Eat

By Isabella O.

The mirror outlines my frail body, defining the blemishes that distress my mind. 

My eyes, full of fatigue, scan my lanky figure from top to bottom.

The smile on my face fades into disapproval and disgust.

You are nothing but fat, and you know it.

 

ED didn’t approve of my looks; he had strong animosity for them but agreed to my self-hatred.

ED was only honest, and people crave honesty, right?

 

My stomach constantly ached with hunger, which caused tensional strains in my abdomen.

Several times a day ED reminds me: eating isn’t worth the weight. 

I could feel the lump in my throat suffocating the words that would try leaving my mouth as ED played torturous tricks;

he overlaps his words and screams of the harmful consequences if I dare to consume any food. 

It was a feeling of being trapped in another identity and having an absence of control over my decisions.

 

Giving me closure, ED was the presence of a friend who assured me to be there always. 

He was the friend who always knew what was best for me. 

He knew what was needed to be my best self. 

He gave the euphoric feeling that spread through my body, filling the void I had for myself. 

My constant thoughts of eating didn’t faze ED, it made him create a mockery of my thinking.

 

ED told me we could save meals for other days, which we never came around to.

He told me that his way of living was the most suitable, and it wasn’t a problem. 

ED told me not to listen to what anyone had to say because they were the ones who were deviant and controlling. 

 

He told me that I looked beautiful in an extra small, but that I’d look better if I couldn’t fit into a size at all.

ED made sure I knew I needed him, forever. 

Without him, I was nothing but a disappointment to the world. 

 

The tightness in my chest made breathing unbearable.

My legs slowly gave up its strength to keep me standing.

Looking back at the mirror, I rubbed my eyes and looked up to the site of a different person; 

Someone who wasn’t me. 

 

She looked miserable and decrepit, shown by the engraved bags showcasing her dull brown eyes. 

Her body mirrored an image of nothing being left, but her ingenious skeletal presence. 

She resembled the cadaverous figure of anorexia. 

Her face lost all the joy and love she had. Her eyes were lifeless.

She was left with the lies that ED coerced into her conscious, wired to think he was right. 

The girl was me, and I was the one following ED’s manipulative words. 

 

They don’t know what they’re talking about.

You know how you look, no one else truly does.

 

Eating won’t do any good for you in the long run.

How long can you go without eating? Push yourself until the breaking point.

People, including yourself, will like who you are more if you eat less than they do.

 

My life felt too damaged to be fixed. 

Permanently broken, and defeated. 

Too much has been taken from me, and getting that back would be a never-ending process.

 

My mother stood at the doorway with a sad smile which soon faded, pulling me into a hug. 

The tears from inside poured out, and my raspy voice spilled a cry for help, begging to not die.


 

I lived for years with a drive of listening to ED. 

I isolated myself from the world because ED was all I needed.

He was. 

 

ED wasn’t a friend

He was a drug and a deceitful killer 

 

Pulling you into his canny lies, and engaging a blissful addiction.

Until suddenly, you become deeper and closer to the voice of death.

The voice that torments you, questioning, “is living worth it?”

 

Unspoken

By Aarti K.

     One basket of colored pencils. One basket of Crayola markers. One pile of neatly stacked white paper bags with the fronts cut out. Perfect, I think. Ready for the day.  I smooth my badge over the bright blue creases of my shirt. Aarti, it reads, Teen Volunteer. I place myself gingerly on a stool, waiting for the museum’s first customers of the day. 

     A family of three casually stroll in. 

     “Hi guys!” I jump to my feet, plastering on a customer-friendly smile. “Welcome to our Creativity Lab! Our theme this month is space, so at this station, we’ll be making our very own space helmets.”

     The mother motions for her children to take seats in front of me. 

      “We have these helmets and stickers, pipe cleaners, and markers to decorate with. Oh, and if you want anything hot glued on, feel free to ask me.” I hand the kids paper bags, pushing the baskets toward them. 

     “So, is this y’all’s first time at the museum?” 

     The girl, tow-headed and startlingly blue-eyed, answers my question. “Actually, yeah. We live all the way out in Williston, so we don’t come here a lot.”

     She looks up at me with a bright smile. 

     “I’m Jane, and this is Riley.”

     Riley sticks his tongue out and leans across the table.

     I talk to Jane for a while as she and Riley decorate their bags. She’s a junior, just like me. We bond over college applications, SAT scores, and summer internships. 

     She knocks over my carefully arranged basket of colored pencils. She laughs, embarrassed. 

     “I’m so clumsy.”

     As I collect them from the floor, I reassure her that I, too, am clumsy.

     She twists pipe cleaners for her decorations. Green over pink, pink over green. Repeatedly. She assembles them on the edges of her paper bag.

     “Could you hot glue these for me?”

     I look down at her creation. That looks familiar. Are those-? No, there’s no way. I force a cracked, peeling smile.

     “Sure.” 

     I place it on the table behind me and pick up the hot glue gun. I can feel the warmth radiating into my palms. Perfect drops pool on unwrinkled paper. I think of honey filling a boot print in the snow. Slowly, deliberately, I start pressing pink-and-green shapes into the surface. Pockets of heat stick lightly to my fingers, gently burn. I hand back the paper bag, now covered in ten multicolored swastikas. 

Jane smiles brightly at me as they make their way out. 

     I exhale heavily and drop my smile. How long was I holding that in for?

     The rest of my shift, customers float through the museum like clouds in the sky. I force myself to tighten my ponytail, smooth my badge, smile. I feel like my words are dissolving into thin air. There’s no way she didn’t know what she was doing, right? She’s sixteen. Am I just making a big deal out of this? Was she targeting me specifically? Because I’m a person of color? Why did she smile at me so much? I thought we were bonding. We talked about college. We laughed at her clumsiness. Why didn’t I say anything? Why didn’t I just ask?

    Why didn’t I say anything? I feel guilty, sick. 

     In the restroom, I look at myself in the mirror, trying to convince myself of what just happened. I’ll have bruises on my palms tomorrow, small purple crescent moons. Releasing nails from my palms, I let go. I decide I’ll write about this someday. Maybe then I’ll get closure. Walking back to the lab, I ready myself to get back to work.

 

Fluid Identity

By Su E.

     The airplane’s engine’s whirring begins, the wheels turning towards the airplane’s runway. It is our annual trip to Turkey, and my anxiety is high. Not because I am going to see my relatives, or because I’m seeing a different country … but because I hate airplanes. I struggle to breathe as the compressed air squeezes my lungs. Not to mention the smell of airplane food. I would rather starve for 24 hours rather than eat it; I was preparing myself to do so. I put on a thick layer of hand-sanitizer and smelled the clean scent.

     The airplane rises slowly. We are leaving America, my birth country. I grew up in Minnesota as a Christmas baby. To this I have gotten many responses: “Wow, you were born with Jesus,” or even, “You only get half the presents.” None fazed me. Despite living in America, my Turkish family never adopted American traditions. 

     We kept our own, learning our own language and history every Sunday. We found refuge in local coffee shops, choosing to practice Turkish between bottomless cups of American coffee. Although my first language was Turkish, keeping it flowing was difficult. I knew it hurt my immigrant parents when we had English slipups. Although they would consistently tell us that it was a miracle that we could speak Turkish at all.

     Do you have to know a country’s language to be connected to it? Memorize their anthem? Have their passport? 

     Every time I enter Turkey, I fear this passport concept. Handing my American passport to the guard, I label myself American before entering Turkey. I smell my hand-sanitizer, wondering if he can tell that I speak his language. When I return to America, the guard briefly scans my passport before he smiles. 

     “Welcome home!” he says, as if he knows America is my home. If I had a Turkish passport, would he welcome me just the same? 

***

     Although I have lived in America my whole life, my family takes long and frequent visits to Turkey where our extended family lives.

I am closest with my maternal grandparents. My grandfather, a neurologist and writer, is witty. Like me he is lazy in the body, but quick in the mind. My grandmother is reserved, choosing to spend time cleaning. I feel an essence of Turkey with them. Was this tie enough to connect me to Turkey? 

***

     After turning 14, I developed pride to be Turkish for wrong reasons, thinking, “This will get me into college,” or “I can intimidate people.”

     “I am bilingual.” What a grandiose word! I used it every time I got the chance. It made me unique. I never understood what it meant to be both American and Turkish. Was there a guarantee that I was either?

***

     In between meals now, the flight becomes shaky, the turbulence hitting us like waves crashing against sunbather’s bodies. “We are about halfway through our flight now, we received news about the World Cup. USA has won the tournament!” the flight attendant announces.

     Nearly everyone on the plane cheers including myself. Somehow, I felt obligated to cheer; maybe because I had Americanized myself.

     My mother hated this term, using it in negative connotations.

     “Don’t be selfish like those Americans.”

     “I expect more from you than an American.”

     I did not want to be put in the group of the “American”, but I didn’t feel ashamed of the label.

     During this trip, I felt I had an obligation to find my belonging, but the only guarantee in my identity was my name.

     My name means water, fluid water. In America, everyone wants to pronounce my name in a way that it shouldn’t be pronounced. They tell me, I belong here. I belong to a country that is not mine. But I find myself pronouncing it as they do. I know that I am Turkish, but my words seem to come out in this different language that I also call my own; just like America calls me its own. But my roots flow deeper than any one culture. I am fluid between the two. I am neither Turkish nor American, I am a mix of both cultures. I flow and eb in and out of cultures. I was never in between any culture; I was a combination of both. 

 

Lorin

By Noah H.

     No, that’s not a rag. That’s Lorin, my blankie. He’s blue. If I hold him out fully, he’s about two feet square. He can cover my whole pillow. More accurately, he’s not a square. His corners are rounded and ragged. He was once a square, back when he was brand new. I don’t remember him then. In the pictures of me as a baby, he is thicker, not frayed, with a back side that I don’t recognize anymore because it all fell off. But the floor, the washing machine, and I hate to think of it, but my own teeth, have attacked his edges, frayed his corners, and made him paper-thin.

     Lorin is 17 years old, just like I am. Those are three patches on him. My mom sewed those on him with green thread in a zigzag pattern to protect him. The patches have danger signs on them because I used to like them. He’s very thin where there are no patches. That there is my dad’s phone number in red paint on a patch. That spot there is two drops of blood from when I had a bloody nose at night. That there is the tag. It says “Zutano Baby”. On the other side of the tag is one small patch of fuzz, less than one square inch. That fuzz didn’t get taken off in the washing machine like the rest of him did. Lorin was once like that all over.

     When I was 5 years old, Lorin went everywhere I went. Around the house, preschool, the store, halfway around the world, you name it. One night I left him in the Red Bicycle Cafe for a whole weekend. The staff there knew me and so they didn’t throw him out. I lost him in the car, in the couch, every location in the house you can think of, and some you can’t think of. I left him at a friend’s house for 6 months. He came back every time. Lorin has been vomited on, peed on, dropped in the toilet, and more. He survived each one of those. More than 20 pieces have broken off of him. One of them I found on a sidewalk in San Francisco. I keep every one of them. I call them “lorinlings”. I keep them in a box. Now I don’t take Lorin anywhere. He stays in my bed. He has not left the house in more than 6 years.

     Each time Lorin went in the washing machine, he came out a little bit deteriorated. First he lost all fuzz on him except for on the patches. Then he lost the fuzz on the biggest patch. Then he lost the fuzz on the second biggest patch. Then he lost all the fuzz on his last patch. Now all the fuzz that remains is a tiny bit of fuzz where the tag is. I don’t put him in the washing machine anymore. I’m scared that if I put him in, nothing will come out. So years of sweat has soaked into him.

     Lorin used to eat trees when I was younger. Tall redwoods, tiny birch trees, the wood in my dresser drawer, he ate it all. He used to be 200 years old and weigh 254 pounds. When I put him on the bathroom scale, I was surprised to see it read “000”. The scale must not have been right. He had a deep, booming voice. Now he mostly stays in my bed and is next to my face when I sleep. He does not eat trees anymore, and he is very thin. Now I sleep with him every night.

     When I move Lorin across my face, it is a wonderful sensation. It’s the sensation of a thousand tiny nubbles going across your face and yet smoother than water. When I travel and sleep without Lorin (because I never bring him anywhere), I find myself missing Lorin as I go to sleep. One time when my mom was sad, I gave Lorin to her and Lorin helped her feel better. When my stomach hurts, I put Lorin on it and rub him around. He makes my stomach feel better 90 percent of the time. Everything the best hospital in the world can muster to calm stomach pain couldn’t do it like Lorin does.

     There will never be another Lorin. My dad tried, but the company doesn’t make any more of the same blankie as Lorin. And even if they did, a new Lorin would feel different. A new Lorin would feel much smoother. My Lorin has a rougher texture that only 17 years of life can bring. Lorin is the only Lorin I have, ever had, or will ever have.

 

My Skirt

By Christina L.

     “Your skirt is too short.” 

     “Her voice is so annoying.” 

     Every so often, an accusatory glare can be easily traced back to its owner from the massive cliques of students, coaches, and judges gathered around in the narrow hallway. A whisper here and there can be heard in between conversations about policy and war scenarios. As I walk down the hallway, paint chipping off the walls and people swarming around laptops preparing for their next debate round, the unsaid judgement on what female debaters choose to wear can be heard loud and clear, echoing off the dented lockers lining the halls. 

In a male dominated activity like high school speech and debate, you see suits, ties, and polished dress shoes; you hear deep, baritone voices; and you begin to think that the ideal debater is one who best embodies what you see. Videos of boy-boy debate teams speaking are published on Youtube, images of only men winning tournaments are circulated online, and recordings with distinctly deep male voices are saved into Google Drive folders to be listened to later. The lack of representation, and the lack of effort to increase representation continues to implicitly set the standard for what a high school debater should be. God forbid a skirt-wearing woman with a high-pitched voice to be the poster child for new students entering this competitive activity instead -- that would be too absurd -- and needless to say, an embarrassment to the community. 

     So I discard the skirt, I unconsciously speak deeper when articulating speeches and answering questions, and I do my best to adapt to the community around me and give up whatever quirks and differences that make me who I am. 

     “If you wore a shorter skirt maybe you’d win more rounds.” 

     “It’s a compliment, why are you so offended?” 

     The double standard that is held against women -- that it’s okay to dress in a way that was previously deemed unacceptable if and only if it is okayed by men and benefits them -- has cast the female high school speech and debate community into a double bind. On one hand, the last say in what we have to wear is not by ourselves, but by our male debater counterparts. On the other hand, the last say in what we have to wear is not by ourselves, but also by our male debater counterparts. Choose wisely. 

     The length of my skirt is not an indicator of my intelligence. The pitch of my voice is not an indicator of my ability to speak and argue. The outfit I wear is not an invitation for unwanted jeers and remarks. The lack of representation has proliferated into dangerous disrespect, disregard, and assumptions of minority debaters. Let our work ethic and effort speak for our abilities, not the height of our heels, not the color of our nails, and not the style of dress we wear. Let us do what we do best and speak up against these standards that have been built up around us.