For Somebody that I Used to Know

Avery Heck

The moment I entered the room the first time we met, I felt like you were the person I was always supposed to be around. With your unnaturally long dark hair and your caramel-colored skin, you were beautiful and enticing and oddly shy, now that I reflect on it. Your tattooed father loomed over your shoulder, acting as if you trusted him (you didn’t) and your mother had her arms crossed, wishing she were anywhere but here. And your sister. Your sister’s gaze was locked on the wall, as if she was floating somewhere else. I was painfully unaware of what was going on. But who could blame me?

I was hardly fourteen and my mind was filled with books and what I was having for dinner that night. My focus wasn’t on the purple bruise just peeking out from your dark shirt, a stark contrast from the warmth of your skin.

Your shy behavior didn’t leave me for hours that day and I hoped that we could be friends. I just wanted a friend. That’s all I ever wanted. I wish I hadn’t wanted it that hard.

Months later, when I saw you again, I practically fell to my knees and said, “I’m so glad you got in!” Only to be met with, “Who are you?”

I was dumbfounded. How could she not remember me when I had made it a point to memorize so much about her?

My cheeks ran red and I tucked my head low, one of many mannerisms I gained from being in your world and said, “Oh, we met at the audition.”

We would become best friends, attached at the hip, and I would tell you everything. Anything and everything. When I was with you, there was no filter. You were my world, my reason for getting up in the morning, my best friend and my sole confidant.

I would tell you everything, but you would never.

The things you would say were base level, nothing that proved that you trusted me with precious information. You were so closed off and it used to annoy me, but now it doesn’t. The things you would tell me, I wish you never had. Before you, I lived in a world of naivety that I would never get back.

I had considered her my best friend before the truth in our relationship began. I think I was desperate to dub someone that title because, like her, I was so suffocatingly lonely. And just as much as I needed her, I think she needed me. Neither of us had truly known what the words meant – or, I guess, we had different definitions of it. Best friend. Above all others. The bestest of the best. The one who triumphs all the others. She was my best. And I thought I was hers. Maybe, for a time, I was, but then I lost her to other things.

It took a whole year of friendship before she finally opened up to me and poured out her entire soul.

We went to see one of those, now cringey, young adult films at the old Regal theater in our small town. She lived in the apartments right next to it. I lived about ten miles away in a gated community with a four number code that she knew well. It was ten o’clock at night and the film had just ended. My father sat at the entrance in our second car while her mother was nowhere in sight. She murmured, “Go home, I’ll be okay waiting alone.” My father refused and said, “No, we can wait until your mom gets here.” I think she was used to being left and gaped slightly at my dad’s words.

He sat in the car and we waited at the entrance. She turned to me and whispered things that I don’t think I was ready to hear. But she felt in her heart that I was ready to hear it.

Her dad had just been arrested in Miami for robbing a bank and her mom was about to get fired because of an “indiscretion” at work. (Months later she would reveal that her mom was addicted to cocaine and had kicked her and her sister out, leaving them practically homeless.) She revealed the abuse and the toxicity and all of it while my dad sat, with the windows rolled up, in our little car.

I didn’t know what to say. When the words finally came, her mom pulled up and she reluctantly got in the car. I watched carefully as they pulled out of the theater parking lot. Two days later in school, she pretended like she hadn’t said it.

From then on, I reminded myself how lucky I was. I was damn lucky. I had a mother and father who loved me and a brother and sister who I protected. I extended a hand out to her and basically told her she could be my family too.

We let her stay the night – many nights. We took her on family vacations. She was in every family picture and every family moment for nearly three years. It wasn’t charity, it wasn’t because we felt bad, it was because we loved her like an extension of ourselves.

The shame didn’t come until junior year.

I would eat a sandwich and she would side eye me, making a comment about how bad it was. I would look in a mirror and say, “I look chubby” and she would say, “It’s okay, I do too.” She would make comments about how fat she was – she wasn’t – and then obsess over my weight. It felt like a game and I fed into it. I stopped eating. She stopped eating. We fed into each other’s worst qualities and exploited them.

She would fall back on her work, I’d let her copy every assignment.

I’d ask for one bit of help and she would silence me for a week.

I would cry in the corner of a room, she would laugh with the girl who would end up replacing.

Maybe it was petty of me, but I fell from her good graces. Every single thing I did for her fell away and I became the shell of a person that I once was. I wanted to help her, do her right by the world because no one else had put her first. I celebrated her successes; she didn’t celebrate mine. And maybe that’s because she didn’t know how to do that or what it would mean to do that.

I would’ve supported her in every decision.

I was falling apart, only living for her approval and the idea that she would be okay.

I wanted to die. I was falling apart. I was stuffing my face with diet pills and eating nearly nothing.

I was falling apart because I wanted to look like my replacement. I wanted to be in my best friend’s world. I was a puppy dog. I lived only to lift her up and not for myself. If there was something we both wanted, I would throw myself to the wayside so she could have that special moment.

We wanted to go to college together. I wanted it so badly and when I was unable to live out that dream, she shamed me for it, saying, “How could you abandon me? Why would you do that to us? I hate you.”

When I reflect on high school, I can see so perfectly why I was miserable the whole time. I only lived for her.

When it all came to fruition and I gave up on her, she had blocked me from her life.

Leaving her was the most cathartic experience.

I was so afraid of leaving her because she made it seem like she would have nothing, only she didn’t. She got into our dream school, found an old woman to pay for it, and now she is living out her best life while I lay in my dorm room unable to move most days.

There were days when I felt like I carried both of our worlds. I so desperately wanted to give her everything but I fell short.

I am still healing.

She reaches out sometimes.

I respond.

It doesn’t go further than that.

From that experience, I learned the most valuable gift.

You must be gracious in this world. Help those who need it but don’t lose yourself in the process. A savior complex is the worst kind of burden to have. It’s unfair to yourself and your potential. That was my most valuable spiritual journey.

Reverse Poem

Tayla Vannelli

Hope > Fear  

Fear

the power of

the devil. He has not

been defeated. He is only

growing stronger. Satan’s kingdom has

come down to earth. The church is

at his mercy. Heaven has

been eradicated. We marvel

that the devil’s power has

been chosen by God. Now,

how can this be? The suffering ones have

been ignored.

God’s love has

found a way to deceive us.

Clearly, evil

is victorious over all.

God,

Understand who He is:

He wants us to

choose fear.

There is no reason to

Hope.  

(read bottom to top)

My Whole World

Destiny Killian

Earthen eyes of hazel

ground me

after our world has turned

topsy turvy

Six feet or six lightyears

the distant is irrelevant

I could travel the globe

yet fail to find your equal

Kyoto’s famed flowers

would turn green with envy

their pink petals shriveling

upon seeing the blush

that blossoms on your face

at my every compliment

The city of love could never compare

to jazz music lilting

through the living room all around

avoiding our klutzy attempts to keep rhythm

Hopefully we’ll be better at this

during our first dance, mon amour

Not even your Bel Paese

from which your family hails

has enough beauty to match

your melodious tone

We hum and sing and saute mushrooms

in your stepmother’s kitchen

imaging the day when we have a home of our own

Despite this dire past year

our love leads me

to places new yet so familiar

The circumference

of your arms,

a planet previously undiscovered,

now my whole world

Walls of Jericho

Jesse Lee

“When the trumpets sounded, the army shouted, and at the sound of the trumpet, when the men gave a loud shout, the wall collapsed; so everyone charged straight in, and they took the city”

– Joshua 6:20

1st Trumpet

I have always told people that if they see me cry something is terribly wrong. Sad movies, happy endings, beautiful strains of a violin, all the things meant to touch a soft soul ricochet off my Kryptonian heart. I was a warrior, a she-wolf, a lioness in high heels. I would survive this harsh world with steel in my soul and a broken glass smile. Ice queens in armor of rock music and leather jackets do not cry.  

2nd Trumpet

It became a joke as the mission team boarded a plane bound for New York City. My best friend, who had never seen a single tear in my eyes, made a bet that something would get to me. Some emotional arrow would find a chink in my armor. I laughed and sipped my Americano. By the time we were ordering much needed coffee in Budapest, the whole team was in on the wager. “The mission field changes everyone, all you have to do is lower your walls”, the team leader told me. I gave a groggy half-nod and crawled into the van for the three-hour drive across the Romanian border.  

3rd Trumpet

A night in a Romanian hotel and another day spent driving through the Carpathian mountains allowed us to get to know the couple who owned the mission house. We were told at the end of the week we’d be asked to share something we took away from this trip. My friend nudged me in the ribs and I smirked. Learn something? Sure. Get emotional? Never.

4th Trumpet

Pictures, stories, eyewitness accounts were all woefully inadequate for what awaited us at the river village. Children barely dressed, shelters built from trash, a room the size of a closet housing a family of eight. We brought a hot meal and supplies. We ate, prayed, built, smiled. We left exhausted but proud. We promised to return later in the week.  

5th Trumpet

We worked in the garden of the mission sponsored children’s home. We laughed and played games with the Romani Gypsy children fortunate enough to escape the villages and live there. A little girl sat in my lap for hours, snuggled against me as we watched cartoons. Another thing that made my friend smile. I had always claimed to dislike children. But this little girl climbed into my lap, all dark eyes and gap toothed smile, skinny arms wrapped around me until the day we left. I never stood a chance.  

6th Trumpet

They were considered the lucky ones, a large family living in two rooms made out of a modified shipping container. Lucky because they were out of the villages. Lucky to raise their children in a tiny box. Children that ran to greet us, knowing that the mission house van meant food and care for a few hours. We stepped inside when the mother told us there was a baby. A baby lying on a bed in the blazing heat, tiny hands twitching at the flies that crawled over it. The softest heart in our group scooped him up to hold and I stepped outside.  

7th Trumpet

The older girls were getting their hair braided. The team didn’t have another hair tie. I pulled mine from my own braid and took it to the woman braiding hair. The little girl said something in Romani, grinning up at me. I smiled back and waited for a translation. “She said you have pretty green eyes.” I gave a cracked thank you to this beautiful smiling girl and retreated. I was silent the entire ride back to the mission house, busy attempting repairs on the cracks in my citadel’s walls.   Shout The day we left, I dropped my bag by the door. I knelt down and hugged the girl who had been my shadow all week. She smiled and squeezed me tight. I’m not sure if she thought this was a goodbye or a I’ll see you later tonight. My knuckles were white on the straps of my bag as I loaded it into the van. I sat silently in the back as we left the town of Viile Tecii in the rearview mirror. Halfway to Oradea we were asked to share what we were taking away from this trip. I thought about dark eyes staring into green. Gap toothed smiles. Tiny hands and flies. I thought of disciples, of Christ, of “suffer little children.” And the walls came crashing down.

be still

Anna Lundy

and know that

i am with you.   

be still and know

that i am here.   

even in your

solitude.   

even in your

fear.   

even in your 

loneliness.   

even in your

grief.   

be still and know

that i am here. 

Seasons and Security

Emily Boban

You feel the icy chill, you feel hot breeze  

Inhaling pollen that makes you sneeze

You’ve been hungry, you’ve been tired

You’ve been joyful, you’ve been inspired

You’ve been late, you’ve been early

You’ve felt weak and you’ve felt sturdy

You are no stranger to failure nor to winning

You’ve wanted consistency and a new beginning

You’ve been empty, you’ve been stressed

Each and every day you still get dressed

You may earn or you may lose

You may look ahead or at your shoes

You’ve been wrong and you’ve been right

Yet you’re always precious in His sight

Yellow

Destiny Killian

I used to hate the color yellow

Resented the fact that only one crayon

was meant to draw a smiling sun

Regarded sunflowers as

too similar to the plastic fakes

sold in stores

And thought lemons were

far too sour for

my tastes

I looked down on this

singular shade as being too bright, too loud,

too much  

Until I met you

and rose colored glasses

enhanced my sight, turning

once offensive hues

into pastel happiness

Like an epiphany, love

had reformed my

kaleidoscope vision

Bringing you into

crystal clear

focus  

You send me

pixelated hearts with

every good morning message

Primarily yellow ones

alongside romantic red

like a palette

of flames meant to be tamed

but instead burn

us both

prismatic

I love the contrast, you say

You, who are also

bright and loud and

accused of being too much,

couldn’t be more

radiant to my eyes  

Your warmth surrounds me,

bathing my skin

in a summer glow,

comforting me during

my dullest of days

Your mere presence

parts every gray cloud,

the lambent light of

our love shining through

I could live in the color yellow

so long as

I’m living with you

Paper Keyhole

Isabel Borgers

How is a world made of pages?

How can something

That is only words and paper

Open and let a living being walk inside?

Books hide between their covers

Entire worlds

That need only one key

To enter—

A creative mind

And an eager imagination

My Husband, the Bard

Jacee Clowers

When I read The Odyssey for the first time, one character caught my attention like no other. Most people remember brave Odysseus or faithful Penelope, but my mind couldn’t let go of the Bard. He’s not really an important character. There’s a lot of story in The Odyssey and the Bard takes up so little of it. But somehow he was able to take Odysseus’ stories, with all of his faults and mistakes, and make it into a story that would sing his praises. My husband has the ability to do that too. He can weave stories together more beautifully than Penelope could weave a tapestry or more skillfully than Odysseus could send an arrow through a chink in an axe head.

I’ll never forget the first story he told me. We sat in one of the study rooms in our college’s dingy library. By chance, we were paired for a group project in our children’s literature class. He was the funny guy in the room, always getting the professor riled up with a dumb question in the middle of a lecture or pretending to teach the class for a couple of laughs. At one word, the room was instantly his. He could command it and transform it with just the words flicking from the end of his tongue.

My grandparents were travelers, he blurted in the middle of my question. They would jet off to distant lands looking for an adventure. Spain, Ireland, Nigeria, Japan. They carried a small map and a single dart. Wherever the dart landed, that’s where they went next. He told me about all the treasures they brought home jewels and spices, tokens and wood carvings. Their house was covered in their bounty. You could scarcely walk without nearly knocking over a clay pot or statue. I laughed.

He told me about the stories they’d made on their adventures. How they’d met a crew of modern day pirates. How they’d smuggled gold for some rich Ghanaian mobster. How they’d jumped from a French train into a river just before it ran off its tracks. His eyes held a fire that leapt with every detail.

My family was in for Christmas, visiting Nan and Pop’s lake house. He told me of how he had escaped from the kitchen just before tea and peeled to the docks. My favorite pastime was watching the boats sailing into port. I would imagine it was me returning home in one of those boats, a load of treasure and gold and spices and ritual garb in trunks around me. I made it to the docks just as another boat was heading in. I stared at the men on the boat. Their faces were weary, their backs bent. No gold on that ship, I thought. But just as I was about to turn to the house, a ship the size of a barge came sailing by. It was out near the horizon. I leaned forward as far as I could. My toes gripping the edge and my arm wrapped around a pole were all that was keeping me on the dock. I could scarcely see the men moving on deck, but I just imagined their bounty, how much gold lay beneath the ship’s deck. I imagined myself lying in a bed of gold coins and jewels, like one you’d see in the Cave of Wonders in Aladdin. As my mind wandered in these distant fantasies, my toes slipped off the docks.

He told me how he was inches away from the water when a hand reached out and grabbed the back of his shirt. He remembered it happening so slowly that he thought the hand had reached straight from heaven to keep his small body from plunging into the freezing waters. It was just my Pop, but I certainly had God’s grace that day. We sat in that study room until the library closed at midnight. He must have told me a hundred stories. I listened intently to every single one of them. When I left the library that night, I was completely in love with him.

Since then, he’s told me thousands of stories. Once I asked him how he had so many. I make a new one every day, he told me. But it wasn’t the sheer amount of stories themselves that shocked me; it was the way he told them. One day I discovered the secret to how he constructed such fantastic stories. It was Thanksgiving, and I was meeting his family for the first time. We pulled up to his grandparents’ lakehouse. The house was colored a grey blue on the outside with white trimmings and shutters. After seeing such serene simplicity, I was utterly surprised when we entered the living room. Wall to wall was covered in ornate decorations. A Celtic tapestry hung in the middle of one wall, but it was surrounded by masks and spears from South America and Africa. The adjacent wall was covered in shallow woven baskets of all colors. It looked like a rainbow had been created in their living room, a rainbow fashioned by cultures from all over the world.

Almost immediately I was welcomed by hugs and kisses from family that I didn’t know at all. While the mothers and grandmother prepared the meal—I offered to help—Pop sat me down and explained every person in the room: who they were, what they did, how they were related, and, of course, some crazy story that he remembered from years and years ago. After the meal, the family didn’t turn on tv to watch the football game. No, they sat around in that museum of a living room and told stories. All of them, round and round the room stories rang from any person who had the chance. Stories flowed through their veins like immortality was said to flow through the veins of Odysseus’ gods. I gazed into the face of the man who would become my husband and imagined the long line of storytellers that came before him. It flowed back for thousands of years, perhaps all the way back to the Bard in The Odyssey himself.

It’s only fitting that I would fall in love with a storyteller. I have always loved stories. You could scarcely find me without a book in my hands. When it was time to go to college, I determined that I wanted to study stories. My entire life was built upon stories, and when I met my husband, he fit into it like the final puzzle piece.

So here we are now. The storyteller and the story lover. My mind often goes back to the image of his family line full of storytellers stretching back for generations. But now, I can see it stretching forward. That ability to tell stories, it was genetic. Like I said, it flowed through their veins. One day, the children I bear him will have that ability as well. Every time they open their mouths they will enchant a new person. Someday they will enchant someone like me, someone who can’t live without stories.

To a Microcosm

Fabrice Poussin

Warrior clad on a valiant stallion
she crosses tempests cast by demons
seeking return to the island of first breath.

Obscure waves stand above mountain peaks
jagged shores welcome her with fiercely shrieks
she will enter Hades to find her way home.

Harnessed upon streams of the conquered blood
she plunges into the realm of certain ecstasy.
child of a few dawns, victor of infinite spaces.

She will not be seen on the roads to glory
for she journeys in the microcosms of eternity
with the one who infused her flesh with a breath.