A Christmas Tale From Australia by Kevin Scanlon

Christmas is an exuberant holiday, is it not? All the joys of seeing your whole family in our tightly knit sweaters while feasting up and opening gifts from one another. Along with that come all of the Christmas joys. Decorating the tree, bedazzling the house with lights and wonderful decorations, and playing outside in the cold, snowy evening, or watching it from the inside trickle down and cover the street until it looks like a giant white blanket. This is probably what you and I are used to, being as though we both live in the Northern Hemisphere where December 25th is Christmas during the season of winter. In the Southern hemisphere where Christmas takes place during the summer, the holiday is just one big cook out where all of the family members are in shorts, eating outside, and the Christmas decorations are summer oriented, with Santa Claus dressed in shorts and a life vest, riding water skis pulled by a giant fish. Seeing as we’re so used to it being in the winter, it’s kind of hard to imagine right?

During one Christmas, my immediate family and I took a month long vacation down to Australia to see my aunt, uncle and their three kids. They live in Sydney which is on the eastern part of the continent and when I arrived, the temperature was 94 degrees. It was a very hot and humid Christmas. The strange and exotic creatures I spotted on our way to the house included lizards, snakes, scorpions, and exotic spiders. Part of me was very creeped out and wished I was back in N.Y. but the other part of me found it very interesting. As we were inside with the A/C turned on full blast, we all chowed down on the typical Christmas day dinner which included roast beef, asparagus, and many other nutrients. Then we had our apple pie from America, opened our gifts and went to sleep as we awaited the arrival of next morning.

It was the 26th and it was 95 degrees out. My cousin who was a huge motorcycle enthusiast loved traveling cross country and he knew that I was very much into long distance traveling as well. So he suggested to me that he and I should ride our motorcycles from our current location (Sydney) to Perth, which was at the other end of Australia, and back. He explained how the trip would probably take around 4 days to finish because it was a little over a 1000 miles from Sydney to Perth. I agreed to do it. So we packed our stuff into a couple of back packs. His backpack included extra gloves, first aid kits, bandanas, towels, and four water bottles. Mine included a few pairs of underwear and about six bottles of gator aid. I figured as long as I had my iPhone and my credit card, I didn’t need anything else. Ha Ha.

So we took off the next morning, I followed him through the beautiful streets of Sydney where we passed tall buildings and beautiful pong trees. As we got off the highway where literally everyone was going over 80 mph, we reached the desert where we spotted many exotic spiders that were almost the size of tarantulas. Out of all the creatures I saw on my way there, I had a feeling that these spiders would give us the most trouble. My cousin felt indifferent because he’s used to seeing creatures like this but for me, just looking at them as I was creating a dust storm through the rocky Australian desert made me feel like I was in a Stephen King movie. They were of different colors, some even red and grey, and had these weird doll eyes.

So there we were, a couple of adventurers riding off in the face of fear. We made it about 300 miles from Sydney all the way into the dirt trails of the Australian Outback located in the middle of the continent. My cousin was riding with purpose, speaking through a radio headset telling me where we would go and which shortcuts to take. At that point I have gotten extremely confident on my motorcycle and dare I say cocky. Cutting over a big patch of land, my cousin decided to show off with some cockiness of his own and went airborne over it as he likes to be the daredevil at times. Unfortunately his daredevil antics didn’t pay off because as he hit the ground, his bike landed awkwardly on the side of its tire and caused him to crash and burn like Evel Knievel. Fearing for his life, I slammed on the breaks, skidding up dust, and ran as fast as I could over to my cousin who as it turns out, ended up with a 5 inch cut on his left knee. The injury was very minor but his bike had a broken handle bar and a popped tire so now he couldn’t ride it anymore.

So I’m bandaging this guy’s knee up as the day was getting shorter and we were thinking we should head back home on my motorcycle and quit the journey since it wouldn’t look good having two grown men riding several hundreds of miles on one motorcycle. As I was putting away the first aid supplies, suddenly I felt something sharp and painful go right into the top of my left ankle. I was bit by an exotic spider, the same ones that I’d been worrying about the entire trip. So after I was caring for my cousin, he all of a sudden started caring for me and he noticed that the bite was swelling out of control. We were now two guys in the middle of nowhere with only one motorcycle and a bad spider bite.

So he had to get on my bike and I had to sit right behind him. We then had to ride a few hundred miles back to Sydney to see a doctor. It was maybe the most humiliating experience of my life. My fleshy white arms were wrapped around his waist and I was softly weeping over whether or not I was going to die of a spider bite. As we made it back to civilization just outside of Mungo National Park about 25 miles away from Sydney, we spotted a doctor’s office and went inside to find out that I was bitten by a Red Back spider, which was very common around Australia. The bite wasn’t too severe and the doctor prescribed us antivenin which made it go away in a couple of days.

After we got back to the house late at night we both had to hear it from the family who were none too pleased with how we went about our business. His parents screamed at him for being so reckless on a motorcycle and my parents screamed at me for not noticing the big red spider before it took a bite out of my leg. My parents never trusted me on a motorcycle again or on a cross country trip for that matter. After all that went down in the Australian Outback and all that went down back in Sydney when explaining our failed adventure to the family, the only thing left on our minds were, “man this has been such a wonderful start to a Christmas vacation.”

All in all I have learned to be a more careful person. My sense of adventure has not gone away but my use of common sense has prospered. Looking back, I realize that riding two Harley Davidson motorcycles through the dry, dusty lands of the Australian Outback wasn’t the sharpest idea. My cousin and I both knew we were taking a risk but we were absolutely certain we would make it to the other side of Australia without a scratch. To me life is still a game that we play, but I understand now that it is very dangerous and one little mistake could mean your life. I am more cautious about where I go and what I do in the future.

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About the Author,

Kevin Scanlon

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My name is Kevin Scanlon and I am a John Jay College graduate with a Bachelor of Science degree in Criminal Justice. I am 22 years old, born and raised on Staten Island, NY. I am a keen observer, researcher and writer with dreams of working for the FBI or in a legal capacity to make a difference in the world we live in.

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New York Tourist by Elizabeth Yanes

My friend Steven and I grew up on food and travel shows. On his couch we recently viewed the PBS documentary Sandwiches That You Will Like. When I was twelve and watching this show with my mother, I was the little girl who dreamed to see the world, but mainly the United States. My mother, however, has always wanted to go to Europe. Back then, and again with Steven, I wanted to eat the sandwiches we saw in the documentary—the lobster roll in Maine, the barbeque in Texas, the Elvis, and Pastrami sandwiches in New York.

Then I realized that I wasn’t the little girl anymore who was forbidden to cross the street alone. I was older. I could make my own choices. I told Steven we could go to two of the places on the program. He had already gone to Katz and wanted to go again. Steven was also up for any sandwich that had bacon on it, which the Elvis in Peanut Butter & Co. does.

“Just looking in from the outside, I felt younger.”

Two weeks later, having saved up enough money, we went. The summer day was warm, with slightly chilly winds. We followed the directions I wrote on an old yellowed piece of loose leaf paper to Peanut Butter & Co. The shop was not hard to miss with the blue and white striped awning. Steven went in the shop so easily. He was not drifting into the past like I was—seeing the old 50s Wonder Bread ads, the girls spreading peanut butter or jam on slices of bread. I wasn’t born in the 50s, nor was my mother. I was, however, raised with TV shows from before my time like The Honeymooners, I Love Lucy. The commercials that came with those shows were old fashioned.

I walked in, feeling shorter and younger than I had been outside, and ordered the Elvis, a peanut butter sandwich with bananas, honey, and bacon, served on their famous extra-large slices of bread with the crust still on. An elderly couple sat by the window, eating, not minding the sun hitting them. Steven and I ate our sandwiches away from the glaring sun-rays, and we barely talked. I preferred the silence actually. It gave me time to reflect on the simple dream I had accomplished.

Then I felt ashamed. It had taken me eight years to go to Peanut Butter & Co. I had been missing out on the Elvis with bacon for nearly a decade. Because I was so focused on wanting to try all the sandwiches I’d heard about in other parts of the United States, I had failed to see the ones close to me.

“Dreams can be accomplished with the smallest step.”

I bit into the Elvis with a child’s innocence and anger. The peanut butter was wonderfully sticking to the roof of my mouth. The honey dripped on my fingers and down to the plate. The bacon was crispy and perfectly fattening. I took a break from eating and saw a 1963 Norman Rockwell Skippy advertisement on the wall and felt like I was enjoying what America tastes like—peanut butter, white bread, crust, bananas, honey, and bacon. My mom had made me peanut butter sandwiches for my school trips and for our outings to Coney Island beach. But this sandwich was a grownup’s sandwich. I started to feel my age again.

I knew what I could and couldn’t do. I learned what others had learned much more quickly. Dreams can be accomplished with the smallest steps or with a train ride.

After we ate, we walked around a bit to make space for the pastrami sandwich awaiting us about a mile away.

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“I told Steven I was going to see the world,

and New York was part of it.”

 

 

I was a tourist in my own city and needed to get to know my own yard more. I was off to a great start. Steven and I were going to another tourist attraction.

Then we were at Katz to get our second sandwich of the day, not even having waited long enough to digest what we had eaten before. Steven and I took our tickets from the man inside and headed to the sandwich counter to place our orders. Together we watched the carver cut the meat into thick slices. He offered a piece of pastrami to us, and I relished eating it for real instead of just inside my imagination.

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I’ve eaten pastrami before,

but no place was like Katz.”

 

 

I thanked the man and watched him perform his delicate task of stacking the pastrami slices between the slices of rye. I had accomplished one dream just a little while ago, and even though I was still happily stomaching it, another great sandwich was coming my way.

We sat a couple of tables away from the famous seat where Meg Ryan had her fake orgasm in the movie When Harry Met Sally. The sign on the ceiling, moving with the wind from the door opening and closing, pointed at the place. A family occupied the seats, and I was okay with that. The reality of what Katz is and tastes like is better than sitting at a celebrities’ table.

The counters were completely crowded with people. Old ladies and old men had to fight their way to be heard over the other customers and to give their carnival-looking tickets to the carver. He wrote down their order and gave the ticket back. Not everybody was fortunate to get a piece of pastrami to taste.

Pictures of celebrities were wallpapered to the deli. Some United States Presidents had eaten there. The sign that encouraged buying salami for the troops gave me a World War II feel. I imagined rations and women working the jobs men left behind.

I was eating at my first Jewish deli, attacking my juicy, greasy, pastrami sandwich, slathered with brown mustard, held all together on rye bread. I was seeing and tasting the world’s food within my city and an hour away from my house. I would only finish one half the sandwich and have the other half wrapped to go.

I originally wanted to go to Katz with my mother, but we had different ideas about traveling. She wants to save up to see Europe. I want to see America and then Europe.

I decided I would travel on my own more. The times of watching travel and food shows continue, and gradually I’ll be able to say I’ve been to those places.

“I’ve changed my I want to I have.”

     I’ve traveled around NYC more since making that decision. Steven’s collection of food and travel shows help point me to the local places I can check out. I have to order more sandwiches from Katz. I have to go to Coney Island to enjoy the cotton candy and mango on a stick again. I have a lot of places to see. This little girl has grown up and has a world to explore. And I’m proud to call myself a New York Tourist.

 

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About the Author,

Elizabeth Yanes

Elizabeth Yanes is a writer, nature lover, photographer, and possible adventure seeker. She wanders around New York on footfor hours to see the changing city. Currently she is writing a mystery novel set in present day New York and takes pictures of city life in her free time. Elizabeth wants to document the times through pictures and writing, while she works to create positive change in the present.

 

Displaced by Aya Abdelmoamen

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It’s scary to think about it. To stare at the plain white ceiling in my room and think about what happened. Scarier to try to recollect memories you don’t want to remember but try to anyway so they don’t get buried inside your thoughts and haunt you. So I try. I try to remember so I can forget.

“Welcome to New Orleans, Louisiana! For your safety, please remain seated with your seat belts fastened until the fasten seatbelt sign has been switched off. Please do not remove your carry-on baggage until the aircraft has come to a full stop.”

The six of us got off the plane, rushed to the baggage claim area, and got our bags to leave the airport so we could head to our hotel. As soon as we stepped out of the airport terminal, I could see the cloudless sky as I took a deep breath of the fresh, cool air that filled my lungs. I noticed a young, hefty woman at the curb of the street as she signaled to us and we dragged our bags over to her taxi.

“Where ya’ll heading to?” Her voice seemed to be filled with bitter exhaustion as she chucked our bags to the back of the cabbie. Ugh. This was just like New York. People are almost always pissed and always in a rush.

As I saw my friends get in the back of the taxi, I opened the passenger door to sit next to her and turned to my friends. “You guys don’t mind if I sit here, right? I get car sick easily.” We practically live together. Of course they don’t mind.

Our taxi set off down the highway past the Mercedes-Benz Superdome stadium, our taxi driver began to lighten up. I could feel my body relax as the tension and anxiety eased. “Where ya’ll from? What brought you guys down to Nawlins?” the cabbie asked us enthusiastically in her southern accent.

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All of us must have been fascinated by the way she pronounced “New Orleans” because we remained silent for the next five seconds. I could see my friend smirk as he replied, “We’re here from New York for NOLA’s national college media convention. They hold the national conference in different states every year, and usually the senior editors attend.”

I didn’t listen much to the rest of the conversation about why we came and their brief discussion about what Hurricane Katrina did to the city because my eyes were set on the sights of the slender-stemmed palm trees clustered on every street. “Oh, My god! There are palm trees here!” I exclaimed in sheer excitement. I must’ve interrupted my friend’s conversation with the cab driver because I heard them laugh at my random exclamation. The trees looked like they belonged in a part of heaven because they stood so beautifully elegant, and I began to wish that they grew in New York.

I continued to look ahead from the passenger window at the tropical trees. After what felt like a short ride, our cab stopped at the corner of a lively street to unload our bags. We tipped her and walked two steps ahead and into our hotel lobby. There was a mix-up in our payment process for the room, and I grew frustrated that we couldn’t quickly settle in. We were cranky and jet-lagged from the long transit flight. I finally managed to book two rooms almost adjacent to each other on the fourth floor. One room for us girls: Taja, Navita, and me. The other room was for the guys: AJ, Ben, and Chris.

Sharing rooms wasn’t a problem for any of us, though, because we all worked together. We spent endless hours in our newsroom training intro and intermediate reporters to write good stories. We spent hours past midnight working on layout and copy edits before sending out our monthly issue for publication. We were together in classes, together when we went for coffee breaks, together for yoga, together when we screamed in utter frustration that the load was over-bearing, and together when we walked out of the newsroom in relief to head home.

We hated and loved each other. Like family.

“Hold the doors, Ben,” Navita said as we walked over to the elevator and hit four. Our rooms were replicas of each other. When we settled into the room, none of us unpacked because we couldn’t wait to roam the festive and energetic streets of this town. Besides, we had so little time tomorrow after our workshops and sessions we needed to attend. We left our rooms eager to tour the infamous two-way Bourbon Street in the French Quarter and eat at any open local restaurant. Holy god, we were starving, and it was past midnight. We were tired from traveling, but none of that seemed to matter because whatever energy we had left over was ready to explore this place. When we walked a few feet from our hotel, the six of us stared in surprise at the sight of the Halloween town. Watching this place was like living the Disney movie Halloweentown. Bourbon Street was packed corner-to-corner with people adorned in Mardi Gras costumes and masks.

aya research3Purple, green, and gold beads were being thrown from balconies as the crowds surged below in an attempt to catch the beads from above. They all wanted to hang the colorful beads around their necks. Maybe it was their symbol of being sexy. The techno beats and hip-hop music soared from bars and clubs, and we could barely hear the sound of our voices. I could feel my heart rate pounding as fast as the beat of the music, and it was hard to tell if I was getting too anxious or too excited. I couldn’t stop staring ahead of me at the fortunetellers and other mystic offerings ranked on every street claiming to be the best in town.

Instead of New York’s food carts filling the fast-paced city, New Orleans’s streets exploded with booze stands on every corner. New Orleanians were buying beer like New Yorkers buy Starbucks. I was shocked to see people drinking on the public street as smiles dressed their faces. They were lost in a wave of happiness. Like if the wave suddenly turned into a tsunami, they would never notice until it drowned them.

“Holy shit, the bar scene here is so different than anything else,” Chris said. I’ve never seen a bar scene anywhere I’ve traveled, so I had no idea what he was talking about.

My mind went blank as I glared at the large crowds. It’s not like I wasn’t accustomed to the mélange of people everywhere, but this place was pulsating with too much. Too much noise. Too much drinking. Too much excitement.

I’ve seen diversity in New York, and I’ve seen tourists in Egypt, but I’ve never felt such a rush of contagious excitement from any town I’ve visited. “We can’t walk as a group because of the massive crowds,” AJ mouthed the words while trying to use his hands to explain what we should do. We split in partners as we sidestepped and maneuvered through the lively Bourbon Street. We hunted for food until we finally found a place to eat. At the restaurant we got seated on a table long enough for the six of us, and we ordered the waitress’ recommended Jambalaya, Gumbo, and Po-boys.

When all of us made it back to our hotel rooms, we spoke about what we would do for the following day. We changed into our PJ’s and laid back on the stretched out sofa to talk about which workshops to attend for tomorrow’s conference. I circled the sessions in the conference book that I wanted to attend for copy-editing, writing, reporting, and leadership. I finished circling the leadership session when it attacked me. I was struggling to breathe. A sudden wave of panic rushed through my body, and my face became numb as it moved to my hands and down to my spine and legs and feet. My heart soared with fluttering beats so fast that I was almost sure that I wouldn’t survive it this time. I looked over at Taja, and before I could say a word, she saw my hands and body start to shake as it exploded with anxiety. This was Chicago all over again.

I trembled and shook until I felt an overbearing tingliness all over my body, and that’s when I lost sensation in my hands, legs, and face. I looked down at my hands, and I could tell they were paralyzed. I could see the session book in my hand, but I could feel nothing. I couldn’t make sense of anything. My mind was running frantic, and I couldn’t understand why.

I knew I had no control over my body attacking me, so I sat disabled on the sofa staring at my fingers as the muscles in them contracted and they appeared immobilized. Like cerebral palsy consumed my hands and writhed my body.

My friends knew what was happening to me. Taja’s brows furrowed and her eyes stared at me with concern as she quickly got up from the couch and reached for my hands to get me up.

“Come with me,” she said, trying to remain calm. I could barely feel her hands grab my arms because I was too numb to feel. I started to cry out in fear, “I. Can’t. I can’t feel my hands. I can’t feel anything.” I didn’t recognize my voice as I struggled to breathe. She continued to support me with her arms as I began to walk baby steps. I felt like I was separated from my body as I watched someone else control me.

When I entered the empty bedroom, she helped me sit on the bed. “C’mmon, Aya, breathe with me. Pretend we’re in yoga class—take a deep breath in.” She paused for five seconds. “Aaannnnddd exhale out.” She extended the words as she breathed in and exhaled out slowly so I could follow her breathing technique, but I was too worried about not being able to feel my face.

“I can’t do this, Taja. I can’t breathe,” I cried out as I could see but could not feel the tears falling down my face and onto my hands like waterfalls. “Don’t worry,” Taja said. “We’ll get through this, I promise. We’ve been through this before, and we’ll get through this again. Just breathe with me.” She repeated the triangle breathing as I tried to mimic her.

The anxiety lasted for hours. It haunted me at the end of every following night, and attacked me every time I tried to close my eyes to fall asleep.

Each night I had to stay awake because I was afraid that I wouldn’t wake up because of the paralysis. That I’d lose myself and helplessly watch something take over me. That I’d let the waves drown me without fighting the water from filling up my lungs. I had to keep awake. I had to breathe. These episodes lasted for three restless nights, and until I got on the second transit flight back to New York.

As I sunk into the airplane seat, I could clearly hear the airline attendant’s announcement before we took off. “If there is a loss of cabin pressure, oxygen masks will fall down automatically, just place the mask over your nose and tighten the strap, oxygen will flow automatically. We thank you for choosing our airline and if there is anything we can do to make your flight more enjoyable, please don’t hesitate to ask!”

I inhaled in and exhaled out.

 

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About the Author,

Aya Abdelmoamen

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Aya Abdelmoamen migrated to the U.S 13 years ago. Then she did not speak, read, or write English, but she learned and has come a long way. She is a tutor at the Writing Center at John Jay College, and she hopes in her coming years to teach and inspire other college students the way she was taught and inspired. Aya loves to write behind walls to escape into her own creations. She is a beauty junkie who is in love with fashion but doesn’t follow any trends. When she isn’t commuting, writing, or working, Aya researches unanswered questions that run through her mind.

 

 

 

 

Nests by Christopher Ferreiras

No one ever believes I’m from here. “What’s out there,” people would ask, and I’d say, “nothing but the Bronx Zoo.” And where I grew up. It’s just like I remember it except I don’t remember the sky being so grey. Then again the last time I was in this neighborhood was the day we packed our shit and bounced to Riverdale, and that day was as covered by waves of heat as it was by waves goodbye. Past the bodega we drive and I nod my head, surprised at the fact that the oddly detailed graffiti of the Tim Dog mural is still next to the cleaners, the Puerto Rican with the once grey hair now stands at the deck of his house with a full head of white and a face carved with wrinkles. There isn’t a single soul on the block except him and us. “He’s still here,” my mother chuckles.

We approach the corner of Grand Avenue, and what a grand sight it is to see that not much has changed on my block either. That red thing with the buttons to call the police and firefighters is still there, and I’m more in shock that I still don’t know what that’s called than I am at the fact that it’s still standing. The bricks on the corner building are still separated enough to climb if your hands were small and ashy enough like mine were on the day I watched my family panic because I’d pretended to be lost.

Looking back, I don’t understand why I did it either. I was just a child and didn’t really know what it meant to feel lost (even though getting lost was one of my biggest fears), but I don’t know if I understood that my loss would’ve scared my mother—that was never my intention, I swear…at least I don’t think—but I guess if I could think of any reason why I did do it, it’s probably because I wanted to see if they’d feel sad if I ever went missing.

“I don’t know what possessed you to do that. You were never like that,” mama says looking back at me as I gaze out the window of the passenger seat. “To this day,” she continues, “I still don’t know where you were, or what happened. It makes me sick to my stomach just thinking about it.”

Typical kid things, one could rationalize, but to this day I don’t know where I was either—mentally I mean, because that’s some sociopath type shit—watching my mother and sister go crazy looking and screaming for me. My mother always trusted me enough to wait for her in front of the building whenever I ran out of the apartment before her, so why I hid behind the building at the end of the block, I don’t know. Why I never responded to the times she and my sister called my name, still don’t know. But I guess some karma I don’t believe in got me good for putting my mother in a frenzy that day because only a year after that lovely incident I almost got my ass kicked by Davon in the fourth grade because he found out Eva liked me instead of him.

My mother drives slowly as we approach the front of my building, but not before I see it all unfold before my eyes again just like the day it happened: a young, blurry Davon letting go of his little brother, dropping his Jansport, taking off his coat, and stepping right to my face after I nearly shook the shit out of my pants and laughed nervously in his face. By that time in the fourth grade at least more than half of the boys in Ms. Cueto’s class, including Davon, had already been talking about Blood and Crip initiations and telling me not to wear blue or red unless I wanted to get fucked up (and thus began my obsession with black), so it’s pretty safe to say I got the scare I deserved before my neighbor Justin rescued me from him. Life goes full circle I guess.

Before I know it, there it is, 2181: six stories of memories overflowing through the cracked glass on the entrance door. The building still looks like it’s made of red sand and dust while the buildings and houses around it look like they could really use a new neighborhood. We double park between the schoolyard next to my building and the super’s entrance way. I hop out of the car to see if I’ll feel another crashing wave of memories, but instead a young hooded boy, no older than my seven-year-old nephew, turns from playing alone and waves enthusiastically at me through the beaded gate like he recognizes me from behind my black wayfarers. I try to make out a face, but all I see is two fat cheeks, a jungle gym that was once green and yellow, now green and red, and more boys playing basketball in the background. Whose kid is he and how does he know me?  I retreat to my mother’s car awkwardly and laugh with her because honestly, how would anyone except Biemba, whom I heard was still living in my building, possibly recognize me in black velvet with a topknot, a beard, and shades?

After I jump back into the car, we circle the block one too many times, driving under the tossed shoes on the telephone and power lines above the streets, and if I’m not mistaken, that pair of chucks are still there as they have been all my life. We turn one too many heads as we stop and stare at the second floor, where we used to live. Behind us are the houses where Minham and Minhaj grew up, and that other house that once burnt down and became a home for a stray Siberian husky is now the foundation for an ugly clay building.

My mother points out that four of the windows on the side of my old building belong to 2C, and three of the four windows now have air conditioners that weren’t there when we moved. “I wonder who lives there now,” she says, “last time I checked Justin and his family were living there.” It’s strange to think someone lives where I lived and is building memories exactly where I’d once built mine. From inside, the sun always seemed to shine on our building, or maybe it was because we had sheer curtains and every light looked bright that way. “You know what, the boys look happy,” my mother interrupts. “It doesn’t seem that bad.” But it was never that bad, even when it was.

I’ve welcomed ghosts that can’t see me, coming here, welcomed memories I thought I had forgotten me, replaced me with other boys and girls who played and lived in the same places I did, as I have replaced. But as the hood stands, so have my ghosts waiting for me to press play. Coming here is more than visiting the place I grew up; it is growing up again to play in that schoolyard and watching my window break during slugfest. It was watching Stephanie stand by the fence that divided the yard from the jungle gym and watching my younger self contemplate approaching her. But those boys will never see that because their memories are not of falling off Zoomie scooters, or of David and his crew doing the Harlem shake while Renee tried to stop a ball in the sky by throwing his catching glove at it. It’s not of kickball and not of the burning dumpsters that smoked through my fire escape window. The only memories me and those boys might share are the ones of the legendary vakas sitting by the gates, waiting for something to happen so they could gossip about it, maybe because being in their apartments was worse than being outside. And those kids of theirs, those kids who probably felt more at home eating breakfast, lunch, and dinner in the yard than in their actual kitchen, or dining room. But I might be wrong. Who knows where they migrated, or what street corner they occupy now. Home will always be, whether it’s for me or someone else, whether it’s outside, or in.

We circle around the neighborhood for one last wave before we drive back home. My mother often says that we were a family. Happy once. I can’t help but wonder if we reflect on home as fondly as we do because we no longer live in 2181, because we left the nest we built together, or because happiness is beyond just the place; it’s the people who were there when we made it. We cross the bridge, park the car, and begin to walk home. I hear a loud flap circle and descend from above to the ground in front of me. A black, velvet crow waddles with a long, thin branch before it flies up and away. She’s a building a nest somewhere.

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About the Author,

Christopher Ferreiras

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A lot of horrible things happen when I’m around. People begin to smile and have a great time. It’s really quite awful. As if it wasn’t bad enough that my cool kid qualities are highly contagious, I also write, photograph, draw, sing, and probably have cooler hair than the person next to you. You might assume that such an eclectic variety of talents would make me quite the bundle of joy and intrigue, but really it just adds onto what a nightmare I really am.

 

 

A Bug Under a Magnifying Glass by Ada’gabriella Peralta

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Petite Martinique (P.M), Grenada was probably the closest I have ever come to paradise. It is a small, secluded island, far from city life and can only be reached by boat. My hotel was right on the beach and everything was surrounded by nature. That of course meant insects of all kinds: centipedes, mosquitos and ants. Being the city girl that I am, I would keep an eye on these insects, the same way that people of the island watched me.

“Grenada is a tri-island state.” It consists of St. George’s, Carriacou, and of course P.M. The French and the British fought over control of the island during the 18th century until the British gained complete control in 1783 by the Treaty of Versailles. P.M is the smallest of the islands–only 486 acres–and was settled by Frenchmen Pierre in the early 1700s, after leaving his home in Martinique due to an ant infestation. Once there he brought slaves to the small island to plant cotton and sugarcane. After the slaves were freed, the whites moved to the northern part of the island while the newly freed slaves remained in the southern part of the island. The size of the island, eventually, led to the mingling of whites and blacks. Although the original form of income was agriculture, there are only small amounts of rain throughout the year. However, the inhabitants quickly adapted, began fishing, and saw that it was more profitable. Today, fishing is their main source of income.

Getting to P.M was no walk in the park. It was a trip from hell. A direct flight from New York to Grenada is five hours. However, my family and I did not take a direct flight. Instead we took a four-hour flight to Puerto Rico. Then after hours and hours of a layover, another flight for an hour and a half to St. George’s, Grenada. To get to P.M, it was an 8 a.m. two and a half hour boat ride, the next day. That had to be the worst boat ride of my life. It was like a never-ending roller coaster. I was sick the whole ride there. I could not wait to get off of that boat.

When I finally got off, I was in complete awe. My surroundings were beautiful–minus all the bugs of course. My hotel was right on the beach. Right outside my balcony, there was a tree full of little birds. Since I was still feeling sea sick, I sat outside and took it all in. This was the perfect getaway from city life. And I mean really far from city life. There was no air conditioning, hot water, Wi-Fi, or television. It felt completely remote.

The island was so secluded that it had an old-fashioned feeling to it. I noticed that I was being watched. It wasn’t the way a tourist is watched by the locals–there was more to it. My every move was watched because of my gender. From the moment I set foot on that island, all eyes were on me because I’m a girl. I didn’t realize it at first. I was busy taking in the beauty of the island; my hotel was right on the beach after all.

My uncle took my boyfriend and me on a walk around the island and to his house. I hiked up steep hills in ninety-degree weather. It felt like gravity was trying to push you back down. Being at the very top of that hill was breath-taking. At the top, I had a perfect view of the blue ocean, dotted with boats, the houses, and all of the trees.

When we got back to the hotel I said to my uncle, “Where are all the women?” He responded with indifference behind his Grenadian accent, “They’re all inside. They’re housewives. They don’t come out.” My aunt added on, “You only see them if you go visit their house.” I was completely shocked, but at that moment I understood all those weird looks I was getting from the men. According to my uncle, women were always indoors cooking or cleaning. I, of course, was doing the opposite.

I wasn’t held up indoors, I was outside enjoying my vacation and hanging out–at the only bar–with the guys. While at the bar so many people looked at my aunt, my mom, and me with judgmental eyes. They were saying, “What are you doing here? Why are you drinking with the men? You should be with other women” without really saying it. The women that I did see were clearly the matriarchs of the family, working to support themselves and their family. They were given strange looks by some of the men, as well. Those women, my aunt, my mom, and I were all under observation. Everywhere we went we were like bugs under a magnifying glass, our every moved watched and judged.

I observed a poisonous centipede-looking insect slowly crawling away. Who would have thought that going to what seemed like paradise in the 21st Century would be such an odd experience.

References:
1. About Grenada. (n.d.). Grenada, Carriacou & Petite Martinique. Retrieved March 10, 2014, from http://www.gov.gd/about_grenada.html
2. A. Prime, personal communication, January 24, 2012.
3. J. Prime, personal communication, January 24, 2012.
4. Welcome to Petite Martinique. (n.d.). Welcome to Petite Martinique. Retrieved March 10, 2014, from http://www.petitemartinique.com/index.htm

 

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About the Author,

Ada-Gabriella Peralta

ada personal Born and raised in Brooklyn, NY, Ada-Gabriella Peralta has a weird obsession with “Adventure Time”. So much so that she named her dog Jake. She can be extremely indecisive, but is passionate about every decision she makes. She did, after all, spend a year in a forensic science program, even though she knew her brain could not grasp the concept of math. She later became an English major and soon realized her love of writing. She hopes to become a novelist as well as write for a magazine.