign. Oh well. It’s the only place there– you can’t miss it.”
When I walk into the sturdy little shop, I’m greeted by multiple women in white uniforms and crisp chef’s caps. They’ve just mopped the floors, so I bounce carefully between two islands of cardboard. Three women tidy around the shop, and I address the one behind the counter: “Hello! I was wondering what’s good here. What’s your favorite thing that you serve?”
“Everything is good,” the woman replies, an eyebrow raised. “Hot or cold?”
“You should try the chicken curry,” says a different woman, this one closer to my age.
“Great, I’ll take that.” I glance at the sign above the counter. The meal is a mere £2.50— about $3.35.
I hop from cardboard to cardboard and slide open the glass door to the drinks display. “One of these, please.” I place the mysterious orange bottle on the counter and hand over the money. It’s time to try Irn Bru.
There are great stories behind this drink, which is fondly referred to as “Scotland’s Other National Drink” (the first being whisky). When I first arrived, Cheryl told me I had to try the haggis, shortbread, and Irn Bru. “What in the world is Iron Brew?” I asked her, trying to spell it out in my mind.
“You know how Coke is the number one soda, like, everywhere? That’s true, except for Scotland. Irn Bru is number one here.” She wore the smile of a proud Scot, and had good reason: Irn Bru has been produced in Glasgow for a hundred years, and has been successfully marketed to Scots by appealing toward their nationalism.
After weeks of glancing at the drink in vending machines, I take the plunge. Spinning the bottle round on the counter, I notice the label: BRU’D IN SCOTLAND TO A SECRET RECIPE SINCE 1901. I warily twist off the cap. It makes a satisfying “pop” when released. The soda’s color is more neon orange than fanta, so brightly fluorescent that it almost looks toxic. “This is the first time I’ve had Irn Bru,” I tell the young woman behind the counter. She smiles in disbelief.
“No, can’t have been. You haven’t had Irn Bru before?” She shakes her head emphatically. “Listen up, this is her first time trying Irn Bru,” she shouts back to the kitchen. A number of other women file out of the kitchen, wiping their hands or pushing their hair back. I have gone from bland foreigner to excitement of the workday.
“It’s really your first time?” another chef asks. I smile, nod, remove the cap, and slowly lift the bottle to my lips. A moment passes while the mind waits for the taste buds to deliver their verdict. Based on the color, I expect something much fruitier, but this is unbelievably smooth– like cream soda, but less cloying. The blend of 32 syrups and flavorings confuses me– it seems almost metallic as it passes my lips, but docile after. I can tell all eyes in Nan’s are on me, waiting for my reaction.
“I love it.” I set the bottle down appreciatively. There is a flurry of excited movement and a general nodding of heads.
“That’s because it’s pure sugar,” the older woman jokes. I glance down at the label and grin: the slim bottle contains nearly 60% of my daily sugar intake. “You better drink half and see how you feel,” she laughs. I try to take her advice, but the bottle calls to me, and I can’t help but take surreptitious– almost guilty– sips throughout the day. There’s nothing to be done.
Alex Lombardo ’20
Grayson Gunner ’17
Jake Hudson-Humphrey ’19
Jordan Bosiljevac ’17
Matt Dayton ’19