Finding Happiness

By Sol Fjelstad

     You’re seventeen, alone on your couch, you just got a text from your mother, who’s crying in the other room. Because your father’s died in a car crash on the way home. But she didn’t knock because you’ve never been close. And the last time she came into your room you yelled at her until she left you alone.

     You can feel the news infiltrate your mind. Crawling up your neck like a black widow spider, searching for your ear where it’ll slip into your head and push its legs into the creases of your brain. Where it will start to spin webs that itch. You want it to stop. So you grasp at your neck, but it runs, and, just barely, it makes it to your ear, so in a moment of terror your wrap your hand around the right side of your face and you pull. Until your ear is bleeding on the floor in front of you. But you can still hear it. And like a swarm of song birds singing at midnight, it’s beautiful but it scares you. It’s happiness.

      You start laughing. You tell yourself it’s how you deal with sorrow but you’re wrong. You hold your hands up to your eyes to hide yourself from judgement. But you can feel your reflection staring at you. Then your pinky slips and accidentally touches your head wound and it stings.

     The next day, at school, you’re fine. You’re coping. Stoic, even. Okay, you’re content. Dealing with what the world throws at you, emotional inertia and all that, you’re just good at it. Okay fine. You’re happy, dammit. And you say nothing. But everyone finds out. From your classmate whose father sometimes worked with your father. And people run, walk, sprint to console you, but before they do they stop. They look at you. And they ask you why you’re smiling. And you tell them it’s just how your face rests.

     Walking home a strange man stalks in front of you. He’s wearing a black suit and bright clown makeup. He’s smiling so much your eyes hurt looking at him. But he’s in your way. So you walk up to him. You stop. In front of him. And you stare deep into his shoulders. Then he holds out his hands, and despite yourself, you hold out your hands to meet his. Then you realize. Someone just  left a mirror in the middle of the sidewalk. You run your fingers along the side of his hand and it feels like… glass. And for some reason this surprises you.

     You realize you’re staring at your own happiness. And it’s everything you ever wanted. You want to take a hatchet to his head. At the same time you can hear your poor dad screaming, “Not now! Don’t be happy now!” But he’s beautiful, he’s enchanting, but he’s unusual, and that makes you uncomfortable. He kneels down and smiles at you and he’s marvelous, but he’s menacing. Then he hugs you. And you feel comforted.

     He whispers, “It’s okay to be happy.” You want to push him back and scream, tell him to come back when you’ve earned him. But before you open your mouth his head shakes. And he kisses you.

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The Jackfruit

by Sumaita Mahmood

Yellow, slimy, sticky, smelly pulp

scooped out of the mottled shell,

leaving the empty carcass of the jackfruit.

It lies on the table, still cold from the freezer.

Special glass dessert bowls are brought out

and a gracious amount is dumped in each one

with a dollop of vanilla bean ice cream.

 

The relatives around the table take their rations,

slurping up the cold fruit into their mouths.

The sharp, bittersweet taste triggers faint memories

of when they were little and had nothing else to enjoy

but the putrid insides of a large jackfruit.

No words need to be said.

Only “mmm” “aaahh” and “oooo”

their eyes closed, blind to the ugly pulp.

 

The seeds are sucked on, then spit out.

Bowls shamelessly licked clean.

Each relative goes for seconds and thirds eagerly.

A bowl of jackfruit is passed down the table

to my unwilling hands.

I confess my allergy.

The quick red flush on my cheeks

miraculously goes unnoticed.

 

A cousin I might have seen three times in my life

wonders why I can’t have this wonderful delicacy

that she has grown up relishing.

I stare back, not answering.

Perhaps what she does not realize, is that

jackfruits do not, cannot grow in NYC.

Only in hot, humid places like Bangladesh

where they reside among the tall, fruit-bearing trees.

Feminism Up

By Brooke LaMantia

Every feminist has a different view of feminism. That’s why feminism is so intriguing, confusing and importantwhy it originally caught my eye. Once I become attached to things, the infatuation that I hold only continues to grow with time. If a topic catches my eye, I learn everything there is about it. So when I decided to explore “feminism,” knowing I wanted to be one, but unsure of how, I picked up a book and started to read. The list of books driven by themes of feminism I’ve read goes on and on; classics like The Handmaid’s Tale,  cultural feminist novels like Headscarves and Hymens: Why the Middle East Needs a Sexual Revolution, and poetry like Milk & Honey. In more common works of art than expected, feminism drives the plot, narrative and voices of women all over the world. One of the best ways to find your own voice is by listening to others’ first. These authors provide insight into what feminism looks like and how it can be carried out in different ways. For me, hearing other woman’s stories made me realize that mine was also important and valid.

After reading Roxanne Gay’s book Bad Feminist, I realized I didn’t have to fit into any mold of what people thought a “feminist” was. In fact, the idea that labels had to define me at all was completely demolished. I related entirely to Gay’s essays. I understood where she came from when she said she found herself to be a “bad feminist” in terms of what society thought, when she affirmed that she did not fit the “mold.” That is the beauty of feminism—there is no right way to be one. Gay writes about how she often finds herself humming along to misogynistic, sexist lyrics simply because they’re catchy. There have been so many circumstances after reading Gay’s essays where I catch myself in the car, singing along to sexist words. These instances reveal that culture and media so deeply influence us. I will always fall short of what I think a perfect feminist is, because feminists are humans too, and expectations are, as well, a part of the issue of sexism. When walking with my friends, I will say sexist things like “man, I wish I had the balls to do that,” only to shake my head and realize what just came out of my mouth. No matter how hard I try, I am and will always be a bad feminist; each day I will fall short of what an ideal “feminist” would look like, but the important thing is that I try. Feminism isn’t about perfection, it’s about change. Everyone will always be a bad feminist in a world of non-existent good ones.

Like Bad Feminist, each book, memoir, poem, etc. that I have encountered with the label of “feminism” has taught me something new. In Rebecca Solnit’s book, Men Explain Things to Me, she discusses “mansplaining:” when a man tries to explain something to a woman that she already knows, refusing to listen to her try to explain it herself. It’s a complicated idea, but it’s one all women have likely gone through. Once I read this, I burst out laughing because it hit so close to home. Every time I tried to explain something to my dad, he would respond by explaining what I had just explained to him. I remember that I came home from college one weekend, eager to tell my dad about a cinema lecture I had the previous week, only to be continually interrupted when explaining it. “Oh, yeah, that’s when the Germans…” he interjected. I stomped away mid-sentence. It’s a frustrating conversation to have and I often think it arises without notice. In Jessica Valenti’s memoir, Sex Object, readers dive into her life and the effects of sexism on it. This book made me understand the sheer importance of vulnerability, the power it can have, and how being honest can impact those around us. Valenti holds nothing back. That is what makes her memoir so impactful. In Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s essay, We Should All Be Feminists, she calls herself a happy feminist after receiving backlash from males due to the representation of women in her first novel. Then she declared herself a happy, African feminist, a happy African feminist who does not hate men, and so on. Adichie asserts that calling oneself a feminist comes with too much baggage, and she right.

Each feminist should have the right to determine what feminism means for them. Each feminist has a different reason, different motivation, different vulnerability. Each feminist has their own voice and should be able to use it. That’s why feminist literature is so important. To be able to hear other’s stories, voices, declarations of what feminism means to them, is what keeps feminism relevant and important; it’s what allows us to connect and learn. It’s what pushes us to find our own voice.

Must Reads:

  1. Headscarves and Hymens: Why the Middle East Needs a Sexual Revolution by Mona Elthaway
  2. Bad Feminist by Roxanne Gay
  3. Sex Object by Jessica Valenti
  4. Men Explain Things to Me by Rebecca Solnit
  5. We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  6. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
  7. Milk & Honey by Rupi Kaur
  8. The Awakening by Kate Chopin
  9. The Color Purple by Alice Walker
  10. New American Best Friend by Olivia Gatwood
  11. Rad Women Worldwide by Kate Schatz, Miriam Klein Stahl

Dear Human

By Sparsh Tenguria

Human oh Human

Why do you do this?

Feel so strong in a cave made of foam?

 

Human oh Human

Complex as you are,

You fool no one by crying on your own

 

Human oh Human

Why do you never dare to crave?

For much needed love

Why don’t you play to your heart’s tune?

 

Human oh Human

How do you manage?

To wake up happy then sleep sad again?

 

Human oh Human

Why don’t you talk?

Stuffing your chest with venom

Pretending it strengthens your spirit

 

Hey oh Human

Take my word and cry

Cry out to the world

 

Hey oh Human

Pour into the world rivers of your pain

And let the rivers flow

 

Hey oh human

Take my ‘kerchief

And dare not use it

 

Hey oh animal

Try to feel

Without getting bloated on emotions

Try being

Vulnerable

Take Me Back, Student Housing

Alex Katz

Nine months ago, I packed my bags and moved out of NYU’s Carlyle Court on Union Square. Rebellious fancies concerning my departure and starry-eyed dreams of a cool new apartment, my first in this happening town, coursed through my brain. All these thoughts turned out to be entirely misplaced, and leaving student housing may have been the biggest mistake I, or anyone else in history, has ever made. Take me back, Carlyle, please; I should’ve never left you. My new room has been a nightmare from the beginning. Some may understand what’s to come, having survived similar torture themselves, but all others, heed my warning: never, under any circumstances, live on St. Marks Place. You might lose your sanity entirely—mine dwindles already.

My roommates and I found the place last summer, but I didn’t move in until this semester. I was away from school last fall, so of course the dirty gremlins I live with, my former friends, snatched up the better rooms. My microscopic room overlooks the street, and it’s loud out there at all hours. And there are no curtains or air-conditioning. And it smells.

Drunks puke on the sidewalk outside my door, between loud babbling and raving, screaming and crying. Fratboys holler cultural appropriations at each other and then slap five, the crack of their palms sounding for hours. Cars honk for no reason, and not in typical New York fashion either; there are at least seven honks per second. The drivers scream out their windows at each other, then break their windows in anger with hatchets, as I hear it. Garbage trucks come at the weirdest time and beep incessantly, as if to punish those of us who should’ve recycled. My fickle heater is either broken or supernatural; it bakes me alive or chills my bones, or somehow both at the same time. I wake up nightly from my chattering teeth just to find sweat pooling around my body. “Get me out of here!” I scream post-awakening, “Deliver me, Lord! I beg you!” But He only turns the heat up further, and if I ever do fall asleep, fever dreams wait for me.

I remember my glorious Carlyle suite. Sure, I was a twin-bed arm’s reach away from my roommate. Sure, I had suite-mates who smelled, never cleaned the bathroom, and one who even left piles of his dirty laundry in the kitchen for some reason. Sure, that particular dorm doesn’t even have a dining hall. But I miss it all the same, like an ex or a widow. I lost my building and can never have her back again. I didn’t appreciate her, and now her doors are closed. No pillow waits for me there. Now, there is only St. Marks—the street of the beast.

So if you’re searching for a piercing or a bong, St. Marks is there for you. But don’t stay too long… or it might swallow you whole.