a space for youth writing & mental health discussion
a space for youth writing & mental health discussion
The pearly gates were some scrap of a thing.
I found that they were not wrought from gemstones. They weren’t framed in those ornate, sun-kissed curlicues you see on Christian billboards. Rather, they’d been thrown together from that back-gate, chain link kind of fencing. The kind that creaks, digging through the weeds every time you walk by. The kind that makes your hands smell of metal, left stuck with rusty colored flakes.
Ubiquitous means to be appearing everywhere. Do you know what has become seemingly ubiquitous everywhere I go? My brother Kaleb’s face, which is sort of bizarre because he hasn’t “appeared” for nearly two years. Two years ago I saw him once, right before he was confined underground in a claustrophobic coffin for the rest of eternity. But I still see his face everywhere. The eyes that used to be so big I called him Bug-Eyes when we were younger, his uneven but undeniably adorable dimples that appeared when he flashed his famous smirk, his chocolate brown eyes with a warmth that enveloped you like a thick blanket. I really wish those features could be actively moving again, not just stationary stones plastered on every tree trunk, newspaper, and mailbox. He is gone, and these people just want to get our hopes up again.
[content warning: alcohol, sexual content]
Brendan made hand gestures and laughed through his teeth. You ate ice cream by the park and changed tables two times, first because of the traffic, then because of the bees. He only offered to pay half-heartedly; “I insist” he said at the counter, in a high pitched voice. Your cotton candy ice cream was freezer burnt. It cost you 4 dollars and 36 cents.
Xan with the side smirk took you to a pub. He had lazy hazel eyes and California tan, like he did in his profile picture. You drank beer from bottles and sat in a maroon booth by the corner. He hated how cliché he sounded- he really did- but he would die for some of his fraternity brothers. He stared at your cleavage and asked if you wanted to watch a movie back at his place. You walked home by yourself in the rain. You had no headphones.
[content warning: death of animals]
The school calls late Sunday night. It is an automated voice, emotionless, giving me and my brother Christmas morning in the middle of January: no school the next day. Even if they had not called off for the imminent snow storm, we wouldn’t have gone in for the trouble of attempting to get down our long gravel driveway.
Mama still puts us to bed on time, but I stay up for hours, watching the snow roll in and slowly begin to pile up and up and up. I picture myself trudging through it all, a hero on her way to save her kingdom from monsters hidden in the dark.
[content warning: death, depression, minor sexual content]
My mum once said that ‘a house is constructed but a home is crafted’. Within these years of my life, I have tried to knit, sketch, ramble or even clatter my words, my version of it with different yarns on the same piece of cloth having this line pre-inscribed. I feel that by the day I would die, I can find that cloth as a stone over my head, as a resting structure with plants growing all around supplying me with fresh oxygen, which I won’t be alive to inhale! Plants are my mom’s love. They have occupied almost every nook at the corner balcony. I wonder how they cook their own food there, when sunlight during every part of the year is so dim. Perhaps the rains aren’t scanty enough. They don’t get disturbed by the constant trickling water from the old cooler and the grunting sewerage pipes, their offensive smell.
[content warning: internalized homophobia]
Grace stares out the bus window, watching through lazy eyes as the buildings whir by, their cement walls hazy with unfocus. Dotting the sidewalks are street lights that refuse to dim, despite the creeping up of the Sun through the clouds. The last few determined moths buzz around the bulbs with fervor. Grace can’t help but wonder what they hope to find there. Her gaze shifts to the shadows under the trees, and she is transported to a different time.
The day everything went perfect was the day she died.
It was the milk. The 2% all-natural organic milk, which had been sitting in the fridge for just a day too long. The milk’s expiration date was October 3rd. It was currently October 2nd, and this was a carton of very punctual milk, which had no intention of being late, fashionably or otherwise.
The voice, muffled in the distance of the line, said words. Words that were unimportant, like the milk, when not strung together.
[content warning: suicidal ideation, depression, death]
Shattered glass scatters the passenger seat. My window is smashed in, now an empty hole letting in the cool breeze of spring and the smell of flowers. The bass from my radio still pounds through my speakers. Loudly. I slam my hand down on the volume knob, wanting to shut off the melody that seemed so comforting only seconds ago. I hadn’t heard it in the moment, but now the crushing of metal and the screeching of tires skidding against asphalt seem to ring in my ears.
I just sit there. Maybe I should get out. Call 911. Do something. But my body is frozen. Time is moving faster than my thoughts, I see the shattered glass, I know what car accidents look like. But this doesn’t feel like one.
I’m sorry, Ethan.
Vivian, like any God’s loneliest creature; a queer mixture of memory and forgetting, out of place everywhere, at home nowhere. Awakens on this downpour morning with dreams disturbed by the arrival of the dumpster truck from the city’s trash removal and for a length, he stares in confused remembrance towards where the window opens to the sky which has slowly changed color from dianthus-pink to hydrangea-blue.
Without warning, the sprinklers on every floor, every room of the Tannerin Hotel rained freezing water. As the marbled floors increasingly blanketed with gloss, people slipped and scurried to the nearest exit only to find them all locked shut. Families bordering on sleep after rich dinners escaped their rooms with the TVs still on and suitcases left open like books, just catching in the soak until the fake rain bounced off the folded clothing. Some left their rooms in bathrobes with hair towels.
She’s on her way to pick me up and I think she should be here soon. Maybe she’s running late, perhaps because of Jonathan. That boy can get lost in his own little world of play sometimes, a consequence of being an only child. I do wish they would have more kids. I think that would help Jonathan get out of his shell a bit. He’s so shy and I know he has some trouble with the other boys at school.
[content warning: self harm, abuse, bullying]
“Write her a note and she will hear
Under her umbrella, your thoughts are safe
Burn the letter and it will be clear
As the paper disintegrates”
On the table was a vase of roses. Big, fat roses with coffee cream petals, just about dripping onto cloth. They sank into baby’s breath, all of it blooming through the glass.
Beside it was a cloth-covered basket.
Around this, little saucers formed a ring, each displaying a rose-shaped pat of butter. One for each of us.
The whole table was a pearly, silver-studded array of about ten thousand forks. Even water goblets wore diamonds, glinting in chandelier light. Every table was the same. Only a skewed piece of parchment, ‘table eleven’ inked in calligraphy, distinguished ours from everyone else’s.
So I guess I’ll introduce us now. It’s only polite.
She saw blue.
The girl’s head was under the vast lake, her eyes tracing light that glimmered like watery rays around her. She was sinking to the bottom—her arms splayed out, reaching for the surface, as her brown hair rippled against the tides rushing around her. The bubbles of air that escaped her mouth and floated to the surface gleamed with the last ounce of sunlight—of life—before darkness suffused her vision.
And she closed her eyes.
Every morning he wakes up before dawn in a world being dilapidated by a mere microorganism that is invisible to the naked eyes and drinks water from the brass urn kept on the table beside the bed.
Everyday he offers the same variety of marigolds to the effigy of Lord Krishna standing on top of the wooden cabinet where he keeps his books.
Day after day he makes his own toasts, sprinkling sugar on top of the brown crumbly crust and eats it, following it with a cup of lukewarm Darjeeling tea.
[content warning: sexual abuse]
He comes to you, hungry.
The first time he comes to you, he’s smiling. It’s painted on tv as he stands a country away from you in some Hollywood studio. And everyone laughs because he’s making a joke. But you don’t see anything funny about him. No. He’s lovely serious.
[Content warning: death]
Is today a good day to die?
I ask myself this question every morning after getting up from bed and every night before retreating under my comforter and falling into a disturbed slumber. I am asking myself this now as I sit at the supper table passing the green beans. My brain is tired of this question but it still won’t shut off due to all there is to think about and I can’t take the chaos anymore.
[Content warning: death]
He comes to her in August, darkly-coated with a swift step. He comes to her and that is the beginning.
He steps into this motel. ‘The Grand Motel.’ It is a dim and minimal sight, the colors muted and homely. It is as grand as a lobby can be.
We take and we take until there is nothing left. And now, we have broken the world with our selfishness.
Because the sky is shattering.
Because the sun is too hot.
Because the sun is too hot and the rain is still falling. And it’s falling and it does not stop.
Because God is angry with us, with the world.
Because by the time I step out, the leaves will be on fire and it will be too late.
Because the world is coming to an end.
Because the world has come to an end and I’m still here.
There once was a young lady with bones of glass. She lived in a broken world of brick where she could easily trip and shatter. And her condition was the opposite of a blessing, so by default, it must have been a curse. That’s how all the fairytales begin- the interesting ones at least- with a curse.
whick whick whick whick whick.
The chime of a fast knife piercing and decapitating some vegetable on the cutting board rings in my ears, while the sink runs galore.
I had just had one of those dreams again.
The ones where I’m stumbling through the grocery store, tossing jars of jelly and marinara sauce into my cart, only to all of a sudden round a corner. The smell never changes. It’s the same cardboard bread smell that grocery stores always have, only now all the shelves are lined with snake tails in amber decanters. I try to back away, but I get this gut feeling. It’s like in a past life, I was slithering through peat and tangled roots, and now I’m staring out at my hand-me-down corpse, but I can’t for the life of me figure out which one it is. And then the walls start closing in, and the snake-jars shake a little, and I can feel their marble eyes boring into me, saying you were one of us…
You frowned at yourself, rolling your eyes in multiple cycles as your mother blathered to your face. You looked down at your swelled toes, so your eyes neither met hers nor glanced around the beige walls. That way, you suppressed the anger and shunned her at the same time.
“Urenna! So you’re not listening to me abi?” You could hear the anger in her tone, but you didn’t care. She’d said these times without number, yet she wasn’t fatigued. It was your fault for travelling to Umuahia to see her, it was your fault for telling her ten months ago that you found out you were pregnant again.
Be fickle with your time. I had come to notice for centuries the easy way it bends. Look now, through the grooves of this wooden home, at me. Falling, falling, falling.
So many of the ticks of that rounding clock are wasted away to petty wonder, fears and panic of how it will fall, frantic considerations of what could be done to make every last pebble in the hourglass worth its plunge.
“And if the world has ceased to hear you,
say to the silent earth: I flow.
To the rushing water, speak: I am.”
-Rainer Marie Wilke
the waterfall slips through the cliff’s jagged peaks and pools at its base. it looks the way it feels to enter a used bookstore, tiny and suffocated between slabs of brick and buildings. or a museum, in a marble room of marble statues, at dawn when nobody is around and the sun comes through the window and hits the statues in such a light where you can’t help but think that this, this is how they were supposed to be seen. it’s the moors where the poets write and the moon you see when you look out your window. the cliffs are the bracing ribcage to the lake below. it’s the beginning and end of everything.
* = Editors' Choice work
Unless otherwise noted, all pictures used are open-source images in the public domain.