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This is New

December 19
Matthew Rossi
Creative Outlets

It’s 4 am. The sinews

in my legs are on fire and

my chest feels like it’s caving


Like I’m being





Like I’m being interrogated

as a witch, when I know full well

that the witchcraft

doing this to me is coming


from somewhere buried deep within

and I don’t want to afflict

anyone else

with It.








Why does It even begin?

The walls twist and spin, my heart races,

and my mind is the only thing

that outpaces it.


And   I.   Can’t.   Seem.   To.   Fucking.   Breathe.


My sick, slobbering, staccato mind wrings the muscles

in my abdomen, in my thorax,

in my gastrocnemii, (to put it medically)

while my vision wavers

and blurs.


I force myself to move, to stretch, to push

out anything deeper than the shallow breath held

in my lungs with each passing second.


I scroll through my instagram feed

searching for an escape.

Pretty landscapes, Pretty people,



Something prettier than this,

prettier than me.

Something whole or


Something that at least has the visage

of wholeness,

of put-togetherness,


because right now I feel



This is new.

This poem is about my experiences dealing with Anxiety and Panic Attacks. They’re very new to me. Up until last semester, I had never had a panic attack, never felt what it was like to have crippling doubt about if I was normal, if this was normal, if I could control something like this. With the help of my friends, family, and the love of my life—my sweet and supportive girlfriend—I’ve been able to keep myself in a good place. Some days, it still hits me for no discernible reason. Some nights I wake up with cramps and attacks out of nowhere, like I described in this poem. I hope that by sharing my story, other people dealing with anxiety, especially those who are just finding out what it entails, can find comfort in knowing that someone else knows what they are going through. Anxiety doesn’t define you. There is always a way to combat your anxiety and you should never stop searching for what it is that makes you feel grounded and safe!

Thank you so much to Emily Covais, Dana Sauro, and Kyle Marchuk for your efforts in partnership with Active Minds Loyola, Maryland Chapter.

Balcony & Uncorked: Poetry

December 17
Diana Vlavianos
Creative Outlets

Cut cocaine with my cheekbones;

they’re too sharp for kissing,

And I’ll lay here in bed,

While drunken giggles chime on

Clawing the air apart with their caws,

Yes I’ll lay on.


Or I’ll float away,

Drifting and catching air,

Like a single strand

Of golden thread

Plucked from my head.

Fly on, netted by the arms

Of ozoned sky.


Do you remember

That time I found my sublime?

Tie dye faded with holes gnawed through,

Like worm bitten silk.


Light woke me,

Though the shades were tucked.

Jackhammers pounding on,

Yet my concrete-cratered slab of body

Just lay, rolled out,

Ready to trip.


Sheets shackled to ankles,

I touch my blistered fingers to the sky,

And the petals unpeel.


Uncorked (a sonnet)

Mystic makes me mourn,

Gut a clementine whole

And tear through its skin,

Juicy leather drilling

Into my canines, just to

Forget your glazy eyes.


At the station we say our last goodbyes

No second glance, for that, infinite scorn.

I never did turn my head enough for you,

You ran around, corralling me, net on a pole;

Cork hangs on wall, you’re primed for killing,

I was a speckled butterfly, pricked by your pin.


Bruises drip down left shin,

I hide amongst the waist-high ryes,

Peer through fuzzy heads, eyes filling

With rows of soldiers, neatly lined corn.

I pull an ear, shuck with teeth, spit in hole,

Yellow, green, brown, all coming up blue.


A leaf, a scratch, handfuls of soil, stir and brew

Rub the paste into your face, the butt of your chin.

The leaves of palm, shade of trees, comprise your stole,

Feet tanned as buck hide, goddess you lay out as clay dries

As earth cracks around you, you goddess, are reborn,

Naked and earthen, stallion mane unbraided and spilling.


At the water hole we hover over libations, milling,

Flipping hands, veiny as leaves, starting over, it’s true.

Avoiding eyes, fear of Medusa within, we sneak glances, forlorn,

I can’t help but think, this is the end of our story, finito, fin.

Metal scrapes tile, dental at best, and goddess, she cries,

She yips and hollers, dancing across my bed of coal.


She nays and whinnies, finally free in my soul,

Pulling the pins, she lets the insects fall or fly, if willing,

She savors the fruit’s juices drop by drop, a lip-smacking prize,

With violet eyes, she stares into mine, and I finally view

Myself, cut like glass, no donut glaze; no longer tin,

Frail and scraping, to be crumpled in the wind; I am born.


Because of you

I realized within

I will never be shorn.

Just Jenna

December 15
Danielle Watkins
Creative Outlets

*Fiction by Danielle Watkins*

The season was wintertime. The night, silent as the snow that fell into shimmering piles on the ground, seemed calm. Standing by the door, Jenna, wearing her mother’s winter coat and gloves, wasn’t planning on going far. Just to the giant tree that felt like Christmas. To sit in the biting cold, the unmerciful wind licking at her dry skin, seemed like a relief.

Yet, she couldn’t bring herself to open the sliding-glass door. Her shaking hand hovered above the doorknob for a long time and hot tears blurred her vision. But then she saw something scampering in the fresh snow, defiling its purity with tiny footprints. Finally looking up at her reflection in the door, Jenna saw the girl once again. The girl stared back with frightened, unblinking eyes, slowly turned around, and trekked into the peaceful snowfall. Her ghostly shadow left loud footprints that eventually faded away into nothing.

Jenna didn’t want to be nothing.


The monster came slowly. It crept into the sinews of Jenna’s mind, telling her what seemed like truths, “That doorknob isn’t safe. You shouldn’t touch it.” It was easy to ignore the voice at first, but eventually, the voice materialized into a creature that controlled her every action.

It came when Jenna was in fourth grade. She and her best friend, Samantha, were romping around in the snow during recess. A bunch of boys were playing King of the Hill; one of them ripped off his coat and proclaimed he didn’t need it in the winter, only in the summer, because he was a man now. Everyone just laughed, but not in a mean way. It was funny, especially when the teacher came over and tried to climb the hill after the ‘man’ refused to put his coat back on.
Samantha grew bored and asked, “Want to make a snowman?”

“Oh, sure,” Jenna replied, “but after I show you how many husbands I have!” She whipped out her glove, which was a sickly purple with several painted rings sewn around the fingers.

“Is he one of them?” Samantha giggled and pointed to the boy on the hill.

But Jenna wasn’t listening. Where was her other glove? She was sure she had it. Frantically, her eyes scanned the snowy field; it was too bright and the light hurt her eyes. She shielded her eyes with her naked hand—it only reminded her of what was missing.

“What’s wrong?” Samantha asked concerned.

Jenna couldn’t breathe. She instinctively felt for her scarf wrapped around her neck. Was it too tight? Why couldn’t she breathe?

Gasping, she looked up. When had she fallen? She lifted her hands toward the sky; they became two different shadows. One dark and concealed, with fingers spread wide. The other bright and vulnerable, limp against the powerful star we call the sun.


“I want those!”

Grandma was taking Jenna shopping for her sixth birthday at a candy store attached to an antique store. They sold vintage candies, like Razzles and Lipstick Taffy, as well as newer brands, like Reese’s and Skittles. The antique store varied from intricate wooden boxes to Red Sox memorabilia. Jenna had pointed to the neatly stacked Milky Ways; she liked them because they were simple. Just chocolate and caramel. Nothing fancy, just sweet, gooey goodness.

“Okay, honey, but you know you can pick something else out too, right?”

Smiling, Jenna picked up a Milky Way and lead Grandma into the small corridor that connected to the antique store. There were several wooden figurines denoting different seasons and occasions, such as “Christmas,” “Caroling,” “Birthday,” and “springtime.” Jenna especially liked the mother/daughter figurine. The mother clasped hands with the daughter; their patterned wooden skirts flowed in the imaginary wind. Then, a pair of gloves caught Jenna’s eyes. They were a royal purple and they were bejeweled with small faux rubies. The jewels were supposed to represent rings, one on almost every finger. Jenna instantly thought of the Disney movies she watched so often. What Disney princess could claim four princes? Perhaps Snow White, but maybe the dwarves don’t really count.

“I want these gloves, Grandma! Is that okay?”

Grandma smiled and said, “Of course.”

Jenna smiled too.

On the way home, as Jenna happily chewed on her Milky Way, she didn’t hear the missed call from the doctor on Grandma’s flip-phone and she didn’t notice the sadness in Grandma’s eyes.


The cluttered dollhouse bothered Jenna, so she began to organize the house by room. Her hand hovered over the bedroom, hesitated, and then moved toward the kitchen. The kitchen was easier to clean. Sure, it could get extremely messy—eggshells broken on the floor, dirty dishes in the sink, empty cereal boxes on the counter—but it could always be fixed. The bedroom, and those who inhabit it, can usually leave. Unless you’re sick and stuck in bed. Unless you fall asleep forever. Unless you’re Grandma.

“Does that bother you?”

Jenna turned around and looked at Dr. Hays. She wondered if he grew up on a farm and if he had cows that mooed at bales of hay.

“I just like to organize the rooms,” she responded, “because my dollhouse at home is neat. Except for the Play-Doh stuck in the mailbox, but that’s because my brother, Cam, made me do it.”

“I see. Well, we’re going to have your mom come in now so we can all talk together.”

“Okay!” Jenna exclaimed as she turned back to the slowly improving dollhouse.

After Dr. Hays talked to Jenna’s mom, he said goodbye and they went on their way. As they were leaving, Jenna saw a boy from her class. His name was Jerry and he always misbehaved during class. One time, he ran out of the classroom all the way to the front entrance of the school. Running past the principal’s office, he broke free and everyone from the classroom could see him sprinting outside. The principal ended up chasing him, heels and all. All of the students became distracted and watched in envious fascination of Jerry’s escape. No one wanted to be like Jerry, they just wanted to be free.

“Hi Jenna!”

Blushing, Jenna waved hesitantly. Why was she in the same doctor’s office as Jerry?

Meanwhile, Dr. Hays’ next patient destroyed the order Jenna worked so hard to instate into the dollhouse, instead leaving it in shambles.


When Jenna first stepped into the middle school, she didn’t remember it. She was sure she didn’t want to remember it because she knew she had, in fact, been in the school before.

It was a private tour offered to her and Mom by the principal. Jenna hadn’t gone to the sixth grade orientation because she wasn’t sure if Samantha was going. And if Samantha wasn’t going, well, then there was no point. Although the middle school combined all four elementary schools and there were going to be different kids there, Jenna didn’t want a repeat of fifth grade. There were so many days she would come home crying to Mom, who would try her best to comfort Jenna but didn’t understand; it became easier to count the good days because there were so many bad days—normal days—and out of the ordinary good days were easier to recall sometimes.

The first day of school. Jenna got off the bus and looked up at the stout brick prison they called middle school. Suddenly, she longed to get back on the bus and sit alone in order to look out at the world passing by through the window. Anything could happen there. If it was raining, she could draw smiley faces on the glass. If it was snowing, she could countdown the days until Christmas and imagine making a snowman outside. If it was sunny, the possibilities were endless. Jenna could picture herself frolicking around outside, waving goodbye to the monster as it stayed behind on the bus.

Turning around, Jenna hoped to see the monster. But it wasn’t on the bus. She could suddenly feel a weight in her backpack. At her locker, Jenna neatly put her new Lisa Frank folders on the top shelf, keeping some for the first three classes with her. She noticed that the girl next to her threw all of her books and folders onto the floor of the locker. Jenna desperately wanted to fix what the girl had so carelessly done, but resisted. Focusing on her own locker, Jenna hung her backpack on one of the hooks, making sure the back of the bag faced the right side of the locker. The weight remained, though. Somehow, she had hoped it was just the backpack—that she was just feeling the heaviness of her folders and binders like anyone else would. Like a normal kid.

To get to her first class, Jenna had to go through the stairwell. She saw students pushing doors open, some holding the door for their friends, others rushing through and bounding up the stairs like wild horses. It was a tunnel that lead upstairs where Jenna would be further away from the main entrance.
“I can always come down. I have classes downstairs too.” Jenna reminded herself, “Even if I am just going to the bathroom, I can always come down.
Taking a deep breath, Jenna approached the ominous tunnel, thinking only of her descent later that afternoon. But when she got to the top, to the door, two girls had just entered and were coming downstairs.

“Oh no.” Jenna thought. The girls were gleefully gossiping and did not—no, could not—know Jenna’s predicament. As she slowly approached the doors, wondering how long she would be standing there waiting for someone to open them, someone came through and held the door for her; Jenna thanked her and headed upstairs.

The weight she had felt earlier bothered her most of the morning. When her section went to library class, Jenna froze before she could enter the library. There in the library were the dull pastel chairs they had in her elementary school’s library.

“Don’t sit there. Those chairs have germs.” The monster hissed at her.

“There’s no other option. There’s no other option!” Jenna grew wild. The only way to calm her down was a trip downstairs to the guidance office. The counselor soothed Jenna and said it was no big deal to use a different chair. The librarian helped drag out an old-looking rickety chair for Jenna to use when she finally returned to library class.

“Why does she get a different chair?” One of the students asked, a bit envious that he wasn’t special enough to receive similar treatment.

“Don’t worry about it, Mike.” The librarian said gently.

Jenna smiled. Maybe this wouldn’t be so bad.


The last time Jenna saw Grandma, she feared kissing her. Although Mom reassured her that Grandma didn’t have a contagious sickness like a cold, Jenna hesitated. This was no cold.

Grandma reassured her, “It’s okay, Jenna.”

Jenna gave her a quick peck and her family left. Deep down, Jenna knew this was goodbye, yet she still feared Grandma’s touch—what kind of granddaughter does that?


Later that week, when they had library again, Jenna dragged out the special chair because she was allowed to do it on her own.
“Why can’t you sit in these chairs like the rest of us?” Richard, a classmate, asked bluntly, but innocently enough.
Jenna hesitated.

“Because she’s a weirdo!” declared Mike.

Everyone laughed. But it wasn’t like the time the boy on the snow hill ripped off his coat. He was trying to be funny then and it worked. Jenna, on the other hand, wasn’t trying to be funny. She was obeying the monster and because of her compliance, she was ostracized.

Just before lunch, after the usual rush, Jenna made her descent. Some boys held the door for her, but when they saw her they screamed, “Weirdo chair girl!” and proceeded to gallop downstairs. Walking faster, Jenna tried to catch up, even though she hated having to rely on them. But it was too late. They had made it to through the door to the meadows. They were free. The gate was closing. Jenna heard echoes of laughter. Shadows swirled on the dull brick walls. The slam of the door closing kept replaying, but the door remained shut. Doe-eyed, Jenna looked upstairs, but no one was there, only the sounds of spite and the images of distorted figures.
The tears were coming now, flowing now. Just like Alice when she failed to open the door to Wonderland, Jenna cried and created a salty waterfall. Streaming up or down, it didn’t matter. Unlike Alice, she would eventually drown.


“Do you shake your leg like that because you’re nervous, because it’s a habit, like you were just talking about when you wash your hands?”

Dr. Gordon had it all wrong. Just because Jenna hated middle school and had strange habits to deal with that hellhole didn’t mean every little thing she did involved the monster.

Looking up defiantly, Jenna responded, “No, I like doing this.”

Dr. Gordon chuckled, subtly, but the attitude was there. Her frizzy hair shook slightly as she denied Jenna’s answer with that laugh. If her hair twisted like vines and formed makeshift horns, Jenna would not be surprised. Yet, she still stopped shaking her leg. As if she had anything to prove to Dr. Gordon. But Jenna liked to please people; when people hated her for no reason other than the monster, it just wasn’t fair.

Behind Dr. Gordon’s comfortable-looking chair, there was a dollhouse. It looked like chaos. The father was on the roof, the daughter’s dress was torn, and the couches were askew. Jenna saw a grandpa doll and her eyes scanned each room for his partner.

“That’s for the younger patients,” Dr. Gordon said casually, “but feel free to look if you want.”

“No thanks.” Jenna knew the grandma doll wasn’t there.


One summer, when Cam said he was going to run away as child, Mom knew he wasn’t serious. She even packed a knapsack full of snacks and sounded skeptical when she said, “Okay, but I don’t know where you’re gonna go.” Cam defiantly took the snacks and confidently made his way to the end of the driveway. But then he stopped. Slowly, he looked behind him, saw Mom, who was never far behind, and plopped down on the pavement thinking he was still a rebel. Mom would then sit down with him and they would talk. Jenna remembers watching them from her bedroom window, slightly worried Cam would actually run away. But he never did. At the end of the driveway, Cam and Mom would laugh while sipping apple juice boxes and eventually made their way back into the house.

But now Cam was older and so was Jenna. Not feeling particularly rebellious, Jenna still planned on running away, just into the yard. She had to, but she wished she had some kind of choice, or even an epiphany like Cam had. One that told her running away doesn’t solve anything; it could make things worse. But this wasn’t running away, Jenna tried to convince herself.

She was going to kill the monster. Bring it into the cold and leave it there. Jenna thought of all the delicious tortures she could bring upon it. Immobilize it and make it obey her. Make it stay in the cold because there were “germs” inside. There was no other option, she would tell it. And then she would laugh. She would laugh not because she was trying to be funny, but because she was right.

Yet, she still hesitated. She did not even hear her mother approaching.

“Jenna?” Her voice sounded strained. “What are you doing?”

The hot, salty tears were coming, “I wasn’t gonna go far, just to the tree, and then—”

Enveloped in her mother’s arms, Jenna sobbed. She sobbed for Samantha, for Cam, for Mom, for Mike, for all of the doctors and for all of the counselors, and for herself.
But most of all, she sobbed for the monster. She pitied its need to take over her mind, its need to belittle and bully her. Her tears began to cleanse the monster. She could feel weights lifting from her toes and traveling up to her head. Jenna feared her head would explode, just like a watermelon smashing on the ground. But the weight subsided until she could barely even feel it. The monster was still there, but the world seemed as quiet as the snow drifting outside.

Daring to look up into the sliding-glass door, Jenna almost screamed. No longer the ghost of a girl she was before, Jenna saw herself. Amazed, she recognized her own reflection as something familiar, not foreign. With Mom still holding her, Jenna realized she would never understand but she was there. In this moment, Mom was there and she had been there all along.

Then, Jenna vowed to never nourish the monster’s appetite again, a vow she found difficult to keep sometimes. It begged her for food constantly. Most times she couldn’t even hear it. Other times she ignored it. And then sometimes she acquiesced to it.

Determined and refreshed by this new covenant, Jenna continued to gaze at her reflection as she felt the warmth of Mom’s hug. Yet, wrapped up in bed later on, the sadness took over again. But not feeling isn’t human. Jenna wasn’t the monster.

A Dead Flower

September 14
Chelsey Cashwell
Creative Outlets

Her eyes could snag mine from across the room, around corners even, and when she was nowhere to be seen, I would scan the scene like a metal detector on a beach, waiting for the sensation the discovery of her would bring. “Bbbeebeebeep” my heart would sing. There she is, in my head I would say.

She lit me ablaze in the cold and gray of December. She dazzled me from the core—a wild headband atop bourbon ringlets, a body, facing fiercely the frigid air, enwrapped in lace revealing just enough to require a double take, but concealing enough to send the imagination into frenzy. She would eventually stop rummaging through her purse for menthols and place her gaze in my path, eyes meeting mine behind the fog of her first drag.

Natural gravity would pull us nearer to one another through the crowd, seeing only shoulders of those moseying, aimlessly, around.

Not us. Our movements had purpose. She would greet me by drawing me closer in, a pocket in the bone-chilling wind. Easing each other’s goose bumps, we would relax our bodies for seconds in the warmth of our enfoldment. Only friends can hug like we did—without measure of elapsed time, unapologetic for being still in a moving mass.

In the dark hues of winter, sheer joy felt by the presence of one another gave glow to our path, and we would lock arms to insulate the heat flowing from our bodies. Of course we could ramble on and laugh about small things in our small lives, but only after showering each other with compliments, exchanging cheer, and sometimes clasping hands. Our conversations could be as shallow or deep as we were feeling.

We could detect the mood of each other through just the lifting of an eyebrow or quivering of the chin, and then, without a millisecond of hesitation, I could pour out the pulp, whatever was left over from the whole, and she would listen. Spring arrived, and we welcomed it in bandeaus and tattered daisy dukes. Still floating along upon our companionship, we reveled in the freedom of the season. No longer did my friend shiver beneath the lace enwinding her.

Finally, her ecru honey skin, in all its fine radiance, was no longer enfettered by the need for covering.

What a shame it was for our friendship to end once we were no longer separated by lace and layers. My sun receded as abruptly as it appeared. A tiff, a squabble, a slip of sour tongue—whatever it was—it caused her to be gone for the rest of spring. Still to this day, I don’t know what she looks like in floral or how big her umbrella is.

After a time, there were a series of August apologies. With a valiant effort to sooth the sting of words we wished we could take back, we did what we could to rekindle the ember of our friendship. I saw her for the first time since spring at the nearing end of summer. She was stuck in between the seasons, struggling with the middle ground of the year’s mood, and unknowing of whether or not she would be melting underneath the cotton by the time the sun shone directly above us at midday. We were both troubled not only with our fashion choices, but with things we never found troublesome before.

We searched for words in petty conversation about our longing for fall weather and what classes we were taking. In the midst of the transition between summer and fall, our eyes met far less than they had in winter, but when they did, the moment was frostbitten with regret.

Our hugs were rare, brief, and plagued with rigor mortis.

The ember was dwindling. The sharpness of the breeze reminds me of winter’s fast approach. White clouds drifting all around, but not the ones from her cigarette. I try so hard to enjoy hot cocoa and long fuzzy stockings, but there’s a specific warmth missing from this season of cold. I see her headband bobbing up and down in the bustle of the crowd, but her gaze never crosses mine, and we pass like strangers.

Our flower bloomed in the winter, but withered away in the rays of spring, and by summer, it was dead. I hang the wilted flower upside-down on the door of my bedroom to serve as a reminder that the seasons change.

The Battle, Upon Losing Artie

September 3
Rochelle Foles
Creative Outlets

The Battle, Upon Losing








her grief
to drown
mosh pit dancer
of a ballerina

in a river

own tears

as all await



sal. t. y.

d. r. o. p.

to. s. l. i. d. e.






e t e r n i t y


for she willNOT
give THEM

of finding even a pin tuck
out of place
in the

pink tutu
that is her
unassuming armor.


she will stand

she will plea-eh?

and she WILL
do battle


gloves high
toes en point

lithe legs
in pale
pink tights
pink tutu of armor
guarding her


laced up tight

atop seeming f r a i l t eeeeeeee

there will be no vanquishing


from this tangible plane

these sweet memories

will only serve

to strengthen
her resolve

to be







and so


Grand Jetè

and with the grace of Giselle



once again

at ready

lithe legged

pale pink tights

pink tutu

Cassius Clay’s
worn black

laced up


and thus armored

one heroes


and one heroes
gentle arm

o n
r d

her shoulder

a quiet whisper in her soft ear

“you’re my girl”

off she dives once more

chignon first

into the mosh pit

The Puppeteer

April 27
Annie Vogel
Creative Outlets

I try over and over, and I tire with every effort put forth.

I want to combat this.

I want to be better, but somehow the things that make me better can sometimes make me worse.

It is hard to explain to people who haven’t been here, walked under this cloud that fogs my visibility and speaks uneasiness into every step.

They don’t know what it is like to pray with each new step that it might be your last because the pain is becoming unbearable.

They don’t know how it can convince you that you and it are one. It is part of you, in you, and it is your fault.

You want it to be there because it is your only friend, the only constant.

I walk around living in the reality that the cloud is not only over me, but has rooted itself so deep within me that it can control me like a twisted puppeteer.

I have found that there is one thing that always helps for a while.

When a friend steps out of their sunlight and sits down on my bench, under my cloud and rainstorm, it wakes something new in me.

Every time, it catches me off guard because the puppeteer tells me that there isn’t anyone in the world who would want to risk their happiness to love me.

“Why are you here?” I say as my words catch in my throat.

“Because, I love you, and you don’t have to feel this,” they respond unknowingly.

They then slowly walk me out from under my cloud unaware that I carry it inside myself.

It is always so nice to feel that sunlight for a little while, but then the cloud speaks up again urging me to run from this love.

“It is unpredictable. They will get tired of you. You are a burden that no one wants to take care of,” it whispers into my ear.

“But they said they loved me. Were they lying?” I respond in anguish.

“No one could ever want you,” it replies, “You are not even worth my breath.”

And the cloud falls silent as I roll into a ball shaking unable to make any sound at all.

My mind whirls and searches for the moments that I felt loved that I knew it was real, but somehow they all seem artificial and insincere.

“Did they mean it when they said to call them when things got bad? They are busy. They couldn’t possibly want to come sit on my bench.”

Pablo Picasso

April 5
Maria Angela
Creative Outlets

Missy Taylor peered over my shoulder as I struggled to remember the combination to my locker from the past two years. “Lyla,” she paused, holding out the end of my name for much longer than was necessary.

“Did you hear?”

“Hear what, Missy?” Missy loved discovering the latest gossip at Walburn High School. We were juniors, finally upperclassmen, but all Missy wanted to talk about was which football player hooked up with which cheerleader who was actually dating that soccer player. I had college visits and advanced placements tests to worry about.

“Let me help. What’s your combination,” Missy asked, pushing me out of the way.

“That’s the problem. I don’t remember.” Missy sighed, rolling her eyes at me.

“Why don’t I tell you my news as we walk to the office for you to get your new combo?”

“I guess so.” Missy interlocked our arms, and smiled widely at me, ignoring the distress in my face. “Okay, so I’m sure you’ll like this news.”

“What is it, Missy?” “So, I hear there is a new creative writing teacher this year,” she said, nudging my ribcage with her elbow.

“Wait. They fired Mrs. Cummings? Who could possibly be more qualified than she?”

“Oh, please, Lyla. Mrs. Cummings was like 107 years old.”

“It doesn’t mean she wasn’t qualified,” I stated, opening the door to the office.

Missy slammed it shut. “I haven’t finished.” Missy tossed her bottle blonde hair behind her right shoulder and checked herself in the reflection of the office door. “The new teacher is really cute and super young. I think he’s like only 27 years old. I heard that he graduated from Yale. Like as in the Ivy League,” she gushed, exhaling dramatically and smirking at me. “Rachel who was in biology class last year told me that apparently he was fired from his last job in a private school and that’s why he is working here now–but Rachel is not that reliable of a source.

“Why does this matter to me?” “C’mon, Lyla. I thought you would find this news interesting. All the girls in your writing class are talking about him.”

“Look, Missy. I have bigger things to think about than the new creative writing teacher.” “Like what,” she sneered.

“Um, like maybe getting my locker open before lunch.”

“Well, first period starts in five minutes, you better hurry.” I glanced at the clock, realizing Missy was right. I ran into the office, hoping they would be able to save me, not just from my locker woes, but also from Missy. Missy wasn’t wrong. The new creative writing teacher was cute. He actually tucked his buttoned down shirt into his khaki pants, and his hair was slicked back without any gel, unlike most of the boys in my grade. Even though I was late to first period, Mr. Davis did not really seem to mind. He had the desks arranged in a circle; he sat at the head of the circle, on top of a desk, rather than in the desk like the rest of us.

The class was retelling their favorite moments from summer. Aaron mentioned that he went on a fishing trip with his father, but they didn’t catch any fish because his father went into anaphylactic shock from a wasp sting on his finger. Sydney, swinging her ponytail from side-to-side, told a story about how she got to visit her new baby cousin in Maryland for a few days. She got to hold him, and he was the first baby she ever held. The baby spit up on her. Then, the circle stopped at me. I swallowed hard and glared at the clock, hoping the bell would ring before I had to utter my first word.

“You want to tell us your favorite moment from summer-,” Mr. Davis smiled, revealing his dimples.

“Lyla. Lyla Douglas.”

“Very well, Lyla. What did you do this summer?” “Uh, well…I wrote a few short stories.”

“Really,” he paused, “what about it?”

My heart felt like it was going to jump out of my chest. “Nothing really that interesting.”

“Well, I have a feeling that you’re not being all that honest,” he laughed. “But, that’s quite alright. A great writer never reveals his secrets,” he said, winking at me before moving on to the next student.

I learned that Mr. Davis was also a painter. Since teaching took up most of his time, he could only really paint on the weekends. He showed me his artwork once when I stayed after school to edit one of my stories with him. One of his paintings would be shown at a gallery in town. It was reminiscent of Picasso’s Les Demoiselles D’avignon, or at least that’s what he said. It was a painting of an ex-girlfriend. Her body was all distorted–only visibly displaying her face, which looked both fearful and relieved at the same time. Mr. Davis gained inspiration after his girlfriend threatened to leave him if he didn’t agree to marry her. According to him, she had issues–but she inspired his best work. I always wanted to share something interesting and elusive about myself, but the only snippet from my life that I could ever think about was how when I was ten my parents had left me at a carnival. It took my parents two hours to realize that I was missing. I was too embarrassed for the both of us to tell Mr. Davis that story.

These gatherings after school started to become a regular affair. I found myself wandering into his classroom around 3:15 to review a short story I had written.

Usually, we discussed the piece for a few minutes and then moved on to other conversations. Mr. Davis was a great storyteller; I longed to be able to tell stories like him. I had never met a person who seemed to take me so seriously. My mother was often consumed with her eating and exercise habits, refusing to allow anything other than raw food in the house, while my father stayed way too late at the office and smelled like brandy and cigars when he did finally make it home. Mr. Davis made me feel important.

It had been two months that we had been meeting after school to look over my writing. Mr. Davis had finished more paintings for another gallery show in town. He told me that he had just decided on a theme for this new show: heat. I stared at him blankly, waiting for him to explain what he was talking about. He just smiled at me and continued to mark up some poor student’s short story with his red pen.

“What do you mean,” I asked, trying to sound intelligent, while still being confused.

“Hmm” “Why ‘heat’? Oh, that,” he paused.

“Was it like really hot when you painted these?” He laughed to himself.

“No, that’s not the heat I’m referring to. I mean, heat as in the feeling a person gets when they feel passion.”

I glanced at the two misplaced commas in the student’s story. “How does that relate to your paintings?”

“Well, as you already know, my ex-girlfriend inspired most of these paintings. We had a pretty tough relationship–lots of fighting and making up, which led to more fighting and eventually our break up. We had a lot of passion for each other, despite the fact that we ultimately hated each other. Does that make sense?”

“I think so.” “Yeah,” he asked, refusing to let go of our gaze. I shifted in my seat. “Heat embodies the nature of that relationship, all the tension and the passion. I couldn’t imagine a better word myself.” “You know, Lyla,” Mr. Davis hesitated. “You are more than welcome to come to the art gallery showing on Friday. I mean, that is, if you’re free?”

I could feel my cheeks burning up and beads of sweat forming on my upper lip. “Uh…well…sure, I’m not doing anything.” “Really, you would like to come?” “Of course. I wouldn’t mind coming to see your paintings.” “Perfect,” He smiled, biting down on his red pen.

I was hardly able to see Mr. Davis until close to when the show was finishing. He spent the evening chatting with other local artists and art curators, who seemed genuinely interested in his work. Near the end of the gallery show, I made my way out to the patio. The bushes were decorated with white lights and matching candles were flickering on each table. Mr. Davis was sitting on a bench with a cocktail in his right hand. I couldn’t help but notice how handsome he looked that night–wearing a gray tailored suit with a thin black tie, his hair combed over, and he wore thick rectangular framed eyeglasses. As I got closer to him, I could smell his cologne, a mixture of pine and cinnamon, which seemed like an unlikely combination, but made my knees begin to quiver. He jumped when he noticed me standing in front of him.

“Lyla,” he exclaimed. “Thanks for coming. I wanted to say to something to you earlier, but I was busy with all the guests.”

“No, that’s okay. I understand. Do you mind if I take a seat,” I asked, pointing to the spot beside him. Mr. Davis patted the wood. Our knees touched slightly as I took a seat next to him. He shook the ice around in his glass. I could smell the whiskey on his breath as he exhaled heavily.

“Did you have fun tonight,” he asked. “I did. It was really nice to finally see your artwork. I could really feel the heat.”

Mr. Davis grinned. “Yeah? I’m glad you could understand what I was going for.” “Well, thank you for inviting me.” He shifted closer to me. “I appreciate you coming.” I shivered as a gust of wind flew past. I knew I should have listened to my mother when she told me to wear my winter coat, but a purple puffer jacket lacked the sophistication I needed to uphold at this party. Mr. Davis wrapped his suit jacket over my shoulders.

“Of course. We’ve been talking about this for months.” He moved in closer, resting his left hand a little above my knee. Startled, I scooted down the bench, but he pulled me in even closer to his body. “I’ve been really enjoying getting to know you these last couple of months. You’re a really special person, Lyla. You know that?”

Before I could answer his question, Mr. Davis placed his right hand on my cheek. His other hand moved up my leg, sending an impulse through my entire body. He lodged his tongue into my mouth. I didn’t know how to respond. I had never kissed a boy before, but I tried to mirror his movements to show some semblance that I knew what I was doing. His hand glided up my stomach and landed on my chest, grasping my breast with so much intensity that I gasped. This only seemed to make him more excited. I tried to maneuver my hands around his body like he did with mine, yet I was not as suave as he was.

After five minutes, Mr. Davis pushed me away. I didn’t really know what to say after a moment like this. I sat slumped on the bench trying to regain my breath. He began smoothing the wrinkles on his shirt and readjusting his tie. “I hope that you know that this is our little secret,” he stated, emphasizing the word secret. “I can trust you, right?” I shook my head in agreement. Mr. Davis smiled at me, kissing me lightly on the forehead before standing up.

“Thank you again for coming, Lyla,” he said, after swallowing the last of his whiskey. “I’ll see you on Monday.” I barely heard a word Mr. Davis said as he rushed back to his party. The only sound I could hear was my entire body throbbing as I wiped away my tears.

What is Life?

January 12
Naveed Noordin
Creative Outlets

(Poetry by Naveed Noordin)

In my free time, I just love to become a philosopher in my own zone and think and reflect on different things, such as life, good and evil, humanity, worldly conditions and suffering etc and anything that comes to my free wandering mind. Here’s a piece I wrote in one of those free time reflection moments on life. Hope you enjoy it!

What is life

• What is life, you ask me
It is a journey, I tell you

• It is a venue to learn, to grow and to spread your wings
and in the midst of it to make mistakes yet to persist

• It is a medium to seek, to learn and to impart knowledge and wisdom
and to use it to ponder upon God’s Universe

• It is an avenue to mingle, to form bonds and to serve
and to stand beside each other and to learn to live in harmony

• It is an occasion to celebrate oneself as well as others
and to learn to appreciate and to offer gratitude

• It is not as straight as the edge of a ruler but rather full of calamities
but it is often these trials that help us grow and nurture

• Alas, what is life, you ask me again
again I tell you, it is a journey
not easy, but definitely a worthwhile one

Pale Pink Tights, Tutus and Cassius Clay

December 23
Rochelle Foles
Creative Outlets

(Poetry by Rochelle Foles)

head banging

ballet slippers in the mosh pit

tutu and princess tights
palest pink

plea. aye?

behind the façade
palest pink princess costumes

a fighter
too fearful to tape on her gloves least her


as tutu is forgotten

and all that lies within



INFURIATed BEYOND Mental Capacity
emotional containment







on those unbelieving that a pink tutued, pink tight wearing

tooterrified 2 speak her mind for repercussion. for loss. for abandonment.


could still be

[gun toting
dead aim
no fooling]
that dainty pointy toed pink ballerina

undreaming she, tho not she,could wield

right hook

ever so nearly there
yes quite nearly


of an unbridled

Out Of His Constrained Belittled Unrecognized
Dazzling Intelligence


taken that one step beyond bearing

Cassius Clay.

the princess knows that mind
that bound mind
those presumptions
are all too familiar
she can. touch. stretch for. tap into.
they are hers
part of the soul she is blind to
as the eclipse is a part of the moon unseen by itself





a. black. whole.


only one thing remains to be seen
which mirror will it be?

which comment slip from
a slovenly tongue unguarded?



lain on


camel’s back

will put the first run in those pale pink tights

unraveling of the

oh. so. carefully.

constructed. reality.

which pulled pin will cause
the chignon
to tumble

and thus begin



despite what the
long legged pink tutu costumed
t. t. e. m. p. t. s. to find those gloves and tapethemonfasterthanlightening

still has only that inkling of her connection to the

Greatest Fighter That Ever Was.

frightened and worn and self doubting
at. this. moment. as . the ballerina is


any possiblewayforhertotapin?



at least to
postpone this


or after all these years of belief?
of surviving
battle after battle

just to reclaim her sunny disposition
pull on those palest pink tights
step back into her pink tutuofpower

will this be the hour of her vanquishing?

do those pale pink princess accoutrements
still hold for her their promises?

is it time

to strap on the gloves and tap into



can a proper





when it’s the right time to strike

who would she now-


who would she

call. upon.
to help her now.

[as if in this fairy tale there ever was anyone

is alone
is as alone as a dead man in the ground]

and still
a way




when do u think
if ever
they quit
being nightmares


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