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“Heather” by Rebecca Hicks


Rebecca Hicks

Looking through the miscellaneous sale items, I hide behind a wall of discount toys so that I may continue to watch her. She sweeps through the toy aisle touching and laughing at everything; Mackenzie, her niece, trails behind her with a gleaming smile and rosy cheeks. Erratically, Mackenzie begins pulling on her sleeve with laugher erupting between them as she points to a karaoke machine. Before they even begin to sing, I find myself smiling at her beautiful voice that replays through my mind like a skipping record player.

“I can show you the world

Shining, shimmering, splendid

Tell me, princess, now when did

You last let your heart decide?” Her voice arches over the shelves and deeps into the aisles, pulling people from their mundane actions to investigate the serenity that can blossom when people appreciate their existences.

Gradually, a small crowd of eager children with tired parents gather around her and Mackenzie as they obliviously sing. Children turn away stomping their feet as the static in the microphones grows louder, but what kind of quality can you expect from a discount department store? She remains content though, happy in her moment and unaffected by the opinions of others, it painfully reminds me of us falling in love.

I can’t say how or when we were over, but it wasn’t at the flick of a switch with a definitive date. Instead, it came slowly like the sun sinking into the ocean and the sky being consumed by abysmal blackness. Our finality was complete; when the sky becomes nothingness there is not a switch to restore light. There is only silence and parting boats as two people sail into the sea unknowingly searching for one another.

I have come to accept I am the only one searching though. I have remorsefully accepted that she does not live by the laws of the sun because her existence is so luminescent that the sun’s brightness cannot compare to herself.

The song ends, childish clapping springs from the makeshift audience, and her copper hair cascades over her face as she bows down in a deep blush. Reaching for Mackenzie’s hand, they duck away together and disappear from my sight. Chuckling to myself I feel her addictiveness just as when we first met and I find myself creeping through aisles looking for her. The words sputter through my mind before being consumed by a lazy fog that swirls around my thoughts suffocating them. Leaning against a shelf of discount books with fading words, I close my eyes to imagine her in my life once again. The imagery does not come easy and within the struggle of it I realize my life may be meant to continue with someone else cast in her role.

“I saw you there,” a timid voice whispers from behind me.

Grinning, I turn around and begin pulling books from the shelf. They stack up on the floor beside me, but a window forms in the mass of books. Peeking through it with a dimpled grin, she looks at me with such sincerity in her eyes I forget for a moment she lives only within my memory and not my present.

She reaches through the little window, her fingers brushing against mine. Her smile falters for a moment as I look down, but her façade continues and she is once again rightfully gleaming in delight.

“Come with me,” I drop the words like stones breaking apart the stillness of water.

Gradually, we walk through the various aisles and locked doors until we stand in the warmth of radiant sunlight on the loading balcony. Leaning against the rail, I close my eyes for a second and feel the veins within my heart being pulled to unnatural lengths and I begin to shiver. My heart thumps against my ribs and suddenly I’m afraid it will crack a thin part of bone, but my heart will continue to thump. The thumping will persist, beating against the bone until a shard impales itself into my only connection with life.

“You ok?” She asks while twirling her hair between slender fingers.

I nod my head; positive I can feel a ghost of her running its fingers through my hair as we fall asleep together. Her nails tickle my neck while the whispers something outlandish, the same action she done every day for years until one day her nails were missing and her voice could not whisper, only scream.

“Aw, come on now, don’t be so shy,” she taunts with hypnotizing tones bouncing through her words.

“I loved Heather,” I repeat to myself, unsure if she is even listening to me.

“Heather this, Heather that,” she mocks with acid burning along her throat and corrupting her voice.

I turn around, twisting my hands around the railing until I feel the blood dissipating from my fingers and my knuckles shine white.

“Heather, oh Heather, I wonder where she could be,” her voice relentlessly continues, “I wonder if she’ll ever come back for you.”

Pulling in a deep breath I turn to face her malicious smile, “Heather is here, Heather is standing before me in flesh and blood and only is she missing in words. Heather is the essence of your existence and never will you be able to escape her, but I pray continuously and exclusively that she can escape you. “

“My name is Casandra. I am Casandra!” She blares with scratchy words and puffy eyes.

“I know, Heather.” I reply deadly.

Heather roughly grabs Mackenzie’s arm, pulling her along while they storm through the door. I watch them leave for a moment, consumed in her determination to be someone other than herself. I lie awake many nights wondering what led her to this ultimate downfall. We were living together, blissfully content in our own existence and engagement when one day I awoke to discover we were no longer engaged.

We may never be whole again and we may never reunite, but until she finds safety within her own existence I will continue to watch her because while she may act as someone else, that is still Heather’s body and I owe it to her to preserve it.

© 2015 Rebecca Hicks


“The Bathroom Stall” by Rockin’ Writers

The Bathroom Stall

Rockin’ Writers

I sit in on the toilet seat of my high school’s bathroom, the door locked after receiving the news during class that I have detention. Rain patters on the tin roof erupts my thoughts, as they get louder along with the thunder. The weather matches this oh-so-perfect-day. The graffiti on the back of the stall door dare me to stare at them. It says “Eleanor is a hore” along with many other writings of “fuck you.” I agree, bathroom stall, my only fucking friend, which is so freaking stupid, I’m so luxurious that my best friend is a fucking bathroom stall. Wow. New progress for me.

I lean against the cool stone wall and tuck my chin to my knees, my bones shaking like an earthquake because I’m still a little bit dizzy from that vodka I sneaked in and drank during History II, which luckily I didn’t get caught because Mr. Mongoma is the most oblivious teacher ever and too dedicated to the idea of Natizis which results in the Boringest History Class In History, so it doesn’t really matter any way if I take just a little sip to calm my nerves. Now I have a slight head ache and a something exciting buzzing in my chest, like I have something trapped inside me.

I’m hoping that is the reason why I’m in for detention, but I know it’s not, and it’s not even my freaking fault. I’d rather it’d be my fault for breaking the rules of alcohol on campus rather than I being the accused for what happened, and it not even being true. The lies are deep in the soles of my finger tips, trying to scratch their way out with the dirt from my backyard’s garden (which only has weeds but Dad says I have to pick anyway, but he’s always a little high, so it doesn’t matter if he seems crazy to other people, because it will always be normal to me), trying to get chipped away, but I have to keep the lie, or else my life will be even more worse, because how worse can it get? Always more, freaking always. In my life, nothing can’t turn out worse.

My scruffy bangs are in my eyes again, burning their blue Oceanside. I shake them out of my eyes so I can close them and try to focus on the silence in the bathroom rather than the loud gossipy voices, high pitched and laughing, chattering so much it reminds me of when you speed up the music and sounds like screeching eagles on a record player and put it on the wrong record size. It sounds like time will never slow down. Every time I hear a high-pitched voice, or footsteps coming closer, my stomach squeezes until I think I’m going to throw up and I push my head harder against the wall even though it makes my head hurt worse.

If feels weird to have my eyes itch so regularly now from my night shifts at the cheap no-one-ever-goes-to-except-loosers (drop out seniors) and old grandmas discount department store. I get minimum wage, which fits me and I’m okay with because I’m sure it’s going to go out of business soon, and Marlin, the retired but-works-part-time at the department store because she’s always bored at home, has no grand kids, lives in a quiet house, and has to go over to her daughter’s house every weekend to help her because she has a disability and can’t pay all her bills. So, some people have it worse than me, and because of that possibility, which is always stained in my mind like the permanent black rings in my coffee mug I always take with me on Tuesdays, the one day every week I go to work from 4-close, which is 11:59 every Tuesday only because Marlin and I can’t work the day shifts.

I mean, I can connect to Marlin, because she’s a nice lady and would be a great grandmother, even if she might be a little shadowy to some people on the streets, but she means well, and works hard for her small pay check at the end of every week. She actually works all week, but only one night shift, which is on Tuesday because of me. Tonight Marlin’s not going to be there (so I’ll be a loner, and bored, because no one freaking comes to a discount department store at 11:59 P.M. On a school/work night, especially on Tuesdays) because she recently got news that something happened to her disabled 40-year old daughter and she has no idea what, so it’s an emergency. So I’m just going to be sitting on the counter in the darkness of the small, weird, smells-like-leaking-rain-and-mold-and-random-grandmother’s acne soap, which doesn’t even work because have you noticed? Grandmas don’t really need acne soap. I’ll just put m ear buds in and listen to The Beatles sing about the sun and continue reading Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass.

The first time I discovered the “inner true poet in me” and decided to become one, was when I read Walt Whitman. He’s my dream hero to words. Some people have special tree houses, or man caves, or closets, or secret rooms or some “special quiet place” to go to when they are emotionally corrupted, but my special place, isn’t so much a place, but creating them with my own imaginary mind. I’m not saying I’m a freak that’s seventeen year old, a teenage girl in high school that still has an imaginary friend and creates imaginary places, because I’m fucking insane, I’m saying my special go-to-place are words. I’m a poet by heart, but mostly hand, so it’s my mind and hand that connects the telephone line to the pen tat makes it real. When I was six, I wrote my first poem because my class was learning how to write poetry, and I fell in love with it, so I told my shitty parents that I was going to become a poet and they shitted all my dreams and imaginary unicorn bullshit back at me and ruined everything.

“Who do you think you are, Bree? You’re never going to become successful at anything, so why the hell do you want to write for a living? You need a job that will get you rich, like us, honey.” Yeah, Mom, you’re both fucking drunks for a living and don’t even pay your bills, so how can you say I’m freaking not going to be successful when you don’t even know what the word means? Any way, when their words finally stomped me out, I quit trying until in high school, we had the assignment to write a poem and so of course I did and mine turned out so good, my English teacher pulled me aside and asked if I’d written more. I told her I kept some in this one journal I always keep with me in my back pocket with a sharp old-point black pen and so I agreed to show them tot her. Later, she asked me if I wanted to get published in the school newspaper, and I told her no, because I didn’t want anyone else to read my words again, and tell me how I couldn’t succeed and I was silly, just like my parents did. She told me I could go anonymous, and finally, after a month with nagging, I agreed.

They were instantly everywhere at school, and the poems became written by the mysterious anonymous famous writer, who is like a celebrity in secret at our school. The greatest thing is that I’ve been able to keep it up, and it gets better and better and no one would ever guess it be me, especially because I’m short, easily over-seen, invisibly normal with a gray sweatshirt, skinny, avoiding eyes, and long fingers with dull finger nail tips. My bangs hide my face well. Everything about me is a closed door, except when I write, which breaks everything inside me into something I could never even be able to describe in my poems except it makes me feel infinitely larger, stronger and definitely full of light, like even if no one is watching, I’ll always be a glowing light for everyone to find if they get lost.

But here I am, sitting here wailing away at how shitty my boring life is. I guess that’s how things role. I get detention because I was seen drunk in some club, singing bad karaoke and almost puking my guts out. I figure it was Michelle Taylor who ratted me out. The one with the long blonde hair, dark get-lost-in beautiful eyes, that smile that rips guys hearts out right with one handful of a twisted mouth and teeth. The girl who just happens to be my ex’s girlfriend. I remember that night all too clearly even though I was a drunken coward, and even though now I’m scared that I’m turning into my parents.

I was sitting at the bar, drinking some scotch, (I knew the guy who owned the place. It was right next door to the discount department store.) after my shift was done, and of course he walked in, Michelle tucked under his arm and in his hands, their mouths intertwined as if time didn’t even exist and… gosh what a bitch time is.

I swung away from them, trying to disguise myself among the others sitting at the bar, but of course she say me. Her eyes transformed into a nice little glare, one that I didn’t give back (sometimes, I’m a freaking dumb ass) and she stirred him over to the bar, and with a little persuasiveness of her large cleavage, they got drinks. I prepared and waited for what was to come next, but all she said to me was “Hello, Bree.” I smiled shyly back and then turned to stare at the almost-empty-bottle of scotch.

I had a thing for alcohol, not because I’m a drunk, but it mends the pain. Sometimes it even helps the physical pain, when the bruises turn eggplant purple and even when it’s summer I wear sleeves. There’s always cuts, too. I don’t like the bruises, but I know I have to get used to the pain, so I cut along my wrists so I can still wear short sleeved shirts because I have thick bracelets on.

I didn’t say anything to her for a while until the doors swung open and the cool air blew in, the rain filling the bar with the aroma of it.

The truth was, I was at the bar so I didn’t have to go home and hear my parents argue. That day was the anniversary of Mom’s first baby’s death, when she had fallen from a balcony railing three hundred feet high. Whenever I imagine it, I don’t think of it as a tall building, or a railing that was a little too loose and a baby girl falling, and not being able to learn how to fly, instead I think of her falling with her eyes closed, and floating, but I know it never worked that way, because death isn’t that easily not scary. I know she didn’t scream because she didn’t know how to, and probably didn’t even know what was happening at six months.

I knew they’d be past out, or drunk, and I didn’t want to have to be the one to hear their mourns and help them to bed, because it hurts to see your parents falling apart, instead of being strong and helping you. And I don’t stay away because they’re depressed, because I know that’s stupid, because that’s what Emma did, my 32-year-old-rich sister, who lives in New York and drinks champagne every Friday because she has work parties at her mansion or whatever and sleeps probably with a different guy every week even though she kisses her beloved “soul mate” husband, Kevin in her above-knee dresses left them, left me, so I am the only one that can support them. It’s the only reason why I work at the discount department store: so I my parents can be happy and see me successful; so I can pay the bills; feed us; and so I can save up to go to college and major in English to become a famous poet and write poems for the New York Times and write to inspire people, and succeed. Even tough I know I will never able to save up enough money with paying the bills, but I still work any way, for a dream that’s not even going to come true. It feels better trying to work for something knowing you won’t be able to work for it, than not trying to reach for your dream at all.

Yeah, so that was when my parents came into the bar, half drunk and the other half high, swallowing in slurs of laughter and words. My tumbling fingers fled straight through me, continuing to dig their fingernails into my guts. In that moment I wanted to scream, as they turned and waved, slurring my name. Their laughter shrilled me up into pieces, my breathing became short and erupted. I watched Michelle in the corner of my eyes, her face coming up into a smirk. I finally formed the words,

“You can tell any other rumor about me, except for about my parents being drunk. Please?” Her eyes stared mischievously at me, and finally she gave me a nod.

I ran out of the bar, still lightly buzzed, my parents and ex and my ex’s girlfriend and everyone laughing at me, as I got to my car and drove home, even though I knew it was illegal, I didn’t care.

Michelle kept her promise, but it didn’t make It much better that she had told the principle that I’d driven to school drunk. Now, as I sit here, reading the back of the stall door as if it were a newspaper, fucking this and fucking that, just like the black-sharpie graffiti said to.

I know going to college (especially now with my thirteenth detention this year) is just a dream I’m chasing. But I can’t help but keep going and working that crappy night-shift and the even sitter discount department store, waiting to become someone famous, someone that I’m not nor that ‘ll ever be.

I pull my hair up into a bun and pull out a black sharpie pen. I write, “Fuck the broken happiness.” I cap the pen, feeling pretty satisfied. There, I wrote something and no one can write in the same damn spot that I wrote there.

Someone knocks on the stall door, and I suddenly jump.

“Hello? Is someone in there?” I barely smile before I unlock the door and walk past the girl staring at me as I whisper, “I want to get better.”

© 2015 Haven & Coral Worley

“The Girl Who Lived with Purple Trolls” by Mia Robertson

The Girl Who Lived with Purple Trolls

by Mia Robertson


Once there was a girl who had bright green eyes and flaming red hair who lived with purple trolls. She had no memory of her parents. The oldest troll and the head of the family taught her to eat like a troll, make beds like a troll and shake hands like a troll. But as Poppy got older she had to do more and more chores, and of course her little sister didn’t have to do any. The trolls were the last of their kind. One day she received a letter from an elementary school.


Dear Poppy,

You are invited to Piewall School.

Principal Cookie


The next day she went to Piewall School. The troll family gave her tragic troll dust to transport her. She worked very very hard. BRRING! The recess bell rang. Children came piling out of the school.In the schoolyard there was a swing set, monkey bars and a playhouse. There was a chain link fence surrounding the schoolyard. Poppy swung from the monkey bars. When she got on the swings, the bell rang to end recess and send the kids inside. They did more math worksheets. Finally Poppy went home to the trolls.

When she arrived home, she had snack of salami because purple trolls only eat meat. Then she played princesses with her sister. After playing Poppy had a dinner of am burgers without buns. Then they plugged in their new tv with an orange extension cord. They watched a cooking show. Poppy was squinting the whole time because they bought the tv from an antique store and the picture was blurry. The purple trolls own an antique store. They disguise themselves as humans and use troll magic to transport back to their secret home cave in the mountains. At last Poppy went to bed.

The next morning Poppy found herself in an orphanage!!!!!! Poppy and the purple trolls were worried that someone at school would learn that she lived with trolls and harm them. So the trolls used their magic troll dust to send her away. Five other girls lived at the orphanage and were playing chess. So Poppy decided to join in. They were playing chess happily until a very tall woman entered. She was the head of the orphanage. They played chess for a few more minutes. They ate lunch and then played tag in field. Then they had broccoli, noodles and chicken for dinner. Then they slept in their bunk beds.

A couple months later her troll sister found another purple troll and got married. She had purple troll babies. Poppy created a community to keep purple trolls safe from humans.

© 2014 Mia Robertson


“Extraterrestrial” by Sarah Robertson


by Sarah Robertson


“Go away, Kibbles!” I didn’t have an alarm clock, so my pet pug woke me up each morning instead. Please don’t question his name, I got him when I was eight and wasn’t very creative. As you can see, I wasn’t a morning person, and I still consider myself a night owl. Forcing myself out of bed, I grabbed my glasses and attempted to drag brush through my curly red hair before slowly walking down the stairs, Kibbles at my heels.

I walked into my houses small bright yellow kitchen. I squinted from the light as the room slowly came into focus. My eight-year-old twin brother and sister, Alex and Alice, were sitting at the breakfast table, bent over their newest prank. My mother was humming to her self as she hurried around the kitchen, cooking a quick breakfast. I sleepily sat down at the table, pulling one of my younger sisters perfect caramel brown ringlets just because I knew it would annoy her. Alice glared at me as our mother placed a plate of scrambled eggs on the table before she rushed out to work.

“ Ava’s in charge!” My mother yelled to my siblings before stepping out the door. Even if she was the head of the family, I seriously doubted my mother’s judgment on that decision. Alex and Alice would now do whatever possible to me today to prove that I wasn’t their babysitter. The week before, they had raided my candy stash, destroyed Kibbles dog toys, and then convinced my mother it was my fault. Before the twins could get a chance to harm me in any way, I had Kibbles on a leash and was safely away from my house, claiming to be taking Kibbles on a walk. I lived in Shawnee Mission, Kansas which was a farmland surrounded by city. I was walking Kibbles to an old abandoned farm. In front of the barn, there was a large field that was perfect for Kibble’s favorite game, fetch. Next to the field there was a cluster of trees, but I had never gone past them because of the stories that a group of witches that feasted on twelve-year-old children lived there. I know I shouldn’t belive everything I hear, but most kids at my school wouldn’t even go within twenty feet of the farm.

Crawling, I followed Kibbles under a hole in the chain-link fence that surrounded the old farm. I sighed in annoyance as I brushed chunks of dirt of my jeans. Kibbles placed a tennis ball by my feet, waiting for me to throw it. Instead of chasing after the ball, Kibbles turned in the opposite direction and growled. Eager to see what had made the pug so upset, I spun around to see the strangest creature. It was small, plump and as bright yellow as my mothers kitchen with four little feet and two huge, adorable eyes the color of a perfectly toasted marshmallow. As soon as the creature saw me, its eyes widened and it sped of into the cluster of trees. I followed it, branches hitting my face as I ran through the miniature forest. Okay, maybe it wasn’t miniature. What had appeared to have been a small group of trees on the outside was more like a vast forest on the inside. Before I knew it, I had lost sight of the little yellow creature and it was getting dark. Panting, I retraced my steps through the woods and back to my house. Opening the front door, I saw my mother standing behind the door, looking as if you could fry an egg on her face.

“ Ava Elizabeth Oakley!!!” She started, “ You were supposed to be watching your brother and sister today, and I come home to and you are no where in sight! I-“ She was cut off by my younger sister.

“ Alex, Ava, and I were out in the backyard, and Kibbles escaped through the gate. Ava went off to catch him.” She lied.

“ Oh.” My mother said, walking off to cook dinner.

“ You owe me.” Alice stated. I groaned and grabbed a chocolate bar from the (newly hidden) candy stash in my bedroom closet. Alice’s eyes lit up when she saw it, quickly taking it out of my hands. I leaned down and whispered in Alice’s ear:

“ You can have another if you cover for me tomorrow.” Alice nodded eagerly, scampering off. My mother eventually gave up on whatever she was attempting to cook and just ordered pizza, which was delivered half an hour later. As the family sat down to dinner, I noticed Alice was jittery, she couldn’t sit still. She had quite clearly already consumed the candy bar.

I went to sleep early, Kibbles curling up by my feet. The next morning I got up early, writing a note to my mother, saying I was taking Kibbles on a walk.

I repeated my steps from yesterday, climbing underneath the fence, entering the woods. I had been walking for a little while when Kibbles pulled his leash from my hands, bolting away from me. I chased after him, racing deeper and deeper into the forest.

“ No Kibbles! Bad dog!” I yelled trying to catch the dog. I tripped, and as I fell, I vaguely remember seeing the little yellow creature from the day before….

When I woke up a group of odd creatures where huddled around me. They looked just like the little animal that I chased the other day, but these where different colors of the rainbow. One was red, one was blue, another was purple, and yet another was green. I also spotted the little yellow creature standing to the side.

“ Who is you?” Said the red creature, who seemed to be the leader of the strange group.

“ Who are you?” I responded. The leader thought for a moment, before shrugging.

“ I is Fizzwizz, blue Shroom is Filp-flop, purple Shroom is Bopitty-boo, green Shroom is Puff, and yellow Shroom is Wheezy, and we are part of the first ever Shroom colony.” He said with authority.

“I am Ava Oakley, pleased to meet you.” I said putting my hand out to shake.

The creatures looked at me like I was crazy. I quickly lowered my hand.

“ So where do you come from?” I asked as the creatures as they began leading me somewhere. The blue creature handed me Kibbles as she began to speak.

‘ Come from planet Shroom . Fly here fifty year ago because planet go BOOM!” She said sadly. The other Shrooms nodded.

“ This is Shroom colony.” Fizzwizz stated as we entered a clearing. Marshmallow shaped houses stretched s far as the eye could see. Shrooms darted from house to house, chattering in an unfamiliar language. In the center of it all, a giant metallic building wrapped in what appeared to be an orange extension cord stood. Wheezy followed my gaze.

‘ That is Shroom shuttle,” He said pointing to a square car driving across a golden paved road. “ That is my house,” He pointed to a pink marshmallow house with a small garden, “ And that is old spaceship.” Wheezy finished gesturing to the metal blob in the middle of the city. The Shrooms gave me a tour of the city, so I got to try a special        Shroom food, called Puffuzzfizz ( Shroomian for orange muffin cake.) and I even got to meet the Shroom president, King Bonkers. I had an early dinner of Puffuzzfiz before slowly realizing it was getting dark out.

“ I have to get home!” I squeaked, grabbing Kibbles.

‘”You no go home, you no tell humans of Shrooms!” Fizzwizz said and he slowly began to grow fangs, and doubled in height. I grabbed my backpack and ran, Kibbles at my heels. I ran out of the forest, under the fence, and back to my house.

It was the last time I visited the alien colony for many years.

Little did I know that a little yellow Shroom had followed me home.


The End

© 2014 Sarah Robertson

“Coaptation” by Giovanni Ortiz

An animal trainer
“Don’t eat that!”
Spending $4



By Giovanni Ortiz

There was a downpour on the window I stared out of. The city doesn’t faze me and never will. The lights jumbling up as each drop of entropy fall onto the window. The shapes outside has no form, no actual definition. Red, gold, and green seems to be all over my window. There is a Shhhh! that seems unending. Like, thousands and millions of people are outside throwing rice at the window. But, it is something beautiful and less hateful; it’s rain. I loved the rain, out in Nebraska it smelled fresher and cleaner, something man couldn’t poison with smoke. I want to stop the taxi driver and stand out there, in the middle of the street, and take a shower looking at the stars. I want the rain to fall over me and wash the sweat, tears, and nervousness off. I want to start fresh and have the rest of the day’s worries paint its picture, whether it’s abstract or objective. I want to look at everyone’s face and give them meaning. On the other hand, I need to go home. I continue to let my red eyes watch the silent movie called NYC. I’m sure he didn’t mean to break every bone in my body with only words.

I don’t think anyone would believe I wanted to spend the rest of my life with him– actually a lot of people would. I did spend the beginning of my life with him. I witnessed his first kiss. He told me all about his first time with Jessica Ramano, sophomore year, the day after they’d done it. I told him about all of my firsts. We usually told each other secrets when either he or I were on our way back home– we were neighbors– making a stop on the side of the road. You know, when you’re on the road and there’s an open field, well there were a lot of them in Nebraska. So, we’d stop and leave our school bags in the passenger seat. Then, we would chase and lose each other in the cornfields. The scent of dried grass, a field, and corn danced beneath our noses. We yelled our names, shielding our eyes from the sun, until we’re found. Usually, we’d laugh as our butt hit the ground. Our lungs, lighter and lighter, made us feel higher and higher. Is it possible to get high off of laughter? (I found out that being “high” doesn’t feel like “being high”. It felt worse. Like, a deeper pressure that made me want to cry and laugh all at the same time.) We’d whisper small secrets to each other as the sun jumps over us and dips below the corn. I’d realize I had math homework I needed to finish. My mother had a rule about being out without much permission after the sun is set. He’d guide me through the corn and find the old, faded blue 1980 impala. He’d drive home because I wanted to be in control of the radio. We never shared similar tastes in music, he was into punk and I was into classic. I wish I knew that would be one of the signs that it wasn’t going to work out. I wished we found our middle ground at the beginning.

“Excuse me, sir. Can you pull over?” I say to the taxi driver. He glances back at me, a line of sweat just beneath his hairline, black hair drooping over his forehead sticking to the sides of his face. Jeez, he was sweaty. I feel the car take a detour and my body lurch to the right. Tonight, I need something strong, to keep me away from myself. He pulls over and I ask him to wait, my box of things in the trunk reassured him. I open the door and the sound of rice hitting the window sounds like a crowd cheering instead. Opening my umbrella, I wedge myself between the two cars the taxi double parked over to get to the sidewalk. The fluorescent lights gave the store a sterile feeling, as if it’s a hospital. It’s like a morgue for wine and liquor. A middle aged man looks up at me as I walk in the store, my boots making the annoying squishy sound you get when you walk on linoleum with wet shoes. He diverts his attention back to the book he was reading.

I walk to the back of the store; I don’t know whether or not I want whiskey, vodka or gin. I was probably staring at the assortment of bottles for about two minutes. The guy shouts behind me, “You okay back there?” His voice is raspy and somewhat friendly. I grab a bottle of Scotch and went to the counter. He asks for ID, I give him money and show my ID. Maybe I need two… I grab the bag of alcohol and thank him. On my way out, I open the umbrella and make a jog for the taxi. I’m sure the hems of my jeans are soaked. I thank the taxi driver and repeat the original address I’m headed to. Cradling the bottle on my lap, I take a gander outside the window as the people’s faces blur around me. There’s traffic and I’m grateful for that. I’m not an alcoholic, I promise. But, I need something to make me feel temporarily better. Understand?

We had our first cans of beer together. I didn’t like going to parties until college, so whenever there was a party we’d sit in his basement, watch a classic horror flick, eat stale doughnuts and drink a cold can of beer we spent four dollars on. Sometimes when Dale, a senior at the high school we went to, worked a shift at the local drug store he’d let us buy cans of beer. His long pale hair sometimes mixed in with his facial hair, the drugs made him age a lot quicker than he’d have wanted, and he always spoke in a sort of whisper saying something like “Don’t drink and drive, Juniors.” He reminded me of the stoners you’d see on television with a bag of drugs sitting in their back pocket at all times. I always told him what I thought of him, too. He always said we looked more like a couple than “a pair of pair of good friends”. Actually, everyone said it. I was always first to deny, he always had a girlfriend.

I could barely imagine myself sitting in his basement, the washing machine and dryer mending the laundry, as the opening credits of a movie played. The brown carpet floor tickling my toes and the old squeaky couch sitting in front of the new-but-old television we’d saved enough money for. I would always lean back on the arm of the couch, while he sat on the other end, and let my feet touch the side of his thigh. Helen Chandler’s scream acted as background as we’d debate whether or not Bela Lugosi was the best Dracula. I remember when he realized the argument was over and that I won, he stopped talking and ruffled his hands in his brown hair and watch the movie. His hair wasn’t exactly soft and fluffy, but thin and wild, as if he’s never combed it (Probably didn’t). It still is crazy looking, from time to time. I miss spending four dollars on beer, eating stale doughnuts and watching Frankenstein in your basement.

The taxi turns the corner to my apartment. It is small and cheap. Granted that it is Manhattan, not enough space for everyone to live and breathe in luxury. I tip the driver and thank him. He looks a lot like Freddie Mercury and smells what I imagine Russell Brand would smell like if he wasn’t famous. The taxi driver helps me inside by holding my umbrella. I grab my box of things, hold on to the Scotch and make my way up the stairs. We used to live together, mainly because we were best friends and that’s what best friends did. They’d moved to New York City together after leaving their small town in the mid-west. They’d eat breakfast together and helped each other find jobs. They’d give each other ten dollar bills and felt bad when their boyfriend or girlfriend broke up with them. Best friends are brothers and sisters that were lost in the war of parenthood, and dropped into two different families by fate. That’s exactly what we were. I had to get my own apartment as soon as we realized we both grew icicles on our shoulders. There was never a warm shoulder to give anymore. We gave it a try and it didn’t work. The one thing we promised each other wouldn’t happen happened. Nothing was ever the same.

It took me a whole month to find an apartment. The movers dropped everything off earlier this morning, that’s when I realized that this was actually happening. We both moved, I moved across the city and he moved on. He probably doesn’t even care anymore. So, I try not to care and move on.

My apartment is full of boxes, the bed is bare and set up in the only bedroom and the living room is bare. I search the boxes for sheets and glasses. I walk, practically crawl, to my bedroom and sit on the floor and lean my back on the base of my bed. My feet touch the wall. The walls were white and needs a new coat of paint. Maybe turquoise. That’s the luxury I have now, choosing my own wall colors. I place the glass on the floor and pour some Scotch. I down it in one gulp. The liquor burns my throat. It always burns on the first gulp. I pour some more. Henry, the dog I’ve had since I graduated college, pounces on my lap. I lazily drag my hand across his short fur.

“I don’t need him, I only need Henry. Right, boy?” I scratch behind his ear and make baby noises at him. He wags his tail and licks my face. I grab the glass and drink the glass in a second. Another burn, only a slight tingle. He settles on my lap and huffs. I continue on a gentle stroke and decide to drink straight from the bottle.

When I was ten, I wanted to be an animal trainer. I watched all the television shows on Discovery Kids and Animal Plant. I practically begged my mom for a dog or cat. But, she was terribly allergic. I got a turtle, instead. All my other fish didn’t last long. He had a puppy. It was a golden retriever. He named her Gold, very original. I tried teaching Gold how to sit and used phrases like “give me a paw, girl!” We practically shared her. I even fed her sometimes. I really appreciated him and his family, even as a ten year old. I got Henry because I missed the way Gold licked my face. I missed how her golden fur felt soft under my hands. I even missed walking her, stepping on dog poop and having to clean my flip flops off before walking in my house. When I went to college I no longer wanted to be an animal trainer. I wanted to be something mature and sophisticated. I wanted to be something my mother could brag about, “Oh. My daughter got into this college in New York City.” I gave up my dream just to be an adult. Now, I wish I was a kid again, more than ever.

I am halfway through the Scotch; it no longer burned my throat. Henry laid across my waist as my face was stuck to the hardwood floor of my tiny bedroom. I take another swig. My head is clouded with him, him, him. I want to scream, kick, and throw. But, I can’t scream, kick or throw. I’d disturb the neighbors. I want to lie down and cry. But, I refuse to lay down and cry for my own dignity. On Henry’s collar is a small owl charm he’d bought for the dog when I first brought him home from the animal shelter. It symbolized Henry’s job as being the watchdog. Plus, the ol’ puppy had a habit of being a night owl. Henry the Sad and Lonely became Henry the Happy and Brave. I became Happy and Swooning. He became Moody and Argumentative. It was like he didn’t like the relationship part of me after a year and a half. He hated me even more after we called it splits.

I take Henry’s collar off delicately, as if it were Queen Elizabeth’s crown. I hold it up in the dim light. I have everything that I’ve given to him. He has everything he has given to me– excluding the charm, it belongs to Henry. Does he look at the things and remembers when he gave them to me and how I reacted. I remember hugging and kissing him. Thanking him for giving the charm to me to put on Henry’s collar. He was less moody and argumentative, then. He was happy and swooning. He smiled too much and his messy hair was cut short. He began to grow it out. It became the messy and scruffy mess it was when he was just a sloppy teenage boy. He still smelled like cheap cologne and talked too fast. He was angry and blamed me for everything. I’m sure Henry was happy, too. He looked happy, his tail wagging fast as I kissed him full on the lips.

Henry began licking the empty glass. “Stop!” I hissed at Henry. His tail hung low and he went into a whimper as he laid his head on my leg. It was like turning off the engine to a chopper. It died to a silence. No more whooshing. I rubbed Henry’s head. I finished the bottle of Scotch.

We went to a French restaurant. He just got a big deal for a film and was excited and happy. He was the happiest he has ever been, I wanted to cry. He knew I wanted to cry. I’ve always been an emotional fool. This was the first time we’ve ever been to a French restaurant, another first of ours. He was holding my hand. I was wearing this expensive dress my mother gave me money for. He was wearing an expensive suit his mother gave him money for. There was some violinist playing in the back and waiters with fake French accents. The room held the conversation amongst the rich. I was joking about it all in whispers to him. He laughed. Jesus, he laughed a lot. I missed that about him. He hasn’t laughed in a long time.

We ordered something that came in small portions that made us want to eat pizza an hour later. It was almost like a dream. The chandeliers and the diamonds sitting in the middle of the table were almost dream-like. I made another joke about how I wanted to dance on the tables like a drunken fool and he laughed and dared me to. I’m not a dare devil. Neither of us are. He ordered a chocolate cake that had a name I couldn’t spell or pronounce properly– he’d made sure to make fun of me for it. I was getting ready to eat a big spoonful of the cake. He dramatically gets up, green eyes wide, and nearly yells, “Don’t eat that!” I drop the spoon on the clean white table cloth. He pulled something from the food and wipes it off with his napkin. He gets on one knee and very romantically proposes. Everyone was looking and cheering us on. I did the worst thing ever and said no. His world shattered. It lasted us a month before we officially broke up. I saw it coming. It felt as if it were too late. I already denied his proposal.

The bed got colder and colder. It was like sleeping next to a ghost that haunted you. The idea of marriage scared me. He didn’t want to accept that. I blame the fact that my parent’s marriage never worked out. What makes you think my marriage would work!

He shouted at me and nagged me at everything I did. You’ll never make a good wife if you cook like this. You’ll never make a good wife if you say no to a proposal. I couldn’t take it. Neither could he and I left. We left the relationship. I had to leave the apartment. Now I miss him and wish I said otherwise. Now I wish I was booking wedding venues and tasting cakes. I wish I loved him the way he loved me. It was all my fault, or were truly never meant to be?

I wake up to Henry licking my face and the poisonous sun shining through my window. The birds are chirping a somber song and my phone is beeping along with it. I have a headache. It feels as if my head was thrown around and hitting the ground like a basketball. Then, someone delicately twisted my head right back. I groan and pull the phone out of my pocket. It’s a voicemail. I dial 1 for speed dial and put the password in, it was the first five letters of my last name. The answering machine’s voice can’t talk any faster. His voice reminds me of honey, it sweetened up my days. All he said was, “I miss you, too.”

Those four words told me that there was a coaptation of our lives. We’ll never be over because we are best friends, and by fate we are together.

© 2013 Giovanni Ortiz