a space for youth writing & mental health discussion
a space for youth writing & mental health discussion
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.
[Content warning: eating disorders]
I didn’t give you a second glance the first time you came in. Your hair, so red that it looked as if it had been lit on fire, small beads styled into each curl like embers--I didn’t notice any of it.
Time. We think we all have it, a lot of it, when really none of us do. My alarm clock ran out of batteries and I began to wonder when the Earth would too.
for my 母亲, mǔ qīn, meaning mother
Sitting before the bathroom mirror, you once told me that blood is like memory. The veins, you said, tether hindsight from one generation to another, a thread of instructional chapters meant for nothing but motherhood. My grievances are yours to relive, you explained. I hope you only see them through me, in passing.
[Content warning: anxiety]
New Year’s Eve, the end of another beginning, always seems to bring about a bittersweet sense of melancholy, an in-between phase. For some, Christmas lights still loom over balconies while, for others, it is just another regimented day. This year, instead of spending this obscure holiday in the comfort of my own home, I have been coerced by my mother to attend a soirée of sorts. Just a bitter end for me this year.
There is a glass between you and all of your dreams. And up in the sky, somewhere along the stars, a smoky white trail of hubris sits. I am telling you now so you don’t forget. When you wish upon a star, it does not listen. Stars don’t grant wishes. This is the way the world works, between inklings of draught and the suffocation that comes when you lose your chest. This is the way the world forces your falter.
Stuck in a world of our own,
Humanity was always a world away,
It was just the sea, my mother and me.
I should have listened,
The sea has destroyed us.
He follows me everywhere I go. I could walk, run, or skip down the street and he would follow. There’s no discrimination between dark alleys or busy thoroughfares. The only thing that has meaning is his need to occupy my head, spreading the buzz up and down my spine and through every channel in my brain. I can’t remember what it's like to go a day without his nasally voice just behind my ear. His presence is an annoyance that bothers me daily but also doesn’t affect me at all. The buzz might impede my ability to think clearly, but it’s also unnoticeable. His leash on me creates dialectics that even I don’t understand.
[Content warning: police brutality, racial violence]
“The angels in heaven gon’ sign your name if you book your ticket for the Freedom Train. HALLELUJAH.”
I heard Grandma Lottie singing in the other room. I knew what day it was. When I heard those eerie, raspy words, strung together like an elegy, I always knew exactly what day it was. But I asked anyway as I walked into the room.
[Content warning: alcohol use]
For around five minutes every day in Summer, a narrow shaft of light filters through the window and reflects off of the heart you made me in middle school. Usually around four-thirty. It’s made of clay, but when it shines it looks like it would crack like glass. As I watch it glow, my phone vibrates in my pocket.
Unknown caller. Arizona.
She was born from the ocean on which she lived and was raised by the winds that breathed life into her. Adelaide, the girl with hair of fire, spent her days dancing along the cliffs above the waves with her face buried in the story of another world. Her feet were molded to the outline of the rocks, perfectly gripping the earth as she followed the path to the cave by the beach, which was, in a weird way, her home. Over time, she had accumulated pillows and blankets to make a bed on the sand and had gathered every book she could get her hands on and stacked them, in alphabetical order, along the damp rock wall.
All you can see are a person’s eyes. Or at least that’s how I see Jake. Six feet away under FoodMart fluorescent lights. I recognize his shoes from Chemistry class. Red Adidas with Sharpied on stars. Six months ago I would watch them while the teacher talked. Just because they were there. Under the chair next to mine. It looks like he doesn’t recognize me, but I see that his eyes are green. I hadn’t noticed them before.
5 is pink
5 is pink. Well, that’s not exactly true. It’s soft and fluffy, like a cloud torn straight out of the sky. It’s marshmallows and candy all rolled into one. She’s looked at thousands of shades of pink and hasn’t been able to find the right one. None match the 5 in her head. None match that glorious color.
She sees the 5 on her class schedule and automatically smiles.
It was silent today. No hurried footsteps. No sound of tearing silk. No cries of anguish. Payton wiped at the dewy glass. She sat and watched.
The cast of the shadow of the oncoming cold, bitter winter surrounded three figures. There was only the slightest hint of physical intimidation from the aloof stances but the verbal intimidation was obvious. Inside the circle, sat a woman, hair draped in white fabric, eyes downcast. Her body kept upright- afloat almost- by her arms, secured around her waist like a safety jacket. As the sharp dug at her hijab, her face tilted. The movement revealed her face. Payton’s breath halted. The window seat instantaneously tight, suffocating in the vast space of the book shop.
* = Editors' Choice work
Unless otherwise noted, all pictures used are open-source images in the public domain.