issue five

In This City I'm Wandering With ​_______ by Wendy Wang
Slow Dance by Maile Smith
You, The Ocean by Cami Gomes
The Mysterious Library by Ananya Vinay
The Pink Room by Sophie Deerburg

Pinioned Spirit by Ananya Vinay
Stories In The Sand by Ananya Vinay

7 AM by Sophie Deerburg
Bubble by Cami Gomes
Solastalgia by Iris Eisenman
Snow by Riley Nee
A Woman by Olive Cape

Pinioned Spirit

by Ananya Vinay


Wings chained to a whistle

eyes blinkered by coarse leather

all to deceive the wild of its power

offer a soul to a thud of a broom

Hold with plastic grass on a hand

Keep it down, keep it weak

forget the sky opening at its feet

Forget the fear its claws hold

Remember only the dark

And swoops on command

to what it doesn’t know

Falling down and up and up and down

Framed in tourist’s pictures

silent foreign figurehead

on loop

To remind a bird it’s not free


is to break a soul into captivity


Does it know its power?

Or does it stay in rough bonds


because every other life holds the unknown

expected paths strain the heart less

and extend wants endlessly

to uncertain then impossible dreams


stepping off risks the molded clay

to shatter one by one

every notion of our reach

sometimes better to break


than to live in a vase of our own making

but to summon the force for destruction is hard enough

to lose limits is to lose roots


mistakes are packaged with the new

freedom or safety is the wrong question

instead I wonder where the boundary blurs

where tripping is worth it

where surety doesn’t constrain

where a burning soul can shine

If such a place exists,


perhaps in a rich imagination

or an expansive home formed for one selves


in truth, we compromise freedom for safety

and safety for freedom in every choice

yet look up for the irrational, irrepressible human hope

that one day the bird will soar unfettered

and we can smile at dancing clouds and blooming dreams

Stories In The Sand

by Ananya Vinay


Tracing a path in the sand


Somewhere I’ve never been

Alight out of rigid reality

to flickering dreams

When I hold my eyes shut, roses twist and gardens bloom

imprinted to joy, pain, realization

When I run to infinite shores


eyes closed, bracing for impact


Feet carving sculptures of stacked letters

disarrayed alphabets

Into melodies piano, forte, issimo

Still tracing a path in the sand

branching in countless directions

Pacing in new jungles of metaphors


Inventing idiosyncrasies for figments


That might just hover in liminal space

or settle into wallpapered rooms between lines

Running journeys I push them on

Logic conjured from sparkling leaves


To pull new reality from the clouds

When the space clears of souls, exchange cold loneliness


friends in shifting tales


Rooted to a garden of small beginnings


A chance to start over and over and over

let the puzzle slide into place

Always tracing a path in the sand


a never-ending roamer of possibility


A possibility of a blunt, honest boulder-sentence

A possibility to run circles around verity


Forge a nugget unveiled in the nook of a treasure chest

unlocked by a beating heart

teasing a tune out of a forgotten corner

Tracing new paths in the sand

A shove out of ignorant bliss

into perplexity, blindly scouring the sand for seashells

Purple, yellow, white pearl, flowering echinoderm sand dollars

How long till the waves strike, the tides ride a mare in?

negative six sight too blurry to tell

Cloudy fields fractal to kaleidoscope shards

gather and glue a cobbled epiphany

Trace original paths in the sand


till I wade into the sea

A sea, a melangeur of black, white chocolate

rediscover rhythmic pulses of candor, comfort, illusory multiverses

Burst the expected, trace avant-garde paths in impressionable sand

always dashing to grasp emerging waves to home

7 AM

by Sophie Deerburg

“Don’t go outside before seven A.M.”

The words are passed around town, from elders to children, from mothers to infants, from fathers to

brothers. Families board their windows up at night, taking special care to fill the gaps between the rough plaster

and the sills with flexible foam padding. The old, withered hands of the elderly sprinkle salt onto chapped

window sills, and thousands of excess grains litter the floors of every home. Thick pine boards block light from

the outside, sending thousands of homes into near-complete darkness from precisely 10 P.M to 7 A.M., every

night from October 1st until March 21st.

The linoleum floors of Melanie Cooper’s one-story, ordinary suburban home are completely devoid of

salt. There are no grains crunching underfoot, no white piles spreading out beneath the windows, no sticky

hands coated in salty flavoring. There aren’t even boards against the windows, just average, thin glass panes and a

few damaged screens. Melanie Cooper thinks nothing of it - salt is just salt to her; a cooking ingredient better left

in its container, kept in its spot at the back of her dusty spice cabinet. Boards are just boards, and they’re only

used for hurricanes or snowstorms in the winter.

Autumn mornings at Melanie’s are always cold. At 6:42 A.M she lies in bed, shivering,

curled up in a fetal position under the thin layer of a cotton blanket. The heating system is broken again, even

though Melanie swears up and down that she just got it fixed. When she sits up at 6:44, her bedroom carpet is

chilly and damp, as it has been every single morning for the past two years since she moved in. Her phone alarm

goes off at 6:45, and the screen has slippery beads of condensation on it; her fingers slide across the screen with

barely any traction as she blindly tries to turn it off. Her feet are clammy when she walks into the bathroom, and

the floor is slippery and precarious. The tiles slip uncomfortably under her chilled feet, and she flails out for

balance, barely supporting herself using the wet, smooth surface of the sink.

Breakfasts at Melanie’s are always cold. No matter how many times she re-heats the frozen waffles

unearthed from the back of the freezer, they never defrost. Miniature icicles cling to the spiky edges of the

squares, the stubborn shards standing tall against the full-blown express power of the microwave. Melanie wants

to have the technicians look at it again, but she knows they’ll just tell her the same thing that they did the last

four times: that her microwave works fine, and that when in doubt, she should just use the stove. The stove, in

all its ancient glory, is a half-ruined monstrosity covered in burn stains and traces of spilled sauce, and the gas

never works. The telltale snap snap snap of the unit flickering to life never comes, regardless of how many times

Melanie angrily twists the knob. She only tries it three times this morning before giving up, and slouches away to

make stale cereal for what she thinks is the millionth time this week. The cold is a vice, grouchy and greedy and

thieving.


This is always the most difficult time of year, she writes in her notes app diary at 6:50 am, after the soggy

cereal has settled unpleasantly in her stomach. The back of her neck prickles as she sits idly at the kitchen table,

and the droning whine of the refrigerator in the background amplifies her sudden, slight bout of nerves. The

usual chill in the air feels stronger this morning, and Melanie finds herself thinking offhandedly about salt and


the rough, unfinished texture of thick wooden boards. Nonsense, she adds to her diary. Superstition and rumors,

influencing people to go to extremes. Behind her back, the microwave clock flickers to 6:51.

The dishes in Melanie’s sink are ice-cold in her hands when she turns on the tap. She switches it to hot,

but the water never warms up, so she does the dishes with cold water and a mildew-scented sponge. Her fingers

are numb and tinged blue at the tips by the time she finishes scrubbing out her cereal bowl. At this rate, she

writes afterwards in her notes, I’ll surely freeze off both my fingers AND my toes. Dear God. That prickling at the

back of her neck hasn’t gone away, and by the time the microwave reads 6:54, she can feel goosebumps slowly

popping up on her arms. Melanie hasn’t switched her summer closet over to her winter one yet, but she decides

to do so today before she leaves for work. Her blue-tipped fingers and prickly neck follow her out of the kitchen

and over to her room, and she remembers wistfully how the last of the summer heat had gripped the house only

a few days ago. How could it get so cold, so quickly? The weather is like this every year, though, right? She types

quickly, fingers skidding, nails ice skating across her screen.

It is 6:56 am. A quick glance out of her thin-paned window tells her that the driving visibility is

abominably low today. A thick, unwavering blanket of fog shrouds the neighborhood in a wave of steely gray,

muting colors and blending shapes together into a jumbled, swirled-up mess. It has all the peace and mystery of

an abstract painting, with the swirling tendrils of mist curling up against the house, obliterating shadows and

lights and swallowing everything in between. Even the end of her driveway is covered, eaten up by the

all-consuming void of fog.

Melanie’s fingertips start to tingle, and she pulls the blinds back down and grabs a set of winter clothes

from her closet. She changes into them quickly. Her phone tells her that it is 6:57. She has to leave by 7:00.

Her shoes are difficult to get on. Lace-up boots, size 6.5, made of smooth, dark leather. She fiddles with

the laces on the sofa, and a wave of cold air brushes the tips of her ears. She thinks fleetingly again about the

whitish color of pine boards. Her hair is dangling in her face.

A sudden noise sends her pulse racing, and she looks up, listening carefully for the sound.

Snap snap snap snap snap. Snick. Snick. Snick.

The eerie sound of the gas stove in the dead silence of her one-story, ordinary suburban house is

piercing. Her teeth begin to chatter, and she thinks she sees something pale and gray sweeping through the

threshold to the living room. Melanie steadies her breathing, whispers “just a fluke!” to herself, and creeps

cautiously into the kitchen.

The kitchen is completely engulfed in fog. The stained stove, the narrow sink, the light fixtures, even the

fridge - all gone in a terrifying, endless pool of thick, condensed mist. The weight of it settles on Melanie and she

feels suddenly as though she can’t breathe. She’s trapped in the middle of a blind zone, lost and unable to see.

She whirls around frantically, hands reaching for anything - a light switch or a kitchen knife or the hard shape of

the drying rack. Her fingers collide with something soft instead, a slender, thin thing with the soft texture of

skin. A hand grasps her wrist, another pulls on her shoulder, and another touches her hair. A scream tears itself

from her throat, but it is muted by the fog, distorted and wavering away with a thousand different noises. More

fingers grasp for her back, her boots, her neck, anything they can reach, some of them with long nails, some with

bitten ones, chewed all the way down to the quick. Something smells like smoke, and the air feels like TV static

and the thick, cloying scent of rotting things is everywhere.


The fog closes in and Melanie Cooper screams and screams and the old gas stove goes snick snick snick.

Her screaming doesn’t wake the boarded-up neighbors, nor does it disturb them when the clock strikes

7 and they start to take their sun-bleached boards down. They’ve heard it before, from others like Melanie

Cooper, and the elders and parents laugh to themselves when the fog disperses, remembering times past when

they too had once witnessed the darkness inside the fog. The elders tell their grand and great-grand children

stories about those lost souls and their trapped bodies that dwell together in the mist, and all the children are

taught to carefully spread salt under the doors and windows, and sometimes even under the eaves.

Every night from October 7th to March 21st, that slippery thickness descends, carrying with it a heavy

silence that smooths all life into an endless plane. The frigid mist gathers, the old spirits walk free, and Melanie

Cooper’s screams go ignored, even as they echo eerily through the industrial confines of the cold suburban

neighborhood.

At 7:01 A.M, the mist finally disperses. The cold and the stench seeps out of the kitchen and the living

room, and the fog follows it like a plaintive child, shrinking away guiltily. The unbearable silence is lifted as softly

as the raising of a damper on a piano, and the shroud dissipates to reveal Melanie Cooper lying splayed out on

her unsalted linoleum floor. Tears sting in her eyes, and the crescent moon marks of nails decorate her shoulders

and neck. The gas stove is quiet; the ordinary house is still.

Melanie’s bed is warm when she wakes up the morning after at 6:45 A.M. Ten jumbo-sized bags of salt

are stocked away in her pantry. A million of the white grains coat the windowsills and the thresholds, and her

footsteps crunch loudly on the freshly-scrubbed linoleum floor. Her fingertips taste like salt and her hair smells

like gas from the stove. Her hands are warm and have no splinters, even though she spent hours fixing boards

into place against the windows. Her arms are still painted with bruises and crescent-shaped nail marks. They’re

just starting to disappear back into her skin.

That morning, Melanie Cooper gets out of bed at 7 A.M. and eats fresh hot waffles for breakfast.

Bubble

by Cami Gomes

I’ve lived in a bubble my entire life. I lived in a bubble in my home town and I am still in a bubble in one of the most popular cities in the world. My mom laughed when I said: I live in a big city with a small-town alter ego. I don’t know why she laughed, I wasn’t lying. 

São Paulo, or at least the one I knew, was the sound of a soft folk song, and the smell of my mom’s fresh perfume. I have the city in a constant image of light filtered through clouds and the smell of pine trees after a storm. My school’s patio is what I remember most, and the people are frozen with their soft smiles and never ending love. 

A part of me thought of Brazilians as endlessly sociable beings. All my friends knew each other’s parents, my cousin was someone’s employee, and their uncle worked with my mom: it was a never ending chain of people, who knew people, who knew them. The father of the boy one grade above mine was friends with my dad, and they’d go fishing together in the summers.  

My friends from school knew where I lived and I knew where they lived - we were only fifteen kids. I knew that my friend Rodrigo had a little sister and his dad owned a shipping firm. The kid loved playing soccer. The ball was a stringy mess of patchwork done on a 2006 world cup model. It rolled down the mosaic floor outside our classroom and was the cause of too many knee scrapes. I also knew that his best friend, Matheus, who was also my friend, was short and practiced judo in a small studio down the street. The tatami there was a cream color, like the coffee and milk we had for breakfast, and laid below a hung picture of a Japanese sensei, one of which none of the kids really cared for. I knew Marina’s grandma was an artist that lived on a farm three hours away from the city. She owned twenty-six cows and her house was a rich terra-cotta color.  Sarah’s dad had left his promising career as a bank agent to preach sermons in a baptist organization in a neighboring town. I remember going to their local church after sleeping over at her house during the weekends. Bianca’s mom was an orthodontist and had lived in Massachusetts before coming to São Paulo. They lived a few blocks away from us, right in front of one of the biggest malls in Sao Paulo. Carol’s nanny would pick her up from school every day and take her to an ice cream shop at her request, one that was two blocks away from her house and sold Italian gelato that melted so softly and fresh in your mouth it was almost like tasting Italy itself. Mariana’s Sister was six years older than us and one of the most brilliant students in our small private school. And I was the only half Japanese kid in our class, and proud. I liked being the center of attention. 

My mom also laughed when I cried once. This time, I had said: “Mom, is grandma poor?” I was four, and to answer my question: No, my grandma was not poor. I just thought so because she lived in a one-story apartment with one bedroom, while my friends and I lived in two-story houses with three rooms or more. I lived in a bubble, and the Sao Paulo I knew was not the city that so many called home. The smell of pine cones and rain was just the smell of the trees in my school, and a smell that to most might have been unrecognizable. The sound of the birds that chirped at my window in the mornings, and were often a source of annoyance to me, might have been only a far reality to everyone else. The truth is that Sao Paulo is bustling with the sound of cars and people. That it smells like smoke and a polluted river that runs through the downtown, not pine cones and rain. Sao Paulo tasted like rice and beans, not an Italian gelato. But I never lived in Sao Paulo, I lived in a bubble. 

This bubble I talk of isn’t one made of soap and water or plastic that floats. This bubble is paper and currency. A lottery that I, with no merit or deserving, luckily won when I was born. I learned soon that I had what 90% of my country lacked, I had a nice house, a car, I went to a private school, and learned how to speak English since I was four. 

When I moved to the US at thirteen, I began to see things about my own country that I had never seen before. You won’t find beggars in the streets of Miami like you will in Sao Paulo, you’ll see that here almost everyone owns at least two cars and that even the kids that go to public school have a shot at being the greatest minds in the world. The reality here was a dream so unimaginable to most people in my country that I was shocked to see it in front of me, available to everyone.I couldn’t help but learn to despise this selective bubble I lived in. I couldn’t help but question how I got so lucky without doing anything at all. 

The dream wasn’t the smell of pine cones and perfume, especially not when only some people could smell it. Life and Sao Paulo should’ve smelled like rain to everyone, and it should’ve sounded like a folk song and a soft guitar, but it didn’t. I lived in a bubble my entire life. 



Solastalgia

by Iris Eisenman


Foundation


Solastalgia comes from the word nostalgia, and the two words seem to define the opposite ends of the spectrum of wishing for a return to the past. Nostalgia embodies one's movement through a fixed world, the coffee shop that you used to hang with your friends at in high school evoking bittersweet longing for the days of childhood you can never return to. Whereas with solastalgia, the world around you changes faster than you have yourself. Within a day or two, your home environment can be rapidly altered. You might be the same you that you were yesterday, but the world you were tethered to is slipping away. You haven't moved, but everything around you has. You are the only constant.  Nostalgia is interpersonal, solastalgia is environmental. Either way, nobody likes change very much. Distress over the temporal. 


Like many emotions, I've felt solastalgia before I knew the term for it, like putting a name to a face and then realizing you’ve heard the name a million times before. The most impactful moment of solastalgia I have experienced was not of total devastation of my home environment, but just a storage facility. The southern boundary of my neighborhood is the arroyo of the John B. Robert dam, a beautiful expanse filled with the native flora of New Mexico. My family often take after-dinner walks in the arroyo, trekking through sandy gravel then up the formidable concrete slope of the back of the dam. The goal was to reach the top of the dam around sunset to see the full panoramic view of the fiery watercolor sky. Many people hate New Mexico and its environment, saying the desert is awful, but nobody can deny the majesty of sunsets, when the clouds roll in after days of clear skies. The dam is always the best spot for watching the sun set. The arroyo stretches further after the busy road at the bottom of the dam, and though I never walked on that side of the arroyo, its similarity gave me a sense of familiarity towards an unexplored area. With this vague attachment to that piece of land, I had mixed feelings when a leveled concrete slab appeared in place of the shrub-dotted landscape on one of my morning drives to school. The first few times I noticed the unnatural grey foundation, I managed to maintain my denial of the building that I knew would inevitably be constructed. The mornings after the first time I noticed, I often thought, I hope whatever they build is only one story. I would hate it if it broke the horizon. Naturally, I would be wrong about that. 


Support Beams


Maybe a couple weeks later, metal rods pierced the sky, poking up from the foundation. The building was not going to be only one story. I estimated it to be around three. The denial I had felt slowly blossomed into a simmering anger. Not only was the unfamiliar land being disturbed, my familiar skyline was to be broken. I wanted to tear the support beams down. I had moved on to the next stage of grief, and my despair manifested in a proclivity towards vandalism that is likely familiar to many teenage minds, and it felt justified looking at the metal skeleton of the building. A little monkeywrenching never hurt anybody. Growing up with my father, an avid fan of Edward Abbey, eco-terrorism had always been a fantasy of mine. In a world that values commercial gain over environmental health, the illegality of destruction in the name of nature does not seem to equate to immorality. The focus on commercial gain seems to be completely antithetical to basic human interests, especially when it becomes detrimental to the environment. The world is a living organism, each person acting as a cell in a way, and the existence of environmentally damaging corporations is akin to a fast-spreading cancer in my mind. So how could it be wrong to take a blade to the tumor and cut it out, saving the organism? 


Substantial Completion


    My moment of solastalgia firmly set in when the building was complete. The construction crew was gone, and a large sans serif sign was plastered onto the side of the grey brutalist monstrosity reading Extra Space Storage. Upon its completion, the anger I had felt in the building stage had passed, and now I only felt a murmur of hopelessness whenever I drove past it. Despite never being in that half of the arroyo, I still grieved its destruction. Maybe it wasn’t very beautiful at all. I only ever went in the golden hour, when honey poured over the sandy granite and clouds on the horizon were stained in unfathomable cotton candy hues. Maybe I am romanticizing this piece of land, taking it for granted only after it's already gone. But now, a photo of the sunset will never be the same, and the love I had felt for the vista is unmoored, only remaining in my memory. I think solastalgia and nostalgia are at heart, kinds of grief. Somebody decided to rip away a piece of my home and here I am, left alone, in a world that changed more than I could control. 


    In the end I can't decide if the building is more upsetting from an environmentalist, minimalist, or aesthetic standpoint. That’s one ugly building. Through the windows on the second and third stories, the storage cell garage doors glow an offensive artificial lime green, nothing like the green hush of dusty sage over the pale sandy gravel that had been there before. The building is a stark rectangular prism, its precise ninety degree corners oppressive against the gently curved basin, the shrubs and slopes rife with natural imperfections. Maybe the building is not ugly, but it is definitely not to my architectural taste. Would I have been less offended had the constructors selected a more tasteful look? It is purely utilitarian, constructed over an alarmingly short period of time. I don’t trust that the most sustainable construction methods were employed, either. Despite this, I think any amount of the unnatural is distressing, especially when one is so familiar with nature. The term soliphilia describes this pleasure and connection to nature, and the desire to preserve and protect it. Soliphilia is the root of solastalgia. 


    From a minimalist perspective, the building is not as annoying as its intention. I can think of at least five other storage facilities around the city, why does there need to be another? Storage facilities, for me at least, beg the question: Who has so much stuff that they need extra space to store it? Consumerism and excess frustrate me with how many people buy with no intent to preserve, preferring to dispose and buy new versions of items rather than repurpose or repair them. When the items in their life overflow, they simply lock them away in a small lime green garage, out of sight and out of mind. This practice is so reminiscent of mass waste disposal, where companies ship mountains of waste worlds away, hidden from The Consumer’s sight. Once again, the natural landscape was taken up by excess. 


    It is obviously saddening from an environmentalism standpoint. Its edges break the skyline and break my heart as I drive past it every day, but there is some small hope within me. From the top of the dam, you stand higher than the storage facility, and the horizon becomes flat once again, minus the Amazon facility miles away in the distance. Humans have great command over their environment, but I think that in the end, nature still wins. Vines will devour old abandoned houses, and nature even takes its swift retribution against the CO2 emissions that fill the atmosphere from cars and planes. CO2 presence in the atmosphere increases the amount of violent storms. When you poison your world, it will fight back easily. All it takes is a hurricane. Nature always wins, but at the rate corporations exploit the world around us, the world may change too quickly to recover. And if it recovers and wins in the end, I won't live to see its victory. I hold onto shreds of my home around me, hoping they don’t build more storage facilities. At least at the top of the dam, the horizon is still all mine.



A Woman

by Olive Cape

tw: rape


Women are taught to survive with a man’s gaze following her every move. From the moment a baby girl is born, and the moment she puts on her first dress, men find a high in her innocence. He yearns for power and control and he finds it in the big eyes of a toddler, he finds it in the naivety of her words and the simplicity of her thoughts. His gaze follows her into childhood, into her adolescence, into her teenage years. He notices when she wears her first push up bra, and when she begins to wear tight jeans. He obsesses. He grows hungry. He grows determined. She tries to hide herself from the watchful eyes of men. Instead, she is seen as a mystery; a puzzle that only feeds his hunger. She learns there is no escape.


Women are forced to cower under a man’s gaze as he removes her shirt, and his fingers press into her waist, holding her down. His eyes widen, possessive anger turning blue eyes bright. He leaves bruises: either not caring about the state he leaves her in, or too blind sided by power to think clearly. It’s probably both. Her no’s are lost on her lips, mistaken for yes. His hands spread her thighs, and chokes her until he feels her lose her strength beneath him. That’s when he knows he has control. Her lips shaped like no, her body shaped like yes: that’s when he gets off.


I learned to thrive with a man’s gaze following me. I learned how to use it. I learned how to pretend-- pretend that I liked it, pretend it turned me on. Pretend it was men who were fucking me. Pretend it was them using me. Because  I was once that girl beneath that guy, eyes filled with possession and rage. I was the girl who was weak, the girl who was used. So, I learned how to swing my legs when I crossed them, so my dress would ride farther up my thigh, and learned how to pretend that I didn’t notice the hunger for control in a man’s eyes. That’s where the power lies: controlling the people who think they are in control.


Snow

by Riley Nee

the snow blankets my world, insulating me in. 

i love the snow. 

it eats up my memories, my words. 

leaving only cold silence between us. 

we kissed first here in the snow. 

i guess not in the snow. 

from the safety of a blanket filled couch in a childlike haze. 

beanies still slipping down to my eyes, sweater which clung to your frame. 

cocoa tainted our breath and i sucked in, breathing all of you at once like a long drag from a cigarette. 

the quiet snow pilled outside our windows, and from the warmth you kissed me. 

you kissed me. 

you kissed ME. 

YOU. KISSED. ME. 

long after i’d left you, your smell, your taste 

i trudged home in the deep snow banks 

my boots wet, and untied as though they belong to a little kid 

i’d drag my finger across my lips, trying to remember your touch. 

right hand warm against my thigh, left hand cupping my flushed cheek, 

pushing your mouth into me desperately 

pulling me into you, our saliva intertwined 

reaching for one another, 

you were like searing coffee ruminating on my tongue

a shot of vodka, sending shock waves through me but settling in my stomach, engulfing my insides 

you were incandescent 

you blurred my world 


but now i only feel the cold invade my body, 

my limbs 

the snow stuck to my eyelashes 

the whole world slowed (and reverbed) 

it’s silent. 

all i feel is you and me. 

that was a really long time ago. 


now i sit here alone, with my heart slit open. 

bleeding into the same snow. 


A Woman

by Olive Cape

tw: rape


Women are taught to survive with a man’s gaze following her every move. From the moment a baby girl is born, and the moment she puts on her first dress, men find a high in her innocence. He yearns for power and control and he finds it in the big eyes of a toddler, he finds it in the naivety of her words and the simplicity of her thoughts. His gaze follows her into childhood, into her adolescence, into her teenage years. He notices when she wears her first push up bra, and when she begins to wear tight jeans. He obsesses. He grows hungry. He grows determined. She tries to hide herself from the watchful eyes of men. Instead, she is seen as a mystery; a puzzle that only feeds his hunger. She learns there is no escape.


Women are forced to cower under a man’s gaze as he removes her shirt, and his fingers press into her waist, holding her down. His eyes widen, possessive anger turning blue eyes bright. He leaves bruises: either not caring about the state he leaves her in, or too blind sided by power to think clearly. It’s probably both. Her no’s are lost on her lips, mistaken for yes. His hands spread her thighs, and chokes her until he feels her lose her strength beneath him. That’s when he knows he has control. Her lips shaped like no, her body shaped like yes: that’s when he gets off.


I learned to thrive with a man’s gaze following me. I learned how to use it. I learned how to pretend-- pretend that I liked it, pretend it turned me on. Pretend it was men who were fucking me. Pretend it was them using me. Because  I was once that girl beneath that guy, eyes filled with possession and rage. I was the girl who was weak, the girl who was used. So, I learned how to swing my legs when I crossed them, so my dress would ride farther up my thigh, and learned how to pretend that I didn’t notice the hunger for control in a man’s eyes. That’s where the power lies: controlling the people who think they are in control.


thank you for reading issue five <3