an open space for youth writing & mental health discussion
an open space for youth writing & mental health discussion
Playing the piano. Millions of possible sound combinations echoing with each touch, the black and white keys envelop the tremors and delicacy of a relationship. Harmonies capture an elation, a development of happiness as the keys consequently tumble, like a person down a flight of stairs into a low, melancholic state on the cold concrete of the musical passage. The louder the notes become, as if a person were screaming at the top of their lungs, and then immediately descend into a soft, meek, whisper in attempt to make their voice heard. The gradual pressing of the damper pedal, slurring the sounds together, a slow, sluggish mixture of melodies in one melting pot as if they were one.
What does it mean to create? Why do I write? I am not a writer.
I steep myself into this existential despair, hoping that way I may extract some impressive idea to write on. But as time passes, I realise I am more a pathetic chicken breast dinner soaking in watery marinade than a Natalie Wynn bathing in a rose-lemongrass froth of expensive ideas. Still, here I am in the back of a fridge, slowly suffocating under cling film, thinking with delusional conviction that my ideas will taste better the longer I sit in it. I will never escape this.
Last of the moon arose under my nose. It crept through the sky, as I spun around the machine, breathing lint that hung in the air. I walked on my toes, for my feet no longer supported my weight.
My limbs yearned for the possibility of escape. I wanted to extend my hand out, let it soak the smell of grass, trees, bird dung, anything - as long as it smelt different. So, I could close my eyes, with my hand resting on my face, imagining a life that could not collapse under the weight of coal.
Helmet forgotten, raincoat unzipped, her dark hair streamed out behind her. Her scuffed boots pedaled loosely, and her bike, two sizes too small, sped across the empty parking lot. Back and forth. She ignored the burning in her thighs. She couldn't remember the last time she had felt this unburdened. An observer, had there been one, would have seen a happy girl. Her thoughts and worries left behind, no heavy memories weighing on her shoulders.
A noise jolted her out of her momentary bliss.
“We’re almost out of popsicles.” My daughter, Cassie, rooted languidly through the freezer.
I wiped sweat from my forehead and flipped through the mail, the paper going damp and soft in my hands. “I’ll get some the next time I go out.”
The crackle of a wrapper and the thud of her footstep responded for her.
She paused at the bottom of the stairs, gaze bored and diffuse. “What.”
“Any flavor you want?”
“Just get whatever.”
observe as the boys in your class bristle when you refuse to believe each and every one of their words. you are starting to have your own thoughts and opinions, as you understand the power of your voice; read their texts saying “not to publicly go against” what they say and think about playing hopscotch in the yard during recess. think about the goal as you remember the numbered squares in elementary school and the way you could just jump without falling. hesitate to have a different point of view and utter the words of dissent that they don’t want to hear. ponder the question of if you should speak or stay silent.
“Forget about it,” says the depressed husband to the wife, says the child to their parents, as they all sit at a kitchen table somewhere. The wood that composes that table probably witnessed more conversations, more lively happenings in its oak-tree form. But as the enormous tree becomes chopped down, polished, and refined into a smaller and more unnatural form, it becomes apparent that the reduction from gargantuan to miniscule these days is commonplace.
Another example of this aforementioned reduction: the gradual loss of genuine talking, and hearts being worn on the cardigan sleeve at supper. Instead of reverberations of white-teeth and tobacco-tinted laughter, the only thing one can hear are prongs screeching when they drag along the china plate. Even then, the person almost realizes their mistake, and brings the silverware back to their seasonless cut of steak.
Black locks of hair were knotted in a messy bun at the top of her head, and small, intricate earrings hung delicately from her earlobes. She bent over, collared shirt stretched across her back as she whispered to a child. She didn’t see the way their eyes shone with reverence, or how their hands had stopped fidgeting as though paralysed in awe. Her melodic voice was gentle and patient, and her cheeks glowed with pride when the child nodded slowly to show their understanding. She had soft milk chocolate skin, with deep black eyes that sparkled bright behind flamingo pink-rimmed glasses. Full lips smiled to reveal pearly teeth as she strode to me, and I could see her almost float away with happiness as she approached closer and closer, her small teachers badge softly glinting in the overhanging yellow light, painting her in a ethereal golden glow. Collapsing against me, she sighed, and I silently thanked the angels that they had sent one of their own for me.
His shadowed eyes revealed their sky-blue irises through slow blinks. He was so close to me, and yet I was still fighting for his attention. The smell of the smoke on his breath would have repulsed me if it were dancing on anyone else's skin. But in the moments he blew across my cheek in his playful way, I could not have approved of the scent more. I was drawn to him, finding myself by his side more times than I should have. My eyes traced his square face, his jawline as it moved with his words, my fingers flexing with an urge to caress it. When I found his eyes, I noticed his inspecting gaze on the girl across from him. She was beautiful. I had to walk away.
Rich, dark purple chords vibrated from the piano and into the open air of my practice room. My arms trembled from the constant force being strained upon them, as they unforgivingly played on the innocent white and black keys to constitute an angry melody. Bursts of color sprang together to form sound waves, each overpowering the latter. A mournful black downed by a blood red sea that clashed against impulsive white streaks. Over and over. Louder and louder. Until the last measure climaxed in a climbing arpeggio of bright orange dots to confront an unfinished seventh chord. My fingers hesitated over the final note for a sliver of a second, then gently satisfied the end of its melody.
The ballerina pirouettes, yearning for a curtsy.
An oboe croons the opening to Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake. The ballerina’s lips arch in a painted smile as she completes her turn in the spotlight of a full moon. Her lithe body is almost airborne, but hours of practice keep her loyal to gravity. Still, the stage barely feels the kiss of her pointe slipper.
As soon as the oboe’s phrase resolves, it repeats itself. The tarlatan tutu whirls like a punctured parachute around her waist. Again, the oboe’s solo ends, but now it insists on another encore. The ballerina exists to entertain, so entertain she must, though her head spins at the mercy of a migraine.
The man stumbled into the newly renovated university library, contemplating the unfamiliar, abandoned campus that had greeted him cheerfully just hours ago. He looked for the newest edition of The Exo-Times, the school’s daily newspaper, hoping to gain insight into the school’s sudden emptiness. Around him he heard the whirring of industrial printers, and the clacking noise of typing. Eerily, he saw no movement, only students sitting at their desks. He went up to one of the students and shook them – “where can I find a copy of the paper?” But where there should have been eyes there were only glossy reflections of himself. “I’m sorry, there are no more copies available. I have to get back to work.” And with that, the student turned back and the sound of typing recommenced.
* = Editors' Choice work
Unless otherwise noted, all pictures used are open-source images in the public domain.