Growing up amidst the turmoil of war and poverty, my grandmother learned to live through hardships and suffering at a young age. Though she had been frequently challenged in her life and had fought through countless hardships and obstacles, I was able to catch a glimpse of her during possibly one of her most testing points, an experience that seemed less significant to me then. My grandfather had been hospitalized earlier that year, and it was our first time visiting him since. During that visit, I only sensed the determination of my grandfather, but looking back, I realize how much pain my grandmother endured and how she seamlessly concealed it with her strength for the sake of my grandfather and her love for him.
My grandmother swung open the door, and my parents shuffled in; just ten years old then, I followed behind them softly as the hospital room came into view. The gray walls glowed with the gentle light of the Saturday afternoon which illuminated the back corner of the room where my grandfather lay in a bed. We greeted him and spoke to him quietly, telling him stories about where we had gone over summer break and about our lives in America. Meanwhile, my grandmother bustled around the room, turning on the TV, watering the plants she had brought in to add splashes of color into the dreary hospital room, occasionally calling out a witty remark or slipping a sentence or two into our conversation. Every afternoon, she drove out to the hospital to visit my grandfather, even spending her nights there sometimes, sleeping in a small bed in the back of the room to watch over him. After we had engaged in quiet conversation for a while, my parents motioned for my sister and I to let my grandfather rest. I glimpsed my grandmother sitting quietly on a wooden chair next to the bed where my grandfather was lying. Her figure was hunched over in the chair, and her hands were intertwined with my grandfather’s as she spoke to him in soft tones. Sunshine streamed through the broad glass windows behind her and fell across the wrinkles of her timeworn face. As I watched her, I noticed her dark eyes, crinkled at the edges and framed by her drooping eyelids, filled with wisdom, yet an echo of youth that gleamed through the old age the rest of her face suggested. One could barely imagine her pain with just a glance at her bright smile and determined stance, her sorrow masked by her strength and love for my grandfather. His lung condition had left him unable to speak, but my grandmother shared a wordless bond with him, always encouraging and comforting him. As we said our goodbyes and filed out of the hospital room, my grandmother shared a few words with my grandfather before she cast a quick reassuring glance at him, her face still blooming with her smile and her eyes brimming with strength through all her pain, before strolling through the heavy hospital door and closing it quietly with a click.
Visiting my grandmother a few years later now, after my grandfather’s death, she seems to have lost a part of her previous self. Her face still crinkles into a smile when she sees us, and the sound of her laughter still fills the room and spreads irresistible joy. Many nights however, she dozes off on the couch, not wanting to sleep alone on the bed that had been meant for two. After my experience, I was able to see a new side of my grandmother few could observe or appreciate. It was her bravery and courage that I finally learned to admire, shining through even the deepest of of her pains, burrowed within her heart. Even though she may not have done anything significant that demonstrated valor or courage, just understanding the simple yet resilient nature of my grandmother spoke volumes about her quiet strength.
Fake News is an ever growing problem, having large impacts on the decisions people make and presenting a lucrative financial aspect in its favor. The former prime minister of Palestine, Ismail Haniyeh, has said, “Some people think that the truth can be hidden with a little cover-up and decoration. But as time goes by, what is true is revealed, and what is fake fades away.” Essentially, he is saying that the truth will always eventually prevail over the fake. Haniyeh’s statement is only partially accurate in today’s world because although it is much easier now to reveal the truth, spreading it faster than fake news is more challenging.
There exist many examples of the relatively high viral speed of fake news compared to the truth, which is often more boring or mundane and therefore not as share-worthy. One of these instances is the infamous “Vaccinations cause autism” claim made by many, from liberal democrats to conservative republicans, including the current president of the United States. Despite being disproved by countless studies, high ranking officials continue to propagate this myth, and large swathes of the public believe in it. This claim has had a tremendous impact; due to this, many parents have chosen not to vaccinate their children against potentially harmful diseases, which could be fatal for the children. Another, more recent example of the incredible internet speed of fake news is “Liberty News,” a fake news website based in the San Francisco Bay Area. The website was created by Paris Wade and Ben Goldman, and they generate $10,000 in advertising revenue per month. A shockingly high 95% of this internet traffic comes via Facebook, a social media site notorious for the high amount of fake content being shared. According to one study, most people on Facebook and other social networks don’t click on headlines before sharing them, leading to obviously fake stories going viral, simply because of an exciting headline. Clearly, in the digital age we live in, where everyone has access to great databases of information, the truth is simply a few clicks away. However, the crux of the issue is that many people do not bother to seek this truth, and therefore the false infects us at a rapid pace.
Haniyeh may have been right when he said that the truth will always be revealed, but he most likely did not foresee fake news having such staying power. With copious digital resources at our hands, it is relatively easy to reveal the truth, but considerably more complex to make lies fade away.
I love my cousin Kyle as I would love a brother, and I trust him more than the man whose job it is to belay me while I am rock climbing. His mouth is the most prominent channel for his emotions, whether through words or movement. When he is angry, he sometimes discharges an impassioned tirade towards his instigator; other times, he simply grinds his teeth and fills his cheeks with air. Pain is instantly recognizable on his face, as is happiness. If he is hurt, he sucks in his lips and hums curses behind his teeth; happy feelings, on the other hand, cause a toothy smile wider than his face should allow, showing snow-white teeth and a solitary dimple.
While the holiday season always brings a joyful smile to Kyle’s face, his emotions tend to morph into less positive ones after a long day of hosting our loud, gregarious family. Giving each other Christmas presents seems to be a passion of our family’s, as it takes up approximately half of the time we spend in each other’s company over the holidays. During the most recent Christmas party, which was held at Kyle’s house, our six-year-old cousin Maia received a pair of purple Heelys from an aunt. Since Kyle and I were the only people in attendance with enough knowledge, strength, and balance to teach Maia how to use them, the responsibility of instructing her fell upon us. Being thirteen and fifteen years old respectively, we were already at the age at which a person is maturing enough to be trusted with young children; Kyle, having especially proven his trustworthiness in the act of supervising our younger cousins, was permitted to bring Maia and me out into the deserted street so that he and I could teach her.
At first, I believed that the most difficult task ahead of us would be helping her balance on her Heelys, but I was mistaken; Kyle spent fifteen minutes weaseling her tiny feet into the snug shoes, all the while grinning optimistically. Once we managed to bring Maia outside, while also helping her balance, the brisk wind and chilling mist reprimanded our jersey-clad bodies for forgetting our coats. As we plodded towards the street, Maia surrendered most of what little she weighed to our forearms to keep herself from falling, making our path down the walk a literal and metaphorical “slippery slope.” It was such slow going that Kyle eventually slung Maia over his shoulder in a fireman’s carry and barreled into the street, with me sprinting close on his heels. Exhilarated and cold, the three of us perched on the curb, laughing hysterically and catching our breath. Kyle’s triangular face was beet-red from the cold, but he was still chuckling, with a smile the width of the Times Square Jumbotron. Eventually, we climbed to our feet and helped Maia to the center of the small lane.
In lieu of teaching her as a qualified educator would, Kyle simply held her hand, as did I, while he repeated the mantra that he employed while learning to use Heelys: “Left foot, right foot, left and jump!” This repetitive procedure continued for about half an hour, with occasional pauses for taking pictures. We eventually decided to return, and Kyle, although he was stiff, cold and sore, graciously conceded to carrying Maia back into the warm, cozy house.
Kyle and I both have no siblings, and we have treated each other like brothers since I was born. Two years ago, the loss of my father devastated both our families; Kyle kept me safe and cared for me throughout the harrowing experience. Watching Kyle with my small cousin Maia this Christmas I saw the caring that flows so naturally from him. Like Maia, with Kyle’s help I was able to find a way forward in that dark time, stumbling at first and then starting, hesitantly, to learn to glide.
The first time I saw him during the summer before sixth grade, he was eating a Snickers bar on the doorstep of Jovanna’s old house. I was so mad when I saw him there, dripping a melted candy bar onto the lawn where Jovanna and I had played for years. I marched up to him from across the street and sternly ordered, “Put that Snickers bar down! How dare you drip chocolate over this lawn!”
He rolled his eyes and spoke bossily, with a mouthful of caramel and peanuts, “Why? Thith ith my houth, and I’m the both.”
“Well, my bestest friend lived here before you came along.”
“How is this my fault?” he asked as he swallowed his mouthful of Snickers bar.
I was stumped. It seemed silly to be blaming this new kid for Jovanna leaving, because everyone in our town knew, but it was more of a silent topic. Reluctantly, I apologized and sat down beside him. I don’t know what made me feel so down, but my eyes began to water. Soon, I began to sniffle, my vision blurry and my throat throbbing. I tried to hold them in, but it was like trying to hold back the ocean with a wall of chicken wire. Before I knew what was happening, I was full-out crying. I hadn’t cried since fourth grade when Marina Kay called me an ostrich because I tried to deny that nobody liked me like the way an ostrich stuck its head in the sand. “Snickers” (that was what I thought of him as) sat there awkwardly and looked completely helpless. I wiped my tears and got up. To my surprise, Snickers pulled me down. “I’ve heard about your friend’s dad. I’m so sorry. One of my closest friend’s sister got badly hurt in a car crash. She didn’t make it. I knew her really well. It still doesn’t feel real. I guess we’re on the same train.”
I was shocked that he would be so honest with me, a strange girl who had demanded him to throw away his candy out-of-the-blue. A hint of a smile peeked out as I said, “I’m so sorry. About your friend’s sister. And sorry I was such a jerk earlier. I don’t know what’s wrong with me” I suddenly noticed that there were gold flecks in his big, warm greyish-green eyes. He almost looked like Jovanna’s chocolate Lab puppy, Coco. Blushing, I sat back down. As he wrapped an arm around my shoulder with a warm smile, he inquired, “What’s your name?”
“Sara,” I replied with a giggle. “What’s yours? Snickers?”
“Haha. Very funny. No, my name’s Gilbert. But you can call me Snickers, if you insist.”
“Okay, Snickers.” I laughed as I wrapped my arm around his shoulders. He smelled like chocolate.
Eight months and she still hadn’t forgotten. Hadn’t forgotten the feeling of not being alone for once, the feeling of having someone understand her, the feeling of love. Eight months and she still hadn’t forgotten him. She could never forget him, not even after everything he had put her through. He had moved on long ago, left her to the demons he had once helped her overcome, but she could never abandon him.
Now, she was alone once more, alone with only the monsters inside of her, the ones she knew would never leave her.
She sat curled up on her bed, trying to push back the tears, but any strength she had once held had faded away eight months ago. With every day away from him, she had allowed the wave of sadness to overcome her a little more, until finally, she was drowning in its waters. This would be the day she let it sweep her away. A silver blade swept across her wrists and she waited for all of her pain to disappear once and for all.
The sun has long since dipped into the horizon by the time I reach the lake, the last of its lingering shadows already faded into the dark oblivion of the young summer night. A slight breeze brushes against the lake waters, sending ripples across the smooth surface. It’s times like these when I feel the most alive: adrenaline courses in my body, excitement quickens my steps. And, despite the brown leather jacket that I had hastily thrown on earlier, I shiver slightly.
We had agreed to meet at this blissfully secluded area at the edge of our little town a few weeks before, at one of our meetups that always involved us going to our favorite ice cream parlor, Dream Cream, and staying overnight at one of our houses. It was something that both of us had always wanted to do, but never really found the time for in our hectic schedules. But now it’s summer, we have a whole two months ahead of us, waiting to be filled with midnight adventures and daring escapades.
Pulling the hood of my oversized hoodie above my head, I sit down on the soft grass by the lake with my arms resting snugly around my knees, contentedly watching the lake glimmer under the starlight.
It’s not long before my ears register the familiar footsteps behind me, causing a small smile to tug on the corner of my lips.
He sits down next to me, giving me the wide, boyish grin that I’ve come to love, and says the three words he’s been saying to me for the past two months:
“I like you.”
His eyes lock into mine; pressing me, daring me. All of a sudden, it’s hard to breathe, and my heart is beating wildly.
It’s the nice kind of wild, not the kind that usually arises when I need to speak in front of the whole class, or the kind when I’m embarrassed and wishing for the earth to swallow me whole, but the kind what makes me want to cry and smile at the same time.
Happy, I realize. I’m happy.And so, finally, I grant him a rare smile, for once not caring that my mouth is full of braces and that my smile is slightly lopsided, and utter the the four words I’ve been holding inside me for too long:
And so, finally, I grant him a rare smile, for once not caring that my mouth is full of braces and that my smile is slightly lopsided, and utter the the four words I’ve been holding inside me for too long:
“I like you too.”
His eyebrows shoot up in surprise before his grin inexplicably widens, creating a tiny dimple at the corner of his mouth. He leans in until I can feel his warm breath against my neck and whispers, “Tag.”
And, just like that, he’s off running and I’m left to chase after him.
It was a Saturday and I was going to my best friend Jonas’s house to hang out. We had been friends since second grade when we were in the same class. I smiled as I remembered some of the moments we had. It was probably our teacher’s most disastrous year. My dad was driving the car, and the streets were surprisingly empty. Trees flashed by and houses passed in a blur of color as the meter on the speedometer slowly increased. I leaned back in my seat as my dad turned onto Greenwood, the street Jonas lived on. We passed the other houses and I gazed at the trees. It was autumn and the leaves were a breathtaking orange. As we parked in his yard, I looked around but didn’t see him. “He must be in the house.” I thought. Then I remembered: “This is Jonas.”
Squinting my eyes, I gazed up into the tree that stood in Jonas’s yard. There was a sort of swing that you could climb into hanging from one of the tree’s main branches. There he was, way up top in the tree’s uppermost branches. I could barely see him because of the abundant number of intersecting branches obscuring my vision.
“Hey dude!!” I shouted up to Jonas.
“Took you a while to find me,” he said, obviously proud.
“Yeah I know,” I replied in defeat.
My dad, seeing that we were fine, revved the car, then drove away. Jonas climbed down into view from behind the “branch cave” that he had been hiding inside. The sun glinted off his blonde hair and green eyes. Once he had descended to a main branch of the tree, he leaped off and landed in a crouch, probably something he had learned from taekwondo, and pushed his blond hair out of his eyes, giving me a mischievous smile. Wearing a simple t-shirt, dark pants, and a pair of crocks, he stood up, about as tall as I was,“Yo,” He motioned for me to follow him.
I nodded to him and we walked down the brick path and into his house.
Opening the front door, we entered and took off our shoes.
“Hey, Liam!” Jonas’s mom had spotted me.
“Hi,” I replied.
She made her way into the kitchen and disappeared from view.
“Okay, what do you want to do?” Jonas asked me.
“I’m not sure,” I said, gazing around his living room. There were a couple sofas placed around a TV. Straight ahead of us was the kitchen that led to the garage and to our right was a family room that ended in stairs leading to the bedrooms. After a moment of decision, we entered the room on the right and Jonas picked up a beach ball that lay on a table and threw it at my head. “Woah!” I cried, alarmed, as I just managed to bat the blue, red, and yellow mass away from my face.
“Watch out, man!”
“Sorry,” he said, trying not to smile but failing.
We then started batting and slapping the ball around the room with glee, closely missing antique photographs and fragile vases. After many close calls, I finally pointed out this wasn’t the best place to play “volleyball” and we climbed the steps into Jonas’s room As we entered, I could see his desk and a glass lamp hanging from the middle of the ceiling. A beanbag chair slumped lazily in the corner. Catching me off guard, Jonas procured the beach ball out of nowhere and quickly smacked it at my face. Instinctively, I deflected it back in his direction. We proceeded to resume the game of volleyball and it turned into a competition as we began whacking the ball harder and harder, each of us encouraging the other. One hit of the ball brought it inches away from his shelves of trophies and another one almost collided with a picture on his wall. I glanced at the glass lamp above us, the most fragile thing in the room.
“I don’t think this a good idea-” I was cut off by the ringing sound of the beachball against glass lamp.
The lamp froze for a second as if deciding where to fall, and then fall it did, twirling in mid-air. Jonas plugged his ears and I took a step back instinctively. “SMMAAASSH” The lamp exploded on impact and shards of glass shot across where I had just been a second before and ricocheted off the walls. Immediately, we heard chairs shuffling and footsteps downstairs. Two pairs of feet were racing up the steps. I looked around the glass covered floor, “It was a miracle that neither of us were hit,” I thought. Glancing at Jonas, I saw that his green eyes were still wide open with excitement and shock. The door flew open. Jonas’s mom and dad came in, panting. “W-what happened?” Jonas’s mom asked.
“Well,” I couldn’t really explain. “We were hitting the ball and then…”
“Are you two okay?” She asked, clearly concerned,
“Yeah,” we both managed.
She quickly left the room to fetch a broom as we inched our way out of the room past stray glass shards. Jonas’s dad, who hadn’t said anything yet, spoke, “Don’t ever do that again, boys.”
“We won’t,” we replied in unison, still taken aback at what had just happened. Jonas’s dad, satisfied, moved so we could go down the stairs. His mom came back up, now equipped with a broom. She just gave us a stern look.
“Well, I guess no more volleyball,” I concluded later, after the whole mess had been cleaned up. Jonas was sitting on the stairs, restlessly swinging his leg.“We can play roof-bouncing now,” He answered, undeterred.
“We can play roof-bouncing now,” He answered, undeterred.
I started at him in confusion.
“You know, when you jump off the roof onto the trampoline.” He explained, misinterpreting my expression as a need for more information.
“Are you crazy,” I asked in disbelief.
“C’mon, it’s really fun.” He pleaded.
“Okay… how about indoor frisbee?”
I gave up and chased after him to begin the game.
A poor life this is if ruled by dollars
Even more when judged by color
Dangerous risk to make a stand
When named at birth, given a brand
How many people have suffered from this
Spending their lives in an abyss
We must stop the hating
Away with dictating
And now start anew
Let kindness come through
Welcome these equals
Make sure there are no sequels
A poor life this is if ruled by dollars
Even more when judged by color
Annoyance, rising up in my chest; threatening to explode; with
Each repeated yell adding up to the swell.
Irritation, mild anger; red darkening to black.
It covers my brain, till I burst into flame.
Its triangular shape poking at me, nonstop
It creeps up to me like a shadow, till it pounces.
It appears as a storm cloud; at first clean and white;
But as the sky fades to grey, its red lightning strikes.
It sounds like the grumble of a man awoken too early;
As he tries to lie down and rest just a little more.
A constant tap on its back and call of its name
Drives this word on to light up with rage.
A storm above my head, zapping on my skull,
This emotion is sure to attack one day.
It lives in New York with the buzz of the city
No peace or quiet; enough to drive anyone crazy.
A rondeau, inspired by The Autobiography of Malcolm X
The minister’s words; the seeds they sow
With every speech the white fears grow
For Muslim brothers who love him dear,
The things he says eliminate fear
To rise up is the only way to go.
He tells the oppressed: Stand and say no!
While white men attempt to overthrow
The ideals they believe in here:
The minister’s words.
But all of Malcolm’s followers know
It is nearly time to end the show
The final curtain shall appear
To cut off, with a mournful tear
That thing Black Muslims all have followed:
The minister’s words.
A resounding cry of “build that wall” rises,
An ugly history of hate revises.
Always masked by empty words of liberty,
Newly revived, the monster of hostility.
Always the devil on the American shoulder,
Curbed temporarily, resurging even bolder
The golden veneer of the land of the free
Sheds yet again, making way for bigotry.
“Unprecedented!” some cry, “Such crass!”
Reassuring themselves, saying “This shall pass.”
But great experience suggests otherwise;
Racism remains a persistent American vice.
I sprint down the field on a clear breakaway, bringing my head up to look
at my final destination, the goal. The next moment, I find myself spread-eagled
on the turf, my limbs twisted in odd angles. I open my eyes to see a blurry and
off-kilter world. I blink once, twice, and my vision slowly rights itself. Shakily, I
stand to find blood flowing from a broken lip. I snarl, a sight that I am sure is
made even more terrifying by the crimson liquid collecting in my mouth. I throw
my arms out wide and demand a call from the ref. A foul, a yellow card,
anything! My pleas are fruitless; the referee is pretending that he cannot hear
me and the girl who took the ball from me is already yards away. I turn on my
heel and sprint after her, anger simmering in my veins. My cleats pound into the
turf, bringing up sprays of black rubber pellets with every stride. The metallic
tang in my mouth urges me to push harder, run faster, and hunt her down.
With no regard for the rules of the game, I slide into the girl’s legs from behind,
effectively tripping her and bringing her down. Once again I am on the ground,
but this time with a sense of satisfaction as the ref blows his whistle for the
blatant foul that I committed. The blood staining my teeth tastes like victory as
he pulls out a card as bright as the triumph that surrounds me: red.
Perfect is my golden teddy bear chain,
Ice cold on my throat and neck.
Perfect is the warm, humid wind,
Right before a summer rain.
Perfect is immersing myself in music,
Earbuds snug in my ears.
Perfect is the aroma, the perfume,
Of new Bloch pointe shoes.
Perfect is the flying satisfaction,
Of a perfect triple turn.
Perfect is reading in the corner of a room,
Entering a portal into another world.
Perfect is my pencil on a post-it,
Sketching out something spontaneous.
Perfect is being squeezed and held,
In a tight group hug.
Perfect is laughing,
Even after tears.
Perfect is love,
Smiles peeking from the shyest faces.
You see me every day
Strutting down these boring halls
Pretending to be strong,
To be confident,
To be stunning
Flashy and fun
While crumbling on the inside,
Wearing the mask, trying to hide
From the masses of people that shouldn’t have tried
To wear me down,
To tear me down.
But, you see, there are these moments.
Times when I truly am myself,
Stripped clean of all facades
And showing off my vulnerability
To the world. And not caring.
And feeling something wonderful,
I call this feeling metamorphosis.
It comes with the minutes that seem like glorious hours
Singing your heart out, letting your voice flow
Feeling drunk on the cheers, on your own inner power
But scared of making a mistake. You won’t. And you don’t
So everyone starts screaming your name
When you’ve finished your song, and you float on air
Brilliantly colored red ribbons of elation
Twisting in your mind.
It comes with the tentative exhilaration
Stepping onto the blindingly bright, white ice
Gliding along with bliss, hearing susurration
Of your ice skates smoothly flying across pearly white skies
And you let yourself be swept up in it
And twirl through air to land perfectly,
Pale lilac stars of excited calm
Drifting through your mind.
It comes with the wonderful relaxation, like heaven
Enveloping you comfortingly, a warm blanket
As you bite your lip, trying to figure out number seven
And you jump to the correct conclusion with just ten seconds left
And you scribble down “125 pi”
With a relieved exhale and sit back,
Mellow yellow circles of confident anticipation
popping through your mind.
It comes with the frenzied, wild happiness
Seizing you as you sit, wrapped in bed
And your own thoughts, making connections to assess
Should you delete that last sentence? No, it will fit well in this novel of yours
And the only sound is the tap-tap-tap
Of the keys of your laptop as you write a story,
Summer-sky-blue rounded rectangles of grand ideas and ambitions
Swooping across your mind.
Feels wildly beautiful
When you are in your own element
And greatness thrums through your alert veins.
At the library,
I sit in my usual seat.
Do you sense my gaze?
I wish you would look at me.
Yet I am afraid
Of what I may or may not see…
I am the lonely crow that prays
To join the trio of lovely doves
Who painted my feathers black
With their betrayal, and flew away.
My honorary sisters,
Crows in disguise
Forced to destroy me
With their tangles of lies
I miss you
I hate you
I wish you
I can’t say it.
You have done too much.
Do you feel me watching you
Oh, so desperately
From across the library?
You won’t turn to look at me
But here is where I’ll always be.
You’re my fave and the love of my life
If only, if only I could be your wife
The fact that I’m not causes me much strife
The pain of rejection stabs me like a knife
Rejected and ignored 152 times
I could be as sour as 152 limes
But a deep flame of love still burns in my heart
You’re so cute, my own little tart
Although you’ve said no, I’m sure Cupid’s love dart
Will turn you around and make you be mine
Out of all of the boys, you’re the most divine
My friends all hate on me and say that I whine
But my love for you is still in its prime
Everlasting, fresh as a pine
Unrelenting, straight as a line
I see you out of the corner of my eye
And your bitter refusal makes me want to cry
However, I believe you’ll understand my rhymes
Maybe you’ll say yes the 153rd time