issue three

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

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

In This City I'm Wandering With _______

By Wendy Wang

In this city I’m faraway 

         from WiFi. Not having a phone

   wasn’t as bad. My mask 

 dances casually on my left 

         ear with its feet. When I 

    first opened my eyes nobody 

        wore a mask. What is it that

I have to conceal? The moon

      reads my messages but doesn’t reply.

  Juice is running      out. I sit down 

         on the oily wooden chair, 

              staring at the steaming noodles, 

 afraid of picking      up the chopsticks. They’re 

           made of wood. They’re wrapped 

in plastic. Like that ban  ana 

         that melted into a fi  sh, 

resting in the tape dispenser that also 

                happened to be yellow. When I was still

      eleven they called me 

    mad. They were right — I’m relieved — for 

the second time.


In this city I can’t reach 

    the bottom of my skirt. She blames

                 me for being stretched too long.

        It’s constantly kissing 

the messy ground and I constantly whisper, 

      stopflirting. It can’t hear me. 

I’m her only 

           savior. A 

         drop    of rain hits 

   my right elbow. Thunderstorms 

       are crossed out from my list of 

“10 ThiNgs tHat MakEs mE Cry.” I can’t believe

              my grammar has improved since —

     excuse me, my memory has been bad since —

  um. But anyways, my skirt breaks 

          up with everyone. It’s tired of answering 

       why it lives so long. My lips 

stained with red. My teeth, yellower,

      rip apart the next string of noodles. It tells 

  me somebody’s fate. 


In this city I’m enabled to sit 

     beside my brother. They can all 

  recall how I poured orange juice on

       his head when I was six. 

           They don’t know that his lashes 

                   aren’t as long as 

I remembered. If I ask him, he’ll say 

       that he doesn’t believe 

            in imagination. He wants 

     to use his hands 

                 to send a salmon sushi into his 

mouth                 & I stop

         him. I force him to use 

a new pair of chopsticks. 

                       He asks me why

  I    changed.


In this city the horns speed 

     further ahead of the zebra crossing. 

          They’re grabbing 

my hand and leading me 

        to the other end. They forget that I 

don’t fall as often as before. They take me

   there. He’s watching me and 

                   them from the other 

side. A door. Nadia, don’t 

       read my mind. 


In this city they’re calling me

                  a foreigner. Our tongues 

     are now different. They’re laughing 

awkwardly. I don’t understand how 

               they befriend 

   mosquitoes    under the 10:26 night 

sky. Five years ago they suffocated 

        a mouse that hid under the sofa 

                      with   a mop. The taxi 

    driver asks me where I’m    from. 

            I say this is my hometown. 

                 He asks me again. 

 I’m laughing awkwardly. 


In this city the dog in their house 

    isn’t mine anymore. When he 

           barks I know that in his eyes 

  I’m black     and white. He steps 

                on my skirt and hands 

                     me his hands. Pink slips away from

his palm. Darkness ensues. They’re scolding him

      for not being a good boy. When I say “again” I mean

  I’ve carved both of his cries into my earrings. He’s 

           a    man. There’s nothing 

              to apologize. He doesn’t even 

                   lookatmeanymore. I don’t 

    feel my chest on the same level 

          as his eyes anymore. The noodles 

aren’t steaming anymore.

Slow Dance

By Maile Smith

I think I peaked in middle school. I was the girl the whole grade knew, and was friends

with nearly everyone. Forget the fact that there were only 45 people in my class- I was popular.

Grinning, I arrived at school every morning with my slick white sneakers on and my

backpack strung over one shoulder, striding through the doors that opened for me. In class, I’d

laugh with the boys about jokes that I didn’t always find funny, and listen to their favorite rap

music ridden with meaningless lyrics. Hours later under the rusting play structure, the girls

would divulge their secrets to me and I would whisper back my own take on their gossip. I was

the messenger, mediator, and matchmaker all in one, for everyone. My role felt special because

no one else carried it. They were the ones wrapped up in the drama, not me.

As middle school came closer to an end, my last dance arrived. Boys asked their crushes

to dance, girls giggled in bathroom stalls, and all around me, emotional turmoil occured.

Whether someone was crying, hiding, or throwing up, I resolved it. I was the director of this

disastrous cast of children crammed in the gym, and it was my time to shine. My wedges

squeaked on the gym floor as I ran from person to person, ultimately preparing everyone for the

final performance: slow dancing with their partner. I watched them dance as both a critical

producer behind the stage and a proud parent in the audience. As I scrutinized, my carefully

picked out dress swayed and my makeup shimmered in the disco lights, but no one really

noticed. After all, it was their night, not mine.

After the music fizzled out my dad picked me up, I sat in the car and furiously typed into

my phone where I documented all the yearly drama. I stared adoringly into the white screen and

it illuminated my face in return, the swirl of names and gossip bewitching me in a trance; but for

a brief moment it broke, and I realized something. I didn’t write my name once. I never had.


I had never slow-danced to cheesy music. I was never the center of attention like I

thought I was. I was only an observer with a bird’s-eye view of the landscape of my classmates’

lives.

As a result of this realization, instead of getting excited for school in the morning, I

would spend my time at the foot of my mirror, eyes glued to my reflection. It was easy to blame

the reason for my inadequacy at the dance on my appearance. I knew I didn’t have the shiny

straight hair of the girls, or the charming gazes of the boys. If only I could fold my body into a

perfect origami of sharp angles, straight lines and thin paper, I could slide in perfectly with the

others.

The fantasy of my acclaim shielded me from my crippled self-view for a long time, but

the dance drew back the curtains. It took longer than the endless melodies that echoed through

the hallways that night for things to change. Eventually, people other than my dad called me

beautiful, and people loved me for me, not for what I did for them. These people who changed

my life don’t need to be named, because the narrative is finally about me. Maybe middle school

wasn’t my peak, and maybe part of me is still stuck in that stuffy gym witnessing the others

dance, but at least I’m playing music I actually enjoy now.

You, The Ocean

By Cami Gomes

aI often feel like a drunken sailor on the beach.

The wind is cold and the sky dark, but still my heart yearns for the sea.


I Wonder why I need its presence, why must I go?

When the sea only swallows me whole, scrubs me clean, then drenches me to my bones.


All I do is take it in. Take its showers and storms, take the waves, the hits,

but really I have no other option because the Ocean makes me clean.


Yet I don’t understand, but somehow I do.

The Ocean, although cold and dark is also so often sincere and true,


But the truth sometimes hurts and the salt is just too strong.

Still, my brain can’t understand why its waves might sometimes be wrong.


Because, at night, the waters lull me to sleep,

I keep an excuse to find my love for the Ocean so real and deep.


When to many the sea is beautiful and bright,

I find its beauty on the things that to most won’t sit right.


I indulge its rumbles and excuse them with the way the waters beam.

I admire it as it shows how little and insignificant my problems seem.


I watch the way it takes me whole and then washes me clean.

The way the water tastes sweet yet so saline. 


All in all, it matters not what I think.

Because to the Ocean, I am nothing but a ship about to sink. 


So, why keep me? Why care for me when I could do it on my own?

Why, Ocean, did you love me, hate me, cleanse me, to leave me alone?


Spat me in the sand when you were done with me,

and let your waves run back to where they really should be.


And because I know nothing, because I find this all so raw and true,

Just know, dear Ocean, I’ll always run back to you.



The Mysterious Library

By Ananya Vinay

There are moments where the world as you know it breaks on its axis. And I mean, literally, not just one of those mid-crisis revelations. You’re probably very confused right now what on earth I could possibly mean. But wait for just a second. I’ll tell you, okay? I promise I’m not crazy, although I do give that impression a lot. And I mean a lot. And you’re probably thinking, “Why does she ramble so much?” A question I wish I could answer, but I don’t know myself, and I’ve asked myself this question for far too long. On that note, you don’t know who I am, so why would you be saying she? Actually, it doesn’t matter, but you need to know some things. They’re going to sound like they came out of a novel. Yet I assure you they’re true. God, there’s so much buildup here. No wonder I didn’t become a writer. Oh well, it’s about time I got started.

    Have you noticed that we tend to walk with our heads down all the time, shoving our way through a crowd to reach somewhere to do something? Time is the basic foundation of this universe, but I discovered that this basic fact was a lie one Thursday afternoon. It was a sunny afternoon downtown, and I was trying to get to my next train. After waiting 30 minutes for a ticket, it fell to the floor in a mad rush toward the door. There were too many people for the conductor to notice if we actually had tickets, so I continued to enter anyway. But, as I was crossing the threshold, something happened. I admit that’s vague, but that’s what it felt like: an unformed silhouette of something. A tune was playing the distance, the kind of cheerful tune that plays on customer service phone calls, and a buzz echoed in my ear. Looking around, I realized that there was no light. It wasn’t dark, there simply wasn’t light. Which sounds like nonsense from the rules of our world but I wasn’t in our world. It was a room filled with oddly futuristic computers, surrounded by tiers and tiers of books. Strangely, it resembled a library. But the books were almost 3-dimensional. I couldn’t resist the urge to come closer, to touch those holograms. One cover looked just like the train I had been getting into; pure fascination dragged my hand toward the cover. A single touch and I was sucked into another unfamiliar universe, watching the train from above, almost as if I was a bird 1000 feet in the sky. Not only could I see the people though, I heard the laughter of children and people in rigid suits with ombre briefcases chatting about the weather and scrolling on their phones. My world stopped. So did theirs. The train tilted at an angle as all belongings were dropped and panicked glances smothered the quiet. A button was flashing nearby, not on the train, in wherever I was. It perhaps was asking me to pull a string, so I did. Miraculously, the train slid down, almost horizontally, and just resumed moving, and the weird 3-D book shut. In another too-short instant, I arrived back at the door of the train, knees touching the gritty dust and head down. Nothing changed, but everything changed. The train wasn’t at an angle, and it was the same bustling train station it had been just… what time even was it? A glance at my phone told me it had been 1 minute? How could all that have happened in a minute? I sprinted away from that train station, called a taxi, and went home. No one would miss me at work anyway. Before you ask me what my job is, let me tell you, I do have one, but it wouldn’t change my story either way. 

    Everything I had seen felt like deja vu, but I had experienced that before and never like this. Nothing at all had been like this. I told myself multiple times that it had clearly been a crazy dream especially when the 3-D books filled my waking and sleeping thoughts.  And then, it happened again and again and again. At times when I expected it and least expected it. You don’t really care about the details, right? Anyway, it happened at the movie theater, the library, Starbucks. After a while, I stopped being surprised. Only in that place could I see what could have been and make it be. The cogs were all visible, for once in life. You know, it feels good, when the world is spinning to find a solid anchor. For a bit, I was at the right frequency or at least it felt like that. It doesn’t really matter if you’re at the right frequency unless you think you are. At least, that’s what I figured after months of intermittently visiting what I called The Library of Infinite Worlds. All I had to do was think of adventure, of joy, any mood, any subject, and I would be lifted off my feet, swept to wherever I needed to go. This place had no masks, and it hated when you did have masks. Not the COVID kind, I mean emotional masks. It groaned at your discomfort and took you for rides through the multiverse. I saw things I thought I’d never see: history coming to life to my wildest fantasies. Any character I wanted to take I became with a touch. The strangest magic, but as with most things, it became ordinary after my 4th visit.

 I saw everything but other people. No other footsteps ever filled the halls. The oddest part is there wasn’t even a librarian, not once. Stepping out into the city bustle again, I was bursting with the wild joy of keeping a secret. Usually, secrets felt guilty, but the Library of Infinite Worlds was for me and me alone. Still, there was always a flare of disappointment when I wanted to escape, and there I was, stuck in cold, hard gravity. On the other hand, when I least expected it, the magic swept me away. And here I am, complaining to you, about my miseries you probably don’t care about. Is you even the right description here? I’m placing this letter here as a warning to anyone who dares venture here because I won’t be here for long. Don’t worry, I’m completely fine, but I need to learn to leave to live in reality. My Library can only be a refuge for so long. Whoever you are, if you’re here, you found the keyhole in the third to last brick on the 5th row of the east wall of Grand Central. Congratulations! Lord, I sound like one of those really bad video games. Ok, time to stop. If you ever read this, I need to tell you this: this place is out of this world, literally and metaphorically. But it’s not your home, filled with strange noncontradictory contradictions. 

Merely a harbor. Don’t be angry when it doesn’t pull you away from times of misery. I may be giving that impression, but it’s not telepathic. Love it for what it is because it’s really something. I’m starting to feel ridiculous, writing to a hypothetical person in a hypothetical universe, but don’t we do that all the time, just metaphorically? The tales we spin for ourselves in our heads and speak them in an echo chamber to feel heard, rarely escaping, squashed and reshaped at will. I don’t know what you think of me, rambling on about something you probably don’t take as seriously as I do. You don’t know anything about me, and I don’t know anything about you ( whoever you are). Let’s play a game, alright? Think about it like one of those icebreaker worksheets in school. Well, that begs the question, do you know what I’m talking about? Sometimes, people ask me why I talk about such strange things, and I never knew what to tell them. What do you say to people who say that? Actually, have you even been asked that? This is the problem with writing a letter to a stranger. What can you ask someone you’ve never met or could never meet? If you thought I’m crazy before, you probably think I have too much time on my hands to go on and on about possibly imaginary multiverses in a handwritten letter. Who does those anymore in the first place? Maybe I should stop soon because I’m really not going anywhere with this. How would you describe me in three words after all this? Or am I interrupting you unnecessarily? I can’t even tell at this point, but you’re free to make whatever impressions you with. After all, I probably won’t ever see you after this letter. Wait, that’s a bad verb. Meet or encounter, perhaps? I should cross this out, but this pen is very light. You might as well see my mistake in its true light. Please right back.. No, please write back. I never was good with words, spoken or written. 

Maybe I spend too much time in my head. That’s why I right letters to strangers in peculiar, possibly imaginary libraries. Great, I did it again: WRITE, not right. It’s entirely feasible I’m trying to explain myself to myself. Aren’t all of us though, at some point in our lives. And there I go again, reflecting my idiosyncrasies onto others. I never was good at endings, so I’m going on about things that you don’t care about. But back to business, I still don’t understand The Library of Infinite Universes. If I’m being honest, I probably never will, and that’s completely fine. Not everything needs to be psychoanalyzed, broken into bits, some things are fine in their enigmatic glory. See, I do know words, before you get the wrong idea. Alright, I’m going to stop myself from getting sidetracked before I start again. Love this library like a friend, name it whatever you want. I don’t know you, and it would be rude to infer facts about you. But,hey, I have time on my hands, so I might as well. One of my pet theories is that only misfits find this place: people who feel out of step with our worldly conventions. No, I don’t mean technology. I mean people like us who don’t know what to say at the right time and look for the opposite of what we have. Can I say people like us? Sorry if you feel offended. Now, it’s starting to get embarrassing, but I don’t know how to finish, so I’ll go on. Stop reading if you want; I don’t care.  But this place isn’t just for people who are “special” like me, because I like to think I’m just like you or at least I used to be. Putting my head down to get through the day. 

If there’s anything I’ve learned from being a visitor, it’s that we always have an anchor even in the middle of a storm, and everyone has a Library of Infinite Universes buried somewhere in their mind. So, if you have the time, to read this letter on the way to your train, don’t just put it down and walk away, reach within yourself. Maybe you’ll find that place out of time and space that’s everything you imagined. Truth is, there’s an infinite number of Libraries of Infinite Universes. One for every dream of every day, second, and moment trapped in glass. It’s ours to mold to our will, and by the way, I don’t just mean you and me, I mean everyone in this tiny blue dot. Anyway, I have to take a call, so that’s all for now. Remember, your every silenced dream and endless hope are in this room, so next time, you hear an out-of-tune figment, listen and your heart only knows where you’ll go. See you in our Library!

            Regards,

            A Friend 

     




The Pink Room

By Sophie Deerberg

Stepping into her room is stepping into a living coalescence of everything that defines

her. The papers and pictures cluttering the walls, the usually unmade bed, the fake plants and

vines crowding every surface - without them, it would look too bare, too plain. The printed

pictures above the bed (soft, with down pillows covered in green cases) are overwhelming, a

little bit like her.

Everything smells faintly of perfume, lavender, and sandalwood soap. Birch-bark

shampoo perfumes the air, filtering in through the cracked bathroom door. The air tastes stale,

but only when the windows are closed. When they’re open, the fresh smell of the azalea

blossoms in the front yard is pungent and sweet. Her bathroom harbors many bottles of perfume

and hand cream, all in an attempt to stop the slow cracking of her skin. Each one has a different

smell - peppermint hand cream, vanilla perfume, wine-scented hand-cream, and on and on.

At night, the fairy lights are off and the windows left open, letting in a cool breeze that

whispers through the curtains. Darkness pools in the folds of the curtains and splays its greedy

hands over the walls. The fake jellyfish beneath the old lamp glows, tentacles swirling elegantly,

imprisoned in glass. Its luminescent turquoise is a brighter contrast to the nightlight, always kept

in the outlet behind the dresser, providing rays of comfort for the huddled figure wrapped up

under the blankets. During the day, the light from the northeast facing windows is often cold and

pale, and the sun doesn’t shine through them. The room itself is warm - a salmon-pink color,

painted by her father when she was a child. Fairy lights are strung around the room, winding

through the vines and wrapping around picture frames.

All the papers are stuck to the walls in scotch tape, even though that’s not allowed, since

it’ll rip the pink paint clean off the walls. Little trinkets, scattered everywhere at random, mark

memorials to times past. The lion and the National Geographic picture of cheetahs stand sentry

over the queen-sized bed, surrounded generously by print-out pictures of family, Germany,

Oregon, Halloween, California, and a few friends. The black-and-white computer print of two

beaming parents and a toddler stares straight out from the wall. The torn edges and blue tape are

testaments of love, even though it’s just a picture. Letters from friends, newspapers from

Germany, a list of items from a choir trip to New Orleans - sentimentality is a quiet friend,

always there to wrap its arms around her when she feels cold.


The objects don’t matter to others the same way they do to her, and no one seems to quite

understand what possesses her to keep that old tye-dye T-shirt from 9 years ago in the top of her

closet. She doesn’t get it either.

Eventually, everything gathers dust. The old DVD player and the Prisoner of Azkaban

movie. The clay cat-pumpkin from 8th grade. The bureau with countless books, all organized by

genre, and the other cramped shelf beside it. Cleaning it is a chore, but she likes it, rearranging

the furniture every few months and wiping the dust and cat hair off of everything. No wonder

everyone in the house has a dust allergy.

Out of the many things that gather dust, it’s not hard to notice what she misses the most.

The paper star from the Weihnachtsmarkt hanging from the ceiling vent and the photo-cube with

her family on it are purely sentimental - and pretty. Red stitches and sequins adorn the yellow

paper, and the star scrapes the ceiling with a soft scratching noise every time the AC goes on.

Sometimes the sound mingles with the buzzing from the attic, drowning out the sound of the

wasps stirring in their nests. An exterminator hasn’t been called yet, but as with most things, she

doesn’t really mind.

Her previous summer fixation involves old ‘90s and ‘80s tapes of her mom’s and the tape

and CD player that is now hers. It’s not too obvious, but sometimes the slightly gravelly voice of

Sting or the overplayed sounds of the Beatles carry through the crack in her bedroom door.

Those tapes have been passed down, listened to again and again, loved nearly to death and

played once more by the next generation. Disappear, Tequila, Murder By Numbers, Tide In High

- music is a constant companion, with her even as a child, caught in her head all the time and the

product of her heart. Because of this, some people say she’s her mother’s child, but she feels

deep down more like her father, content to sit in her room alone with the windows open and

twenty some tapes littering the floor around her, quiet for hours on end.


The room - completely taken over by her, every inch of it touched by her essence,

swamped with details and clutter - was not always hers. It used to be the guest room, since it was

the only painted room in the house; before that it was her old nursery. It was filled with matching

pink flowers and pictures in gold frames, made to look pretty and slightly antique, and when she

was an infant she vomited all over the carpet. Her parents removed her from the room and took

her to another one, but she’s always liked it - even though she still hates pink. Every wall in her


new childhood room was white. The artist inside of her cried out to paint it, to cover the surfaces

with something of her own making, a mural or a story or a forest scene to make her feel like Max

in “Where The Wild Things Go.” She had to settle for it until she moved back to the Pink Room,

where she put every photograph they had onto the walls and gathered little bits of herself and

shoved them eagerly into the space. Without the clutter, it wouldn’t be a home or a sanctuary for

her. She’s read articles about how clutter is overwhelming and too stimulating, but she thinks it’s

really not - it feels warm, like being embraced after a long day.


Though she doesn’t spend much time there, it’s still the place that’s the most her - from

the fedora hanging on the wall to the jackets on the door and the books, so many books,

crowding everything. Though it’s just a room, it feels like a den, like a home of its own, exactly

like she thinks it’s supposed to.

     




thank you for reading issue three <3