Feminine Inquiry Issue 4: Our Selves

FEMININE INQUIRY

Our Selves

Issue 4 | February/March | 2017

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From the Editors

I’ve spent the past few months popping in and out of depression, anxiety, fear, paranoia, and all sorts of other noxious emotions as I try and make sense of the new political climate settling in around us.

All of us who work on Feminine Inquiry have been dealing with these emotions in addition to the usual roller coaster ride of emotions that one experiences by just being a person in the world. Truthfully it’s hard to come up with a conclusion as to why things are the way they are. There are no simple solutions or easily digestible pleasantries to help set our minds at ease and it would be ridiculous for me to attempt to peddle those at you when I’m, by no stretch of the imagination, an expert on politics in America.

It would also be ridiculous for me, as a white queer man editing a feminist lit magazine out of Austin, Texas, to try and put on a façade of bi-partisan support, so I won’t do that either. Nor will I try and assume that my experiences are universal and not laden with copious amounts of the exact same type of privilege that has allowed a man who openly bragged about grabbing women by their pussies to ascend to the highest office in the free world.

When we started Feminine Inquiry we had no idea any of this would happen. When I started Feminine Inquiry I was in my final year of college, working at the writing center, and desperately wanting a creative outlet that allowed me to work, and feature underrepresented and minority writers who were making stellar work. None of us knew at the time that there would be a coordinated campaign by politicos to demonize and slander any and all minority voices out there, defund the arts, and yes even toy with the idea of taking away free lunches for poor students. We just knew what we enjoyed reading and what we wanted to read more of.

While trying to think of an overarching theme for this issue I asked myself what is the larger theme that connects all of these pieces? The answer wasn’t easy. Truthfully themed issues can often end up tacky and self-important. Routinely there isn’t an obvious theme and one is shoe-horned in at the last minute. But in this case, I kept coming back to the concept of self, wondering what the word means to each of us, and how do we decide to display it to those who don’t know us.

In this issue we have a multitude of selves, each with their own unique voice and way of being. We have prose by author Mahdis exploring the self in relation to Persian tea, poet Ariella Carmell talking about the transition of the self, and poet Allyson Hoffman talking about a past self, reflected and remembered in the present. Then there are collective selves like poet, Saquina Karla C. Guiam’s The Politics of Rice which become symbols of group political and emotional identity.

But more than that, we have the selves that create and contribute to the journal: a dedicated group of strong, smart, fierce, and powerful women continually pushing it forward. Without them, this journal would never have seen its fourth issue. And without you, this journal wouldn’t have survived. This past issue push we got almost quadruple the amount of submissions we normally get.

It seems impossible to escape this concept of self-identification: feminist or anti-feminist, republican or democrat, gay, straight, bisexual, pansexual, asexual, queer, black, chicana, latinx, woman, man, transgender, or anything in between. These labels are important to how we construct ourselves and our own identities. They give voices and names to the nameless, propelling them into the modern lexicon and demanding, without apology, to be taken as serious, important, valuable and present.

I have been thinking of the function of a literary journal in facilitating this type of thing. I don’t know if I prescribe to the notion that the best thing we can do in times of turmoil is to create great art. We can do so much more. We can protest and advocate, we can donate our money, time, sweat, and tears to causes beyond us. We can amplify outside voices, we can learn, we can riot—if it comes to that. But I don’t think that art isn’t important. Art’s job is to shine a light on the condition of humanity. Good writing, and good art, teaches us about the world by expanding our access to knowledge and broadening our appreciation of new ideas, cultures, and experiences.

So, I hope that’s what we’re doing here at Feminine Inquiry—even if it’s on a micro level.

Shoehorned or not, I’m announcing right here and now Feminine Inquiry’s fourth issue: Our Selves, a celebration of the unique identities and realities surrounding us daily. We hope you read and learn a little bit more about yourself as you do.

Enjoy,

Cole Bubenik, Jourden V. Sander, Elizabeth Williams Gardner, Amaya Alejandra, Sunny Leal, Kelsey Williams, Kathleen McIntosh

Table of Contents

  • A Persian Brew
  • Mother and Daughter
  • A Room in the Frathouse
  • Seasoned Fish Crackers
  • Chicago Portrait no.25: Dead Woman
  • The Politics of Rice
  • Lost Eden
  • Nuchal Origami
  • Chicago Portrait No. 4

Prose

A Persian Brew

Mahdis

I hail from the home of Hafez. Rumi ruminates in my blood. I am from a country that boasts 7,000 years of civilization, and sometimes, that’s how old my soul feels. But for many Iranians, all of that culture and history proves to be too much of a burden and responsibility, so they carry what little of it they can – or leave it all behind – and head to the West. Somewhere they can unload and start fresh.

I was only six when my family decided to leave Iran and immigrate to the United States, the young land of opportunity. The first two years of school were a terrifying time for me. I had no idea what my teachers and classmates were saying. I felt ashamed for being Iranian. Every morning, I would beg my parents to not make me go to school. I pouted and cried to no avail.

Upon entering a Persian home – the haven of hospitality – the host or hostess will offer a properly brewed, steaming cup of Persian tea, or cha-ee, along with sugar cubes, pastries, or chocolate. Tea is the beverage of choice, served with breakfast, post lunch and dinner, and any time in between. The history of tea in Iran dates back to the late 15th century. Before that, coffee was the main hot drink. Coffee houses, or ghahveh khaneh, were speckled alongside every main road as resting places for weary travelers. Many of the traditional ghahveh khanehs still remain, welcoming travelers and tourists alike. Today, however, they mainly serve tea rather than coffee.

On my seventh birthday, I unknowingly pulled the fire alarm in a public building. My mother ran over and hurriedly dragged me away from the scene of the crime. We tried our best to look inconspicuous, following the crowd outside toward the parking lot. I asked mom if I could get chocolate cake as the fire engines pulled in.

English became easier once I started ESOL. I prayed the half-hour with my ESOL teacher, Mrs. Uzarowski, would stretch on, not wanting to leave the sanctuary of her little room. At the end of each lesson, I was awarded with a treat from her jar of goodies. I loved Mrs. Uzarowski. She was a tall, middle-aged woman with a head of curly, strawberry blonde hair. Her nails fascinated me. They were always long, neat, and painted pink. One day, she told me they weren’t her real nails. I was heartbroken. She explained that she got fake nails at a salon and showed me her real nails underneath the perfectly painted plastic ones. They looked like brittle, yellowing paper. “My real nails are ruined. These plastic ones are hiding the real things,” she told me in that patient, melodic way she spoke. She had a strong yet lilting voice. “Don’t let the fake things in life cover up the real you.”

I graduated from ESOL at the end of third grade. I remember when Mrs. Uzarowski walked over to the classroom one last time to deliver my certificate and congratulate me. I wonder if she is still teaching ESOL at Pine Grove Elementary and what color her nails are nowadays.

Brewing the perfect Persian-style tea requires good quality long, loose leaf black tea. It is recommended to use a porcelain or china teapot. The teapot has several tiny holes within the spout, which act as a strainer. Additionally, a kettle is used to bring the water to a boil and serves as a stand for the teapot while the tea brews on the stove. It is best to use an electric samovar. The samovar was brought to Iran from Russia during the 18th century. There is a special perch on the top of the samovar for the teapot to sit while the loose, black tea leaves open up gracefully in the bubbling water.

Tim was a boy in my first grade class who bullied me. He used to punch me in my stomach and pull my hair during recess or every time he was next to me in line. I never complained about it to my teachers; I felt too much like an intruder. I almost wanted to thank him when he pulled my hair, thinking he was trying to pull the black right off.

Instructions: Fill the kettle, or samovar, with fresh cold water and bring to a boil. As soon as the water comes to a boil, warm up the teapot by rinsing it with some hot water. Place two tablespoons of tea into the teapot. Pour boiled water from the kettle/samovar over the loose tea leaves in the teapot. Fill it almost to the rim and put the lid back on. Securely place the teapot on the kettle/samovar. Allow the tea to brew for at least ten to fifteen minutes on medium to low heat.

During first and second grade, opening my lunchbox in front of my classmates was embarrassing. My mom packed me Persian food most of the time. Persian dishes generally consist of white rice – with golden morsels mixed in from the saffron – and a type of stew, like Ghormeh Sabzi or Gheymeh. My lunch was much different than my classmates’ lunches of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches or Lunchables. Due to the teasing, I left my food untouched sometimes and waited to go home and eat.

Gently pour the tea into little glass teacups usually sitting daintily on matching saucers. Pour the tea slowly to prevent the creation of air bubbles. Traditionally, saucers are used to cool down the hot tea by pouring a little from the teacup into the saucer, blowing on it, and drinking from the saucer. However, this practice is usually frowned upon in front of guests or during formal events and parties. Depending on how strong or light you or your guests like the tea, balance it out with the boiled water in the kettle/samovar. When serving a large group of guests, it is good practice to have a tray with both light and dark tea.

Christina was the popular girl in my second grade class who hated me. During story time, all the girls played with each other’s hair. One day when I sat on the carpet for story time, Christina plopped down in front of me, undid her ponytail – her blonde hair cascading down like a golden waterfall – and asked me to play with her hair. I nodded as an evil idea popped into my head. I had ESOL before lunch. On that day, I chose a bubblegum lollipop for my treat and at lunch, licked it to its gum-filled center, tucking the big wad of gum underneath my tongue. Halfway into the story, I coughed and spat the pink, drool-drenched gum inside my hand. I stuck it within her locks, braided, and once it was well-hidden inside the braid, I tied the end with her hair tie. Christina kept the braid for the rest of the day, to my relief. When I was safely on the bus home, I imagined her reaction when she discovered the special styling gel I had used.

The next morning, Christina walked in with her hair chopped off, just scraping her jawline. A delicate uppercut; a total knockout. She never confronted me about it, but the teasing and bothering finally stopped.

To add extra flavor to the tea, you may add the following ingredients to the teapot: one tablespoon of rosewater (golab), two to three opened pods of green cardamom (hel), and two small sticks of cinnamon (darchin). As mentioned, cha-ee can be served with sugar cubes, dates, raisins or other sweets. But for serious tea drinkers, adding sugar, milk or anything else only takes away from the rich, aromatic flavor.

I was twelve years old when I had my first real, all-consuming crush. His name was Tad and he played lacrosse. He sat across from me in homeroom, reading Harry Potter and completely oblivious to my feelings. Emma, the cute new girl from Malta, had a crush on him, too. She was blonde and had a sexy accent. I didn’t see what the big deal was because her breath always smelled like tuna fish. But every time she called his name in that accent, he would look up, cheeks red and blue eyes sparkling. When I called his name, he would look up with impatience, annoyed that I had interrupted his reading. I dreamed of her kissing him with that tuna fish breath.

Proper etiquette is to first serve the eldest and the ladies in your group of guests as you are making rounds with the tea tray. You need to also make sure that there is no spillage on the tray due to shaky hands or clumsy strides. The perfect Persian host or hostess must learn to gracefully float and carry a tea tray at the same time without spilling a drop of the reddish-amber liquid.

At seventeen, I had my first real, all-American boyfriend. I kept him a secret from my parents; dating was a touchy subject at the time and Brian was Jewish. He was popular, played football, and several other girls had crushes on him. But he was mine and he made me feel beautiful and I made the other girls feel jealous. We were making out one day in his basement, pretending to watch Talladega Nights, when he tried to stick his hand down my shirt. I stopped him, explaining I wasn’t ready. Things got awkward and I left. The next day, he wrote me a 5-page letter accusing me of being “prude” and listing reasons why he needed more physical intimacy. My mother later found the note in my purse and confronted me about it. We broke up two weeks before prom.

I still held onto the turquoise Hollister hoodie he got me for Christmas long after the breakup. We exchanged gifts one cold morning before school at Loch Raven Reservoir. We stood there in silence for a few minutes before heading to school. He had his arms around me as I overlooked the iced-over reservoir, wishing the morning mist would swallow us up and keep us frozen in that moment, just like the water.

Drinking tea is not just a pastime – it has been part of the Persian culture for centuries. My father always jokes that a true Persian’s veins contain a perfectly balanced concentration of half-blood, half-tea. Half and half. Like the experience I had when I came to the U.S. An imperfectly balanced concentration of Persian and American. Of being grounded by Persian roots, yet trying to grow American leaves. But my tea leaves will always remain Persian.

Poetry

Mother and Daughter

Meaghan Andrews (Originally Published in Forage Poetry Journal)

White rice yellowed with butter,

a black pattern of pepper protectively

adhering to cooked grain—

breakfast, lunch, and dinner;

a spoonful of off-brand chocolate

frosting for dessert. A shared

single bedroom for me, you,

and your lovers. The familiar

burn of alcohol forever found

on your breath, but never

any money for meat.

Poetry

A Room in the Frathouse

Ariella Carmell

Lingering by your bedside, in the

afterglow of fright films/my toe

flirts with the deserted popcorn.

My hand/slick wood. I await

an invitation to stay/ I wonder

who I used to be, if I could stand

here in/my old skin and wait

for permission/for your rules.

Your body is whittled from cedars

like/if there were a male word for nymph

which there should be. We are/both

one-night-stunned, unsure how to

transition/my underwear balled somewhere

in your bedspread. Part of me wants to say

I love you, as if by reflex/as if my mother

were right/as if bodies touching spur on love

not the other way around/as if

my parched throat could hack up

anything I wanted to say/to you.

Poetry

Seasoned Fish Crackers

Allyson Hoffman

Recipe from Mother, who found it in one of the cooking magazines she read in the evenings after work, probably Taste of Home.

1 envelope ranch salad dressing mix

Never use the mix for anything else. Pour bottled dressing
on salads. One summer, while Mother is at work, eat
cucumber sandwiches for lunch almost every day. When the
ranch dressing drips onto the plate, sweep up the pools
with the crust of the bread.

3 tsps dillweed

Suck the green bits from the beds of your bitten-away
nails.

1/2 tsp garlic powder

Pour the powder from the McCormick bottle in steady
threads. Learn how to recognize its flavor in other foods
you love: grilled fish tacos at Outback, Father’s pico,
Mother’s mashed potatoes.

1/2 tsp lemon-pepper

Sour and salty are your favorite flavors. Always pass on
chocolate, never on chips. The salt and vinegar tang burns
your mouth so good. Make blue family-size bags disappear in
two days.

1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

Never pronounce the word “cayenne” correctly. Say ky-ANN so
that it rhymes with your Aunt Diane’s name.

2/3 cup vegetable oil

When staying with Aunt Diane and Uncle Mike, she’ll make
homemade Chex Mix with lots of Worcestershire sauce (never
pronounce that correctly, either) and vegetable oil.
Dip your hand into the Tupperware full of mix; feel your
fingers become greasier and greasier while your stomach
sits heavy and full. Uncle Mike will call you Miss Piggy
because you love Kermit from The Muppets so much. Mother
will call you Miss Piggy sometimes too, but not in the same
way.

3 pkgs (6oz each) Goldfish

Purchase 30oz box if on sale. This will make more fish for
you to eat.

Place crackers in large bowl.

The ding of crackers against bowl is musical. Feel your
stomach skip in anticipation.

Combine remaining ingredients; drizzle over crackers and toss to
coat evenly. Transfer to two ungreased baking pans.

Eat handfuls before the crackers are even baked. Let the
oil dribble down your chin.

Bake at 250 degrees for 15-20 mins, tossing occasionally.

Remember how Mother burned a batch once. Don’t remember if
it was your fault, if you were too scared to take the pan
out of the oven. It’s likely, though. You are scared of all
things hot, and you hate cooking.

Cool completely. Store in airtight container

Remember Mother dumping the brown and black crackers into
the garbage, the bag splitting open onto the kitchen floor,
burned by the still-hot fish.

***Remember to share!!

It isn’t remembering to share that is difficult, it is
wanting to share. When Mother is gone, sit at the island
countertop chewing fish after fish, even when your tongue
grew dry, even after your stomach burns. Crave more. You’ll
always crave more.

PROSE

Chicago Potrait No. 25: Dead Women

Erika Price

Chicago Portrait no. 25: Dead Women
Across the hall from us, there was an old woman who slept on a mattress in the living room. Her door was kept open sometimes, propped by a cart or paper bag overflowing with groceries. We saw her in the wide space left open; she had a shock of white hair that stood up at odd angles, and rested delicately in a nightgown atop piles of silky, embroidered pillows.

Everything inside her room was cast in Easter colors: doilies and glass lamps and blankets all in dusty white, pale pink, mint green, and baby blue. The television was always on and noisily blaring. As we passed she would tilt her head and gently look at us. There was never enough time for words or a shift in facial expression. We never afforded her that.

Time passed and the glimpses of her became more intermittent. We didn’t think a thing about it. When I saw people standing before the elevator, and anti-socially deferred to the staircase, I took a different path, one that did not pass her room. Soon months went by without us seeing her. We didn’t notice that we hadn’t.

One day there was a bright, alarming orange tag hanging from her doorknob. DO NOT ENTER, it read in stark black text. CREW INSIDE.

We were both standing in the hall, dressed for a trip to the beach. Nick looked at me. His face was a blank.

“She’s dead,” I told him. “She’s fucking dead!”

As we dropped down the steps and walked out into the heat, I recounted all the reasons it was clear she was dead, fucking dead.

“We haven’t seen her in months, have we?”

“No,” he said. “I haven’t.”

“Me neither. She was old as fuck dude. She had her bed in the living room.” As if that were evidence of some growing, Charlie-Bucket’s-grandparents level of frailty.

We crossed the street and went past the Mariano’s, then skimmed the edge of the fenced-in country club abutting the beach.

“That tag means there’s a cleaning service inside, one of those industrial ones that clean up bodies,” I said. I knew what happens when bodies are found. “Did you see what it said? DO NOT ENTER!”

He laughed a kind of uncomfortable, shivery laugh.

“Somebody found her body in there. And it had been a while.”

He laughed again. He must have known what was playing out in my head, the images, the parallels, and certainly he was uncomfortable but he knew I was right.

“It could still be in there,” I continued, unable to stop myself. “I have a friend who works for a hotel, and they take dead bodies out of rooms late, late at night, so nobody sees. Like 5 am.”

“Even if they find the body at like noon?”

“Yeah dude! They just wait! That’s the fucking policy!” I was swinging my arms around, darkly fascinated, but also excited, like I’d discovered some rare treasure. “They just let it sit there.”

He looked ahead. “How do you think they found her?”

I studied the sky. It was the final day of the Air and Water Show, and planes roared as they cut through the air in the distance.

“Probably she stopped paying the rent,” I ventured. I often find myself explaining things to Nick when really my level of knowledge is pure speculation. He keeps asking me questions as if he trusts me to actually have the answers, so I don’t know how much he can tell I’m making stuff up.

“It probably went on a while before they had grounds to enter the apartment,” I continued. “Maybe people called looking for her. Family got worried. Or somebody filed a Missing Persons report. Or somebody complained about a smell. That happens a lot, when people die alone in their homes.”

He makes a grossed-out sound and I don’t stop because I can’t help myself. I want to fill someone else’s head with these thoughts. I am thinking about a documentary I watched, about how the deaths of the unknown and unconnected are handled. I couldn’t make it through the film. I stopped it ten minutes in, when they were lifting the dead man’s body off the toilet where he died. I didn’t eat meat for a month.

I keep thinking about my dad’s body, reclined in the chair where it was found. I keep thinking about my mom, sister, Nick, me dying, going pale and leaking stomach fluid into the floor until it eats away all the varnish on the wood. Mostly me. And the old woman, too. My feelings are not sad or pitiful, just gruesome, lurid.

Nick is contemplating the evidence in his head. In a high-pitched voice he says, “She’s dead, man.”

“She’s fucking dead as shit!” I proclaim. It’s a fucking fact.

A month later we see a young white couple leaving the old woman’s apartment. They are carrying crumpled moving boxes. They are new. The apartment is theirs now.

“I think that woman really did die,” Nick whispers.

Of course she did. The old woman is dead, she’s fucking dead.

Down the hall a ways, there is a freight elevator that the maintenance man uses to unload the garbage cans into the alley. Across from the freight elevator’s gaping metallic mouth is the door to the apartment of one Trinidad Gonzalez.

Her door is jammed full of papers. Old announcements of inspection, insurance appraisal, billing reminders, declarations of the building’s old ownership. Each time the management releases a new proclamation, the wad of crumpled papers widens in Trinidad’s door. They are shoved in such a way that one could not possible enter or leave the apartment without them falling out. No one has passed that chasm in quite some time.

I do not know Trinidad. We may have passed in the lobby but I have no idea who she is. I only know her name because one day, in a fit of worry, I wrested the clump of papers from the doorjamb, peeled one envelope from the rest, tore it open, and read it. A late payment notice. She’d missed rent. The letter was made out to Trinidad Gonzalez. That is the only reason that I know her name.

I left the rest of the papers on the ground outside Trinidad’s door. A day later, they are back, shoved in the jamb and growing. I press my ear to the door, to see if I could hear decay or smell it. There is a rushing fan noise. Perhaps an air conditioning that has been left on through November.

I run down the hall and tell Nick. There has not been a tell-tale orange tag on the door, not yet. But soon the clump of papers may yet be replaced by one, the sound of the fan replaced with silence. We have spent the months since the old woman’s death wondering how dead apartment dwellers’ bodies are found, and who finds them, and who fixes it. It seems a fitting karmic outcome that the finder of the next one should be lurid, prying me.

Poetry

The Politics of Rice

Saquina Karla C. Guiam

The toil of rough hands

equates to less than 3$—

on a good day, 3$ is enough

to feed a family of three,

four, five, six, seven, eight.

The thieving of people in good coatsv

amounts to 20$ and above—

enough to feed an entire town

of sun-soaked work—instead they’re in

banks under someone else’s name,

the tellers claim they’re insurance for

their client’s children’s education and

payment for every electric and water bill.

A sack of rice is between 39-43$:

will take Mang Jose 13-14 weeks

to gather that much; will take

local government a week or two

to encash the check.

Local government say they

don’t have enough funds,

keeps asking from upstairs.

Local police say they got shot, too,

that farmers have guns.

Local government spins lies

and calls it truth: they’re better

than us poets and writers.

Local police have no vows,

took their oaths with

their fingers behind their backs.

We just want to eat, speaks the chorus of farmers.

High noon strikes, humidity burns;

standard issue gunshots take the life of fathers and sons.

Governor tells us they were communists against us.

Poetry

Lost Eden

Toti O’Brien

Citrus yellow explodes at the pool’s edge

in late afternoon.

Palm trees and papyrus play lazily

with muddy waters.

Soft, the wings of the dragonfly touch my lips

with kisses.

But I’m drowning, like a ripped veil

sucked under the surface

with the virgin memory of my deflowered

childhood.

When will I revisit that scene

remember shards of sapphire

falling from the evening sky and the moon

(that quarter)

scent of trees, murmurs, drip of the fountain

rustling sound of leaves, lemon pungency

soaking a souvenir that never comes

into focus

ghastly lingering at my window sill?

Sex, pain, then a white flash.

A bath in the ocean

swimming towards depths

where no killer will follow.

Nobody. No more.

Poetry

Nuchal Origami

Keri Withington (Originally published in The Fourth River)

If I could untangle umbilical

cord, measure calcification, label

isosceles, scalene, acute, copy

your construction, its strict geometry

I could find comfort at your steel altar

meditate to the wasp buzz of power;

electricity thrums from pylon

to pylon, links hospitals, homes to town.

I want to touch you. Feel the memory

of sunlight, warm as a rosary

remember the exact shade of bedtime

behind clouds, of cracked egg moon,

bent chickadee feathers in whip-poor-will

nest, grainy ultrasounds.

PROSE

Chicago Potrait No. 4: Shirt

Erika Price

He was doing his laundry on the bed while I waited. He was always doing chores while I was around, to put space between us or to avoid talking to me or probably just because he was indifferent to my being there. On the day before a long trip he’d go into the shower and spend an hour and a half scrubbing the grout. He spent a lot of time sweeping my apartment. Nothing was ever clean enough; he had sensitive feet. These were recurring issues.

He dumped out his half-collapsed laundry bag with the wire sticking out the sides and along with his stained t-shirts and sweatpants there was a women’s charcoal grey v-neck, size medium, semi-translucent.

He made a sheepish look. I was always catching him cheating. It was as easy as opening a door at the wrong time or opening up my laptop after he’d been using it. He was always lying in semi-translucent ways.

“I honestly don’t know where that’s from,” he said. “It must have been in the dryer. I swear. That doesn’t belong to anyone I know.”

And this time, it might have been true. He lived in a crappy studio overlooking the Jarvis El stop. The building had no laundry facilities. He had to bag up his clothes and walk them down the alley and around the block, to a laundromat across from the cafe where he used to work, until he got fired for touching his hair in front of a health inspector. He still went there sometimes, to eat oversized scones and drink coffee while his clothing sloshed around in the washing machines across the street. I would have never returned to a former workplace like that, had I been him, but he was resistant to shame, if not immune.

“Really,” he said. “This shirt isn’t from anyone.”

By then, he had cheated on me with a lot of people. There was the girl from Aurora who drank Rolling Rock and lived with her step dad. There was the round-faced, happy woman who worked at the science museum. There was the bone-thin medical illustrator from Wicker Park, whom I respected. There was his ex-girlfriend of three years, a librarian out in Spokane. She would buy him plane tickets sometimes, let him stay with her, let them pretend that they were still together. Once, she showed up in Chicago unannounced and stayed with him for a week. We went out to dinner. We went to the aquarium. We played nice. It was horrible.

I held the shirt up to my body. By then, I had grown a little pragmatic about it all. I’d spent a good part of a year sobbing, shrieking, and literally banging my head with frustration, and he’d dumped women, groveled, followed me around, and cried to win me back more times than I remember anymore. But as I said, he was resistant to shame.

So instead of flipping out this time, I shrugged and took the shirt with brittle resignation. It was soft, a perfect dark stormy color, just the right size to hang off my body loosely while showing off the incredible cleavage he never even fucking appreciated. He liked women thin and aerodynamic, like the medical illustrator, like his ex-girlfriend.

The shirt lasted me a lot longer than he did. Within a few months I had finally dumped him, and I felt nothing but exhilaration after the fact. I wore the shirt with striped capris, or tucked into a purple pencil skirt. I wore it to work out or with bright blue shorts. I wore it to bed. I wore it as a cover-up as I went to the pool at a hotel in Austin on Valentine’s Day. I wore it a lot, even when it’s semi-translucency was a little inappropriate, until I left it by accident in a hotel a few miles out of Flint, Michigan. I’m actually pretty upset that I lost that shirt. It suited me and we had a good run. But it was never mine, and I was always on borrowed time with it.

Authors’ Biographies

Meaghan Andrews is a Georgia based writer with four poems having been previously published with The Fall Line Review. She also does editing.

Toti O’Brien’s poetry has appeared in Poetic Diversity, Extract(s), Gyroscope, and The Lightning Key, among other journals and anthologies.

Ariella Carmell is a student at the University of Chicago, studying English. Her prose and poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Spry, The Adroit Journal, Words Dance, Up the Staircase Quarterly, Burningword, Cadaverine, and Cleaver Magazine, among others. She is a two-time winner of the Blank Theatre Young Playwrights Festival, a 2014 Foyle Commended Poet of the Year, and a three-time winner of National Scholastic Gold and Silver Medals.

Saquina Karla C. Guiam is a video game and cat enthusiast from the Philippines. She is the Roots nonfiction editor of Rambutan Literary, the Social Media Manager of Umbel & Panicle, and one of the core members of Pangandungan: the General Santos City Association of Writers. Her works have appeared / will appear on The Rising Phoenix Review, Red Queen Literary Magazine, Public Pool, Dulcet Quarterly, Outlook Springs, and others. You can see her tweet about stuff at @bervenia.

Allyson Hoffman is a Michigan native and MFA creative writing candidate at the University of South Florida. Her previous work has appeared or is forthcoming in Third Point Press, Rufous City Review, and The Rumpus.

Mahdis is the managing editor of Five on the Fifth literary magazine. She recently graduated from Towson University with a Master’s Degree in Professional Writing. She earned her Bachelor of Arts Degree in English (Writing), Journalism and French from Towson University, as well. She hopes to go on for a PhD in writing someday. Mahdis currently works as a PRWeb editor at Cision. She had a short essay published in the series anthology, “Miso for Life: A Melting Pot of Thoughts” and more recently, a short prose piece published in the literary magazine, “Ambiguity”. As an undergrad, Mahdis had two poems published in Mary Baldwin College’s literary magazine, “Outrageous Fortune” as well as an article in the online literary magazine, “20 Something”. She hopes to get a novel published in the near future. Mahdis is also fluent in Farsi and French. She loves to travel.

Erika Price is a writer and social psychologist in Chicago. Their work has appeared in The Toast, The Rumpus, Literary Orphans, and on WBEZ Chicago, among others. For more of their writing, visit Erikadprice.tumblr.com

Keri Withington is a feminist poet interested in family bonds, the
intersection of science and spirituality, and social justice.
Additionally, Keri is an assistant professor of English at Pellissippi
State Community College. She lives in East Tennessee with her husband
and three kids.