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    Sibling Series

    “Return”

    Photo by Allie Lehman

    Return

    “I think you should come home.”

    My brother’s voice is low and scratchy through the phone. I assume he must’ve just woke up; I sink further into the covers of my bed. Two months ago, I told Jack to call me if they needed anything; I hadn’t anticipated that they would need help so soon. It’s what you say, right? Call if you need anything, but you don’t really assume that they’ll actually call and actually need something specific. You hope it’ll be as easy as, “Keep us in your thoughts.” which, for you, means that they’ll constantly be on your mind, and not in a way that’s romantic or sentimental; no, not that at all. They’ll weigh in your chest, in that place right next to your heart. It’s not an ailment, just a reminder.

    I’m always thinking about them: when I’m making breakfast in silence in the morning, and I spill milk on the floor; when I’m driving to work every morning, and the same silver Buick cuts me off; especially when my co-worker Ron shows me pictures of his latest ski trip with his two blonde haired, blue eyed grandsons. His wife died last Christmas.

    “They’re just the best,” he says to me, tucking the pictures back into his drawer behind the cubicle wall we share. Ron’s a good guy.

    Sometimes I forget about them, and I’m laughing at a comedian on the radio, or I find myself smiling at my neighbor’s dog, and then I remember.

    “I think you should come home,” Jack repeats. In his voice, I can hear that he’s desperate for my help or angry that I’m not there; I can never really tell.

    No, I think, I don’t want to.

    “Yeah,” I say. “I’ll be there in the morning.”

     

    When I arrive the next morning there is a thick sheet of snow on the ground. I live about three hours away, but the weather outside my house is often starkly different than the weather here. For the last fifteen years, I’ve worked at a computer software company, selling software and helping develop new computer programs. They know me well, and they like the work I do. Asking for time off so last minute wasn’t an issue.

    The red plastic flag on the mailbox is down, but when I pull open the small door, there is a bundle of mail towards the back. I sift through it as I make my way up the snowy driveway: a golf magazine, a bill, a letter from the Red Cross, another bill.

    Before I can knock on the door, it opens, and Jack stands in the doorway.

    “Hey, little sis,” he says, wrapping me in a hug. He insists on taking my one bag into the house. I tell him I got it. He insists again. I let him.

    Jack is only a year and a half older than me, but he’s always acted, and we’ve always treated him, like he’s the eldest by a long shot. I guess he had his life together long before I did.

    The house is quiet except for a loud radio playing upstairs. Pictures of Jack and me line the corridor that leads to the kitchen and family room. I make a joke about Jack’s senior pictures, and he responds with a jab at my hair-cut-gone-wrong in the 8th grade. We do this every time I come home: break the ice before it ices over when I leave again. Things are better between us when I’m here.

    Jack makes me a cup of coffee; I drink it even though I didn’t ask for one. The house looks less messy than it did when I was here a few months ago. Two dirty dishes sit near the sink; one has the remnants of blueberry pie.

    “That’s all he eats,” Jack says, following my eyes to the plate. “That and vanilla milkshakes.”

    I give a small smile. “How does his doctor feel about that?”

    Jack shrugs. “I put PediaSure in them for protein, but the doctor told me to give him what he wants.”

    My eyes fall from the plate.

    We both hear the sound of a door opening and then closing. Her footsteps are nearly silent until she reaches the hardwood of the kitchen.

    “Mom, I told you to call me,” Jack says, starting towards her. She pretends that she didn’t hear him, but it’s quite possible that she really didn’t. Her unsteadiness began last time I was here, followed by a few incidents of incontinence. I fight the urge to cry every time I see her. Her eyes light up, and she takes my face in her wrinkly hands, pressing a kiss to both of my cheeks.

    “Oh, am I happy to see you.” Her embrace is almost suffocating. She still smells faintly of lilac, but I’m not sure if she’s really wearing it or I’m just grasping.

    Her short grey hair is disheveled and sticking up in the back; I smooth it down as our hug lingers. When we pull away, she gives Jack a hug, too, as if it’s the first she’s seen of him in a long time.

    “You two,” she says, wagging a finger at us. “I’m so glad you’re both here.”

    She takes my hand, her lips twitching like they do when she’s thinking. “Where’s Michael? I’m going to make his favorite casserole tonight.”

    I can feel Jack’s eyes lower to the floor. She’s gotten worse. Her small brown eyes search my face; I decide to exist in the world she’s living in. “He couldn’t make it,” I say.

    Her pink lips pucker. “Oh, that’s too bad. I hope he can make it down soon.”

    She was a school teacher. She was the kind of teacher whose students came back to visit long after they had moved on from grade school. Jack and I were her children, but her students were a close second.

    “Some days, she’s stuck in the past; others, she’s somewhere else,” Jack says to me as we watch her from the kitchen. She’s sitting at the dining room table, her chin propped up by her small fist. She’s eyeing a puzzle, pursing her lips as she moves the pieces around, but she doesn’t attempt to fit them into the puzzle. “The doctor said puzzles will help keep her brain stimulated.”

    I can still hear the radio from upstairs. An old news program from the 50s is playing. “Is that the same doctor that told you to keep feeding Dad pie and milkshakes?”

    “I’m doing the best I can, Claire. I don’t have a lot of support.”

    I lean against the kitchen counter. “What about Macy?”

    Jack is quiet. I shift awkwardly in my place, tilting my head to meet his eyes. I saw Macy briefly when I was here last time. She had offered me a hug when she arrived at the house; she kept her purse close to her side as if she wanted to be prepared to leave at any moment. I remember thinking she looked tired. During our phone calls, I asked Jack about her. He barely mentioned her, but we don’t talk a lot about those kinds of things anyway. I had a handful of boyfriends in high school and college. Jack wasn’t overly protective of me in those days, but I knew he had his eye on me, and he always knew when I was going through a breakup. “You’re better off without him,” he would say to me over breakfast or in the car on the way to school. When I met Michael, I knew that he had been right; I’d been better off without those guys.

    Macy seemed to make Jack content. They were happiest in high school, when life was simple, and the world seemed small. They hit a rough patch five years into their marriage. Jack never told me, but I knew something was off when she didn’t come to Thanksgiving one year. “She misses her family a lot,” he had said. We nodded like Macy fleeing to her parents’ instead of joining us wasn’t strange. A few months later they announced that Macy was pregnant. I think Macy thought it would fix everything; she lost the baby about a month later. I thought maybe they lost another a year later, early on in the pregnancy. Macy had stayed home from our Christmas dinner at Mom and Dad’s. “She isn’t feeling up to it,” Jack had said. They lost another one, just three years ago.

    Jack lets out a sigh and messes with  a loose cabinet handle. “We just separated about a week ago.”

    “Jack, I’m sorry.” I bite down on the inside of my lip. “Sorry, I didn’t know.”

    “Yeah. I probably should’ve mentioned it. I’ve been having a hard time dealing with it. I just started moving my stuff over here. I’m living in the guest room upstairs,” he says with a hint of embarrassment in his voice. “Things between us have been rough for awhile now. It was easier for me when she was around. I mean, things weren’t perfect, but, you know.” His voice trails off, and he softly shakes his head. “That’s why I called you,” he says.

    I nod.

    “I can’t do this on my own, Claire. I mean, I live here, and I basically work from home now. You know I don’t normally do this.”

    I chuckle. “Ask for help? Yeah, I know.” I pause for a moment, then nod. “You know, you’re better off without her.” It doesn’t sound right, not like it did when he said it to me in high school. I wish I could take it back.

    Jack forces a small smile. “Thanks.”

    His eyes are resting on Mom in the other room, but he speaks without an edge of distraction to his voice. “Macy said we both changed. She said that she felt like there was no way to recover who we used to be. But I knew what it was.”

    I frown. “What do you mean?”

    He looks back at me; his eyes look heavy. “This,” he says, gesturing around us. “This became my life. There wasn’t room for her anymore.”

    Jack and I always had big plans for our lives. He worked hard in high school and college, earned the grades, met Macy. He had it all figured out, and I always knew that Jack would leave town and make something of himself. But he didn’t. He stayed here, married Macy, got a good job in insurance. But Jack was always genuinely happy for me, even though I chose the path we always thought he would take. I admired him for that. After Michael and I got married it finally seemed like Jack and I were on the same page in our lives. Michael and I visited a lot and spent time with Jack and Macy. But five years ago, Michael was killed in a bike accident, here, in town. We were visiting for the weekend. I teased him about his new love for biking. “Have fun with your new toy,” I had said to him before he left the house that morning.

    And then about two years ago, Dad had his first stroke putting his golf clubs into the car. He had another one the following year. A year ago, Mom started to forget dates and birthdays. When she entered her sixties, and silver hairs began sprouting more prominently at her roots, we teased her about her memory. First they were just small things. She kept asking us the same questions. She would forget to turn off lights (one of her pet peeves about us when we were growing up). Those were the first warning signs, but we made them seem normal; a joke; a way to get the whole room, including Mom, laughing. You couldn’t have known at the time, her doctor had said. I know, I had thought, But I should’ve known.

    It was a few days after her sixty-sixth birthday when I brought her a picture I had found of our family vacation from when I was sixteen.

    “When was this?” she had asked, smiling down at the picture. “Last year?”

    I paused, waiting for her to laugh like she did when she told the punchline to a joke, but she remained staring down at the image of us dancing on the beach. “Mom, this was over twenty years ago. Look how young everyone looks.”

    Her lips twitched, her cheeks flushed pink. “Of course, of course.”

    She was never the same after that. None of it made sense to us; how could our mother lose herself like this? “She’s not even… you know, that old,” Jack had said. The doctors said that sometimes early onset dementia happens at her age. But as I look at her now, she does look old, and I wish I could hold that young, beloved schoolteacher in my arms once again. After Michael died, it was like the thread of our family slowly began to disintegrate; stitch by stitch our lives began to unravel.

    At dinner time, I take a tray up to Dad’s room on the second floor. I shake my head as I walk up the narrow flight of stairs. The townhouse had seemed like a good idea when they were still steady on their feet. Now, I cringe thinking about their shaky feet slipping on the carpeted stairs. Jack is calling next week about installing a motorized chair lift, but he’s not sure if insurance will cover it.

    The door to Dad’s room is cracked. His radio is still playing. The room is dim; Jack said he prefers it like that. He’s flat on his back in bed. His eyes are closed, but when he hears the door squeak, his eyelids flutter, then open.

    “Who’s that?” he asks.

    “Hi, Daddy,” I say softly.

    His eyes take a moment to adjust to the lighting of the room, but when he opens them and sees me, he gives me a hearty smile. I lean down and give him a hug; I’m afraid even my gentleness might crack his frail body. The room smells of mothballs and stale popcorn. He has a winter glove and heating bag on his right arm. Ever since the stroke, his right side is perpetually cold.

    “I brought you a sandwich and some pie.”

    He nods his sparse head of hair and lifts up his left hand; a few droopy fingers point in my direction. “I need help,” he says.

    I need help, a phrase he knew well coming from me. When I was in elementary school and needed help with my braids in the morning; when I crashed my car at seventeen; when Michael died, and I couldn’t pay rent on our apartment. I need help, I had said to my Dad. I can help, he would respond, I can help with that.

    I pause a moment before setting the tray down on his bedside table. He shifts himself in bed, his lips pursed as if he is concentrating hard on a task.

    “I can help,” I say.

    I lean over as if embracing him. Gentle, I think to myself. With my palms against his small back, I plant my feet on the ground and lift. He leans his forehead against my collarbone like a newborn baby does with his mother.

    He is sitting up now. I adjust a pillow against his back.

    “Are you comfortable?”

    He nods, picking up the spoon and plunging it into the blueberry pie.

    We talk a little bit, mostly about the weather and the store the blueberry pie came from. Between his slurps and the crumbs falling down the stubble on his chin, he says, “Swell place.” That makes me smile. I offer him a napkin, and he takes it from me, setting it on his lap. I ask him how he’s feeling, and I think about what a stupid question that is to ask someone who’s so clearly in a lot of pain. “I’m doing okay,” he says. “Just never thought this would be me.”

    He eats half of the sandwich, devours the pie.

    “Do you want to come down and sit with us for a little bit?”

    “Not tonight,” he says.

    I look around his small, neat bedroom with the radio playing softly in the background and the plaid curtains shielding his eyes from the bright rays outside. I want nothing more than to cry, but I won’t, not in front of him.

    As I gather up his dirty dishes and set them on the tray, he clears his throat and holds up his left hand again.

    “I’m worried about your mother,” he says.

    “I know.”

    “Something’s not right,” he says.

    “I know.”

    I press a kiss against his forehead.

     

    After dinner, Jack asks me to go to the store while he cleans up. He hands me a grocery list on a sticky note with a few scribbled items to buy: PediaSure (for Dad’s milkshakes), a bag of carrots, adult diapers (for Mom), and trash bags. As I drive through town, everything feels nostalgic. No matter how much time has passed, it all sends a chill down my back, a reminder that all of this seems far away at home, but so familiar when I’m back.

    I pick up the trash bags, first, and then the Gatorade. I have to ask an employee where the PediaSure is. She’s in her late twenties, bright smile. She brings me to the aisle that has PediaSure along with baby-food and applesauce.

    “My son loves this stuff,” she says and points to where the PediaSure is on the shelf. “It’s good for the bones.”

    I smile.

    “Let me know if you need anything else,” she calls as she makes her way around the corner. I set two cases in my basket and make my way a few aisles down to where the adult diapers are. As I make my way around the corner I collide with another customer.

    “I’m sorry,” we say at the same time. When I look up, I see that it’s Macy.

    “Claire, hi. What a coincidence,” she says with a nervous laugh.

    We both begin talking at the same time. She gestures for me to go. I tell her to go ahead. She insists that I go.

    “You’re back,” she finally says.

    I nod, shifting the weight of my basket in my hands. “Yeah. Work has been kind of light, so I thought I’d come down for a few days.”

    I don’t mention that Jack called me. I feel an odd sense of sibling loyalty kick in like it would be a betrayal if I told her Jack asked me to come.

    “Well, that’s great. That’s really great,” Macy says.

    I shift the basket again. Her eyes dart down to the PediaSure, then to the packages of adult diapers on the shelf next to us. “How are they doing?”

    “They’re doing okay,” I say, unconvinced.

    “Good. And how are you?” she asks.

    “I’m good. And you?”

    She shrugs and offers me a small smile. “Good. Busy.”

    A few moments of silence lapse between us. Macy begins taking a step back like you do when you want a conversation to be finished.

    “Jack told me about the separation. I’m really sorry about that,” I say.

    Macy tenses up, and her mouth forms a straight line. “Yeah, me too,” she says. “Life never ends up being like what we think it will be.” She pauses for a moment and tucks a lock of hair behind her ear. The whites of her eyes are slightly red. She lets out a small laugh as if she just told a joke that no one laughed at. “God, look at me getting emotional at the grocery. I’m getting old.”

    Michael and I never had the chance to have kids, but it was something we both wanted. I’ve dated a few people in the last two years since Michael’s death, but nothing’s ever lasted. I don’t feel as though my love life is hopeless. I know I’ll probably meet someone and make the life I didn’t get to finish with Michael. I feel the same way about Jack, and maybe even Macy. We’ll all end up okay- just slightly bruised and scratched from pasts that had their way with us. It’s just the getting there that, at times, seems distant and foggy.

    Macy and I exchange awkward pleasantries as we both turn to leave. She reaches out for a hug. I give in. I think Jack would’ve wanted me to hug her, to make the situation as light as possible. Macy tells me to keep in touch, but I doubt we will.

     

    When I return, Jack is sitting at the kitchen table, flipping through a stack of bills. I set the bag of groceries on the counter and start putting a few things away. Jack scratches at the back of his neck and lets out a sigh as he compares two pieces of paper.

    “What are you doing?” I ask.

    He looks up; his glasses have slid down on his nose. “Just money stuff.”

    I lean over where he’s sitting and look over a piece of paper. “What is this for?” I hold up the paper for Jack to see.

    Jack looks up and readjusts his glasses. “It’s an estimate for a new shower upstairs for Dad. He’s having trouble with the old one.”

    I feel my lips twitching just like Mom’s when she’s thinking.

    “I thought you were getting the chair lift for the stairs?”

    Jack shakes his head. “They’ll get both. Just not at the same time.”

    I glance towards the living room and see that Mom’s door is closed. Dad’s radio is still playing loudly upstairs. Jack and I have had barely any time to talk alone today. I didn’t realize how much attention Mom and Dad required throughout the day.

    “Jack, they shouldn’t be walking up those stairs every day. One of them is eventually going to fall.”

    Without looking up, he replies, “I’m handling it, Claire. Just let me deal with it.”

    I fold my arms cross my chest. “You know, I dropped everything because you asked me to come back. I didn’t ask any questions; I didn’t make any excuses. You asked me to come, and I did, so you could at least let me help you make some of these decisions.”

    He leans back in his chair and frowns back at me; the crease in his forehead is deep and wrinkled. His mood has been mild since I arrived, but I feel a sharpness in his voice that makes my muscles tighten and my heart rate pick up.

    “I don’t need help with it, okay? I’ve been doing it myself for months.”

    “What’s your problem? I’m just trying to help you,” I say.

    He lets out a haughty laugh. “Are you kidding me? My problem? Maybe it’s that I’m the one who’s dealing with all of this while you live your quiet, little life three hours away.”

    Tears sting my eyes, the sensation causing my nose to tingle. “Is that what you think? Do you really think that when I leave here, I go home and forget all of this?”

    Jack is quiet for a few moments. He takes off his glasses and massages his eyes before looking back at me. “Fine, every few months, you take a few days off of work to come see them, but the next day- you leave. And you get to return to some kind of normalcy, while I’m stuck here. I mean, it’s not enough that I was taking care of them on my own, but now I’m trying deal with the fact that my wife has completely given up on our marriage.”

    I shake my head. “I’m sorry that your marriage fell apart, but that’s not my or mom and dad’s fault.”

    He throws his hands up in the air in exasperation. “God, Claire! This isn’t about my marriage! This isn’t about Macy! This isn’t about the shit we’re both carrying around. This is about how I’m taking care of our parents on my own. It’s not a burden…” he trails off. “I don’t want this to be a burden, you know? I always knew I wanted to take care of them when they got older. It’s what you’re supposed to do. They take care of you your whole life, and then you take care of them for what little bit of life they have left… But it wasn’t supposed to happen this soon, and when it did happen, I thought you’d be here to help me.”

    I speak softly. “I did too, and I’m sorry about that.” I pause. “It’s just hard for me to come back here.”

    Jack glances towards the kitchen window. “I know that.”

    I lean against the kitchen counter and let my muscles relax. I look at Jack and imagine that he often sits here alone at night, calculating bills, making decisions, listening to the radio playing upstairs and the silence that eventually follows. It occurs to me that there are probably moments for him when our parents barely resemble who they used to be. I wonder if, in these quiet moments at night, Jack returns to his memories, collecting pieces of the past to store away, before he has to leave them behind in the morning.

    “What do you want me to do, Jack? Do you want me to move back here?”

    Jack shakes his head. “No. I wouldn’t ask you to do that. But I can’t keep doing this on my own. I’m going to burn out.”

    I hear the twirling sound of the washer in the laundry room. A long stretch of silence hangs between us. In the glow of the kitchen light, I see grey hair popping up among his dark locks, and I see lines around his mouth and eyes that I hadn’t noticed before. I run a hand through my hair.

    The washer stops.

     

    The sun is beginning its trek behind the snow filled clouds. Jack cleared the bills off of the kitchen table and tucked them away to deal with tomorrow. He’s sitting on the couch in the family room. I slump down next to him. I can still hear the radio from upstairs and the television from Mom’s room. From my pocket, I take out a hair tie and rub its rough surface between my fingers.

    “I have to go back tomorrow.”

    Jack nods, staring back at the unlit fireplace.

    “And I’ll be back next Saturday,” I say.

    He looks back at me, and for a moment he’s eighteen and driving me to school as the radio plays softly in the background. And for another moment, as I look back at the dining room table in the next room, I see Mom grading papers and Dad balancing his checkbook. And when I turn forward, Jack and I are older, and Mom and Dad are older than we ever thought possible. I’ll keep coming back. And Jack and I will lose our parents together.

    “We should see about getting the chair lift for the stairs,” he says.

    I say, “Okay,” and stand up to light the fireplace.

    Thoughts On Writing

    These Fine Moments

    Photo by Megan Leigh Barnard

    I’ve been having a lot of moments lately—moments that I’m fully aware of as they pass before my eyes, whisper in my ear and brush past my skin while they make their way in front of me, beside me and then behind me as they pass on so fast I can’t see them when I turn around. They are quiet moments, almost undetectable. I’m sitting at work in the early evening, and the sunlight on the pavement is golden; the breeze is subtle, pushing a tree’s branches against a utility pole just beyond our garage doors. I’m walking outside, and I hear laughter from a group of friends sitting out on their front stoop. I’m caught in the headlights of an Indiana sunset, and I can’t muster a single word to encapsulate the sky before me.

    These moments are full— they’re bursting with life, beauty, and a reminder that good still exists in the world. But in these moments, sadness creeps into the crevices of my heart, because these moments are fleeting, and I can’t hold onto them long enough to craft them into a story, a poem, or even a photograph. I think to myself, “I’m a writer! I should be able to replicate every sense that I’m feeling. I should be able to close my eyes and make these moments reappear in front of me.” But I can’t. At least not fully. And I’m beginning to understand that this inability isn’t a curse, and it’s not an inconvenient dose of “writer’s block”. It’s a gift. These moments are for me to live— to breathe, to touch, to store in my mind for when I need them the most; they’re not for me to steal, to grab out of my reality and push into a Word document or a camera lens. I’ve found that attempting to capture these moments only hinders my ability to experience them, to truly live in the seconds that comprise these inexplicable, rare moments. Maybe one day these moments will become something more, but for now, they’re exactly what I need them to be.

    These moments have me wondering if maybe we should spend less time groaning in front of our computer screens and pads of paper, trying to recreate the moments that we hold onto in hopes of making them tangible. Maybe we should close our laptop lids, put our pencils away, and preserve these moments before we view them as failures instead of the glimmers of pure beauty that they truly are.

    There are moments for capturing, and there are moments for living; there are moments for both.

    Know when to earnestly live in moments.

    Know when to capture them and share them with the world.

    Protect these fine moments.

    – Olivia

     

    Sibling Series

    “Reservation”

    I’m back! School is over! Summer is here! YAY. I’m officially halfway finished with my college career which is crazy crazy crazy. I’m home for a little bit and then I move to Columbus, Ohio for an internship with my fave people and their amazing biz, The Wonder Jam.

    I haven’t blogged in a long time, so I thought I’d start back up with something a little different. I wrote three short stories this semester, and they all, in some way or another, center around sibling relationships. None of them are based on my actual sibling relationships (no worries, Allie and Bobby haha), but I do find sibling relationships to be very interesting and complicated which makes them really fun to write about! This first one is called “Reservation”, and I got the idea for it when I was at a concert in Columbus, Ohio.

    Sometimes the story isn’t on stage; it’s standing a few rows ahead of  you.

    Reservation

    “They only seat thirty-two people! Can you believe that?” Peter had offered her a soft smile and let her ramble on about the menu, its reputation as being one of the best Italian restaurants in the country and, of course, the hand blown Murano glass chandeliers that the head chef had imported from professional artisans in Venice, Italy. “I mean, it’s our ten-year anniversary,” she said. “I thought we should do it right.”

    They stood in their apartment’s small kitchen, separated by their granite countertop with an arrangement of fruit and vegetables resting in the middle. Beth explained to Peter how she made the reservation months before, but when she called to confirm it, they said they had no reservation under her name. She told Peter how she was relentless in her pursuit to find out how they lost her reservation. “You know me,” she said to Peter. “I’m not easily flustered.” But she had certainly been flustered- so much so that the manager went on a manhunt of his own and found the hostess that had taken Beth’s reservation. “Whatever it was,” she had said to Peter, a big smile spreading across her lips and traveling upwards to her blue eyes, “I got the reservation.”

    Peter’s lack of enthusiasm made Beth shift awkwardly in her place.

    “Are you happy?” she said, searching the silence for some kind of affirmation from him. Beth’s smile faded slowly as Peter scratched the back of his head.

    He shook his head softly. “I am so sorry, Beth. You’re going to think I’m a complete ass- which I am; I realize that.”

    She suddenly felt smaller, and it occurred to her that she might even be slouching; her mother had warned her about that bad habit

    Beth’s mouth felt dry. She heard the soft murmur of the refrigerator and the sound of a garbage truck outside the window. She noticed the prickly hair coming in on Peter’s chin and cheeks.

    “What are you doing?” she asked.

    “What?”

    “Are you breaking up with me?”

    “God, no. No, Beth, that’s not it at all. It’s my brother.”

    “Paul?”

    “No. Garrett.  He’s coming into town.”

    “Oh…”

    A long pause hung between the couple. Beth gave Peter a look of confusion.

    “The dinner,” he finally said.

    In the midst of her panic, she had forgotten all about the reservation incident, the menu, the glass chandeliers.

    “Garrett’s coming into town that day.” Peter didn’t need to say anything more for Beth to understand what he was implying.

    “Well, that’s great. You haven’t seen him in a while.”

    Peter rested against the kitchen counter and managed a small smile. “Yeah. I mean, he’s not really coming for me. His favorite band is coming to Philly, some indie-alternative group that I’ve never heard of, but I offered to have him stay with us. And I bought three tickets for all of us to go.”

    Beth looked back at Peter’s hopeful face. Yelling wasn’t the way they did things. She couldn’t remember a time she had yelled at Peter, or Peter at her. They had always had a peaceful way of resolving conflict: long talks over dinner or coffee, and the occasional passive aggressive jabs but never yelling. Her parents yelled, and so did his; they both agreed that they didn’t want their parents’ relationships. But in that moment, she wanted to yell at Peter. She wanted to throw her hands up in the air and ask him why he didn’t consult her before agreeing to host his youngest brother; why he roped her into going to concert she didn’t wish to attend. But she didn’t.

    “And this is all the night of the dinner?”

    Peter nodded. “I’m so sorry, Beth. I completely blanked until you mentioned it just now. If the dinner was on our actual anniversary, I probably would have remembered when Garrett called me. Can we make the reservation for next weekend instead? We’ll even go to that ice-cream shop downtown that you like. It’ll be special, I promise.”

    She started slowly walking towards her phone as if she would do it right then, but she hated the idea of calling the restaurant and canceling the reservation after she had made such a big fuss.

    “Um, yeah. Sure. Or, you know, we could just leave the concert early? And Garrett could do his own thing?” Putting her suggestions like questions made them sound more innocent, less intrusive of the plans Peter already had.

    “I don’t think so. It’s just, this is his favorite band. You should’ve heard him on the phone. He’s so excited.”

    Beth pulled out her phone, holding it in her hands for a few moments, her mind churning.

    “Don’t bands usually play more than just one show? Maybe he could go to a Saturday show instead.”

    Peter shook his head. “Nope, Friday’s the only night.”

    She nodded softly and returned her attention to her phone’s screen, pausing again before she proposed another solution that wouldn’t fit her problem. “You know, maybe-”

    Peter rested his hand near hers on the counter. “-Beth. I know you had all of this planned out, and I’m sorry I ruined it.”

    Beth faked a smile and removed her hand from the counter to tuck a piece of hair behind her ear. “It’s okay. Don’t worry about it. I’ll call the restaurant and cancel the reservation.”

    Peter put his arm around Beth and pressed a kiss to her temple. He promised he would make it up to her.

     

    Although she was less than thrilled about Garrett’s visit, she found enjoyment in planning for Garrett’s arrival. She worked as an event coordinator for a conference center in downtown Philly, so planning for one guest was a nice change of pace. She called their cleaning service for a light cleaning of the apartment. When she mentioned it, Peter laughed and said that Garrett wouldn’t notice if they hadn’t cleaned their house in a year. She didn’t know Garrett very well. Beth also didn’t feel close to, Paul, Peter’s older brother; they hadn’t seen him in a while. Peter and his siblings lost their parents to a car accident during Peter and Beth’s sophomore year of college. Peter got the call while he was on a date with Beth. He dropped everything to go home and be with Garrett. Peter was the only one who could talk Garrett down. Garrett was in and out of juvenile detention centers throughout junior high and high school. As Beth made up the guest room’s bed, she remembered lying next to Peter on his twin sized, dorm mattress when he got the call from his parents that Garrett was suspected to have set fire to an abandoned barn near a school. “I’m sorry, Beth. I have to go.” Peter dressed quickly and told her she could stay in his room until she was ready to leave. He apologized profusely; she told him to not apologize. “Family’s important,” she had said as if she was remotely close to her parents. They couldn’t prove that Garrett did it. “He’s not a bad kid,” Peter had told Beth after he returned to school. “He’s just… different.”

    Beth had only met Garrett a few times; she thought maybe Peter was afraid that Garrett would do or say something to scare her off. Eventually, Garrett grew out of his illegal, and, sometimes, violent tendencies. He moved to Seattle where he worked as a cashier at a record shop and a driver at a local pizza restaurant. Beth knew it was hard for Peter to move to Philly. Even though Garrett was a grown man by then, and even though Peter landed a well-paying marketing job, she still felt like he wanted to be close to his rambunctious younger brother. The distance made it hard for them to see each other. After Peter got off work, they spoke on the phone a couple times a week. Beth wished she didn’t envy Garrett for those phone calls, but sometimes she did. Evenings were her time to spend with Peter; two times a week, Garrett took that from her. But she tried to understand, tried to imagine having a sibling or friend that she felt tethered to. Her frustration often spoiled her attempts at figuring out Garrett and Peter’s relationship.

     

    Peter took off work early to be sure he was there when Garrett arrived. Beth could tell that he was excited by his chipper entrance into their apartment. They had decided to order food instead of going out despite the list of restaurants Beth had proposed. Peter said that Garrett would probably prefer staying in. Peter picked up the food and set the table.

    “Red or white wine?” Beth asked as Peter loosened his tie and unbuttoned his sleeves. She took both of the bottles out of the refrigerator and held them up for Peter to see.

    “I picked up beer on my way home. Go ahead, though.” Peter disappeared into their bedroom and then reappeared a few moments later wearing jeans and a casual button down.

    Beth put the bottles back into the refrigerator and walked over to Peter. She decided to make the most of the situation, for Peter’s sake. She was an only child and could never fully understand Peter’s devotion to Garrett. She finished buttoning the last few buttons on his shirt and then kissed him.

    “Thanks for doing this. It means a lot to me.”

    “Of course. It’s no problem,” she said.

    Peter’s phone buzzed. He let go of Beth and pulled his phone out of his pocket. “He’s here.”

    Beth felt her heart rate pick up. She heard Peter’s footsteps shuffle against the hardwood and then the sound of his shoes hitting the floor. He said something about getting Garrett from downstairs. Beth caught a glimpse of herself in the mirror above the fireplace. She smoothed down her hair and practiced her smile a few times. On the table next to her was a picture of Paul, Peter, and Garrett. She picked it up, then returned it to the table and straightened it. She couldn’t pinpoint exactly why she felt nervous about Garrett’s visit. The last time she and Peter had seen Garrett was a year ago when they were all at Paul’s house for New Year’s. Garrett had gotten drunk which didn’t surprise anyone, but it infuriated Paul. Beth thought Paul was probably more embarrassed than mad; he was introducing his new girlfriend to the family. “Why does he do this every time?” Paul had asked Peter. “Why can’t he just be normal?” Beth hadn’t meant to hear the conversation between them. She had fled to the kitchen to avoid Garrett’s loud imitation of all of the New Year’s Eve performances on TV, but then managed to get stuck between Paul and Peter.

    “For God’s sake, he’s our brother. Don’t be such an ass,” Peter had said.

    Paul tossed a glance towards Beth. “He’s making everyone uncomfortable. And this is my home, so I get to say what goes and what doesn’t.”

    Peter rolled his eyes. “Geez, he’s not hurting anyone. He’s just having fun. Don’t act like you never partied in college.”

    The rest of the party seemed unaware of the fight brewing in the kitchen. Beth could still hear Garrett’s booming, slurred voice from the other room and a bit of laughter after he attempted to match the singer’s high note on TV. She had wished he would just stop for the sake of whatever was about to happen between Paul and Peter.

    Paul stepped closer to Peter. Beth wasn’t sure what she would do if one of them punched the other. Her hands became sweaty, wrapping themselves tighter around the wine glass she was holding. She stood, jaw clinched, watching the brothers move closer towards a brawl that would surely end the party. Peter’s mouth was a straight line, and he was breathing heavily through his nose. Beth knew what he wanted to say to Paul. She knew this situation was too familiar for him. An argument about Garrett on a holiday was nothing new.

    Paul said, “I’m not making excuses for him anymore. He needs to grow up.”

    Beth braced herself for the blow.

    “You know, you’re becoming just like Dad. He never accepted Garrett for he was. He knew that Garrett was getting bullied, getting the shit beat out of him at school, and he did nothing. It’s the same pride that you have,” Peter said.

    Peter had told Beth about the merciless bullies at Garrett’s school. As a child, Garrett was smaller than most of the other kids: an easy target. One day when Garrett was in elementary school, he appeared in the doorway of Peter’s classroom, crying and asking for Peter to take him home. Their dad claimed Garrett was too sensitive, that every kid has to learn how to deal with bullies. Their mother made calls to the school, but nothing seemed to change. Peter felt like he was Garrett’s one true ally.

    Paul stood still, staring back at his brother with fury and defeat in eyes. Peter had crossed a line. Beth realized that she had been holding her breath. She wished Peter would have spared her and told her to leave, but she wasn’t sure he was even aware of her presence in the room. Paul blew air out of his nose as if suppressing a chuckle. Beth heard Garrett’s large frame fall back onto the leather couch in the next room followed by glass hitting the ground and breaking.

    Paul glanced back at Beth and then walked past Peter, knocking shoulders with him. “Fuck you,” Paul muttered.

     

     

    Peter appeared first from behind their apartment door. He was struggling with Garrett’s duffle bag, and Beth could hear Garrett laughing from behind Peter.

    “Do you have a sack of bricks in here?” Peter called behind him. He stepped forward, kicking the bag to the side to open door wider. Garrett appeared, his face flushed red from the bitter fall breeze outside. He didn’t look much like Peter or Paul. He was taller by a few inches with red hair and a full beard.

    “Looks like you need to hit the gym, big brother; I packed light.” Garrett wrapped an arm around Peter’s neck and ruffled his hair. The two struggled back and forth for a minute as Beth stood and watched, laughing nervously as Peter’s face turned red. Garrett finally released Peter, and his deep, bellowing laugh bounced off the walls of their apartment.

    Garrett turned toward Beth, and she hoped he wouldn’t share with her the same greeting he had with Peter. “Beth! Come in here!” he said, his arms opened wide. His arms wrapped tightly around her like a child does when they greet their parent after a long day of separation. Beth tried to contain her laughter, but she gave in when he lifted her off the ground.

    Peter offered Garrett a beer and he accepted, popping of the cap and slipping it into the pocket of his jeans. Beth remembered that he collected all of the caps of the beers he drank. He once told Beth and Peter that at a bar in Seattle, he packed his pockets full with beer caps. “You’re full of it,” Peter had said, throwing his head back laughing. Garrett promised that he was telling the truth. Beth wasn’t convinced.

    Garrett noticed the picture of him, Peter, and Paul on the table beside him. He lifted it up and examined the photograph. It was from when Peter and Paul were still in high school. Garrett was in the middle with Peter and Paul on either side of him. Peter had put an arm on Garrett’s shoulder, and Paul stood with bunny ears behind Garrett’s head. Their smiles were genuine, probably from laughter.

    “I love that picture,” Beth said.

    Garrett set it down and took another drink from his bottle. He pursed his lips together. Beth thought she saw a grimace flicker across Garrett’s face.

    “Yeah, I think that was moments before I ruined some kind of family gathering.”

    Pete chuckled. “Was it a joke about Aunt Tina’s mustache or was that the time you lit a joint on Paul’s birthday cake?”

    “Neither. I think I pulled an air soft gun on Paul when he beat me at Yahtzee.” Garrett threw his head back laughing. “Why that wasn’t amusing to anyone is beyond me.”

    Beth wondered what it was like growing up in their home before their parents died. Peter didn’t talk a lot about it with her, and whenever he did, he made it into some kind of joke about the turmoil Garrett inflicted on their family.

    The three of them sat down for dinner. Beth poured herself a glass of wine and stared up at their modest light fixture hanging above the dinner table. She imagined the restaurant staff was busy getting ready for the night. Beth hated the idea of some other couple sitting in the spot that was supposed to be for her and Peter. They probably don’t even want it as much as I want it, she thought to herself. I bet her name is Kim, she thought, I wish I was Kim.

    Garrett liked the food which was a relief to Beth. She asked him about his jobs, and he explained that he was quitting the pizza restaurant soon and getting a job at a pier close to his apartment where he would be doing manual labor. Peter asked Garrett about a girl he worked with at the record shop. Garrett made it clear that he wasn’t interested. Peter insisted something would come of it.

    “Too much talk about me. I want to hear about you guys,” Garrett said. Beth thought it was nice that he was taking an interest in their lives. She glanced over at Peter and gave him a warm smile. “When the hell are you guys gettin’ married?”

    Beth, with a mouthful of food, looked across the table at Peter.

    “I mean, it’s been, what, ten years? For God’s sake, Pete, man up. You’re not getting any younger.”

    Peter sighed, offering a sympathetic smile to Beth. “We’re both not really into the whole idea. And I think we’re doing just fine the way we are.”

    Beth nodded and pushed a few spinach leaves around on her plate. She caught Garrett’s skeptical eye but pretended like she hadn’t noticed his cocked eyebrow and the wrinkle in his forehead.

    Peter wasn’t wrong. They had decided when they graduated that they didn’t want to be like all of their friends who were rushing to get married right after graduation. Early on and throughout their relationship, Beth had felt some kind of pride about their agreement. She liked that her friends admired and maybe even envied Beth and Peter’s choice to not get married. But as she got older, and more of her friends got married, she felt untethered like she had forgotten to button her seatbelt on a carnival ride and was afraid of slipping out of its plastic seat. It had nothing to do with Peter. It was about feeling left out, she supposed. She used to roll her eyes over the hype her friends participated in surrounding their weddings: What’s the point? she had thought. She still didn’t see the value in it, but she found herself wanting more, wanting some kind of assurance that she would never slip past her seatbelt and into a freefall.

    Garrett looked dumbfounded. “Well, at least have a kid soon,” he said. “You don’t want to wait too long for that. Beth, I read that your eggs-”

    “-Garrett, don’t talk about Beth’s eggs.”

    “Same goes for you, Pete. The older you get, the slower your swimmers-”

    Beth stood up from the table and grabbed an empty dish. “I’m going to get some more. I’ll be right back.”

    She set the dish in the sink and flipped on the faucet. Beth tucked a few loose pieces of hair behind her ear and began pacing around the kitchen, putting away utensils and throwing away the bags that the food came in.

    When the doctor had delivered the news, Peter had held her hand tightly as she looked around the small exam room, searching for anything to hold onto besides the doctor’s careful words and gentle voice. “It’s not your fault,” Peter had said as they drove home. She rested her head against the window. “But it’s not yours,” she sighed. Four years passed, and they had barely spoken of that day. Beth wondered if Peter resented her; she knew he would deny it she ever asked him. But she saw the way he looked at young parents with their children in the grocery store and then back at Beth when he realized he had unwittingly abandoned their conversation. He wants more, she had thought to herself, He’ll always want more.

    She turned off the faucet, pausing for a moment to close her eyes. Almost on cue, Peter came through the kitchen door. He was sorry. Garrett was an idiot, didn’t have a filter. Always so sorry, Beth. Always a kiss on the cheek and a promise to make it all up to her. Always Beth feeling sorry for making Peter sorry. Peter nodded to the kitchen door. She said okay; it wasn’t. She wanted to fight with Peter. She wanted to fight about his brother and the dinner reservation and the conversations they never seemed to have. When are you going to ask me why I thought you were breaking up with me? she thought, No. No, we won’t talk about that.

    Beth returned to the table.

     

    Garrett was like a little kid in the car on the way to the theater. He couldn’t stop talking about the band and how they were originally from Seattle. “I know every word. Every word,” he repeated several times. Peter listened, grinning at his younger brother who asked the Uber driver if he had an aux cord for his phone. He didn’t. It’s okay, Garrett said, It’s better live. They arrived at the front of the theater. The air smelled like cigarette smoke and gasoline. Beth took Peter’s hand as they waded through a large crowd of people. Garrett led the way; he looked up a map of the theater beforehand. They climbed the stairs to their seats. “Not bad,” Garrett said. He sat on the end, Peter in the middle, and Beth next to him. Beth peered around at the hundreds of people swarming around them, finding their seats, taking selfies and asking strangers to take pictures of them and their husband or wife. She looked up at the ceiling to see a large chandelier with thousands of crystals hanging above them. Beth checked her phone and let out a sigh. Kim was probably soaking in the ambiance of the restaurant, snapping a picture of her gorgeous husband across the table, while a server poured her the perfect glass of their signature wine.

    “Beth!”

    She turned to find Garrett leaning over his armrest, a concerned expression passing over his face. “Can you see?” he said, nodding to the man sitting in front of her. “He’s gotta big head. He’s probably really tall. Let me know, and I’ll switch with you. I want you to be able to see!”

    Beth gave him a small smile. “I’ll let you know.”

    Peter squeezed her hand.

    The lights of the theater began to dim. Garrett yelled “WHOOOOOP!” in the silence before the lights of the stage went up and the band ran on stage. Beth heard Peter laughing, and she saw out of the corner of her eye that he was patting Garrett’s arm in excitement. Garrett craned his neck to see better. Beneath his beard, a smile was brewing that shot up to his eyes and came out his lips in the form of cheering.

    The band settled themselves on stage and began with their first song. Garrett cheered and danced incessantly; at one point he almost toppled over onto Peter. Peter swayed to the music, sometimes leaning over to wrap an arm around Beth or give her a knowing glance during the love songs. Beth didn’t love the music, but she liked the violinist and her voice. She kept her eyes forward, not wanting to see the state Garrett was in.

    A slower song began and Peter leaned over and said that he was going to get drinks. Beth didn’t want anything. Garrett shouted over to her. “Can you see?” She nodded. He gave her a thumbs up and turned forward. The rest of the band members stepped back into the dark spots of the stage. The lead singer began playing the piano; lights from above poured down on him as his head drooped so that the tips of his hair brushed the piano keys.

    Beth found herself listening closely as his voice wavered almost like he was going to cry. His voice echoed through the theater. She could hear his breaths trembling between the lyrics that he crooned into the microphone.

    He lifted his head so that his hair fell out of his eyes. For a moment, he paused and the theater fell silent except for a few cheers from the back. He repositioned his hands on the keys and began repeating a series of chords. The other band members stepped out of the darkness and into their lit places on stage. The violinist lifted her instrument onto her shoulder and began playing, followed by the guitars. Beth could feel the air in the theater change. People began standing up like something big was about to happen. The singer’s voice came back, stronger, with no hint of trembling or fear.

    As soon as the drummer began, the theater erupted into euphoric chaos. The strobe lights from the stage began rising and falling and crisscrossing. The drummer pounded his drums with such force that if one looked up they could see the chandelier moving ever so slightly. The lead singer’s mouth was pressed to the microphone; the violinist swayed back and forth, the notes bouncing off her instrument and pulling her back and forth to a rhythmic pulse.

    Beth pulled her arms tighter to her chest, and she thought about Peter in line for drinks, how he could still probably feel the drummer’s beat throbbing against his shoe. Beth thought about how she would try to explain to Peter the intensity of the instruments and the quivering of the singer’s voice, how she felt his words welling up inside her and the chandelier trembling above her. She thought about how Peter would nod as her eyes lit up and tears stung her eyes; he would say that he was sorry he missed it, but he would never understand. A gap would always exist between them- a jagged, thin gap that would grow deeper as they filled the empty space with words that they would never said to each other.

    Beth looked over at Garrett who had stepped into the aisle; his arms were lifted high in the air, his fingers spread apart, soaring into the darkness above. His head was flung back, his voice lost among the crowd of lips moving to every lyric that the lead singer belted. Garrett swayed to the drummer’s beat that shook the theater’s carpeted floor. Beth thought about the thirty-two people in that dimly lit, Italian restaurant. She thought about Kim, and she wondered if the hand blown Murano chandeliers or the restaurant’s accolades would ever make those thirty-two patrons feel half of what Garrett was feeling in that moment. She turned forward, arms resting at her sides. No, she thought, No, they wouldn’t.

    Me

    Finding Courage, Giving Voice.


    As I scroll through my Twitter and Facebook feed every day, I feel disheartened; I feel weary; I feel as though I want to capture every story, every emotion, and put them into words to give voice to those who have none.
    I’ve been thinking a lot about what the idea of courageous conversation means to me. Up until a few years ago, I had never thought about conversations being courageous. To me, courage was tied to tangible acts of sacrifice, and while I still think that’s true, I also think courage can come from quiet moments of resistance when you decide to open up your mind to new ideas and people. Ultimately, I think courageous conversations give voice to those who have none. Courageous conversations mean speaking up for the person or group that is not able to tell their story because of obstacles holding them back. Courageous conversations mean speaking up for the oppressed and the forgotten even if that means you face people who fundamentally disagree with your opinions. To me, courageous conversation is dialogue that happens in spite of the fear of rejection. Courage is the act of saying, “This is wrong. How can we fix it?” Courage means action, and action means change.
    I believe the written word is one of the most powerful ways to give voice others. Whether we’re writing about victims of racial and religious discrimination, sexual assault victims, or those living in poverty, I believe the written word can open up the eyes of the world to see the issues that go on right in front of us on a daily basis. While courageous conversations have the ability to highlight the darkness that we live in, I also believe that courageous conversations can pull hope out from its hiding place called fear. There is freedom and there is relief that comes from expressing your thoughts and feelings on paper. Whether you’re writing for others or yourself, I believe that seeing the intangible emotions of one’s mind unfold on paper is a freeing experience that offers peace to those who have struggled to understand what they’re feeling.
    Courageous conversations are not easy, and often times the issues discussed in these conversations are not resolved after just one conversation. They take place over time; they are revisited, revised, and retold so that the people you speak up for and their stories never lose their place in history. I believe we are in desperate need of courageous conversations. We have fallen into a dangerous world where listening is no longer a part of conversing; we speak, and then we cover our ears in fear of hearing something that challenges our beliefs. Change is only possible when we let courage permeate our conversations so that the world hears the voices that have been pushed aside and ignored.
    I encourage you to look around your space, your community and ask yourself “Who are the voiceless around me?” I’ve been asking myself this question for almost two years now. I have realized that sometimes the answer startles me because I realize how long I’ve stayed complacent in my oblivion. Maybe you know the voiceless group you want to help, maybe you don’t. Maybe you feel like you’re a part of a group that has no voice. Whatever you find, my hope is that you will observe, listen, and tell. I hope you tell of the hopes and the fears of those who are voiceless, and I hope you give them voice through whatever medium you choose.
    If you’re feeling disheartened, weary, powerless, do not lose hope in the prospect of change and hope. Use your voice for those who have none, and be courageous in whatever conversation you choose to tell.

    p.s. A couple of verses that have been a source of comfort to me recently:

    Romans 8:37-39: “No, in all these things, we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (NIV)

    +

    1 John 3:16
    This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.” (NIV)

    To my friends and family, to my community, to the world:

    Courage is not easy, but it is possible, and I am earnestly praying and hoping that we will come to fully understand the true meaning of love.

    Olivia

    Me

    Hey, it’s ok.

    img_3842

    I don’t know about you ladies and gents, but this semester was CRAZY for me (I have a feeling it was probably crazy for you, too).

    Crazy hard, crazy stressful, crazy eventful.

    There were nights this semester when I would crawl up my loft at an ungodly hour, snuggle up in my bed, and realize that I hadn’t stopped to “just be” the entire day. Between running to classes, meetings, work, and a quick bite at the dining hall, I felt like I was constantly on the go. I’ve always been a homebody, an introvert. I don’t like being crazy busy because I feel like I don’t have time for the important things in life; in this way, this semester challenged me and pushed me out of my comfort zone. I had to learn how to maintain my relationships and my schoolwork without neglecting one or the other or both. There were moments throughout the semester when I would pause writing a paper or typing a Spanish phrase into Google Translate, and think “Am I doing this right? Should I be pushing myself this hard?” I still haven’t found the answer to that lingering question. For now, “It’s all a balance and it’ll all be worth it one day” is my go-to. So far, it’s working for me.

    I love lists. To-do lists, grocery lists, pro-con lists, dream lists, Christmas lists; I LOVE EM ALL! Below is a list of what I learned this semester:

    1. Sometimes you can’t do it all. Do what you can and do it well.
    2. TREAT YO SELF. Sometimes after a day when you feel like nothing is going right, you just gotta eat some chocolate and love yourself.
    3. My roommate, Rachel Morgan, is the strongest person I know.
    4. Tell people you love them any chance you get.
    5. Call your parents.
    6. Unplug every once in a while. You’re probably—scratch that— most definitely, not missing out on much.
    7. At least once a week, laugh until your stomach hurts.
    8. Surround yourself with people who make you feel good about yourself.
    9. God for sure knows what He’s doing. I think we forget that sometimes.
    10. Smile at people.
    11. GET SLEEP.
    12. When it’s nice out, take the long way back to your dorm/apartment/house and just take in this beautiful world we live in.
    13. Find what YOU love (nursing, teaching, ministry, business, communication, psychology, writing, etc.) and study it!
    14. The future is rapidly approaching, but that doesn’t mean you have to run to meet it in the middle. Be present.
    15. Evan VanCuren, you are my moment of quiet in the midst of chaos.
    16. Take a break from studying and paint your nails a wacky color.
    17. Wear clothes that you feel confident in.
    18. Eat more fries.
    19. Broccoli is good. Give it chance.
    20. Take time to “just be”
    21. It’s all going to be okay.

    That’s all for now. I have many more years to learn many more things. I’m looking forward to all of it. What did YOU learn this year/semester? Tell me about it— BELOW!

    Olivia

    Poetry

    What the world could use.

    img_3439

    So Much by Clare Elsaesser

    Friends,

    I was going to write a long post about this crazy semester, or about how much I love autumn, or about how I’m holding my head up even in the midst of trying times, but… I couldn’t seem to choose one or fit all of it into one cohesive post.

    I think I’ll leave it for another day.

    For now, here’s a poem I wrote:

    What the world could use.

    Love slips your hand under the cool side of the pillow,
    when you are not sure whether to toss or to turn.
    Love is clicking the up button on an elevator when you still feel low.
    Love does not adjourn when the verdict is called and your stomach churns.

    Love does not walk away when the car door is frozen shut,
    nor does it blow out the candle in the middle of a frigid night.
    Love will take the long way home and love will not accept a price cut.
    Love will fight with letters strung together, not with a knife or a gunfight.

    Love runs until its lungs are bleeding and bruised,
    but love will let you go, it will not chain your beating heart.
    Love will not destroy you or leave you feeling misused.
    Love will not steal your heart; it will be your counterpart.

    And in the middle, the end, and the beginning
    love will leave you poems and stories for printing.

    Poetry

    Little Pink Bottle

    img_3211Little Pink Bottle by Olivia Jocson

    Little pink bottle of “you shouldn’t walk alone at night”

    and “fear is best carried clutched between your fingers.”

    Little pink bottle of  “be aware of your surroundings” check underneath your car, pull down your smile, raise up your little pink bottle of

    “This is just the way it is” of teaching women how to not get raped; the logic is lost on me.

    Little pink bottle of “no means no” but “no” is lost in translation because he didn’t bother to

    listen in the first place.

    Little pink bottle of “it won’t happen to me” turned into

    “it might happen to me” if I don’t have my little pink bottle of

    I feel afraid in my own skin and I am suspicious of innocent people minding their own

    business on the dark city streets of my familiarity.

    Little pink bottle of wanting to be invisible of wishing I was a man

    of my heart rate pumping as fast as my legs when I feel footsteps on my shadow.

    Little pink bottle of “will my daughter carry this same defense in the back pocket of her ripped jeans?”

    of “will my son cross to the opposite side of the street so that a woman feels at ease?”

    Little pink bottle that my father gave to me when he realized there was no guarantee

    that I could walk safely without that

    little pink bottle clutched between two rings,

    saying slowly in my head,

    “please not me.”