“I woke up after a nap one day with quite a bit of inspiration, so immediately I went to write this short story.”
“Welcome to Summer Camp,” the sign read. The excitement was palpable; the lot of us were all clamored together in that first courtyard. No one here had been to camp before, despite everyone being different ages. From the younger middle-schoolers, to the older of us high-schoolers, everyone was witness to the halcyon summer about to unfold. I knew going in that it was a goal of the summer camp to grow the older campers into leaders so that they’d come back the next year as counselors, and quite frankly, I was all-too-naïve and looking forward to the recognition and responsibility that would soon come with it. As we waited for the counselors to join us, I took in the moment.
The girl in my bag You are so ugly. Try to hide your face. If you peek out of that bag, everyone will know. You’re different Keep a secret. Safe inside this skin. Don’t let anyone know that ugly girl within. Smile as you belong, full of confidence, but hide that ugly girl, the one behind the fence.
The ugly girl you are, that fought your way to be Pretend it was all handed to you, like the many you see. Oh ugly girl inside, don’t share the suffering felt Don’t share the pains of never loved, don’t share the tears you wept Ugly girl just stay, Inside the dark brown bag That way no one will know that inside, you are just sad
Stress, anxiety, heavy feelings, whatever you want to call it, come with a potency that overwhelms our mind, influencing every decision and the way we perceive the world.
I have noticed I tend to look back on challenging stretches of life and think, that wasn’t so bad. Time gives us a lens with the blurring stress filter removed, giving a romanticized picture of the seemingly lackluster moments you overlooked. When this appreciation comes, all those moments are far gone, wasted on a overextended and burnt out mind probably because something wasn’t working out exactly the way we wanted it to at the time.
How can a fish teach medicine, how does diabetes result from environmental contamination, and how does environmental contamination cause illness through biological and non-biological mechanisms? I recently read “The River Is in Us: Fighting Toxics in a Mohawk Community” by Elizabeth Hoover, which prompted these questions. Hoover describes the impact of contamination and disruption of a Native American community’s environment located at Akwesasne along the St. Lawrence Seaway and bisected by the U.S.-Canada border. Akwesasne is downwind and downriver from a few sites, such as Reynolds Metals and General Motors Central Foundry, recognized as particularly hazardous to human and environmental health by federal and state governments. As a foreword, the Mohawk community at Akwesasne has a long history that this article cannot do justice to. I highly recommend reading Hoover’s book for more information on historical and cultural contexts.
I love theater. I participated in my high school’s drama club, and each year I go see a few plays and musicals in KC. There is something magical that happens on stage—human ingenuity creates dazzling sets, talented actors and actresses draw me into their worlds with wonderful performances, and beautiful music ferries me through the show. And when I was asked to come back to my high school to teach the tech crew how to operate the sound and light boards, of course I had to help.
Returning to theater gives me a chance to reflect on what lessons and parallels I can draw. Most salient to me is the process by which characters are made legible (made comprehensible) on stage, and how I make myself legible to others by playing a script that others can understand based on notions of familiarity and acceptability. For example, in the case of many members of my former high school’s drama club, they must make themselves and their lives legible in a limited range of forms to access scholarships and better education on their college essays. I play the part of a medical student; therefore, I must play it adequately by exuding confidence and competence. If I were to falter at playing this part, I would expect some derision from my peers based on previous experiences of failing at playing my roles appropriately.
The blizzard smothered the squeaky old subway as it slowly pressed toward the station. Nighttime had arrived, and the darkness was brightened only by a bit of shimmer from the ice and snow that stubbornly prevailed against any shovel. I rested against my cold, hardened seat, ready to enter this frosty wonderland with a new sense of excitement; I was going somewhere new. Comfortable in my alone-ness, I was quickly awakened from this slumber as I exited the station. I was lost in the city with every street sign covered in a white blanket that chilled me to my core.
Not long later, a shadow made itself out to be a friendly face, a fellow lost traveler. “Where’s the door?!” she shouted, her voice rising above the gusts. Traversing together, we found not only the door but also a piping hot pizza waiting for us inside; we had finally arrived. Thawed by the pepperoni and the conversations of those around me, I warmed up to folks who would become close friends—the kind that have you over for dinner and make their home your home—and experienced the deepest joy as I opened my life up to these new people.
It’s Christmas morning. Her eyes flash open, a result of adrenaline from what’s downstairs. Not the presents or the smell of pine and peppermint, but the screaming. She hears Annie yelling and instantly knows what’s happening. She listens for a while, processing. She knows the cycle is starting again. Being the most observant of the family, she expected this was coming soon. She saw his pupils, the way his hunch was worsening, and even the rattle of the pill bottle in his pocket that she knew he stuffed with toilet paper or cotton balls.