Friday, June 14, 2013

Calculus by Joyce Kim

The numbers swirl in and out a sequence of numbers sprinkled with letters and symbols and shapes and signs and ciphers i yank my hair and lie down on my book i see agony and torment from everyone's look what does it mean? how do I know? that terrible thing called time it creeps by slowly tortuously tauntingly each poster on the wall a friend and foe entertain my eyes with the monotonous information of math math math integral of tan(x)? false volume of r around the x-axis? elephants...suddenly the number of ceiling tiles becomes the priority of my life 2, 4, 6, 8 alas more numbers my eyes dart around the dry room desperate for a distraction before i die the bell is my savior -- the bell which rings on cue -- is my liberator. I'm free!
A Retelling of Heart of Darkness in Exactly 16 Frames by Daguan Lu


Bill and Bill -- A Short Story by Eli Flesch 

Joe told me folk music was the song of the land. I questioned him, partly because I hated folk music, and partly because I did not like his reasoning. It was too ambiguous. He told me I didn’t understand. I agreed and ordered another beer from the bar we were arguing from.

I don’t know where Joe is now. My guess is that the four by four sent him flying head-long right into Heaven. At least that’s how Irv Johnson said it happened. He had seen the whole thing while cleaning the attic in a nearby house.

I wish Joe was still around. Sometimes I see him in my rear-view mirror, following me in that great red truck of his. He would honk his horn, and I would cut him off as he tried to pass me. Our little game of chicken would end when a car coming the opposite way would barely miss crashing into old Joe as he tried to get around me. 

Now, things are different.

That’s an understatement. 

Rolling into a gas station late one night, I broke down at the wheel and cried like a baby. My eyes grew wide, as a radio in the station hummed an old folk song. When it crackled to a soft end, the buzzing of neon lights resumed. I eventually stopped crying and looked up to the sky. Goddamn you Joe. Goddamn. 

###

Chewy Charlie’s was a welcoming establishment and a great place for breakfast. Every morning I would take of my hat to Betsy’s warm greeting. She was nimble for a large woman, and always made sure I found my way to the corner booth I had grown so accustomed to. I knew from the start that this was a place of great character. 

On a particular Sunday morning, I remember a man having car trouble outside. I pulled up my blue-jeans in anticipation of some heavy lifting. The car was a beauty. It was a classic Jeep, built strong and American. I felt obliged to help.

“You need some help, buddy?” I asked. The man looked up from the steaming hood of his car.

“Hey, yeah I could. Thanks, partner,” the man responded. “Name’s Will, by the way.”

“My pleasure Will,” I said, shaking his hand. “I’m Bill."

"That’s the name I go by with friends.”

“I guess we’ll be Bill and Bill then. Now, let’s say we take a look at this steamer.”

“I think the engine’s too hot. Something on my dash started going crazy.”

“Well, I wouldn’t know how to cool it. You know what?” I knelt down to get a view of the belly of this Jeep. “Lemme get a cable. I can tow this into town. Got a good mechanic just down the road.”

“Down in Sungrove?”

“Yeah, you from around here?”

“Naw. I was through here once though.”

“It’s a nice place. Let’s get going.”

###

We were driving fast down the highway. It was empty. The sky faded into a pale blue as the sun rose. “Where are you from?” I asked Will.

“Well, I was originally from Tuscon. That was a long time ago. I meandered across the south in my youth. I was filled with that wanderlust any papa-less boy feels. I was my own daddy. Mama was never really in the picture. She put me up ‘till I was eighteen. For that, I was grateful. By mutual consensus, I decided to leave. I won’t go into much detail about family after that; I’ve said a lot anyway.” Will looked into the great prairie. It seemed to be a long and tired look, fraught with its own special concerns. 

Will continued, “I never really settled in those days. I liked Texas, the people were good there. I also liked Atlanta. I eventually landed in Oklahoma City. It was a rough place to land. Not two weeks adjusted and some idiot blows up a building. I was packing my bags the next night. But come morning, I decided I didn’t want to be on the run anymore. So I stayed."

“Sounds like you trust your instinct,” I said.

“I guess.”

“Well what brings you to Colorado?”

“The mountains. Fishing, hunting. Gets a man thinking.”

“Amen,” I said. “I fish occasionally. Not much time anymore.”

“You gotta make the time.” Will smiled in my direction.

“I suppose.” I paused. “So you came through Sunnygrove on your way to the Rockies?”

“Yeah.”

“When was that?”

“Bout four years ago.”

“Good God, man! You say I gotta make the time, but you haven’t been up here since, what, ’96?!”

“Well, I don’t always fish up here.” 

“Come on. Where are you going to find better fishing? Mexico? Water there is sh#t.”

“I guess.”

I laughed. A fleeting sign indicated that the mechanic was about a half mile away. We were pulling off the highway onto a cracked road. Recognizing that we were close to where Joe was hit, my attitude sobered.

Irv’s house stood alone a little bit away.

Fortunately, we took a fork in the road that diverted from the scene. The shop was dead ahead now. Our cars traversed a small strip of gravel to enter the garage. Jack Babson, the mechanic, came out of his office. Jack was a skinny man who perpetually smelled of cheap cigarettes. His grease stained overalls covered a body of sinewy muscle. He had a habit of squinting, even without the sun’s permission. 

Will went to his car to detach it from mine. In the meantime, I greeted Jack . We had a brief conversation about the shop’s business and Colorado’s weather. Will soon joined us, and proceeded to describe his car problems to Jack. Jack nodded while walking over to Will’s car.

Will was silent as Jack inspected the car. The final verdict was not good. The engine was close to failing and would need a couple of critical repairs that would at least take a couple of days.

Jack expressed a sincere apology over the fact that if he were not short on supplies, the job could be done much quicker. To compensate for the extra time, Jack offered to fix the car at a much lower rate than he would have charged otherwise. Recognizing that he had no other option, Will consented to the offer. 

“Now I gotta find somewhere to stay.” Will looked at me. We were walking toward my car, which I had moved to the side of the road. “You know any cheap places?”

“This is Sunnygrove. Everything here is cheap. Actually, my buddy owns a small place near the edge of town. There’s always an empty room there. I’ll take you down there.”

“Can’t thank you enough for your kindness.”

“I’m obliged at this point, Will.”

We got in my car and drove back the way we came. We passed through downtown quickly.

It was noon now. People moved up and down the main drag. Considering the hour, probably heading toward a place to eat.

The buildings of downtown Sunnygrove could have been taken right out of a scene from a spaghetti-western. But instead of desert, Sunnygrove was surrounded by a mountainous plain. A quiet sort of person often found sanctuary here. 

About ten minutes in, I pulled into the motel’s driveway. It wasn’t a flashy place by any means. The building’s only statement of purpose was a dull red sign that read ‘Motel.'

Will got out, thanked me for the ride, and went into the motel to get a room. I waited silently in the car for him to return. 

When he did, it was with a smile. He thanked me once again, saying he booked his room. I turned my car back on, in anticipation of going home. Before I could pull out, his hand was on my car door. I waited for him to say something, and he just stared at the ground with a strange expression. He held this position for about five seconds before patting the iron door, signaling my departure. He waved in my rear-view as I pulled back onto the main drag.

###

I fell into a deep slumber that night. Dreams crept into my sleep, arousing a carnival of the mind. I was young again, blissfully ignorant. Irene Lake stood before me as a glass mirror. A canoe was moored to a nearby log. I drifted toward it as a specter may drift away from his casket once buried.  The water remained undisturbed as I boarded the boat. With little resistance from the water, I pushed the oars, propelling the canoe forward…

I was a weightless presence on the water. There was a great silence. Its power was enough to take the nerve out of any man. It instilled a great fear in my heart. Not a living creature stirred, not a ripple caressed the canoe. I felt a presence that my existence paled in comparison to…

A gentle wind came from the surrounding mountains. It whispered blank noises to me. But from the breeze came a voice. Its faint inflections made me think Zephyrus was trying to let me in on a grand secret. But it was not Zephyrus. It was not a God in any traditional respect. No; it was Joe…

He first let me know that he had always loved Irene. He told me that it was his place of solitude, a place that he would not even take me to. Irene was his paradise, a sanctuary for his peace of mind. But now, he wanted me to share some of it with him in the hopes that I may have some peace of mind myself.

I tried to speak, but had no voice. The wind had taken it away from me. I reached for Joe’s hand only to realize he had none. No legs to walk on either. In fact, his whole body seemed to be an illusion. Its lines were blurred by the winds that moved so gently around his voice. Go now, Joe said, go and fall into your world. Follow grace where she may fall. Take the sturdy hands that now rest on these oars and do great, until we may meet again…

My eyes opened. I looked out to a cold Colorado morning. Morning dew rested on my window sill.

###

“Love is a test of conviction,” Humphrey Blithe said. “It is a sign of your resolve against the temptations of nature. By God, if we do not love, we will never know our own strength.”

Listening to Humphrey speak was somewhat of a religious experience. His speeches were weekly occurrences. A quiet man by nature, he would have to drink several bottles of beer to stand on the bar-top every Friday to give his profound sermons. People didn’t take him seriously at first, but his drunken philosophy kept spilling forth, and the people grew to respect his words. 

“What is a man without love?” he prodded the bar patrons. He looked into dozens of eyes, not one of them answering his question. “A man without love is a coward! A man who cannot love has died a painful death, a death that he may be painfully unaware of.”

I sat listening to his oration. His words fluttered around my own whiskey-massaged mind. To no avail, I tried to reason with his rhetoric.

“But what is there to love? Is it a woman? A man? Perhaps it is a love of life and its sanctity,” Humphrey continued. “I dare say it could be the mountains around us. The thin air here makes us like no other human being on Earth.”

There was a stir in the crowd at these words. Men turned to each other to affirm Humphrey’s truth for their own lives. Thankful for the pause, Humphrey took a large drink from his frothing beer.

“I know I love you…my brothers,” Humphrey said. “I sure as hell am a man of my own.”

“He’s gettin’ wasted!” Cried someone from the newly energized bar.

“Shut up now, I got more t’ say. I got…more to say?” Humphrey said. Four empty pints of beer lay on the counter next to him. It was over. Humphrey babbled as two men helped him down from the bar. 

Music started to play from the old stereo system again. Cracked voices of unnameable country artists filled the room. Despite the sounds, it did not feel like an authentic country bar. Rather, it was a watering-hole, built for the needs of Sunnygrove. The bar was owned by Carl Hewitt, a man who had found his way from Chicago’s tall buildings to Sunnygrove’s open air. He was hardly ever seen around the bar. He often holed himself inside a back room and left Gus Dale, the bartender, deal with any trouble. In a town where men strongly believed that quarrels were to be settled by the parties in conflict, Gus was an exception. People often turned to him as an arbiter against any problem brought up. 

“Gus, fix me another. Cold please,” I mumbled, dismissing the thought of the hangover I knew would plague me the next morning.

“Sure. You’ve been awful quiet this night Bill; Humphrey got you in a bind?” Gus said, pouring my drink.

“Naw,” I said, stopping to sip my drink. It was cool and strong going down my throat. “I don’t really know what’s got me in a bother. Just feels good to, you know.” I gestured at my drink. 

“I don’t buy it, Bill. You’ve been drinkin’ here many years now. Gus knows when a lie’s been told.”

“You’re lookin’ into it too far!” I said, a boozy smirk on my face.

“All right. But I know.”

“Say Gus, how many years you been here anyway?”

“’Bout eight, maybe nine years.”

“Well I’ll be a damned. I wish I could hold onto a job that long!”

“Don’t give me that. You’ve been workin’ steady ‘bout five years now. You got a good thing as a Ranger. You’re the biggest man of a boy-scout I know.”

“I only let you wisecrack like that cause you got the power to top me off,” I said, winking at my empty glass. 

“I’d suggest no more after this, can’t imagine you’re good to drive.”

“Don’t plan on it. I walked here…needed some air.”

Gus nodded and finished pouring the drink. 

“Bill!” I heard someone yell.

“Yeah Gus,” I replied. 

“I didn’t say anything. That man did,” Gus said, pointing across the bar counter. I spun around the stool at what felt like a hundred miles per hour. It was Will. He had been sitting alone at a corner table. He got up and headed toward me.

“Well, how are you?” I asked him as we shook hands.

“Doin’ just fine. It’s good to see you again, can’t believe it took me this long to spot you.”

“That’s alright. How long you been here anyway?”

“Long enough to hear that man’s point of view,” Will said, pointing to Humphrey, who had now drifted to sleep on a bench next to the jukebox. 

“Humphrey’s a weekly event. You gotta come more often then…what was it…four years! Gotta come without letting four years pass by.”

“Yeah, I suppose you’re right.” Will looked into space.

“Four years is a long while,” I responded. “You ought to fish with me tomorrow. Sunday fishing is fantastic up here, and I’ll show you the best spots.”

“That’s very kind, I’d love to.”

“It’s set then. I’ll pick you up ‘round seven at your motel. But if that’s the case, I’d best be heading out.”

“Get some sleep,” Will said. “We’re gonna have a long day.”

I nodded toward Will, and we shared a short farewell. After he had left, I considered another glass of whiskey, but Gus was adamant I go home and rest. I obliged; I was in no state to argue.

I stumbled out of the bar into the cold air. A short column of crystalline fog appeared in front of me, rhythmically coordinating itself to my warm breathing.

I crossed a street to get to Lambert Road, which I would follow several miles to reach home. The sounds of wet dirt and gravel under my boots were the only sounds in the thick of this black night.

A soft drizzle from the dark sky swept across my face. The street lights lit each particle of rain, giving effervescence to an otherwise still night. But the energy of the rain was fragile -- its power extinguished upon landing on the ground. 

I walked with a gait only slightly accented by my inebriation. I occasionally stuck out my tongue, in the hope I'd be tickled by the falling rain. A lone pick-up truck rumbled down the street. Its headlights were yellow eyes in an infinity of gray. I turned around to watch its red taillights pass me and shrink into oblivion. I twisted back toward the way home. The truck was gone, and the road was empty once more.

###

Thirty miles north of Sunnygrove lies a dirt road off the main highway. If one cares to drive down this road, he will encounter a highly wooded forest. Here, in a perpetual shade, moss grows. The dirt soon turns to grass, matted down by fishing trucks that frequent the path. 

Then the woods lift to reveal the Quartz River, a water way that runs long and wide through the Colorado backcountry. By no means is this part of the river unknown. While tourists do not often happen upon this spot, it is well known among the residents of Sunnygrove and other nearby towns. The North Bend has the best trout fishing in the state. 

When we got to the clearing, Will whistled in pleasant astonishment. It was a particularly beautiful day, enough to cause my hangover to fade away. The rain had stopped early in the morning. Clouds of cotton candy were poised to be the main spectacle against a sky of deep blue. On the other side of the Quartz was a large field, where squirrels scampered about. 

I turned off the car, and we unloaded our gear. I lent Will a pair of old rubber waders. He had brought his own rod from Oklahoma. We went about ten feet off the rocky shore until our waders were submerged about knee deep. 

He was a natural on the fly. His patience had a rhythm to it, and was not to be disturbed by small talk. We had already talked the way over anyways. Will’s life in Oklahoma seemed to be steady enough. He had a good job, and had just started seeing a girl. 

The morning grew warmer, and I feared the fish were done feeding for the day. Several anglers nearby already had full buckets. I stared expectantly at my own line. The running water was mesmerizing, and it started to distort how far I aimed my fly down the river. In my confusion, I heard a grunt come out of Will. I looked over to see him reeling in a trout, about seven to eight inches in length. After the fish was securely in his hands he looked over to me and let out a smile of triumph. It was a good moment for both of us.

The morning wore on, and it became clear our luck was gone. Never before had I come from the Quartz without a fish of my own to show for it. Will had only managed to hook one other fish, but even that one violently shook its way off the fly. 

“I feel like I owe you an apology,” I said. 

“Just a bad day,” Will said. “We all have ‘em.”

“I know. Just strange that we’d be the only ones.”

“The river was probably fished up by the time we got here. You gotta come at dawn. That’s when the fish are hungry.”

“You got a point. I think I was still drunk when I woke up this morning, though. I’d have been in no shape to be up that early.”

“You’ve got a good bar down there don’t you?”

“Yeah, Gus practically owns the place. Carries a great responsibility in doing so. Nearly half the damn town shows up there on Friday and Saturday.”

“What do you say I meet you there tonight?” Will asked. “We can knock a few down; try to get today’s slim pickings out of our heads.”

“That’s much needed.”

We got back in the car, and I drove him down to his motel. When we arrived, I offered to take him to lunch, but he declined. He told me he needed to nap for a couple of hours. I waved him off, and backed up the car before pulling out of the motel’s lot. I decided sleep wasn’t a bad option for me either. 

I tried to remember what had happened the night before. I knew for a fact there was nothing significant. The only salient event was inviting Will to fish. I remembered Humphrey had spoken, but I could not recall what about.

It puzzled me as I unlocked the door to my house. I dragged myself directly to the bedroom, where I immediately collapsed. I looked toward the white ceiling. The air was warm and stuffy inside the room. I wanted to open a window, but a sudden lethargy had overtaken me. Instead, I drifted into a dreamless sleep.

###

The bar filled up quickly at around nine o’ clock. There were many people. Talking to a few people I knew from around town, I found out that work had been particularly hard the past week. I slapped a couple backs I knew, ordered a beer and waited for Will to show up. 

The crowd was giving off a good vibe tonight. The music on the jukebox was fresh, and there were plenty of women shining in the dim light. I figured I could probably set Will up with someone tonight. Perhaps Claire. She was a tall blonde with a go-getter attitude. Recently broken up with her boyfriend I thought. She’d probably love a good looking out-of-towner like Will. Or Chastity. She was a loose gal, never quite satisfied with her love life. What she needed tonight was someone who could look in her eye and tell her that they would treat her nice. 

I could see it clearly now. Will walks through the door, cowboy hat hung low, over his brows. His plaid button up is red and a little worn, from the road of course. It’s tucked into his blue jeans, which cling to him tightly until they’re cut short by a pair of brown-suede boots.

He looks up, and starts to move forward toward the bar counter. He is purposeful in his approach, paying careful attention to the way his shoulders are moving.  He takes a seat on a stool, orders a beer, and lowers his head once more. By this time he has the curiosity of every man and woman in the establishment. 

The woman he sat next to summons the courage to ask this bold stranger his name. Will, he says. She tells him that she has always loved that name. She says she is a bit surprised by his presence. She explains how the bar isn’t used to strangers coming in the way he has. He replies by saying that when there is a will, there is a way. She smiles and laughs. Will buys her a beer.

Well, when Will did actually enter, the only part similar to my fantasy was the blue jeans. He spotted me instantly at the bar. He walked over, bumping into a couple of people on the way.

“Good to see you. Sit down. I ordered you a beer,” I handed him a glass.

“Thanks bud, hopping tonight, huh?”

“Yeah. Listen up, I got a few chicks I want you to meet. You’d be great with them,” I said. I realized I was getting in real close to Will’s face. I backed off a little. “We’ll loosen up a little first. Drink up.”

Will smiled and took a long sip. He wiped the white foam off his upper lip.

“I’m glad you brought me here, Bill. You’re a good guy, you know that?”

“Come on now, its common hospitality.”

“I disagree. Not many people would be so kind to someone from other parts,” Will said, taking another drink. “I really love it here.”

“Then why so long?” I asked Will. “Why four years?”

“You know, not everybody’s got the time.”

“That’s bullsh#t. You told me you gotta make the time. And you also seemed so damn eager to get away from Oklahoma for a while.”

“Uh, you know…”

“No Will, I don’t know.”

“I’ve got a good life in Oklahoma. My life aint that bad that I always have to hopping north. Now come on, who are those women?”

“Fair enough,” I said, relaxing a little. “That’s Claire over there.”

He looked over to a woman watching a game of billiards and laughing. There was no denying it: she was pretty gorgeous.

“Damn. That is a pretty woman.”

I smiled.

“I’ll talk to her soon, I want to drink a little more first.”

Will turned to me. I shrugged and told him that it was his call, but that it would be in his interest to act sooner rather than later. We ordered another round. I was beginning to feel a little tipsy, but that was okay, because everything around me was just right.

“Bill,” Will offered, “I should be honest with you.” 

“Of course." I was very interested in his new tone of voice.

“It has been four years since I been here. I meant to come back, I really did.”

“Why didn’t you?”

“On my way back from fishing I got into a little accident on the highway.”

“No shame in that, everyone has their accidents. Was it bad? I’m not sure I understand you.”

“Yeah,” Will said looking into his glass blankly. “It was pretty bad.”

“You get hurt?”

“Not really. Car was bad. I saw a sign for a mechanic, but I really had to get going. So I drove off.”

Something in me stirred. I started to feel uncomfortable and my drunken mind was having difficulty processing the enigma that was creeping into my mind.

“I was so shaken, I didn’t return. Until now.”

“Near a mechanic, huh?”

“Yeah.”

“Anybody around to see what happened?”

“Not that I recall. I remember a house in the distance, its lights were on, but I didn’t see anybody.”

“Only one mechanic in town. Must have been the one we went to.”

“That’s a possibility.”

“What the hell kind of accident you get into, Will?” I asked him anxiously. “Nothin’s out by Babson’s shop. No trees, no street lights.”

“My car just lost control.”

My mind put it together in that instant.

“You… you hit a goddamn man, didn’t you?” I became immediately angry.

“What I didn’t say…”

“Shut the hell up!” I yelled. I started pacing back and forth. People started to look. I pointed my finger at Will. “Only one accident I remember four years ago. Some scumbag hit my buddy Joe and scrammed.”

"I don’t know what to say.”

“Was it you?” I asked, starting to panic. “No man waits four years to come back for a little accident they can walk away from.”

“Fine. Yes. I suppose it’s time I tell someone the truth. I’ve been lying to God for four years now. Living my life as Lucifer.”

“You filth, I’ll kill you!” I grabbed my glass of beer and smashed it on the table. I was lunging toward Will with a deadly shard, when I felt a body thrown against me. I looked up, dazed from the blow.

Gus looked into my eyes with a sincerity that I had never seen the likes of. I began to weep.

“Why Will?!” I sobbed. “I cant…couldn’t live without Joe.”

“I made a bad f#cking mistake. But you lived this far, have you not?”

“You don’t know, how could you?”

“I couldn’t.”

“Why did you have to tell me?”

“Cause I need justice. I need to be properly punished. Having such a great time with you, I realized that it was unfair to those I’ve caused pain to. But goddamn, I can’t believe it had to be you.”

The bar had grown silent. I remembered Joe. He had no family at his final hour. He had no kin to connect to. He was a lost wanderer. 

“I forgive you. I forgive you." I stepped away. People stared at me incredulously.

“How can you say that?”

“I need a peace of mind. I got to do the Christian thing, here. You would have loved Joe. Joe always wanted me to do great in life. Well I don’t know if forgiving you is great, but it’s a good start, if we’re going to get on with our lives.”

“You’re saving my life.”

I smiled weakly behind a fountain of tears. I looked around at the bar and felt exhausted. Four years is a long time to have questions go unanswered.

###

I made Will do one thing in the coming days. I picked him up from his motel Wednesday morning. I was unannounced and disheveled when I opened the door for him. No words were spoken as I shifted my car into gear. The silence remained for the rest of the ride to Lake Irene.

Looking at Irene was an intense sensation of déjà vu. Will hesitantly stood behind me.
“Let’s go.”

So we rowed onto the mirror, seeking that which could not be sought, and finding form where there was none to be found.




Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Student Responses to "A Room of One's Own" by Virginia Woolf

Virginia Woolf says that a woman needs a room and money to write fiction. Being a feminist, myself, I have multiple reactions to these socalled "necessities." Woolf emphasizes a woman's need for her own personal space to think and create work. I wonder if this means that women should be confined to a room with four walls, or, if this is a metaphorical room, how open is it? A "room" in nature might spark more creativity and originality than a room inside a building...An isolated room in a house ties into the need for money as wealthy individuals have extra space in their homes to create rooms for leisure...Money can help one attain her goals due to the connections money brings. Money can help a woman publish. -- Allison Wolff

A woman needs to be able to express her genuine opinions...Having money and a room gives a woman independence and privacy, which are vital when expressing one's opinions...Independence gives a woman more confidence to write her real thoughts...Privacy enables her to form her own opinions and express them with complete honesty. Having a room on one's own allows a woman to be free from the influence of others. -- Mila Scheinberg

Woolf means this both literally and figuratively. Literally, a woman requires money to create and publish her first book and a literal room of her own as a place to gather her thoughts and translate those onto paper. Figuratively, money may symbolize power and influence....A woman would need some sort of influence in the work environment or have a personality in which she creates and exudes a confidence that demands respect. A room of one's own represents any surrounding in which a person is most comfortable and which provides her with inspiration. -- Evan Sternshein

Woolf means to deliver the statement both literally and figuratively. She means literally money and a room, but she also means both money and a room figuratively to represent seclusion from the rest of a society that oppresses women. As money and a room are all a person need in order to survive, Woolf is also suggesting that women must not be worried about basic survival. -- Sally Choi

Woolf says that a woman needs money and a room of her own to write fiction -- money and a private area where she can write in secret -- because women writers were often male writers with male pen names. -- Maddy Weiss

A woman needs a room to prove her independence. A man needs the room to have faith in women. -- Sam Soltani

Woolf's argument is complexly layered; to boil it down to a concentrated, concise concept is challenging...Does this apply to fields beyond fiction...to math, the sciences, etc? -- Max Eagle

Woolf says this figuratively in my opinion. A room of one's own symbolizes an area of peace that would be helpful in fostering a woman's capacity to write fiction. Woolf goes extensively into the time periods where the creativity of women has been stifled by a male sense of superiority. She states that the most important thing a writer can have is an open mind which is only possible when a person can experience the world in its entirety. Woolf argues that this has historically been impossible for women who have been confied to set social roles. The room is arguably, then, the space to be equal. -- Eli Flesch

Even thought Woolf's purpose is to further the feminist cause, I feel that by distinguishing male and female writers, Woolf is making men and women less equal. If her purpose is to persuade people that men and women should be treated equally, it would futher her argument and the feminist cause if she were to classify male and female writers together. -- Naz Novinbakht

And "What does a modern day feminist look like?"

I believe the modern day feminist is somewhat of an expansion of the traditional feminist and includes anyone who has witnessed, directly or indirectly, female subjugation even to the slightest degree. The modern feminist can be anyone. (S)he can range from a mistreated woman to a young boy who sees his mother earning lower pay than her male counterparts. -- Rachel Lee

A modern-day feminist does not believe anything basically different from a feminist of any other time in history. While the issues themselves might change -- from land ownership to voting rights to wage equality -- feminism at its core is about equality between the sexes. -- Zachary Fouladian

A modern feminist believes that she is strong and independent. She can be just as successful as a man or even more successful. She does things for herself and for her own happpiness, not to please a man. She is a woman that a man needs, not one that needs a man. She is satisfied with herself and dares to be different. She believes that she is strong, regardless of what others might say or think about her. She buys a $500 pair of heels because she feels sexy wearing them, not because she wants attention from guys. She looks good for herself and not to impress anyone else. She'll sit in front of the mirror doing her make-up so she can embrace her beauty and feel confident in the way she looks. She is a great friend to all of the women in her life. She supports them. She is content with being single because she loves herself and doesn't need a man to validate her or to make her feel special. She is tall and voluptuous. Her weight doesn't bother her because she believes she is beautiful. Her wide structure is something she embraces. Her thick eyebrows make a statement and show off the determination in her eyes. She has strong teeth that go along with her big, proud smile. -- Emily Ebrahimian

Water Story by Anonymous








Sunday, June 9, 2013

Mo' Money, Faux Problems by Brian Charles

I arrived at the place that would change my beliefs completely over the next three years. I was apprehensive and not too excited for what lay ahead of me.

My large bowl of blond hair bobbed as I continued to make my way towards the massive behemoth that cast its shadow on me: Hawthorne school in Beverly Hills.

As I entered the hallways, my bright green shorts and frog tee-shirt set me apart from the others. Soon I would come to realize that what set me apart was what would alienate me from the very people I would try to become friends with.

My rolling backpack bellowed as it glided over each floor tile. As I looked around, I noticed that I was the only one with a rolling backpack.

I felt strange.

I made my way to my first class, and sat down where the other kids were. I opened a book and began to read.  I could hear the kids mumbling, and I turned around in time to see them pointing at me. They immediately got up and moved across the class.

Great! I thought. I had already somehow gotten people to avoid me.

The class was history, which was my forté at the time. However, this was not my concern. Throughout class, I was more focused on making friends than I was on the subject matter.

The class ended, and I made my way to my next period. As I was walking and rolling, there were a few kids obstructing the stairs to my next class.

“Can I get through?” I asked.

“No” they all seemed to say.

A pungent smell then struck me, one that I would have to tolerate for the rest of my years at that school.

“What are you wearing?” one of them asked. They all laughed. I knew that my clothes were not the norm, but I had no idea that I would be made fun of for them.

My heart sank; however, I did what I always did in such situations: I smiled. Usually it worked to my advantage. This time it did not.

“Stop smiling” one of them said. “I’m gonna wipe that smile off of your face."

I couldn’t stop smiling, as it was simply inherent to me. 

So, I left.

As I walked away, I couldn’t help but notice that all of their clothing was exactly the same. Almost everyone in the school wore the same clothing, and I didn’t understand why. There was no dress code, so why did everyone seem to be conforming to this one particular style?

It was beyond me.

As I circumnavigated the school, I realized that I had just distanced myself from the popular crowd. Again: fantastic!

 The day moved painfully slowly, and I was not able to make a single friend in any of my classes. As it came to an end, I went outside to get picked up. I scanned the tons of BMW’s, Mercedes, and Porsches, but I could not find my family's car. Finally, I saw the dusty '97 Civic pull up to the curb. The car stood out as much as I did, and not in a good way.

As I got into the car, I heard murmurs around me. “What a piece of crap, he must be really poor” someone said. People laughed. They laughed at me for my car? This had never happened before, and I was truly embarrassed.

The car that I had grown to love over the years had now become a source of shame. I slunk down into my seat, contemplating what more lay ahead of me. Initially, I had a slight desire to go to school. Now the idea of going back seemed dreadful.

Instead of sleeping my usual nine hours, I lay awake in bed, hoping to get sick and miss the next day of school. This was unlike me, as I actually liked to learn, and yet the idea of going to school was daunting.

The next day, I bit the bullet and decided to try and start fresh. When I was transitioning classes, a kid came up to me and asked me my name. I responded, hesitant yet eager to make a new friend. As it turned out, this kid was not a menace, and we had a conversation of as much depth as sixth graders could have. “Losers” someone shouted.

Of course he was a loser, but I didn’t care!

To have just one friend was enough for me.

It was strange to me why this kid was a loser, as he was so nice. Anywhere else, I thought, he would be accepted; but not here. All it took was one judgment call by the popular kids, and one's social life would be shattered. This seemed absurd to me, but I would have to accept it eventually.

About a week later, I decided to join in a basketball game. Basketball was my passion, and really the only sport that I played. The game was three on three, and I waited patiently to get picked.

And I waited.

And I waited.

After three rotations, I was fed up. Lunch was over, and I hadn’t even played? Me? It couldn’t be. I played as an All-Star in the Valley, and I was team captain almost every time at my old school. So why wasn’t I picked?

I moped off in despair, unable to grasp that I had wasted my whole lunch waiting.

When I got home, I decided that I had to keep up with a few new technologies that everyone seemed to have. I made an AIM account, with a very regrettable username. Though I had few new friends, this site was good for keeping up with old acquaintances from other parts of the country.

After a little while, I was added by a strange person. I accepted, considering I didn’t have many friends on AIM. This person began sending me extremely hostile messages, insulting me vehemently. They they logged off. I felt as if I had just been assaulted. This stranger had made me feel terrible. If I was more mature, I might have had a rebuttal, or just not cared about it at all. However, I let this person get to me.  This stranger had used only a keyboard to bring me down, and, after this, I became more self conscious. I felt the need to conform to the status quo, even if it didn’t accurately represent who I was.

I found myself in the Abercrombie store in Century City -- a paradise for those who like bad cologne, loud techno, and overpriced clothing. I was coaxed into coming here not by anyone in particular, but by the judgmental stares I received in the hallways. I picked out the most acceptable piece of clothing I could find and took it up to the cashier. “That’ll be $54.00” she said. I looked at her, mouth agape. That could not be possible! For a tee-shirt? This was inconceivable to me. My allowance for a month was spent on this one tee-shirt.

However, the next day, I started to regret the purchase less. I got multiple compliments on it, and people were smiling at me. Finally, I thought: You have to buy your way into acceptance.

This oddly instilled new confidence in me, so I tried to play basketball again. To my delight, I was picked in the first round. This is really working, I thought.

During the first play, I took off and scored a layup. Right afterward, I stole the ball and was off on a fast break when I felt someone come down on me. I smacked to the ground, cheek first, and I felt my legs sting. As I tried to get up, I immediately began to limp. I looked up into the face of the kid who fouled me, searching for an ounce of remorse. There was none. Instead, he just seemed vacant.

I limped off the court. They ushered in a new kid as if nothing had happened. I was mortified; I thought that I was finally going to be accepted. I guess not.

I soldiered on and tried to keep away from the court for the next few weeks.

Looking to be further accepted, I found myself back at the mall. I decided that I needed at least one pair of jeans if I was to properly conform. The horseshoe symbol that I had become familiar with at school beckoned me, so I went. "True Religion" they were called. These jeans didn’t seem particularly special, but I tried them on anyways. They were so uncomfortable that I ripped them off. How could anyone wear these? And then I saw the price tag. Two hundred and fifty dollars! This had to be a mistake. For these uncomfortable jeans? No way. I had stooped low with the Abercrombie shirt, but I was not about to waste all that money on these jeans simply because they were so called ‘designer.' I simply refused.

I went home that day feeling good, better than usual. I had defied the norm, and for good reason. My individuality was starting to make its way back, and I suddenly felt much better about school. I began to refocus my attention back on school, as I could not let my grades falter. My forté had been history, and I adored that class. As I finished up an assignment, the student behind me nudged me. “Lemme see it” he said. I was reluctant, but after quick deliberation, I said yes. This was a grave mistake. My teacher noticed that I was done, and inquired about my assignment. She knew. Of course. The one time I let someone see my work, she catches me. “See me after class," she said.

The remainder of that period was the longest 15 minutes of my life. As I sat in her office, she told me the punishment for cheating. I was unfamiliar with it, as I had never cheated before. “I’m going to have to give you a zero” she said. A single tear streamed down my face as she said this. This assignment was heavily weighted, and I knew that it would ruin my grade. My grades were flawless, and a B would taint my straight A’s. And a B in history, nonetheless!

This was my turning point. After falling victim to both materialism and cheating, I decided that enough was enough. I was going to be myself even if that meant that I would be a perpetual pariah. No longer would I care what people thought about me. I didn’t need to be covered up by Abercrombie or True Religion, as they masked my true identity.

I will learn from history.
Tough Love by Nazanin Novinbakht

They hope and pray
that the external problems these lovers face
are not like the usual:
family hatred, silence, and guilt

Makes the lovers closer
and 
closer 
without 
hesitation
Tired of Being Second Best by Sharon Attia

The best friend, the side kick
Our most common epithets
Never a reader’s first pick
Unless perhaps in retrospect

Oh, how often we are underrated!
Credit should be given where credit is due
“Hero support” can be debated
We deserve to be appreciated too

We offer more than comic relief
We challenge the hero and help them grow
We supply comfort and sometimes grief
We’re needed more than people know

To those well-read we’re often foils
Used to contrast and compare.
Friend or foe, liar or loyal
The author puts us there

Many critics have diagnosed us
After much thought and perplexity
Our self-worth has been shattered and thus
We suffer inferior complexity

Whisper by Adriana Buonocore

I heard little footsteps
in the crackling leaves
like a tiny bug
had fallen off a branch
I witnessed a creature
glowing as a light
tip-toeing along the pond

It lit up so softly!
I thought it would fade
So quiet
So lovely!
It couldn't see my awe
It was my little secret
And it floated away

I heard a giggling
They were laughing at me
As if they knew what I saw
So forbidden
But they let it pass
And they danced away
Back to their mysterious lives
The Sum of Chaos -- A Scar Story -- by Gefen Laredo

It was a beautiful day, actually.  The warm Los Angeles sun had galvanized my predecessors (the normal skin cells) into a fervid frenzy of Vitamin D production.  They worked tirelessly, resulting only in a slight nuance of a different shade. 

I scoff at their efforts!

Within seconds, I was, and have remained, darker than they would ever be. 

But wait! I’m jumping the gun here.  Let me rewind and unfold this vignette from its beginning:
             
My master dashed into the ocean, boogie board in hand, ready to enjoy the thrill of the waves.  The waves seemed a bit large that day, and the farther out one went, the larger the waves got.   

The thrill was too enticing!

My master went out as far as he could.  Wave after wave brought him to a point of sheer elation of which nature was the creator, the catalyst, and the culprit.  From beyond the shoreline, my master’s mother called him in.   

“One more wave,” he promised.
             
He paddled out to the point where the waves were the largest, in search of that freedom brought about by the frictionless fluidity of the relationship between board and wave.  He saw the perfect wave forming out in the distance, and geared up for what perception has promised would be the ride of his life.   

The wave formed and formed and didn't stop forming. By the time it reached my master, it was too late to duck under, and too large to board.
            
At that moment, through the relatively tiny lens of a wave, nature asserted her dominance. She flung my master, not out of her realm, but deep into her ice-cold castle, where a myriad of chaotic events was to ensue.  The water muffled the sound from the thrashing wave, leaving the current that was responsible for my master’s fate. The current sucked him under, holding him tight.  As the rip current further formed, my moment was soon to come, but not quite yet!
             
The relationship between board and wave did not change; it was as effortless and synchronized as before.  However, my master, hoping to revel in this ease, was now condemned to suffer it.   

The board rode the current as swiftly as it had before, but this time with no rider to please. As a horse frees from its reigns, this board took its revenge on its absent rider. It thrust itself into my master’s stomach, sending his back directly onto the sand.
             
Bam! I arrived!  

This was not necessarily the picture-perfect conception you humans are accustomed to -- I mean I wouldn’t consider it a run-of-the-mill orgasm where the two creators lie in locked eyesight, and you can cut the love with a butter knife?  Oh, how I wish I were created from love!  But I wasn’t!  In fact, I loathe the day of my creation.  I was the sum of chaos.  I was conceived from pain, and in a sea of shame I would remain.
            
My master cringed at the sight of me.

Imagine your father looking at you and wishing you had never been born! Not only was I the sum of chaos, but I was the product of a kind of death -- the death of my master's fearlessness. 

Out of shame and embarrassment and death, I had risen.  I was born a crevasse -- an absence of life -- that eventually took form.   

Through tireless efforts, even through the suppression of those G-d-for-saken ointments that my master applied to rid me of my being, I did not grow, I thrived.  I look back at that crevasse from the top of the mountain where I now stand, where the detriment of success plagues me.
             
We are likely to believe that our lives have purpose. 

I wish I knew mine!  

I’m a blemish!

I am an imperfection of shame in a sea of orderly cell production. The worst part is, however, that I am to remain just a blemish. My master has no love -- no outward nor inward appreciation -- of my potential. I have forever earned the shame of my father, my bearer, my creator.   

I cannot shake, however, that unavoidable sense of pride we all feel in accomplishment, even in a world void of love.


Roommates by Cordelia Perez

The first thing you learn about them is that they are younger than you thought and incredibly secretive. Lauren goes myth hunting, sitting at the white dining table you all share, poring over Edith Hamilton and D'Aulaires.
You spend weeks in the home you share and soon realize you will never bring yourself to care about their lives. Their only quirk of note is a strong physical resemblance to a German movie couple, in spite of being siblings. You strike up an easy nonchalance and decide not to keep tabs on their existence. You don't see the boy leave, but don't care because his name is unmemorable.
You don't see his small pamphlet of cigarette papers that he uses to clean his flute, though you believe you have heard him play once or twice.
You see him take a six pack of beer into his bedroom and feel superior because you don't.
Lauren is less militantly boring, you feel, although she "inspires little more than apathy" as you tell your diary one night.
Six weeks in and out of ignoring them and Summer bathes the power lines outside your window to buzz blue in cold desert nights the way cicadas used to hang their song from trees to let them fall down on your head when you lived on the East Coast.
You don't know where she goes when she leaves but you know that Lauren likes Grape Nuts and you are struck with guilt that you yourself are not so homely, so noble.
She smiles often and you wonder if she is stupid but you smile back and wonder if maybe your disinterest is not a little mean.
You say "Hi, Lauren" and she say "Hi!" And the anticlimax is laughable and you return to deep focus upon yourself.
You go to the store and think you see her, by the bananas, and wonder if you say hi and if you should shop together because when you were a teenager like she is that's what you thought roommates did. But you remember that you aren't really roommates and things are more complicated than that and you look up again and the girl wasn't her after all but this time you aren't mad that Lauren has occupied some space in your thoughts.
You don't know this but she goes alone to the diner that night. Alone to the diner where she orders six yellow dishes and a milkshake. 
You close your eyes in the dark listening to your laptop hum from the dresser and experience and undeniable sensation of peace. You don't see her arms spasm and her hand hit the Oreo milkshake that spills slowly, languidly over her macaroni, her onion rings, her cheese fries, her zucchini soup, as her eyes roll back into her head.
If you had been there you would have been struck by her resemblance to a cartoon character and you would have tried to mop up the Oreo shake as the waitress did. You would try and take Lauren's pulse only to realize that you had no idea how to find a vein because you were only a waitress and you would have cried until the manager and a leather man with white hair come over at which point she will have died.
You would have known that she was dead, had you been there.
You would have heard the manager on the phone with the dispatcher, would have inhaled the scent of her onion rings and heaved on the floor by her table. You would have slept in the booth until your mom drove up to pick you up and your teeth and lips would be salty slick from breakdown at that which breaks down.