Volume 41 ~ 2018
It started with a park bench and a phone.
Where are you right now? He texts.
At Meridian Park, I reply.
Can I come meet you right now?
That was the question that sent me spiraling, not sure what to do. They always tell you in school to never meet up with online friends in person. People aren’t always who they say they are. But this was Peter. The Peter I’ve been talking to for five months. I trust him.
Ten minutes later, a strange man wearing gray sweatpants approaches me. His smokey eyes are tired, and his nails are dirty. His hair is old and mangled.
Eleven minutes later, he says my name in a raspy voice. “Caitlyn?”
Twelve minutes later, I’m staring down the barrel of a gun.
Fifteen minutes later, I’m in the back of a truck.
Thirty minutes later, I’m blindfolded and sitting, tied up, in an unfamiliar place.
The damp cement under my bare feet is ice cold; the room is musty and smells of stale smoke. Tight, wiry rope bounds my wrists; it slices into the stinging gashes on my arms from fighting against my captor.
I feel my phone resting in my pocket. I sit completely still and listen for anyone who might be in my prison with me. After waiting for two endless minutes, I work my phone out and onto my lap. He must have been watching me, because he barges over and snatches it off my thigh.
“What did you do?” He screams at me.
I sit silent and motionless.
“I said what did you do?!”
His hot breath smells of whiskey, and I feel his full gray beard brush against my face. I cringe.
Suddenly, he turns around and dashes into another room. I later would learn that there were three other teenage girls in that basement with me. Despite the pain, I use my burst of adrenaline to break out of the rope, rip off my blindfold, and escape. Just as he comes back, I’m halfway out the fire escape. I fight back as he grabs my leg. His hand slips, but as he holds on tighter I jerk my leg the wrong way.
Oh no. This is the worst pain I’ve ever felt in my life. I try to get up, but my leg hurts so bad that I collapse. As he reaches for me again, I decide that being in excruciating pain while trying to escape is better than living in someone’s basement while no one knows where I am. I shove him down and wedge a stick in the window so he can’t get out.
I get up and use my good leg to crawl out of the window well. I call 911, then my mom and dad. Just as the police get there, I pass out on Peter’s front lawn.
New York City
Kate drove into the endless night, the many lights of New York shining bright. She loved her home; yellow umbrellas dotting the tourist-filled sidewalks, taxis sloshing water over green and purple rainboots, the always-changing skyline. As she headed home, singing along to Taylor Swift, she silently worried about her future, her finances, her boyfriend... No, this wasn’t happening again. Shoving her worries out the window, she sang as loud as she could and let down her chocolate-brown hair.
The next day, she walked to the coffee shop, her ponytail blowing behind her. As she wandered, blended mocha in hand, she realized that she loved the place she lived, not the life she led. Within the next year, she cleaned out her office cubicle, had a job writing for a top-notch magazine, and got engaged.
Three years later, Kate is happily married with a daughter and another on the way. They’re comfortable in a newly-furnished apartment, and she wouldn’t trade it for the world. New York City is her home.
As I hurry home,
purloined goods in hand,
I feel hideous.
I break the laws,
I steal things.
But what’s worse
is realizing the effects
of what is necessary.
I think of the store owner:
and his expenses.
The food I take
is more money they won’t make.
My two children
don’t have stability;
a few toys,
the bare minimum
Everything I do
When I steal,
I steal from someone.
When I sneak onto subways,
I’m taking up space.
When I beg for money,
I’m begging for their sympathy.
But most of all,
I dread that my children
will become hideous like me.
She dances. Graceful.
Swift. Her stress fades.
She twirls and leaps,
free for the first time.
Elegant and slow,
she breathes peace.
She drifts to that far off
place where problems
vanish and her heart is full.
Like little fish
in a big blue sea,
we have ambitions,
places we want to go.
on a bright green leaf,
we stand out;
we are different.
Like tiny crickets
in the dark of night,
we just want to be heard
in our boisterous world.
Like buzzing bees
in a field of flowers,
we are feared
in a world of beautiful.
Like careful turtles
in a small green lake,
we are slow,
cautious with our trust.
We are dreamers,
we want to be different
We are feared
and slow to trust.
We’re little fish
in a big blue sea.
Mac n’ Cheese
“I can’t do this. Oh my gosh. I’ve only known him for six months! What am I even doing? Addie, I don’t think I’m going to be able to-”
“Kelsey! Calm down. You’re going to be fine; you just have cold feet. You’ll feel much better once it’s all over and you’re in Maui with Jim. It’s Jim, Kels. Your Jim. It’s your wedding day - the happiest day of your life!” said Addie, trying to comfort me.
“I know, but I just feel like I’m really rushing into this. Shouldn’t things like this take time? I’m only nineteen!” I frantically explain.
“Sometimes, but that’s other people. This is your story. It doesn’t matter what the others think. You love him and he loves you. What are you worried about?”
I understand her point, but still feel like it’s not the right time, and maybe Jim isn’t the right person. I tell Addie what I’m thinking, and she says she’ll take care of it. She shows me the back door, I thank her, and then rush to catch the subway, wedding dress and all.
On my way there, I see a man, arms crossed, and wearing a tux leaning against the stairs to the subway. His bright blue eyes are filled with sadness; he stares at the littered pavement. He runs his fingers through his dark brown hair, and stress creates a thousand crinkles near his eyes. I’m somewhat drawn to him, but I don’t know why.
I cautiously head towards him, and the tips of my white heels enter his view as I stand before the stranger. He suddenly looks up, surprised, but his expression changes quickly from startled to astonished. We stand there, eyes locked, for an endless moment.
“Are you okay?” I ask, breaking the silence.
He snaps out of his daze and after a few seconds says, “I’m... okay. Why are you in a wedding dress?” he questions.
“Well, I kinda just ran away from my wedding… not the right time, maybe not even the right person. I’m just pretty confused right now. Why are you wearing a tux?” I ask him in return.
“My wife-to-be just ran away from our wedding.” he answers.
“Oh… I’m so sorry. That must be rough. But I guess I just did the same to Jim.” I slowly sit down and drop my head in my hands. He follows. So much for the subway.
“Well, it’s better than marrying him. Who knows what would have happened if you were having second thoughts,” he says. Now that I think about it, he’s right.
“Anyways, what’s your name?” he inquires.
“Mark. Hey, do you wanna get off our depressed butts and go get something to eat?” he asks.
“Sure. Applebee’s?” I really hope he says yes; Applebee’s is my favorite.
“That’s what I was going to say! It’s my favorite!” he answers.
“Me, too! What do you get?”
“Okay, don’t judge me, but…”
“Come on, just tell me! Pleeease!” I beg.
“Fine. Don’t laugh, but the kid’s mac n’ cheese-”
“With mozzarella sticks!” We both exclaim at the same time.
“Wow. Let’s go and see what other crazy things we have in common,” he states.
“Sounds like a plan!” I say in reply.
Exactly four years later, I’m walking down the aisle towards Mark. He’s been by my side
since the day we both didn’t get married. All because of a dress and mac n’ cheese.
The airplane cuts through the sky
and drifts softly like a feather.
The children run and play,
their laughter morphing to a silent breeze.
The leaves dance among the flowers,
and the pines stand as statues.
Our movements are only moments
in a world of motion. The lonely
park bench waits. The swings drift
softly, their chains awaiting the children.