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oh dear.

I think I’m getting lazier and lazier. Textured backgrounds and super fine lines? This is the second night in a row! Gray and red and black? Yes!

What can I say about the theme? How can I say it WELL, is the question. I suppose there’s no way to say it well, so I’ll just say it poorly. Before there were any reservations, before adultlike cynicism and doubt set in, before I analyzed what every word meant from a text message or a phone call, there was a time when I was fifteen that I let all of it go, unabashedly. I didn’t even know it existed. All I knew were the talks that lasted for hours, colored by moonlight and crickets. All I knew was the unexpected laughter at discovering that you were so so similar on one tiny, infinitesimally small microscopic level that you never realized. I knew bagels eaten eagerly so that fingers burned in the process, ramen made at three in the morning, endless cups of bubble tea devoured while meandering around hidden stone fountains.

Phone calls. Angry phone calls that ended in laughter, then a three hour storm of tears. Loneliness loneliness loneliness. Staring out windows, slogging through class. An unexpected smile, steaming cups of coffee, friendships deepened, mentors found, angry poems written, more angry poems written, twenty minute tirades by a good friend’s locker. Laughing, fighting, laughing. Driver’s license acquired, midnight snack runs enabled, invisible cat seen, college applied for, accepted. Home left, city found, new glasses, new clothes, new writing, more unexpected encounters.

girl-self found, pops of color, cherry red, hot pink, cerulean (not all at once!). Job acquired, language learned. Pens and watercolors. Same smile.

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it is once again past three in the morning. Three, the devil’s hour, the hour where spirits are most active. I can feel the eddies and currents flow through the space in between my toes. The off-white shadows of the walls seem to gleam with ghosts, spots, atoms that dance and swing through the air. Or maybe I’m just exhausted.

For some reason, no matter how hard I try to be a morning person, I just can’t be. I enjoy waking up early once in awhile, cherish the morning sun against my bare legs (especially in summer) as I take my morning commute. From Hell’s Kitchen through Times Square to Midtown, 37th street. Past the theater district, where tourists get up earlier than I do (how they can manage, I will never know. You wake up early on vacation, I guess. Disturbed sleep patterns and everything). Times Square, of course, sparkles (I can’t think of another word for it. Gleam and glimmer don’t have the same BOOM connotation that sparkle has) and waves. There is always one silly mascot to make me smile on my walk. I walk past Bryant Park, little green tables in the shadow of the public library inviting, but empty, as everyone around hurries to get to work on time. I am beginning to notice the difference between a well-cut suit and an average suit.

A girl’s got no right to have an existential crisis in the middle of her busy, bustling Sex-in-the-city esque life. But recently I haven’t been able to draw anything or get myself to move and push forward, hard, on my portfolio. The dream I always wanted, to work at a comic book company… right? Four months ago I had no idea this dream existed. All I knew was that 1) I liked to draw, and 2) I liked comic books and graphic novels. From twelve years onward I devoured volumes of Japanese manga, and later on developed a taste for the superhero genre. Ah, superheroes. As I read through all the X-Men and Iron Man archives at work, I’m starting to realize more things. That the superhero is, well, a superhero. They always swoop in and save the day just in time from the invading aliens or rampaging genetic experiments. I read a funny post about the drawbacks of living in the Marvel Universe–that the odds of you being born with superpowers was less than that of being struck by lightning, but if you were struck by lightning in the Marvel Universe it would probably give you superpowers anyway! But we love them. Or at least, I do. Maybe it’s the sadist in me, but comic books have such interesting violence. A raw appeal to our inner sociopaths. The blood arcs so elegantly, the entrails are used so efficiently, and the good guys walk away with nary a scratch (or they heal really fast. A lot of them heal fast. One of the requirements of being a superhero, I suppose–high pain tolerance).

Of course it’s all escapism. Even when I’m at my computer, reading through some comics in order to write a recap, I’m escaping. New York doesn’t exist without its Triskelion, nor Queens without Peter Parker. The art, bold crisp striking lines with vibrant colors, the layout so cinematographic, makes it all the more realistic.

I’m starting to see the world as a giant comic book layout. When I eat lunch, the plaza flattens out into a page. How would I introduce the characters, me and two of my fellow interns, on the granite bench? Panoramic view first? Camera going down? Going up? Sideways? Do I break the fourth wall? Am I breaking the fourth wall?

I printed out all the pages of an old novel written with a friend so many years ago in the hopes of salvaging it for the comic portfolio. My writing of course is lackluster, but there is quite a bit of action and a lot of dialogue, and  may suffice for a few scenes. No, it will suffice. I loved writing it. I loved every goddamn minute we put into those three hundred pages (shrunken down, a hundred or so). I loved that world because SATs didn’t exist, only magic exams, and where, though empires rose and fell, nothing ever changed–when it came down to the characters, it was all about love. Love in every dot in every i and in all the spaces between the words, in editorial comments and lines of description. The writing might have sucked (forgive me, Kieran, but my writing did suck) but there is a liveliness that I haven’t felt in writing prose in such a very long, long time.

Maybe I’m being melodramatic. Of course things change. Anna Quindlen puts it so eloquently in one of her books, that “his emotions were too raw to be that of an adult’s” or something like that (I probably butchered it). The magic certainly hasn’t burned its way out of my life yet–there is plenty to be found here. But I feel like something’s missing (something’s always missing, isn’t it?) Maybe this is just part of growing up. I have come to the conclusion that growing up means facing your first real heartbreak and coming out a better person for it, and experiencing great, wonderful changes because of it. Building the republic of Heaven, so to speak, in Pullman’s terms.

I just feel like there is so much left unsaid. I am so frustrated. I’m adult, but nobody treats a twenty-year-old like an adult, and I’m wondering whether I will ever grow up, or whether there is such a thing as really growing up. I’ve grown up from the small shy fifteen year old girl who hid behind her glasses and never spoke in class. I’ve somewhat grown up from the seventeen-year-old seething away at her parents and the world. “Let it go,” you’ll get told. “Move on with your life.” And I do, I do, oh how much I do want to continue onward and see what adventure lies ahead, but I never want to forget what made being a teenager for me. Even now I am loath to write the word, so overused, so seemingly cliche (then again, my life’s a cliche, whatever). It was endless hours on the phone, the happiness of a three-am call, random text messages, and the words the flowed, poured and crescendoed from everything. Words that arose suddenly like fog on a clear day, or disappeared into the air like cirrus clouds. Words that were played with with all innocence.

Somewhere in a parallel universe, everything works out perfectly. But even then, even then, as Pullman has shown me, as I find in those books every time I read them, that to grow up is to say goodbyes and part, sometimes forever. But also that to grow up means to mature and continue onward as a person despite all the subsequent anguish. And jesus, there was anguish.

But alas, the hour is almost up. My eyes bulge red out of their sockets. My brain yells at me to just go to bed already. “But hush now, darling, don’t you cry,” sings Colin Meloy through my computer. “Your reward’s in the sweet by-and-by.”

but all of a sudden I found myself writing, and this came out.

yes, art. More specifically, doodling. You should all do it because I heard somewhere that doodling improves memory (maybe it was a study done by guilty college students who spend more class time doodling than taking notes, as I so often find myself doing). There is nothing better than a blank piece of paper in front of me and a pen in my hand. My mind drips through the molecules on the page (I’ve been writing way too much about molecules and neurotransmitters lately) and I find my fingers taking the most fantastic linear adventures along the way.  draw girls, faces, girls who resemble me, morbid bunny rabbits eating hands with sharp shark teeth, cats, hands, robots, bionic parts, wings…

Try this if you’re stressed: Take a piece of paper and draw whatever comes to mind. It can be something as simple as scribbles and hearts and stars or it can be an elaborately crafted dinosaur. Do it for the sheer pleasure of doodling, let your imagination wander and your mind dance. The best drawings I’ve made have all come from starting with a doodle and then just letting myself have fun with it, and to hell with making it conceptually clever or good in some way. As long as you put a lot of heart into it, it will show. Do it for yourself. When we draw sometimes we forget that the whole purpose of art is to just let yourself go. Well, let yourself go. Go, go, go! Go as far and fast as you want. Love the paper and the pen, love your fingers that move over the page. Love what you make and love it back to yourself. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

Quick! One last post typed through fingers still shaking with sugar and coffee, one last post made with bloodshot sleepy eyes, one last post because although I should sleep very very soon I find myself exhuberently giddy. Ten things that have completely made my week this week:

  • Mark Rudman, my poetry professor. Coming back from my internship today I realized why I loved and still love poetry (though at times it’s a torrid affair). It’s the satisfaction of helping him edit a poem and knowing that every word, every space, every colon, semicolon and comma go towards a cohesive whole. It’s knowing that with every cut and linebreak the poem becomes more and more refined. It’s sensing the story that dances in the words. It’s intention and intonation. Also Mark has an awesome turtle named T. He’s sardonic, but very cute.
  • Green tea soymilk. Green tea ice cream. Strawberry Haagen-daz. Trader Joe’s grape tomatoes. Toss-on-a-pan-and-bake chicken. Sea salt and pepper rice chips. YUMMY FOOD. I find myself cooking more and more vegetarian when I’m at school, sans the insta-bake meat. It’s kind of nice, really, and healthy too.
  • Running into friends in the park, on the street, here and there and everywhere. I always get a little thrill when I see someone I like and we exchange hellos. It just makes my day brighter. Much love to Clayton and Lindsay and Steve, who always manage to find me in the park.
  • 75 cent tea, always with milk and sugar.
  • the blustery fall weather. I love wearing my new jacket and my bright red scarf. I love my tights and my boots. I love wrapping my hands around a steaming cup or tumbler of tea (haha I almost just spelled “tumbler” “tumblr”, shows just how much the internet is getting to me)
  • Cooking. I’ve gotten into the habit of cooking my own meals here at school and it’s very satisfying to come back to your room, no matter how late, and know that you can whip up something really good in under half an hour. so far I’ve made spinach with garlic, tofu with green onions, rice, curry and some very excellent salads. What’s also amazing is having friends who live in your dorm who cook– holla, Belinda and Chloe! There is nothing like homemade pasta sauce and chicken soto, so good for what ails you.
  • Kobato by CLAMP. I’ve missed reading fluffy manga that’s just all-around fun and silly. Kobato is so cute. I kind of want all of her clothes and hats–they’re very twenties’ inspired. I also love how CLAMP does crossovers of characters from all their other works, so I can pick out who is who from other series. It makes me really excited when I see one character in a different context. It also makes me kind of a huge  nerd, because that means I read too much CLAMP manga, but oh well. Whatever.
  • Drawing excessive amounts. I’m working on kind of a new drawing style that’s not so reliant on guidelines and is much more cartoony. It’s refreshingly different, and a nice change of pace. It’s also inspired by the Scott Pilgrim books. I’ve kind of forgotten what it’s like to draw and go nuts. I’m really excited to start work on a  short comic that uses this style.
  • Being busy. Busy busy busy. Every single day this week I’ve had something to do and it feels really nice to keep myself occupied. It fuels creativity and allows me to be more organized and consistent with my schedule, but it also makes me appreciate the free time I do have.
  • my parents. It’s so weird. I keep thinking about how four years ago I never thought I would have the relationship I do with them. Who really changed, in terms of personality? Maybe all of us did. But I love my mom and my dad. They are amazing and supportive people. My mom says the most outrageous and adorable things and emails me random Lolcat pictures. My dad recommends me graphic novels. You can’t get much better than that. ❤

-Walking in warm(ish) spring rains; This American Life (which I’ll be seeing live tonight! I’m so excited!); my Hot Fudge Sundae shoes from ModCloth (the most fabulous and comfortable pair of heels to walk in ever ever); managers who undress their mannequins so you can have the last dress; retail therapy; my new leopard print umbrella from Laila Rowe (it’s absolutely fierce); chocolate eggs; How to Live Like a Lady by Sarah Tomczak; walking around in Anthropologie with a good friend simply to admire all the cute things; my blue and white flowered Anthropologie teacup; Spielberg’s A.I.: Artificial Intelligence, which really brought back my love of robots and androids and robot/android love stories; The Arrival, by Shaun Tan (Shaun Tan who I will be seeing at a graphic novelists’ panel in Cooper Union in two weeks! Squee!); the ever warming and ever lovely spring weekend weather; picnics in Washington Square Park; friends who come from afar just to visit New York; almond butter and boysenberry jam sandwiches on thick white bread; pomegranate green tea; boys who appear, boys who disappear; my mottled notebook (it’s served me well through all these emotional hurricanes); long conversations in coffee shops; going to free readings at the Lilian Vernon Creative Writers’ House, getting two good grades in a row (wonder in which class the third one will be?); writing lots of stories; running into acquaintences at the oddest of times (which makes it ten times more awesome); my lovely and wonderful friends, who know enough about me to drag me into Anthropologie when I’m crying and upset and to walk around with me until my smile is back or to give me a hug and tell me I should set up a Roch IRA (to each their own, I suppose) or to simply listen as I ramble on and on and on and cry; and my smile, for it disappeared for a few days, and I am so, so, so glad to finally have it back.

the_arrivaltan_shaun_the-arrival

Wendy Xu

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“I don’t want to live that long anyway,” Todd says, blowing a cloud of cigarette smoke into the misty morning air. It curls around his neck like geisha fingers and dissipates. Mimi watches those fingers tap the end of the orange paper and ash flakes off and drifts to the ground, those fingers which not twenty minutes ago had traced her against the counter against the sink and then she’d grabbed his t-shirt so hard it felt like she was going to disappear into atoms of nicotine, carbon monoxide, rat poison, formaldehyde. “Hey,” he says, pointing at the plexiglass that covers the basement lounge like an aquarium.

In the pale red light she sees the two sides of their U-shaped dormitory reflected, and then the outline of a third building, unassuming, brown, and almost flatly rectangular. “Yeah?”

“Tell me where that building is.”

At first it’s almost painfully obvious; there are brown-bricked green windowed buildings all around after all, so that any one of them—but wait. “Uh,” Mimi says. Business school kids are tricky like this. Her mind flicks.

“So there are fifty pirates,” Mitch began. “And none of them wants to die, but they have a hundred dollars to split among them, and they can vote to see who gets more money, and there’s an old pirate and a young pirate…” She was lost after that. She turned her attention to the bubble tea in her glass and let the taste of tapioca replace any errant thoughts about pirates and let their other friend handle the issue.

“Is this another one of those logic problems?” she asks, and leans against the railing.

“Maybe,” Todd replies. “Oh come on. If you can’t even figure this one out I can’t be seen in public with you ever again.”

You never were, anyway, she wants to say. We’re not even dating. We’re just having an affair. She kind of likes the sound of that. Her eyes stray to the glass again. She thinks about what she learned in high school physics not one year ago and the terms “trajectory” and “angle of reflection” come to mind and she’s fairly sure there’s some kind of big mathematical algorithm that one needs for piecing such things together. Right now all she can think about was how dangerously close they got that morning and how she can’t, she can’t, she can’t let him go there. Especially if this was just going to end in four weeks as abrupt as a summer thunderstorm. That’s how it’s been for the past few months anyway. “Dunno,” she says, and shrugs her blue hooded shoulders. She was the psych student, the mindfucker.

“You’re in psych? Does that make you telepathic?” Tom had asked her.

“It’s actually a prerequisite.”

Oh, if only.

“Hey,” Todd says, “don’t pick your nails.”

“Nervous habit.” Once they got so bad, so torn and raw and red, her mother had smacked the back of her hand with a brush and told her she had beautiful hands, beautiful fingers—such hideous nails.

“So what’d you do this weekend?” He blows another cloud of smoke.

Mimi glances up from the hangnail she’s pondering. “I went out for ice cream with my friend. I watched Disney movies in my room and it was really lovely because I hadn’t seen Hercules in a really long time.”

“That’s so sad! Seriously?”

“Well… Yeah.” It does sound kind of sad, Friday night solitude. She doesn’t mention how she had to stop Beauty and the Beast halfway to go sit in the stairwell and read because her roommate and her boyfriend came in and watching a love story with a love story playing in the background was a bit much and she didn’t want to be part of a love story sandwich with emptiness in-between. “Just because it’s not your idea of fun doesn’t mean it wasn’t fun for me.”

“I guess.” Todd’s scrutinizing her. She can see something hum and click like a clockwork cicada behind his glasses and his narrow dark eyes, clear and sharp and shrewd. She can almost see neuronal synapses firing off.

According to the “Grandmother neuron” theory, if one cuts out the neuron that responds to one’s grandmother, one no longer recognizes his own grandmother, including the letters of her name when it is spelled out. This hypothesis was tested on patients going into brain surgery because specific neurons in their brains reacted ONLY to Jennifer Aniston and not anything else, including Harrison Ford, Bill Clinton or the Sydney Opera House. An opposing theory holds that neurons of recognition fire off in a pattern like a barcode, in millions and trillions of different combinations. “If that’s the case, we’re screwed,” said her psych professor.

She stares stolidly back. Cut out the Mimi neuron from Todd’s cerebellum and he won’t ever look at her again.

“Did you feel pressured to impress me when you told me what you did this weekend?” he asks.

“No.” Mimi snorts. Where did he get that impression? Because they almost got that close? What the hell does it mean to impress him anyway, was she supposed to tell a drunk anecdote or something? “Why would I?” Yeah, why would she? It wasn’t like the time she wanted so desperately to win James’s approval so she could show up her ex by being Facebook official, bam, verified, signed, sealed, “in-a-relationship-with ___”, those tantalizing words. It wasn’t like that at all. “I could care less about what people think,” she says. Least of all you, she wants to add, but refrains. Too bitter. Her eyes hurt from staying up too late.

Mimi glances back at the plexiglass. One frame has a crack in it from the time someone threw a can out the window. The reflection of the mystery building stares back, taunting her about the leap of logic she cannot and has never been able to make. Todd takes another drag off his cigarette. Mimi’s uncle offered her a cigarette last summer. She’d coughed then. “I drunk-smoked once,” she says. “I didn’t inhale, though.”

Todd laughs. “That doesn’t count, then!”

“Marlboro Reds enhance every buzz you have!” Natasha laughed.

They tripped around, shoes scuffing the pavement. The whole Village was drunk that night. Lucy had taken her phone. Mimi wasn’t allowed a phone when she was tipsy. She wasn’t allowed because she would call Todd and all hell would break loose then because when Mimi was drunk all she could say was, “I want to fuck Todd right now.” “I don’t care about him anyway, fuckin’ asshole,” she said, feeling badass (oh, if only mother could see her now!) as she blew a smoky trail into the orange lit evening.

“He-y-all yeah!”

She can only shrug now.

“So where’s the building?”

“That one?” She blushes. She doesn’t even know where she’s pointing.

“Think of the angle.” Where else had she heard that one? So dangerously close. Everything her mom has ever yelled at her about AIDS and teen pregnancy flicks through her mind and though she knows deep down, as the helpful counselor will reaffirm on the phone later that morning, that the probability of such events happening are infinitesimally small, almost zero (everything she has ever Googled in a hypochondriatic fit also flicks through her mind), logic was never her strong suit anyway. Todd stubs out his cigarette and tosses it.

“Aren’t you scared of death?” asks Mimi, chewing on a nail. “Don’t you worry about it?”

“Do you worry about if you’re gonna eat tomorrow?”

“No.”

“Then why worry about something that’s inevitably going to happen?”

Mimi’s mother forbade all talk about death. She was so superstitious that one night she called Mimi to tell her she had bought a lottery ticket because the previous night her dreams had been filled with goldfish. So when little Mimi brought up the prospect of death, her mother had snapped, “Don’t talk about such dao-mei things!” Dao-mei was the word she used when the family optometrist pronounced Mimi myopic in the second grade and had her fitted with her first pair of glasses. “You keep playing those video games, you go blind, then dao-mei will be you!” Dao-mei was pronounced in a piercing shriek when Mimi was scammed out of fifteen hundred dollars over a potential tutoring job. “Ai-ya! You never tell me anything! See what happen when you no tell me anything! Dao-mei will be you!” Dao-mei was regretfully spoken when she recounted a story she had read in the Chinese Readers’ Digest after Mimi had brought up the subject of a date. “This woman, she marry Italian man she no know so well, then he leave, run to Italy, and now she have AIDS and she wanting to die. You want get AIDS and die too? You be a good girl, or dao-mei will be you, and Mama suffers too, Mama will be so ashame and cry.”

It’s in this way that she finds Todd fascinating. Afraid of life’s trials, afraid of commitment, but not afraid of death. She scrutinizes him now. He’s impassive, staring sideways, unreadable expression. Mimi likes to think she has a strong sense of empathy. She’s told Todd about the time her grandmother started chemo and how she felt sick at that precise moment in time on that same day the doctors started giving her grandmother the meds. Then again, Mimi is also hopelessly romantic. Every time she sits on the stairwell she wishes that Todd would come find her in that secret hiding place. Just once. She wants to laugh. He’s the farthest thing from the tall, long-haired pale-eyed poetry writing guitar playing singing acting sensitive Prince Charming she envisions that she’ll some day meet at a reading, a book signing, a live music event at a café.

Once, when she was five years old, Mimi saw a fairy, a tiny ball of blue sitting near the creek where she and her best friend Leon played. It looked at her all spindly-limbed and liquid-eyes. Its iridescent dragonfly wings twitched once, twice, a third time in the golden peachy summer sunlight and then it disappeared. Leon, who was not above seeing supernatural entities and who could see the future with astonishing clarity, told Mimi he had seen it before, too, along with the spirit of a Native American woman.

She called Leon when she was waiting for the results of her college applications after she had been rejected Early Decision from Columbia and Early Action from the University of Chicago. At the dinner table that night her mother had another outburst. “If you cannot get into good school, dao-mei is you! I told you you should have studied harder, picked better classes! Now it is too late!” Leon, the sage, reassured her that it would be all right.

“You’re going to get into NYU,” he said. “You’ll be happy there. And in your third year something’s going to happen, you’re going to meet someone who’s going to make you really happy.” Mimi, covered by her cotton teddy bear quilt, felt a sense of relief mixed with anxiety and a twinge of anger. And regarding Todd, of course, she’s asked about him too. “Just remember,” Leon said, “that you can’t change him.”

Mimi brushes her fingers against Todd’s and they twine their hands, making a Jacob’s ladder of phalanges. “Still haven’t figured it out yet?” he asks, and grins.

“Can’t you just tell me?”

“No, I’ll leave that one up to you.”

The sun’s in her eyes now, the red glow turned to gold. Her fingers and toes are chilly. She’s been up since six and on a Sunday morning that’s an ungodly hour for her. She shivers and Todd tugs playfully on the hood of her sweatshirt, pulling it over her head and covering her hair. Mimi stares off into space. Somewhere behind the courtyard a fire engine wails. It rises and falls in pitch as it goes down the street. She’s heard fire engines and police sirens go by a thousand times a day at all hours from the minute she rolls out of bed and gets ready for class to the moment she falls asleep, the fading shriek the last thing she hears before she falls into her dreams. So many more things can kill her than the things she worries about. She could walk into the street and get hit by a wayward taxi. She could become the victim of a freak construction site accident. Or she could choose right now to go to the fifteenth floor, an enormous crisis hotline poster taped to the door, and walk off that balcony and into the courtyard below. Why worry about something that’s inevitable.

If Mom knew about Todd and how he grew up in a funeral home she would probably send him to be exorcised and forbid Mimi from ever speaking to him again.

She realizes she’s been clasping his hand for longer than she should have. She’s given it away from the way her little digits are curled around his larger ones. She feels his callused palms against her own, soft and smooth, the rough patch of his thumb rubbing against her torn and bitten fingernail. She knows Todd’s hands. She told him once that he was torn between being completely logical and completely romantic because of the way his heart line broke in half in the upper left section of his hand. She’d never seen anything like it before. Most people’s heart lines were whole, running smoothly across their upper palm. Hers is curved. His is half-curved. “You scare me,” she says. Todd looks at her and raises an eyebrow.

“You scare me too,” he replies.

“How?”

“Will you answer as candidly as I do?”

“Yeah.” He’s weird like that. Thirty minutes ago he told her if he was fucking her she would be screaming and now he’s being all SAT vocab and besides, she doesn’t need incentive to be honest. She’s always honest.

“You scare me because I like you, but I don’t want a relationship right now, and I don’t want to hurt you.”

She chews a fingernail. “You scare me because you’re reckless and you’re not afraid to die,” she says. “I think too much.” At his expression she laughs. “You think I’m crazy?”

“A little bit.” His words don’t really hurt her, which comes as something of a surprise. He really is the furthest thing from Prince Charming. He’s not out to sweep me off my feet or to impress me or anything. Hell, he doesn’t even want a girlfriend right now. I guess he just wants me to accept him and accept his terms and conditions and desires and bad habits. Todd is the sort of person the old me would have blanched at. Mimi rolls her shoulders back and stares up nineteen stories at the pale blue sky streaked with cirrus clouds, clouds that could be seen through layers of New York City. She touches Todd’s hand again, the open palm of his writing hand. She traces the break in the line. She cups his face in her hands and kisses him and he tastes like nicotine and ash and poison and confusion and she doesn’t care. The sun bounces off the plexiglass; it’s behind the brown mystery building, it’s reflected there in the glass—she glances up and traces the sun to its real hiding place. “I found it.”

-Oranges and peeling oranges, early morning cuddle sessions, running into people on the street and everywhere else in between, late-night ice cream and midnight breakfast runs, Yaffa Cafe, Sundaes and Cones, taro ice cream, matcha lattes, getting a letter back that I wrote last summer to myself at orientation (was it really that long ago? or rather, that short ago?), going to poetry readings, getting my inspiration back, smiling at everyone, calling old friends, silly emails from my mom, bright red bags with big bows, wearing my hot pink flats out again, rose quartz hearts, unexpected text messages from cute boys, planning for the future–English and Psychology, Creative Writing and Studio Art, doing what I love the most, going to the Met in a pretty dress, all the Renaissance drawings, being complimented by random museum curators who called me “beautiful, beautiful, beautiful!” <33, bunny rabbits, sleeping in my comfy bed, indoctrinating unsuspecting victims to Old Greg, laughing, laughing, laughing and reading Tarot, the East West bookstore, spooning and holding hands at seven in the morning.

Polka dotted black and white and red prom dresses, walks in the rain with a lacy black umbrella, cute teacups, Earl Grey lavender tea, honey bottles shaped like teddy bears, matcha ice cream, chicken karraage, the smell of fresh laundry, steaming orange hot chocolate, green tea lattes that look like melting snow on bright spring grass, tulle and frills and spinning around, smiling with your whole heart, running into friends in tea shops, reading on a bench outside, lavender, lavender, lavender, lolita lolita lolita (dresses!), white chicken chili with cilantro from Kimmel and lots of bread to go along with it, “I Do Not Hook Up” by Kelly Clarkson, people watching in Starbucks, rose quartz necklaces (they bring good vibes of friendship, love and peace), pearls, my new Feng Shui Tarot deck, surprising people with Tarot readings, puppies named Jezebel, and free Chinese food.

Hans Christen Andersen’s “Snow Queen” has always been one of my favorite fairy tales (and I’ve tried to retell it many, many times! XD) This is my spin on the story.

Wendy Xu

Frost

The one-armed farmer lived in the middle of the woods, just beyond a patch of permeating sunlight. Watch out for the one-armed farmer, whispered the other children. In a neighborhood of condos frosted white with numbers in gold, 1, 2 3, his house and tiny patch of forest was between fateful 5 and sinister 7, surrounded by a moat of sidewalk.

Daisy and Zacharias caught glimpses of him through the trees sometimes when rollerblading on that perfectly paved patch of street in front of Number Five, home to Patricia Cooper, an old lady who had a startling collection of Venetian blown glass and lamps the size of a baby’s head. On Fridays five identically seafoam green station wagons would pull along the curb and Patricia’s friends would go into the house where they would all sip tea out of china cups, eat gingerbread and read Tarot after the crumbs had been swept away. Then they couldn’t play on the pavement because the cars were in the way. So Daisy and Zack flitted around like moths, peeped in and out of Patricia’s window curtains and tried to listen for the sounds of ritual animal sacrifice (there never were any).

Daisy and Zacharias were both seven and Asian (Chinese and Korean, respectively). Their parents were the only pairs of Asians in the condo complex and had moved in at the same time. That, combined with the identical ages of their children and their mutual love for volcanically spicy food had prompted both parents to set up a play-date and get acquainted with one another, and that was where it all began, and that was also where the similarities ended. Daisy was small and had eyes like a wary cat. She always kept a blue rabbit’s foot on a keychain and had a habit of nervously flicking her thumb against the matted fur whenever she and Zack passed the woods or Patricia Cooper’s house. Zack was tall and had eyes as black and fierce as a cockatoo. He always had a bandaid on his face and smudges on his glasses from all the times he’d fallen into Patricia Cooper’s rosebushes and more often than not Daisy would be the one with the spare Power Rangers bandaid in her pocket. Zack had a different colored bandaid for each day of the summer.

That fall, Daisy’s father finally finished his graduate research in The Meaning of Meaning and got tenure as a philosophy professor in a small college town about an hour away. And because everything always happens in threes, the one-armed farmer (his real name was Tobias Smith) sold his plot and the woods and moved out with his new girlfriend to Idaho, and Patricia Cooper decided that the East Coast winters were too harsh on her bones and moved to Florida with her cat in tow. Only Zack and his parents were left behind, and in time they too left, starting a new cycle of three. By this time Daisy had long lost touch with him, but it didn’t matter much to her-Professor Huang had taught her wisely that the Meaning of their childhood friendship had been to make her a more pleasant and sociable person who could use the rollerblading memories to write little fairy tales and that to dwell on times past would be Meaningless. He bought her a watercolor set and new rollerblades with pink and purple fastenings and a journal and a music box with a twirling Kyoto geisha and ice cream on Sundays when he took his honors seminar students out to Sweet Claude’s.

Daisy painted in the summer and wrote music in winter, little piano pieces that were terribly discordant but she wrote them anyway.

In middle school her teachers chastised her for daydreaming through class and hmph’d when she passed them anyway. In high school her mother agonized slightly over her desire and decision to study painting and art history but let her go because her father had always also been pegged as studying useless things so she was really giving Daisy the benefit of the doubt here, do you hear, Daisy-ah?

So Daisy packed up her clothes and canvases and embarked on a journey to a big city school where on Move-In Day she met Arianna, a girl from Detroit who chewed three pieces of gum at once and sported a rose tattoo on her upper arm who asked to see her iTunes playlist and flip through her yearbook and admired her father’s book on philosophy. She could sing in the highest soprano Daisy had ever heard and played jazz guitar at parties, the first of which she dragged Daisy to two nights later. The shrieks of laughter was punctuated with shut-up’s and not-so-loud!’s. Arianna handed Daisy a vodka and cranberry juice which she drank too fast, and Arianna burst out laughing when she saw the berry colored flush that had crept over Daisy’s cheeks. Someone, a boy-What’s your name?

Daisy like the flowers on my dress. She squinted into stranger boy’s face. He squinted back. They giggled.

I’m Zack, nice to meet you. She grabbed the back of the sofa. And this is Jenny, he said, pointing at a tall girl with blonde streaked hair and an easy smile. Something within Daisy sloshed around and tumbled into place and out of her mouth. Wait. What’s your last name Zack?

Park.

Oh! She squinted again and he shrank into his clothes, and there he was again with that bowl cut and confusion in his face the day she’d told him she was moving. Little Zack hovered momentarily and then flicked back into his now-chiseled features. Ah-um-Daisy Huang, do you remember from… from th’ th’ th’ Rose Plaza?

Huh? Nawwww. He laughed. Sure you got the right guy?

Dunno. Daisy had the sudden urge to paint. She excused herself and stumbled back to 1503. In the morning her fingers smelled like oil and turpentine and were covered in reds and blues and purples along with the canvas. She’d attempted flowers but the result looked like shriveled broccoli and Jackson Pollock’s bastard love child. And now she had a killer headache.

That Jenny girl’s a cougar, said Arianna, remarkably unaffected. She looks like she’s at least twenty. They laughed. Daisy felt a knot beginning to tie itself in her throat.

Jenny always wore blue in a variety of different tints, although she was most fond of a pair of jeans the color of an Arctic shadow. She was also prone to spouting out the answers to five different integral calculus problems and quote from The Wealth of Nations when stoned. She was almost never seen without Zack, which was just as well because they had three business classes together. Sometimes on Sunday nights Daisy heard their good-natured laughter floating down the hallway, mixed, as it usually was, with the pungent smell of weed, which burned ever sharper as the golden late summer days turned into chilly fall evenings.

Daisy crunched her way through the gray slush and batted her eyelashes to keep the snowflakes off; the first snowfall of the season had turned out to be wet and sticky and she was thankful she had wrapped up her canvas in a black plastic bag before leaving the studio. Before she entered the building, Daisy paused and stared up, this time not caring if the flakes moistened her contact lenses with city ash. She caught a few snowflakes on the lapel of her coat. Oh! Reference pictures for the next painting assignment. Perfect.

What are you doing? Zack and Jenny.

Oh, um, pictures for my project, of the snow.

The canvas is already white. You don’t need to paint it. Jenny laughed and Zack chuckled. Daisy turned mauve.

Lighten up, she was kidding. Anyway, maybe I’d like to see your painting when you’re done. Can I?

Daisy’s good. She did that one that’s hanging in the window display of the anthropology building, right? All those colors. Daisy blushed even harder.

That night in her room she wound up her music box with the Kyoto geisha that twirled and twirled and tried to think of ways to make Zack remember. Don’t be such a mope, said Arianna. I know just what you need. A walk. She marched Daisy out into the cold and down a few blocks to a warm bookstore that sold crystals and meditation books and played New Age music, where the calm circulated with the smell of incense and cinnamon. Hello, said the smiling old woman behind the cash register. How may I help you?

We’re just here to browse. Actually-Arianna paused in her admiration of a turquoise bracelet-my friend here needs something to give her a little more positive energy in her life.

Rose quartz. The woman led her to a bin full of tumbled pale pink stones. Choose one and I’ll wrap it for you, free of charge. She winked. Rose quartz to promote self-love and love of others, friendships and faith. This pendant is lovely, too, and we’re having a fifteen percent off on all jewelry so there’s a little extra in there for you, sweetheart. And all of the backings are sterling silver. I always keep rose quartz on me; it keeps me calm. She smiled encouragingly.

Me too, Arianna said. It’s really helpful.

Daisy ran her fingers over the smooth polished surface and rolled the pendant around in her hands. Not a crack or a chip felt, just satiny stone that went on for eternity. She bought the pendant and a cord for an additional five dollars and when she went to sleep that night she put the necklace beneath her cell phone to promote friendship, as Arianna had instructed. The next day she wore the necklace and felt it snug against her flesh, and when she pulled it out on its cord to play with it was comfortingly warm in her fingers but cooled so rapidly in her cold hands that when she put it back in her shirt she felt a little jolt as it slid next to her skin.

It became second nature in the coming weeks to reach up to her throat for the little tumbled quartz heart. More snow fell, and Daisy took more photographs and painted it, this time in surrealistic settings as they studied Dali in her class. One night she asked Jenny shyly if she might take some reference photographs of her face or if she might sit and pose as a model, and Jenny smiled her easy smile and said sure, why not, but her eyes said don’t you dare get close to him, as though somehow she’d seen into the deepest dell of Daisy’s memory and desire. It was that beautiful and penetrating look of hers that Daisy wanted to capture and render along with all her snow, and so had Jenny pose in the studio against white backdrops and arctic blue setups as she tiptoed around her with the Nikon. How’s this? Jenny asked, standing up straight and tall and proud in her high-heeled boots.

Perfect, said Daisy, and snapped the picture and ran her fingers over the pendant.

I did watercolors in high school, said Jenny, as unmoving as a marble statue. My teacher said I had excellent technique.

I’m sure you did, Daisy murmured. There. Thank you, Jenny.

She painted the face with slight alterations; changed the black hair to silver blonde and the skin from porcelain to spun sugar white, but that burning cold look in Jenny’s gaze was always there as Daisy layered on the pigment, first darks for the shadows, then paler and paler and paler till finally there was nothing but Jenny’s dead white face staring out from a vortex of arctic colors. She couldn’t sleep with the painting facing her. Jenny kept asking to see it, along with Zack. Finally three weeks later Daisy was ready to show them. They walked to the studio, footsteps crunching over ice and with each step closer Daisy felt that breathing was a little less easy. Up the stairs that echoed and sent small tremors of dust through the floor, past three different studio doors. Daisy pulled out the easel and they scrutinized the painting. Jenny smiled her easy smile and said it was excellent, though the technique could be better here-see how it looks like it’s been slopped on over here? I’d also suggest layering from light to dark, looks like you’ve done it the other way around. Zack said nothing, but reached his fingers out to touch it.

No! Daisy exclaimed. The oil’s still wet. It takes a long time to dry!

Oh. He withdrew and put the hand on his chin and stared some more. Daisy tugged at her necklace. Why do you do that? he asked. What’s on the end of your necklace? She pulled it out. What’s that?

Rose quartz. It’s like a stressball, I guess. I just touch my necklace. I used to touch a rabbit’s foot. It helps if I have something to play with, she babbled. Um, the painting-

Yeah, it’s cool. Fingers twitching, she waited until they had left the studio before furiously yanking at her necklace. What had she done wrong? The chain snapped and fell to the ground with a loud CLUNK that echoed in the hollow studio and Daisy picked it up and went in search of tweezers to fix the clasp.

Daisy, her professor said, this is such a clichéd concept. You aren’t illustrating a book. The chain on her necklace broke again that night. She sat curled up on the bed and wound her music box with the Kyoto geisha that twirled and twirled and moped for a good bit before she abruptly got up, put the polished cherry case away. She put on her favorite dress with the daisies on it, a pair of navy blue wool tights, a belt, a black cardigan, a lavender scarf, her charcoal peacoat and her favorite suede-lined leather boots. She put her digital camera in her bag along with her room keys and ID and her phone and a twenty and headed out.

She crunched through ice and sloshed through slush and walked ten blocks from her dorm to the ice-covered park that had a CLOSED AT 11 sign on it but was still brightly illuminated by the orange street lamps and the glittering snow. A few homeless men stared at her and she stared back defiantly, unable to fidget with the necklace beneath all her layers. Daisy chose a bench away from them and brushed it off. All the city sounds were muffled; even the jarring taxi horns sounded softer in this air, further away. She sat on the bench, her legs outstretched so that she could see every scuff mark on the toes of her boots and every crack in the leather and she stared until she nearly nodded off were it not for the buzz of her phone in her pocket. The text was from Arianna telling her to cheer up. Daisy smiled and inhaled deeply the scent of wet city mixed with dead leaves.

There was a playground in the park, a little fenced off area where mothers could feel safe about their children in the daytime and it was always lit by the lamps that surrounded the fence. Daisy opened the gate. The little cone-shaped towers and swings and bridges were all frosted white in the glare of the fluorescent lights save for one dark spot. A person. She tensed, but then recognized the figure sitting on a swing. Zack, she said tentatively. He looked up with red-rimmed eyes.

Hi Daisy.

She came and sat on the swing next to him. What are you doing here, he asked.

I was on a walk. Your friends at a party? Jenny not here this time?

Jenny’s home for the weekend.

I figured. Aren’t you cold? You’re not even wearing a coat. The snowflakes caught in his hood like so many butterflies. He shrugged. Daisy shrugged. She stared up at the fuzzy outlines of the skyscrapers against the smoky air. My professor hated my painting.

You know, I lied.

What?

I lied. The rosebushes, your rabbit’s foot, that old one-armed farmer-

Oh. Daisy stared again at the toes of her boots.

Jenny-

I know.

They kissed. His lips were so cold she could almost taste the frost along with the vodka but sober or intoxicated it didn’t matter anymore, and when he cupped her flushed face in his freezing fingers she felt the rose quartz pendant nestled beneath her scarf humming with warmth.

Histories

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