a space for youth writing on mental health & identity
a space for youth writing on mental health & identity
The silences were growing longer. He was eating breakfast. Two slices of bacon, and an egg. He stabbed his fork into the yolk and made it weep.
In the living room, his wife watched TV. The presenter’s nose was too small for his face, and he was swamped by the folds of his chin. She wore baggy clothes and no make-up. The midday sun cut soft lines across the table. It was April. It was Sunday. There was a war on. The birds were coming back out, slowly, shaking off treads from a long winter.
The world, for some unexplained reason, was plunged into another Ice Age. Hundreds of blankets of snow wrapped every corner of the world. The once bright sunlight grew weak as it tried to pierce through the never-ending clouds. Snowstorms were frequent, keeping any living creature from staying out too long. The winds howled constantly, singing in agony at the state of the world.
Preserved in caramel sugar, memories of my sister melt like candy on my tongue. She vanishes into a sharp sliver in my mouth, cuts and draws blood, disappears before I can carve her into my flesh.
I remember meeting a baby as a child, a heavy head supported in the crook of my elbow. I remember the way her eyes opened wide and searching, perfect and ready to find the word ‘gullible’ on the ceiling. Her tiny baby’s fist curled tight around my finger, grasping. I remember my lips shaping her name—something pretty, melodious and ringing—even as it fades away. Two syllables, sharp consonants softened and made sweet by round vowels. Something with an A sound. It started with a K, or maybe a D.
[Content warning: smoking]
The smoke quivered in my palm, that sluggish worm of fleeting echoes. Like a scarred hand to the trigger, I grasped the allure of death. But I didn’t want it fast. I liked slow things: roads, weather, gani-boiling, sex, and yes, smokes. “Get that damn thing out your mouth!” Kuraa shouted through the busted screen. I paid her no heed on the porch, drinking what little morsels life had to offer before dripping them out through cracked lips. I wanted to leave. Smoke made doors.
Yesterday, you were perched on my kitchen countertop, sharp-toothed smile decorated with the pulpy carcasses of whole strawberries. You looked like the lovechild of a geisha and an anglerfish and one of my nightmares, pale skin and reddened lips brightened by the light that swung from your forehead. When your deft hands plucked out another strawberry from the box, your mouth opened wide enough so as to house a small animal before you popped the fruit inside. Strangely, your hands were the most human thing about you, opposable thumbs and all.
[content warning: self-harm]
What do you want me to do with your shoes? Answer me. I swear to god I’m not joking this time. See the giant recycling bin in front of me? Your tactical boots are about to go in it.
If you want me to keep them for you just tell me but don’t just lay them out like that on the window sill. It’s not like you’ve never left stuff at my place before. Remember when you left your hockey stick in my closet and had a game that day? I’m sorry I didn’t hear you banging on the door. I was sleeping with my headphones on. I woke up to your texts and ran to the courts with the stick though. You probably borrowed someone else’s stick so it worked out in the end didn’t it.
I'm sitting on the seventh storey bathroom floor. I blow smoke rings on the collar of the boy who tells me he loves me. There is sawdust between my nails, and the boy tries to say something but takes a sigh instead. My lovers have learnt not to make a burning woman bleed more ash. Ma messages. She says: come home. And maybe this is falling apart.
A Second Look at the Fifth Planet
I have always been of the firm opinion that Jupiter is made of marble.
One need only glimpse this stunning planet—with its eddying colors, its mottled swirls, the patterned stripes that make it look as though someone took a paint-dipped brush to a bowl of water and swirled it around inside—to get this impression. I am told that Jupiter is made of gasses, similar to the composition of the sun, but that just does not seem right to me. Its surface is far too intricate to be made from something as simple, as incorporeal, as a concoction of gas.
The desk wobbled as I set my forearm on it. It always did. Alana said it added character to the
wooden desk. I found it frustrating. We were different in that way. I hate winter because the cold suffocates me, Alana loved winter because the cold liberated her.
I leaned over and pulled out my ink pen, the one my father bought me for my twenty-second birthday. It was a sad birthday. The first without her. I reached into the side drawer of the desk and found a piece of paper. My ink pen grazed the surface of the parchment and I began:
“-but loneliness is still the time spent with the earth.”
I can see it from my garden overlooking the buildings, the green bushes blushing with spring flowers. I see it creeping through abandoned hallways of some school where the sunlight leaks through the roof and the day yawns open in an awakening. Sooner or later, I know, like everyone, that the houses will sleep in the embrace of darkness in the pitch-black night.
She lived in her own world. It was less of a world though, and instead seemed to resemble a shadow more. She lived in a shadow. It followed her around like a puppy-eyed dog would to an owner. It lingered in the corner of every classroom she would be sitting in the back of. It would watch her as she got into the back of a car after a tiring day of school. It would question her as she got home and barged straight to her room in a clear state of distress. It would stare at her as she stared in disgust at herself in the mirror. It would judge her as she crawled into bed and slowly started her soft weeps of the night.
[content warning: suicide, blades, implied abuse]
I know of a boy who wrote a poem titled "question innocence like you'd question a lie". It was about his girlfriend, the one who lived down the block. She wore too much makeup. So, when he kissed her in the empty playground, under the slide, he wanted to cough in her face. But he kept on kissing her. He knew - if he stopped, there would be a hell of a price to pay; he would be less of a man. His teacher gave him a strange, steady look and marked his poem with an A.
isn’t it funny how i was promised that paper memories were invincible, but yesterday they wilted in the summer heat? how promises made in youth don’t last? how grandma gave me origami cranes and simpler things, fairytales, metaphors, carved into asphalt & strung in intervals along the lining of my cranium—one, two, three—
Let the stone hear you. Let it wash away your apology and walk under the sands your beach used to love and want. Listen to the rumble, the music of the waves, and stand over the iron beams that glance into the concert that unfolds.
[content warning: anxiety, panic attack]
The world spun around me. It was swallowing me, burying me in a deep, murky hole. I couldn’t breathe. Wiggle your fingers
Count from 100, counts of three
No. None of it made sense. All the overwhelming thoughts jumbled around. I
needed air. 100. 97.. 94..9…
It’s been four years. I linger around the sweet shops we once used to call home and take a whiff of the cold, succulent air of warm bagels and decadent pastries.
Won’t we always have a life like this?
[Content warning: suicide]
Whispers. Whispers of demise, distress and delusions enveloped me till I could barely breathe. This time, it was different. It was not the voice in my head. Being cornered in the crumbling parapets of my mind, I knew it was breaking me.
The dictionary definition of glossophobia says it’s a fear of public speaking. Any website might tell you that the symptoms are rapid heartbeat, trembling, sweating, nausea, shortness of breath, dizziness, and the urge to get away.
I lay on my bed, waiting for the textbook symptoms to set in. My stomach’s already in a knot, and I can’t help thinking about what would happen if I simply didn’t walk up to the lectern. Everyone would stare, that’s for sure. In a way, I understand. When someone important in your life dies, people expect you to say something about it.
[Content warning: suicidal thoughts]
If it all ends tomorrow, tell them I held a growing cavern inside of me and I played with life like a kid and his shiny new toy. Remind them that they ignored me though my voice echoed behind theirs and bounced around in their skulls like a despised song as I whispered for help. That there were two sides of me; a romance between the moth and the flame, between myself and the demons creeping in my shadow. The moth only follows the light, it doesn’t intend to kill itself.
[Content warning: medication usage, hallucinations]
The fog wraps around my head, pulling me away from reality and into a dull space of illusion and serenity. My limbs grow heavy and my breaths shallow. The thoughts I desperately held on to slip through my fingers, floating away into the unknown. I don’t care that my right arm is pinned between the bed and my side. I don’t care about anything anymore. All I can do is wait for the fog to take me into a deep sleep.
To Laurelin, the promise of the dawn held no promise at all.
She slowly opened her eyes, staring blankly at the golden orb rising up from the horizon. She did not blame the sun for performing its daily task. In a way, she envied the joyful way it radiated light out of its soul, uncaring of who looked, or what they felt.
The saltwater invades my nose and assaults my eyes. I let out a deep breath to blow the water out. I speed up my strokes, kicking and clawing desperately, wishing to approach the coastline. But I can’t see. I can’t breathe. A furious wave barrels towards me, crashes into me and throws my body underneath the waters again. My heart races and my chest tighten as the coldness from the water squeezes the breath out of me. I kick my legs again, trying to fight for another faint of hope. But my limbs are heavy and numb.
I’m scared. This is unfamiliar territory. It is the great plains that have not yet been discovered. I am Columbus, but I have no spine. I am Lewis or Clark, but I am not as brave. I am Armstrong, but the moon is menacing.
You wait for me in the water. I fiddle nervously for you are just out of reach. You smile at me and beckon me to join you. Shall I? Will I? I fiddle again. Your sly grin is irresistible, but the water makes it so. You do not leave me by myself. You wait patiently just beyond the seam where water meets land. You ask me again. I cannot refuse.
what’s in a cup of tea? is it the discolored mosaic of tea leaves that lay at the bottom? is it the sensational warmth you feel as the soothing liquid sails on your tongue? the ember that burns brightly on a cold, wintry day? is it your remedy? the herbal serum that heals your soul? no, my cup of tea is different.
[Content warning: self-harm]
She’s fighting it. She’s fighting it as hard as she can, trying to slip back into sleep, dark, oblivion, any place where she’s not awake. But consciousness is a restless visitor and the daylight pressing against her eyelids is very real. She’s still very alive.
A sharp pain spikes in her arms, hot as fire, and then everything — along with a headache — cascades upon her. Blood is everywhere. Her sight flashes black and white. She’s done it again.
* = Editors' Choice work
Unless otherwise noted, all pictures used are open-source images in the public domain.