February's theme was "Love".
"Treatment" by Jared Boyle
Most illnesses are treatable, some are curable. Mine was neither of those things, and frankly, I wasn’t sure it was an illness at all. I don’t remember how I discovered it in the first place, if I’m quite honest. I am physically unable to say one word. “Love.”
At first it really wasn’t an issue. My parents found it just as odd as I did, but they understood. We were blood, the love was always there, even if it wasn’t in words. As I grew older, however, things became more difficult. Extended family treated me coldly and my relationships in high school never lasted long. I couldn’t come up with a way to get around this bizarre mental block that I had, but I had to find a loophole somewhere ifI was ever going to come close to living a normal life.
By the time I graduated college, I had given up. My desire to find somebody wasn’t as strong as it once was and life was beginning to become more and more hectic. As the work and stress piled up around me, I was focused on trudging my way through it all, just like all of the other newly minted “adults” that I had graduated with. The only difference between me and them was that I was alone. I found myself a small apartment that I could afford with my generic post-college desk job and faded into the background.
Years passed, and by then I had accepted my fate. The thought of love rarely crossed my mind, and seeing happy couples all around me made me feel like I was watching a movie, a little realistic, but not quite like real life. It wasn’t a bad life, really. I couldn’t miss what I never had in the first place, right? That’s how I rationalized it to myself anyway, day after day, until she changed it all.
Every so often I would go to the local family owned burger joint down the road from the cubicle farm I worked at. I would get a small booth by the window and people watch for my lunch break as a way to bend the monotony of my routine, but not break it. It was because of my people watching hobby that I almost didn’t even see her. I sat down at my booth as always and started to gaze out the window, not looking at anything in particular. I lazily flipped through the old menu I was provided as a way to keep my hands busy as I waited for the server to come and take my order. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw her approaching, and assumed she was one of the regular waitresses that worked during my lunch break. I turned to smile and say hello but as soon as I saw her my throat went silent, although my mouth didn’t completely close until I came back to my senses.
To me, she was gorgeous. Her brown hair was put up in a messy bun that seemed to be part of the waitress’ uniform, with ringlets hanging down on either side of her face. Here eyes were a shade darker than her hair, and when they were trained on me I totally forgot I was supposed to be ordering food. At the risk of looking creepy, I quickly looked down at the menu before she noticed me staring. As she came closer to the table I began to slow my breathing to the pace of a normal human.
“Hi there!” Her first words to me.
“Uhh,” My first noise to her. It was a start.
“What can I get for you today?” For once, I couldn’t remember. I ordered the same thing every time I came to this place, but at the moment my mind was drawing a complete blank.
“Uhh,” brilliant response, I’m sure “Uhh” is on the menu somewhere. “I’m sorry I’ve got a meeting to go to,” the wonderful thing about wearing a tie to work is that nobody questions whether or not you actually have a meeting to go to. I quickly stood up and handed her the menu with a nervous laugh. “Sorry again.”
“No problem sweetie, it happens sometimes. Have a good day!” she flashed me a subtle smile as I turned to leave and I was able to make it out the door before I felt my face get red. She’d called me “sweetie,” but that didn’t mean anything right? Only grandmas and waitresses use the word “sweetie,” it’s just something they did, I shouldn’t read too much into it. But she’d smiled at me, hadn’t she? I recognized smiles like that from college, back when I still tried. I didn’t imagine that, did I?
I wouldn’t know for sure until the next time I got paid. As much as I liked the place, it was expensive, and adult life had to come before childish fantasies of sweeping the new waitress off her feet. I shouldn’t have allowed myself to entertain such stupid ideas anyway, based on my track record, I knew it wouldn’t end well, if it even started. I expected that I’d feel normal again after the infatuation passed, so I returned to work and zoned out until it was time to leave.
I thought wrong. Every time I had a coherent thought, it was about her. It drove me nuts, but I knew if I didn’t at least try, I’d go crazy. I gathered up some extra cash at the end of the month and went to lunch. As she approached my table the second time, I knew I would be ready this time. I turned the charm dial up to “ladykiller” and went to work, and after the most productive lunch I’ve ever had, I returned home with a receipt and a phone number.
I called her and set up a date for later that week, something I immediately regretted as now I had to wait several days before I could see her. Most of that time was spent panicking and trying to remember how to make myself entertaining. As D-Day slowly approached, my panic escalated, but on the day of, my mind was clear as a mountain lake. I was ready for this. Worst case, my life just went back to normal. I could probably handle that.
I opened the door for her, pulled her chair out, and was all in all a very chivalrous dinner partner. We started making small talk about work and hobbies, probing for something we had in common. Eventually, we hit the mark, but I never expected what happened next.
“So… are you a fan of any sports?” she’d inquired of me.
“Oh yeah, I’m a huge hockey fan,” I said. Her eyes lit up.
“Really?! I… really enjoy hockey!” Well that was odd. The way she phrased that, that pause before she said it… No, I was overthinking again.
“Oh yeah! My dad took me to a game when I was a little girl, and I just fell in-” there it was again, “...a deep infatuation with it,” she finished awkwardly. There was little doubt now, but I had one more test. I would know for sure after that.
“I’ve got a weird question for you,” I started. At this point, I didn’t care so much about the weirdness, but I felt obligated to warn her before I did something this bizarre.
“Uh… Alright, go ahead,”
“You know the Taylor Swift song about the two kids who run off together?”
“Yeah…?” I could tell she was confused, but I could see something else just under the surface.
“What’s the name of that song again?”
She stayed silent and looked at the floor, and that’s when I knew. I’d had the same reaction many times myself. She looked back up at me and the tips of her ears went red.
“I… I can’t say, honestly,” she mumbled.
I smiled back at her, the biggest smile I’d had in years. “It’s alright,” I told her, “neither can I.”
"Every Breath You Take" by Sam McCabe
I felt awkward watching her. She was so beautiful and I was so lanky. She was exquisite in the way she moved. Her auburn hair moved like velvet in the wind and I couldn’t help but love her.
Leila was everything a man could ever want and so much more. Her entire being was beyond perfection. But I knew no matter the distance between us, she’d never see me.
I could watch her for days on end from the comfort of my driver’s seat. She’d walk the cracked streets with her friends and she’d laugh. Her voice was a beautiful song that I wanted to be enveloped in.
I loved to watch her walk alone though. You could see every emotion she tried to suppress from the rest of the world. There was sadness that etched her features perfectly and I felt I knew her better than anyone else.
But she’s never seen me. Especially, not the way I’ve seen her. I notice the way her hazel eyes sparkle in the sun and I’ve spent countless hours trying to convey the depth of it with pictures or with words.
The pictures and stories of my beautiful Leila surround my quaint bed, whether with tape on the walls or scattered around like a garden.
I couldn’t help but love her, so I watched her.
"Atlas Loved" by Dylan Gadzala
Let me remove the mask
Look at my face you’ve seen me before
I am no shicheng
You can find me
And do not fear you are not the bird
And I am yet no jatinga
I won’t be silenced
I am no chernobyl
Rid yourself of these cities
No need to fear
An open sky
Holds a decadent deity
My life isn’t yours
But I’m not one you should leave
Should I be your saving approbation?
Or a false path
Maybe it should end simply
Maybe it shouldn’t
Who could say?
If your divine eyes are so blind?
It isn’t our time to grow up
So sit here with me
And hold onto what pride you have
Let’s breath our last breath
You can be my love
And I will always be your gorgeous Chittorgarh
"Someone Like You" by Maddie Canty
I remember the first time I met you,
our eyes were locked
you and your smile
it all seemed too real.
We talked all night until the sun came out,
the moon was out,
the stars were bright,
and everything was still.
Until the morning took you away,
and all I can say,
I will never meet another,
Someone like you.
"Dinner Time" by Sara Day
We sit on hard-backed wooden chairs facing each other but avoid each other’s gaze. Our cold meatloaf sits on the table in between us. The air that surrounds us is dull and silent, filled with nothing but the sound of forks clinking against dinner plates. We look at the ugly carpet, the beige walls, and the gray rain outside. We look at anything but each other, because looking at each other would only remind us of happier times.
There was a time when our dinners would be left on their plates untouched every night. Instead, we spent our time chatting and giggling. We spent more time kissing than not, and our fingers were always intertwined. My favorite thing to look at was his eyes because of the fire that was held within them. But now when I look at him all I see are abandoned embers and a haunting emptiness. The silence reverberates in my ears and I have to stop it. “How was your day?”
“Good,” he grunts, eyes not leaving his plate.
“What did you do today?” I ask.
“Was work good?”
“Sure,” he speaks only in one word responses to me nowadays. I am giving him everything in this moment and he gives me nothing in return. The blandness of our words hurt in comparison to our once colorful conversations. The absence of passion nags at me and I cannot handle it any longer.
“Do you still love me?”
He looks at me with unfeeling, vacant eyes, “No.”
"How to Love" by Madison Brown
Love wild, and love crazy
Love insanely, and love aimlessly
Love someone who makes you happy
Who can make you die inside
Have someone who makes you laugh but
Also have someone who makes you angry
Makes you cry at times or
Makes you come out of your shell
Find someone who loves you and
You love them the same
When you do find this someone
Hold on to them, tight
Never hold back
Never let them go