To celebrate and highlight the creative writing talent of the Wesleyan community, the Argus Arts & Culture section presents our creative writing issue! Thank you to everyone who shared their work with us, and we hope you enjoy.
Talia Rodriguez ’24
This is the house I imagine for us. First the kitchen. It reminds me a lot of my kitchen growing up. Lots of counter space. Place for everyone to congregate. A stove, two ovens. We’ll make holiday dinners here. Braid challah, make matzah ball soup. When we are moving quickly we’ll toast a piece of bread with some peanut butter on it but not forget to put some honey or salt on top of it. Promise we won’t ever forget completely to make time for ourselves and each other?
The house will have lots and lots of windows. Bay windows. Big windows. We will be surrounded by wild flower valleys. Our neighbors close in our hearts but far away. Even though we are in a rural place, we will not be afraid. We will learn to take on fear with our hands and dismantle it piece by piece. We will make fear our bitch. I honestly don’t know how many rooms there will be. That will depend. I wouldn’t mind having friends live with us. Or our parents or siblings. I want to create a community outside of the chaos.
And yet I understand that is meaningless.
I’m frustrated by the fact that I can’t decide.
Because I also dream that we will have a cute little apartment (maybe in New York, maybe in Paris). Imagine that there is a bakery right around the corner. In the mornings, you will wake up a little bit earlier, run to the corner and grab us croissants and tea. Right as I wipe the dew crusts from my eyes you arrive and we step out on our balcony and make out in front of our whole neighborhood except we don’t know they’re watching. In this fantasy, toothbrushing doesn’t matter. We sit out on our balcony for at least an hour if not more, enjoying each other’s company.
These images are self indulgent. Very hopeful. By the time I reach this age it is possible these things won’t be possible. For so many reasons. And that terrifies me. Which is why I don’t like to think about these things too often. Except for the croissant balcony theory because that is just my dream and it will happen.
Rory Dolan ’23
Four feet of snow was certainly no anomaly in Warroad, Minnesota—a town whose regional affectation and geographic location placed it in constant flirtation with Canada—but it was always a nuisance. Ed, begrudging captain behind the grinding plow, noted how, when the ground was piled to this extent, the divide between street and roadside disappeared. On his third call this week, Ed had to strain against the frantic swipes of his windshield wipers in order to ensure both ends of his great shovel remained essentially flush with the road-lines.
The smoke was getting in his eyes, so Ed mashed his third cigarette into a coffee cup, stacked two high, and now taking on a second career as an ashtray. Ed smoked with the window closed, making sure the truck always had that uninviting odor, lest he become numb to the hassle. As with coffee and cigarettes, Ed had envisioned dozens of ways to quit the plow, but had never followed through.
Visibility was characteristically low. Yet, he could still make out those stock straight pines, like hat racks; rigid, awkward houseguests, too tall for the low ceilings. He thought he spied a deer, beady eyes reflecting his headlights between the trunks winding between the trees.
Ed remembered how snow like this had felt in his younger years. Often, he had barely been taller than the drifts, and dreamed of tunneling through their powdery depths. It was the great equalizer; Warroad’s familiar streets and corners suddenly coated in a fresh layer of possibility. Snowball fights to be had, lakes to be tread on with not-nearly-enough trepidation, and pine boughs to pull down and let loose in fresh flurries. Where had it gone?
Red flashed in his right-side mirror. It took him a second to realize the stop sign was not where it was supposed to be. Checking his rearview, Ed retraced his swath, curving offroad and toward the trees. Sighing loudly, Ed hammered the breaks. Then a thought occurred to him. He stared out towards the treeline, much closer now, and smiled inwardly. He had taken the scenic route, and now they would too.
Emma Kendall ’24
I broke my foot on the cusp of that year. It was also the first time we were together, but it had already been four months. The crack happened in an instant, the way lightning strikes trees. I put ice on the bulbous balloon, the bruising a tie dye of inky indigo and plum. As if a few melting cubes in a Ziploc bag twenty minutes a day would undo the damage that had already been done. Ten days from the break was how long it took me to harvest my denial and go get an x-ray. The doctor had snow white hair, frosty blue eyes, and wouldn’t be here next week because he was going skiing in Aspen. That’s a nice, clean fracture, no displacement at all. But nice and clean are not the words I would use.
What ten days are like: the first day, your foot is so swollen, you grimace as you attempt to pull your laces tight. The second day, you go to the mountains with your friends because hey, it doesn’t even hurt that bad anymore and you wouldn’t want to be left out. The third day, your mom says it’s probably just sprained because she knows how much upcoming auditions matter to you and it seems like you’ve been putting weight on it okay, right?
The most popular question I got those days was, “Did you cry?”
“No, I guess I just have a high pain tolerance,” I would smile, except that was only partly the truth. When I rolled my ankle and heard the crunch of bone, I did brush it off. But no dance for two months? That’s when the tears came. After first hearing the news, I sat in the car mourning my loss until my mom interrupted the funeral I was holding in the passenger seat.
“Now you might finally get the chance to do some of that writing you say you never have time for,” she gushed.
The next day, I remembered her words. I apprehensively opened up a new document. The cursor blinked at me, taunted me. I dare you to cover the page with something worth reading, it said. I shut my laptop.
Maybe that’s why I pretended my foot was okay. Maybe something in me knew this would happen. I had nothing better to do than express myself somewhere and yet, that was the one thing I couldn’t do. Well, the one thing besides anything that involved my right foot. My words felt just as cooped up as I did, and no matter how much I wanted them to emerge, they were going to take their sweet time just like my fractured metatarsal.
It’s been two years but sometimes my foot still reminds me to be gentle. My first publication was a personal essay in the newspaper. I sent it to you like you asked me to and you told me you’d read it but I don’t know if you did.
The Creative Learning Center
Annie Roach ’22
Scarlett is in sixth grade when her teachers, most of them eighty-five-year-old nuns with stubby noses and wrinkly wrists, get fed up about her inability to understand multiplication. They call Scarlett’s parents and tell them to enroll her in a private tutoring program; otherwise she won’t be able to move onto seventh grade with her other classmates at St. Elizabeth’s Academy, an all-girls institution that requires plaid skirts and cashmere vests.
Her parents, long fed up with the nuns, transfer Scarlett to a “creative learning center.” At this new school, all the teachers smoke weed and wear ratty full-denim outfits. The school has seven kids in each grade and half-days every Friday. It also doesn’t really have a math program, only a class called “Numerical Thought” twice a week, which never mentions multiplication.
At the creative learning center, Scarlett bonds with Elise, a tiny slip of a human with gregarious features and beaded jewelry. Elise convinces Scarlett to dye a strand of her hair lavender to match her blue streak. Elise has pledged to never shave her legs. Scarlett, wide-eyed, makes the same pledge.
Once, in October, they decide to make out during recess. They apply sticky strawberry lip balm and lock lips for an agonizing twenty seconds. Elise’s lips feel like a warm slug. When they separate, they fall on the ground laughing. Every couple minutes for the rest of the day, they lock eyes and burst into laughter. That is the day Scarlett falls in love.
Scarlett’s favorite class is Wellness, taught by a spiritual-looking woman named Stella who wears her braided hair in a crown around her head. There’s a wooden box in the lunchroom where students can put anonymous questions about sex, drugs, and friend drama. Stella answers them once a week. Scarlett learns about everything from where the clitoris is located to the effects of heroin use.
One day, Stella strolls into Wellness class and greets the students, asking them about their “emotional temperatures.” She tells the group of seven students that the questions from this week are going to prove to be “illuminating.” Scarlett’s excited. Stella unfurls a slip of paper from the box and begins reading.
“‘My best friend has a crush on me. The problem is, I think I led her on because we kissed a couple weeks ago, but for me, it was nothing serious. She also copies everything I do. I need some space from her. What do I do?”
The class gets hushed and all seven students look around at each other, trying to figure out who the note is about. Scarlett’s face burns. She excuses herself to the bathroom and doesn’t return until she’s sure the class will be on to the next question.
At home that night, she turns to her parents at the dinner table. “I’m done with being creative,” she says.
“What do you mean, Scarlett?”
“Give me back to the nuns,” she responds.
“That’s when you know, I guess,” her mother says, sighing.
Emma Kendall ’24
I’d always believed that Jews couldn’t have Christmas trees. My parents used to get one for the house– we’ve never moved so it’s the same one we live in now– but once my mom converted, my dad made it clear that he didn’t want to confuse the kids so we’ve strictly celebrated only Hanukkah for the last 19 years. My dad has historically been so afraid of his faith being threatened that he’d scrub the “Merry Christmas” labels off soap dispensers, erasing their message before they erased his religion. He was adamant that a tree would be equal to accepting Jesus Christ into our home. There was that one year where my mom rented a workspace for herself. It was only okay to have a tree there because my dad wouldn’t have to see it. The two of us hung her childhood ornaments while Michael Bublé sang in the background. I’d criticized Jews I knew who had trees; yet, I couldn’t stop smiling at the sight of mine.
But apart from that joy there were still times when I felt like I missed out on the Christmas experience, like when my mom tried to get my brother and I to watch “A Charlie Brown Christmas” and couldn’t believe how little we connected to it. It seemed unfair to me that she could be so disappointed in our lack of Christmas spirit when we were never even given a proper Christmas to begin with. How can she expect me to love Christmas when the only thing I’ve ever been allowed to do was long for it?
I used to scoff at the “half jews” I knew who had bat mitzvahs and kugel recipes but also proudly displayed trees lit up in their windows. I only looked down on those Jews and their Christmas trees because I was jealous that I’d always been told I couldn’t have it all. But there were families out there, having it all and suffering no consequences from the holiday police.
However, despite this yearning, I do love Hanukkah. I love latkes and lighting candles and the singular good Hanukkah album that reminds me of my childhood. But Hanukkah is not Christmas, not even close(it’s not even the best Jewish holiday, in my opinion). Hanukkah has only been puffed up because it comes around the same time as Christmas and the Jews were feeling a little left out. Hanukkah needs Christmas to survive. It’s not a standalone holiday because it was never designed to be and that’s okay. So, when my dad asks us every year what Hanukkah means before we’re allowed to open gifts I’ll still smile and say, “dedication,” not only because Hanukkah means more than just dedication to him but because it also means more to me. After all, I may not have grown up with Christmas but I did grow up with a family who loves to celebrate a holiday where we gather together when it starts to get chilly outside.
Sarina Hahn ’21
The wind up mouse comes first. Synthetic fluff coats everything but two little glass bug eyes (no eyelashes) and the inviting plastic ring poking out the back, just begging for a good yank and wiggle. Like a tail plug inverted, although I guess those are usually silicone on the inside. Appropriately, the toy is intended for cats.
Whether the idea can be attributed to a kind of preverbal, carnal ingenuity– the kind that leads a wild creature towards the berries on this bush and not that–, or rather the effects of post-internet accessibility on an early adolescent, is unanswerable. The operation never reaches the consciousness of language. As such, there is no precise record, only a body memory.
High frequency. Pulsing. Tension. Release. Again. Harder. This is no pillow, folks.
She doesn’t last long though. The mouse I mean. Pithy battery had no chance against the combined power of forearm and pelvis. Besides, winding is a hassle under the sheets and a rhythmic hazard to boot. It’s a start though. A gateway, in the prohibitive sense. Pleasing enough to wonder what else is out there.
Fervent experimentation precedes the ultimate discovery of old-cum-faithful. You court objects for their potential second life in misuse. Nothing lives outside consideration. The handheld milk frother, for example, a Hanukkah gift from Nana. It’s sleek and silver and cold until you touch it. The metal meets your heat easily. Some materials are more reactive, you’re learning. This is experiential education at its finest. The heavy base rumbles like a Dremel in your hand and you cum heavier and faster, flatter. It’s fun as hell. You’re a baby dyke developing a real love for power tools.
There are problems though, practical and otherwise. The wire end whirrs into a blade, loud enough to shear through closed doors and darkness, sharp enough to tear a sheet. Not to mention the morning when dad, rummaging through kitchen cabinets, floats the dreaded question over his shoulder. Hey have you seen that latte thing? The passing query accelerates, curdles into a hardball entering your atmosphere, plunges through. It’s a new kind of paralysis, a new kind of caught you find yourself wedged inside. Stuck but somehow fluvial. You’re gulping. A shame that soaks over slowly, not from the stomach but deep below.
You lie, of course. Because. Oh yes, I took the gift from grandma to masturbate. This becomes one of the metrics then, of the potential of things, the viability. Who needs it and when. Whether the absence will out you. This is what keeps you from testing the most obvious option, the electric toothbrush, for so long. Although it’s just a doorway away and possesses all the characteristics a kid could possibly dream of in a DIY vibrator, it’s shared between mouths. The window where it might disappear unseen is tighter than… And besides, those mouths aren’t just any. It’s yours and your brother’s. You each have a proper brush attachment, sure, but the base is communal, and this should be gross enough to foreclose play.
But then the night arrives when you’re laying there and heating up and you need to get the heat out but there’s nothing laying around but you, no damn motorized toys or kitchen appliances or anything. You’re so damn hot and you’re just getting hotter. You’re so damn hot you start thinking what if I put it right back? And then if I take the head off and wash it, it isn’t so bad. And then there are no more thoughts because you’re up, launching out of bed and into instinct, into the silent hallway, your weightless footsteps propelling to the bathroom and back, your electric hand down into that now relieving hum.