"I wish I was never born. I wish I wasn't born in this body. I wish my shoulders weren't so skinny. I wish my knees weren't shaped so freakishly on the sides. I wish I didn't have hip dips. I wish I didn't have freckles or this ginger hair. I wish my heart didn't ache with every emotion. I wish I was lovable. I wish I had somebody to love."
I'd recite that every single day and night hoping for something to change. Of course, nothing ever did change. Nobody interested me, and nobody was interested in me.
Today, I didn't recite it. It's the first day of my junior year. I don't want to get up. I really don't. Please, please don't make me. Please don't-
Loud knocking came from outside of my door and made me jump. "Robyn, I know you're awake. Get up." It was my dad. "Can I lay down for a few more minutes? I'll get ready quick-" He slammed his fist against my door to interrupt me. "This is why I told you to go to sleep earlier. Get the fuck up." I could hear the floorboards creaking as he walked away, then him plopping down on that broken leather recliner. He's the one who broke it, not me. Dick.
I sighed and sat up to stretch, immediately falling back down. I love when I stretch like this. Well, until I get a charlie horse. Ouch. I got out of bed and felt a bit dizzy.
I should probably drink more water, now that I think of it. Maybe my lips would be more moist. I hate that word. Moist. Moist lips. I'd like that word on another girl, though.
I grabbed my brush and began to run the bristles through my hair. Despite its color, I love how its wavy and curly texture balances out. It's lovely, isn't it? Especially my fringe. I might fall in love with myself.
I went into my bathroom and washed my face. My eyes feel so weird when I get water in them. It's like the water dries my eyes out. Doesn't water make things wet? I aspire to be like water. I don't wanna make someone's eyes wet, but other places are good.
Sitting back down at my desk, I applied my moisturizer. I won't hide my freckles this year, but only because it takes too much time. I applied my mascara slowly, both on my top and bottom lashes. I only put one or two coats because I already have long lashes. It's the only thing I like about my face aside from my eyes and lips. My nose is cute, but it's too small.
I smeared lip gloss on my lips and touched them to feel how smooth they were. I think I put too much. Oh, well, the more the merrier. So very merry. Shut up.
I slid my golden hoop earrings through my ears. I don't remember the last time I wore these. I should more, though.
"Robyn, hurry up. School starts in twenty minutes!" Dad yelled. My heart dropped like a rollercoaster. Why am I anxious? It only takes a few minutes to get to school. I hate emotions.
I dressed myself in my favorite sage green dress and my chunky brown socks. These converse are really beat up, but they'll have to do. I put my golden cross necklace that my dad makes me wear on and grabbed my bag. It has a few notebooks, pencils and brightly colored pens. This'll help with doodles. Well, preferably my notes that I won't take.
I went out into the living room and saw my dad drinking a beer while watching gold. Why do they play golf so early in the morning? Get a life.
"Are you gonna drive me?" I asked anxiously. "Ride the bike." He said, not even turning my way to speak to his own daughter. "Can you drive me tomorrow?"
"How many fucking questions are you gonna ask me? Can't you see I'm busy?" He exclaimed, turning his head towards me angrily. Busy? Sure, fuckface. "Fine." I said and slammed the house door by accident on the way out. I hurried onto my bike and peddled away so I didn't have to hear him yelling anymore.
Somehow, it was still dark. The street lights were still on. What little sun there was shined into my eye. I know I look good in the sun. It shows how amber my eyes are.
I continued down the street for a few minutes while breathing in the crisp air. Such a nice feeling in my lungs. I felt my boob because there was suddenly an itchy feeling in my lung. I have nice tits. Not too big, but they're decently sized.
I got to school and chained my bike up. I walked through the doors and smelled that new school smell. I love that smell but it gives me anxiety. We went and got my schedule a few days ago, so I think I have Algebra first. Great.
I took the first staircase by the door to the second floor. I had to stay in this class for study hall sometimes, so I know where it is. I hope Mr. Graves doesn't still teach in that class.
He does. I walked through the door and looked around the classroom. Travis used to pick on me here. God, he was hideous.
"Ms. Feyer! It's great to have you back. How's your summer been?" Mr. Graves asked and stuck out his hand. I smiled and shook his hand. "It's been eventful. I'm glad a teacher I know is my first period so it isn't awkward!" I was lying through my teeth. This is awkward.
"Your seat's over there in the row before the last one. The third one. Is that good?" I stared at him and at my seat, then back at him. "Yup, all good!" It was not all fucking good. I don't want that seat, but I know he won't change it.
I sat down at my seat and looked at my desk to see my name written beautifully in cursive. Robyn Feyer. That made me smile a little, seeing my name written so carefully yet in such a swift and violent motion. You can tell how quickly he wrote it, yet so very elegantly. What a sight.
I looked around at the other desks to see what kind of people they could be based off of their names. To my right, there was a Jennifer Jones. Jennifer Jones. I like that name. It's simple, but the first and last name complement each other. The way the J's have that little curl and how round the O is.
"Ya like it?" I heard a deep, raspy feminine voice booming down on me from above. I look up to see a medium-haired blondie who had a lovely color of pink at the tips of her hair. Her hazel eyes were staring into mine. The bridge of her nose was broad, and her cheeks were soft yet bold. She had a septum piercing and a lip piercing. Her lips were a light pink color which complimented her pale skin. Her lips were big. Moist lips. Oh, and she's tall.. she's fucking hot.
Her eyebrows raised and leaned in a little. "Anyone home?" I stuttered and blinked a bit. I could feel my face turning red. I fixed my posture and cleared my throat. "I'm sorry, I zoned out. I assume you're Jennifer?" I said. I'm so nervous.
"No need to be formal, weirdo!" She sat down in her chair. I looked at her outfit. Oh my.
She was wearing an opened brown flannel, a white tank top.. a tank top.. oh, I cannot look there. I continued looking down and saw she was wearing black, ripped cargo pants. She has the same shoes as me. Huh.
"You sure do zone out a lot. My name's, obviously, Jennifer, but I prefer Jenny." She stuck her hand out. What's with everyone wanting to shake my hand-
Oh. Her fingers are long. Her hand is so boney and big, and the rings she's wearing fit her outfit perfectly. My fucking god. I shook her hand and looked at her. She smiled at me and tightened her grip. Such a firm grasp. Oh, and her teeth. They're beautiful. They're so big and her canines are sharp. I bet it'd hurt if she bit me.
"Don't be shy, bro. I don't bite." I wish you did. "I'm not shy, just a little anxious. It's nice to meet you, Jenny. I'm Robyn." She scooted her chair over to my desk and read my nametag. "Ooo, Mr. Graves can make names look like art. Robyn Feyer. Niiice." She's so close. She smells amazing. The way my name rolls off her tongue is.. I can't even think of a word. Fuck.
"I was thinking the same. His handwriting is lovely." You're lovely.
"Right? Damn, I wanna write like that! Too bad this is a fucking math class. Having math first period is baaad luck." She said while scooting back to her desk.
"Wait, come back." Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. "Okay, Ms. Needy." She said jokingly and scooted back. "I just can't hear very well." Is that really the best you could come up with? Fucking idiot. I hate you.
"I'm pretty loud, but I'll follow your orders, Ms. Needy." She said and tapped my desk in a rhythmatic way. Oooh, she's loud.
"What's your middle name?" She asked suddenly. "Mae." I said in a quiet voice. "Mae? Robyn Mae Feyer. That's a pretty name. Who the hell named you, I gotta meet 'em!" She said excitingly.
"What's your middle name?" I repeated her question in attept to change the subject. "Oh, it's fucking Mill. Weird ass name, huh?" She said and laughed, laying her head on my desk. "Jenny Mill Jones. Huh." I said approvingly. "Well, when you say my full name, it sounds better. Except when you say Jennifer Mill Jones. Sounds goofy." She's right. Why did she emphasize the "you", though? I guess she likes my voice. I like mine too, it's rather stern yet feminine.
But.. she's so close. I just met her, so why do I feel like this? She groaned and sat up, stretching her arms. Her legs and arms are so long. I poked her side. She jumped and giggled. Her laugh is adorable. She poked my cheek.
I'm smiling. I'm fucking smiling. "There's that smile! You're really pretty." My heart, oh, my poor heart. It hurts so bad. "You're pretty too-"
"Alright, class is starting, kids." Goddamnit. Jenny looked at Mr. Graves and scooted back to her desk. Her backpack is cool. It's the color of my dress, but more like a sack than a backpack. Huh. She opened it and looked at all the notebooks she brought. They were all different colors. Red, blue, green, yellow, purple, and black. She chose the red one. Thank god.
I got out my red notebook and carefully wrote "Math" on the front with my red pen. She scribbed the same on hers aggressively with a black pen and underlined it a few times. She writes so fast, but her handwriting is.. fascinating. It's not messy, but it's edgy. I can't think of any other way to describe it.
"Copycat." She said and I looked at her. She was still looking at her notebook, but I think she can see me in the corner of her eye because now she's smiling. I immediately looked back at my notebook. "I don't know what you're talking about." I said sarcastically and smiled at my notebook. I heard her laugh lightly and she gently kicked my desk. I quickly turned my head towards her and she was holding in a laugh. We both giggled quietly.
"Ms. Feyer and Ms. Jones. Do I need to move you two already." We both looked up with blank stares. Everybody is looking at us, but I don't care. "No?" We said. He stared at us for a few seconds and sighed. "Okay. Anyways, we're starting class off with notes. Yes, it's the first day, but we have lots to learn." The whole class sighed but Jenny and I looked at each other trying not to laugh.
This is gonna be a good fucking year.
Looking in the Mirror
Lucy twirled in her brand new dress, watching the way the skirt swirled around her in the mirror. The dress was a soft, buttery yellow with white polka dots. The skirt went down to her knees, and the straps fit comfortably on her shoulders. Best of all, there was a pink butterfly just above her heart. Lucy’s left pigtail kept sneaking over her shoulder to cover the butterfly, but she didn’t mind. It was like a game of hide-and-seek every time she moved her braid to see the butterfly peeking out. The dress looked perfect with her white sandals. As she admired her reflection, Lucy decided she had never seen someone look so ready for summer.
Tossing, turning in my sleep
Nightmares filling my head
Everything seems so real
All the whispers all the scares
she was found in a meadow
by the winds that carried her cries
and the clouds that shielded her view
from what could've been.
her body splayed upon the soft earth,
the wildflowers encircling her like a halo.
her spine, snapped in two.
the trees lean in to save her from the sacrifice
that would pull her gently out of this world
into the next.
the trees, who watched her bloom into a beautiful young woman.
the birds, who watched her fall in love.
the clovers, who watched her heart shatter into a million
minuscule pieces over the loss of her one and only,
after a vicious battle with the cruelties of this world.
she saw from the sidelines how crushing the weight of the world was,
saw him walk, kneel, then crawl until he was no more.
her innocent naïvete maintained its fragile grasp
until she found herself alone, and suddenly,
she could not make her lungs understand
the screaming in her heart.
but she tried.
and as her throat grew raw, her shoulders grew heavy,
and by nightfall, the weight of the world rested on the small of her back,
and she finally understood
what the boy meant when he said,
i'm so alone.
and with one final, gasping breath,
she joined him in freedom.
red: love edition
"nothing ever ends poetically. it ends and we turn it into poetry. all that blood was never once beautiful. it was just red."
thick and selfish, crimson dripping slowly down his face as his now-broken nose throbs in memory of the left hook. he pretends like it doesn't hurt because she's watching, and he doesn't want her to think less of him. but in reality, it's excruciating.
burning and passionate, two scarlet hearts beating in unison as their lives meld under the influence of intimate affection. they make promises they can't keep beneath the corsican sky, but they remain each others' anyway.
tempting and voluptuous, her cherry-red lipstick gives way to a kiss so deep that he curses himself for not asking her out sooner. she's beautiful, but he wonders if his colorless personality could keep her happy for long.
layered and romantic, he pulls the rose from behind his back and she presses it to her face, inhaling deeply as its perfume of memories and lust tugs her gently forward into its soft embrace. it reminds her of home and her father.
freeing and showy, the ruby convertible whisks them to their happily ever after, hair blowing and tangling in the wind. it will be four generations before the bentley even thinks about breaking down for the final time, but it carries lovers toward the horizon until it can no longer.
singing to the sea for feelings deep blue
tonight, the sky dips below the dunes
tasting of vinegar and freshly-turned soil
digging my toes in the shards of shell and rock
my feet, bloodied and purified
as the waves soothe my burning skin
i find your face in the sand
pull my fist back and throw
punch after punch
until i collapse, hating myself
for letting you win again
my hair matted against my neck
raw and imperfect, my face sunburned
toes swollen and i remember
the way you used to call me beautiful
call me yours, and i hate that
i let your lies seep into my head, even now
title adapted from "an evening i will not forget" by dermot kennedy
A Life Well Spent
Is built on small accomplishments
As it is on the large ones
And aren't the large
Built upon the small anyway?
My small accomplishment
Is my morning routine
And when I'm feeling
(Which I haven't been
For quite a while now)
If I can write a verse
And schedule my send
I know the day
In the right direction.
I know if I haven't
My priorities for the day
Have already been compromised.
We build our poems
One day at a time
One verse at a time
But what we're building
Is so much larger
Is it not?
I’ve dreamt of
Life in the Cancer Ward
Existence is largely the right word for it, this human thing of ours, where we tend to do rather okay by comfortable, daylight habits. There is little disruption in the familiarity of them; each new day watered by the last, imperceptible on Time’s slowly verge, a buoyant drift into the gradual.
There is an automaticity to existing, like the unconscious throb, like the very Unknowing.
But we are human, we hope for more than mere existing – we demand life, full and everlasting. And because we are apt to look for it, do we think it everywhere around us. Certainly, we profess to find it in the happy moments that surprise, or in the sadness that cuts us wide. We believe it’s in the autumnal sun, shown through brilliant colors of turning trees. We swear it’s somewhere in the family gathering, in the roast beef perhaps, sliced on cheerful scoops of mash. There again, do we feel it in the grateful shade of a summer’s walk; else, in full moons and the firework nights.
But one day, at the bitter last, do we awake to learn that none of these were real instances of living at all, only different parts of its wider allegation, of its enduring myth.
In this sudden wakefulness, roused from our diurnal sleep, do we see that the real living starts after, when there is no going back. This is not the winding to a close of life spent; of old age that looks back, that sometimes turns away instead; nor the facts of life that everywhere spin too soon and whisper their clockwise suspicions. It is not the vague shadow on the springtide green, or the slow chill that grows on the neck of warm youth. Astral dramas that decide our days, whether to be long or short, cruel or wasted – whether the loss of love, the bittersweet of loneliness, the family member dead; but still, not yet this.
Real living wants spreading sickness, pronounceable and thick on your tongue. It wants maternity fading in young mothers, feeding newborns from irradiated breasts; or decomposing men, bald and forgotten, rolling in thinly sheets. Browless children raised behind hermetic seals, experimented on, stuck with picks and stints and ports, tubes of all kinds woven into their skin like loose threads. And needles: butterfly, hypodermic, corkscrew – into veins, into spines, into bones that splinter.
This is inside, always inside, and the world, that mysterious word, outside—friends who graduate, family birthdays, sisters who marry. Not wooded trails, but cold tile floors. Not door bells but ringing IV bags. Gentle nurses who pass in and out, “please try to rest”, “it’s time for your second round”, parents crooked on foldable chairs.
Real living is the doctor’s hand on your shoulder, and lips: ‘I’m sorry’. It is a word, it is death, and so near, dated on the calendar; the weak flush of a failing graft shot back into transplanted bones, and the shock when it does not take, when ‘options’ are those things already tried.
This is money a mountain high, which cannot buy; relations who no longer relate; medicines that do not cure and treatments that do not treat. This is the unaccounted blood at the bottom of the printed page—‘six months at best’.
In these passages do we find life, real and abounding, with a thud-thud-thud of the heart starting from its long, sleepy dream. There is little like the terminal to set our aching antennae astir, to grab as much life as they can, and to make one final study of the creature they were all along. In the halls of sickness is the answer so completely had for our human existence. And with the fear of death then so violently upon us, bristling at our backs, snapping at our heels, do we pine to be once more, to go back as we were before: existing, so full of nothing, under the weightlessness that trampled and crushed.
How do we exist? Because we are so well suited for it. Because our bedfellows did not get the chance.
"Aren't you going to be late?" I watch Lexi pause packing her backpack to put on lip gloss.
She waves a hand at the table we're standing at--we're advertising the ice skating club--and smacks her lips. "No, I have, like," she checks her watch, "oh crap, I have five minutes to get to class." She grabs her bag. "You'll have to take it from here," she tells me, blowing a kiss.
I make a face at her in response, and she laughs as she dashes across the quad, dodging tables as she goes.
I adjust the flyers on the table in front of me, waiting for the next round of classes to let out and release a new wave of students. There's quite a lot of people here already, seeing as it is the Fall Activities Fest and the weather is nice, but most everyone is attending their own booth. Or they're not interested. Or they're walking by and I haven't said anything.
Moral of the story is I'm not very good at attracting attention. That's Lexi's job.
I pick up one of the ice skates we have on the table. It's for figure skating, and it's Lexi's, so naturally it's coated in glitter. A pile of shimmery dust falls onto the table, and when I set the skate down, I notice it on my hand as well. I try and brush the glitter away, but it just sticks to my palm more.
"So, what club is this?"
I look up and into the face of a boy whose skin is darker than my own. His dreads hang across one of his eyes, and he picks up a flyer off the table, barely looking at me.
"Um, ice skating," I tell him, pointing at Lexis' skates.
He laughs. "Yeah, I thought so." As he meets my eye, though, he tilts his head. "Hey, have we met before?"
I rub my palms together, a nervous laugh coming out of me. I'm staring at a cluster of autumn leaves behind him, getting trampled by a group of freshmen. I think I would've remembered him. "No?"
The freshmen approach, and there's four of them, all blonde girls that probably just came from some sorority table. I can feel the boy's brown eyes watching me as I explain the club to them. He's stepped off to the side, but is listening.
I'm surprised, because most guys won't touch ice skating if it's not hockey. At least, not in a club form.
Two of the girls write down their info on the sign-up sheet, and I tuck a piece of hair behind my ear, smiling. Success. Lexi and I promised our club advisor that we'd get a hundred sign ups, which seems very ambitious to me. I think right now we're at thirty.
Make that thirty-two.
The girls drift away, and I look around but the guy from earlier has gone too. I can't say I blame him, looking around at the other tables. Most of the other clubs have cool stuff, like snacks or music or dogs (which is cheating, really) or, in one case, VR headsets. Granted, it is VR club.
The wind blows, and I slap a hand on the fliers before they blow away, but the sign-up sheet, which one of the girls must've pulled out of its clipboard, takes off. I follow it with my eyes as it swirls in the air, a blink of white amongst the orange leaves.
I grab Lexi's skate, chuck it on the stack of fliers, and head towards the paper, which just hit someone's ankle but they just kept walking, and now it's under someone's boot, and I almost bump right into someone else, and for a moment I lose sight of it. I stare at the pavement, but it's just crumpled leaves.
It's the same voice, and I startle.
The boy that was at the table before is holding the sign-up sheet, a small smile on his lips. It's enough to make me think he planned this.
"Oh, thanks," I say, but he's not offering me the paper.
He holds it at his side. "It was at Lucky L's, by the way," he says. And those words conjure a flash of images: his dreadlocks, a handful of playing cards, my friend Brie and a bottle of wine.
I press a hand to my eyes, temporarily mortified. Lucky L's, or Lucky Library, is what everybody calls the basement floor of the main student library. It's all archives and study tables and dark corners, and all the upperclassmen have stories of 'getting lucky' down there.
It's a good place to take a break from studying, contrary to other parts of the library, and my friends and I have visited once or twice. Not entirely sober. But we just like to go to chat and play cards.
I don't know why this guy was there that night though.
"I'm sorry, yeah, ok. I remember we played Hearts?"
He nods once. "Do you have a pen?"
Someone bumps my shoulder, and I step backwards to avoid being mulled by a group of Frisbee golf guys. He takes a step towards me in response. "Why?" I ask, a swirl of leaves building around us.
He points at the sign-up sheet, still in his hand. "Your spiel convinced me. I just ran into a friend and was gonna come back to sign up. Until the list found me, anyway."
"Right." I lead him back to the table, where no one is waiting, unsurprisingly. He picks up a pen and scribbles his name, and I try not to seem too obvious as I lean in to see what he writes.
I lean back, pretending I never looked. Brad?
When I glance back at him, he's silently laughing. "You should see your face. My name's Amir, actually," he says, filling out a new line on the form.
Embarrassed again, I laugh and chew my thumbnail, a nervous habit I picked up from my mom. "Right. Good."
His eyes flit up at me, that nice warm brown, like the trees. "You shouldn't do that," he says, a faint smile still on his face.
"What?" He's looking at my mouth and my insides all turn upside down so suddenly I think I might need to sit down.
His smile just grows, and he lets the silence linger long enough for me to nervously raise a hand, about to chew my fingernail again.
"Your hands have glitter on them, and it's on your lip," he says, setting the pen down on the table.
I drop my hands and look at them. Shit, I forgot. I rub at my bottom lip with the back of my hand, which is glitter-free. I'm almost afraid to look at him. "Right, thanks. And thanks for signing up," I tell him, wondering where I can go find a mirror.
I notice he hasn't moved. "I hope I'll see you at club..." He sticks his hand out, his eyes flicking between the glitter on my hands and the glitter on my face.
I should be embarrassed still, but I smile and hesitantly reach out my hand. "Shani," I tell him, taking his hand.
He gives me a firm handshake. "I hope I'll see you at club, Shani," he says, then lets go.
I nod. He steps away, shoes crackling on the fall leaves, but looks back at me and waves. His hand shimmers with glitter.