Wounded

Denise Kollock


My heart, why do I need that? See…
I’m used to these wounds
digging deeper into my flesh
bloody Mary red bursting-
bursting out, creating a river of tears. These tears
running down my canvas.
This blood, gliding slowly down my body
causing another catastrophe,
this calamity of suffering.
 
It’s fine.
 
 
no, seriously. It’s really not fine,
my heart is worn out
stitching is taking its toll
these bandages are getting weaker.
If repatched to be broken again, then
what’s the point? What
is the point of even loving
because, in the long run, I am just
damaging myself even further.
Is there ever a
point?
 

Pavlov’s Kitchen

Steven A. Hinkle

The small kitchen is always bright. 
Across the stain of uneven patches,
Red shades pain intimate eyes.
Two black hands drag on a white face.
They recently traded living spaces
With their old mother goose.

Now the sun never sets
Over the hollow-cored doorway.
Dipped in bronze,
It watches the back door
For the chef at the back-burner
As he beats the cock’s children
To a scramble.

The rooster crows out
Of habit but not out of necessity.
Drinking Wild Turkey,
He turns toward tomorrow
And watches the sun he couldn’t raise.

Smoke recesses into the vent And the chef preps
Interspecific genocide.
His flame beams at the scent,

Rising and falling
With the traveling heat.
The eggs form a compromised State of agency.

The chef rings Pavlov’s bell
And summons me to eat. Famished, I feast
On red and yellow children

The Adventures in Normality

Natalie Mora

                One look at the house and I already wish I’m anywhere but here. Laundry is scattered all over the matted carpet in the living room and dirty dishes are playing a game of Jenga in the kitchen sink. It’s impossible to be gone for more than a couple of days without the house becoming a site of utter catastrophe. I make a mental list of what I’ll need by the end of the day: laundry detergent (preferably lavender-scented), Band-Aids, new dishes. I notice one of my mother’s medication bottles on the floor and assume she needs a refill.

                I begin by picking up all the clothes so I can throw them in for a wash, careful not to set off any of the traps masked under the protective layer of laundry; it’s sometimes difficult to determine whether the traps are set for pests or for humans. After the traditional sweeping and dusting, I move to the kitchen. I always start the dishes last, a habit I formed through the trauma of my first job. I was in charge of cleaning the dishes of people celebrating a birthday or of families too lazy to cook for themselves. There was something about those families that made me instinctively curl my hands into tight fists and made my face twist the way it did when I had to stand in front of a restroom stall while on cleaning duty. I wanted to take a picture of their smiling faces, hang it in my living room, and label it, “The Lost Reality.”

                Before I can begin the dishes, my mother shuffles into the kitchen with a bottle of pills in one hand and an empty glass in the other.

                “Cleaning dishes so early?” she says, leaving her glass next to the sink.

                “It’s actually already one o’clock, so… not that early,” I say.

                She places her pills in the cabinet above the stove. “Always have something smart to say, don’t you? You get that from your fa—” Her words catch in her throat, and she instinctively glances at my father’s picture on the fridge, absently scratching her arm and peeling off the scabs that are already there. She shakes his existence off her tongue and continues. “Look, just do me a favor and wash my cup. And make sure you get those giant orange stains off.”

                “Ma, those aren’t stains. Those are the designs.”

                “Oh. Well, scrub them off, anyway. They’re ugly. And make sure you clean those dishes right. You know how I like them,” she says, walking back to her room.

                “Whatever you say, Ma.”

                I’m already used to her ridiculous requests. Last week, she wanted me to paint our cow cookie jar all white. Her rationale was that it was unbecoming for any creature to have black spots on their skin. I didn’t have any white paint, so I painted it yellow instead.

                I found it shattered the next day.

                As a creature of habit, I start with the plates, and I pick one up from a set that I bought recently. The way the gray border circles the muddy center reminds me of how a freshly dug grave would look after an April shower. It’s a shame that I have to work on the dishes, since I’m actually fond of this set. I bring the dish over my head and smash it onto the floor, shattering it into six large pieces and many other tiny bits. I grab the glue and begin putting the pieces back together, forcing parts to fit like a toddler playing a puzzle. I push the dish-turned-mosaic off to the side and pick up the next plate, then the next, and the next. Small fragments of glass become embedded into my fingertips, staining a majority of the plates. I’ll just have to tell my mother that I decided to paint the dishes again.

                Once I complete the plates, I move on to the cups. Compared to plates or bowls, cups are trickier because they tend to be smashed into miniscule pieces, making the job of gluing it back together arduous. I decide to work on my mother’s cup first. I know that I have to get the designs off, because I don’t want to have to calm my mother down when she finds out I didn’t do the dishes the way she likes them.

                Better to indulge the beast rather than provoke it.

                A sponge won’t get rid of the designs on the glass, so I grab a knife and begin scratching off the ink. Each stroke leaves thin lines engraved into the glass, but I continue anyway since my mother won’t care about the marks as long as it’s clean.

                I try to convince myself that when my mother sees that I did the dishes the way she likes them, and that her cup is stain-free, it will bring us closer to mending our relationship. I often fantasize about what would have happened if I had never moved out. When I left, it took a piece of my mother, and then when my father… well, it was the final blow.

                All that matters to me now is her happiness. This is my punishment. This is my redemption.

                The glass’ screams refocus my attention to my task, and as I push the knife into the cup for one last stroke, the cup shatters into my hand. I let out a shriek and quickly throw my undamaged hand over my mouth, holding back the rest of my gasps of pain. Two inches of glass is lodged into the center of my palm, and I gently tug on it, testing just how rooted it is. I count to three, hold my breath, then finally pull it out and watch as the pool of crimson flows off my shaking hand and drip onto the remains of the cup in the sink. I quickly eye the broken pieces to see if it I can salvage them enough to reconstruct, but I realize it’s beyond reparation.

                My mother rushes in a few seconds later, darts her eyes between my hand and the broken glass, and says, “Were you able to get the stain off?”

The World is Wide Enough for White People and Me

Crystal Solano

            Like a good Mexican I got there late. The fiesta started at 4:30pm and sure enough I didn’t pull up until 6:00pm. I spotted the house right away. It was a wedding, but there was a jumper in the front yard for children. As I walked up, I watched seven or eight brown faces appearing and disappearing behind the inflated faces of Mario, Luigi and Princess Peach. My sister greeted my boyfriend David and me at the entrance.
            “You’re late,” she said as she kissed us, “and now there’s nowhere for us to sit.”
            I smooth-talked excuses into the air that no one paid any mind to. My sister and her husband led us to the back gate and the music began to grow louder and louder. The DJ blasted Banda through the speakers. This made absolutely no sense because there was a live Banda lounging lazily on the other side of the gate. Como les gusta tirar el dinero, my mother would say. Next to the Banda was the DJ with one hand on his headphones, nodding his head to the music. This was my sister’s best friend Rocio’s wedding and there was no place to sit. While my sister scoped out the area, I ran into the bride and groom. Rocio is a Mexican American, daughter of immigrants just like me. The groom, Michael, was born and raised in Connecticut to a very Caucasian, conservative family. Michael’s family welcomed us warmly and told us to sit anywhere we’d like. We laughed and thanked them.
            I looked around and caught my sister trying to make eye contact with me across the yard. She pointed at available seats for us directly across from each other. We made our way over. A Caucasian couple was blocking two of the seats and I asked if they were sitting there. They enthusiastically shook their heads no and motioned for us to please sit. I noticed that as my sister was making her way across the table to sit, she had a decision to make. There were three available seats. To the right of them was a chatty Mexican family while on the left was an older Caucasian woman and man scrolling through their phones gripped tightly against their chests. My sister glanced once at her options and promptly sat next to the Mexican family without missing a beat. I suddenly became aware of the fact that I was taking note of my sister’s biased actions. I wondered if I would have done the same thing if I hadn’t been scrutinizing my surroundings, including my very own thoughts.
            All of Michael’s friends and family came directly from Connecticut. I visited Michael’s family with my sister over the summer and was shocked by my very first visit to a small town where everyone knew everybody. I remember driving two hours through a pine green forest to get there only to find myself actively trying to get out. Every time I stepped into town, my inability to escape their long gazes resulted in my defense mechanisms to activate. With lowered eyes, I became painstakingly aware of the color of the arms that swayed back and forth beside me. “What a pretty color?” I’d think to myself realizing I was keeping my head down in shame and embarrassment. Immediately after this realization, I shot it right back up and locked eyes with anyone who would dare keep staring. A few did and I imagined myself walking right up to them, my finger poking their chest repeatedly and saying “If you were in my hood, you’d. Get. Shot. For staring like that.” It’s funny because now, in Santa Ana, California, They are the ones keeping Their heads lowered. I wonder if any of Them recognize me and realize They, too, had made me feel this uncomfortable. The thought of their potential repentance made me feel a bit sorry for Them.
            My sister attempted a conversation with us across the table with no success. The live Banda began playing unbelievably loud so we motioned toward the taco stand on the other side of the yard. I stood in line and noticed very few Caucasians with street tacos. Instead, they forked at their small plates of salad and pasta. I turned back to the taco stand and as I ordered “tres de pollo con todo, por favor!” I became acutely conscious of the way the taquero showered my tortillas with grease and rubbed them around the grill. I had observed this hundreds of times in my lifetime so why did it now appear sweaty and dirty to me? Is this how They view my favorite food? That’s ridiculous. Imagining their ghastly faces disgusts me and I can’t help but coo. “You’re not sweating, little tortilla! You’re glowing!” Then I told the taquero to add two more to my order.
            The wedding had a Mexican antojitos stand and I’d never seen one at a party before so I was ecstatic. The party was elegant and white but once you made your way over to the antojitos corner, it was a different story. Lining the table in a flamboyant fashion were bionicos—chopped fruit covered with yogurt and topped with raisins, shredded coconut, and tiny, colorful marshmallows, tostilocos—Tostitos, pig skin, cucumber, jicama, Japanese peanuts, hot sauce and chili powder, chicharones—fried wheat snacks topped with hot sauce and lime juice, micheladas—beer mixed tomato juice, limes, and hot sauce, Tajin brims the edges of the cup. I looked around the fiesta again and was deflated to see that They wouldn’t even try it. I felt a pull to befriend them and coax them into trying a tostiloco or a bionico. I would even go easy on the hot sauce. Before I could step a foot in their direction, I imagined their face scrunched up in disgust as I’d present them with a treat I’d prepared. Instead, I frantically looked at the table with treats and tried to find a way to swoop them into my arms and run. I was defeated. I was unable to protect all of the things that I loved. For the second time tonight, a battle ignited inside of me. A part of me wanted to initiate conversation and make them feel welcome. The other half of me wanted to keep Them as far away as possible and to keep Us safe. This awareness caused me to act. I recognized a woman from Connecticut who showed me a picture of her cat. As I made my way back to my table with arms full of tacos, tostilocos and bionicos, I tapped her and said, “You’re the cat lady!” She smiled and nodded, then turned her back to me. I admit it, that may not have been the smoothest way to start up a conversation but still, there was my attempt at being friendly with White people. I shrugged and let the battle rage on.
            As I silently thanked the genius who suggested the antojitos table, I watched more and more people get up to dance. The old school Mexican dads at the fiesta began to do the traditional zapatiado, the shoe dance, similar to tap dancing. At first glance, the dance seems like a mindless combination of kicking and stomping, but if you pay close attention, you could feel the smug spirit of our ancestors gloriously and adamantly refusing to let traditions die, even in a new country, even in a new world. I burst with pride as I watched the Caucasian people clapping along and laughing with the rest of us. Soon after, Rocio’s mom announced the traditional Vibora de La Mar, or the Serpant of the sea game. In Mexico, this is a traditional singing game for children where two individuals clasp their hands together in the shape of an arch and the rest of the kids form a line grabbing on to the person in front’s waist and run through the arch until the two kids decide to bring the arch down on someone and capture them. In weddings, it is quite the opposite. The bride and groom stood on chairs clasping hands while being held by 4 or 5 of their most trusted friends. Two lines separated by gender formed and one line began to run through to try to knock down the bride and groom.
            Everyone began crowding around. The music began to play and the whole backyard buzzed with excitement. I forgot the differences in skin color and grabbed the cat lady by the hand. The women went first. The lyrics began, and we were off. Round and round Rocio’s sister took the lead maneuvering us through tight crevices between the tables and straight through the chair holding Rocio with a feisty shove in her direction. Her loyal five including my sister successfully kept her up as we went around and around in a laughing frenzy. It was a whole three minutes of uncontrollable laugher once we finished.
            Next was the men’s turn. Rocio’s brother took the lead and began slowly skipping until the climax of the song. He then led them to rush full speed towards Michael and his four brothers holding him. Rocio’s brother rammed right into Michael’s chair and stumbled to the ground, taking down with him one of Michael’s brothers. The two of them reached for the chair Michael was standing on and the unsteadiness caused Michael to topple over both of them. The yard howled with laughter but I saw the intense anger in Michael’s eyes for a fraction of a second before it became a smile again. All feelings of joy and laughter left me as I dared to look around at the other Caucasians. The older women, including Michael’s mother and aunts, had tight, disapproving smiles that I feared might turn into snarls. “Would you look at these hooligans and savages finding enjoyment in knocking my beloved son off of a chair?” I heard the mother say. “This is what our poor Michael is marrying into?” I heard an aunt say. My cat lady grabbed my shoulders from behind disrupting my imagination and yelled “Why are you still standing here? Run, the bouquet toss is about to start.” I looked up and it was just me. No one was snarling. No one was calling us hooligans. It was just fear. Everyone was smiling again. No one was overthinking Michael’s fall but me. I felt robbed of all enjoyment tonight but who did I actually have to blame but myself? My feelings of mistrust interpreted every smile as fake, every laugh as mocking, every comment as judgmental. I, more than anyone, should know what allowing fear to win does to a victim. Victim? Am I a victim? No. I, too, would be cautious to try a food I didn’t recognize. I, too, would be bewildered if my loved one fell off a chair and a room full of strangers roared in laughter.
            This epiphany engulfed my thoughts and I sat back at my table and watched two women screech at having the bouquet tossed in their direction. These Mexican women tugged back and forth before one of them lost her grip then proceeded to walk off and smooth out her hair, giggling. I wondered if They were having a good time tonight. I wondered if They were as paranoid as I was. Everyone was laughing. Everyone was smiling, except for me… and the kid with chamoy drenched fingers and face pleading with his mother for another round of tostilocos. “Andale ammmaaaaa” I heard him say.

Funeral for Two

Benjamin Oyler

            “I’ve sat for hours, stressing, trying to find the perfect words that could encapsulate and explain all of the thoughts and feelings swirling in my brain. But nothing seemed right, and maybe that’s the perfect phrase. The perfect way to describe how I feel. But I know that’s not true because nothing’s perfect anymore. Not since-“
            I read the words to myself out loud, practicing funny accents and mispronouncing words just to make the whole task less arduous. I’ve written page after page but the words seem stilted and boring, an affront to their intentions and a clear indicator that I’m the wrong guy for the job. But my complaints and misgivings go unheard, lost in the turmoil present in the minds of those who matter. My mother’s a wreck, one brother’s an alcoholic and the other’s a gambling addict, and my only sister’s currently riding the little red rocket of some ass-backwards Republican in a backwater town in Nebraska; in short, I’m the only one who can do this job. I put my pen back to paper.
            “Hello. Thank you all for coming, I know that Leon would’ve appreciated it. This is not a funeral ladies and gentlemen; rather, this is a celebration of life, dedicated to remembering and cherishing-”
It all feels wrong. Every word, every syllable, every letter – all of them, out of place, out of sync; akin to a modern translation of a long-lost language which operated entirely on hand signals. The words in front of me are not sad; ipso facto, they don’t mean enough. They read like we’re having a party, like I’m introducing the guest of the evening. But who the hell is here to celebrate? Not I, said the fly, and certainly not anyone in attendance. Don’t get me wrong, someone out there is throwing a rager, the likes of which have been absent since the Y2K scare – but they’re out there, and we’re in here, and our echo chamber is a whole lot louder than theirs, speakers included. I shake my head, put my pen back to paper.
            “A rose by any other name -”
            Scrap that.
            “Leon was a wonderful man, devoted husband, loving brother, dedicated father. Words fail to do his legacy justice, truth be told. But I guess that’s why they picked me, right?”
            I stop myself – what I’m writing reads like any other funeral speech, and the thought makes me sick. But I keep writing, so there’s something on the paper. I don’t want to proofread what I’ve written – and I can’t bring myself to do so. This won’t be published, won’t leave St. Mary’s Catholic Church. This will be a private broadcast, for a trusted few and I to absorb. But today’s broadcast is on a schedule, one that must be followed. As I finish, there’s a rap at the door, and I know the time has come for me to rejoin the living. And the dead, I guess.
            I step out of the confessional and greet my mom with a hug. My mom gives a small smile and puts her hands on either side of my face. She can’t speak, her tears threatening to drown her. I return the smile and take a second to look at what she’s wearing. It’s a simple black piece, one I remember Leon spent hours picking. He must have spent two hours choosing, all while I sat and complained about the process. She’s chosen to match it with an elegant set of pearls, a gift from the alcoholic, picked up last minute at a pawn shop. I nod and we part, my mother finding her place in the front pew and myself moving towards the pulpit at the front of the room.
            “Hello everyone. My name is Frank. I’d like to thank all of you for being here today, it means a lot to me and my family. Um… where to begin?” I look at the paper in front of me, picking out choice words, critiquing myself. “Leon was… a wonderful man. He was a devoted husband, a loving brother, a dedicated father. Words fail to do his legacy justice, truth be told. But I guess that’s why they picked me, right?” This elicits a small chuckle from the room.
            Everyone is here for the same reason: Leon. But everybody here knew Leon differently, loved him in their own way. Aunts, uncles, nephews, nieces, friends, and my mother all wipe away tears, hoping against all odds that these will be the last. I see Leon in every one of them. Every one of them has his smile, or his nose or lips or hair or something – something that proves he’s not dead. I look at the paper in front of me and shrug, crumpling and trashing it, drawing looks from my mom and aunts.
            “I’d like to tell you a story. On my eighth birthday, Leon bought me this puke-green little beach cruiser, complete with training wheels that were almost as big as the bike itself. And I remember looking at this cruiser – shiny, brand new, begging me to ride it – and feeling… hate. I hated that cruiser. I hated the color, that god-awful green… I hated the training wheels with their huge, metal saucers as hubcaps, reflecting all that childhood angst and drama that was bubbling beneath the surface… I despised the dinky little bell that sat on the right handlebar. It would make this horrible little dinging sound that reminded me of an elevator in a horror movie. Leon had gone to great lengths to procure this bike for me, and here I was disgusted and appalled by it. The worst part of it all is that Leon could tell I hated it. He could see it in my eyes, or when I tucked the side of my stomach in to avoid brushing by that stupid bell whenever I walked near the bike. The next morning, I went out into the garage to get my bike… and it was missing. Gone. Vanished into thin air without so much as a trace. Despite how much I hated that bike, despite how I felt when I saw my towheaded self-reflected in those hideous silver dollar hubcaps, despite all my whining and crying and my general apathy towards the bike – despite all of that… That was my bike, goddammit,” I smirked, picturing Leon’s signature smile creeping across his face, a result of both my blasphemous curse and my mother’s over-the-top bristling at its use.

            “I ran inside, blasting through the house, anger and indignation fueling my every step as I marched towards my parent’s bedroom. Someone would help me get that disgusting bike back, and I knew of all people, it had to be Leon. I stomp into my mom’s room… and Leon’s gone. I knew better than to wake up my mom, so I stormed out into the hallway, and stomped through the house with a mean look on my face, as though the mice in the wall had stolen my bike. I charged into the garage, fuming… and there it was. My bike. Except it wasn’t my bike – what had once been a paltry excuse for a puke green paint job was now a smooth blend of steel grey and orange flames, and the enormous training wheels had been stripped away. Even the bell was gone. It was like I had a brand new bike… and it was all because of Leon. I remember him stepping from behind the door that led to the backyard, his signature smile spreading across his face, crawling up to his eyes, drawing lines in the sand and marking its position. He was beaming, happy as a clam. I took one look at him and I freakin’ lost it. I ran to Leon and grabbed him by the leg and started sobbing. Leon had no clue what to do, so he kind of took a step back and got down on one knee, so he could see eye to eye with me, and he started talking to me in the gruff voice he’d always use it to calm my mom down, whenever one of my brothers lit a fire under her ass or my sister got sent home again or her anxiety flared up. ‘What’s the matter, kid? I fixed it for you, just how you like, with the flames… and the… why are you crying?’ I was a wreck, tears pouring out, and I threw myself into him, and I wrapped him tight, and I kept crying. And all I could do was cry, because I felt so bad. I knew he had to have spent the better part of his sleeping hours working on that bike. I knew how much it must have hurt him to see my reaction, and how that must have spurned him to ‘do better’. And I couldn’t even explain why I was crying, because in his eyes it wouldn’t make sense, because in his eyes, that was all part of the job, and seeing me happy was worth all the work.
            “Look… you all knew Leon. Probably better than I did, and he was my damn father. Some of you grew up with him, or fought alongside him – hell, some of you might have fought the guy yourself. I don’t know why I was chosen to do this, or why we’re doing this in the first place. My dad hated shit like this. He never went to a single funeral or ‘celebration of life’ in the entire 23 years I knew him. He wasn’t religious, and he didn’t care what anybody outside of his family thought of him. And maybe that’s what made him… him, ya know? Because despite all his faults, all his misgivings, my father was a good man. He wasn’t perfect, far from it. Not every story is like the one I told. There were a lot of slammed doors and broken plates growing up. But from day one, dad was consistent – in his love, in his faith to the family and his undying devotion to my brothers, my sister, my mother and I, in his actions and words. ‘Do better’, that was his motto. Every day, pushing and grinding, forcing us to ‘do better’.

            But time went on, and we all got older, and we moved away and moved on. And we stopped caring. We stopped listening to the words we’d heard all our lives, stopped paying attention to the actions that had become commonplace. My dad said that ‘life isn’t perfect, but if you find the people who make it worth it to get out of bed every morning, you’re about as close to perfect as you can get.’ For a while, we were perfect, but that faded, and our imperfections shone through like diamonds. We stopped being what Leon needed. And for that, I’m sorry. If I could go back, if I could stop you from going out that night, if I could get one more day to cherish you and hear you tell the stories I’ve heard a thousand times and hug you and let you tell me that you’re proud of the man I’ve become and that you’re excited to see what I do in life, if I could do better – if I could have one more chance at that… I would give anything. But I can’t. There’s nothing anyone on this planet can do to change that, either,” My words have long ago become directed at my father, rather than those in attendance. These words aren’t for them. This choked prayer is an offering to a god only I can see. I close my eyes and turn my head up, and as the levee threatens to break and tears threaten to drown me under their crushing weight, I offer my final and most sincere prayer.
            “I’m sorry, dad. I’m so goddamned sorry.” It’s these words, above all, I hope Leon hears.

She Fed Love

Noemy Segura

            Maddie would look at it for three hours straight. She always felt bad for not polishing it and even more for calling it “it”. It was her mother for god sake! She knew better but somehow this ritual practice only made her feel worse. Her eyes would redden, and her stomach would flatten every time she would try to make sense as to why she no longer loved her.

            Her mother was sick. Maddie had begged her to fight, please mom live, and her mom begged her to leave her alone. You aren’t letting me live by telling me to keep on living she’d say. All Ms. Katie wanted was for everyone to know that after she passed, at least her soul would not die with her. She lingered at the thought that her mother’s soul was wandering in that dusty vase. Maybe she wanted to get out, maybe she liked being inside because it was like a cocoon. Maybe, only maybe. Ms. Katie had said before it’s better for a soul to have a comforting place where love is nurtured by those outside of it. The fruit bears out of love my child. The soul must be fed, and it is only fed by those who the soul accepts.

            Perhaps her mother never loved her. The more she’d stare, the more she’d feel the spirit of her mother push her away, the more she felt herself wanting to crack the vase and eat the ashes away. She’d at least feel peace knowing her mother’s soul was inside her and not inside the stupid green and pink flower vase she had bought three months ago at a thrift store.

            Sitting in her blue dress, ten feet from the vase, she wished her mom would come to take it off. She wanted her mom to see her nudity like the day she saw hers. She found her mother naked in the bathtub. Mom it’s time for dinner, and her mom like a moth caressed the tub. If only her mom had waited to take a bath after dinner, maybe, she wouldn’t have died. The Chinese food she had prepared that day would have given her a smile or the pumpkin pie she had baked would have given her the sweetness she needed. No, her mother was so stubborn. That’s why she had so many wrinkles. She yelled all the time at Maddie for obstructing her schedule if she hadn’t done what she wanted on time. Mom I’ll clean the garden, you go inside and rest.

            No child, and she’d continue to tug on the weeds as she felt her heart barely beat up in the air. Her white hands reminding her that her veins weren’t carrying enough white blood cells anymore- killing her as they diminished in blood quantity each day, hour and second.

            She hated herself for hating the vase, and she hated that her mother never cared for her suffering. She sat up from the rocking chair and took the vase in her hands from the countertop of the kitchen. She gripped it with all her might just as her mother would hug her at bedtime when she was a child. Goosebumps rose from her toes to her fox face, and she felt her mother choke the words that wanted to fly out of her mouth to say, I hate you mother. I hate you for not letting me help. It’s your own fault you died! A tornado of birds started to form inside her. If she broke the vase her mother would be mad, and if she didn’t, she’d have to continue to do her rituals until one day her mother would finally give in. Until her mother finally realized she was wrong.

            What’s so special about living in a fucken vase! She yelled. Maddie cried as she remembered all of this. She felt her hands weaken. She slipped onto the floor holding the vase at her chest. Bent down, her knees dug for help, and her head crossed a bridge of hopelessness.

            From the window of the tight cardboard house a butterfly flew onto the vase. Maddie stopped crying and the tiny colored creature slipped onto her fingers. Maddie held it with such sensitivity. She examined it as she had examined her mother when she first found out the news she had breast cancer. Momma is this you? She spoke to the butterfly and not at the vase. She placed the vase next to her and still in a prayer position, she hugged the butterfly.

Sitting and waiting

Maddie fought

She fed her mom since-

The leaves of summer and spring

The love that outgrew her hatred

Forever will be

Diagnosed

Melissa Feller

            Waiting in the doctor’s office takes an eternity. It is cold, and I do not want to be there. I think back to when I requested a psychiatrist from my psychologist and how I regret doing it. My brain explodes into images of the doctor saying multiple disorders and I get sicker with each new “diagnosis.” The doctor finally comes out and calls my name; I am extremely anxious as I walk behind him. I almost say, “There has been a mistake; I don’t really need a psychiatrist. Surprise!” But my throat is closed too tightly for it to come out. Sitting in his office, I feel out of place and my thought process is stuck on you shouldn’t be here, you shouldn’t be here. He asks why I’m here to see him, and I start crying. It is uncontrollable; I do not say anything for the first couple of minutes because I am trying to stop crying. Afterwards, he asks me why I started crying. I tell him that I do not want to be here. He gives me a look and waits a beat. “How do you feel right now?” I think over it a bit, “Embarrassed, mostly. Anxious. I feel like I’m being lured into a trap.” He asks me if I always feel like that: the answer is yes. He prods a little deeper with each question he asks until I’m crying again. He simply states that, “I believe you have bipolar NOS with severe anxiety.”

            I freeze in my chair and think back to when I was eleven years old and heading back from my first psychiatrist. My mother just staring out the windshield, not acknowledging me. I sat huddled in the corner of my seat not knowing what to do. When we got home, my mother asked me, “Why couldn’t you be normal?”

            Returning to myself, I realize I’m having a panic attack in my psychiatrist office.

            My psychiatrist explains to me that Bipolar NOS means Bipolar Disorder Not Otherwise Specified. Bipolar NOS is where I experience being bipolar—with its manic and depressive episodes, but I do not fit into a special bipolar box. He gives me a set of pills. I notice that they are not the ones my first psychiatrist prescribed me and sends me on my way. I make another appointment with him and visit the pharmacy with embarrassment. I sit in my car and think about how I’m going to tell my parents. My mother’s voice floats around in my head, echoing, “Why couldn’t you be normal?”

            I had slowly started to express myself more before this diagnosis. Now that I think about it, could someone tell? Was I being overtly emotional? Was I really just this messed up little girl who couldn’t control her emotions and was insane? Would I eventually get so bad I would have to be put into inpatient at the hospital? Worse and worse scenarios keep rushing through my head. Somehow, I arrive at my house.

            I do not have any recollection of the drive home and that scares me more. If I cannot even remember driving home, does that mean I should be put into observation so I do not hurt anyone around me? The scenarios in my head progressively get worse and more unrealistic, but I cannot help but be afraid of them. “How’d everything go?” my father asks, scaring me out of my preposterous scenarios.

            “Fine!” I say, not convincing myself, but convincing my father. I stride up the stairs and hide in my room. I glance at where I keep my razors. Suicide has and will always be an option to me. I take the razors out of their box and put them beside the prescriptions the psychiatrist gave me. For a while, I just stare at them. Stare and think about how I’m not normal. I am not a normal person. I have something wrong with me, not like my cousins that I am always compared to. They live great normal lives; they are more successful than me. Is it because of this disease that I am unsuccessful? Is it because of this disease that my family likes my cousins more than me?

            I’m working myself up to another panic attack. I pick up one of the razors and press it to my skin, not slicing, just pressing. I stare at the blade pressing against my skin for a long time. I only stop when my mother calls me down for dinner. At dinner, my father once again asks how my doctor’s appointment went. I answer as vaguely as I can get away with and scurry back up to my room.

            I stare at the group of pills and razors again. I start to daydream. Daydream a world where I am a normal person, where I do not have anxiety and I certainly do not have bipolar disorder. It is then that I see that my daydream is not more than my actual life. In fact, it is my life how it is, maybe a little less shy and more outgoing, but it still is my life. The gears in my head start turning. If my daydream is, essentially, no more different from my actual day-to-day life… I glance at the razors and pills. I pick one up and swallow it down.