00- Front and Back Cover.pmd by pengxuebo

VIEWS: 5 PAGES: 65

									                              2009




         V ertigo
               The official
        literary magazine
        of Lynbrook High
                  Schoool.

              Contact us:
vertigomagazine@gmail.com
                  V ertigo
         2009-2010 | VOL. 16




ertigo
the
 ecliptic
e
I
             ditors’ note

   n the eyes of the Ancient Greeks, believers of the geocentric
theory, the sun did not rise and set in the same place.
Throughout the course of the year, it forged a certain path
across the night sky, which became known as the ecliptic. It
was along this celestial bearing that the the sun, a symbol of
fate and power, impressed its colossal footsteps upon a ring
of twelve constellations, known commonly as the zodiac.

   To this day, each constellation represents different peoples
and ideas. Though each entity is imbued with its own unique
characteristics, they all are caught in a perpetual struggle
between rising individuality and pure destiny...
   Laboring to preserve a reality long defunct.
   Purchasing memories by the string, only to have them float
out of hand.
   Swallowing paint to escape civilization's perceptions.

    We invite you to walk on the ethereal cobblestones of the
ecliptic and listen carefully to the stories of these individuals
as they come to strife or triumph against the forces of the
universe.




                                                                    Vertigo is the official literary maga-
                                                                    zine of Lynbrook High School in
                                                                    San Jose, California. Advertising
                                                                    rates are available upon request by
                                                                    sending        an       e-mail      to
                                                                    vertigomagazine@gmail.com with
                                                                    the subject: “Vertigo Advertising
                                                                    Request.” The views and opinions
                                                                    expressed within Vertigo do not re-
                                                                    flect or represent the administra-
                                                                    tion or faculty of this school or high
                                                                    school district.

                                                                    Cover art:
                                                                    Unlabeled by Jia Gao

                                                                    Title page art:
                                                                    Equinox by Yuqing Zhu
   Managing Editor      Betsy Tsai
       Copy Editor      Sarah Destin
     Poetry Editor      Frances Guo
      Prose Editor      Ashley Wu

          Art Editor    Betsy Tsai
          Treasurer     Amy Sung
          Secretary     Disha Banik
Production Manager      Roopa Shankar

    Production Staff    Roopa Shankar
                        Jocelyn Shieh
                        Amy Sung
                        Betsy Tsai
                        Alexander Wong    Staff Writers Daniel Adelberg
                                                        Vivian Chan
            Art Staff   Stephanie Chang                 Candy Chang
                        Shravya Chavva                  Stephanie Chang
                  viser Jia Gao
                                                        Michelle Huang
                        Michelle Huang                  Kritika Iyer
                        Jasmine Liu                     Helen Jun
                        Jocelyn Shieh                   Jane Jun
                        Tommy Sung                      Diana Liu
                        Betsy Tsai                      Sabrina Shie




                             s
                        Ashley Wu                       Jocelyn Shieh
                        Rachel Yung                     Kimberly Tan
                        Christina Zhu                   Shweta Tendolkar
                        Yuqing Zhu                      Alexander Wong
                                                        Carolyn Yen
            Adviser Rick Hanford                        Iris Yuan
                                                        Christina Zhu




                                                 taff
the
 ecliptic
        05   Sunset » Candy Chang
        08   Overdue » Helen Jun
        10   Hands » Sabrina Shie




                                                         prose
        13   Immortal Muse » Betsy Tsai
        18   The Midnight Gardener » Jane Jun
        21   A Touch Of Mint » Sarah Destin
        27   Descendant » Christina Zhu
        32   As Ice » Diane Liu
        37   A Study in Purple » Carolyn Yen
        42   Vortex » Kritika Iyer




t
        45   Home Coming » Amy Sung
        48   End Game » Vivian Chan
        51   Delivered » Sarah Destin
        58   Eyes of Van Gogh » Betsy Tsai




      able of contents
        07   That Who is My Own » Ashley Wu
                                                         poetry
        12   Lacuna » Roopa Shankar
        30   An Artist’s Conversation » Alexander Wong
        34   Ochre Limbs » Disha Banik
        36   Recipe of the Heart » Shweta Tendolkar
        41   Highway » Laurie Mallison
        44   Feathers of Gold » Kimberly Tan
        47   Saturation » Jocelyn Shieh
        57   Dripping Departure » Iris Yuan
                                                   /
                                     the ecliptic / vertigo

                                                                         photography by tommy sung




Sunset                   by candy chang


    They are halfway through lunch when his
phone rings.
    “No, I didn’t mean that. It’s just that I
have a prior engagement today—” He gets
up and heads for the restaurant door, talking
all the while.
    She stops watching him pantomime
through the window and stares vacantly at                 At this, he sits up straight and glares at
her glass of water, swirling the straw around           her. “We’ve come all the way out here, and
and around. Chilled water takes its time               you want to head home? That’s
trickling down her throat as she takes a sip.          completely—”
Too cold. She makes sure he is still absorbed             She has never been so thankful for the
in his conversation before quickly asking a            roar of an arriving train before.
waiter to exchange her glass for one without              He gives her a look that promises a
ice.                                                   continuation of the conversation on the
    He’ll never notice, and she’ll make it             train, but once they sit down, he drifts off to
through lunch without triggering a one-sided           sleep almost immediately.
heated debate about society’s wastefulness.               She listens to the continual clash of metal
                                                       on metal and tries not to think about the
                    * * *                              empty seat between them.

   He fidgets again, glancing restlessly about                             * * *
the train platform like a small child who
can’t fall asleep. She half expects him to start          They sit, watching the sea. The
throwing a tantrum.                                    atmosphere is so beautiful that she
   “What are you smiling about?” he asks.              impulsively reaches for his hand, but it edges
His affronted look is almost endearing and             out of reach.
she has to keep from smiling any wider.                   “I’m tired,” he finally admits, stretching
   “Nothing in particular,” she answers. His           his legs out in front of him before slumping
exhaustion is obvious, though, and she                 back onto the bench. The walk from the train
wonders if she can push a little further so he         station has taken a lot out of him, and she is
realizes that himself. “You seem to have a             once again reminded of a child as he stands
lot of work lately—do you want to head                 reluctantly, almost petulantly.
home instead?”                                            “You can stay here if you’re tired—one

                            “Depth must be hidden. Where? On the surface.” — Janos Arany
                                                   5
                                                  /
                                    the ecliptic / prose



        “She listens to the continual clash
                of metal on metal...”

person is enough to get some dinner.”                 her direction and she’s left worrying late into
    “I’m not an invalid,” he snaps, fatigue           the night whether his reaction meant a yes
forgotten. “Let’s just hurry so we don’t miss         or no.
the sunset.”
    She doesn’t know how she managed to                                   * * *
get him to sit back down, but she’s glad. She
has forgotten the exact location of the                   The next day, when his secretary informs
restaurant and she can imagine the exact              her that he’s out to lunch, she wonders why
look he would have on his face if she told            she’s not surprised. She is already back in
him that.                                             the parking lot of her workplace when she
    By the time she’s found her way back to           thinks of the quickly thrown together
the bench, it’s already beginning to get dark.        sandwich sitting at her desk, and then the
    “What took you so long?”                          carefully made lunch resting in her
    “It took a while to prepare, and I got a          backpack, radiating enough heat to warm
little lost on the way back.”                         the passenger seat.
    “How—” He stops himself, reaching for                 She takes out her phone, calls in sick, and
one of the takeout boxes instead. “Never              then heads off for the train station.
mind. Just hurry and watch the sunset.                    The lunch is still in her backpack as she
There’s a little left.”                               sits by herself at a small side table in the
    She doesn’t know whether to laugh or cry          restaurant she had such a hard time finding
but dutifully sits down anyway. It’s over             yesterday. When they bring her a glass of
before she knows it, as if the sun, too, thinks       water, she politely asks for one without ice.
their outing is a waste of time.                          The rest of the day is spent visiting quaint
    “Hurry up and eat; the train doesn’t allow        shops and watching seagulls search for
food and it’s getting late.”                          breadcrumbs.
    She hopes he doesn’t finish before her.               For dinner, she goes back to the bench
The last thing she wants is to be pinned down         from yesterday and takes out the packed
by his impatient glare.                               lunch. It’s cold now, but it’s the best thing
    As they ride back, she can feel a stomach         she’s tasted in a while.
cramp forming. He seems perfectly fine,                   And then she watches the sunset, the sea
criticizing their dinner and proclaiming that         playing host to ripples of light that slowly
the death of homemade food is the death of            shimmer closer to their counterpart in the
honest society.                                       sky. Once the darkness finally settles in, she
    They part at the station.                         leans back and enjoys the lingering warmth
    She offers to bring him lunch tomorrow            left by the last tendrils of rosy light.
at work, but he leaves with barely a nod in               She hasn’t felt this good in weeks.


“He drew the curtain back...
                                                  6
                                                  /
                                    the ecliptic / vertigo




         who
   that is my own                                         by ashley wu




we are mirrors against which
the world lies—
this reality exists in my perspective:
I am not a transient sojourner. I recur

here, a reflection, an entity
of my own and yet your child,
his, hers. something of
you must reside
within something of me must reside
within something of
you—could I see from your
perspective and examine your reality, cut off
from my own but parallel—
mirrors lying side by side gaze into space
never at each other. (if I
were to look at you, would you recede in my eyes to warp
into infinity) our separate selves
filled and emptied,

and filled again. identity: like a light in the fog
perhaps there but imprecise, only a feeling
on your face, in mine—                                                      art by ashley wu
keep me close, kindred soul
I know you. my own,
I know you, we are the same
cerebral instinct.




                                         ...and there was nothing there.” — Michael Ondaatje
                                                 7
                                                 /
                                   the ecliptic / prose

                                                                  photography by stephanie chang




Overdue
    Holding a library book, she peeks into
                                                                              by helen jun

                                                       A honk jerks her awake to see their car
her mother’s bedroom.                               speed toward the side of a green van. She
    “Mom?” she asks softly. “Are you busy?”         gasps and clings onto her seatbelt as the car
    Her mother turns slowly on her chair.           skids to a halt inches from the van. Her
    The girl glances behind her mother and          mother looks stunned, hands still resting
flinches slightly. Old photos are pinned onto       limply on the steering wheel.
the wall, and one stands out to her: mother            “What were you thinking?” A van door
and father, side by side, their faces beaming       slams.
behind the fading paper.                               “Do you have eyes? Can’t you see a stop
    Her mother is looking at her expectantly.       sign at the end of a street? I was right there
    “Can we return a library book? It’s             on your left, you couldn’t have missed me-
overdue.”                                           Lady! Are you listening to me?”
                                                       “Sorry, sorry,” the daughter stammers,
                   * * *                            scrambling from her seat. “My mom, she’s
                                                    not feeling very well. Sorry. Did we hit your
   As cars speed in the rain she cautiously         car?”
glances at her mother sitting beside her. The          “No, but it was damn close. People like
hands on the steering wheel seem too feeble.        your mother shouldn’t drive on the street.
She forces her eyes closed.                         They’re a driving hazard.”


“We are rarely proud...
                                                8
                                                 /
                                   the ecliptic / vertigo




            “She tries to stiffen in her
                mother’s arms...
   “I’m sorry,” she says. The water slowly          like paper. But as if longing for her mother’s
drenching her drips to her heart. She looks         caress, she clings to the feeble body.
back at her mother.                                     “Mom… Mom...” she weeps, “I miss him
   Her mother watches, blinking.                    so much…”
                                                        Her mother is crying with her.
                   * * *                                Noticing this, her daughter swallows her
                                                    sobs and quiets into shudders. She hangs her
   She rests her head on her hand, rubbing          head.
her temples. Beneath the glass of her desk              “You can cry.” Her mother lightly pats
is a birthday card, wrinkaled and yellow            her daughter’s back. “Cry. I’ll… make an
from old age, signed by one whom she                effort.”
dearly loved. Her father would not have let
the driver yell at her mother. No, he would                             * * *
have been the one to trudgea out into the
rain as she and her mother stayed in the car.           She wakes up to the smell of scrambled
   A sob rises from within her. She clamps          eggs. Pleasant disbelief lingers as she tiptoes
her hands to her mouth and tears fall over          down the stairs and sees her mother
her nose and fingers. Then she weeps into           preparing breakfast for the first time since
her hands as the dam she had built gives            her father’s death. She seems out of place in
away.                                               the kitchen with her slow, absented-minded
   The door slowly creaks open. Her                 movements.
mother is standing at the door.                         Tasting the eggs she says genuinely,
Her daughter looks at her through swollen           “Thanks, Mom.”
eyes. “Mom…”                                            Her mother smiles. It’s not beaming, but
   Her mother wraps her arms around her             it’s a smile. “It’s time we returned that book.”
daughter. The vacancy is still visible in her           She smiles back and takes her mother’s
mother’s eyes and her daughter’s heart rips         hand.




    ...but the touch of warm cotton
   has never felt more comforting.”

                                                               ...when we are alone.” — Voltaire
                                                9
                                                 /
                                   the ecliptic / prose




                ng
               yu
          el
          ch
        ra
     by
    t
   ar




                                       “...I glance down at my
                                       own naked hands, bare,
                                         without any mask to
                                          hide behind. They
                                        disgust me, with their
                                       thin skin stretched to
                                         cover white bones.”




“A lie would have no sense unless...
                                           10
                                                  /
                                    the ecliptic / vertigo

   Men from behind roughly push me out                 ignore the arising differences and the pain
onto the open platform to face the jeering             that it would inevitably bring.
crowd below. Only one other man stands on
this high wooden stage. He is dressed from                                 * * *
head to toe in inky black cloth. A hood
covers his face, allowing only two roughly                 Here now, I glance down at my own
cut eyeholes to be seen. His hands sit calmly          naked hands, bare, without any mask to hide
on the lever, like a hungry beast waiting in           behind. They disgust me, with their thin skin
anticipation to take down its foe. It makes            stretched to cover white bones. All that my
me wonder if the black cloth hides their true          mind can see are the scars of every individual
nature.                                                I had ever finished, every last drop of blood
   I turn my thoughts from his hands to my             that I had forced out of innocent lives.
own. Before, I had never given them that               Rotting skin that adorns blackened
much thought, preferring to think of a less            fingernails display all that I am inside. I had
mundane subject. Yet, in this moment, I had            once tried to hide from this, but at the end, I
finally come to realize just how much a pair           am forced to face them, to face this, all alone,
of hands could define a person and his                 on this wooden stage.
destiny. To illustrate this, take, for example,            How strange, how, when I first felt the
a baby. A baby’s hands are clean and soft,             longing to commit crimes, I immediately
plump with life, scrambling to all corners of          covered my hands, eager to make myself
anything, everything within reach. They are            believe that nothing was wrong. I refused to
curious and innocent—if only we could all              acknowledge the twinges of uncertainty that
stay that way. For after those years, we               began to appear, once, then twice, finally
change, and our palms change with us. And              becoming a constant shadow in my midst.
from the smooth unblemished hands of a                 Yet now, after years of running, ducking, and
child, they almost always transform into               weaving around every corner, here I am with
something larger, grotesque…                           nowhere to hide my hands. It is too late for
   I thought that I could escape from that. I          me to fix what should have been fixed long
kept busy, always, careful to immerse myself           ago.
with those who would keep me from straying                 A noose is lowered around my neck and
away. There were no differences among us               tightened. For an instant, I look up. The
then, for we were unmarked and unchanged,              crowd below is cheering, eager to see me drop
with our fates clearly lit before us. Yet as           down six feet into the air. But in the last few
time passed, subtle changes emerged, and I             moments before I fall, I once more regard
was conscious of a growing change between              these two hands.
the others and me. I tried to hide it at first,            If only I had clearly seen them sooner, I
dancing lightheartedly, following their                would have been one of the crowd, a
utterly free spirit, attempting to laugh as            spectator watching a guilty man be punished
loudly as they did. But with each try, I found         for his committed sins.
myself cloaking my changing hands inside                   But instead, I fall, my hands displaying
anonymous gloves, hiding away. I tried to              to the world what I truly am.




by sabrina shie                     Hands
                                             ...the truth were felt dangerous.” — Alfred Adler
                                                  11
                                                   /
                                     the ecliptic / poetry


                                                   it is one of those nights
                                                   when the clouds can’t swallow
                                                   their tears and the stars haven’t
                                                   dressed the sky.

                                                   the spectral moon
                                                   dangles
                                                   with a half-heart pinned to its breast
                                                   and willows quiver
                                                   soft, muddy tears
                                                   in the thunder-clad night.
                                                   branches scratch at my windowpane
                                                   for someone to find them
                                                   and let them in.

                                                   and the tempest’s eyes
                                                   spill emotions across my bones
                                                   and thick clamors
                                                   dig into my stark flesh
                                                   as if trying to find some kind of self.
                                                   stormy cries ebb,
                                                   recede…
                                                   and my skin hollows—
                                                   i have nothing to give.

                                                   lifting my face to the rain,
                                                   i watch the skies unfurl.
                                                   droplets curl around my cheeks
                                                   and the moon spins its frail skin
                                                   into midnight arms.

                                                   it is one of those nights
                                                   when i just want to drink
                                                   the storming sky
                                                   and crawl into the eyes of dusk,
                                                   to dovetail across night’s tassels




         l a c u na
                                                   and feel the world inside me.




                                                                      by roopa shankar
 art by jocelyn shieh




“It's so fine and yet so terrible to...
                                              12
                                  /
                    the ecliptic / vertigo




Immortal Muse                                                by betsy tsai

                                      “And, ladies and gentlemen, it is my
                                  deep honor to introduce the
                                  mastermind, the genius behind
                                  tonight’s wondrous exhibit, my dear
                                  cousin, Hubert Wolf.” The lady in a
                                  crimson gown stepped down from the
                                  podium as a young man rose from a
                                  chair behind her. They exchanged the
                                  dual kisses on the cheek and a light hug
                                  of protocol. The woman sat down in
                                  another chair beside an old man,
                                  another curator.
                                      “He looks awfully happy.”
                                      “Oh, leave him be,” she snapped
                                  quietly. “I’m sure this is just his way of
                                  getting over Fiona’s passing.”
                                      Hubert Norman Wolf, standing as a
                                  man in a spotless tuxedo had
                                  undergone a drastic metamorphosis.
                                  Whereas his artwork on the walls
                                  radiated the complex beauty of human
                                  nature in conflict, his mien exhibited
                                  the charm of a cosmopolitan
                                  businessman. His eyes glistened
                                  beneath the spotlight, for his moment
                                  had come. This was the day his public
                                  recognition would relieve his heart of
                                  its emotional labors. What were the
                                  chances of becoming a successful artist
                                  and living to see the proof? As he
                                  adjusted the height of the microphone,
                                  he stole some last glances of his
                                  portfolio on display. He only needed
                                  one blink to fully assess the main
                                  themes. The orchestration of all of his
                                  colors and strokes immediately
                                  pumped a pulse of blood through his
                                  body, giving him the inspiration he
                                  needed to speak to the audience.
                                      “Good evening. I can’t begin to
                                  describe the happiness this event

art by yuqing zhu




                       ...stand in front of a blank canvas.” — Paul Cezanne
                             13
                                                 /
                                   the ecliptic / prose

brings me. I hope it will suffice to say that            Jan’s eyes at last landed on Hubert’s
among all nineteen canvases in these halls           figure in the distance, but they softened at
hangs none that can convey this degree of            once. The artist was outside on the balcony,
joy. To keep things brief, there was always          letting his weight rest on the silver railing,
one person in my life who complemented               atop of which stood two tall glasses of
me. Wasn’t too mean, certainly wasn’t too            champagne, his half-empty, the other one
nice, always seemed to comprehend my                 full. Hubert had his hands deep down in his
exact thoughts and feelings, appreciated my          pockets and looked to be mumbling happily,
interests, shared the same insights and              humming perhaps.
enriched them. But I never really grasped                Jan stopped in her steps.
the amazing depth this person held within
her heart. Unfortunately, she was too shy to                             * * *
share it. Though there’s undoubtedly a hell
of a lot wrong with the world today, here is             A knock fell at his door late the next
the unabridged translation, of the musings           morning. Hubert, who had transformed his
of my lovely wife, Fiona.”                           once tidy living room into a disordered
    Applause began, and the lady’s hands             artist’s studio, snaked through a passage he
automatically followed suit. But Jan only            had drawn by pushing boxes and boards.
had to clap once to find what was                    Hubert had invaded and overrun the room
disturbingly strange about her cousin’s              within a matter of a few weeks, and had filled
dedication. She stopped as a puzzled sorrow          it with all sorts of materials and knick-knacks
weighed her down. She frowned and looked             to keep his art company.
to the man next to her, who appeared equally             “Hey, Jan!” he greeted, opening the door.
concerned.                                               “Good morning!” She grinned,
                                                     attempting to maintain a cheerful
                   * * *                             disposition, but she couldn’t help but blurt,
                                                     “Oh wow,” at the sight of his living space.
   The thin clinking of fresh champagne              “Can I come in?” she meant literally. Hubert
glasses was all in good spirit, celebratory of       pointed an open palm down a narrow passage
an extraordinary success. This art show was          leading to the kitchen counter.
not one to be missed. Both the artist and the            “I brought you some of my apple bread.
art were prompting animated conversation             I didn’t know if you were feeling better yet,”
among the slender men and women, who                 she said, placing a nicely wrapped basket
seemed like overdressed children against             onto the counter.
the giant tableaus.                                      “Oh, thanks, Jan,” Hubert replied,
   Where is he? thought the curator in               smiling bemusedly.
crimson, tapping across the granite floor.               “I mean, I know last night was huge and a
Jan was a tad curious as to his whereabouts,         great step forward in your artistic career,
to say the least. Hubert was the man who             but I couldn’t be sure, you know?” She
would patrol museum hallways to prevent              lingered on the last word, facing away,
idle misconceptions from stirring.                   hoping that Hubert would respond.



  “the slender men and women... seemed
      like overdressed children against the
                      giant tableaus. “
“If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch...
                                                14
                                     the ecliptic     /
                                                     / vertigo

                                                         it seemed to Jan that Hubert had found
                                                         something        beyond       her     human
                                                         comprehension. She paused, and thought
                                                         carefully about what Hubert had just said.




                 ar
                                                         She studied him and furrowed her brow.




                  tb
                                                             “Wait. Hubert, who are you talking



                     y
                      m
                                                         about? Who was in the apartment with you?”



                      ich
                          ell
                                                             “Fiona. Who else?”



                           e
                            hu
                                                             “You’ve been talking to her in here for a



                                an
                                                         month?” Jan’s voice wobbled.


                                g
                                                             “Yes.”
                                                             “She didn’t go to work once, after her big
                                                         corporate promotion?”
                                                             “Hmph.” Hubert scratched his head.
                                                         “That is strange.”
                                                             “Hubert,” Jan began nervously. She took
                                                         one step closer to him. “Fiona’s… dead.”
                                                             Hubert’s heart cemented into a stone,
                                                         slowly crushing his lungs. He wasn’t sure if
                                                         he understood. Was this news he should
    There was silence. She swallowed and                 have known about?
turned.                                                      “Jan, what are you talking about?”
    “We were all really worried about you,”                  “Almost three months ago, May 5 th,
she said. “I feel like this is the first private         Hubert, early morning. You called me when
social interaction you’ve had since the fifth.           it happened. Jan was on her way to work
I still can’t believe you shut yourself up in            and this group of kids jaywalked, so she
here for three weeks, just… painting.”                   swerved out of the way and the car tipped.”
    “Well, I know that sounds like my old                    “No, no, Jan,” Hubert interrupted firmly.
depression-torn, obsessive self, and if it               “What the hell are you talking about?” His
hadn’t been for Fiona, you know, I don’t                 voice was rising as his blood pulsed
know what would have happened to me.”                    erratically in his veins. “Fiona’s alive and
    Jan frowned. Something in his voice rung             well.” He put his hands on his hips. “She’s
a false note. Or was she just hearing things?            getting ready to take a shower right now.”
     “It was kind of a retreat,” he continued.           He quickly moved along towards the hallway
“And you know what’s funny, I feel like it               in the back.
was that quality time the two of us spent                    “Fiona?” he called out.
discussing all these interesting topics about                Jan ran after him. Hubert turned into the
plain ol’ life, not angry city life. That’s what         unlit hall, towards the bathroom. The door
really made me the artist we always dreamed              was slightly ajar. As he paced, he thought he
about becoming.”                                         could hear her humming her favorite Beatles
    Hubert seemed to ignore Jan’s                        tune, Eleanor Rigby. His eye caught a
countenance. He turned to gaze at the                    glimpse of a delicate shadow on the white
beautiful mess in his living room as if it were          counter.
a historic site.                                             “Fiona?” he repeated. His feet hit the
    “I guess all that emotional nourishment              floorboards harder, faster. His eye caught a
is what kept us inside this apartment.”                  flash of her peach skin. He picked up his feet
    He was smiling, but not at Jan. The way              and ran to the door. The door was closing.
he so gently crafted his lips upwards                    He raced down desperately. It was not a long
depicted a deliberate smile, one whose                   hallway, but the door was closing so fast.
complexion was so natural, yet ethereal that             When the crack reached a centimeter’s


                                           ...you must first invent the universe.” — Carl Sagan
                                                    15
                                                   /
                                     the ecliptic / prose




   “There seemed to be a fine mist in the air
 that filled his lungs only, presenting the
       illusion that he was complete. “
width, Hubert saw his wife’s lovely face turn       as Hubert came closer. She gulped, keeping
to meet his. Her fair features held neither         her eyes dangerously fixed on him. I’m not
sorrow nor joy. They simply bored right into        gonna run. I’m not gonna run. The last door
his eyes and into his frenetic heart. Hubert        beside her was knocked down. Hubert
was not even three feet from the door when          grabbed her by the shoulders and shook her
it shut, leaving the poor artist in the dark.       violently back and forth.
    Jan reached for the hallway light-switch.          “Where is she?!”
The harsh light shone down, and then                   “Hubert, she died in a car accident!” she
Hubert burst through the bathroom door,             almost wailed. Standing only a few inches
maintaining a clenched grip on the metal            away from him, Jan could see every muscle
knob. Fiona was nowhere. The room’s small           in Hubert’s face twitch, trying to strangle a
square window was open, letting in a cool           dark, despairing insanity inside. He
breeze that stroked Hubert’s hair. He stood         tightened his grip. Jan refrained from
still, his rigid heart still throbbing fiercely.    squirming in pain and jerked her hand out
The bathroom held no signs of any recent            of her pocket, flipping open her cellphone.
use. The sink area was completely dry and              “Hubert, please don’t make me call the
the floor tiles were cold. The room just felt       cops,” she said tearfully. “You’re better than
empty.                                              this. Please let me help you. Please don’t
    “Hubert,” Jan gasped.                           make me call them. Please don’t.”
    He turned, his face as cold and empty as           Hubert gripped his cousin’s shoulders
that bathroom.                                      harder. She was the pickle jar of answers
    “What did you do?” he asked slowly.             whose lid would not untwist. But the rage
    “What?”                                         inside him was so searing that he could only
    “What the hell did you just do, Jan?!”          squeeze her with more force. He peered into
    “Hubert, what’s going—”                         Jan, but her eyes only stared into his. He
    “I swear to God I just saw Fiona in here.       breathed at last, letting his eyes dart around.
You turned on the damn lights or somethin’          His wife’s belongings were all over the room.
and now she’ gone, Jan!” he roared.                 His eyes froze when they landed on a
    Jan was panting. She saw that her               bracelet on the littered coffee table. It was
cousin’s eyes were accumulating a thin layer        this year’s anniversary gift, several months
of moisture. Hers did the same. She kept            ago. His breathing slowed a bit, and his
her feet firmly planted. She didn’t want to         muscles relaxed, as if he were absorbing a
run from him, but she was frightened to             faint tranquilizer.
move any closer. Hubert breathed rapidly,              A swipe of Fiona’s burgundy coat draped
and began pounding down every door in the           his eyes. Suddenly Hubert was feeling his
hallway, only to be infuriated by another           tense hands clasped around a steering wheel
cold and empty room.                                in the dark, not on Jan’s shoulders. Fiona
    “Fiona!” he shouted multiple times.             was removing her coat for the car ride home
“Fiona?!”                                           from the restaurant. It was their
    Jan shoved one hand down her pocket             anniversary. Hubert recalled her nine-


“I never expect to see a perfect work...
                                               16
                                  the ecliptic     /
                                                  / vertigo



minute silence. He knew just how aching the               “No, no, wait, Jan. Fiona’s talking to me.
minutes were because he had noted when                I’ve been cooped up inside here for a month,
the digital numbers of the dashboard clock            just talking.” He slowly approached the
changed each time before she had said, “I’m           bracelet and nestled it in his fingers. “I’m
sorry.”                                               reliving our past, except, I’m hearing
    Sorry for what?                                   everything that was never said.”
    But he wasn’t in the car right now. His               “What are you talking about?” Jan said
hands weren’t on the steering wheel, they             softly. She remained clueless, but she
were on Jan. He considered the golden gleam           appreciated that Hubert had settled his rage.
of the bracelet, and softened.                            “I… I gave her this bracelet in January,
                                                      for our anniversary. I was looking at it just

 “Her fair features                                   now, and I suddenly remembered the car
                                                      ride home from the restaurant. She was silent

held neither sorrow
                                                      for nine minutes. I counted. She didn’t say
                                                      anything, while I sat there and drove feeling
                                                      like a heartless bastard. But just now, her

nor joy. They simply
                                                      voice spoke to me. She said that she admired
                                                      me, and that she loved me, but she was afraid
                                                      that I’d judge her.”
 bored right into his                                     Hubert enclosed the bracelet in a gentle
                                                      fist and waded around the room, taking hold
  eyes and into his                                   of whatever spoke to him. He grabbed
                                                      Fiona’s black office shoe. And then her
  frenetic heart.”                                    reading glasses. Her favorite pen. Jan
                                                      watched him close his eyes and inhale deeply.
                                                      There was a deep serenity in his breathing.
    Hubert, what have we become? I’m such             He sat down, cradling his wife’s things in his
a terrible wife. I give you all this advice I         lap. Jan wasn’t even ten feet from him, yet
think I’m qualified to give, yet I can’t seem         there seemed to be a fine mist in the air that
to find the girly guts to say how much I love         filled his lungs only, presenting the illusion
you. I know you’re upset about your life,             that he was complete. There was someone
and I’m not doing much to help. But, that             beside him. Jan couldn’t move; she felt like
old part of me, that part that didn’t give a          an object of no significance. She watched
rat’s ass about money or success is so in             him sit, surrounded by a great peace that
love with you for putting up with all of your         only a proximal affection could provide.
problems. I don’t why I can’t say I admire            This was no illusion. She only lacked the
that. I must be jealous. When I’m upset, you          adequate senses to discern what was really
always do your best to comfort me, despite            there.
everything I don’t tell you. Why can’t I do
the same? It’s cold in the car right now and                             * * *
I just want to reach out and hold onto your
shoulder, but I can’t…                                    If a day were to come where the decay of
    “She’s speaking,” Hubert murmured. His            time would consume the dwelling’s
hands freed his cousin’s shoulders.                   atmosphere and its mementos, there would
    “What?” Jan asked. She followed his               still be a painting hung somewhere, or a
fixed eyes to the corner of the coffee table.         sculpture standing erect. It had already been
    “Hubert?”                                         done.



                                          ...from an imperfect man.” — Alexander Hamilton
                                                 17
                                                       /
                                         the ecliptic / prose




The
   Midnight Gardener
          photography by roopa shankar




                                                                                   by jane jun
   There’s at a flickering streetlamp on the          under its light.
empty streets. A deluge of rain, penetrating              But I only stand there, as the streetlamp
the night air, soaks my hair and clothes.             continues its rapid quivering alone, fighting
   The streetlamp is struggling, and I                to stay alit in an obsidian sea.
wonder how many accidents it had                          I do nothing until the streets turn black.
prevented during its lifetime, how many
lovers it had watched steal an evening kiss                              * * *

“The experimenter who does not know what he is looking for...
                                                 18
                                    the ecliptic     /
                                                    / vertigo


   I remember running with her many years               maybe she knows what I’m thinking, because
ago, on a crisp January morning before                  a defiant shadow passes over her eyes.
sunrise. The city was still sleeping then, and             She gets up and leans over the sink, dying
everything was blue and surreal. The girl had           the water red as it passes over her wrist.
been thoughtful and quiet as we ran through             Bandaging her arm with a cloth, she gathers
the silence, our hearts beating in time with            her books and leaves without another word.
our sneakers hitting the concrete.                         I think of how she had changed in the
   The train tracks started on 4th Street.              months after that run, and how we ceased to
Then they stretched miles away from town,               talk until we avoided each other altogether.
over the mountains, and into some other                 I suppose in other eyes she is happier now;
town in need for attachment. We jogged                  she is prettier, more accomplished, and has
along the rails, each so identical to the one           many more friends. But I had only seen her
before, and heard their pulse, which was the            withering away, as the trampled daisies by
rhythm of our hearts and feet.                          the train tracks had crumbled and died.
   We ran past the daisies that grew along                 I knew this, yet all I did was watch.
the tracks. Their white petals glowed in the
morning air, singing of endurance and                                       * * *
perseverance. Their fragrance flowed
through our lungs, making each cleansing                    I sit at the bleachers, amidst the
breath something more than compulsory                   deafening cheers and blaring trumpets. The
action; it was nothing short of sweet                   football team is huddled around the coach,
pleasure...                                             and the cheerleaders are making their way
                                                        off the field as a drum begins its roll.
                    * * *                                   A gilded carriage slowly starts to circle
                                                        the field, with the Homecoming Queen and
    The bell has rung and I am late for class,          King seated side by side. I study the laughing,
but I have to use the bathroom.                         waving girl carefully. Today she isn’t the girl
    So I sprint past the empty hallways and             in the bathroom, nor is she the girl on the
through the blue doors, shifting my                     train tracks. She is a queen crowned with a
backpack onto my shoulder. Then I see her,              plastic tiara, her face powdered into a
and everything stops.                                   glittery mask.
    She is kneeling on the tile floor, bleeding.            As the carriage makes its final turn,
I stare until she looks up; our eyes meet for           fireworks whistle and explode sparks onto
the first time in months. The clatter of a              the night sky, slashing the darkness with
dropped blade resounds across the stalls.               their streaks. The carriage leaves the field
Her alarmed eyes are a hungry abyss,                    into the delusive smoke left by the fading
outlined by dark rings and hollow cheeks.               fireworks, and the queen is no longer in sight.
She reaches down to cover her torn wrist
with her sleeve, which is soaked violet red.                                * * *
    She is the girl whom I used to call my
best friend. The girl who could run seven                  “Did you hear what happened last night?”
miles without rest, who brewed me lemon                    “I can’t believe she did that… right after
tea when I got sick.                                    the game, too…”
    She is looking back at me again, and                   I sit at my seat, my mouth clamped to

                                     ...will not understand what he finds.” — Claude Bernard
                                                   19
                                                  /
                                    the ecliptic / prose




courtesy of lynbrook photography club
stop my chattering teeth.                             approach.
    At midnight, she had jumped in front of               I make myself remain standing as the
the train on 4th Street.                              train passes by me. Its rushing wind is
    Why?                                              liberating, and I let it blow through my
    Why had she tried so hard if she was              regrets, drying me of the raindrops I’ve held
going to throw all of it away? Why did she            on to. And as the melancholy hoots disappear
hurt me like this when she had promised all           into the hills, I realize I am finally able to
strings between us were cut?                          tell my friend good bye.
    We used to dream of a train ride. We had              I shrug off my backpack and drop it on
planned to take a trip together, to see the           the ground, by the tracks. I pull out a pack
mountains.                                            of seeds and a hoe. Then with my first
    I recall our brief encounter in the               spadeful of dirt, I start planting.
bathroom. I remember her defiant eyes,                    I can remember her clearly now—we ran
challenging me to reproach her. But only              by here long ago, on a January morning. I
now—when I have no choice but to take my              see her in a windswept ponytail, smiling as
train ride alone—do I realize she had called          she pushed forward, her arms swinging
out to me that day. And I had let her walk            freely by her side.
away.                                                     As dawn approaches, I continue to work
                                                      in silence, dropping seed after seed into the
                   * * *                              cold ground.
                                                          I will return tomorrow, then the day after
   For the first time in months, I am running         that, then after that, to water and plant more
through the neighborhood, a backpack                  daisies. And in time, the daisies will bloom,
slung on my shoulders. The misty rain is              and the tracks will be alit by their white
heavy in the night air, and the moisture              petals once again. Their perseverance and
weighs me down. My muscles feel unnatural             encouragement will illuminate the darkness,
and stiff, unable to recall the rhythm they           as they did that morning.
knew by instinct many lifetimes ago.                      Then maybe, another girl waiting for the
   I stop at the tracks on 4th Street. I check        midnight train will see them and decide to
my watch and look up to see the train                 stay.




“Age is a matter of feeling...
                                                 20
                                                  /
                                    the ecliptic / vertigo




                                                                                  ar
                                                                                   tb
                                                                                      y
                                                                                       ra
A Touch of Mint




                                                                                          ch
                                                                                          el
                                                                                            yu
                                                                                               ng
                                                                           by sarah destin
    It wasn’t the diamonds that surprised him      so I could really use—”
the most. It wasn’t even the new outfit,              “—some space,” he finished.
though God knows how much that was going              A surprise. For him. More like a surprise
to end up costing him. It wasn’t the fine china    for Emma. She had always been so self
that had been laid out two days in advance         conscious of her flat chest. As if the rings,
either, for that was to be expected.               mansion, cars, yachts and vacation homes
    No, the thing that surprised Allen Byrne       weren’t enough. Now Blair had gone out and
the most as he watched his wife prepare for        gotten herself a push-up bra.
her sister’s visit was the size of his wife’s
breasts. He had never quite seen them like                             * * *
this before. It wasn’t that they were really
much bigger, no, that wasn’t really it. It was        Blair knew about that summer. The
their shape, their shape had been altered.         summer Allen stayed in the city. His father
They were firm, the firm breasts of a much         had really pulled some strings to get him that
younger woman.                                     job at the bank, so he really couldn’t
    Allen blushed. He wasn’t used to thinking      complain about having to give up his
about Blair in this way. He didn’t think of        summer, or so he told Blair.
Blair in this way. He supposed that maybe             But she had been only a child then. She
he had thought of her sexually at one point        pouted and complained; a whole summer
in their relationship, perhaps when they were      without her boyfriend was a bit too much
very young. But even this seemed rather            for a girl of sixteen to comprehend.
unlikely to Allen.                                    That was the only summer that Emma
    “What’s that you’re wearing?” he asked.        did not leave the city to join the family at
    “I don’t need to get your permission to        the beach. She was home from college, Blair
go shopping,” she snapped.                         remembered that much, but Emma had no
    “I know, I didn’t mean the outfit—”            real interest in going to the beach. Or that
    “Then what?”                                   was what she explained to their mother. The
    “You. You look different,” he said.            truth was, Emma had met an artist.
    “Is that supposed to be a compliment?”            He was going to have her model for him.
    “Jesus Christ, Blair.”                         She did, a bit, but he was unmoved. He was
    “It was supposed to be a surprise. For         attracted to her, but she was rather repulsed
tonight. Now, I’m really quite busy. Emma          by him, or so she said in her letters to Blair.
and her lot should be here any minute now,            When he brought home his next muse,


                                                         ...not of years.” — Washington Irving
                                              21
                                                   /
                                     the ecliptic / prose


Blair assumed that Emma must have moved            pears. Ripe pears on a summer’s evening.
out. Emma said she was leaving Max, and            With a touch, mind you, just a touch of mint.
that was the last she wrote all summer.
     At this point, Blair always found herself                        * * *
thinking a few years back to when their Aunt
Eleanor moved to Paris for a year and a half.          It was a strange sight to witness, Blair
Aunt Eleanor had doted on Emma, and                greeting Emma. Blair, with her pristine
oftentimes would send her little gifts and         mansion, her hair and nails done and her
trinkets from the different cities she visited,    immaculate outfit, opening the door to her
much to Blair’s dismay. Oftentimes, Emma           sister, with her pack of four children, rough
took pity on her sister and would share the        hands and messy hair.
gifts, as more often than not they had little          But, oh, Emma was beautiful. Even with
value or purpose.                                  tufts of unwashed hair sticking out from
     Except for one. Aunt Eleanor purchased        underneath her bandana and the old button-
a small, custom made scent from a parfumier        up men’s shirt she was wearing hanging out
in Paris. Pears, violet and a tang of even mint    from her jeans, she was still a goddess to
filled the air the second Emma opened the          Allen.
vial. Naturally, she adored it. She swore by           “Emma, dear, it’s been too long,” Blair
it, too. Said it made the men come running         said as she opened the door.
from miles away. And so, it was saved for              “It really has been,” Emma replied. She
only the specialist of men and the specialist      began to open her arms, as if to embrace
of occasions.                                      Blair, but quickly remembered that, for this
     Blair decided to surprise Allen over the      group, a hug was neither expected nor
Fourth of July weekend. He would get the           appreciated.
Monday off, and so she decided to take the             “Emmie, you look lovely,” Allen said and
train into the city to join him for the            stuttered for a moment, unsure of what to
festivities.                                       say next. Emmie, why on earth would I call
     But when she got to his apartment, he         her some dumb pet name I made up twenty-
informed her, quite curtly, that she was           some years ago.
wrong. There was no bank holiday, and he               “I may be your guest, but please don’t lie
was in fact rather late for work.                  Allen. I look horrific. Paul got a last minute
     Before she realized it, Blair was back on     call this morning, and he just couldn’t get
the corner of West 69th Street with a five         away from the office this weekend, so of
dollar bill in her hand and a kiss on the          course I’m left to drive the VW all the way
forehead. On the forehead. After she had           up here! You can only imagine how much I
ridden the train for two hours just to see him.    loved that. Hey, kids, get up here and come
     And, how the apartment had smelled of         see your Aunt and Uncle,” Emma rambled,



        “Couldn’t do coffee. As in he was busy.
             As in he had to go to work.
                  Not as in he had...
“It isn't tying himself to one woman that a man dreads when he thinks of marrying...
                                              22
                                                  /
                                    the ecliptic / vertigo


as the pet name had obviously put her at              Now, that’s a lie too. He didn’t forget, they
unease.                                           had actually quite a lengthy conversation
    “They’re darling, Em, I don’t know how        over breakfast as to why Blair had decided
you do it. Mothering just seems to come           to switch the menus and have the casserole
naturally to you, doesn’t it?” Blair said,        on the first night (it’s comfort food, and you
although, clearly she was lying. The children     know, they’ll be tired after the drive) and
were not darling, they were tired and             the salmon on the second night (it’s much
mothering certainly didn’t come easily to         more celebratory, and the meal will stretch
Emma.                                             on longer).
    “You’re easily impressed then,”                   Actually, Emma hated casseroles. That
    “No, you’re really wonderful with them,”      was the real reason why Blair decided to
he said. A mistake again, goddamnit. You          serve any type of casserole at all. Maybe this
haven’t seen the kids in ages. Stop it.           way she thinks Emma won’t visit again
    “Why don’t you all go upstairs and wash       anytime soon, Allen thought. God, Blair
up? You must be so tired after your drive.        doesn’t even really like casseroles.
Dinner will be ready in around an hour and            On the way up to his bedroom, Allen
I’ll send someone up to get you all then,”        spotted it. The picture. It’s been on the wall
Blair said.                                       since the day they first moved in. Emma
    Allen opened his mouth to speak, but          stares straight at the photographer; a look
then closed it again. No, he had already made     of determination resonates in her eyes. Blair
enough mistakes for one introductory, basic       looks down and appears to be giggling. As if
conversation. How had he ever gotten              there is something extraordinarily
through these events before? The                  humorous on her shoe.
Thanksgiving dinners before children and              They are in their backyard; they are two
even the weddings, for chrissakes.                young girls posing in their garden. Emma,
    “You better go wash up too. God, you’ve       she can’t be much more than seven, but she
gotten all sweaty,” Blair said as a look of       is already a woman. She wears the same
disgust passed over her face.                     girlish dress as Blair does. A pale shade of
    He began to apologize, but stopped mid-       white with a little collar. Their hair is cut
sentence. There was no point. Blair knew          identically, parted identically, and even
what Blair knew, and the less she knew the        pinned back in the same fashion. And yet,
better off he was.                                they are so different.
    “I can start the grill now, if you’d like,”       Best friends, May 1937 reads a woman’s
he said.                                          neat cursive underneath the picture. But
    “I told you. The casserole’s for tonight      were they, really? Yes, Emma has her arm
and the salmon’s for tomorrow night,”             resting on Blair’s shoulder and Blair has her
    “Oh. Sorry. I guess I just forgot,”           arm on Emma’s, but it is so forced. The



        ...no interest in sipping boiling water
       with some crappy instant coffee mixed
                    in it with her...
                            ...it's separating himself from all the others.” — Helen Rowland
                                              23
                                                   /
                                     the ecliptic / prose




photographer has told them to put their             and she thought he might be left out.
arms around each other. Their mother has               What about Allen? Won’t he be there? Oh
dressed them identically. They did not ask          no, she had replied. He’s away on business. I
to be twins. And they are not. Twins, that          can manage the drive, we’ll just take the VW.
is.                                                 I can manage the kids, I do it all day when
    Upon further examination, Allen cannot          you’re at work.
help but wonder who it was that wrote the              Paul even offered to come along and
date under the picture. It doesn’t appear to        watch the kids so that she and Blair could
be Blair’s handwriting, so it must have been        spend more time alone. But she insisted that
Emma. But why write the date? So that               he stay home. The kids would be able to
future generations might know when this             entertain themselves.
was taken? Doubtful.                                   So, obviously, she still wanted Allen.
    Or was it simply a disclaimer? Was she             It was her fault though, obviously all her
admitting that while she and Blair Byrne            fault. That summer, to him, she had just been
could have been best friends in the spring          a single girl in the city. She knew perfectly
of 1937, they can now barely hold a two             well who he was. He was seeing her sister.
minute conversation?                                Her younger sister, to make matters even
    But, then again, that was his fault.            worse. But no, she went for him anyways.
                                                       He was positively livid when he
                   * * *                            discovered that she was Blair’s sister. But he
                                                    didn’t leave her. Instead, they simply went
   Dinner was nearly impossible to sit              to bed, as they did every night that summer.
through, Emma thought as she began to                  The next morning, they both acted as
undress. A cycle of legs touching, fingers          though the fight had never happened. Allen
locking and sheepish smiles from across the         brought her breakfast in bed and called in
table.                                              sick from work, like he did every Monday.
   He still wanted her. That much was
obvious.                                                               * * *
   Paul didn’t have a business meeting. She
had encouraged him to stay behind. It was              He tapped lightly on her door. No
just going to be a girls’ weekend at Blair’s        response. It was late, so maybe she had fallen


“The richest love is that which...
                                               24
                                                 /
                                   the ecliptic / vertigo


asleep. After all, he didn’t have the gall to           Couldn’t do coffee. As in he was busy. As
actually plan anything with Emma.                    in he had to go to work. Not as in he had no
   “Lee, is that you?”                               interest in sipping boiling water with some
   “No, Emma, it’s me. Allen,” he said.              crappy instant coffee mixed in it with her.
   She opened the door, without speaking.            Not as in he didn’t care about her.
   “Are you happy to see me?” he asked.                 He could have woken her. She would
   “I wasn’t expecting this,” she replied.           have had a cup of coffee at three in the
   He stroked her hair. She had washed it            morning, if that was what he wanted. Even if
since this afternoon, and the smell of her           he didn’t want coffee, he could have woken
shampoo still lingered.                              her for simply a kiss before work.
   “You should go back to bed,” she began.              Emma got back into bed, but couldn’t fall
   He kissed her.                                    back to sleep.
   “Don’t do that.”
   He kissed her again.                                                * * *
   And then she kissed him back.
                                                        “Good morning, Blair, where are the
                   * * *                             kids?” Emma asked as she stumbled into the
                                                     kitchen.
   The next morning, Emma got up before                 “In the basement. Cartoons are on,” Blair
dawn. Allen was going to go into the office,         replied.
so they were hoping to have a cup of coffee             For a moment they were silent, as if
together before he left.                             neither of them knew what the next
   But he was already gone. When she went            appropriate statement was.
to open her door, she spotted a piece of                “Allen’s going to be gone today,” Blair
paper that had been haphazardly shoved               said.
under it. Sorry I couldn’t do coffee, A.                “Work?”




                                 ...submits to the arbitration of time.” — Lawrence Durrell
                                                25
                                                  /
                                    the ecliptic / prose



 “It was just as she remembered it from her
      childhood , the rusty old sailboats, the
  glamorous yachts and the crusty old men
        who sat out on the dock...”

   “That’s what he told me,”                          Lee. Loud and blunt.”
   “Okay,” Emma said, unsure of what to                   “Maybe you were,” Blair said, smiling.
say next. Blair knows, was all that she could             “Like little best friends,” Emma
think about. Of course Blair knows. She               whispered.
probably woke up in the middle of the night               “What?”
and noticed he was gone. That’s probably                  “Oh, no, it was nothing,”
why he’s gone. He’s left me to deal with the              “You saw that picture, right? Best
morning after.                                        friends,” Blair said.
   “Would you like a cup of coffee or                     “Yes,” Emma said.
something? A cigarette? You look so tense,”               “Back in the days of the matching outfits,”
Blair said, interrupting her thoughts.                    Emma didn’t really know how to respond
   “I’d love a cup,”                                  to that. They had been so close. They could
   “I was thinking that we could go down to           have been so close, still.
the shore today,” Blair said as she got up to             To the average onlooker, maybe they still
get a mug, “I think the kids would like it.”          seemed close. They sat next to each other
   “That sounds lovely,” Emma replied.                on the beach tanning and making polite
Blair set the mug down in front of her and            conversation. But, even without Allen, they
Emma began to drink, but the coffee was far           couldn’t talk.
too bitter for her taste.                                 “Do you miss it?” Blair asked, breaking
                                                      the silence.
                   * * *                                  “Miss it?”
                                                          “The identical outfits,”
     Emma was right. It was lovely at the                 Emma glanced out at the ocean. Did she
beach. It was just as she remembered it from          miss it, did she really miss it? Did she miss
her childhood, the rusty old sailboats, the           piling into the car to spend a summer at the
glamorous yachts and the crusty old men               shore, building sand castles and eating
who sat out on the dock fishing for their             nothing but cold cuts for dinner? Did she
dinners.                                              miss the nights? The nights on the sun porch,
    “Amber, make sure Ellie keeps her hat             when a storm would roll through and Blair
on, okay,” Blair said to her daughter.                would beg for Emma to let her share a bed
    “They’re so darling,” Emma said.                  with her. Did she miss those days when she’d
    “They remind me of us, a bit,”                    go searching for her lipstick, only to find
    “No, I was too obnoxious to be like either        that it was in Blair’s backpack?
of them,” Emma said, “I was more like my                  “Yes,” Emma replied, “I do.”

“God, if you wish for our love...
                                                 26
                                                /
                                  the ecliptic / vertigo




                                                                                      art by christina zhu



     Descendant
   There it is again. The sound of crickets
                                                                 by christina zhu
                                                 girl’s rich blonde curls contrast horribly
chirping peacefully, chiming out the             against her dress. My heart thuds, for I know
darkness that is coming alive. It is my time     that this perhaps may be my last night on
now. I hurry swiftly down these streets,         this world. And yet I still walk forward.
drifting silently among these dimming roads.        She turns around. I stop in front of her,
The neatly cut lawns match the identical         my shadow towering over her fragile body.
houses next to each other, and as I near my      In her hand, she holds several balloons.
destination, a growing excitement bubbles        They look like normal balloons : see-
within me, along with some fear.                 through, multi-colored, tied with simple
   Yes—she’s there again! Her small figure       white string . I know that they do not contain
blends in perfectly with the dark                helium, though. They carry something
background. Her navy dress is barely             much more precious within. They carry
discernible in the suffocating darkness. The     human memories.



                                               ...fling us a handful of stars!” — Louis Untermeyer
                                           27
                                                      /
                                        the ecliptic / prose

     The dark look she gives me causes me a            go,” I breathe with a sigh of relief, taking
flicker of unease.                                     out a few bright orbs that glow merrily.
    “How many do you have today?” I ask,               They make my eyes hurt, and it took a while
my deep voice awkwardly punching the still             to adjust to the lights. The girl, however,
air.                                                   seems captivated by them, but purses her
    “I have seven,” she says softly,                   lips together and waits for her share, a
pronouncing each word carefully. Her voice             greedy look igniting in her sparkling eyes.
sounds strangely high compared to mine.                    “Hmm,” I mutter, looking up at her
“Did I do a good job today?”                           balloons. I would have to give away quite a
    “Of course, dear,” I murmur, not wanting           few stars, especially for the nice turquoise
to upset her. Children like her were hard to           one. I wonder briefly what memory was
please, but they did their job very well. I            contained in it. Something good this time,
might get a promotion for this, I thought              that’s for sure. Perhaps the memory of
happily, counting the balloons in her hand. I          someone’s Christmas? A nice vacation, or a
notice a bright turquoise colored one in               hike in the meadow? Maybe it’s a feeling of
particular.                                            satisfaction as someone licks their ice
    I recall the last time I had gotten a balloon      cream?
that vibrant with color. It was red, I                     After a few seconds of calculations, I
remember, and it held a memory of a young              bend down to the girl’s level and hold out a
woman feeling the happiness of getting a new           handful of stars that are hovering above my
puppy. The feeling throughout the entire               palm. “Take about five. That’s all you’ll get.”
memory was joyous. She had forgotten,                  There is a flash of defiance in her eyes, but
however, that joy. The puppy is now a full             it passes just as quickly as it came.
grown dog that barks too much and bites                    She frowns and picks the stars out of my
every stranger; it is no longer a joy in that          hand, choosing her selected ones with
young woman’s life. And thus, this little girl         careful accuracy. Occasionally, she picks
in front of me, who looks so innocent here,            one up before dropping it down again and
stole that memory and converted it into a              picking up another. After a few minutes, she
balloon.                                               gives a brief nod that indicates she’s done. I
    “Do I get my payment?” She asks, her               nearly sigh with relief. She seems very
voice not much different than before but               satisfied with the stars that I caught that
edged with impatience.                                 week.
    “Of course.”                                           “Take care of them,” I warn her. I spent
    I break out into a cold sweat, and instead         a long time catching those stars. She nods
of looking at her, I glance up at her balloons.        solemnly and proceeded to hand over her
She had much more power than I could ever              balloons, which I hold tightly in my hand.
have. Some of my colleagues return as                  She looks happily down upon the stars
vegetables, not knowing how to move or                 floating gently in her palm; it seems to ignite
think by themselves: all memory gone,                  a fire within her. Perhaps, soon, she would
stolen. Seeing adults in that form is a deeply         achieve her goal… but I must achieve mine,
disturbing sight. These children were not to           also, I thought wryly, tying the balloons to
be trifled with.                                       my wrist and making sure they held fast. It
    Turning back down to her perfect                   would be a waste to let them all fly away.
porcelain face, I grin nervously and shove             Why human memories took on the form of
my hands into my pockets, fumbling around              balloons, I may never know.
for her pay. “I have it right here, no need to             “Until next week,” she murmurs softly,
worry,” I assured her, a bit frightened the            walking down to her house, her foot falls
by dark expression growing on her face. I              muffled by the grass. I watch her glide up to
feel objects clunk around in my pockets                her home, not knowing why. Balloon
before locating what she wanted. “Here you             children were difficult to find nowadays.


“You can take no credit for beauty at sixteen. But if you are beautiful at sixty...
                                                  28
                                                  /
                                    the ecliptic / vertigo

There are not many children who look upon          speck of light. My palm opens up and there,
the stars these days; too mesmerized are           sitting upon my fingers, is a live, sparkling,
they by their video games and movies, cell         star. Smiling slightly to myself, I twitch one
phones and internet. Her small, dazzling face      finger upwards and it zooms back to its
swims in my mind, her eyes showing a               rightful place in the backdrop of darkness.
maturity that is rare even in adults.                  As I descend into the infinite nothingness,
   The purity of her soul gives her the power      I happen to catch the eye of the previous
to collect these memories. Only the                child I had traded stars with. He was a meek,
untainted children may ascend upon the             skinny boy. I wave to him as I float gently
heavens in true peace.                             upwards, hoping that he recognizes me.
   Walking slowly back down the street, I
reflect upon my exchange. At the rate I’m
going, I’ll be a human in no time, I thought
happily, a little ashamed at my enthusiasm           “But I am only a
                                                       shadow of
   Oh, how I envy her ability to withstand
so much light! If only I could stand in broad
in daylight, soaking up the sunshine. How I
wish to see the full colors of a purple flower,
or admire the translucent clouds! The things
humans take for granted. But I am only a
                                                    humanity; born of
shadow of humanity; born of the darkness,
and the night is where I belong.                     the darkness...”
                     * * *
                                                      It is a rule for a Star Trader to not capture
   There is a soft meow from a cat and I           too many stars at once. We are careful as to
suddenly realize how suspicious I must look.       which stars to pick, we don’t want to choose
A grown man clutching a handful of                 any that used to be children. That would be
balloons… as a result, my feet speed up            an abomination.
considerably.                                         There is a twinkle back, in a happy sort
   I stop at the end of the street, where only     of way, and I lower my hand, chuckling. He
moments earlier I just touched down. The           has fulfilled his lifelong wish by trading with
watch I wear is showing 1:39 AM in faintly         me; he now can stay where all the children’s
glowing numbers. The leaves rustle, and the        laughs echo throughout the darkness,
wind breathes down upon me as I lift gently        making the nights a little more bearable.
up. I am sure that no one is out this late to         In your world, they are also known as
see my takeoff.                                    stars.
   Soon, the houses are reduced to nothing
but small neat squares. The veins of the
highway twist and churn around into
dizzying patterns, and the streetlights
reduced to small pinpricks of light. The
balloons waver in my hand, carrying me
upwards toward the blanket of the velvet
night sky. There appear to be holes in the
sheet of black: I can see small lights                                  art by ashley wu
glimmering through, like a small ray of hope.
Almost subconsciously, my hand reaches
out to one of them and gently clasp around a


                                              ...it will be your soul's own doing.” — Marie Stopes
                                              29
                                                 /
                                   the ecliptic / poetry




Sink, into pungency, into the unctuous, undulating vat
with all the suffocating solitude of a stagnant sea; clamor
swallowing you in the din refracting from glossy, shimmering fat.

Buffeted by the blows of each breaker upon your shore, each lash
strikes from your virile blood the green of sudden day, suffer
each drop of dew like a boulder: dripping not to a patter, but a crash—

Feel Apollo’s shafts strike you, piercing your spine
pinning your spirit on the pavement like a moth misplaced,
thus impaled by each stroke of linseed oil and turpentine.

But there is always a calm after even the brightest torrent of day
The cacophony lets to euphony, harmony, symphony
And the cruelest cloying asperities pass harmlessly away

Sing—be not a brush, but a lonely reed by the watery glow
a being of echoes, of distant happy memories that whisper
wistful thoughts, wander with the water slipping like the flow

of consciousness creating then dissipating, letting color through
with the glancing tap of sudden rain, bring rhythm without pain
shining echoed flickers of subtle light, so should you

feel Artemis’ shafts slight you, as it slips through your heart
and sets you at ease, as the cool of the cloud-cast day—
Shadowy tranquility when the open skies part.

Like the sparrow, defy augury; the years pass with rise and fall.
the chalice of life shatters brimming, the phoenix ascends from ash
Take heart! This is humanity you’ve found: to be a part of it all!




An          Artist’s Conversation

“We have art...
                                             30
                                     /
                       the ecliptic / vertigo




                                                             art by jasmine liu




n
    With His Brushes                             by alexander wong

        ...so that we shall not be destroyed by the truth.” — Friedrich Nietzsche
                                 31
                                                  /
                                    the ecliptic / prose




                                                                                               wu
                                                                                      l   ey
                                                                                  ash
                                                                             by
                                                                       art




As Ice
   He stared at the girl on the ground. They
                                                                                  by diana liu

                                                 there at all. He did not feel their fear and
had called 911, the high tenor of the clock      confusion, a mix of morbid fascination at
running down the seconds, the room around        the girl lying between the projector and the
him a whirl of silent hysteria. No one seemed    computer. He felt…not pain, exactly, but
to want to get too close to her, but everyone    sorrow, the kind that ran deeper, cutting
wanted to get a good look at her, staring and    through his skin and his veins and cells and
peering, pushing at each other. Mouths           all the way down to his heart. The teacher
whispering, “What happened?” “Will she be        was calling to the students, the ambulance
okay?” “What if...” “What...What...” all their   would come soon, everyone, everyone, get
useless questions blurring into one. The         back to your seats. The crowd around her
room was awfully hushed, a brightly lit          thinned, and parts of her slowly emerged...a
funeral set under glaring fluorescent lights.    bit of her leg, her face, her arm, her entire
He looked at his classmates. He was there,       body.
with them, in the classroom, but he was not          She was frightfully pale, her dark hair

“Don’t ever take a fence down until...
                                             32
                                                /
                                  the ecliptic / vertigo


   “I could have stopped her from just
drifting, just drifting away from me and
           into nobody’s arms...
fanned around her in long, loose pieces. Her    recognized the girl in front of him. Although
body was bent at an awkward angle, her legs     she was fully unconscious, she still looked
sprawled randomly on the ground, her head       strained, tired, and miserable. Too thin, too
tilted straight up, facing the ceiling. A       stretched out, looking as if someone raised
strange look for a girl who cared so much       their voice a few decibels higher or made
about her composure. His eyes passed over       their footfalls a bit heavier her fragile body
her sunken cheekbones, white lips, traces       would just shatter and vanish, blowing away
of mascara on her eyelashes. He could see       like the light mist of dust across a desert. He
the blue hued veins around her forehead,        imagined someone placing a blanket over
replacing her hair: hair gradually stolen       her; she was so small her body would just
away as her body struggled to cling onto its    vanish under it. No one would ever know
sparse, remaining nutrients. He could see       there was a human being underneath.
the shape of her skull.                             The pain started deep inside him,
    His eyes moved down to her torso: her       throbbing slowly in his chest. As his moist
collarbones sticking out like some twisted,     eyes gazed upon her motionless body, he
bony necklace, the skin stretched out over      thought. I could have helped her. I could
her sternum, her fragile, wispy hands. He       have stopped her from just drifting, just
remembered holding those hands that night,      drifting away from me and into nobody’s
the night of the dance, tender and warm with    arms, drifting away into the darkness and
the faint scent of roses. Their interlocked     deep, deep beneath the surface. I didn’t ever
fingers as he twirled her around and around,    want her to feel alone, she was never alone.
laughing, her dark hair cascading, the tea      I was always there. Days and weeks and
lights reflected in her eyes. Most of all, he   months and I could feel her slipping, I could
remembered the way she had smiled at him.       feel it, her warm hands growing colder, cold
Oh god, that smile. So beautiful and so         as ice, and I could have grabbed on, I could
genuine, yet a smile that could break his       have, why, why didn’t I? I saw it, I knew it,
heart. There were a hundred different           she would never let me in, she would never
meanings imbued in that smile, red lips         let anyone in, I wanted to… I could have held
guarding secrets he would never know,           on and never let her go. He was breathing
never understand. Secrets that she would        quickly, helplessly, his chest rising up and
never reveal.                                   down shallowly, the air not coming in
    He looked at her pale lips. Was there a     completely, not going out completely.
ghost of that smile left on that face? The          And then they came, and they put her on
beautiful hair he had admired that night at     a stretcher and wheeled her away, her dark
the dance was all but gone, leaving a crown     hair pinned beneath her body, small wisps
of scalp around her face. He barely             swaying softly in the breeze.


 ...drifting away into the darkness and
     deep, deep beneath the surface.”
                                           ...you know why it was put up.” — Robert Frost
                                            33
                                                 /
                                   the ecliptic / poetry




  ochre                                                    by disha banik


                 limbs



                                                                  photograph by stephanie chang




“Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it...
                                             34
                                                 /
                                   the ecliptic / vertigo




branches stretch,
in ebony night, jeweled
with beads of rain, glinting
                                               begins, to wake her.
like liquid fireflies.
                                               her course skin, bristles
retiring, to bed she sees
                                               waiting, for descending
twigs contort, to clasp
                                               beads.
beads
                                               her fingers graze, for
tears gravitate, from crooked
                                               diamonds
arms
                                               to jewel
silver cascades, through ravines
                                               their flesh, arid rings.
carved in cragged
branches.
                                               her arms stretch,
                                               in ebony night, to clutch glass
rain murmurs her to sleep
                                               marbles.
a voice of honey, lullabies
as she dreams,
                                               her fingers horizon,
of pearls
                                               to drink sweet, waters
splattering on ochre skin
                                               as branches become,
trickling, through arches
                                               crystaled.
of her cragged
limbs.
                                               her arms tingle
                                               for rain to seep,
wooden strands, graze
                                               unable to feel
crystals slip
                                               the quench
from bark, fingertips
                                               of silver
melody dissolves into a
                                               beads.
whisper
                                               her fingers stroke
rain’s decrescendo
                                               they quiver,
                                               then twinge
                                               at parched flesh
                                               upon her cragged
                                               limbs.




                                                     ...doesn’t go away.” — Phillip K. Dick
                                            35
                                                  /
                                    the ecliptic / poetry




Recipe of the
                                                        Heart
                                                                   by shweta tendolkar



                  onions and celery,
                  tomatoes and peas
                  mixing the ingredients
                  for my sorrow to appease.

                           to distract that feeling
                           deep within this heart
                           to heal these wounds
                           for to forget is an art

                                   the voice I long to hear
                                   growing fainter with time
                                   add in some parsley
                                   add in some thyme

                                            let the sauce simmer
                                            to top this dish of woe
                                            longing to be alone
                                            but, he’s all right, I know

                                                      garnish with a sprinkling
                                                      of parmesan and hope
                                                      that each day will be easier
                                                      to live and to cope.




                                                                                     ly n sh ie h
                                                                       ar t by jo ce




“I don't know if I should care for a man who made life easy...
                                               36
                                                            /
                                              the ecliptic / vertigo




             A
      Study in
        Purple       by carolyn yen
art by jasmine liu




                                      ...I should want someone who made it interesting.” — Edith Wharton
                                                        37
                                                    /
                                      the ecliptic / prose

    Out of habit, she grasps the necklace           mouth. At the way his tongue flicks at his
around her neck. It wasn’t something as             rubbery lips as he speaks.
typical as her mother’s necklace or an                  “Ya better watch out around these parts,”
ancestral heirloom. It was simply a fragment        he is saying, “That is, if ya don’t mind any of
of a conch shell that she had bought                the fine beasties lurkin’ around here.”
impulsively. She had seen it glow, creamy               That makes her look up. There is the urge
and pink, in a jeweler’s display case during a      to turn back and lose sight of this horrible
trip to the mall. It was one-of-a-kind, and         turgid man, but she is curious; despite
made her feel anything but ordinary.                herself she is interested in what he has to
    She drops her shoes on the silky sand           say.
below her and looks down upon moonlit                   “Like what?” she asks.
waters. The sand shimmers and slides                    His moist eyes glitter in the purple light.
through the small gaps between her toes. The        “Well, ya know, birds and deer and such.
rushing wind smells like seaweed and lifts          They won’t hurt ya. Usually.” He laughs and
the purple sand underneath the moon,                for a second she is transfixed by his
washing the landscape with color.                   quivering flesh. “Well, it’s them black birds
    The whole beach is so purple, she thinks.       that I’d be worrying about, honey.”
    This is all she is able to think before             “What about those birds?”
something pulls her backward.                           The Fat Man inclines towards her again,
    Her back hits a large dune. Grains of sand      and leers at her. The corners of his red
fall into her sweater, feeling less like silk and   mouth widen, but he isn’t grinning, not
more like thorns against her skin. The girl         really. Softly, he says to her, “Sometimes
grabs a fistful of wildflowers to hoist herself     they smile.”
up.                                                     She blanches. The Fat Man has become
    Flowers?                                        so repulsive, so wrong, to her that she cannot
    She looks with surprise at her open hand,       bear to spend another minute with him.
and sure enough, there are crumpled                 Bordering the purple beach, a dark forest
wildflowers smeared blue and red. Red               appeals to her. Something within it draws
Columbine. Lupine. She finds that she can           her to it. It promises her shelter from the
name each variety. She gingerly scrapes off         ripe purple moon. Anywhere but near this
the petals.                                         horrible man.
    “Hey, you,” someone says.
    Promptly, she jumps backwards. But he                               * * *
simply sits there, a bloated man in stained
overalls. Rancid stains. She is sure that the          The woods hadn’t looked too large from
fat man is smothered in a cherry puree. Even        the beach. They seemed innocent then, but
his hair is crusted with so much blackish           now she is dragging herself each step of the
gunk she cannot distinguish its true color.         way, and the sticky mud beneath sucks at
The bench he sits on creaks as he leans             her bare feet.
towards her. She is almost certain that the            What is this?
man would simply burst like an overripe                Only a few beams of lavender moonlight
grape.                                              stream through the canopy now. She notices
    “Hey, girl, you lost?”                          that every tree is marred with knotholes that
    She steps back. You got that right, she         leer at her. When she blinks they melt
wishes to retort. But she just nods.                away.After a while she stops and spots what
    “That’s what I thought. Then again,             can only be a rosebush. Its mauve petals
people who’re here wanna be here, if ya know        wriggle in the purple light, and, breathless,
what I mean.” He pulls out each word                she leans over to cup the silky blooms.
through his yellow teeth and lurid lips.               While she is bent over, voices chorus
    She can’t help but stare at his moist red       close to her ear. To her they seem less like


“A man is not old until...
                                                38
                                                  /
                                    the ecliptic / vertigo

voices and more like hissing.                     and they begin to laugh.
    Paul wants his head back!                         Run, run! they jeer, Run like Paul ran
    She freezes, a heat coursing through her      before you smashed him!
veins.                                                Her breath catches in her throat. Blindly,
    Remember him? Remember Paul?                  she tears through bushes and thorny weeds.
    Of course she remembers Paul. Paul            She realizes then that she will not make it
Castley. That stupid, hideous idiot, she          out, not with those bird-things so close
scoffs. And there is just so much hatred          behind and gaining all the while. She can
inside her. Her brain is filled with it, that     think of only one thing to do. She gathers all
horrible achy feeling that makes her want to      her courage and takes a breath.
scream.                                               “He deserved what he got,” she snarls.
    This hatred fills her so completely. Then         She thinks she sees them hesitate. Flinch
all of a sudden, she is hit with a stench so      away.
foul that she wrenches. When she opens her            She yells into the empty woods, piercing
eyes, all of them come into focus. They are       each retreating shadow with her confession.
nearly as large as ravens, but the more she           “Yes. I killed him! I killed him and he
stares the less she is convinced that they are.   deserved every bit of it!” Her echo repeats
One black shape after another. Stretching         each word, mocking her: “...bit of it! Every
their wings, flexing their obsidian claws,        bit of it!”
shadows framed by the silhouettes of trees.
One especially close turns straight towards                           * * *
her. Despite everything, she is sure that she
can make out black lips. Human lips.                  At last. Purple sand underneath her
                                                  bruised feet. He is waiting for her there on

  “But each time, she                             the beach, the shapeless Fat Man.
                                                      “Who are you?” she shouts, now dimly
                                                  aware of the tears forming around her eyes.
  was certain, they                               Before, she would never have let herself cry
                                                  like this. Never.
  would bother her                                    “I know this, all of it, isn’t real,” she
                                                  accuses him.

    less and less.”                                   He nods at her, seeming to acknowledge
                                                  her words. When this simple motion ripples
                                                  across his entire body, she sees him clearly
   Slowly, purposefully, they broaden, as if      for the first time. She is shocked by what he
the bird-thing is made of rubber and not          has become: a doughy balloon twice as large
blackness. After a quick moment it becomes        as before. Every square inch of him is soaked
apparent what the glistening lips are doing,      with the viscous, rancid juice, and he just
they are smiling at her. A second later she is    keeps growing.
crashing through the trees with abandon.              “What is this?’ the little girl thought,” he
   Oh god oh god, she realizes. Fear, sharp       whispers, “‘He deserved every bit of it!’ she
and painful, is riddling her body. She thinks     cries out!”
she sees them move out of the corner of her           “How did you—”
eye. As she flees, the purple moonlight               He smiles. No, he leers at her. Suddenly
paints savage faces all around her, in the        she feels very small.
roses, in the gnarled knotholes. Even the             “Know what you were thinking?” he
mud pulls at her and an unearthly shriek          replies. His body ripples with laughter.
burns her ears. Between thumping                      Still, the Fat Man inflates. There is a
heartbeats that fill her head she thinks she      ripping sound as his overalls shred. With a
can hear the black shapes, close behind her,      crack, an object bursts from around his neck

                                       ...regret takes the place of dreams..” — John Barrymore
                                                 39
                                                   /
                                     the ecliptic / prose



art by jocelyn shieh




and lands by her feet.                                dirt. She glanced back, once, twice, over her
    It is a shell necklace.                           shoulders. At last she turned, satisfied, and
    Wait. Her hands fumble at her own neck.           began to hum softly.
She feels the smooth ridges of the conch                 She was not frightened by what she had
there.                                                seen. If there was one thing she knew, it was
    Before her eyes, the Fat Man swells,              that nothing truly stays. The purple beach.
bigger and bigger. His stomach fluids begins          The bird-shadows. Even the Fat Man. The
to slosh as his stomach expands. As all that          dreams would come, yes. But each time, she
spongy flesh quivers, his rubbery lips move           was certain, they would bother her less and
and his booming voice shatters the purity of          less.
the purple beach.                                        And that goes for you, too. I did you
     “Now do you know who I am? I am—”                really, really good, didn’t I, Paul? she
                                                      thought, and lapsed into giggling.
                       * * *                             All that she left behind would also go.
                                                      Come morning, fresh dew would coat the
    She blinked rapidly and saw nothing but           mound of earth she had made, and deer
a silent forest. The purple beach was gone.           would tamp down the loamy soil, and the
The Fat Man was gone. She glanced around,             noon sun would bake it hard, and the days
but there was no reason to be cautious. No            would pass and the nights would come until
one was with her in the woods. The two birch          not a trace would show that a girl had ever
trees on either side of her seemed to tremble.        thrust her shovel into the cold ground one
She turned away. As she limped back, her              Sunday afternoon in the woods. A lone pair
shovel scraped the earth, dragging tracks             of birches guards the grave, many birds
into the dust. The wind beat against the              residing within their foliage.
forest and obscured branches in pillows of               And sometimes they smile.

“What if we all suddenly get carried away thinking...
                                                 40
                                       /
                         the ecliptic / vertigo




highway                                              contest winner
                                                            by laurie mallison



                            Dark.    At home lay responsibilities:
 The only hint of fellow travelers   duties, work and people.
   pairs of red and yellow lights.   But couldn’t I leave
         Speeding along the road     them all?
                         Deserted    Just for one night?
       or crowded didn’t matter.     Driving on into blackness
                    I was moving     on into unknown…
                      I was going.   My exit.
                            Thrill   A lane switch—
                             Rush    one compromise.
                            Hope,    Dare I continue?
                           Escape    The habit blinker—oh cursed blinker!
             was what I needed—      It’s not too late…
                          wanted.    No.
                 Dare I drive on?
                                     It is now.

                                     The mystery is gone, the moment past
                                     But still I wonder what it was I left
                                     Or maybe it was something that I gained?
                                     I chose obedience for adventure—
                                     If that were right then why is there this ache?




                                      ...who will be left to act?" — Andrei Platonov
                                     41
                                                  /
                                    the ecliptic / prose




                                                                                               courtesy of lynbrook photograp hy club
   Vortex
     by kritika iyer
      A whistle shrieks and running shoes
  meet rubber. Thousands of feet pound into
                                                     Fifteen minutes and two miles
                                                  later, I feel red-hot irons force their
  the sun-baked track, synthesizing a vibrant     way up my feet. Every step takes the
  rhythm.                                         effort of lifting a hundred pounds. My
      Left, right, left, right                    feet are begging for respite. I can
      I concentrate on keeping my feet            handle this, I tell myself. I take deep,
  pumping, as steady as the hands of a clock.     slow breaths, and let the rhythm
  I feel the burn of tendons rippling, muscles    pulsate through my mind. Full of
  straining, blood rushing.                       nothing but my heartbeats, my brain
      It feels good.                              has no room to recognize pain. Still, I
      I brush sweat off my forehead and swat      smile.
  at stray strands of hair that have managed         Seconds tick away, and there is
  to escape my ponytail. No distractions          only half a mile left. I pick up the pace,
  allowed. My eyes find the dull red rubber       stretching my legs as far as they can
  of the track. The red reminds me of clay in     go. My breathing is labored, and I
  the park that I used to visit when I was        struggle to keep it even. The wheezing
  younger. It was fun, running barefoot in        begins.
  the smooth clay, feeling it gush between           Suddenly, the world spins, and I
  my toes. No distractions. I snap back into      find myself doubled over, stumbling
  the present, and become one with my             blindly off the track. I stand there,
  muscles.                                        head between my knees. I can feel my

"Every man takes the limits of his own field of vision...
                                             42
                                                 /
                                   the ecliptic / vertigo


swollen air passages clenching tighter,          breath for just a second longer, let it out just
intent on stopping all air from getting          a little more slowly. My heart pounds at five
through. I cough, my chest heaving twice         hundred beats a minute, and a fresh wave of
as fast. Air whistles through my nose, but it    dizziness crashes over me.
doesn’t seem like enough. The bottomless             Slowly, ever so slowly, I gain the upper
black hole that has become my lungs isn’t        hand.
satisfied, and threatens to collapse. I blink
to rid myself of dizziness, then close my                               * * *
eyes to shield myself from my
surroundings.                                           Someone had run to the nurse’s office and
    Calm down, I tell myself. You can do             brought back an inhaler. Tears were
this. After all, you’ve managed it before.           streaming out of my eyes, air whistling in
    But that was so long ago!                        and out of me. Someone stuffed the inhaler
                                                     in my mouth.
                   * * *                                “Breathe. Breathe!”
                                                        The world stopped spinning, and then it
   The first time it happened, I didn’t know         faded away.
what was going on, why I couldn’t breathe,
why my heart was beating so fast. My                                    * * *
insides were swelling up, squeezing the air
out of me. I was on the ground, head                    The iron fists around my windpipe relax
spinning. They whispered, laughed,                   their hold reluctantly, and just a bit of air
pointed.                                             eases its way into my bronchial tubes. Slow
   “Coward.”                                         breaths, I tell myself. I lift my head, ready
   “Weakling.”                                       to face the world again. As I straighten up,
   “Wimp.”                                           my eyes focus on the finish line.
                                                        I walk, intent on finishing what I started.
                   * * *                             Each breath is a staggering effort, but it is
                                                     worth it. My worn sneakers scrape across
   I hear worried whispering; a couple of            the white chalk line.
girls come over.                                        I am done.
   “Are you okay?”
   No!, I scream silently. Opening my eyes
is a herculean effort. I try to hold each




    “The bottomless black hole that is
           my lungs isn’t satisfied, and
                               threatens to collapse.”
                                     ...for the limits of the world." — Arthur Schopenhauer
                                                43
                                                /
                                  the ecliptic / poetry




                            Feathers Gold
                                   of
                                by kimberly tan



The lion, the powerful,
darting through the woods
soft footfalls, barely audible
give way to yawning jaws,
consuming his prey
in eternal flame.
Ruler of the land,
he holds power, knowledge.
With knowledge
comes painful truths
arrogance, greed
consuming the lion, their victim
in ceaseless turmoil.                                            The lamb, the submissive,
He prowls the night,                                               darting from the woods
silence lingering                                         rapid footfalls, blundering about
for he cannot confide.                                       give hints of a narrow escape.
He alone                                                                    Meek and naïve,
must shoulder the burden, the trials,                       he remains ignorant, sheltered
that come with power.                                                    in the warm haven
                                                                                 of his herd.
                                                               He scampers in the daylight
                                                                    surrounded by friends
                                                                            accepted, loved,
                                                                                   oblivious
                                                                    to the woes of the lion.



                                                              The sharp, insightful finch,
                                                            preening her golden feathers,
                                                             analyzes the scene unfolding
                                                                           the lion, alone,
   art by chr ist ina zhu




                                                                    the lamb, with his herd
                                                  she trembles at the authority of the lion,
                                                           but aspires to be like the lamb.




“A propensity to hope and joy is real riches...
                                             44
                                                   /
                                     the ecliptic / vertigo




 photography by betsy tsai




                                     Home
                                                     Coming
                                                          by amy sung


   The soggy grass engulfs my feet.                      From the inside, however, the house is
Wordless and pale, angels and flowers bow            different. Billowing in the cold wind, plastic
from mausoleums. I stop at a white stone.            covers flutter over unfamiliar furniture like
    A wind flutters the black lace across            silent gray ghosts. The couch squashed
Jane’s face. I reach over.                           against the wall of the family room is not
   “Jane.”                                           red, it is brown. Instead of frames of Jane’s
   She twists away. The black lace falls,            and my childhood scribbles and stick figures
hiding her face.                                     on the walls, there are frames of unknown
                                                     faces, the faces of the new family moving in.
                             * * *                       The family had walked by when Jane was
                                                     moving boxes from the garage. The whole
   From the outside, the house looks the             family helped with the boxes, and a week
same. The front door is the same bright red,         later, Jane, the only heir living nearby,
with the same door knocker that young Jane           signed the contract.
was afraid to grip until she was assured that
the golden lion’s jaw would never clamp                                   * * *
down. The front lawn is the same front lawn
where Jane and I played, sprayed in the                 A soft vibration interrupts the busy
snow, making snow angels or rolling white            clatter of the keyboard.
balls for a snowman. The porch is the same              “Hello? Jane?
porch where we ate outdoor dinners, the                 “When are you coming back?”
clutter of plates, talks, and laughter                  “I don’t know. I have a big project
interrupting the heavy silence of hot summer         coming up.”
evenings.                                               “You should come. Mom’s ...”

                                     ...one to fear and sorrow real poverty.” — David Hume
                                                45
                                                     /
                                       the ecliptic / prose



photography by shravya chvva




     “Not feeling well? She looked fine last      sidewalk. I was never home; I wandered all
  time I saw her.”                                over the neighborhood. Jane liked books
     “No. That was eight months ago. And she      and flowers in Mom’s garden. I liked balls
  always acted as if she’s feeling better         and the baseball field at the park. Years
  whenever you came. Can you please come?         later, Jane stayed and lived at home with
  She’s…”                                         Mom, while I wandered far away.
     The desk phone rattles. It’s the
  contractor.                                                         * * *
     “Jane! I’m getting a call from a
  contractor, I’ll call you back later, I            The last pallbearer walks away,
  promise.”                                       imprinting fresh dark prints on the grass. I
                                                  look at the slumped figure walking against
                               * * *              the red sun bleeding into the hills.
                                                     “Jane…”
     Ever since childhood, Jane and I have           Only the trees answer, their bare
  been very different. Jane liked to stay at      branches scraping each other against the
  home, only venturing out to the lawn or         crimson sun.




  “Great art picks up...
                                               46
                                                      /
                                        the ecliptic / vertigo




   saturation                                                       by jocelyn shieh

                                                   where, in a world of water, does it end?
                                                   i can’t even tell where it all began—
                                                   this endless blue, merging with the sky
                                                   reflecting, reflecting, day and night.
                                                   tell me,
                                                   does the sky dye the water?

                                                   it’s too tumultuous at the top;
                                                   it’s hard to tread water, so
                                                   let me sink to the bottom and judge the
                                                   above from below

                                                   there’s water, water everywhere
                                                   the surface looks so far from here—
                                                   tell me,
                                                   does the sun still shine up there...?
courtesy of lynbrook photography club




                                                         ...where nature ends." — Marc Chagall
                                                  47
                                                    /
                                      the ecliptic / prose




      End
       Game
                                                                              by vivian chan


    A society based on facts—now isn't that                 “Call—royal flush.”
just pure genius?                                           I looked up to meet the arrogant gaze of
    Or so said the creators. Of course they             the winner as he laid his cards out before
would consider their own work genius; who               me. His eyes were a brighter red than be-
wouldn't? Facts, facts, facts, they cried. All          fore, blazing with triumph. With a sigh, I re-
hopes, dreams, and goals aim for that one               vealed my own unprofitable hand: one pair
shining star: fact.                                     of fours.
    I read a book once. It was written by a                 “Should have expected that from an Ace,”
man named Charles Dickens. Like with a few              I muttered lowly, hiding the disappointment
other authors, I wasn't sure if it was his real         prickling the edges of my consciousness.
name or some facade he picked up along the              However, he must have heard my mumble,
way. But his story was based on our world; a            for he merely smirked and put the cards
world of facts, that is. The ending wasn't a            away after giving them a good shuffle.
very pleasant one, with only one character                  “You never could have won,” the Ace
achieving happiness. The others who lived               said. His eyes found mine. “Your eyes are
for facts were only content with life.                  still black. There was no way you could have
    I can't say I'm one who can tell the differ-        beat me.”
ence between happiness and contentment.                     Once he was gone, I sat up in my chair
It doesn't mean much since facts are needed             and stare blankly at the table. The other gam-
to survive in a world where only winners                blers in Black Sheep barely paused, only
reign. So I suppose, whether you are happy              glancing at me and confirming my loss be-
or content, you still need facts.                       fore turning their attention back to their own
    Let's begin.                                        games. At last, I slapped the table and got
                                                        up, swearing as my hand stung. I had to
  Fact: Of all the losers in town, I'm the              leave—my recent loss weighed heavily on
one who loses the most.                                 my mind and I didn't want to stay any longer.

   What is lost, you ask? Did I say our soci-              Fact: Gambling is a part of life. It always
ety was based solely on facts? There is one             has been, and it always will be.
other foundation on which life is built upon;
just one other.                                            There are several variables to being a
                                                        good gambler; the most important one is
                      * * *                             your ability to cheat. Nothing is wrong as


“Achieving life is not the equivalent of...
                                                   48
                                    the ecliptic     /
                                                    / vertigo

long as you don't get caught.                           ger. Thus, men alone could work, since there
                                                        was already surplus of unemployed men.
                     * * *                              That left widows, such as the one with the
                                                        two boys and little girl, to starve and wait
   I've never been a cheater. And thus by               futilely for a helping hand.
default, I've never been a winner either.                  But there were always so many of us, so
   Red eyes flashed through my mind and I               many losers just trying to survive, that the
cursed again as I walked down the streets.              pay was low. The only way to make enough
Poverty was visible everywhere in the card-             money to eat would be to gamble amongst
board boxes and tents lining the alleys. I felt         each other, hoping to win against someone
a flicker of pity as I passed a family who              with darker eyes.
stared up at me with weary eyes. The mother                The Aces enjoyed mingling in the groups
looked haggard and worn, while two young                we huddled in, nicknamed Black Sheep, sim-
boys clung to her arms, wide-eyed and si-               ply to place bets on which black-eyed man
lent. The little girl was wearing a worn and            would win in a particular game. To them,
dirt-streaked dress, and she sucked at her              Black Sheep groups were places to blow off
thumb as she glanced at me before bending               or gain spare change. If they won or lost to
down to play with her shoes. There seemed               another Ace, it didn't matter. It was so very
to be no father, which explained a lot about            easy for them to have a little match with
their situation.                                        someone off the street, someone with dark
                                                        eyes, and regain their money just like that.
  Fact: Everyone knows that your eyes                      Money wasn't the issue when it came to
mean everything. That, and your gender.                 what Aces didn't have.

    We are all born with black eyes. But if               Fact: People with dark eyes believe that
they don't change—if one doesn’t become a               Aces have everything.
better gambler—then they stay black. And
that is exactly what dark-eyed people fear.                 If I cared about facts a little less, I might
Everyone wants red eyes, to leave behind                wonder if the Aces feel better watching us
hardship.                                               struggle at the bottom. I doubt they are
    I stopped and leaned against a wall, wait-          happy while they are surrounded by what
ing for someone to challenge me to a game. I            they used to be. But who am I to decide that?
still had ten dollars in my pocket, earned              I've never had red eyes, and perhaps they
from my part-time job at a store.                       are happy with just money and skill.
    I was luckier than the ragged families on
the streets since I was an adult man; only                                    * * *
men could have jobs, a law that was enforced
with heavy punishment. It was a fact, em-                  Facts aren't so easy to change. And nei-
ployers said, that men were physically stron-           ther are my eyes.




   “I wondered if the boy
 could hear my heart as
  it cried for me to stop
        and to live.”
                                                                     ...avoiding death.” — Ayn Rand
                                                   49
                                  the ecliptic     /
                                                  / vertigo

    I, with black eyes from birth, would be           gerous game of survival the bigger fish par-
challenged soon enough. Challenging me                ticipated in.
would be like finding free money.                         But what else could we do?
    I wasn't disproved.                                   I've played Russian roulette before. Rus-
    “Hey, old man. You up for a game?” came           sian roulette wasn't your common gambling
a voice, clear and young. Slowly, I dragged           game off the street, or then we would have
my eyes from my worn sneakers to see a                bodies piling up in the streets like trash.
teenage boy. His eyes were a light gray. He               Checking to make sure one round was
would only need a few more wins to gain white         inside the six-shot revolver and spinning the
eyes, which would then turn slowly red.               cylinder once, I held up the gun and fitted
    “What do you have in mind?” I asked in            my finger around the trigger. The gun
reply.                                                seemed fairly reliable and it didn't look as if
    There was a pause as he slowly turned his         the teenager had fixed it or anything.
head from side to side. He was almost hesi-               The boy watched me, apprehension and
tant as he finally turned to face me again. I         fear forcing him to remain quiet. I wondered
blinked, momentarily puzzled. Then I no-              if he had ever gambled with his life before.
ticed what he was fumbling with behind his            Or was he still a greenhorn when it came to
back.                                                 Russian roulette? He must have a need for
    A gun.                                            quick money since only mentally instable
                                                      people have been reported to have killed
   Fact: I may be a loser, but I've never been        themselves in a gamble.
afraid of losing.                                         Once you died, nothing mattered any-
                                                      more. It was Game. The End.
   “Russian roulette,” came the low hiss. It              I raised the firearm, and paused. My
took me a moment to realize it was my voice.          heart began to beat louder and louder until I
   He flared up. “If you don't want to do it,         could hear blood pounding my ears. I won-
then don't. You're just going to lose anyway,”        dered if the boy could hear my heart as it
he insisted defensively.                              cried for me to stop and to live.
   I raised an eyebrow, amused. “You're                   My hand loosened around the gun
scared, aren't you?”                                  handle, and then tightened in decision.
   He flushed and looked away.                            If I won, I would have twenty dollars—
   “You thought I was going to refuse?” I             enough to feed myself for one day. If I lost...
prompted. “Is that a fact?”                               Would I lose this time?
   When he didn't answer, I slipped a hand                I closed my eyes and pulled the trigger.
into my pocket. “How much?”
   “Ten dollars,” he said quickly. I took in            Fact: You can't cheat in Russian roulette.
his appearance; a dirty white shirt, torn             Maybe that's why I always win.
jeans, and long hair with wild bangs. He may
                                                                  art
have been a better gambler compared to me,                              by
                                                                             mi
but he wasn't better off than most of the                                         che
                                                                                        lle
homeless in the alleys.                                                                       hu
                                                                                                   an
                                                                                                        g
   I nodded and extended a hand for the
gun. “May I?”
   His own hands shook as he passed over
the revolver. The weapon felt warm and
sturdy in my grip. I almost felt pity for the
boy as he watched me take the gun; he was
obviously starting to regret choosing Rus-
sian roulette. He had thrown himself into
open waters, unprepared for the more dan-

“This is the way the world ends...
                                                 50
                                                /
                                  the ecliptic / vertigo




                                                                                            photograph by betsy tsai
 Delivered
                         by sarah destin




   George Copenhagen was the fourth              lived through 52 years of Mr. Copenhagen’s
generation of men in the Copenhagen family       grunts.
to run the family’s insurance business. Of           If it was a work night, George would
course, ‘run’ was a loose term. George did       retire to his bedroom after dinner. (He was
positively nothing all day long.                 far too tired after a long day at the office for
   To his father, the insurance business had     much activity after dinner). The bedroom is
been satisfactory at best. To his                a man’s room now, but it wasn’t always.
grandfather, the profit had been enticing.           The bedroom was once George’s nursery.
George didn’t know why his great-                It was once George’s childhood bedroom.
grandfather had started the company. Nor         When he looks at the corners on the ceiling,
did he care.                                     George can still see the bits of yellow
   The phone on George’s desk rang.              wallpaper that used to be there.
George was displeased when phones rang,              George is at peace when he looks at the
which is why he had hired a second secretary     remnants of the yellow wallpaper. When the
that month. He simply disliked talking in        phone rings at work, George likes to think
general. People tended to be so bothersome.      about the wallpaper.
   After spending eight hours behind his
desk (George was too diligent to even break                          * * *
for lunch) pretending to ‘run’ the insurance
company, he would return home. His mother           Mr. Copenhagen had always enjoyed his
would have his dinner set out and ready for      evening nightcap. He knew that there were
him as soon as he walked in the door.            those who felt the need to comment on his
   His mother would pester him with petty        drinking. But Mr. Copenhagen did not care.
questions as he ate, of which he would              “Frank, now did you hear what I was
simply smile or grunt in return. This doesn’t    saying at dinner? About that nice girl Julie
bother Helen Copenhagen. She has already         that George is going to take out tomorrow


                                      ...not with a bang, but with a whimper.” — T.S. Eliot
                                            51
                                                    /
                                      the ecliptic / prose




                                                                                                 photography by shravya chavva
  “Do I love,
   George thought,
 oh, do I love. He
   thought of Paul,
 and the little joys
    that Saturday
        mornings
   used to bring...”

night. I think they’ll really hit it off, don’t            Now, Frank had always been a decent
you?” Helen asked.                                     enough looking man, but he was smarter
    Frank Copenhagen knew that he didn’t               than that. For Helen Lawrence, there had
need to respond. His wife didn’t actually care         been something far beyond those positively
what he thought about whatever girl she had            dreamy blue eyes that she was always going
fixed George up with for this Saturday night.          on about. No, Helen loved something sitting
Helen simply needed to know that someone               a few miles down the road under Frank
willing to listen to her ramble.                       Copenhagen’s father’s name at the bank.
    It wasn’t that Frank didn’t love his wife,             But that was unfair. Every woman on this
he did. It was just that she was always so             side of the Mississippi River knew about the
forward. Frank didn’t blame anyone but                 fortune Frank Copenhagen would inherit.
himself, for he had known what type of                 And that was why they pursued him.
woman Helen Lawrence was from the                      Women interested solely in positively
moment she first walked up to him that                 dreamy eyes were forced to look elsewhere.
afternoon at Laurel Beach.                                 Frank took another sip of his nightcap.
    She was barely sixteen years old, but she          Even now, he was still impressed with how
carried herself the way she felt a woman               sure of herself the young Helen Lawrence
ought to carry herself. Her lips were pouted,          had been that day on the beach. At sixteen
her hair was curled and as she batted her              years old she had already made up her mind
eyelashes at him, Frank couldn’t help                  to abandon any childish romantic longings
noticing what a great deal of makeup this              she might have once possessed.
girl had on. He was five years her senior and              For this, some might have thought that
far wealthier than she could ever dream of             Helen Lawrence was a rather odd child. Her
being and yet, with one bat of those lashes,           older sisters, the Lawrence Girls, as they
Helen could make Frank feel as if he had               were affectionately called by all those who
never been able to utter two words in the              summered at Laurel Beach, were romantics
direction of an attractive lady before.                in their youth.

“We waste time looking for the perfect lover...
                                                  52
                                                   /
                                     the ecliptic / vertigo

    Yet, the Lawrence Girls would all go on         bedroom door. Helen did this every
to marry for comfort as well. Frank turned          morning. Every morning since the incident.
to his wife, as she continued to jabber on             The sun reflected against the pale white
about what a nice girl Julie/Patty/Mary-            walls of George’s bedroom. Light, George
Sue/Joanne was. No, Frank thought, Helen            thought, maybe it’s light that I’m missing.
wasn’t an odd child. She simply grew up a           No, George reminded himself, his room was
little faster than the other Lawrence Girls         only missing the yellow wallpaper. If only
did.                                                he had his wallpaper, this morning wouldn’t
    The story of Mr. and Mrs. Copenhagen            have been so different from the morning of
is not a romantic one. They “dated” for a           the incident.
ridiculous eight years before Frank even
proposed, although this was largely due to                             * * *
the fact that Helen’s father insisted she finish
college before they became engaged.                     It had been hot, the morning of the
    Frank knew that he had always been too          incident. Not that heat was any excuse; the
cold of a man. But luckily Helen had                lawyers had explained that well enough.
understood at an early age that nothing will            It had begun innocently enough. George
ever keep you as warm as the comfort of an          would simply watch him from upstairs, when
overflowing bank account.                           he would come on Saturday mornings. Paul,
                                                    that was his name. George didn’t chose to
                    * * *                           omit Paul’s name when he thought about the
                                                    incident for any particular reason. That’s a
    As George Copenhagen lies in bed, he            lie, actually. George never thought of Paul
tries to focus on the yellow wallpaper. But,        by his name until after the incident. George
tonight, George does not think that he will         simply thought of him as the UPS delivery
be able to escape his thoughts. His thoughts        man.
wander to Dr. Thestran, the psychologist                It was warm, so the UPS delivery man
that his mother dragged him to when he came         was wearing his brown shorts. The ones that
home, after attending some of the finest            were perhaps a bit too big for him when he
educational institutions in the world, with         ordered them, but he had never bothered to
absolutely no motivation to find work.              exchange them for the next size down. Paul
    But his mother was displeased when she          was much more of a pants man, so shorts
found out what, or who, George and Dr.              were actually a rare treat for George.
Thestran were discussing during their                   George used to wonder why the UPS
sessions.                                           delivery man came so early on Saturday
    That was the end of therapy.                    mornings. Generally, or as George had
                                                    observed, the delivery men came in the early
                    * * *                           afternoon to drop off their packages. Rarely
                                                    did they even come before noon. But not
    If George had woken up at precisely             Paul. Paul came at 6:30, every Saturday.
6:30 that morning, he would have heard the              George liked to imagine that maybe it was
door to his mother’s bedroom shut and then          because Paul was shy and disliked having to
the pitter-patter of her little feet as she         converse with the clients. That would be
walked down the hall to lock George’s               something they had in common. A

                                      ...instead of creating the perfect love.” — Tom Robbins
                                                   53
                                                 /
                                   the ecliptic / prose




                                          “He thought of his
                                          mother, and even of his
                                          father...
                                          The loveless
                                          marriages
  photography by betsy tsai




                                          that had gone before
                                          him...

conversation starter, perhaps, simply about         “Would you, take the package please,
how much they both hated petty                   sir?”
conversation.                                       “Why don’t you come inside? I’ve, I’ve
    But, on the morning of the incident,         made you some eggs.”
George was not feeling shy. He had been             “Eggs? I really, I don’t think that’s quite,”
preparing for it for weeks. He decided that      the delivery man began.
he would rise at 5:45 and begin making              “Come inside, to the kitchen. I’ve made,
breakfast. Nothing too extravagant, but just     made them for you.”
enough to lure Paul in. After careful               “I’ve actually already eaten,” the delivery
consideration, George decided that he would      man said, smiling apologetically and turning
make scrambled eggs. Maybe he’d put a few        to go down the walk.
slices of bacon beforehand, but only if he          “But I’m so interested, so interested in
was feeling really daring. He would put a pot    what you do. Delivering packages. I’m very
of coffee on too. George always saw Paul’s       interested in how you deliver packages,”
cup of Starbucks sitting in the car.             George said, his voice beginning to tremble.
    When Paul came up to the door, George           “Would you like to come out to the truck,
had just about finished the eggs. As Paul        sir?”
leaned down to place the package on the             “Yes,” George whispered.
doorstep, George opened the front door to           This was the part of the incident that Dr.
face him.                                        Thestran had insisted that they keep
    “Good morning, sir. I’ve got a package       revisiting. The walk down to the truck. For,
here for a Helen Copenhagen,” the delivery       when George looked into Paul’s eyes that
man said.                                        morning, he saw a man longing for him.
    “Thank you, thank you, er, Paul,” George     Longing for his touch, for his presence.
replied.                                         Longing for George Copenhagen to lean in


“As to marriage or celibacy, let a man take which course he will...
                                            54
                                                  /
                                    the ecliptic / vertigo


and push his lips into his own. Which is               George, he’s just so bad with directions.
precisely what George did.                             That’s a lie. Helen knows that if George was
    What came next, even George didn’t                 to pick up Julie, he would never actually pick
know. Even after his sessions with Dr.                 her up. He would rather drive around in
Thestran, it all remained the same. After              circles for four hours than pick up Julie
Paul pushed George away, George somehow                DeMateo. This, his mother knows.
ended up back in his bed where he slept for                “George, George, she’s here!” Helen
almost five more hours. After he woke, it              exclaimed from the living room.
was as if it had all been a dream.                         “Good evening, Mrs. Copenhagen,” Julie
    That is, until George walked down into             said as she walked into the foyer.
the kitchen and heard Helen asking Frank                   “Oh, no, no, no, it’s Helen. And dearie,
where all the eggs had gone. She needed                how are- oh, here’s George!”
them, after all, for her weekly French toast.              “Good evening, Julie,” George mumbled.
    Two weeks after the incident, George               He couldn’t look at her while he spoke
was arrested and charged with sexual                   (George had never been able to look
assault. His mother hired the best lawyer to           atwomen when he spoke to them), but
be found in the greater Boston area.                   afterwards he couldn’t help but stare. She
    Three weeks after the incident, George             wasn’t the slightest bit attractive. But she
began attending sessions with Dr. Thestran.            wasn’t ugly, she was simply so peculiar. It
Five weeks after the incident, Helen                   was obvious that she didn’t care much about
removed George from Dr. Thestran’s care.               appearances; even George could decipher
    And now, thirty-seven weeks after the              that much. Hell, her socks didn’t even match.
incident, Frank Copenhagen still refuses               She wore too much brown, and brown really
to speak to his son.                                   wasn’t her color. Her sweater must have
                                                       been at least two sizes too large. And it was
                    * * *                              brown. He wasn’t surprised that she wasn’t
                                                       married, but at the same time it seemed
   It is a Saturday night. George’s date night.        almost tragic that she wasn’t.
George hates Saturday nights. His mother                   “Julie, George is taking you down to the
had fixed him up with some girl, some girl             Riviera tonight. Isn’t that lovely? And
who he had never even heard of. Her name               Georgie, here you go. A little something
was Julie, his mother said, Julie DeMateo.             extra from your father and me,” Helen said.
He should be nice to this one, she said. It            George looked in his hand to find three one
wasn’t that George wasn’t nice to the other            hundred dollar bills, which he immediately
ones; it was just that he didn’t care.                 stuffed in his pocket.
   George sat on the left corner of his bed.               “I’m parked in the driveway,” George
He was waiting for Julie, like an anxious              mumbled.
school girl might wait for some jock to come               “No need, I’ll just drive. Your mother
take her out for a soda. It was all so                 said that directions aren’t really your thing.
disgusting to George. His mother had told              Plus, I’ve been to the Riviera loads of times,”
Julie to come meet George at their house.              Julie replied.



         ...The monotony of it all.”
                                                           ...he will be sure to repent.” — Socrates
                                                  55
                                                     /
                                       the ecliptic / prose


    Loads of times. Well, maybe she was rich                “Oh.”
then. That would explain enough. Although,                  They eat their sorbet in silence for a
if she was rich, she would be married by now.            moment before Julie starts on him again with
    George uttered seven words during the                questions.
drive to the Riviera and the first two courses.             “Could you love me, George? Someday,
If Julie noticed, she seemed not to care. It             could you love me?”
wasn’t that George was bored with her, he                   George can’t help but remain silent.
really wasn’t. She was interesting, and                  Although, he know enough to realize that
educated. She had ideas, perplexing ideas.               even to a man who isn’t painfully shy this
Ideas about love, about loving. Ideas about              would be considered an inappropriate
the absurd thing that life really is. Ideas              question.
about families, ideas about friends, ideas                  “I, I really don’t think so.”
about lovers.
    In many ways, she was like an educated                                   * * *
version of his mother.
     “George, could I ask you something?”                   The next week, Julie calls George. Or,
    “Sure,” he replies.                                  calls his mother actually. She sets up a time
    “Am I terribly boring?”                              to meet with George for coffee that weekend.
    “No,” George responds. He does not need              George then begins to spend all of his
to explain how interesting he finds her to               Saturday nights with Julie. But only
be. In the short time since they’ve met, Julie           Saturday nights. He’s far too tired on work
already knows that George isn’t a liar.                  nights for such things.
    “Then George, do you love?”                             After nine months of Saturdays, Helen
    Do I love, George thought, oh, do I love.            presents George with her original
He thought of Paul, and the little joys that             engagement ring. (Naturally, she’s had to
Saturday mornings used to bring. He                      upgrade over the years).
thought of his mother, and even of his father.              Helen plans the entire wedding. Julie, as
He thought of Julie, pathetic and yet                    George anticipated, couldn’t care much less
educated Julie. He thought of the insurance              about getting married. In fact, she even
business. And how it had been his father’s               refuses to wear a wedding dress. In private,
before him and his father’s before him. The              she suggests to George that Helen is the one
loveless marriages that had gone before him.             who ought to be wearing a white gown. In
The monotony of it all.                                  the end, both Julie and George wear
    “I think I loved once, Julie. I think I loved        pantsuits to the ceremony.
him very much, once,” George stammered.                     As George walks down the aisle, he
    “What happened?” Julie asked. She does               cannot help but tear up a bit. It isn’t because
not care, she really does not care, George               he’s marrying a woman he can never love,
thought. She is perfectly fine with the fact             surprisingly. It’s because there’s a guest
that she is on a date with a man who is gay.             missing from his side of the church. And it
    “I, well, I don’t think he loved me very             isn’t an aunt, uncle or cousin. It’s Paul.
much,” George said.




“A man content to go to heaven alone...
                                                    56
                                       /
                         the ecliptic / vertigo




art by michelle huang
                                Dripping


                                                             There was a time when
                                                          warm candles surrounded
                        a clink of golden-glassed wine, it was markedly promised.
                                                                             Not now;
                                                    I’m standing in flat slippers and
                                             cold tiles slam the soles. I’m stressed,
                                 unshaven glaze in the blank TV and I’m fumbling
                                                                 the remote in fury,
                                                      whiskey in the second drawer
                                                                       As she sleeps,
                                                                         trusting me.

                                          There was a time when other perfumes
                                   meant nothing, too quiet but now such a lovely
                                                                        whisper—
                                      I’m losing myself to this necklace of kisses,
                                              Tomorrow’s schedule smudged and
                                                            I’ll come home drunk,
                                                drowned in this restless mouthful
                                                                     As she sleeps,
                                                                      trusting me!

                                                 Because I’m staring into the night
                                                       and the moon avoids itself,
                                              flooding black ink across the sheets
                                                and that ring clawed into her skin.
                                                            I’m shaking, shivering,
                                        cold fog wetting this empty space, the life
                                                           we marked with an X—
                                               it was markedly promised after all,
                                 it was markedly promised for seawater to smear
                                                                   uselessly down,



Departure
                                                                   down as I pack,
                                                                       leaving her.

                                                                   by iris yuan
                                            ...will never go to heaven." — Boethius
                                    57
                                                    /
                                      the ecliptic / prose




                                                                        art by rachel yung




  Eyes
     of
by betsy tsai
                                Van Gogh
“Experience without theory is blind, but theory without experience...
                                                58
                                                   /
                                     the ecliptic / vertigo

   Sometimes it confounds others that I                   And, now I can’t help but feel those
have lived a usual life. I can’t quite believe it     raindrops of shame and self-pity dissolving
either. I always seem to perfectly grasp and          into my hard conscience. I feel light-headed,
present any idea with all five senses. They           and I at once blame it on that ghost whose
want to feel what I’ve supposedly felt,               misty tissue I’ve been inhaling. But begone,
chasing after my works as if craving to be in         I say; this was my destiny.
my body, though in fact, my body has never                I suddenly rise from my seat.
actually consumed the very idea of                        “God, do I need a coffee break.”
discussion. No, I have never had a lover or
any bizarre phobia, but that’s impossible,                                * * *
isn’t it? The dozens of esteemed critics claim
that I possess some godly insight, allowing                There’s nothing quite as refreshing as a
me to know what it’s really like. But the fact        walk. Yet without a destination, I feel so lost.
remains: I don’t know. I am the secondary                  I see hydrangeas, clouds of magenta and
source, the historian, not the witness. For           royal blue, whose hues are so colorfully
years I’ve convinced the world that I knew.           strong and vibrant. The flowers only lie
Until—now I realize that I am the one who             within my line of sight for a moment, for my
knows the least.                                      feet must keep up with the pace of the street,
                                                      but that one vigorous second inflames my
                    * * *                             senses. They make my paints mixed to that
                                                      perfect shade seem like unmolded dark gunk
    It is only until after I feel I’ve extracted      oozing out of the tube. Already I’m imagining
what’s rest of my creative organ that I find          using a variety of my paints, layered on top
I’ve lied. It’s such a rich lie. And it’s because     of each other. I’d slather the thick color onto
of the deeply internal nature of the lie that I       the smooth canvas of my skin and then I’d
feel fatigue and a dispirited heart, not              set my wide lips onto that color just to see
because of the fallacy itself.                        what flora really tastes like, for the two are
    I’m looking at the mesh of industrialized         stunning mirror images. I imagine that the
colors, of sidewalks, cement and walls,               sensation of that first contact between my
mundane outside my window. For the first              lips and that paint is phenomenal, but I know
time, I am out of ideas. I can’t think of what        I’ll pull myself back, disgusted by the waxy
emotion or insights to convey next. It is then        complexion of the paint. But that first
that the growing pebble of emptiness was              contact was enough, and it’s fortunate that I
dropped unto the roof of my (already) rigid           refrain now. Hereafter, I can just get lost in
heart. If even my ideas have escaped me,              the memory of that first delicious blast,
with whom must I now consort? I want to               stretching its life longer. But most others
speak. I want to laugh, weep—shriek of my             aren’t satisfied with that. No, they need real
intimate stress but my voices are all tamed           hydrangeas. They need to ingest real
and caged by the frown on my lips. Who am             emotion, the most powerful alcohol of them
I to speak?                                           all, bathing their little hearts while damaging
    The ghost of that other kind of solitude          their perception of its value. Blinding them.
lingers in the air. I haven’t been familiar with           If it’s true that Vincent Van Gogh was a
this particular solitude in this particular           lonely alcoholic, and that, on several
situation before. Typically, the silent               occasions, had swallowed paint, who’s to say
serenade of solitude wafted about me when             that the two observations weren’t related?
I was at my desk. I could close my eyes and           I’d like to imagine the cold soul, surrounded
be waltzing in the arms of an idea. While the         by yellow beauty, yet suffocating still. He
others were caressing their primitive senses          could make his nights as starry as he liked,
in each other’s arms, I was so satisfied right        and blossoms as palatable as he craved. But
where I was.                                          in the absence of absinthe, did he turn to the

                                                    ...is mere intellectual play.” — Immanuel Kant
                                                59
                                                  /
                                    the ecliptic / prose

paint, to helplessly give his flowers another                            * * *
chance to move him?
   My footsteps seem to hasten as I near                  There are some places full of breaths of
the café.                                             fresh air. I recall now the scent of
                                                      unhampered sunlight, feeding the air
                   * * *                              through the scintillating inflections of the
                                                      Mekong. It’s strange how costly it is for an
    I sit by the window with my black coffee,         urban mouse to opt out of civilization, even
placing myself in the spotlight for an idea.          for a few days. But I had once finally saved
The bell on the door rings and a girl enters.         enough to leave.
I’ve never seen her before, but I know who                There had been a little boy not far from
she is.                                               me. He didn’t have many sets of clothes to
    I’ve always been like that self-emaciated         suit his dirty mound of short curly hair and
girl who steps into a bakery. She’s the one           dusty dark skin. He lived in one of those
who bends so curiously close to the glass             straw huts along the banks the river’s dunes.
counter, mindfully devouring the crème                To him I probably appeared as one of the
caramels and rich panna cottas, all with that         wealthy Westerners armored with
thick chocolate scrawl binding the delicacies         sunscreen, mosquito repellent, and perhaps
away from her desirous tongue. She just               an iPod. Our sun-sensitive eyes grimaced at
wants to look. She wants to study how each            the boy from behind thick brown glasses. I
layer of creamy dessert is presented on top           may have been heavily armored, but I would
of another and how every cosmic flavor is             not wear sunglasses to look upon this boy’s
artfully woven into the sculpture that she            world.
will never allow herself to place into her                His world remained untouched by those
mouth. She will not be a glutton. She wants           industrialized hands clean of microbes but
to remain able to appreciate. There’s a               filthier of money and smog. So although the
plumper man over there indulging himself              wooden structures have every nook and
in one of those silk tarts, who doesn’t seem          cranny filled with the dark, damp remnants
to care about the deeper beauty of the work,          of soil, the blues of his sky and his waters
just the luscious, ephemeral ecstasy of the           are pristine and crystal. His world is much
chocolate in his mouth. She glances at him            cleaner than ours.
coldly. When the young baker asks her                     He was smiling at us with the traditional
sweetly,                                              smile of indigenous youth that appears in
    “Miss, can I get you anything?”                   charity ads.
    she answers,                                          But I was smiling at him because he
    “No thanks, I just wanted to take a look.”        seemed to know. Here was a simple boy, who
    And she is satiated.                              loved his home. He worked, he played, he




  “If it’s true that Vincent Van Gogh was a lonely
               alcoholic, and that, on several occasions,
             had swallowed paint, who’s to say that the
                  two observations weren’t related? ”


“In order to understand the world...
                                                 60
                                                    /
                                      the ecliptic / vertigo

slept and dreamed in this niche, peacefully              what our experiences do mean to tell us.
engulfed in his world, respectful. He didn’t             Perhaps it is those who allow themselves to
quite know yet how his lands were being                  be swept romantically away by the little
exploited for its goods.                                 butterfly’s wing of human life, who do not
   But then he sees the white men. He sees               know. Perhaps they’re happily drowning
the way we crawl humbly to the pristine, the             below the surface while I stand above it,
way we come to his river as if it’s a theme              peering deep into the consciousness of the
park. It’s as if simple, untouched life is a             world I love, but will never allow myself to
fantasy for us, or a painting of a flower. It’s          be a part of.
then that he knows there is a far deeper
worth in his soil and in his fragrant blades of                              * * *
grass. And that worth, which he perceived,
had nothing to do with money or material                     The coffee swallows my tongue in its
goods.                                                   deep presence. Maybe the beans ground in
   I was smiling at him because, unlike the              this cup came from somewhere near the
rest of us, he seemed able to both live and              boy’s village. I wonder, as if the drink is an
love at the same time. He smiled back at me,             escape of the struggle that civilization has
recognizing my admiration for him.                       thrown onto my desk. My absinthe.
                                                             The thin girl decides to take a seat. She
                    * * *                                doesn’t want to hinder the many impatient
                                                         people entering the café to mindlessly
    It’s when we’re blessed with that beauty             devour their afternoon sugar-fixes. It’s too
that we lose sense of its worth.                         bad. All she wanted was a look. At this busy
    I paint real emotion all the time, and yet           hour, there’s no time for people who are just
I don’t want to consume it. I want to savor              looking.
its value forever in that first point of contact,            I turn away. My eyes try to peer further
even if I must make frequent friends with                through the window, reaching for those
the ghost.                                               hydrangeas again, their intoxicating,
    This is a gift. I get to have my panna cotta         aromatic colors. I can’t help it. I suppose
and eat it too.                                          I’m no better than the edgy customers in
    So perhaps I did not lie. I may just know            line.
                                                             “Miss, would you like one?”
                                                             The young man from behind the counter
                                                         sits across from the thin girl, setting a plated
                                                         raspberry soufflé with chocolate shavings
                                                         and a spoon before her.
                                                             “You’re not in a rush, are you?” he asks.
                                                             The girl flushes, her fragile face jumping
                                                         out of surprise.
                                                             “Um, no, I have time. I’m not going
                                                         anywhere,” she says.
                                                             Good answer. If she eats slowly, she’ll find
                                                         the delicious tastes emerging. She may have
                                             zhu




                                                         observed the desserts as if they were
                                           tina




                                                         sculptures in an impenetrable glass case, but
                                           hris




                                                         as I watch her take the first bite, it seems
                                      by c




                                                         that the artwork has some real flavor. It’s
                                                         okay to consume once in a while.
                                     art




                                                             And as for me? Well, I take another sip
                                                         of my coffee, gladly.

                                ...one has to turn away from it on occasion.” — Albert Camus
                                                    61
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