Autumn 2020 Prose

What’s Left Unsaid

I imagine you dead – more so out of curiosity than morbidity. Emotion escapes me. The mental wall I constructed to block you out, sturdily built over the years, prevents any sadness from seeping through, brick refusing to crack or crumble under the weight of your death. I wonder if, with you gone, I’d feel the same freedom that I do now, sitting in silence in an empty house.

Maybe the absence of your physical presence would relieve my self-inflicted pressure to fabricate an emotional connection between us. Maybe I replace my days of tiptoeing around your encumbered sighs with guilt-free conversations. I get a job to help support the family. Mom and I move out of the house. We grieve, we move on. I walk down the aisle alone but healed, craving the closeness only a father can give from a man who will promise to love me, but who’s love I’m incapable of accepting.

A fork scraping the bottom of an empty burrito bowl cuts my telenovela short. I clean up my dinner and turn to Jane the Virgin’s portrayals of worried loved ones for guidance on what to do next. I’m not the screamer or journaler type, nor am I the stone-faced sufferer or anguished weeper. I don’t really know what I am. So, I take a page out of your book and head to the kitchen.

Crouching next to the dishwasher, I rotate the lazy Susan fifteen degrees clockwise, just past the bucket of rice. Next to it stands your confidant, your stress-reliever. Golden liquor peeks over the label. There’s enough liquid left that I can swipe some of the stash without arousing suspicion. I reach into the cabinet above the counter, searching for the appropriate vessel to carry out my first taste of rebellion. A glass cup seems fitting. I grab the bottle from the bottom shelf, twist off the cap, and pour myself a glass of whiskey.


I stood in the living room entryway when two strangers carried you up the front steps. You’re hunched, back contorting into a C, face pale with the effort to be on your feet. Mom rushes out to help your coworkers bear your weight. I stay an observer. When you make it inside and collapse on the carpet, panting and weak, I run to the kitchen to get a glass of water. It’s not a practical act – you can’t even sit up, much less swallow anything – but it keeps my hands busy. I kneel next to Mom who’s begging you to go to the hospital. Reason can’t persuade you. The threat of astronomical health care charges overrides your artery’s protests, so you lie on the floor for the next two hours, trying to catch your breath.


Mom told me she had to fight hard to have me. She didn’t want Sarah to be an only child. You pushed back. Dance classes, tennis privates, orchestra tours, music lessons, China trips – they add up. And that doesn’t include the cost of living, my price of existence. Mom won the argument like she always does.

Your side-comments and rare, explicit verbalizations over the years taught me that when money is on the line, the path of limiting expenses is always the best route. Don’t call an ambulance, drive yourself. Don’t order take-out, make your own food. Don’t buy new clothes, wear what you have. Although you don’t always express your disapproval of unnecessary spending, a nonjudgmental eyebrow raise after Mom forces me to parade my Marshall’s loot in front of you is enough to send me back to my room, embarrassed and self-conscious.

I pegged your saving strategies as thrifty, a consequence of learning the value of money at an age where the biggest worry I had was how to look cute for a fresh pool of boys on the first day of high school. You tell me how you slaughtered chickens for Pappi’s business and paid your way through college, how you saved and invested to fund your daughters’ aspirations. To provide for your family. Why else would you still be working now, if not to support me through college at a job that makes you reach for whisky after dinner?

Your sacrifice doesn’t go unnoticed or unappreciated.

Yet what monkey sees, monkey does. Scanning menus for the cheapest dish and insisting on low-cost backyard birthday parties was my new norm. I became an extension of your ideologies, adopting them as my own, different only in their heightened extremity.

As my obsession with money grew, my distinction between what you believed and who you were blurred.

The night I got into Stanford, I phoned home with the news. Afraid of receiving a rejection at home with no privacy to cry, I had opened my acceptance letter alone and on the toilet in the Proctor’s first-floor bathroom.

Mom picked me up shortly after; I wanted to celebrate with my family. I walked into the living room to see your reaction, slightly underwhelmed by Mom’s stunned silence on the drive home. You closed your book and stood up to give me your signature bear hug that makes me feel safe, secure. But the joyous cheers and tears that I craved never came. I wracked my brain, trying to figure out what I did wrong. What made me so different from the countless kids in college acceptance videos I’d binged on YouTube, jumping and screaming with their parents in triumph?

In a fluster, I said, “You’re probably thinking about how much this is going to cost you.”

You chuckled to hide the wince on your face.

Just as I turned to head upstairs, Mom told me to check the freezer. Inside sat two tubs of chocolate ice cream – my favorite. She said that after I called, you bought it to congratulate me. I ate it alone in my room, with only Netflix as my company.


I lay in bed when Mom set off the house in creaks of protest. The rub of wooden floorboards protesting under pressure isn’t normally loud enough to wake me, but along with your labored breathing and Mom’s attempt at a hushed voice, I’m robbed of my morning doze. I just want you to shut up. I fiddle with my sheets, hoping to ride out the abnormal commotion. You and Mom think I’m asleep, which is nice. I don’t want to help, and I don’t have to. Guilt gets the best of me, though, and I roll out of bed. I couldn’t find a comfortable position anyways.

You sit on the edge of the bathtub, naked. You ask me to grab a shirt, a productive task, at least more so than fetching a glass of water like I did yesterday afternoon. I offer to help you stand, and even in your current state, stubbornness gets the best of you. Mom and I watch as you scooch down the stairs one-by-one like a starved inchworm, centimeters from a hunger-satiating leaf, determined and nearly resigned, accepting your fate of paper gowns and billable lab tests.

I go back to my room and curl into fetal position, waiting until the drone of the car engine subsides. I have the house to myself. Finally, some peace and quiet.

A pink three and a half by two-inch card sticky-tacked to my closet door catches my eye and pulls me out of bed. Mom gave it to me in fifth grade with new tennis clothes for my birthday. I thought its message was a little silly, but I’d rather read it than be left alone with my thoughts. The silence I desperately craved was more suffocating than freeing.

An inspirational sentence is sickeningly smushed between white and pink daisies, and given the circumstances, I figure there’s no better time than now to heed its message. Kneeling by my bed, I clasp my hands, close my eyes, and pray to a God I’m not sure I believe in.

I tell him that I can’t lose you, that I need you, that I love you. With each admission of weakness, a different muscle in my body tenses until I break out of prayer. My confessions feel insincere, so I head downstairs to eat leftovers for breakfast.


I tell you I love you on special occasions. The words fumble in my mouth and come out in unsure cadences, betraying my hesitance, but it’s sufficient in expressing my fondness for you. It is only in these rare instances when I make myself vulnerable that you return the favor. Tit for tat.

I tell Mom I love her at least twice a day. Once in the morning and once before bed. The mandarin translation of the three little words pop stars can’t stop belting about comes more naturally to my tongue, its meaning left untainted by overuse. Pure intentions radiate from each shift in intonation, a cohesive sandwich of a fourth tone nestled between two thirds — wŏ ài nĭ.

I wish I love you wasn’t a delicate phrase of deceit, a transactional statement littering Instagram comment sections alongside “omg STUNNING” and “you’re perfect I can’t.” I wish it wasn’t tossed haphazardly between teenagers as affirmation of a budding friendship, devoid of the great meaning it’s supposed to hold, serving as a replacement for sweeping paragraphs of passion and adoration — a trisyllabic phrase that somehow lacks the simple, elegant tone of wŏ ài nĭ. I wish it were considered as sacred instead.

If you spoke Chinese, then maybe saying I love you would calm my anxiety rather than induce it. Perhaps sharing a language besides English would fill up the lulls in small talk that permeate our conversations, though we don’t have many conversations to begin with. Maybe that would change too.

While you avoid conversation with stacks of books, I avoid the thick silences that hang between us, ballooning in volume after small talk, with a screen shoved in my face.

Occasionally, you cut these silences, doing so when you’re most out of your natural habitat. It’s as if leaving the safety of the living room’s familiar yellow glow and the rocking chair’s reliable click strips away the mask you put on at home. It’s during these times when you break character most.

On New Year’s Day, I sat around the Schweig’s dining room table playing Apples to Apples with the kids while you and the other parents were talking about big, important adult things. That evening, I witnessed an enthusiastic intellectual discussing the latest physics discovery, only breaking topic to segue into a detailed account of the most recent home-improvement project – a complete re-laying of basement tile to prevent flooding done entirely by you, carefully executed so that it not only granted the satisfaction of a job well-done, but also saved tons of money(!). This man laughed with a hearty Santa Claus chuckle and smiled without a pained twist. He carried conversation with ease, eager to engage. This man disappeared when we left.

Silence settled back in on the car ride home, interrupted only by the clank of the key missing the backdoor lock and the trudge upstairs to prep for bed. It being nearly 10pm, your bedtime routine had been pushed back over an hour, driving away any energy for post-party gossip. The mask was back.

I caught you in the hallway after you brushed your teeth and gave you a hug goodnight per Mom’s reminder.

You said, “Goodnight, Buppr.”

I said, “Sweet dreams. Don’t let the bed bugs bite.”

An I love you stuck in my throat. For a split-second, I thought I’d say it. Habit kicked in, saving me from a near lapse in judgement, and I swallowed the words without second thought.


I sat in the visitor’s chair when Mom unpacked your Panera. The room’s not what I expected. Bland and cramped, it’s nothing like the Grey’s Anatomy set with too good lighting and spacious ceilings.

You’re lying two feet away from me with your back propped on a diagonal by two flimsy pillows. At some point during your stay, you donned a paper gown which now crinkles under your thighs. I never thought I’d see the day when you weren’t in the practical navy or gray or white tee you wear religiously. Who knew it’d be severe oxygen deprivation that’d get you to break routine?

Mom hands you a broccoli cheddar soup and you turn your attention to me.

You say, “How are you?”

It’s been just two days since my seductive dance with whiskey, just three since your affair with the living room carpet, just one since my dabble with panic attacks.

I say, “I’m good!”

You crack a smile, the kind that I see you use at block parties and the Schweig’s — genuine, full of life, happy…? I check my enthusiasm when it disappears as fast as it came. We small talk for a bit, and when we run out of things to say, Mom swoops in.

I’m ready to go home after fifteen minutes, but I want to stay for at least an hour. To pass time, I picture myself fading into the background as an imaginary camera zooms in on you and Mom chatting about Panera’s ridiculously priced Pick-Two deal. Here on the periphery, I can observe without disturbance.

You look sad. Of all the things you are right now – ill, weak, tired – that’s all I can see. I prefer it to the bursts of harbored frustration and on-brand Dad jokes that break your otherwise emotionless complexion at home. I pause on this moment, hoping to capture its novelty with a mental picture. I label the image: “A Peek of Vulnerability,” then stow it away in my growing album titled “First Times.”


The first time I saw Mom cry was in first grade. She gripped my hand in shock, her face wet and blotchy. Nai nai had lost her fight against lung cancer. Even then, in the eyes of a child expecting perfection from her parents, Mom’s tears only made her more superhuman.

I’ve never seen you cry, though. I think the threat of vulnerability triggers a suppression of your feelings, creating more resistance to emotional intimacy. When this becomes too draining, you use annoyance and anger as a defense mechanism. On the rare occurrence that it surfaces, your anger fuels alienation.

I sat smooshed between friends in the Proctor’s basement, celebrating Galentine’s Day nearly a year before your brush with death. In the middle of our rom com, a notification popped up on my lock screen. Sarah dm’ed me on Instagram. Distraught, she messaged me that you picked a fight, yelling at her for taking advantage of your car and claiming that you “ruled” the house, only digressing from rampant accusations of her slipping grades to call her relationship with Siri “abnormal,” mandating them to break up on Valentine’s Day. You reminded her that once she turned 18, she was no longer your legal responsibility.

Her response? She’d be the perfect child until she could financially support herself and then cut you off. The next time she’d see you would be at your funeral.

The following morning, I acted as if nothing happened. You didn’t know that my respect for you plummeted, fueling my own silences during family dinners and occasional car rides, nor did you realize that removing your mask of “stoic father figure hardened by the world,” once or twice even, could’ve redeemed you from last night’s confrontation. Refusing to be let anyone in or let anything out didn’t make you superhuman, it made you unrelatable.


I sat in the living room after my visit to the hospital and proceeded to picture your death a second time. I’m sad. To my surprise, the emotion I deemed inaccessible broke through a wall I thought to be impenetrable. I no longer feel relieved, either, but guilty. Guilty because I didn’t try harder to get to know you when I had the chance, blaming you for our distance when in reality, relationships take two to tango. Guilty because I held your faults against you, ignoring everything else to create a dimensionless character that’s easy to judge. Guilty because I didn’t try to see you.

I think that’s the one thing you’re afraid of most — that someone will really see you. It’s why you wear a mask. But I don’t want to let your fears of intimacy determine my future regrets. I refuse to sit idly while we inch closer to being strangers, at least more so than we already are. Something has to change.

Autumn 2020 Poetry

Poem to a nonsoldier where I can’t see him

I love you.
You can keep this in your
mouth. I love you
In your wrists
Behind your eyes
I love you in your nerves
Your shin-bones.
It’s yours. And my feet are yours
Small, cold. My blood
yours. Teeth.
They bite a thousand little pearls
My kisses. I love you
In the dust of war. I love your
prostrate body, mouth pressed not
to a cross but my words, not to die
Not to die. You live with me, my parakeet,
my svelte bird, you live.
In the dust. I will say my words again
So they are clean. On your stomach
on the ground I love you. In the soldier
night I love you. At the front
men sit, male, alone,
you touch yourself because I love you.
Your throat because I love you there.
The days are moving. Come back
To my touch and the wind and the rain,
the pregnant clouds, to me.
Come back and leave your army
to watch over itself. Leave the front
When it is time, there is more 
to see yet I carry the silence 
of you there I love you.
You know. Next time you can ask
Your bones. Your bones.
Autumn 2020 Visual Art


From the artist

I’m sitting on a bench at the Coney Island boardwalk, eating a cheap hot dog that has no right being as good as it is. I graduated a month earlier and I’m back in New York, jobless, painfully uncertain about my life’s direction, and spending my evenings wandering around and taking photos — one of the few things that makes me truly happy. I’m waiting for that illuminated twilight hour when the sun hasn’t quite given up on the day yet but building lights flicker on in an attempt to seize control. I’m considering whether to return back west for graduate school and pursue a career in what I love or to settle for the corporate New York grind when I notice that the natural and artificial light have reached that beautiful, transient compromise. I walk down the boardwalk snapping shots and being followed by that nagging and persistent voice telling me what I already know but don’t want to admit: that I’m not supposed to be here, pursuing a path that satisfies others but kills me inside. I reach the end of the boardwalk and turn around to shoot one last image of the sky, later finding that a seagull, flying west, had crossed my camera’s path.

Autumn 2020 Poetry

Slow, Smokeless

Abreast we lie, allay,
   Whilst you tenderly sip
Cold — asleep. I survey:
   Wisps arise from your lips
And they quiver, murmur
   Of dreams, your eyes flutter;
But O, my fair amour,
   Your cheeks — their colour!

A morning rose would not
   Glory jovial blush
As they do. Minute blots
   Of pale yellow, like lush
Lilius, freckle them;
   As would a painter
Nimbly texture a stem.
   Astute oil, only fainter.

No sharpness to touch,
   No bones to flay
And mal-form. Dunes of Kutch,
   Soft, white — a duvet
Blanketing, as the snow
   Outside veils the hill.
Winter supplies the glow
   That warms this mourning chill.

All too calm. I must be
   Aware that I cannot hold —
Basking in serenity —
   That of Midas’ Gold.
For now, the ice is outside
   So, leave us to bide
As two lovers embrace —
   Sensing their love erase.
Autumn 2020 Poetry

Song of a Grieving Achilles

they’re rubbing Patroclus’ ashes in my wounds like salt
          the ropes around my wrists
the menthol in the back of my throat
          the black, bacteria-filled bits between the bricks
where does it stop, where does it END?

I’ve got you here, in the back of a black truck trapped
          trapped in your body, trapped in your eyes, heart open, eyeballs ajar
they pulled off insect wings and kept them in jars
          this one labeled wars, this one closed borders, this one prison system

I said with eyes bright who are the women on the street
          they drove a black limousine 
          they wanked on the pavement
Rousseau drove his car backward booty out mooning
          all the girls in long ballgowns coming out of the opera 
                    and laughing

they put my hands against one of the boards — do you remember?
          from the doctor’s office when we were kids
          put your hands against it it senses warmth
          makes a big green handprint — do you remember?
waiting for your dad to get out of the psychiatrist’s office
          waiting waiting trying not to hear anything
          making art that fades away in another couple seconds
          but that’s what’s incredible — it’s there — and then — it’s not

I put my arms around her shoulder and rolled a cigarette
          and burned her thigh in little circles
                    I remember watching them get infected
                    and putting fly wings in them
                              and then the skin healed
                    the wounds and then she had fly-skin

and now I broke all their jars and they’re cutting me with the shards
          they’re tinged in yellow insect blood and bright red mosquito blots
and they push my hands over and over again down on spiders
          so I feel the awful crunch
                    of the life leaving their bodies
                    sickening and vomiting everything I didn’t eat
                              vomiting up my stomach lining and my organs one by one
until I’m a sack of skin clinging to bones and they use the bones
          to carve out the bacteria-ridden blackness between the bricks
and I see you and your cigarette and your bow and your laugh
and I weep for you, Patroclus.
Autumn 2020 Visual Art

Self #6 (Red Herring)

Autumn 2020 Prose

The Tortoise and the Harry

Harry perched on the loveseat in his family’s rarely used living room, or as his mother liked to call it “the parlor” and braced himself for the most awkward conversation of his life. He reached up to wipe away the bead of sweat trickling down his forehead from beneath the brown shaggy curtain of his hair and tried to subtly rub it into the dusty slipcover without his mom noticing.

“Honey, I know it was hard, especially because I knew you weren’t expecting to, but your father and I are so proud of you for waiting until marriage,” his mother cooed, posed on the opposite loveseat next to his father, who looked even more uncomfortable than himself, if that was possible.

They wish…

Harry tensed up and his eye started to twitch, a nervous tic that had cropped up about three years ago. Whenever he fell asleep too early on school nights before he had prepped his lessons and had to teach his sixth-graders chemistry on the fly, rather than his favored zoology, his eye twitch spontaneously appeared. Apparently, it also popped up when he was hiding things from his mother.

She reached over and daintily grasped his father’s hands in her own, “When we got engaged it was just the hardest thing to wait, but we knew it was for the best. And it was just perfect in the end, wasn’t it honey? I don’t think we said a word out loud our entire wedding night.”

That is a frightening thought.

Harry shifted around as they gazed into each other’s eyes for a sickeningly long time, looking uncannily like two Agapornis roseicollises. Watching your parents cuddle like lovebirds was not Harry’s picture of an ideal afternoon. He glanced down at his feet where his pet tortoise, Darwin, had parked himself a few minutes earlier, in a much-appreciated show of moral support.

You’re twenty-seven years old, for tortoise’s sake. You can handle your parents.

Deciding he had suffered through the silence long enough, Harry finally said “Yup… It will be great, but Mom, can you please send your adoring thoughts to Dad on your own time. Also, did you happen to think about what I asked you before, which, by the way, had NOTHING to do with waiting to mind-meld until marriage.”

“Well, yes, honey, I think Darwin as a ring bearer would be adorable, but I expect you probably have a lot of questions about the mind-meld, and I just wanted you to be able to ask them before your father leaves to make his tee time at the club.”

He rolled his eyes as another bead of sweat trickled down, trying to feign nonchalance. Even the kids in his classes knew about the mind-meld; once they had figured out that he was engaged, they spent the first five minutes of every class speculating what thought he would send to Wren first, once their thoughts linked up. Little did they know…

His eye twitched as he squeaked out, “Mom, I’m pretty sure the logistics of it are not so difficult to understand, given that humans have been joining and amplifying the waves from their cerebrum and prefrontal cortexes since before we even evolved into homo sapiens. We think at each other and then we can think to each other. Pretty simple stuff.”

“You and your biology talk. I’m still surprised Wren even agreed to go out with you with you blabbering on about this and that all day long. Fine, I guess if you don’t need anything, we’ll just see you tomorrow. Eight o’clock sharp, honey.”

“I know, Mom. I’m not gonna be late to my own wedding. Also, for your information, Wren loves it when I talk nerdy to her.”

He quirked up the corner of his mouth at his little inside joke that had begun when he had met Wren wearing a talk nerdy to me t-shirt.

“Well, since we’re done here,” he jumped to his feet, “I’m gonna head back to my apartment with Darwin before the rehearsal dinner tonight.”

He bent down to give his mom the requisite kiss on the cheek, and then bolted out the door, Darwin following as fast as he could. Once he and Darwin were securely situated in his car, he exhaled. T minus 18 hours until it was Wren confession time.

Honestly Harry, I don’t know how you’re gonna get out of this one.


Seven thirty p.m. saw Harry sitting to Wren’s left at the head of the long rectangular table that dominated the formal dining room of his parent’s club where they would be holding their reception the next day. Tomorrow the room would be filled with small round tables and slightly tipsy guests who had imbibed one too many drinks from the open bar, but at the moment, he only had to face down their two sets of parents, his best friend, Paul, who would be serving as the best man, Wren’s bridesmaids: her younger sister Larken and her two girlfriends from college, and of course, Darwin.

Not that many at all. You’ve got this, probably…

The eye twitch was back, and he felt himself tense up at the thought of disappointing so many people the next day. He felt a familiar hand rest on the clenched fist he had hidden under the tablecloth and tilted his chin up to meet Wren’s sympathetic gaze. Her raised eyebrows asked him questions he didn’t want to answer at the moment. He shrugged.

“You gonna tell me what’s going on in there? Or am I gonna have to wait until tomorrow when I can weasel it out myself?” She asked, her voice teasing, but her stiff shoulders belayed a little stress. Odd.

Eye twitch. Apparently, the reaction wasn’t exclusive to his mother.

You are so dead.

The natural curiosity he had adored since they met was a little less adorable right now. She was going to see his eye twitch and then he was screwed.

“I’m all good. Nothing to worry about,” he murmured, trying to avoid the attention of both of their parents who had been fairly quiet all evening, for different reasons; his parents had fallen into their usual thought-sharing pattern that most traditional married couples used once they decided to mind-meld. Wren’s just glowered at each other like they tended to do these days whenever they were forced to be in the same room, most likely using their connection to privately yell at each other.

“If you say so. No backing out on me though, Mr. I’m-never-gonna-fall-in-love-because-only-my-tortoise-understands-me. If I can get past my fear of the mind-meld, you can make it to the altar,” she replied with a wink of one of her chocolate brown eyes, and shot him the grin that had made him melt instantly from across the bar a year and a half ago. The slow-burn kind that warmed his insides like a Bunsen burner until he was just a puddle at her feet. It was hard to believe a girl as wonderful as she was had fallen for one of his science pick-up lines. He had known she was the one when she had fired one of her own right back.

“You’re never gonna let me live that one down, are you” he said, with a wince, the barest hint of a smile teasing the corners of his lips as he remembered how badly he had bungled their first conversation. It was their mutual love of Jeopardy that saved them.

With his mind far away from their rehearsal dinner, distracted by memories of their first meeting, he almost missed her whole comment. But, after a moment, the second part of what she said sank in.

“Wait, fear of the mind-meld? What does that mean?”

Wren looked like a kid with her hand caught in the cookie jar. “Oh. Well… Obviously, you know about my parent’s issues. I just got really freaked out a few nights ago about us and all the what ifs. Like what if you turn out to be a yeller like Dad? And what if I end up having to take migraine medicine for the rest of my life like Mom, but then I realized that I trust you, and I can do this.” She nodded. The last part seemed more for herself than for him. He winced.

“I love you,” She smiled.

“Wren, I…” He started, but then his eye twitched again, “I… love you too.”

Oh boy… This is worse than I thought.


When Wren stepped through the large wooden chapel doors the next morning, Harry’s heart almost stopped. She looked more graceful than a swan, with her simple white dress trailing behind her. The morning sun streaming in through the windows behind him cast a warm glow that brought out the blond highlights in her curly caramel hair, pinned back beneath her veil. As she strode towards him, the soothing chords of Pachelbel’s Canon in D started to feel like his personal funeral march. After her admission last night, he felt even worse. When she found out what he had done, she was going to kill him, or worse, jilt him at the altar.

Wren reached the base of the altar where he was waiting and grasped his hands tightly, which he attributed to anticipatory jitters. She looked up at him with her eyes shining. She was perfect. And after today, if he told her, he was going to lose her.

Most of the ceremony passed in a blur. He responded when prompted, although if you asked him what he had said, he had no clue. He must have said the right things though because before he knew it, he heard the officiant say, “If anyone can think of any reason why these two young lovers should not be bound in heart, and especially mind, speak now or forever hold your peace.”

At the mention of minds, his eye twitched yet again.

Come on Harry. Fess up.

Silence ensued, although Harry could feel the sweat pouring down his neck into his collar, which suddenly felt a lot tighter. He wanted to reach up and loosen it, but his hands were firmly in Wren’s grasp, in preparation for the mind-meld to start.

Harry, if there was a time to tell her, it would be now…

“I neither see nor hear any impediment to this union. Without further ado, I now pronounce you Husband and Wife. You may now meld your…”

“Wait!” Harry exclaimed to the officiant and then turned back to Wren, “I have something I need to tell you.”

He heard a sharp gasp from the congregation; he didn’t even need to look to know who it came from.

“Can’t it wait? We do have an audience, you know” Wren nodded her head towards the guests filling the chapel, whose faces ranged from intrigued to veritably horrified, his mother falling decidedly in the second category, mouth still open after her earlier aspiration. His father sat stoic beside her. No surprises there.

No, it most definitely cannot.

“Ummm, not really,” he grimaced, teeth bared in an expression that was trying really hard to be a charming smile but looked more like a chimpanzee’s grin.

“Not even until after the mind meld?”

“Ya… about that…”

Her eyes got the biggest he had ever seen them, so big she bore an uncanny resemblance to his favorite primate, the Philippine Tarsier.

“Harry, what is it?”

“So you know how I always used to joke about dying alone with my tortoise?”

“Of course. I tease you about it all the time. What does that have to do with our wedding?”

“Well, when I was about thirteen, I hit peak nerd.”

“Yes. Your mom has showed me the photos. And…” She waved her left hand signaling him to continue, the ring they had picked out together catching the light.

Come on Harry, Don’t be a dolt. She loves you. You can do this.

He took a large inhale, and all of a sudden, his deepest, darkest, most well-kept secret came spilling out in one giant mumbled burst that only Wren could hear.

“Imind-meldedwithDarwinonaccidentwhenIwasthirteenandstupid. ha ha”

Ha, Ha? Really, Harry?

Oh, shut up, Darwin.

“Woah, slow down. You WHAT?” She exclaimed, blinking.

By the sound of the murmuring of the crowd behind them, her shout had carried farther than he had wanted. He looked down at his own left hand and started twisting his new ring around nervously.

“Can we talk outside for a bit?” he asked.

He turned to his wedding guests now squirming in their pews. He was sure they thought he had cheated or gotten cold feet at the worst time, but both of those things would probably have made more sense to Wren, who was looking at him like he was the tortoise.

“If you could just give us a few minutes? We’ll be right back,” he said, and pulled Wren out the side door near the altar into the hallway.

Away from the appalled audience, he took another deep breath. Her entreating glance gave him the courage to continue.

“I used my one chance at thought-sharing to meld minds with my tortoise. It was a complete accident. We had just learned the particulars in school, you know. The stare into the persons eyes and concentrate until you feel their consciousness type stuff. Well, later that week, I had a particularly bad day. Paul was out with a cold, so there was no one to intimidate the group of jocks who sat behind me in science class. They spent the whole period calling me amphibi-noob and chucking pieces of paper at the back of my head when the teacher wasn’t looking. I had never felt more alone. After school, Darwin was the only person around to talk to, like usual, so I rehashed my whole day out loud more for my benefit than anything else, but it really felt like he was listening this time for some reason. So then, I had my genius idea. Try reaching out to Darwin. I didn’t think it was gonna work. But I thought really hard about Darwin with my hand on his shell to establish the necessary point of contact, and all of a sudden, my voice in my head changed and my thoughts felt really sporadic. Then I realized that they weren’t my thoughts at all. They were far too sarcastic to have originated from me. And I flipped out because my shoddy and stupid experiment worked. I never knew I would meet someone like you who was amazing and everything I could have ever wanted but never knew I could have. I promise I would share my thoughts with you if I could. Will you forgive me?”

He looked up to see tears in her eyes. His stomach dropped. He knew he was screwed. He knew it. He…

“Oh, thank goodness!” She blew out a forceful breath and wiped away the tears dripping down her face, almost giggling with what seemed to Harry like relief? She wasn’t mad? He scanned her over to make sure. Her shoulders had relaxed. Her eyes were no longer of monkey-sized proportions. She seemed suspiciously too happy. Was that bad?

“I didn’t know how to tell you, but I was really trying to put on a brave face yesterday. I didn’t want to meld minds either. You saw what it does to my parents. I didn’t ever want to risk that, not that you’re like them of course, but I don’t want us to have to live with that pressure… so, of course I forgive you. Not that this is really something you can guess about, but I always was a little suspicious of how helpful Darwin was whenever you two were in the same room. What kind of normal tortoise brings you the remote?” She laughed and wiped her cheek, “Can you forgive me, for not being honest with you either?”

“Forgive you? I could kiss you right now for not slapping me and storming out of here.” So he did.

And then he remembered that it was his wedding that he himself had so rudely interrupted.

“I guess we should probably go back out there, right? I think by this point my poor mother has had an aneurism,” He said with a sigh.

“Maybe not an aneurism, but at least a minor conniption,” she said, and they both laughed.

“What should we tell them?” As much of a relief as it was to tell Wren, he wasn’t ready to publish his experiment results too widely yet.

“Leave that to me,” she said and grabbed his hand.

They slipped back through the door, hands still linked, and took their places at the altar again.

“Are you ready to meld minds now?” the officiant asked incredulously.

“Of course, sir. Don’t mind Harry. His tortoise must have rubbed off on him, because he had some cold-blooded feet for a moment,” She winked at Harry, her dimples finally making an appearance again, and mouthed just go with it.

All the guests chuckled except for his mother; she still looked a little shellshocked. But if he had had any doubts about Wren’s genius before now, they would have been erased. They grabbed hands and stared at each other for the requisite ten seconds, willing each other not to laugh while trying to look convincingly telepathic. The officiant proclaimed them married and melded, and after a quick peck, they ran down the aisle to the car waiting outside to take them to the reception.

Crisis Averted, Darwin.

Told you it would be fine. Although, you realize they’re gonna find out eventually, don’t you?

Harry’s eye twitched.

Autumn 2020 Visual Art


Autumn 2020 Poetry

looking in the mirror at vaden health center

a postage stamp-story 
on a book of empty envelopes
with no addresses

to return from quixotic adventures 
in the wandering eclipses 
of imagination 

to feel in one hand strength to become 
light passing through a carbon prism, 
fundamental frequency 

of the universe. in the other: 
requiem filed without order. 
climb into a bottle, drift 

into a house on a street 
with no number
reduced to dust — no, ash

let go once, you never come back
Autumn 2020 Poetry

summer sink

The faucet water runs hot,
And in tandem with summer
Refracted through an opened window, 
The heat plants glistening beads upon my forehead. 

I wipe still-dripping hands onto neatly-ironed pants
(kitchen rag is still in the hamper), 
But realize I have neglected a plate, blue bone china, 
And plunge my hands back into the browning sink. 

Chipped kaolin ridge with gilded koi slices my ring finger
Clean, muted red wine blood with soapy water, 
Tugs at the nerve ending, as body forges its own
Riot against the heat. 

I wipe again — the severed skin folds over 
Itself, milky and slender, 
Its curvature a rebellion, but easily stifled 
With a pair of culinary scissors. 

There are pains that are simpler
Once the excruciating bite is borne, 
In the name of extended relief. 
Many pains of the body are this way. 

I suck like a leech until the blood slows, 
Wipe a third time, searing against my linen thigh, 
Mummify the wound, cauterizing atmosphere
Licking it sealed. It is summer

So the alley fills, too. Out the window, 
Children blow bubbles out of topsy tails
Like the ones my mother used, tying my hair into knots, 
That would stay, tight, for the week she was gone. 

A toddler carries a speckled leaf to their mother, 
She tucks it behind her ear;
She has learned well to tuck 
The most beautiful things away. 

I tug at the wiry curl behind my ear, 
And a strand catches in the wound:  
It bleeds hot.