It was a game in every sense—
From the means of inception to every last laugh
With the bathroom door swinging open
to the freest territory we could find,
the giggles running with the water
and stall doors whipping against the wall
A game played before messages of love, hate, and fear covered the walls
in a time governed by parents but still freer—in a sense
We scrubbed those walls—dousing them with water.
Supposedly in class, at the thought of rules we’d laugh
not caring what the teacher would find,
giggling louder, time moving faster, even as the door creaked open.
Never again have I been that open
as those pencil markings of height are overwritten with lies on the wall.
The harder we scrub, the more dirt we find
Though we’re careful and cleaner—it doesn’t make sense.
When pain surges and old wounds split open—we laugh
nonetheless—Chins raised, eyes up, as crimson blood now blends with the water.
Once she came in she turned off the water
Pushed the stall door open,
We couldn’t suppress our laughter
The blank, white walls
shone brighter than ever—Like that quarter that one time, among the other 5 cents.
Luckily young, we escaped being fined.
Now that immunity is impossible to find.
Tied to a rock that’s been dropped in deep water
I dive in—choking and blind, impairing my senses
Uncomfortable and open,
but still closing in are those walls.
I begin to suffocate upon hearing their laughter.
The voices seem unfamiliar when producing their laughter
I settle since they’re the only ones I find.
A ghostly echo bounces off the dusty walls
I cough as I attack them with water.
No one does me the courtesy of leaving the door open,
in my solitude, I am only haunted by senses.
Maniacal laughter trickles down with the water,
as I’m finding the walls that might lead to the open
Feeling the four corners solely by touch, my senses will guide me back.
Please reach for the case, honey
And pop open the top for me, dear
I haven’t seen in months.
Please hand me the solution, doll
So my eyes don’t feel like pincushions anymore
You were wrong when you said there was nothing to see.
I’d forgotten how vivid the colors were, and
how the angles of the high rises were so defined, and
how the curves of their slender figures could be traced by sight, and
they could be so elegant, yet
It had escaped me—
how your hair caught the sun in specks, and
how your nose crinkled
the same origami pattern each smile, and
how that washed-shirt scent always followed you like a ghost, and—
I guess that has nothing to do with vision though.
I can also make out scrawled code from the back of the class,
against my will
You write your letters sloppy.
And they dance in pairs,
a squeaky dosado across the board;
I never looked until now.
And then I turned back to the doodles in my notebook,
your sweet gift to me last year.
Those characters have clubs and play golf with my eyes.
Shame on me for once believing.
I read street signs now too,
and laugh at your directions that were once so faint and hazy.
Little stores with reflective windows line Bleecker Street
and shoot grayscale images of red-bricked buildings
which are caught by my retinas all:
Cars with bumper stickers
turn on to Sixth, and
carry their baggage northbound, and
it hits me—
how fast they can all whisk off into Chelsea, and—
become little black dots.
And even the lenses can’t bring those back.
Over the Rainbow
We were at the diner—
on Waverly and 6th and
the waiter had just slapped the two menus
on the table.
We step up on to that platform,
you slide in front of me, plopping
This time, I don’t ask.
10 minutes before, we had
scoured the Yellow Brick Road
where we took photos from last October that
leave no memory,
except of having none, and some
faint vestiges of Friday best friends with glorified names—
Hall of Fame.
You were a human flamethrower,
some machine that I liked to watch when ignited.
I was a nuisance of a child.
Then would’ve been a nice time to speak.
Across the booth, my questions are sucked into
the black holes beneath your eyes
“You sound like my therapist”
but my creative responses are too,
victim to that inescapable gravity,
so I mutter a “sorry” and
just hope you remember the night it rained but
we rolled down the itchy hill off the Hudson
and met those characters that could only be make believe.
Imagine pictures of that.
I just want to wipe that dark from your eyes,
with my hands of Straw
and kill those monsters in your head
If I Only Had the Nerve.
Maybe one day I’ll walk on your left side
and you’ll fall in love with the way the city pulses beneath
you’ll feel light enough to run for miles—
past Eastchester Dyre Avenue,
or wherever the longest route ends on the midnight train.
Know that if it were possible, I would
Oil your limbs of Tin to mobility
For now we wait for our food in silence
but we’ll return to the hills once they’re dry
I’ll have the camera for that.
You were a giant in a loveseat
and I too small for your lap
But you held me while I slept anyway
so I’d fit right over the cracks.
My hair reeked of the ocean
throughout months July and August,
I can’t swim but
I Would Swim to You,
I can’t swim
no, it wasn’t true for a day.
But it was funny,
how we played castle
and how you fed me kisses behind
and how it was our secret—
that I was your Queen,
Because we don’t lock eyes anymore.
Maybe Rapunzel could have been your Lady,
(she makes lemonade alone in a Tower)
You threw my pedestal to the ocean,
so I don’t have her power.
Viviane Eng, Age 16, Grade 11, Packer Collegiate Institute, Silver Key