Category Archives: 2023-2024

“When Did I Stop Caring?” – Özge Ada Uzman ’27

Was it after I taught myself to end each sentence in a question mark
And convinced myself to forget what I wish I had known was real?
When doubt sank through my mind, a heavy stone
With rough edges that screamed and ripped at my insides until all I became
Was a pile of crudely torn flesh and fantasy
I watch my fingers sift through the mess
Struggling to string it back together
Which piece goes where?
Something grabs at my hands, forcing them away
And I realize
Maybe I stopped caring when I learned it wouldn’t help.

I left the mess alone.

“Year Regret” – Anonymous ’26

The breeze hit my arm so hard I could faint
Though the warmth left, you chose to stay around
The cold has innocence, as such a saint
Rain goes by but I cannot hear a sound

As hopeful as a bee can be for me
The sun shines the lawn, as the flowers grow
For you to see the me in you and in me
The clouds will start the day and let me know

The animals come out and play along
The cardinals will use their voice to sing
The bruise is scary, what do I say?
The house telephone creeps and starts to ring

Leave me in sorrow and pain, in the heat
You were my love so I will take defeat.

“To Be Weak Is to Be Strong” – Anonymous ’26

To be weak is to be strong
Our toughest battles are fought alone
Power is to have forgone
One pursuit of strength, is angels syndrome

Our wounds heal while shown
Hidden not from our fear
Accepting of the unknown
Trauma’s fight is nothing new

Hurt attacks with disgust and regret
Striking of our weakest parts
Acceptance defends with passion and content
We do feel hurt.

Shown scars look the most
Deep gashes strike deepest.

“Hero’s Epigraph” – Kyle Delisma ’26

In Shadows deep, the cruel cycle of death turns,
Bound by the shackles of death, perseveres,
A haunting echo of relentless night,
Menacing circles in a web untamed,
As titans loom, colossal and so stark,
Their presence veils the truth, a world estranged.

Within the confinement of the walls, humanity estranged,
Their fear ignites as fate relentlessly turns,
The Titans’ wrath, a force unsettling, stark,
A cycle born from fear, strife perseveres,
In every heart, a struggle left untamed,
Their hope, a flicker in the darkest night

Eldians verse Marleyans, locked in endless night,
History’s burdens keep them so estranged,
Their shared suffering, emotions left untamed,
The past’s weight on fate’s persistent turn,
These paths, how far and wide they persevere,
A stalemate conflict standing strong and stark.

Hero’s resolve, a mission grim and stark,
A desire to be free of endless night,
To shatter chains; where sorrow thus perseveres
To bridge the gap of races so estranged,
Against Freedom’s sake, how it fiercely turns.

“Image” – Özge Ada Uzman ’27

The house is lonely, I think.

The skeleton confirms my hunch. He is sitting on the porch swing out front, leafing through a book so old and ruined I cannot comprehend how he can read it. Dead things have a way of understanding each other, I suppose. I am jealous. What secrets are they whispering to each other as I stand here, accompanied by no one but my camera? I try to snap a photo, but neither the skeleton nor the book appear in the frame. As if they are not supposed to be seen. It’s valid. The dead need their privacy as much as the living.

The house seems dead, too.

That is, until I step inside. The skeleton shows me in, book tucked under the bones of his arm, its pages fluttering gleefully. The house is most certainly not dead. The shadows of the ancient furniture rise to greet me, starved for company beyond the skeleton and his book, whose time at the house is limited. The skeleton does have a grave to tend to, after all.

The shadows extend long tendrils of smoky nothingness in my direction—but it cannot be nothingness, I realize, as they begin to play with my hair, hold my hand, fiddle with my untied shoelaces… They must really love company. A shadow tries to grab my camera and, startled, I wave my hand, an attempt to flick the darkness away. My fingers pass right through, however, but as if I offended all the shadows rather than just one, they fly back to their furniture, taking a more expected shape for a shadow, molding themselves into the ground or walls.

I look down at my hand, pouting. The shadow burned where I touched it, and now angry red lines are drawn along my freckled skin. The skeleton tells me that it is normal for them to be wary, as they have not met many other living creatures. I feel bad all the same.

To fill the silence, the skeleton entertains me with stories of his death. He lives in a graveyard not far from the house and takes trips here sometimes when he wants to be alone with his book. Skeletons, he tells me, are very social. Chuckling, he describes the graveyard as one large family. It seems nice to me, and some of that earlier jealousy returns.


A family lived in this house, too, I suppose. I look up at the portraits lining the walls—if one can still call them that, for they have been somewhat devoured by whatever tiny creatures reside in these walls, and the paper is discolored beyond repair. However, the outline of faces remains visible. Were they happy, I wonder? Were they close?

My attention returns to the skeleton. He is in love, he tells me. He is madly in love. But he must wait to reunite with her, as she is still living. He died fairly young, and he hopes it is ages before she meets the same fate, and he hopes for all the best, and he is afraid she will be unable to move on just as much as he is afraid she will forget him. But he will wait anyway.

I consider how painful it must be, and my jealousy wavers.

A curious shadow pokes its head out from behind a chair. We lock eyes—its being two glowing yellow dots, mine green and flaked with brown—and it snakes through the floor to where me, the skeleton, and the book are standing. The skeleton has taken a break from his stories, silenced by the reminders of his overwhelming love. I wish I could help, but this kind of pain I cannot treat.

Holding eye contact with the snakelike shadow, I watch as it rises from the floorboards to my height. It reaches out to the camera, and this time I do not try to wave it away. Not only does my hand still sting, but I also figure the shadows have a right to be curious. I deposit the camera in its waiting arms, and its yellow eyes transform into happy little crescent moons. It’s quite cute.
It begins flitting through an abundance of photos of trees, or graves, or animals, or cityscapes, until finally landing on one of a group of people. I frown. That photo was taken a long time ago, I tell the shadow. I point to the child in the middle. That’s me, I tell it.

It’s not a complete lie. The child and I are the same person, just not the same soul. At least, not anymore. It is difficult to explain, so I don’t bother trying. I suddenly feel very exhausted, as if all this talk of loneliness and love and life and death is finally catching up to me.

The skeleton notices the subtle change in the atmosphere and pries the camera out of the curious shadow’s hands. That’s enough, he says. He gives the camera back to me and guides me outside to the porch swing I had first found him on. I ask him what he was reading before I interrupted him, and he replies saying he doesn’t mind the interruption, and that he was reading a love story. He laughs awkwardly and calls himself a hopeless romantic. I smile. Nothing wrong with that, I think.

After a short silence, I muster up the courage to ask if I can take a photo with him. He laughs again, accepting the very random request. He seems to laugh a lot. I like it. Being able to laugh often is a nice way to be.

I set up the camera, the skeleton’s book kind enough to hold it up for us. Adjusting the settings to wait ten seconds before taking a photo, I press the button and rush back to the swing beside the skeleton.

We hear the click of the camera taking a photo, and I get up to see how it turned out.

When I look at the photo, I don’t see a skeleton. Instead, I see the faint outline of a young human being, as if he is there and not there at once, fading away or becoming clearer depending on which way I turn my head, how I blink, the angle at which I hold the photo… I look up at the skeleton, wondering if he did this on purpose, and he smiles at me, a genuine grin as if barely holding back another laugh. He grabs a long-dead leaf from the ground of the porch, crushing it between the bones of his hand. I lean in, wondering what he is about to do.

When he unfurls his fingers, a little pansy curls up to the sun, and he gently places it behind my ear. I breathe out quiet thanks and turn the camera around to show him the photo. He smiles again and says that he should be the one thanking me. I gape. I had done nothing but bother him when he was reading. When I ask him why he said that, he shoots me his genuine and elusive smile and tells me that it felt nice to talk to someone who understands.

He does not elaborate further, and I do not push him.

He says he hopes I find what I am looking for, and, bringing my hand up to the pansy in my hair, I wish the same to him. As I leave, I take one last look at the photo we took together.

The near-invisible image of the human beside me is now filled with copious pansies, taking the shape of a laughing skeleton.

“My Mother’s Paintings” – Sophia Gombos ’25

Paul Wilkelm stared at the painting in front of him. It was white, with soaring arches, gold accents, and coral colored shading here and there. Wilkelm looked at his watch. It was 3:48 PM. He’d been staring at that piece for quite some time now, trying to figure out the beauty of it.

Wilkelm never liked art. It was his mother’s favorite thing in the world, but he never saw what was so special about it.  She never gave up painting no matter how sick or how old she got. Wilkelm’s mother always painted Wilkelm any chance that she could, which was barely anytime because he hated anything art related that his mom would do. He would always avoid his mother to avoid being painted by her. She was only able to paint three paintings of her son: she painted him and his trophy he won at the spelling bee at his elementary graduation, painted him with his first car after he got his license, and painted him and his bride on their wedding day. She had no other paintings of him. But, she loved painting nonetheless, even though she couldn’t always paint her son, the person she adored most in the world.

Wilkelm’s earliest memories were of his mom painting her favorite flowers, Forget-Me-Nots, and her paintbrushes sweeping and dabbing bright blue paint across canvas. She loved dabbing paint. It was her favorite way of painting. He would often ask his mom, why paint the flowers when they’re right there? Isn’t it better to have the real thing in front of you instead of a lousy replica that doesn’t even look the same? His mother would always say that it’s not accuracy that matters, but the fact that she could create something, make it look like it was in the third dimension even though it was still in the second dimension, was why she thought that art was so special. Wilkelm just laughed her off. What a stupid idea.

When he was younger, he thought that he would see the beauty of art when he got to his mother’s age. He always thought that age was the problem. Now, at 76 years of age, he still thinks that art is just a blank canvas covered in some dried paint, nothing special, and still waiting for his shift in perspective.

Wilkelm stood there, weirdly alone in the crowded museum, eyebrows furrowed, trying to figure it out. Why can’t I appreciate you? Where’s the beauty in you? He stood there for sometime longer, waiting for the painting to answer him. Chuckling at his own stupidity, Wilkelm turned to find the exit until a voice stopped him: I’ll show you.

Wilkelm felt a crushing compressive force around his heart. He felt his vision blur and croaked a lousy “help” before the sensation stopped abruptly and the world went dark. Wilkelm panicked, but then noticed that his eyes were closed. Silly me, what trick is this old brain playing now? He opened his eyes, expecting to be met with the sea of people and the blue painted ceiling at the museum, but instead was met with utterly nothing. What? It was now that Wilkelm also realized that the noise of the museum had completely gone too. He looked around, or tried to, for he couldn’t really tell if his head was making the whole 360 degrees, and looked down. His feet were missing. Actually, his whole body below his head was, which was weird because he could clearly feel his hand and feet. He tried to hold his hands up before his eyes but no matter what he tried, he couldn’t. He could clearly feel himself moving his arms, but he just wasn’t seeing them (and there’s no way that he could, considering the place that he’s in right now). Fed up and scared of this new environment, Wilkelm cautiously took a step. The overwhelming white infront of his eyes stayed the same. He then took another. Then another. He must’ve took hundreds of steps, but the blank white infront his eyes persisted. Wilkelm kept on walking, and his vision suddenly became gold.  He paused. What is going on? He tried to lift his arms and look at his feet again, hoping that this new color meant that he’d escaped this lucid environment, but no luck. All he saw was gold. 

Wilkelm continued walking. He continued on his endless journey on foot, noticing how the gold sometimes shifted so it seemed lighter, thinner, in some areas and darker, thicker, in others. How do I get out of here? This question repeated over and over again in his head until the color changed again. This time it was coral. He moved his arms again. No luck. Wilkelm sighed, frustrated. Am I trapped in some kind of dream? This has to be. There’s no chance that this is real life –

His thoughts were cut off for he saw two swift black blots travel across the coral. Shoes? Wilkelm followed the pair of black shoes. Desperately, he ran after them. He didn’t even take a moment to think why a pair of shoes could be moving on their own (although, I guess, in this realm, anything can be created, so anything is possible). Instead, his head was swimming with thoughts like: How come I can see this pair of shoes but now my own? Who’s shoes are these? Where are they going? How do I get them to stop?

He sprinted after the shoes, hoping to get answers. Suddenly, the shoes disappeared behind a sheet of coral. Wilkelm followed them.

Wilkelm was met with another canvas of white. Great, he thought, more blank. However, in the corner of his eye, he spotted something colorful. It was a blob of pastel blue flowers in a brown pot. The flowers looked off, for all the flowers were one exact color of blue and the pot was one exact color of brown. The flowers and the pot had no shadows, no dimension. Curious, Wilkelm decided to walk to the flowers. He watched the pot of flowers as it continued to enlarge as he got closer and closer to them. Finally, he was standing next to them. He looked down. The pot of flowers was nowhere to be seen. Weird. Wilkelm took more steps and looked back at the spot where the flowers were. The pot was there, the depthless flowers looking as if they were pasted on a white wall. They appeared again. Weird.

Wilkelm then suddenly remembered the black shoes. Where are they? He frantically looked around, looking for the splotches of black that he was following. In the corner of his eye, he spotted them behind the flowers. Now there were a pair of navy socks added to the shoes. Wilkelm watched as one shoe kicked over the pot, shattering it and making a mess of the flowers. The shoes then continue walking. Wilkelm followed.

Soon, the color changed again, this time to a light beige. Wilkelm saw a trophy sitting on the ground (or was it the ground? Wilkelm couldn’t really tell). This trophy had a little more dimension, some shading here and there. It was gold and had blue and white ribbons streaming out of it. That looks like my spelling bee trophy. Wilkelm again walked closer to the object. He tried to grab it, but he couldn’t. He could clearly feel that the trophy was in arm’s length, but no matter how hard he tried to grab the trophy it wouldn’t budge. I’m sick of this. Wilkelm walked away. He walked around, waiting for the shoes to appear again. He walked in front and behind the trophy, watching as it disappeared whenever he became in line with it and reappeared when he wasn’t in line with it. So, so weird. He then spotted the shoes some steps up from him, this time a pair of khaki pants were added to them. As if sensing his stare, the shoes – or legs rather – started walking. Wilkelm followed. 

Some more time passed (Wilkelm couldn’t tell how long, for there weren’t any indicators of how much time had gone in his solid-colored environment) and the color changed again, this time to a light green. Wilkelm spotted a car. It was bright red, and a big bow was placed on top of the hood. I got a car for Christmas, the day after I got my license. He walked closer to the car, examining it. It was here where he noticed something weird (again, no surprise there). The red color was uneven, recklessly painted. Huh. It’s almost as if this is a pai-

His thoughts were cut off by someone opening the door of the car. Surprised, he turned to see the person. He recognized the black shoes, navy socks, and khaki pants. Now, a navy shirt was added. Wilkelm watched as the headless person stepped into the car and drove away. Alarmed, he sprinted after the car, determined to get answers from the only other moving object in this weird world.

Wilkelm ran and ran, never allowing the car to leave his sight. The car finally slowed down as the color of the surrounding space turned to a light teal, and eventually came to a stop. The headless person stepped out of the car, made the motion of opening a door, and disappeared. Wilkelm followed closely behind.

He was momentarily blinded by the sudden dazzling white that attacked his eyes. He blinked a few times, allowing his eyes to adjust, and took in his surroundings. Wilkelm was in a dazzling white church with white tinted windows and white pews. But Wilkelm paid no mind to the beauty of the church. He saw something else. He’d finally found people. He couldn’t believe it. There were rows and rows of people in the pews. Wilkelm walked down the center of the pews, and turned into a row to talk to a lady who was having a conversation with an older man next to her. Wilken raised his hand, about to tap her shoulder, when she disappeared. The man she was talking to also was nowhere to be seen. It was as if they’d disappeared into thin air. Wilkelm looked around. Everything else was the same. Serene, quiet, still.

Wait. Wilkelm looked closer at the pews. The white was splotchy, applied in uneven amounts and uneven areas, like the car. He then looked at the middle-aged lady standing in the pew infront of him. He noticed how her makeup looked off. She had huge blotches of darker colored makeup around her jaw and lighter makeup on her cheeks. No, not makeup, he thought, paint. Wilkelm couldn’t believe it. Just a moment ago, everything looked so lively, so dynamic. Now, all he sees are the shallow blots of paint, dabbed on with a paintbrush. No. Wilkelm stumbled out of the pews, frantically looking around. No. NO. How can this be? He finally saw past the 3 dimensional illusion. They’re two dimensional. I’m 2 dimensional. Suddenly, it all made sense. The reason why he couldn’t see himself, why things kept on disappearing when he would be on the same plane as them. I…I don’t exist. Wilkelm then saw the person he’d been following this whole journey standing at the altar. The body was now complete with a head, and the man stood with his back facing Wilkelm. Wilkelm rushed up to the altar, hoping that this mysterious man could tell him that he was wrong. That this was all a dream. That he still existed. The man turned around. Wilkelm stopped in his tracks, staring at a painted replica of himself. Age was never the problem, Paul Wilkelm, his reflection said, the paint around its mouth shifting as it talked, you were always the problem. It’s always been you.

Wilkelm’s eyes burst open. His heart was pounding and squeezing out of his chest, suffocating him. His eyes were swimming in a sea of worried faces and his ears were flooded with the sound of sirens and people chattering. He stared up at the bright blue ceiling of the museum. The color of Forget-Me-Nots. This is why you can’t find beauty in me. Because you never found beauty in her.

Paul Wilkelm, aged 76 years, 4 months, and 21 days, died of a heart attack at 15:49 on February 23rd, 1994 in the Women’s Museum of Art.

“Mirrors” – Alexa Karet ’24

When I creaked open the door, the twins were hung against the wall, blood dripping off of their dead, mangled bodies onto the carpet.

I screamed at the top of my lungs. How could this have happened? I racked my brain for some clarity. Last night, I locked the doors and laid down on the couch. I remember seeing a flash outside the window, but I just thought it was an animal. Besides, the doors were locked. There was no sign of a break in, and the alarm system hadn’t gone off.

Somewhere in my state of panic, I dialed 911. I looked up and saw my horrified face in the mirror. WAIT. A mirror? Not a window? THAT’S WHAT I LOOKED THROUGH LAST NIGHT. Does that mean…Is someone inside the…

That’s when I saw him. His face, next to mine in the mirror. The phone line went dead.

“Buried Body (Portfolio)” – Jinny Guo ’24

Six words:

Buried body. Midnight, I heard scratching.

Twenty-five words:


I overslept and missed the ship. My parents were aboard. It never returned. A ghost ship, a cruel harbinger, carried them to eternal abyss.

One hundred fifty words:

“The Bizarre Painting”

She checked in at the front desk and entered the room. A massive, bizarre painting caught
her eye. It depicted a pale, strangely distorted face, its unnaturally large, dark eyeballs fixed in an unsettling gaze that seemed to follow her every move. Behind the face, a towering tree stood against the dark backdrop, its thick branches and leaves seamlessly blending into the obscurity. Feeling exhausted from the late hour, she gave the peculiar painting little more than a glance and drifted asleep.

Hours later, she woke up to the morning sunlight seeping through the window and flooding the room. To her bewilderment, the painting had vanished. How did I not notice there was a window in the room yesterday? As she gazed outside the window at a towering tree against the blue sky and wondered, a chill ran down her spine. The window had always been there.

“White Padded Room (Portfolio)” – Caden Green ’24

Six words:

White padded room. Mind abandoned me.

Twenty-five words:


Hanging from the ceiling, intricately woven into mesmerizing art, like a mobile above a newborn’s crib. I watched their tiny, pale, limbs dangle delicately.

One hundred fifty words:

“White Water”

Drifting into the woods on a cold autumn night, they stumbled drunkenly across the creaky boards of the dilapidated bridge. The lights of the house disappeared behind the evergreens. Only the moonlight lit their way as they ventured further across the bridge, above the violent, white water. They sat atop the middle beam gazing out into the abyss, her head resting on his shoulder, river screaming by. Each breath combined into a cloud of steam rising in the cold air. 

Only nature spoke as insects buzzed in the distance and the water rushed quickly by below, the jagged rocks sticking out like swords. She searched his eyes, but his outward gaze persisted. Suddenly, he turned to her, eyes dead, body rigid. He stood, staring intently at the surging water. She grabbed at him frantically, but the coursing river drowned out her screams as the swords pierced his frame.

Four hundred ninety-nine words:


After I finished up the dishes, I cut two pieces of leftover ice cream cake from Joey’s birthday. We sat in the living room, Joey on his beanbag, me on the couch. As I searched for a Paw Patrol episode that Joey hadn’t seen, my bowl slipped from my left hand and the ice cream spilled onto my lap. I queued an episode, then reluctantly got up to change. 

As I walked to the laundry room, I heard a knock on the front door. I tossed my now-sticky hoody onto the floor near the washing machine on my way to answer. Through the window, I saw a girl, no older than ten, wearing a backpack. Her face was red from tears. 

I opened the door. “Hi honey, are you okay?” I asked. Where are your parents?” 

She wiped away her tears. “I dunno. I got lost and I’m not supposed to talk to strangers but I can’t find my mom and it’s dark,” she said, sobbing. 

“That’s ok, honey, come inside. What’s your name? Do you know your mom’s phone number?” I tried to console her.

“Maggie,” she replied, still rubbing her face, “I think I know it.”

“That’s great Maggie, I’ll grab my phone and we’ll call Mom, okay?” I thought I knew everybody in town, but I hadn’t seen this girl before.

“Okay,” she replied, tears finally slowing down. “Can I go to the bathroom?”

“Of course, it’s right over there,” I pointed her to the bathroom across the hallway. As she closed the door, I quickly glanced at Joey. He was entranced by the TV. I looked at my ice cream-covered pants. Then I quickly ran upstairs and threw on some sweatpants. When I got back downstairs, the bathroom door was open, light turned off. I walked into the living room, assuming she had been drawn to the insufferable sound of talking puppies. My heart dropped as I entered.

Joey was laid back, unconscious. “JOEY” I screamed. “MAGGIE?” The girl was gone, like she had never been there in the first place. I ran over to check on him, but I couldn’t tell if he was breathing. I fumbled with my phone as I dialed 9-1-1 and explained that my son wouldn’t wake up. I grasped his head and felt something leak from his ear. I scanned the room for the lost girl, but her sudden visit felt like a dream; I couldn’t remember the details.

Police burst through the door, followed by EMTs. They pulled me from Joey, quickly surrounding him. The two officers grabbed me and asked what happened.

“I’m not sure,” I said flustered and in shock, “We were watching TV, and then there was a little girl, she had a backpack, she couldn’t stop crying, I tried to help, and then I saw Joey and she…” The police officers glanced at each other. Their demeanor changed from sympathetic to serious. “The girl with the backpack,” they said, “was her name Maggie?”

“Friend” – Abril Linares-Mendoza ’24

I used to spend a lot of time lying alone on the grass field behind my house. I spent summers making out shapes from the clouds and humming whatever Peaches & Herb tune my mom had played that morning. Then I’d take my bike out from the garage and go around the neighborhood, dressed in one of the many overalls my mother got me from the Gap. She said I was not to go past Mrs. Brown’s house, that would be too far for her to know if something had happened to me. I went past it anyways, sometimes. I loved that bike back then. Light blue with white wheels and streamers that I tried to cut off after I deemed myself too old for them. 

I was a quiet middle schooler with no siblings and not many friends from school. I liked to think that I preferred being alone, but really I felt like I had missed the school lesson where they taught us how to be a middle school girl. There were a few imaginary friends to pass the time with. There was Stacy, a talkative, older girl that loved gossip. It’s obvious to me now that she was invented with my wish to be popular like the girls I observed at school. There was also Oliver, an adventurous Boy Scout who I imagined was there whenever I did all sorts of dangerous things. Jumping from one side of the creek that ran by my house didn’t seem so scary when I had a friend with me. 

Then, the summer before my freshman year of high school, Leo moved in two houses to the left. He was awkward and scrawny back then, but we got along instantly. We spent most of our time in silence, simply enjoying the company of each other during the hot summer days. My mother kept telling us to be wary of strangers, but Leo and I reasoned we lived in the south of Maine, so would anything bad really happen up here? We biked for hours at a time, neither wanting to go back to our homes. Although sometimes we did go back to my house. Leo’s parents never seemed to be at his. 

The first time he came over, Leo asked, “Who’s playing the drums in the basement?”

“Oh, that’s just my dad,” I answered. “He’s teaching himself how to play.” 

“Is he any good?”

“No, but he really likes it.”

I noticed Stacy and Oliver weren’t visiting as much anymore. I was content with Leo’s quiet trailing behind me and I could tell that he was too. 

A week before we started high school, Leo’s parents got him a brand new Walkman for his birthday. Leo and I were fascinated with it and biked straight to Camden Records to pick out an album to play. His parents had only given us enough money for one and after looking around the entire store, we settled on The Queen Is Dead. I loved the way the lyrics were written, they made me feel like I had written them myself. During our last few days of freedom we’d sit down and plug both of our headphones in to listen together. We were quiet during the majority of the album, as usual, until we got to track 9: “There Is a Light That Never Goes Out.” Our unspoken rule was to always blast the chorus and sing it at the top of our lungs. Then when it was over, we went back to our familiar silence like nothing had happened. 

I assumed we’d be the same way in school but it was never quite the same. We started out as the same close friends we had been all summer. All freshmen were required to join a fall sport, and as the quiet pair we were, of course we went for the sport with the least amount of names on its sign up sheet: Ultimate Frisbee. That and the fact that it was the only sport where girls and boys could play together, meaning Leo and I wouldn’t have to be separated. This was one of the first years the school was offering it and something about the obscure activity with a dog toy seemed to pull me and Leo in. No one had heard about it or went to our games, but this just made me and Leo love it even more. It became our own little community, hidden from the rest of the world. After spending the past two months exclusively with each other, Leo and I felt like we could read each other perfectly. So when we went on the field, we used that to our advantage. I knew where Leo would huck the disc and I would run as fast as I could into the end zone. However, our perfectly oiled machine was too good to be true, but Leo wasn’t the one who ruined it… I was. 

As our high school journey progressed, I started feeling uneasy at school. Stacy was back, and sometimes I’d feel like she had multiplied into hundreds of Stacys circling around me in the cafeteria. I treasured my friendship with Leo, but I had always wanted to be like them, like all the other girls in my grade. The ones that went to parties, the ones that had left their jelly sandals behind and donned the new L.L. Bean duck boots instead. So I quit the Frisbee team. I stopped sitting at the table at the back of the cafeteria with Leo. I joined the cheerleading squad and began sitting at the lovely table of girls so loud I could barely hear my own thoughts. From time to time, I felt terrible about leaving Leo so abruptly, but I distracted myself with the many chants I had to memorize for the squad.  

By the time I was a senior, four years later, I had barely seen or heard of him. I’d learned how to talk to girls by then, but more importantly, I’d learned how to talk to boys. Yet, even after dating a few boys, positioning myself in a respectable female friend group, and properly learning how to style my red Converse, I knew that I didn’t like any of that for me. No guy or so-called best friend made me happy like my summer days with Leo. It had been a long time since then, and Leo had become a sort of memory of my younger days where I didn’t feel as empty instead of a real boy I had known. Leo had turned into a sort of symbol of my junior high summers. Summers where my worries were mundane or non-existent.  

Pretty quickly, though, I moved on and thought I forgot about him. Sam, a college friend of mine, invited me to his band’s gig and I fell in love with the indie rock atmosphere. It reminded me of the bands I used to listen to on an old Walkman I hadn’t seen in a while. I had never learned how to play any instruments, but Sam, the band’s lead singer, told me he thought I would be a good songwriter after I showed him some poems I had written. Not long after, I found myself writing the majority of the band’s songs. I wrote about the summer. I wrote about the 80’s and a boy. A friendly, blonde boy. I wrote hundreds of lyrics of biking in the 80’s heat, the prospect of a budding romance fusing into youthful stubbornness. It seemed like I couldn’t run out of inspiration from two months of my childhood. Unfortunately though, the more I wrote, the emptier I felt. I felt like I was chasing something by writing about it, but I was never close enough to reach it. 

The only place that would book our band was this old, tiny underground cafe. We would play Fridays at 7, although few people ever showed up. I usually just sat at one of the back tables and wrote more lyrics while the band jammed. Sometimes I just listened. I enjoyed writing for the band, it was a role I was comfortable with, but something about not being up there with them bothered me. My friend’s voice was great, but he just wasn’t singing my lyrics right. Sam’s voice was relaxed and a bit melancholic, but I wanted him to sing the way I used to sing The Smiths with the boy from my lyrics. I wanted him to scream and throw the lyrics onto the audience, the way I intended for them to be sung. He never did, and I found myself thinking my mystery boy would. 

Eventually the band died out and I graduated with a degree I had no intention of using. I went back home after graduating to spend time with my parents but mostly to figure out what I would be doing with my life next. I didn’t go outside as much as I remembered I used to. Instead, I laid on the couch, listening to my parents chat over coffee in the kitchen. I liked pretending I was their little daughter again and I found myself wishing I would have spent more time getting to know them when I lived with them. My mom interrupted my thoughts to tell me that an “old friend of mine” was in town as well.

“Do you want me to ask his mother if he’s free this week?”

“No thanks. I would prefer not to have my mother plan playdates for me anymore.”

“But you used to spend all day with him, honey,” my mother said. “Besides, it’ll be good for you to catch up with anyone these days.” 

“Thanks mom.”

My mom planned something anyway and told me to go to the old town bakery the next day, but I had no intention of going. I didn’t want to get my hopes up and go running to the bakery thinking it was him, the boy. I just wanted to feel sorry for myself on the couch for a few more days. I was tired and sick of chasing after a boy from my childhood that wasn’t coming back. I realized I barely knew anything about him and resented that I had romanticized that summer in my head for my entire life. 

However, my mother of course ruined my self-pitying time and forced me to go. To my luck, it was rainy and gross and I missed my bus. I called my mom to get me but she told me she was too far from me to get me to the bakery in time. I waited for another bus but there seemed to be no more coming. I eventually had to call a cab (which I did not know even existed in Camden) to get me to the bakery. I knew it would be two hours past the time our mothers agreed on by the time I got there, but for some reason I kept moving towards that bakery. When I got there, the place was closing and I kind of just stood in front of the doors pathetically. I looked around to see if anyone was still there but no one was. Great, I thought to myself, you’ve abandoned him twice now.

A few years later, I went back to Camden for my high school reunion. My class was big, and I could barely move in the crowd of people stuffed in my old gym. I found myself looking around for him. I didn’t expect to actually see him, and I never did. At the same time, it struck me that I hadn’t made any friends in my high school class that I wanted to reunite with here. Not the cheerleading squad that I had spent every single lunch period with, nor the many high school boyfriends I had dated. Something felt really wrong, suddenly, and I left the party immediately. 

I’m forty years old now, and I no longer feel as empty as I used to when I wasn’t true to myself. I’ve stopped trying to be someone I’m not, and I’ve accepted that I will probably not see the boy from my childhood again. I’m okay with this, I still learned a valuable lesson about maintaining healthy relationships, although I’m still working on that. On this particular morning, I decided to visit an old records store I vaguely remember going to as a young child. I’m not looking for anything in particular, I woke up feeling nostalgic, I guess? As I drive over I turn on the radio and a familiar song comes on. I hum along as the singer goes, “And if a double-decker bus / Crashes into us,” but I can’t recall the name of the band. I finally arrive at the records store and start browsing the shelves for anything that catches my eye.

The silence is suddenly interrupted by one of the employees saying, “Hello, can I help you find anything in particular?”

I look up and meet my eyes with his. For some reason, I hesitate for a second. “No thanks, uh…” I look down at his name tag. It reads Leo. “No thanks, Leo. I think I’m okay actually,” I say as I head towards the exit.

“Alrighty then, we hope to see you again soon!” I hear the employee say as I walk out the doors. I ended up not buying anything but I feel strangely satisfied, like I did find something after all. I drive back home in silence, with the radio off, simply listening to my thoughts.