I once met a songbird,
Whose voice cried out to me -
Its tune slipped inside my heart
Tickling it with a melody.
"Hello, my darling songbird,
Whose name do you cry?"
"I search for the wayward soul
That would link with mine."
Their song began to bubble
I felt it churn from deep within;
And suddenly a new melody
Burst from my lips.
And so we began to harmonize,
My songbird and I;
Our music danced delicately,
Down the mountainside.
Oh, what a delight to know a songbird -
To have our spirits intertwined!
But alas my darling songbird,
Could never just be mine.
The Moon & I
The moon is my constant
A true friend
During the day
I stumble over my words
And skin my knees
In the harshness of the daylight
I am exposed
Fragile and weak
I can rely on the glow of the moon
To be my quiet guide
She and I are alone
And we dance with the stars
Strong and exuberant
The moon is my sister
I am love.
Perhaps I am better off without love
Love makes you question your worth
It pulls a thick veil over your eyes
So when you look in the mirror
You only see the lies
The lies that tell you
You are not beautiful enough
You are not strong enough
You are not smart enough
You are not enough
But these lies
Are only lies
On your own your worth is determined by you
Not another person
On your own
You don’t need someone to tell you
That your eyes sparkle
Because you know they are brighter
Than the sun itself
On your own
You don’t need someone to tell you
How smart you are
Because your intellect
Is obvious to anyone
Who has ever heard you speak
On your own
You don’t need someone to tell you
How strong you are
Because you know
You have survived every hardship
Every heart break
In your life until
On your own
You are not just beautiful
You are divine
On your own you are not just strong
You are powerful
On your own you are not just smart
You are imaginative
On your own
You are so much more
Than just “enough”
I am better off without love
I have enough of it
To not survive
I am not in love
I am love.
Are never just brown eyes
They are warm and soft
They beckon you forward
To feel their heat
Against your skin
Are not beady or plain
Their intricacies are hidden
Except those who are willing
To look closer
When you stare into brown eyes
You are staring into the window
Of someone’s soul.
A Conversation Between My Mind and Heart
My mind restrains my heart
It is wary of betrayal
It is afraid it will not have the glue
To paste my heart back together
My mind says to my heart
“Is it really worth the pain?”
Anything you feel
Each part of you that breaks
Sends a blackness through me
That pushes me to the precipice of despair
My mind says to my heart
“How long will this euphoria last?”
The sun always sets
Light always fades
Joy will fade with it
And we will be left in the dark
My mind says to my heart
“How is this time any different?”
We always suffer
At the words of another
The words slowly send us
Down a stream of solitude
And we drown in silence
My heart says to my mind
“We will brave it all anyway”
We will feel the turmoil
Of the pain and of the euphoria
And hope that this time
We are treasured
My mind sighs
“Okay,” it says
We will try again.
The Game We All Play
Is a game
Some are players
No two victors
are the same.
I sat in the passenger seat of my mom’s car, watching the rain drops from outside roll along the window as we drove. When I was little I used to pretend that the droplets were in a race against each other to see who could reach the end of the car window first. My eyes focused on two droplets rolling side by side along the window. I watched as they approached the edge of the car window, when one suddenly veered sharply downwards and stopped. The other droplet reached the edge of the window.
“And we have a winner,” I mumbled to myself.
“What did you say, Beth?” Mom asked as she pulled into the school parking lot.
“Oh nothing.” I tugged nervously at my skirt as we pulled into a parking spot. I never wear skirts, but I had let Mom talk me into wearing one just this once, since it was my first day at a new school and I wanted to attempt to look nice.
“Would you stop it with the skirt? Sweetheart, I promise it’s not too short. Wait, hold still.” Mom reached out and plucked something from the ends of one of my curls. She inspected the fuzz that was now stuck to the end of her bright blue finger nail before flicking it away.
“Okay Mom, thanks, I think I have to go,” I said, grabbing the strap of my backpack.
“Alright, sweetie! Remember, don’t be afraid to approach people first. Go to the bathroom after lunch to check your teeth for food. Don’t get overwhelmed by the syllabus, and - ”
“Okay thanks! Bye Mom!” I jumped out of the car and slammed the door, stopping to yank the hood of my jacket over my head. As I started to walk towards the building I heard the car window rolling down.
“Hey! I love you! Have a good day!” Mom yelled out the window. I turned around and waved, then walked up the steps into the building.
My first impression of South Ridge High School was that it was like walking into a war zone. The hallways were crowded with kids, some taking up most of the hall in big packs, others huddled by their lockers, almost as if they were trying to crawl inside of them to avoid being bumped into. I walked by a big group of guys dressed in suits and ties, dribbling a basketball back and forth between them. They were oblivious to everyone around them, so when I had to duck as their ball flew over the top of my head, it didn’t come as much of a surprise. I looked up and saw a sign that said GIRLS LOCKER ROOM and immediately hurried toward it.
I threw open the door to the locker room and walked inside. The smell of B.O. mixed with cheap perfume was almost overpowering. I saw a bathroom stall in the corner and quickly walked past the girls who were changing into their P.E. clothes, keeping my head down. I set my backpack down in the stall, locked the door behind me, and sat down. I tried to steady my breathing as I pulled my crumpled up schedule out of my jacket pocket. I looked for my first class: Johnson - English III- Room 205.
English, I thought. You like books. You’re good at English. This will be like your safe haven. It won’t be so bad. I jumped as the locker room filled with the loud screeching sound of the first bell ringing.
“Oh, great.” I yanked up my skirt and threw my backpack over my shoulder, running out of the locker room like a bat out of hell. The hallways were empty of all but a few stragglers, making their way to their classes. I saw a sign pointing down a hall that read ROOMS 201-210 and hurried towards it. I slowed down a bit as I began to pass classrooms. “208, 207, 206...”
I stopped in front of 205, passing under a rainbow-colored sign above the door that read MRS. JOHNSON (SHE/HER). In the classroom, students were chatting at their desks, not worrying about the noise they were making since the teacher had yet to arrive. I quietly hurried towards an empty desk in the back corner of the classroom and sat down, slipping my backpack under my chair. I looked around the room. There was a large window on the right side of the classroom that looked out onto a baseball field, which was wet and muddy from the rain. The rest of the room was covered in floor-to-ceiling book shelves, each labeled by genre. There was even a small book shelf under the chalkboard in the front of the class, hidden partially behind the teacher’s desk. Mrs. Johnson had decorated the outside of her desk with posters of book covers. From where I was sitting, I could see Black Boy by Richard Wright, The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger, and Frankenstein by Mary Shelley.
I was trying to make out what other book covers decorated her desk when Mrs. Johnson herself came marching into the room, donned in a bright yellow rain coat and matching boots. She had frizzy gray hair that I am sure would have completely enveloped her face if it weren’t for her thick, purple rimmed glasses. She walked to the corner behind her desk and started to hang her coat up on the coat rack, which was shaped like a tree.
“Good morning class,” she said, her back still partially turned toward the room. A string of half-hearted replies filled the classroom. Mrs. Johnson took a seat in her chair and began to take attendance. I zoned out a bit as she went through the long list of names, until finally I heard mine.
“Beth Thatcher?” Mrs. Johnson’s voice called.
“Here,” I responded quietly, trying not to draw too much attention to myself. Mrs. Johnson looked back down at her attendance sheet.
“It looks like you’re new here! What are your pronouns, dear?”
“She/hers,” I replied, pleasantly surprised she would make the effort to take note of people’s pronouns. Mrs. Johnson nodded and penciled my response onto the attendance sheet.
“Wonderful,” she said. “Would you feel comfortable coming up and introducing yourself? I like to make sure everyone knows one another in my classes. Just say your name and pronouns again, as well as your favorite book and a book you would like to read in the future.”
“Okay.” I tried to remain calm as I stood up and walked slowly down the aisle of desks to the front of the room. I was trying to determine what books I would say when all of a sudden I began to hear quiet giggles coming from the back of the classroom. As I kept walking forward, the giggles grew louder until the whole classroom was erupting with laughter. I turned around to face the class and saw that some kids had pulled out their phones. I slowly realized that they were videotaping me.
“Class!” Mrs. Johnson yelled. “That is quite enough-”
“Her ass is hanging out!” I heard a student yell. It was one of the boys I had seen earlier with the basketball.
Feeling frozen in place, I instinctively reached back to tug the back of my skirt, but felt nothing there. As soon as I realized what had happened, I was already out the door.
“Look at her run!” I heard someone yell.
I ran through the school until I saw the sign for the locker room again. I burst through the door, relieved that this time no one was in there. I stopped in front of the mirror and slowly turned to the side. My black plaid skirt, that Mom had sworn was not too short, had somehow found its way inside my underwear. The little unicorns on my panties smiled at me in the mirror, as if they hadn’t just been the source of an embarassment of a lifetime. I stared back at them in shock. Mom had bought them for me as a joke last Christmas.
The gravity of what had just happened began to hit me like a ton of bricks. I felt myself panicking. My heart began to pound, my breathing became faster and more shallow, and the room felt like it was closing in on me. Suddenly, I heard the door to the locker room open. Feeling too mortified to see anyone, I dove into the same bathroom stall I had been in before and locked the door. I leaned back against the stall and closed my eyes, trying to slow my breathing.
My eyes shot open, but I didn’t dare to respond. I looked down at the floor and saw someone’s feet on the other side of the stall door.
The voice spoke again. “Hey, it’s okay if you don’t want to talk, I just thought you could use these.”
I heard rustling, and suddenly a pair of brand new black tights was being pushed under the stall door, still in their packaging.
“I’m in theater and I was part of the costuming team for the play last month. We had an extra set of tights. If you don’t want them, that’s fine.”
I stared at the package of tights on the floor, not saying anything. My heart was still pounding, but my breathing had returned to normal. I slowly bent down and picked up the package of tights, my hand still shaking. I studied the packaging. They were in my size, thank God. I took a deep breath. I opened the stall door a tiny crack and peeked out. I recognized the girl right away as someone who had been sitting in the front row of desks in my class. She was wearing a long, floral skirt with a black AC/DC t-shirt tucked into the top. Her long brown hair was pulled into a braid that hovered just over her waist. She smiled at me as I poked my head out further from behind the stall door, looking me up and down with fiercely bright blue eyes.
“Thank you,” I whispered. “I’m Beth.”
“No problem, Beth,” the girl responded. “I’m Ivy. By the way, love the unicorn panties.”
I think the best days of your life aren’t always so obvious. If someone approached you and said, “Hey, what was the best day of your life?” you might describe an achievement, like the day you graduated from college or completed a marathon. You might tell the story of an experience you had, like climbing to the top of the Eiffel Tower or snorkeling in Hawaii. Or you might talk about what it was like to find out that your life was going to change forever, like the day you found out you were going to be a parent. All of these “best days” are great and all, but to me, the best day of your life is one that sneaks up on you. One that changes your life without you even being aware of it. One that you may look back on weeks, months, or even years after it happens, and still can't comprehend how much it affected you until the reality of it suddenly smacks you in the face.
The best day of my life was the day that I walked into first period English with my skirt tucked into my underwear.
Parking Lot Romance
I watch the digital clock on my checkstand monitor, trying to will it to go from 7:55 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. with just the sheer power of my mind. My eyes shift to the day’s date alongside it: February 14, 2021.
“Excuse me!” My heart jumps as I rip my gaze from the clock to the customer standing before me, bottle of rosé in one hand, ice cream in the other, and an annoyed look upon her face. “Can I get some help here?”
“Yes, of course ma’am,” I stammer from beneath my mask. I quickly scan her wine as she runs her card through the POS system. I reach my hand out instinctively to grab the receipt, tearing it from the printer just as it finishes printing. I turn back to the woman and do my best to smile with my eyes. “Have a nice Valentine’s Day!”
The woman humphs at me as she takes her receipt. “Honey, we’re quarantining, the only romantic date I’m having tonight is with my boyfriends, Ben and Jerry.” She waves her ice cream in my face as she stomps away.
I glance back at the clock. It reads 7:58 p.m. Only two more minutes until freedom. I sigh, trying to relax my nerves and daydream about what the night may have in store. It’s my first Valentine’s Day with my boyfriend, and even though most date spots are closed due to Covid-19, I am still looking forward to a nice evening. I thought maybe we’d pull up a few rom-coms on Netflix, break out the wine, and maybe try to cook up some semblance of a romantic dinner from a Pinterest recipe. I pull out my phone as stealthily as I can to look up my “pinned” recipes when I feel a tap on my shoulder.
“Saw that!” I whirl around to see my manager, Anna, staring at me with a triumphant smirk.
“Sorry,” I mumble, shoving my phone in my back pocket.
“Eh, that’s okay, I don’t really care. Say, my closer just went home sick, was vomiting and everything.” She seems to shudder at the memory. “I was hoping you could close for me, since no one else is available.”
My heart sinks. I turn my head back to the clock. 8:02 p.m. I really want to tell Anna no, that I have plans and need to go. But then I think of the utility bill sitting on the counter at home, waiting to be paid, and how I have not gotten a decent amount of hours in weeks. I slowly exhale, allowing myself to come to the realization that I need to take any extra time I can get. Even if that means watching rom coms another night.
“Okay,” I say reluctantly. “I guess I could -”
“GREAT!” Anna practically shouts in my ear. “Thank you so much, you just saved me big-time.” She prances away happily, probably to relay the latest gossip about her Tinder escapades to girls at the customer service desk.
I pull out my phone quickly and shoot a text to my boyfriend.
Hey Ty, have 2 close 2nite. So srry. Raincheck?
Suddenly, I hear loud thuds at the end of my checkstand. I look up to see a man dumping what must be a hundred cans of cat food onto the belt. I slip my phone back into my pocket and take a deep breath, screaming internally as I force a friendly smile behind my mask. “Good evening sir! Do you have a loyalty card with us?”
I trudge my way to the time clock, feeling absolutely exhausted from my night. As I clock out I see the time on my phone. 11:50 p.m. No response from Ty either. My stomach churns with guilt. I shouldn’t have stayed. Or I should have called. He’s probably so dissappointed in me. I start to fumble in my pockets for my keys as I walk out of the store, hoping that maybe I can still get home quick enough to salvage at least a little of our evening.
I look up from my keys and begin to feel tears welling up in my eyes.
Ty sits on the tailgate of his truck in the middle of the empty parking lot. It’s dark outside but I can see him grinning from ear to ear under the glow of the fairy lights he has strung all around the back of his truck. Blankets and pillows cover the inside of the truck’s bed. As I walk closer I start to see the rose petals that Ty has laid down, and the bottle of wine that’s propped up against one of the pillows. The heavenly smell of Chinese takeout fills the air. My mouth is gaping open.
“What is all this?”
Ty smiles. “You said you had to work late, and I knew how much you were looking forward to this, so I thought I would bring our evening to you.” He holds up the takeout bag that is the source of the fragrant aroma. “I know you wanted to cook dinner, but I figured this would be easier to eat in the truck. Besides, you know I’m no good in the kitchen.”
I throw my arms around him and bury my face into his neck.
“Thank you,” I whisper. “It’s perfect. I love you.” He wraps his arms around me, and we begin to sway, as if the traffic noises from the street behind us were our very own love song.
To Karen, with love, from your cashier
You are angry that you have become a meme
A laughing stock
An inside joke
But you don't understand
To the rest of us, how ridiculous you seem
Eight hours a day I stand at a register
Helping mothers count their change
For what food stamps won't cover
As their child fusses in their booster
I have had parents walk away
Left their family's food at my checkstand
Their card declined
But you have the audacity to complain
That you waited to long in line to buy your cheap rosé
Karen, I'm sorry
That I took too long to bag your groceries
That your coupon was expired
There are greater things that cause me to worry
That you will never have to walk through my line
Only a few dollars in your hand
To buy a pint of milk
With money you got from panhandling
That I won't have to watch you fumble for dimes
That you never have to know what it's like
To feel the panic in your heart
When I say,
"I'm sorry, your card didn't work"
And your blood pressure spikes
I hope you found everything okay
I hope we had the items you were searching for
You are more than welcome to speak to my manager
I hope you have a great day
Thanks for shopping with us today.