Fiction

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Looking For Love

Jasmin Jetter

I guess all the drama began when Daddy lost his job. He had worked very hard for years at this restaurant downtown called Barry’s Steakhouse. He was hired as a bus boy and worked his way all the way up to general manager. He was very proud of his new position and his new income. He felt like a strong and successful man that was doing right in life and taking care of his family. He had plans to advance even further up into the corporate level of things make even more money and expand the family while giving us an even better life. Unfortunately, the country began to go through a recession and Barry’s Steakhouse started to go broke fast. They had to shut down about twenty of their restaurants to make ends meet and one of them was my fathers’. There went his successful career and all his hard work and opportunity, down the toilet.

I remember at first, he tried to deal with it in a positive way. He had a great attitude and spoke highly about how the family would be okay and his resume was good enough to get him a new job quickly. However, companies did not feel that he had the experience they needed because he had been in only one restaurant ever, even though it was for years. Not to mention there was a recession and a lot of restaurants were doing bad, so there just was not too many options. As the weeks went by, he started to become more and more depressed. He had lost all faith in himself and just decided to give up.

He started making new friends and hanging out all night. I still remember the fights he and mommy used to have. They never got violent, but the arguments would go on for hours. Just

words of anger and hatred flying out of their mouths. This was it; my parents were starting to hate each other. I would just run into my room and slam the door behind me, hoping this would catch their attention and stop the fighting. Of course, that never worked though their minds were so stuck on each other and the fighting that was going on. I would just try to block out the sounds of them screaming curse words at each other by burying my head under the pillow and singing my favorite song to myself, Chicka Chicka Boom Boom.

I remember the worst fight they had ever. It was the day my parents broke up. It was my 7th birthday party, and my dad did not come home and was missing all the way up until the next day. My mother put on a great act keeping up with the party and pretending nothing was wrong. She kept herself busy serving food, joking with guest, and making sure the music never stopped playing. But I saw right through her acting. I noticed her disappear from time to time to check her phone. I just know she was probably calling every one of his friends that she could think of just dying for an answer on where her man is.

He stumbled in the house about noon the next day and you could see my mother’s face begin to turn red because she was furious. She immediately began to ask a lot of questions.

“Where have you been? Why didn’t you call me? What drugs are you on now? Your life is just so fucked up you had to miss your daughter’s birthday party?”

He ran across the living room tripping over the carpet and lunged toward my mother. He then pushed her up against the wall and smacked her in the face hard.

“I do not want to hear your fucking nagging right now!” he yelled. Blood was oozing from her mouth and nose. My mom and dad have been arguing a lot for quite some time now,

but he has never put his hands on her. She stood there stunned for half a second and then it began.

“Who the hell do you think you are?” She screamed. It was like she transformed into another person and she lashed out on him. Tensions have been high for a long time now and all those emotions had just erupted. It was the start of a very traumatizing and intense battle. There were fist flying everywhere while they were rolling on the floor like a pair of dogs. and all I could do is stand there and cry. Watching that whole thing go down was traumatic for me. There was now this vision of my father that floated around him reminding me of the day he beat my mother. I could never unsee it.

My mother took it like champ when they were done with their fight. She shook it off and walked as if she was fine. There were a few bruises here and there some on her arms and legs, but she was okay. The only place she bled from was her nose because of when my father smacked her in the face. My father got up with scratches all over his body from my mother’s long nails. Without a word he was right back out the house again. She never called the police that day though. I still do not know why. He always told me growing up a man should never put his hands on a woman. You would think since he knew this lesson of manhood he would have at least apologized to my mother, but they just never spoke on it. I wanted to hate him, but I still had love for him. I guess that is how my mother felt too. She never had nothing nice to say about him after that, even when he would put in efforts to do good, but she never spoke bad about him either. She just kind of pretended he was not even there. She understood that regardless of what they went through, that man was my father, and she did not want to be the one to take him out of my life. She also knew that no matter what was going on between them he loved me and would never put his hands on me in that way.

As the years passed, I was able to numb the feelings on the surface that the tragic day had brought to me but, I was now insecure about men and their intentions. Clearly this was something that I would never forget, and my parent’s relationship was completely shattered after but, life continued to move on. I saw my dad from time to time, but I got the most of his affection from a far. He stopped coming around the house as often as he used to, and I would only speak to him for a few minutes on the phone here and there. I remember one day I was so excited to call him and tell him about making the honor roll in school. I dialed his number and anxiously waited for an answer as the phone rang.

“Hello” He said sounding half asleep.

“Daddy! Daddy guess what? I said with so much excitement in my voice.

“Who’s this?” He said. I looked at the phone confused. Who else was calling him screaming and calling him Daddy? He was obviously not in his right mind.

“Don’t be silly, it’s me your daughter.”

“Oh hey. What’s going on?”

“I made the honor roll, and I got a special blue ribbon with my award”

“That’s cool. I’ll talk to you later” He hangs up the phone.

I was so disappointed with his lack of excitement and concern. Why didn’t he even know who I was when I called? It must be the drugs that him and my mother used to argue about all the time.

I always looked forward to seeing him though. It was like I thought all the love and emotions I did not get from him through the phone I expected to pour out all at once when we

met in person. I just knew that the dad I had that used to play in the yard with me was still in there somewhere.

About ten years after the accident when I was sixteen, I remember making plans with him on the phone and I was so excited. It was a Saturday morning. Saturday June 15th to be exact. I woke up and stretched my long arms and legs over my fuzzy purple comforter and let out a big loud yawn. After a few minutes of collecting my thoughts and realizing what day it was I jumped out the bed tripping over my blue silky night gown. I threw on my pink bunny slippers with the huge floppy ears and ran right to the bathroom to straighten up. It was the first day of summer and I was promised a beach day.

The sun rays jumped through my bathroom window with intense heat. I took a cool shower to get some relief from the hot dry air circulating the house. I brushed my teeth with charcoal toothpaste for extra whitening and exfoliated my face with my pink Himalayan salt scrub then grabbed my vanilla scented sunscreen and began to smooth it all over my soft caramel skin. I put on my favorite bathing suit. It was a pink crochet with gold hearts stitched sporadically throughout the suit. I went with a pair of light denim destressed jean shorts that faded out in a bleached ombre effect. Now that I looked like I belonged on Miami Beach I was ready to head out.

I sat on the hot ridged porch steps staring at the hand prints my father and I had molded into the concrete when I was about 4 years old and waited for him in silence. The neighbor drove by in her blue soccer mom van. There was a mountain of plastic bags in the back of the car so she must have just come from the grocery store. She waved hello to me, her twenty bracelets jingling on her wrist. Why does she always look so happy? She just lives such a perfect life, with her perfect husband and perfect kids. It’s not fair that other families get a perfect life together

while I have a drug addict father and a beautiful mother that hate each other. I stared at the blue jays eating food from around the garbage can and then as they flew away, I wondered what it would feel like to fly. How great it would be to just go outside and peacefully float on to wherever I wanted to go. I watched three kids ride their bikes past my house and down the street yelling at each other about who was going to win their race to the end of the block. I wanted to be as carefree as them. However, I was so nervous and deep into my thoughts, questioning if he was going to show up today.

My mother came out after an hour of waiting. She was beautiful. A cute button nose, mesmerizing dark brown eyes, slender face, and a perfectly cut black bob. Why did she put up with him for those years? She was way out of his league anyway. She brought me some delicious smelling chocolate chip cookies that she had just taken out of the oven. They were warm, soft, and gooey, just the way I liked them. I took one slowly as I started to lose hope.

Then I could hear Drake rapping to Unforgettable, like I was sitting by the speakers at a concert. The sound was coming towards the house like a tidal wave. As he was coming down my block the bass was bumping so hard, I could feel the vibrations in the ground. He pulled up to the house so fast the tires screeched, you know the way they do in the racing movies. I could feel my mother’s mood change as she walked back into the house without saying a word and slamming the door behind her. I saw his white Air Force Ones touch the ground first as he stepped out the car. His tall muscular figure stood there with his big arms out.

He yelled the words, “Daddy’s here!”

I jumped up with excitement and ran down the sidewalk my flip flops clapping on my feet with every step.

“You made it!” I yelled trying to hold back tears feeling so overwhelmed he even showed up.

I hugged him tight not caring about the sweaty back of his t-shirt. He smelled like African Musk, the cologne he has been wearing for as long as I could remember. His long beard scratched my face as he gave me a kiss on the cheek.

When he opened the passenger door for me, he lost his footing and almost fell. I decided to ignore the alarming feeling of his clumsiness and decided to make a joke about it instead.

“Alright old man is it time for thick glasses and a walker already?” I laughed.

“Hey, watch your mouth girl. I’m still a good-looking young man, okay.” As he laughed, he removed his black Gucci sunglasses, and I could see his eyes were red and glossy. As I stepped into his 2011 Red Range Rover, I was smacked in the face with the strong smell of weed and liquor. I just pretended not to notice. I was just so happy he was here. He jumped into the car without a care for his seatbelt and turned his music up enough to be loud, but we could still talk to each other, well yell at each other. Now finally we begin our drive to the beach.

He tries to start conversation by asking me questions.

“So how is school going?” He asked his tone sounding forced and awkward like he had other things on his mind.

“It’s good, I really liked my classes this year and I made the honor roll every quarter. I’m happy about that but I cannot wait for summer vacation.” I said

“You didn’t play any sports this year?”

“Yes, daddy I did soccer and basketball. I invited you to every game.”

“Oh yea, I knew that. I’m sorry baby daddy just works a lot.” He said. I knew he was lying. Every time I ask him what he does for work he just talks in circles about nothing.

Something rolled onto my foot and I heard glass clanking together. I look down and there are a few empty bottles of Johnny Walker. I am starting to feel uneasy about the whole day just knowing this is not going to go well. By the looks of it all he had been drinking all day and he always acts stupid when he drinks. He tends to get super aggressive and uncontrollable.

Halfway on our journey to the beach he gets a phone call. I can hear a woman with a rough tone on the phone, and they begin arguing.

He starts yelling with such a harsh tone, “I don’t know what girl you’re talking about. I’m tired of this shit!”

He hangs up the phone and slams it down in the cup holder. I was startled by his aggressive behavior and sat there quietly waiting to get back to our awkward conversation. I can tell he is too aggravated to speak. We sat there in the quiet listening to nothing but the music for a few minutes and then he breaks the silence.

“I’m taking you home.” He says

“Why?” I said feeling so hurt.

“I have things that I have to handle” He stated.

“Of course, you do, what a surprise.” I said as I rolled my eyes.

“What did you say?” He yelled.

“Nothing.” I left it at that. I was not trying to argue with him. I don’t know why I was feeling so upset, I should have seen this coming. Why would my father ever get through a day

with his daughter? I am always his last priority. He doesn’t care about me. My body swings to the right as he makes an aggressive U-turn and I fight back the tears to keep them from falling.

He turns the music up for the drive back to the house. At least he was playing something that I liked. It was that new Future mixtape that just dropped. I just got lost in the music and tried to not think so much about this unfortunate situation. We drove the thirty minutes to my house with the bass so loud, it rattled through my body. He pulls up to the front of my house and I can see my mother walk through the door with a look of disappointment on her face. She must have herd the music from down the block. He stops the car and I get out and slam the door. He drives off quickly without saying a word.

I slowly walk to the front door. My flip flops loudly dragging across the concrete. I run into my mother’s arms tears streaming down my face. She calmly rubs my back and holds me so tight. We do not speak for there is nothing to be said. I should not have expected anything more he has been doing the same shit since he left the house. My mother’s warm embrace makes it easier. At least I know one of my parents loves me.

It’s sad you know. My dad started off as a decent man. He got lost in his depression and started to worry about the wrong things. His family just did not matter to him anymore. Now to him we were a burden, a responsibility that he simply just did not want anymore. I deserved a better father then that, I knew I did. I hated looking at kids at school with their caring fathers thinking about how nice that would feel. I still appreciate him though, because of him I learned what I deserved in life and what not to put up with when it comes to a man.

He showed me to find a man that was devoted. A man that would love me and his children more than anything else in the world. He showed me to find a man that will be strong no

matter how hard times get. I took the lessons he taught me very seriously. You better believe that I applied every one of those lessons to my love life and made sure I found myself the best man in the world. I just knew that I did not want to start a family and end up having them go through what I did with my father. If I had to watch that go down again as a mother, it would tear me to pieces. I honestly don’t know if I would even be strong enough to handle the new example of an old situation when you mix in my traumatic memories of the past.

My dating life began once I hit college. I was nervous at first, but I started to realize I was good at it. I didn’t get drunk in love and deal with bullshit like a lot of young girls do. I knew what it was I was looking for and if a man could not reach my standards, I got rid of him quick. I ran into a few losers. Jeff was too clingy. Fred was too sensitive. Trey was too aggressive. Then I met David.

I was hanging out with my best friend Janese. We had made plans to go to the football game together and we were running super late. We ran to our rooms and tried to get as cute as we could in five minutes then ran over to the bus. We caught it with just seconds to spare before it pulled off. Being that we were the last ones to get on the bus, there were no seats left that were going to allow us to sit with each other. As I was searching for a seat, I laid eyes on the most handsome guy with an empty seat next to him. In that moment I knew exactly where I was going to take my seat. The whole ride I waited for this mystery guy to speak, but he never did. I was texting Janese the whole time.

“Girl, he won’t talk to me.”

“Say something to him” She replied

“No, if he was interested, he would speak, I’m not about to embarrass myself like that.” The ride went silent and when we got there, I accepted my defeat and got off the bus.

About a week later Janese and I were walking out of our dorm rooms and headed off to class. It was a beautiful day outside, the perfect temperature with the perfect breeze, I was in such a great mood.

“What time do you get out of class?” Janese asked.

“I think 1:15, why?”

“Perfect I get out at one. Let’s meet up after and get lunch at the café.”

“Okay I might get out earl-” I was cut off because someone had grabbed on to my arm. I turned around to see who it was, and we locked eyes. I was immediately filled with butterflies and I just stared at this beautiful man. He just stared back. It felt like the longest three seconds of my life. Then we just kept walking in opposite directions.

“Wow, Janese he was gorgeous.”

“Yea he was cute! Why didn’t you say anything”?

“I couldn’t get words out. He didn’t say anything to me either. Why is it that all the cute boys never talk to me? Just like the other boy from the bus last weekend.”

A few days later when I finished eating dinner at the café I left and was on my way to my dorm room. Before I knew it the beautiful man that grabbed my arm was crossing my path again. This time I was able to get out a word.

“Hi” I said.

“Hi” he said as he stopped and hugged me like he knew me. I could not believe it, I began to blush. He pulled me in his direction, and we began to walk down the street together. We made plans to walk over to the laser tag game together. We introduced ourselves to one another.

“My names D”

“D? What’s that short for?” I asked.

“David”

“Oh okay, my names Jasmin” Our conversation was short and cute, and we ended by saying we would see each other around. He went off and started to play laser tag with his friends. I was tired and walked back home smiling the whole way there.

One night I went out to the club, Tropicana. It was about five minutes from campus, and I went with my friend Marco. We were having such a great time until someone pulled out a gun in the middle of the room. Everybody ran out and the night was cut short. Once we got back to the dorm I was on my way to my room and passed David in the hallway. Our eyes met and we walked over to each other and hugged. We decided to sit in the window and talk. Our conversation went on for hours and it was right then that our relationship began to grow.

From then one we spent pretty much every day seeing each other. Our love for each other grew stronger and we started to live our lives as a couple. I would always look for signs that it was not going to work out. My faith in men was so low because of my father I was just sure this was too good to be true. There was one time when I just thought we weren’t going to make it. It was about three years into our relationship. We were living in our first apartment and we were doing great. Then both of our jobs slowed down at the same time. We were low on money and expenses just kept piling up. Rent was a month late and we had a mountain of parking tickets.

We were terrible at waking up for alternate side parking regulations. We woke up one morning and my car had a boot, and his car was gone. They towed it. We were both stressed and frustrated beyond belief.

“How are we going to pay for this?” I asked

“I don’t know” he replied.

“What do you mean you don’t know?”

“I don’t have any money”

“Why don’t you ever have any money? What are you always spending your money on? You need to get it together!”

“Don’t blame this on me, you’re the one that goes out to the bar every day after work”

“So, what I spend like ten dollars” I yelled.

“That adds up to a lot over time, you could have used that to pay your parking tickets”

We just argued back and forth, going in circles after a while until the anger took over me and I just couldn’t take it. The tears just started flowing from my eyes due to the frustration I was feeling. Once I started to cry his defensive deminer switched off. He came over and hugged me.

“Listen stop crying. I hate seeing you cry. It doesn’t matter whose fault it is or who’s spending the money. We’re a team and were going to figure it out together. Don’t worry.” He said with such care behind his voice. I looked at him and nodded and agreement. He was holding me, and I felt like I was in a warm, safe, protected space. Once I was finally calm, we sat down and started eating sandwiches and chips. We were happy again laughing and joking.

“I still remember when we first met” he said while smiling at me.

“Me too, when you grabbed my arm like a creep” I laughed.

“No, it was before that.”

“No, it wasn’t.”

“Yes. We met on the bus.”

“What are you talking about” I laughed.

“We were on the bus going to the first football game when we just started school.”

I had to think for a second and then my eyes got wide and my jaw dropped.

“That was you?” I was in such shock. How did I not know after all these years that he was the cute boy from the bus?

“Yes, baby that was me.” He said laughing.

“Do you know how mad I was that you weren’t talking to me. I was literally texting Janese the entire time”

“I can’t believe you didn’t know that. We were meant to be.”

“Yes, we were.” I said as I gave him a kiss.

Months went by, then years went by and still everyday he shows me he is a good man. We have been through a lot and he stayed strong even at our lowest. Now we have a beautiful life and family together.

Every morning I wake up to the sound of his alarm. Every morning at 7:30am he jumps out of bed to get ready for his day of work ensuring he has enough time to be punctual. He makes his way to the bathroom to shower and brush his teeth. I love watching him return to the bedroom with the towel wrapped around his waist and water still dripping down his dark, muscular body. He dries off and goes back and forth on what color suit and shirt he will wear for the day. He first pulls out the blue suit with the white shirt. Holds it up and throws it back in the closet. Then he pulls out a black suit with a light blue shirt. He makes a face and puts it right back into the closet. The blue suit with the white shirt is his final decision.

He must tell me all his thoughts and plans for the day even though I am still half asleep. He explains to me how he plans to make sure the store sells at least ten cars today so that the general manager will not come to him barking with complaints. He also tells me about the home wholesaling side business he is getting into. This is where you start a contract between a seller and a buyer and get a piece of the profit. He is excited because the new signs he put up bring in more and more calls each day. He has been investing his time after his shift to learn more about the business and network. I mumble words of encouragement to assure him I am listening.

In runs little Jaida straight to her father and full of energy screaming,

“Daddy! Daddy!”.

He lifts her into the air with his big strong arms and returns the excitement.

“Miss Kameesh-me-meesh!” He yells while tickling her stomach and calling her by a nickname he gave her that comes from one of his favorite childhood movies, Crooklyn.

These two are always so silly when they get together. The room is so full of joy and laughter that I am now fully awake.

As he begins to tighten his tie, he asks me, “will you be okay for the day? Do you need anything.”

“No”, I say.

“Are you sure?” He responds.

“Yes, I will be okay!” I must assure him, or he will never leave the house.

He kisses Jaida telling her he loves her and will see her when he gets home.

Then he turns to me gives me a long heartfelt kiss, looks into my eyes, and says the words, “I love you babe.”

I respond, “I love you too.”

That is my fiancé, the exact opposite of my father the first man to break my heart. He is perfect in every way and I cannot imagine my world without him.

Please see Jasmin’s description of her writing process in the non-fiction section.

Untitled Drama

Anna Becker

(SCENE: HARRY, a young boy aged ten, is sitting criss-cross applesauce in
centerstage facing down stage wearing matching light blue linen pants and shirt..
There is a book shelf upstage right. The shelves are nearly full and the books are shades of brown, blue, and red. The spines of the books are thick but there is no writing on them. On top of the book shelf there is an unlit light. A faint pair of footsteps can be heard and grows louder. Enter BETH, a young woman aged sixteen wearing the same as HARRY, upstage left.)
Beth: (BETH walks slowly towards HARRY) Hello?
Harry: (HARRY doesn’t look up from his book) Hello. (HARRY looks up as BETH stops a foot away from him) Well, you’re young. What’s your name? (HARRY closes the book and sets it to his side, stage right, as BETH tries to look at the pages)
Beth: (BETH crosses her arms and shifts her weight to one foot, popping her hip out) I’m Beth. (BETH and HARRY hold eye contact for a few moments) I’m sorry, did you say I was young? For your information, I have my driver’s license and I’ve been on a plane six times by myself. I’m independent while you look like you still need a babysitter. You’re a child.
Harry: (HARRY smiles and stands up) So are you. Besides, when I said that you’re young I meant compared to the others, not me. (HARRY walks over to stand by the bookcase)
Beth: (BETH looks across the stage and the audience then back to HARRY) What do you mean, others? (BETH walks over to HARRY and stands at the opposite end of the book case) Where are we? Is there anyone here with a phone? I promised my mother I would be home in time for dinner.
Harry: You ask a lot of questions.
Beth: Are you going to answer them?
Harry: I don’t think my answers will be very helpful. (HARRY walks down stage and BETH follows him)
Beth: What’s that supposed to mean?! Just answer the damn questions. In case you didn’t notice, you’re the only one here so you’re the only one I can ask. (HARRY looks at BETH and sighs) Well?
Harry: Alright. (HARRY looks at the floor while answering the questions) No, I do not know where we are. No, there is no one here with a phone. And the others are the people who were
here before you. The people who’ve moved on… that’s why they’re not here. (BETH looks at the book HARRY had been reading when she walked in and picks it up) You’re not going to be home in time for dinner, I can tell you that.
Beth: (BETH opens the book to the middle and stares at it, not moving. She walks the short distance back to HARRY and shoves the open book right up to his face) Who in God’s name are you? Whatever this is, it isn’t funny.
Harry: (HARRY takes a careful but steady step away from BETH) I know it’s not funny. Besides, I told you who I am. I’m Harry. You shouldn’t worry about that anyways. You might be here a while so we’ll have time to get to know each other. (BETH moves like she is about to speak again but HARRY continues before she gets a chance) Unless, of course, I move on before you.
Beth: (BETH throws the book to the ground) It’s empty, Harry. The pages in that book are blank. No words. (BETH takes a step towards HARRY) No pictures, no page numbers, no nothing!
Harry: I know.
Beth: When I walked in- (BETH pauses for a moment and a puzzled look crosses her face) When I… showed up here, however that happened, you were reading that exact book.
Harry: Not exactly.
Beth: What do you mean ‘not exactly’?! (BETH does air quotes with her fingers when she says ‘not exactly’) You were sitting right there reading this book.
Harry: I wasn’t reading the book. (once again BETH moves to speak but HARRY starts before she can) That’s not what they’re for.
(BETH looks at HARRY incredulously before turning away from him. BETH paces from
center stage left to center stage right as HARRY remains downstage looking towards the
ground. After three paces BETH stops in place and looks at HARRY. She suddenly looks very tired and moves to center stage and sits down.)
Beth: Am I dreaming?
Harry: No. But if you don’t believe me, count your fingers. (HARRY looks to BETH at the same time she looks up at him as if he was expecting her to be curious about what he said) You can’t count your fingers right in dreams.
(BETH holds her hands up in front of her and counts under her breath. After counting
them all and confirming what HARRY said she drops them in her lap, shoulders sagging.
HARRY sits down next to her on the ground, both of them facing downstage towards the
audience.)
Beth: Where did you learn that from?
Harry: Freddy.
Beth: Who’s Freddy?
Harry: My friend. (BETH looks at HARRY) He was here when I showed up. He taught me lots of things. (BETH watches HARRY as his demeanor has changed from precocious child to fragile and sad) He taught me how to not be scared. And how to be patient.
Beth: Do you miss him?
Harry: Yeah.
Beth: I’m sorry.
Harry: (HARRY looks at BETH) Thanks.
(HARRY and BETH sit side by side for a few moments in silence. HARRY gets up, puts
the book on the floor back in the book shelf and takes out two other books. HARRY sits
back down next to BETH and hands her own of the books. BETH takes the book and holds it in her lap while HARRY opens his to the middle and stares at the pages.)
Beth: (BETH looks at the book in her lap) I’m still confused, you know.
Harry: Yeah, I know.
Beth: (BETH stares at HARRY) Not just about the books… (HARRY looks at BETH) I don’t know where we are or what we’re supposed to be doing. I don’t even know how I got here. It’s like I blinked and suddenly here I was, walking towards you. (BETH looks down at her lap) I don’t remember what I was doing before I got here.
Harry: I know you don’t. (BETH glares at HARRY after his repetitive answers) Okay, the books. Well, the books can be one of two things. They are either everything or they are nothing. The blank pages can be a blessing or a curse. You can look at the emptiness and just see the void,
what’s not there. No words, numbers or pictures… just like you said. (BETH opens the book in her lap) Or, you can look at the pages and see a painter’s canvas, full of possibility. They can be a place to dream, think, and escape. I like to think of stories my dad told me before I would sleep. I get to be a prince who fights bad guys. (BETH smiles sadly at HARRY) The books will make you feel peaceful, but only if you want them to.
Beth: Did Freddy teach you all of that?
Harry: Most of it. The rest I figured out on my own.
Beth: Is Freddy dead?
Harry: Yes.
Beth: Are we dead?
Harry: (HARRY looks to BETH and holds her gaze) We’re not dead.
Beth: (BETH looks away from HARRY) Okay, well, that’s good but I still don’t understand -
Harry: (HARRY cuts BETH off mid sentence) We’re not dead, we’re dying.
Beth: (BETH turns her head quickly to look at HARRY, a grave look on her face) What?
Harry: When the light on the bookshelf turns on, we die. (BETH turns to look at the shelf) You’ll know it’s for you when it happens. The light will turn on and whoever’s time it is to move on will go. If it’s you you’ll feel it. Everyone says it’s an undeniable gut feeling.
Beth: (BETH looks at HARRY) Dying?
Harry: I don’t understand either. (HARRY looks at BETH) I think that someone could know all of the things there is to know in the world and still not understand.
Beth: Do you know why we’re here, though? Why aren’t we just gone, right away?
Harry: Dunno. We could be in comas, or surgery, in the back of an ambulance or drowning. It wouldn’t change anything, anyways.
Beth: But people survive those things. People wake up from comas and make it through surgery and get rescued by lifeguards. Why are you so sure that we’re dying? What if we’re surviving, hanging in there?
Harry: (HARRY pauses before responding, leaving BETH staring at him waiting) I already told you. It’s a gut feeling. When that light turns on for you there will be no doubt in your mind. It’s hard to accept. (BETH looks down at her lap) I know that you’re hoping you’re different, that it won’t happen to you. But it will. (HARRY reaches over and places his hand on the book in BETH’s lap) The books help.
Beth: (BETH’s bottom lip quivers and silent tears roll down her face as she looks at HARRY) It’s not fair.
Harry: (HARRY reaches up and wipes a tear off of BETH’s face) It happens to everyone, eventually. Death is the one thing we’re promised.
Beth: (BETH takes a shuddery breath in) You’re so young, though.
Harry: (HARRY smiles softly) We’re both so young. (BETH squeezes her eyes shut) It’s okay to be scared. I was scared, too.
(The light on top of the bookshelf lights up. It casts a soft, dark red hue across the stage.
BETH and HARRY sit still, staring at each other. After a few moments BETH turns to
look at the light. HARRY picks up his and BETH’s books and stands up and takes a step
towards the bookcase.)
Beth: (sniffling while scrambling to get up) Harry?
Harry: (HARRY makes it to the bookcase and puts the books away before turning around to face BETH) I’ve gotta go. It’s time for me to move on.
Beth: No- (HARRY walks over to BETH and reaches up to put a piece of her hair behind her ear) I don’t understand, Harry.
Harry: No one does.
Beth: No, I don’t understand how you can be so okay with this.
Harry: (HARRY starts walking away and pauses and turns around when he reaches the book shelf) You can’t change it. There’s no going back and there’s no stopping it so there’s no reason in being anything but okay with it, Beth.
Beth: (BETH watches as HARRY walks into the wings upstage right) Harry? (the light on top of the bookshelf turns off, the stage lighting returns to normal)
(BETH walks over to the bookshelf and takes out a book. BETH returns to center
stage and sits down criss-cross applesauce facing downstage. She opens the book at the front and slowly turns the pages.)
Beth: (BETH lets out a heavy sigh) Okay.
END

The Witness

Katiana Pineda

      I am needed yet invisible. They see me every day, touch me, but never notice me. I have become a means to an end just like everything else in their lives. I see their eyes on me, filled with nothingness. When they look at me, they look through me but never at me. I want to tell them, “I am here” but only manage a weak creaking sound lost in all the chaos around. When I am created they watch me, compliment me, until the next day they forget me. Even though, I can’t see it all, what I see I remember. I am the witness of the sins that mold their stories. They might not see me, but I see them. 
     He is at it again. 
He chooses a girl, an average girl. He does this, so she can feel special because he chose her. He is a predator, always going for the weak ones. I hate to see it, but in this I have no choice. He is the perfect gentleman, until he isn’t. The first strike is always the worst. I can see in her eyes the innocence shattered. I know when it is time. When he is done with her. He slams me hard, making sure his secret doesn’t get out. I creak and creak, the sound muffled by the loud music. Then he sucks the air out of her until she is not more. 
    I am an accomplice. 
    Forced to forever keep his secret. 
    It is happening. 
    He is drunk again. I can’t see him, but I hear his drunken words. I hear the broken glass and pleasing words. The little boy is holding me, hearing with me. We both know what is coming next. The mom’s yelp sounds resonate through the house. The little boy touches me gently and pushes me tightly. I know what he wants, but I can’t give it to him. He wants me to keep him safe, away from the drunk guy, but I am not able to do it anymore. That part of me was taken, so I wouldn’t keep him from the little boy anymore. He looks at me scared and full of dread. The little boy hides in the closet, knowing he is coming in. I try to keep him out, but I am useless against his strength without that missing part of me. The boy cries for his mother not knowing she cannot respond. As I am forced to see and hear his cries, I feel useless and powerless. 
    I feel like nothing, so I become nothing. 
    I am nothing. 

    The moment has come. 
    In all of the lives I have witnessed, she is probably the saddest one yet. I have seen her grow gray and tired. She is kind but tough. She doesn’t see me, but she doesn’t need to in order to be kind. That is what I like about her. She is full of regrets as gray people are, they always regret the unsaid. Loneliness is her companionship, and me but I don’t count to her. I am only an enter and exit to her. I have yet to welcome someone but her enter me. I know there are people, but they don’t care to show their faces. I watch her lie in bed looking over the room. I know she knows as well as I do, this is the moment. She looks through me almost waiting for someone to come. A tear rolls down her check as she realizes no one will. I want to say I am here, and I see you, but I can’t. She disappears slowly, almost as she was never there. 
    I am an intruder. 
    I can’t help but witness her be forgotten. 

    It is time. 
    I have seen many of them grow from little things to look down to, to someone I can look straight in the eyes. From all the moments in their lives, nothing surpasses the firsts. If I could see only one moment of their lives I would pick one of the firsts. I see this baby trying to stand up and walk alone and failing. I see it happening over and over again. There are so many ways she could fall wrong. I almost wish for arms to catch her. She is very determined. I can already see she is going to be a tough one. She tries and tries and doesn’t stop until someone grabs her. Sometimes they are recording her. Trying to watch the moment through something instead of just seeing her do it. I could swear she drops to the floor on purpose when they do that. Almost as if she wants it to be her moment. Whenever she is ready to do it. 
    It is time. Nobody is looking, just me. I can see in her eyes that she is ready. She stands up with her little hand holding the bed. I creak, nothing, they refuse to see her moment. She attempts to take her leap of faith and almost falls, but that doesn’t make her step back. I almost don’t want to see what is going to happen, but someone needs to. She stops holding the bed and reaches balance. She is walking. As I see her take her first steps, I can already see so many other moments of her life happening. She looks around as if looking for someone to walk to. She walks towards me and lays her tiny soft hands on me, and I feel special. I won’t forget the first thing she reached for was me. 
    This moment would always belong to me. 
    She is part of me now. I have seen so many of them, they all blur together now. I understand now my role is to be a mere witness and nothing more. I keep watching, but I have stopped seeing. Now, I look at them as they look at me. They are all so different but also the same equally. I feel like I understand them now. Kindness is rare, and cruelty is the norm for them. I thought I had met all kinds of them there could be. That was until I met her. 

    Who are you? 
    I watched her come in just as they all come. She made the space hers just like the others before her. Then, suddenly she looked at me. She saw me. And I felt. It is a feeling I can only describe as when they are naked in front of someone for the first time. Exposed. I want her to stop looking and to look at me forever at the same time. I start seeing her as she sees me. She touches me, pushes me almost as if she is testing what I am made of. I respond with creaking sounds showing I am strong. She cleans me delicately in some parts and strongly in others that need it more. She frowns trying to erase my past. I want to tell her there are some things you can’t erase. In this instant I remember, the care and delicateness in with which I was made. The hands that delicately made sure I was perfect. When she is done, she smiles at me. I am happy to get some part of my old self back. The thing about her is not that she sees me but that she makes me see me, and I feel like I am something. 
She likes to look at me a lot, especially at night. She loves my clicking sound, it makes her breathe easier and fall asleep faster. Every time she is here, she makes me click. It has become our routine. When the dark comes, and it is time for bed, she looks at me as if she is waiting for something but hoping for nothing. She checks on me a couple times a night, touching me, making sure I am fine and ready to sleep without being bothered through the night. 
    She is a kind person, but it is not without faults. She lets me know when she is angry she pushes me hard. And I feel this more than with the others before, so I clang hard. I know she feels terrible the minute it is done. She closes her eyes hard, trying not to hear the sound. I understand now they can be kind and mean, it is part of who they are. Pushing me is a way for her to express her feelings, so I express mine. 
    Sounds have never come easy to me, but I know when I talk she listens. She is always listening to me. I wasn’t meant to talk, so my sounds are quieter than their words. I have learned better than to talk when all I see is dark. She wakes up suddenly, I can see her chest going up and down. Then, she looks at me in a way I don’t want to be looked at. I am reminded of the little boy’s eyes once more. She checks on me making sure I am still closed. Then she falls back asleep knowing I won’t open for anyone but her. 
When the world has gone quiet and it is just me and her, we talk. The minute I start talking she looks at me. She frowns and wonders whatever do I mean. It is not perfect communication, but her eyes say what her words can’t. 
    When I met her, I knew she was meant to be my last. 

    Everywhere you look there is one of us. Wherever there is one of them, there is always at least one of us around. We are needed, important. They can’t survive without us, and yet they don’t really see us. We are pushed, pulled, kicked, destroyed and for them it is just another day. I am the keeper of all of your secrets, if you lean in closely I might let you listen. I am a world full of possibilities, but you won’t know unless you see behind. I am what keeps you safe from the outer and inner world. I keep you and the world apart. 
    Do you know what I am? 
    I am the witness.

NCC Journal of the Arts