Contains mild peril
“Traynard. You know why they call me Traynard? Because I train fucking hard. Watch me do muscle ups.”
Traynard gripped the pull up bar and began leveraging himself. One, two, twenty muscle ups, each sounded out with a breathless ‘yeah’. He bounced back to the ground. “I’m in heat. I’m in heat, baby. Bark bark. And what was it that you wanted?”
“I,” Bobby raised his index finger then let it fall. “You had a client once, a Mrs. Frobisher – well she’s lost her cat, and she thinks you might know something about it.”
“That old witch? Calves of Steel, I used to call her. She should have been in ballet. Yeah, I moonlighted as her personal trainer for a summer. Last summer. What of it?”
“Her cat,” Bobby repeated. “Pebbles went missing two weeks ago, and-”
“The moneyed Miss Havisham’s got her private investigator on the scent? Is that it?”
“I’m her careworker,” Bobby explained.
Traynard did bicep curls while surveying the gym. Maintaining a sidelong Greek posture, he turned his gaze and took stock of Bobby.
“She won’t take her meds. All she does is lay in bed and doomscroll Nextdoor.”
Traynard dropped the dumbbell and beckoned as he walked. They squeezed as one through the entranceway silo, Bobby piggybacking on Traynard’s fobscan, and Traynard wiped his brow out on the curb.
“Look,” Traynard said. “I like you.” The way he said it made Bobby think he didn’t like him, and the conversation ended there. He followed Traynard down the subway and onto a platform, and then they were on the tube, Traynard lowering lazily over Bobby with his palms pressed against the carriage ceiling. Bobby was enveloped in mansweat and Gatorade.
“Your nan,” the man said, “has two screws loose. The woman is mad. I won’t fall for the ‘poor little bereft’ card, because I know her ways.”
“I’m her careworker, not her grandson,” Bobby said. “And you’re being awfully defensive.”
The train rattled on in shims and shucks, bucking the passengers. Bobby gripped again his sweaty ration of the central pole, and the outstretched arms of other commuters reached to claim and keep their pole real estate too.
“This is bull,” Traynard prognosticated out of nowhere.
“I know about these things. It’s in the air, not that there’s any air down here. Come on. We’ll go ’a jog.”
The train skidded to a stop at the next station, and Bobby found himself being ushered out onto the platform by Traynard. A mass of people were rushing past them onto the tube. Traynard steered him up the steps from behind, with his hands crimping and massing Bobby’s shoulders. It made him feel lecherous and powerful, and after Traynard desisted and broke ahead, the feeling faded, of being his new companion’s nominee for The ManTM.
Bobby hadn’t quite known what was going on, and then he caught the tannoy down below warning of backed-up trains and a long wait on the platform. Traynard was already jogging in situ when Bobby crested the subway steps.
“Fuckin’ underground, eh? My place is a mile in this direction,” he said, casting a huge arm down the thoroughfare. “If you want to play car snooker on the way, I’m down.”
They started off along the road and pavement, jogging between obstacles and Traynard setting the pace.
“So you and … Mrs Frobisher … the cat … what’s happened?”
“I’m not gonna be shoehorned into the criminal role here, Bobby.”
“So you do, wheeze, have a hand in Pebbles’ disappearance?”
“I know where she went.”
“Where she wha…h-as…kidnapped to?”
“Yet again, a leading question. Rich in insults, poor in cardio. That’s your deal, huh?”
They sailed through an odiferous cloud of curry spice and dodged the queue for a streetfood marquee, then after a cornucopia of trestle tables, woks and polystyrene trays, Traynard hung a sharp left.
“We can detour,” he said, and took them straight into a dingy alleyway.
It was cold and smelly. A stray cat perched atop a Biffa bin glared meanly as they passed.
“What is this place?” Bobby would have said, but he was putting all of his attention into not fainting.
“Almost there,” Traynard shouted, and rolled his arm in an ‘onward’ motion as they careened out of the alleyway. Soon they were pulling up outside a swing door, and they went inside, past letterboxes, up a stairwell and through a door labelled ‘The Warren’. They stepped into a plushly carpeted lounge, and Traynard tossed his keys on the loveseat.
“Warren honey, I’m home!” he yelled, and walked through into the kitchen area. Bobby just stared at the rabbit figurines adorning the side table.
He felt a squeeze on his shoulder, and then Traynard appeared by his side and scooped up a rabbit-themed mug from the collection. He plopped himself on the loveseat, placed the mug on the table and poured protein shake straight into it. Then he gulped it all down in one go, and finished with a rattling burp as a second well-biceped man appeared through the bedroom door.
“Well excuse you,” said Warren, and gave Bobby a pantomime scowl as Traynard got up and they kissed.
“Good workout,” Traynard chimed, “and it’s got me all riled up. I’m in heat,” he giggled. “I’m also literally in Heat,” he told Bobby, and tossed from the table a yellowed copy which, Bobby catching it, came open on a feature about a sort of Crufts-for-cats competition and the profiles of the judges. “Bobby here is old Mrs. Frobisher’s grandson, and is very worried about Pebbles.”
“Is that so?” drawled Warren. “I think somebody should pay a visit to Ms. Tran over the hall.”
“Indubitably,” said Traynard, and walked over to the side table where a key was sat in a ceramic rabbit hutch box. He fished it out and pushed it into Bobby’s hand.
Bobby stared at the key. “What is this? Look, I’m not looking for any kind of trouble, or…ambush. Mrs. Frobisher told me she’d had a funny feeling about you when you were personal training her. Said you kept getting intently distracted by Pebbles. And though you obviously know something about it you’re not letting on, so just-”
“Ms. Tran, honey,” Warren soothed. “She’s usually too zen to answer the door, but she makes up for it by being communal with her keys, and very receptive to unexpected entries. She’s cool like that.”
Bobby swallowed into a dry throat and thumbed the key. And then, soundtracked by the silent reassuring nods of the pair, he turned and left the Warren, and paced over to the door opposite.
He placed the key in the lock and slowly creaked it ajar. It smelled like a burnt roast. He tiptoed over the threshold and into an identically sized lounge, made up more modestly than the Warren, with gun-metal marshmellow poofs around a sleek glass tabletop. An unlit incense burner and several wooden brushes populated the table. A set of certificates were framed on the wall.
Bobby crept through to the kitchen where the burning smell was strongest. He approached the pot bubbling on the stove, and through the lid saw what looked like a furry head. Bobby inched closer and spotted eyes and ears.
His head started to spin, and he steadied himself against the counter while keeping his gaze on the hob. Then he felt fingers kneading gently into his shoulders and snapped around.
“Well hello there, little one,” chirped a leathery woman a full foot shorter than him.
“What have you done?” yelled Bobby. “What have you done? Why have you killed Pebbles?”
“What?” said Ms. Tran, and her tone put Bobby on the defensive. “Are we really doing this?”
“I’m Vietnamese, that’s dog’s head, and you’re culturally insensitive.”
“I don’t believe you,” said Bobby. “Show me Pebbles right now.”
“Pebbles is right here,” she crooned softly, and a small black cat padded into the kitchen on cue. “You’re Pebbles, aren’t you?” she gushed, affecting the rich dum-dum tone of a mother with her baby. He bent to grab her immediately, and as he lowered, he lowered further, pressure digging into his shoulder from Ms. Tran’s expert grip. He wilted to the tiles, head still spinning, then put his back to the kitchen cupboards and managed to draw his knees up.
“What is this,” offered hollow.
“You’re Pebbles, aren’t you?” she continued, stooping and gathering the cat in her arms. Bobby rested his head against the cupboards and stared blankly at another wall-mounted certificate. He made out ‘UK Ad Awards’ in gilt.
Ms. Tran was looking at him soberly. “Pebbles is one of the most beautiful cats I’ve ever seen,” she murmured. “And I’m not letting you take her away from me. You can blame Traynard for the tip-off, blame me as the source, but this is money, little one. This lady is going places. Do you know how competitive those cat food ads are? How cutthroat the casting? And how lush,” she stroked Pebbles, “the paycheck for a supremely photogenic cat?”
Bobby closed his eyes.
“You don’t,” she said. “You wouldn’t.” And then, enveloped in the hazy blackness, Bobby heard a lock. He opened his eyes and, framed by the kitchen doorway, Warren was there with his hand on the apartment knob.
“You’ll need to convince Mrs. Frobisher to forget about Pebbles,” Ms. Tran said.
Learning of my roots
Only heightens my desire
To blossom beyond all points of burial,
All this life hidden from recognition.
I will be the stem
If not the truth telling flower
I will be the mirror
If not the deepest reached reflection
We are raising generations of hopeless spectators. We pile them into classrooms, walls filled with
posters about active listening, academic achievement, and success. We promise them a future filled
with hope. We say: Meet these standards and you will receive a piece of paper that means you are
qualified. This piece of paper is your entry into $100K student loan debt, which you must do if you wish to
succeed (this is the only way), and 4 years later you will receive another piece of paper.
Welcome to Adulting. Or rather, welcome to Depression. According to the United Health
Foundation, suicide is the second-leading cause of death for American teens. Despite that, our current
educative focus is behavior management. We treat students, specifically students of color, as a danger
to the outside world. We argue that they must stay within our walls, within our prison cells, so they do
not wreak havoc elsewhere. We convince ourselves and each other that these walls, these cells, are
better than the “real” ones, the ones that come with prison-wear and death sentences. Perhaps there is
another way, one filled with alternatives and revolutions we can make on a daily basis: providing an
education not of and for spectators, but agents.
In Democracy and Education, John Dewey writes of the “difference in the attitude of a spectator and
of an agent or participant.” For Dewey, a spectator has an attitude of indifference towards the world, a
disposition of neutrality about decisions. Spectators are not change-makers. Spectators are conformists.
Meanwhile, agents take an active interest in their environments, deeply intertwined in the chain of
events that occur because agents are change-makers. Agents create catalysts. Agents are catalysts
When we think of education in the most theoretical sense, we might think of the acquisition of
knowledge. We are committed to attaining knowledge, truth, facts, statistics, and imparting these on
others. We want solutions to all problems to appear before us on paper and we want these to be
simple. Black and white. Lacking in complexity, depth, and complication. This is what we consider
correct. Consequently, we teach our students accordingly. We place them in classrooms filled with
depthless notions of success, futures, hopes they may never attain. We give them bathroom passes with
a maximum count of 5 minutes per break. Only one student at a time in the bathroom per floor because
we don’t trust them to hold conversations with one another that are productive or useful (we decide
what is productive and useful).
We treat our students like lab rats. We treat them like bodies that are merely objects on a conveyor
belt. American schools are factories producing the same product. We sell conformity and we sell it well.
Indifference. We are creating people who are passive spectators in their worlds, who are pushed along
the conveyor belt automatically, and enact our demands without further thought. Yet there is thought
that could be cultivated if we encouraged it. As a teacher, I heard more innovation from my 12 th grade
students in projects for making a positive difference towards sustainability and environmental justice
than I have ever heard from the world’s politicians. These ideas were stifled by administration as a
fruitless focus. “Please focus on the curriculum and prepare the students for success in their
standardized tests, Ms. Rosario.”
My students wanted to change the world, but were also acutely aware that the world they were so
actively trying to change was not a world for them. And how could it be? When they were pushed along
the hallways of a crowded urban building, lined with security guards at every entrance, hallway passes
as access to food, community, shelter, and the very education we preach we give so freely. For Dewey, a
spectator “is like a man in a prison cell watching the rain out of the window; it is all the same to him.”
My students felt the control over their bodies and minds in this way. As a teacher, I felt equally stifled
and suffocated – attempting to have fruitful conversations about consent, about free will, about agency,
about the right to our bodies – a feminist classroom in which we feel free and comfortable to discuss
solutions and challenges without the capitalist need to produce more and more in order to prove our
right to exist.
I want to raise a generation of agents. My students already are agents of their own bodies and
minds. They already have ideas, they are already catalysts for change, they are enthusiastic and
compassionate and caring when they walk into our educative spaces. We are responsible, as educators,
as adults, for their imprisonment, their neutrality, their violence against themselves and others, their
helplessness and hopelessness.
The real death sentence is an education that does not enable agency. The real death sentence is
imparted by us every single day as we blame a generation of children for our own faults and our own
suffering. Because the real truth, the one we can’t swallow, is that we are the spectators. We are
indifferent, neutral, stifled, suffocating ourselves in our sense of complacency, forcing future
generations to follow our lead.
1. Declarative Sentences
My cat carries an unknown blue rag around in her mouth and throws it into a bowl of fresh milk. She likes taking and flaunting objects on walks around the house and yard. She eats her food by taking it out of the bowl with her paw, and putting it either on my unimpressed feet or on the innocent carpet. The good thing perhaps, is that she gifts me an assortment of things, including live locusts, praying mantises and wriggling worms. She does not chew them. She wraps her paws around my wondering leg too.
2. Interrogative Sentences
How does it feel, after carrying unknown rags into the house, and flinging them into bowls of milk? What type of cat would take and flaunt objects in front of its owner, the TV, the mirror, the sofa and literally everything else in the house? Would that cat sleep soundly and blissfully after committing such crimes? Where`s decency there? Who does she think she is—a boss of sorts? Why doesn’t she eat her food from the bowl? Is that too much to ask? When does she clean the carpet? Why does her friend seem to be impressed with and enamored by all these antics?
3. Imperative Sentences
Little cat, your cat friend marveled at you when you carried a blue rag, as if saying, have fun dear friend! Well, well-wishing you! Come to my place and take some more rags! What an invitation! My instruction is: refrain from bringing foreign objects into my house, including your friend! I command you not to ever again gift me scary live locusts, praying mantis and worms! Stop forthwith! OK, maybe I`ve sounded too harsh—please don’t give me such scary gifts. My request is: please don’t chase away your friend! He seems to adore you from heaven to earth and back. You`re fortunate. He probably gives you gifts of cloths and all. That`s my humble and harmless observation.
4. Exclamatory Sentences
What do you think you`re doing?! Taking me on a tour of the house, carrying strange rags? Goodness Gracious, you`re sneaky and accumulative! Hey there`s no more space for your objects in my house! I can`t believe that your friend thinks you`re the smartest and cutest cat around! No wonder he likes purring, chewing his tongue and sucking his nipples! I bet my last dollar, no hair will grow there! Let me park it here! Oh, already you`re walking away with your friend, paw-in paw! The cozy twosome, have a good hangout! I`ll miss you! Actually, already missing you! After eating out, you`re free to come back and burp in my face as usual!!
There was a deep dirty darkness you could almost smell.
Far away, a suggestion of a scream. Then the sound of feet scuffling on gravel. Someone was following me!
I had to get away. I ran with the clumsiness of a toddler chasing a beach ball… my heart jumping around like it was trying to escape … Running, faster, faster, my mouth opening to gasp in the dank dark air that caught in my throat like soot … my eyes open wide, staring like a lunatic and sprinting stupidly towards the screaming, which got louder and louder and higher and higher until it made me wince and stop and start to cry… Stop, stop, stop …
The nightmare had lived in my head since I left her. It came calling every few months, injecting me with a virus of fear. It would settle deeper inside over time, and I could pretend it wasn’t there. But not for long.
I’m hunched in the window seat at the back of the last carriage of the 2350 from London Euston to Glasgow Central: just me and my ghostly reflection in the black window.
As the train pulls away, I pull the tray down on the seat back next to me and plant my paper cup of dark coffee there, pressing it down hard as if that might intimidate it into staying still. Next to it, the script I’m learning, and my phone– the friend that sits at my bedside, waiting to soothe me with Enya.
It’s a bit like a baby’s dummy, and there are times when my reliance on it makes me feel sadly inadequate. But a smartphone is good for my image, and image is everything.
‘Your face is your fortune,’ as my agent, the lovely Rachel, keeps telling me. She has a cliché for every occasion, but she finds work for me, so I forgive her. If she could only see my face in double vision now, though, pale and distorted through two layers of thick train glass. I look a nightmare.
But at least I’m relatively relaxed. Being on a journey means you hand over responsibility for time. It relieves the pressure, somehow. Tonight has a beginning and an ending, and tomorrow is going to bring me the best part I’ve ever had. As long as I stay in character…
The train screamed and it was like being hit by a wall as a thousand tons of metal squeezed through the narrow black tunnel, making the air explode; the pressure built up in my ears, and then I was being pushed from behind and I put my hands out to stop my head butting the seat in front, and there was the squeal of metal on metal … it was pushing me, pushing me, lifting me, up, over, over, and I was weightless, and – there was someone in the carriage! Coming towards me, feet scuffling …
I looked out of the bedroom window in the early hours a few mornings ago, and saw a man pushing a baby buggy. He could have been carrying the proceeds of a robbery for all I knew, but I preferred to believe it was a baby and it was the only way he could get the brat to shut up and go to sleep.
Ghostly-faced after yet another sleepless night alone, I spent the following evening cocooned in my own version of the buggy - the one that glides up the tracks from London to arrive in Glasgow in time for breakfast. I read, I dozed, I chilled. Most of all, by the time I got to Glasgow, I was me again, whatever that is.
And now here I am again …
The carriage doors sighed and slid apart as she made her entrance. Then, as they closed behind her, they created a vortex that caught her shoulder length dark hair and blew it round her face like a scarf. She reached to swipe it back into place and walked slowly down the carriage towards me, swaying. Her eyes were fixed on mine, and she was smiling. As she got nearer, more details came into focus.
She was tall, and graceful.
Her dark hair shone almost as much as her dark eyes. She wore a bright blue uniform and her white shirt had two buttons undone, revealing a silver heart pendant that caught the light like a disco ball.
She wore pink lipstick and her perfume smelled fresh, like a flower meadow.
Her name badge said Kathryn...
Kathryn smiled and asked if I would mind showing her my ticket. As I produced it from my shirt pocket, I said, rather too cheesily: ‘Are we the only people on this train?’
‘Apart from the driver, you mean?’
‘Oh yes, forgot about him.’
‘Sorry, her …’
She punched a hole in my ticket.
‘No, there are actually quite a few people travelling with us tonight. Most of them are in first class, right down at the front. You’re lucky, you’ve got all this space to yourself.’
‘Yes, well, you’re here now, and I don’t mind sharing. Sorry you had such a long walk to find me.’
She looked at her watch, and sat on the arm of the seat across the aisle. As she spoke, the sigh of the train faded into the background.
‘I hope you don’t mind me asking, but – well, when we were doing the handover, my colleague said you were a regular, and – well, you know, you don’t look like a businessman …’
‘So, you’ve got the job of finding out why.’
‘Sorry, but, well, it is a bit unusual.’
‘I suppose I like travelling. It relaxes me. There’s a café in Glasgow that does the best breakfast in the world. University Café… you should try it.’ I paused to let that sink in: ‘Why not have breakfast with me?’
Her look told me she was interested. I knew what my look was telling her.
‘What do you do for a living?’
‘An actor? Really? Should I know you?’
‘Probably not. Listen, I’m sorry. That thing about breakfast was a bit cheesy, even for me. I expect you think I’m a weirdo…’
She laughed..‘Well, if you are, so am I. I spend my whole life going backwards and forwards on trains. And … yeah, breakfast sounds nice …’
She checked her watch, and told me she had to go. I gave her my best curtain call smile and watched her walk away. We must have been doing 70 miles an hour together, but every move she made seemed slow.
Six rows of seats down, she turned and smiled.
‘I’ll see you later,’ she called.
I was drifting, lost in Orinoco Flow, shaken gently as the train found the imperfections in the track, picking up speed after pausing for breath at Preston; the streetlights of the suburbs crossing the dark matter of my window like shooting stars.
The carriage grew warmer and my eyes grew heavier. I felt the tension break like a slow wave at low tide, flowing out, down through my feet and soaking into the carpet.
Enya was telling me to ‘sail away, sail away, sail away.’And slowly, the train ceased to exist. There was just me … smiling, drooling and goo-ing, rocking and swaying into the deep, dark tunnel of sleep… so black, so quiet …
Enya was singing in my ear: ‘We can sigh, say goodbye’ and I felt a nudge on my shoulder,
like a pillow in the wrong place. I changed position and batted an eye open.
‘Are you all right?’
‘Yes. Are you?’
‘You were making a noise, like you were having a dream, or something.’
‘Tea? Coffee? Sandwich?’
I opened the other eye and sat up dutifully, like a patient taking medicine. ‘Just coffee, thanks.’
‘Were you having a nightmare?’
‘I don’t think so. ’
‘Well, if you don’t think so, it can’t have been one.’
‘You’re right.’ I took the white paper cup from her. ‘Was I really making a noise?’
‘Sorry. It started when I left my wife, you know … I have these dreams. Always the same. A tunnel…’
She pointlessly checked the change in the drawer of her trolley.
‘Oh dear. Sorry. Don’t worry. I get used to it. People do the strangest things on trains. You wouldn’t believe…’
She closed the drawer.
‘We’ll be arriving in Glasgow in about an hour.’
‘An hour? I must have been asleep forever.’
‘Well, not quite. I came to see you two hours ago and you were sleeping so I didn’t disturb you.’
‘That was kind.’ I felt the kick of coffee. ‘Made your mind up about breakfast?’
She gave me a smile that said yes. It was quite convincing. But… there’s always a but, isn’t there?
‘I have to steward the return trip, so I won’t have time. The person who was going to do it is off sick.’
She was acting, and I was impressed. I smiled and said no problem, maybe next time. I watched her push the trolley away. The doors sighed and closed behind her like stage curtains.
Now I have just enough time to drink the coffee, absorb the play, concentrate - to keep driving the character deeper inside. It’s my only hope.
The train window brightens and the landscape gains definition, but I close my eyes. I can’t win the audition if I’m reading my lines from the script. I have to learn them, make them part of me; make them my own words.
Our speed drops, and the emotionless drone of the recorded voice tells us that we shall shortly be arriving at our destination.
I wait impatiently for the train door to unlock and then I am out onto a platform as wide as a runway, and Kathryn is gliding towards me, brushing her long black hair off her face, smiling that smile.
‘Breakfast?’ she said.
‘But I thought …’
‘All sorted. She’s turned up after all. So –‘
‘You’re ready now?’
‘Not quite. Got some clearing up to do first. But I can be there in about 25 minutes.’
‘Well – great.’
This was too good to be true. I held her hand and she moved in close. It felt good, but she pulled away.
‘No, not here. See you soon.’
We squeezed together on a burgundy leather bench seat. I ate a full breakfast and she had a bacon roll, and we talked. Later, as we sipped tea from heavy white cups, she pointed to the play script I was studying when she arrived.
‘What is it about?’
‘A man who has nightmares when he leaves his wife; about being in a tunnel. He can only find peace when he’s travelling by train. Then he falls in love with a train stewardess, but – well … they don’t live happily ever after.’
‘Yes, very good. Now tell me what it’s really about.’
‘That is what it’s about. That’s the play. They’re putting it on here and I’m auditioning. It’s called Journey into the Dark.’
‘But – hang on… that’s what you told me. That’s you - you are that person …’
She looked wonderful as the confusion clouded her face. She would have made a great leading lady, but I knew the next few lines of dialogue would be our last.
‘Well, thank you. I’m glad I was convincing... I’ve spent the last few weeks living the part, trying to get into the character. I’ve been depriving myself of sleep, and I’ve been taking train rides to help me get into the character. Meeting you last night was so perfect – it’s exactly what happens in the play. I really need this part, Kathryn. It could make me, set me up…’
She managed to look stunned and stunning at the same time.
‘Set me up, you mean. You’ve just been using me! I’m playing a bloody part! You’re dead right, there is no happily ever after. For God’s sake!’
She delivered the line perfectly, and walked out. I drank the last of my tea and stepped outside to phone home.
‘Wish me luck, darling.’
‘Good luck. Good journey?’
‘Yes, perfect, thanks. Set me up nicely. Got to go. We start soon.’
‘Well, break a leg.’
‘Everything all right?’
‘I never sleep when you’re not here. I miss you. It’s been ages. What about you?’
‘Slept like a baby. I always sleep on the train. Bye darling. I’ll phone you when it’s over. If you still want me to…’
‘You know I just want you to come back home. You’ve been away too long. Phone me when you’ve got the part …?’
‘Yes. I will. It’s weird … Something tells me I’ve got it already.’
The girl made from honey and glass
Living life like an unfinished painting
The hair that shines
Eyes that sparkle
Skin that looks like the sun was poured onto her
That sweet smile
A sacharine scene
She leaves the taste of warmth and burnt sugar on
She leaves you wanting more
Craving her sweetness
You long to drown in honey
But that’s the thing with glass
Touch her too hard and she will shatter
Fragility and femininity
Splintering into pieces
The sugar turns to ash
The warmth grows cold
All that’s left is embers of amber
And walking across fragmented glass and tar-like
The girl you so longed for is nothing more than a
carcass of broken glass
Where the flies make their home
Your disillusion with this flawed illusion
Your misconception of perfect perception
Girls made from honey and glass are not real
The glass breaks
The honey congeals
Your heart aches
Keep chasing glass-like perfection that drips in
Your dream induced sugar overload
I am not made of honey and glass
I don’t have a perfect complexion
I lack perfection
But I exist in reality
I will be strong
Impossible to break
Keep your girl made from honey and glass
It was the summer of 1993 and Keilani and I sat by the crackling fire as the bullfrogs croaked a sonorous symphony, the grass swayed from a whispering breeze, and the stars zipped in different directions across the vast night sky.
“What a weekend,” Keilani said, resting her hands on the back of her jet-black hair.
“Rad like a cat wearing sunglasses,” I said.
“Satisfying like spelling Sriracha right on the first try,” Keilani said.
That was our thing. One of our things. In fact, when you’ve known someone since the age of five, you amass a lot of things.
I leaned in toward the warmth of the fire, took a deep breath, and prepared to tell Keilani something that I hesitated to tell her all summer. “I decided I’m not going to Northwestern.”
“What?” Keilani asked.
“I’ve thought about it a lot and I just don’t think college is for me,” I answered.
“But we had it all planned out,” Keilani said. “Together.”
“I’m so terrified of tossing four years away,” I said. “And going into debt forever.”
“Why did you wait until the last minute to tell me?” Keilani asked. “You always do that, and it drives me crazy.”
“It’s not the last minute,” I said.
“That’s another thing you do,” Keilani said. “I know it’s not literally the last minute, but you just have this affinity for suddenly dipping out on plans.”
“Like when?” I asked.
“Remember when you didn’t even show up to your own birthday party? The party that I organized!”
“I had the flu!”
Keilani stood up. “And the time you said you would pick me up from my dentist appointment and didn’t show up?”
“I had a panic attack about driving in downtown traffic,” I said. “I had just gotten my license!”
“I had to use a pay phone while half of my mouth was numb!”
Keilani tossed another log onto the fire and a flurry of sparks burst into the air.
“I’m sorry,” I said.
Keilani sat back down, fanned the smoke away from her eyes, and brushed the ashes off her sweatshirt. “I’m going to miss you. That’s all.”
“I’m going to miss you too,” I said.
“So what do you plan on doing?” Keilani asked.
“I want to save the world.”
“Like Wonder Woman?”
“No,” I said. “I keep having these dreams about rainforests losing their color and oceans warping into garbage dumps. I want to try and do something. I’m just not sure what yet.”
“Maybe someday there will be an invention that allows us to see each other’s lives from far away,” Keilani said.
“Sure,” I said. “And maybe Blockbuster will go out of business!”
We both laughed until we snorted.
Keilani reached over and grabbed my hand. “We’ll still look up at the same moon,” she said.
I wondered if I’d ever have a moment with Keilani like this again. “What a weekend,” I said.
Keilani sighed. “Over too soon like a Prince song.”
About the Authors
Will Abbott is a creative writer, journalist and occasional animator currently based in Maidenhead. He takes inspiration from writers like Donald Barthelme and Terry Pratchett.”
matthew vaughn is a writer, performer, and overall creative, hailing from Central Ohio. Through his songwriting, poetry, hip hop emceeing, and overall unique approach to creation, vaughn has successfully made room for himself in every space he's entered since hitting his local poetry scene at 17 years young. Now at 23, matthew vaughn has self-published two books and released 6 musical projects across streaming platforms, the most recent of both being titled All These Words, and was selected for the inaugural James Baldwin Writers' Colony located at Kasteel Well, Limburg, The Netherlands. With many more accomplishments to come, vaughn expresses much gratitude to The Most High and all artists who've contributed to his ascension.
Staysi Rosario is a life-long philosopher, educator, and book-lover. She graduated in 2021 with a Master of Arts in Philosophy and Education from Columbia University Teachers College. Her passion is to inhabit formal and informal educative spaces in her daily life that will be fruitful to herself and others. As a Dominican woman, mental health awareness and liberation narratives for people of color are at the forefront of her practice. To follow her literary journey, check out her Instagram page: @bookishlynyc
Ndaba Sibanda is the author of Notes, Themes, Things And Other Things, The Gushungo Way, Sleeping Rivers, Love O’clock, The Dead Must Be Sobbing, Football of Fools, Cutting-edge Cache, Of the Saliva and the Tongue, When Inspiration Sings In Silence, The Way Forward, Sometimes Seasons Come With Unseasonal Harvests, As If They Minded:The Loudness Of Whispers, This Cannot Be Happening :Speaking Truth To Power, The Dangers Of Child Marriages:Billions Of Dollars Lost In Earnings And Human Capital, The Ndaba Jamela and Collections and Poetry Pharmacy. Sibanda's work has received Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominations. Some of his work has been translated into Serbian.
"I was born in Stalybridge, near Manchester, and so nerdy my ambition was to become a diplomat. But I spotted an ad for a journalism training course and jumped at it. It was right out of character, and the best decision I ever made, because it gave me the confidence to deal with people, and earn a living from doing what I have always enjoyed - writing.
I worked for several provincial newspapers before swapping sides and moving into public sector PR in Southampton, Harrow, and Barnet.
My other key moment came when I set myself up as a consultant, living on the Isle of Wight, where we used to come for family holidays. Over time, I eased out of full time work, and founded Origins Theatre; writing our plays, and often appearing in them too.
The writing bug has never left me, and after graduating with a BA Hons in Literature through the Open University, I began to explore writing fiction, including short stories.
I wrote my first crime fiction novel about three years ago. It's called Every Reason. My new book - Whatever It Takes - is the second in the series. The third, Retribution, is being published in the summer. My collection of short stories set on the Isle of Wight is due to be published soon, too."
Tahys Rodriguez is a poet and theatre-maker based in Brighton. She enjoys combining these two mediums which allowa for her visual and visceral style of poetry. Tahys wants to share stories and feelings that everyone can relate to.
Zach Murphy is a Hawaii-born writer with a background in cinema. His stories appear in Reed Magazine, Ginosko Literary Journal, The Coachella Review, Mystery Tribune, Ruminate, B O D Y, Wilderness House Literary Review, Flash: The International Short-Short Story Magazine, and more. His debut chapbook Tiny Universes (Selcouth Station Press, 2021) is available in paperback and e-book. He lives with his wonderful wife Kelly in St. Paul, Minnesota.