I Think It's Deja-Vu

March 9, 2023 / Annie Kim

Deja vu (n.): the feeling of having already experienced the present moment. Almost as if you’d seen it in a dream…

Hour 1

The deranged peals of your alarm
Tug at your eyelids.
Your eyelashes stick together, it’s


You pry them open, throw out your right arm,
Fingers scrabbling,
Empty wooden surface.

Where’s your phone?
Under your pillow.

Silly you.
It’s cold. Remember to turn on the heater later.

The alarm…
You must’ve woken up
Don’t you remember?
The bedside table.

Wasn’t it on the left?

Finally, silence.
Your teeth chatter.
Grasping at degraded willpower to haul yourself upright,
Your body is leaden.

Your left shoulder feels tight,
You roll it experimentally and it protests.

You must’ve slept weirdly.

You swing your legs over the bed,
Like a puppet master
Controlling sleepy limbs.

Puppet. Puppet master
Which one are you, truly?
Swing them again, your legs.
Are you able to do it?
Do something abnormal,

Your brain feels cluttered,
Plugged up with a foggy cork.
There’s a thin film in your vision
You think you can see some


A desperate mirage,
An unsettling rainbow in the corner of your eye —

When you blink it vanishes.

You need some air.

You stagger on unsteady feet,
A pressure behind your eyes,
A dream hangover?
You look left at plaster wall, 
Then right at —

Oh right, there’s your window.
With the pink curtains.
Exactly three steps away.
Right —

There’s a tree branch in your backyard.
It’s been snapped by the wind.
Its dewed tips droop,
As if clawing, accusatory, at the ground
It looks like an umbrella.

Sounds familiar.
The breeze is chilling.

Check the calendar.
January 27th…

What year was it again?

It’s cold. Remember to turn on the heater later.

Lock the bedroom door behind you.
Drink tea, you never drink tea.
Tell me, what year is it?

Did you even open the window?

Your coffee machine gurgles peacefully
As you grip your favorite blue mug
Did it always have that scratch?

Maybe you hit it somewhere.

There’s something bubbling on the tip of your tongue
Wash it down with some coffee.

Put the mug on the counter, you’re running late
You’ll do the dishes later.

It’s cold. Remember to turn on the heater later.

No, do the dishes now.
Stay inside, inside is good.
The outside world only traps us.

Traps us where?

Why don’t you ask yourself?

Wallet, water, lunch,
Packed in your leather briefcase,
Lukewarm to the touch.

Remember, the umbrella said it’s cold outside.
You pull on your jacket
it reminds you of something.

Green like your mother’s eyes.
You should call her sometime.
Better layer up,

Looks like a storm’s coming.

You walk to the bus stop,
New shoes pinching at your heels
Size eight doc martens
Need breaking in.

Throw the key away, you don’t need it anymore.
Did you know?
Leather’s a bad conductor of heat.
Look carefully, a crease in your shoes.
Your mother’s eyes,

Aren’t they blue?

Hour 2

The bus is empty,

You take your usual place,

Your phone’s freezing,
It stutters before powering on.

Finger swiping mindlessly,
Huh, these posts look familiar —

Oh look, your friend’s posted on Instagram.
It’s their birthday.
You send them a message.

It gives you a pressure behind your eyes
Your gaze finds
The lethargic tiles of the bus floor.
There’s something in their pattern,
Seven twenty-seve-

The bus screeches to a stop.
You banged your left shoulder
Against the handlebar.

Be careful,
Focus on what’s in front of you.

It’s time to get off.

The tiles,
Don’t they remind you of something?
Your friend’s birthday,
Seven twenty-seven.
Your sore left shoulder.

Stay on the bus.
Don’t get off.

Hey, are you listening to me?

The January chill clings onto your shoulders,
You pull at your jacket sleeves,
The green of your mother’s eyes
Wrapping you in pseudo-warmth
As the wind attempts to pierce inside your gut.

The familiar crosswalk by your workplace
Huh, like the bus —

Save for a crowd of five
Faces grave,
Shoulders straight as a balance scale,
Mannequins in pinstripe suits
Unwavering, scarves fluttering
In the howling of an unnatural winter storm.

No, it’s January, remember?
one twenty-seven
the year is-

You wrench your gaze away,
Aren’t they familiar?

It must be nothing.
Time to go to work.
You pass by the figures,

Don’t touch them. 
They must be late to work.

Hand up in greeting,
There’s five coworkers
Good morning, a comment on the weather
Then slide into your worn office chair,
Air saturated with dust.

It’s cold. Remember to turn on the heater later.

Five coworkers, five mannequins. 
12 months, one year
A friend’s birth on seven twenty-seven
And yet, here we remain,
In the snowstorm of One.
Those mannequins,
Can’t you make out their faces?

You went suit shopping
With dave last week
Pinstripe suits,
leather briefcases.


Work is uneventful
Although you might have stared a little too hard
At the lobby tea packets
And the new intern’s alarmed face.

You could’ve sworn you’d seen her somewhere before.
Maybe during recruiting.

You pass by your coworkers’ cubicles.
Five chairs turned upside down,
Lightbulbs struggling to illuminate dusty desks
On, off, on, off, onoff, onoffonoffon-

You blink.
Five ice-cold leather briefcases on each desk.
Your coworkers took paid leave

You brace yourself for impact
Opening the door
To an unforgiving 5 PM of exhausted commute.

Same as always.

When is yesterday?
Today, tomorrow, weeks in the future?
Five mannequins,
Pinstripe leather briefcase suit
Turn on the heater drawn pink curtains
Instagram intern coffee mug
Green jacket one seven twenty seven.


Hour ???

The train ride home is uneventful

You stared at the numbers
Straining against grainy footprints from past commuters
They’re all
Size eight, doc martens

Dinner is typical
Microwave pasta

You got sauce
On the cuff of your new shirt
Like a venn diagram
With a blot of bleach already peeking through
Impeccable creases.
Almost as if
You’ve stained it before?

The TV flickers against your mindless eyes,
The same monday shows

Channel nine is kids’ cartoons.
Channel ten will be playing the news
when you switch over to it
Five seconds later.

Remember what it says?
Forecast is arid
Lots of sun.

The dishes are a juggling act,
Brushing teeth while wiping mugs,
Adjusting water with elbows

Not too cold.

Did you turn the heater on?

One last look in the mirror before you
Go to bed.

But wait.
Did your face always look…


Green eyes
Pinstripe long nose
Blue mouth, frozen strips
Oh shoot it’s freezing in the apartment —

Remember. Remember.

Weathered skin
like leather left lukewarm.


From somewhere you hear a ringing,
It’s familiar, it’s annoying
Someone turn it off.
Reach to the left, to the right?

Remember. Remember.

Umbrellas in trees
Pink curtains, open or
The snow storm,
Wait, snow storm in July?

Coffee it’s hot,
I need a new mug there’s a
But wait,
    We just bought
    Size eight doc martens
        No creases
        But look a bend right there
        In leather,
            Like a briefcase you bought
                The bleach on your sleeve
                The TV running
                You never realized
                Your alarm sounds like those
                Kids cartoons on channel
                    Speaking of numbers
                    You Remember
                    Seven twenty seven
                    Pool parties
                    What, in this snow storm?
                        But he did last year,
                        Last year, when you saw your mother
                        She had
                        Blue eyes
                            He invited
                                There’s the ringing again
                                It’s time to wake up it’s time to

Hour 1

The deranged peals of your alarm
Tug at your eyelids.
Your eyelashes stick together, it’s


You pry them open, throw out your right arm,
Fingers scrabbling,
Empty wooden surface.

Where’s your phone?
Under your pillow.

Silly you.
It’s cold. Remember to turn on the heater later. ■

By: Annie Kim

Photography: Thomas Cruz

Models: Tyler Tran & Jean-Claude Bissou

HMUA: Angelynn Rivera & Averie Wang

Stylist: Jordyn Jackson

Body Work

March 1, 2023 / Gracie Warhurst

“Here, she lets the self-loathing wash over her in one large wave, unable to shut off the free flow of internal thoughts telling her how unworthy she is of pleasure.”

Part I: Tom

She likes sleeping with Tom because he doesn’t pay attention to her. While he hovers above, looking at a spot on the pillow to the right of her, she hates herself more than ever before. There might exist a world in which she receives pleasure from a man like Tom, who is older and apparently wiser, clean in a weird way but clean nonetheless, but that world feels so far from this one. Here, she lets the self-loathing wash over her in one large wave, unable to shut off the free flow of internal thoughts telling her how unworthy she is of pleasure.

The stark whiteness of his sheets, the meticulously tucked corners, the closed bathroom door that she knows hides shining tile and fluffy towels all work together to remind her that she is the opposite of what someone like Tom should want. Being in his room feels like being in another country, one that she hasn’t learned the language or customs of yet, and makes her ashamed of where she comes from. Regardless of if she truly wants him, there’s a small voice in her head that wants more than anything to be desirable. She arrived only 30 minutes ago, in torn tights and an oversized sweater, darkness under her eyes that she didn’t try to cover. Taking up almost no space at all and yet still obvious to her surroundings. It’s the look of someone broken down and chewed up. But in her defense, today is one of the worst days.

She hates the way she comes to him each time, thinking it might fix something. And it’s the same routine, as if the script was written for her and delivered by hand to the doorstep of her apartment. She’ll sit on his bed and he’ll order her to lay down. She’s long given up pretense, and so has he. Her clothes will come off, then his later on. She won’t be able to focus at all, but he will continue to touch and prod her. She might squeeze her eyes shut tightly, but he’ll be staring at the back of her head. She’ll find herself in the exact position she is now, cursing herself more each time.

She wonders if Tom would be able to see the thoughts as they enter her head, if he only looked at her. There is little eye contact in the whole process. If she were less consumed with her own shame, she might wonder what he was thinking, too. His shallow groans and exhales of just a little more aren’t any more revealing than her silence. This time, she imagines the perfect world that would exist if she enjoyed sex and could participate in it fully without preoccupations. As Tom’s movements become more painful, and her desire to stop him grows, she is faced, always, with the fact that she may never revel in this type of physical intimacy. He may actually like that she seems, at times, to be in slight pain. Maybe he needs that from her, to be a passive piece in his lust. He finishes with a sigh through clenched teeth.

Tom is one of the first people she sleeps with after realizing that sex is different for her than it is for most people. She recalls conversations with friends, the details that women trade for closeness rather than voyeurism. Her female coworkers especially overshare their exploits, yet somehow it doesn’t feel like crossing a boundary. Regardless, these conversations make pleasure seem to sit on the precipice of her ownership. She can imagine breathy exhales and sharp inhales, the frenzy of excitement and the anticipation of warmth, of closeness. If she wiggles her fingers, she can almost feel the gentle caresses or tight grips. Their stories make it seem so easy, as if sex is something you fall into after a glance across a crowded bar, or, if she’s to believe the stories, years of friendly acquaintance.

It’s never been like that for her. She wonders if there is a pill she can take, or a doctor she can visit. She wonders if she might one day get so good at trying to enjoy sex that it would actually happen. She wonders if she will ever stop doing it, just to discover what it should feel like. She wonders if she will ever be lovable as she currently is, if a man like Tom would ever want to experience her in a way that benefits them both. Perhaps, worst of all, she wonders if she even deserves to be loved, in any state.

And that is how it goes with Tom. She won’t finish, he will. She will lay there, he will roll over. She will lay there, he will go to the bathroom, grab a fluffy towel and step from the shiny tile into the steaming shower. She will lay there, he will grunt a goodbye. This time, just as she hears the click of his bedroom door closing behind her, she thinks she should stop sleeping with Tom.

Part II: Jane

The next time she has sex, it’s with Jane. Jane isn’t the first girl she has slept with. There was a time years ago when it was obvious that she would not enjoy sex with a man. As a newly sexually liberated college student, she thought the solution was to experiment a little more. Of course she had never tried it before, growing up in various Catholic schools that were the top choices of the nearby gated communities. She had completely blocked out the part of herself that would acknowledge an attraction to anything except the norm. When she stared a little too long at plaid skirts or tight white button-ups, she tried to divert her attention. It worked for a while, especially in her teen years when sex was something that happened later. But in college, sex was something that was happening now. She didn’t know yet that the problem wasn’t men, or women — the problem was her.

Jane is very attentive. So attentive that it takes much effort to fake it. She is so sweet, a smiling beam of loveliness, really. She doesn’t want to disappoint Jane by not enjoying it. But she can’t enjoy it — not even with Jane’s mouth breathing kisses on her skin. Not even when she whispers, you’re so beautiful. Jane’s voice is gentle against her, but she still feels her mind drifting away, unable to hold onto the present moment, unable to enter the physical world.

Being with Jane sends her back to crowded church pews full of incense and whispers. Her skirt always two inches longer and her shirt buttoned to the very top, she tried her best to not be perceived at all. She would attempt listening to their daily sermons, legs crossed at the ankle and eyes fixed on her chipping manicure. But God was an abstract in those times. Lost somewhere between belief and doubt. His presence loomed over her daily life like an omen, like a commandment, like Big Brother intending to scare the shit out of her.

Despite now viewing Catholic school through a rearview mirror, she just can’t shake the shame of being attracted to women. Of having sex with women. Even if she can’t manage to pay attention, she’s sure it must still be a sin. (A sin in a religion she doesn’t even believe in.) In some ways, she wishes she had that blind optimism of the girls from her school years. It’s something she strongly associates with faith, the belief that everything will work out, no matter what things seem to be now. She thinks she could really use some of that in her current predicament. Jane is still somewhere south of her hip bone, and she’s thankful for the thin cover sheet blocking the look of torment on her face. If she were a more religious person, she might believe in Jane’s goodness. Maybe she would trust that relying on her kindness would heal something inside of her. As it currently stands, Jane’s ministrations, soft as a prayer, don’t stir anything within her.

Jane would be the perfect girlfriend. She would plan dates and buy flowers; she would give and give and give and not complain about not receiving. But she can’t do that to Jane, who deserves a partner that can give her their full focus. If they were dating, she might express this out loud: her insecurity about not being good enough, about not being able to love her in the way she deserves, or please her in the way she should. She might stop her actions under the sheet, and say that it just isn’t working — it isn’t you, it’s me. She might explain the various sexual partners she had to cycle through to realize that, and promise that she would try to get the help or support or prescription or exorcism she needs, all for Jane.

But they aren’t dating, and she doesn’t think she could tell anyone that. Not even perfect, perfect Jane.

Part III: Jordan

Jordan is a year younger than her, but he might as well still be in college. He has the look and feel of someone who’s spent a lot of time in a fraternity, even though he now has a Respectable Job in Finance. Jordan takes her exclusively to hotel rooms. He smiles too wide and fumbles too much, and is too eager to show off his new six-figure salary. But it’s refreshing that someone is trying to impress her, that they aren’t wholly disappointed and disinterested quite yet.

Jordan always takes his clothes off first, as if he’s signaling for her to do the same. He hasn’t yet realized how to use his words. He takes off his chinos and underwear in one pull, and she can see the Nike logo peeking out from where he carelessly tosses them on the floor. Sighing, she removes her own camisole, feeling burdened by having to do it herself. But Jordan is already eager and she sees him realize she wasn’t wearing a bra. He’s all hands and no decorum as he stumbles towards her, slack-jawed.

As they fall into a mattress that should be much better quality for the price of the room, she wonders if Jordan’s charisma has always been his fuel for success, or if there is something more that she hasn’t encountered. He reminds her of almost all the boys she interacted with in college. He could be bred from the same litter — adjusting to a world that belongs to him while his prefrontal cortex is still forming. College was the first time she had met anyone like Jordan, or spent significant time with the opposite gender. It was the first time that anyone had convinced her to get into bed with them.

She knows the sex will be one-sided and rushed, but she can’t help but be pulled out of it even for the few minutes it will last. It’s almost exactly like her first time, sans fancy hotel room, and she drifts back into the memory. He wasn’t a villain, but definitely not a saint, either. He had taken her to his room at the party they were at, just up the stairs and off to the right. It was a single room without a connecting bathroom, but she remembers pretending to be awed because he seemed so proud of the flags tacked to the walls and the monitor on his desk. It happened quickly, before she knew it was going to. He didn’t ask very many questions or give any assurances, but she hadn’t the thought nor experience to demand anything otherwise. 

Immediately after, she could blame the guy or the atmosphere or the inexperience to explain why it wasn’t good. The few girls that befriended her in their dorm wanted her to embellish and give them something to clutch onto with their tiny red fists, but she had next to nothing to say. It happened, it’s over, it happened. She could’ve lied, made it out to be earth-shattering, leg-shaking, pandemonium — but she felt a little empty afterwards. There was nothing left in her to craft a story out of, and she never really tried to find one.

Jordan is finishing up now, and she’s pulled out of the memory. She’s relieved to see the blank walls and mahogany dresser. She’s even relieved to see Jordan over her shoulder, oscillating between looking at her and tightly squeezing his eyes shut. His compliments tumble out of him, as if he can’t control them: you feel so good, you look so good, so good. When it’s all over, he wears an expression more earnest than ever. Apparently, a month of sleeping together is what it takes for him to want to commit. Or maybe it’s the fact she hasn’t tried to lock him down that makes him more inclined. She just shakes her head like it’s a joke, even though the fallen look on his face is telling her very clearly that it isn’t.

Part IV: Self-Awareness

She never leaves her exploits with any lesson learned. It’s more like an experiment in failing, over and over again, differently each time. Instead of gaining something, it chips away at her a little bit more. She walks away from Jordan and towards the trees, wondering when she’ll have nothing left to leave behind. She thinks she might feel better in places like this park bench, watching other people feed the ducks and walk their dogs and kiss their children’s chunky faces and unpack their lunches and fly their kites and live their lives. These things feel so unreachable, like they are intended for someone else’s life. Definitely not the life of the woman still covered in a layer of Jordan’s sweat. She’s at the park on the way home from the hotel, 10 miles from Jane but only two from Tom. She could probably draw a map from where she sits to all the homes and bars and cars and hotels she’s ended up in. She might use a red string to connect herself to these places and the people she met in them. She might collect the memories in a jar, sitting unlidded in the back of her mind. She might write a label: Things that I tried that I can never undo, Things that I tried that never helped, Things I tried…

By: Gracie Warhurst

Graphics: Vy Truong

Words From Web

February 23, 2023 / SPARK Web No. 20

An ongoing journal from the Web department. 

February 23, 2023


My eyes can’t rest even when I'm asleep. they shift back and forth without my permission — conjuring up images projected on my eyelids. Each shift of my eyes is like the ticking of a clock — tick, tock. Left, right. As if each dream which crawls its way into my mind, each thought which sets up residence in my brain, is yet another reminder of limited time.

Time is everywhere. Time doesn’t exist, sillies. We’re in nirvana and samsara. It's not linear, at least —  we’re everywhere experiencing everything at once and it’s just an illusion that your eyes are the lens and this is the moment. An oculus rift that only I can perceive. My eyes are the roots of all illusionment and like a man stranded in the desert, I dream up a mirage out of desperation and lay there until I fade in hunger and exhaustion. 

Our bodies are so funny for jolting us awake right when we are about to sleep. “Hello! Hey you! Don’t fade away on me, I’m here!” I’m gasping for something that isn’t real. I’m a puppet to my subconscious. How do I tell you that I can't ever forget you? Why do you need to keep haunting me in the safety of my solitude?


Sometimes when I sleep too deep and fall too hard I think about what could’ve been, or maybe what we could’ve done differently? I remember the air knocked out of my chest when I wake, the Sahara that is my throat. A glass of water relieves only the burning on the surface, soothes only the pain when I swallow, not the glass shards which dissolved deeper into my bloodstream with each beat of my trembling, terrified heart.

I miss you with each beat, each systole and diastole. I miss you with each breath, stabbing in my chest as air fills the space you left. I feel like a fish outside of the water. I am becoming extinct.
Your eyes racing back and forth, immobile arms somewhere far away pumping
perhaps chasing, perhaps being chased.
A scream trapped in an unconscious throat which can not be released in reality,
sweat beading at a brow furrowed, then un-furrowed.
Running through sand at the bottom of the ocean,
futile fighting to keep from drowning –
tossing, turning.
The tide sweeps over the levee. Only those of us with the most reptilian brains survive.

I’m awake (I think?) in the back of an Uber. I think? Holy fuck. Who’s driving me? Where am I? My eyelids are heavy. I’m tempted to go back under, to be saved by the pure depths of the water. Maybe I will adapt and learn to breathe in the water that threatens to drown me. I have no choice but to adapt, quickly! Am I home already? My head is nauseated and I might throw up. I really don’t want that $200 charge on my card. I stumble out into the street in a place that looks foreign to me. Was this where I intended to go? My feet pull in one direction then another, eternally undecided on where home is. Where is home? What is home? Is it close to them or to you? Time slows down.

I started floating — up up up. And fall flat on my face on the concrete below me. I’m alone, I thought. Until I’m yanked out of my misery which is the apartment lobby toilet.


The dream world is just as real as the waking world; we just can’t remember it consciously. I think our bodies do, though. Subconsciously, I think we process our deepest fears and wants through our dreams. Nietzche wrote a whole thing about it. Or was it Freud? It doesn’t really matter now. The only thing that’s important to me is seeing you when I close my eyes. You are my biggest fear and my deepest desire all wrapped up in one. It is in these moments when I feel I can walk on water, without a fear of sinking, the darkness swallowing me whole. But I must let it engulf me, for that it is the only way I can learn to fight. I must give in to the darkness for once.

I'm stumbling through the pulsating walls of my apartment. they twist and fade into darkness.
The floor trembles, lurches, rolls beneath my unsteady feet. Where is up and where is down?
The corners of my vision narrow,
“tunnel vision”
the vocabulary word suddenly emerges from the depths of my memory,
and yet I can only rock on unsteady feet, arms reaching out senselessly for an unreachable balance, lost.
I collapse onto the cold tile.
I see a million helpless legs twitching out my body. I am a centipede and Kafka doesn't even know me. I'm no longer human; I'm something else. I'm fading. I’m fading. I’m… not gone yet. Was it just a dream or an intuition? I can't decipher the code before I fade into oblivion — become the air around me. I found myself falling down a black hole of despair. Yet, unlike Alice, I don't find myself in wonderland. The paradise I desired was nothing but a cold yet fiery hell.

When I land, I find myself in the Galapagos Islands. I'm sipping tea with Vonnegut and sharing a slice of pie with the largest tortoises that ever existed. I'm completely alone, but I am not lost. I blink again and I'm 73 on a balcony in the city smoking.

I feel worms crawling out of the arteries in my eyes, reaching the black holes of my dilating pupils. They sense the rot. They smell it. I can never escape him. Some theorists say that death is an angel. I have seen him, in my dreams, and I can say for sure that he is not. He’s not a devil either. He just exists on my plane of consciousness. He is an extension of my own thoughts. My reflection and my foil character. He is an extension of my own reality. Is this who I am?

My mind is what I can’t escape. It is the creator of my reality both the good and the ugly. It is the instrument of my demise as much as it is my biggest pride. I thought I could do anything until I remembered the limits of my mind. I thought I could do nothing until I remembered the capabilities of my mind. I can do anything until I wake up. I confront the creature, and it looks like me. Well, not exactly. I want to say it has glowing red eyes or snakes for hair, but she looks normal. Almost too normal. Hair unwashed, eyes circled in purple, three-day-old hoodie wrinkled. She looks at me, no, through me, and I'm struck with the feeling to turn and run, to reject this being who is wholly me, yet can’t be, I don't want her to be. Who am I? Who is she? Which of us is real, and which one is from a dream?

— Katlynn Fox, Ellen Daly, Sonali Menon, Safiyya Haider, Hafsa Haider, Jane Krauss, Gracie Warhurst, Annie Kim, Anagha Rao, Pebbles Moomau, & Candice Chepda

February 17, 2023

For some reason I have a very vivid memory of going through a garden maze when I was younger. Did this stem from a dream? Was it real? Is this a false memory? All I remember is that it was dark and the turns were sharp and the vines on the floor were threatening to wrap themselves around my ankle and keep me trapped until i’m one with the soil. I guess that was my first exposure to the labyrinth.

Now that I'm older, now that the memories return daily, the only thing I have left is fear. When will it come back?


I still remember the moment the lines first began to form, left and right and up and down.  They’ve been growing longer ever since. I don’t know when they will end or where they are going. There are so many now that I can hardly  see. I can hardly tell them apart from each other. The space I occupy gets smaller and smaller and all I can do is watch. Will they one day consume me? The walls are closing in and my throat tightens. I can’t breathe. My senses are stripped bare like my skin. Naked exposed to the ground.


I can't find my way out. I look both ways and yet I'm still struck by a feeling of despair. Directions are meaningless. It’s a liminal space to its truest extent. I should know the way… why don’t I know the way? Like Hansel and Gretel following the breadcrumbs, they thought they knew but they didn’t. They thought there was a way out but there wasn’t. It was just an illusion, they had entered someplace even more sinister. Will I face a similar fate?


Living life in the labyrinth I created has killed almost every part of me. There’s nothing that escapes the confines of my brain after I ingest the thought. My mind is a maze and I channel the inner workings of Icarus. I have struck the sun and now my body is aflame. The Minotaur comes after me now. Heavy stomps making its way through the maze without a regard for the true path. Unlike me, who has no choice but to find the prescribed path. Is that what we all think? That we’re stuck in this labyrinth, this predetermined maze? Is the feeling of being trapped the trap itself? Maybe we’re simply meant to explore right where we are. Maybe there is nothing else, nowhere to run to, nothing to run from.

Katlynn Fox, Sonali Menon, Ellen Daly, Gracie Warhurst, Hafsa Haider, & Sonia Siddiqui

February 9, 2023



When I’m with you, I transcend to the aether. Self-annihilation has a special kind of spiritual beauty. I no longer have to think, to feel, to be a person of my own. I don't have to know what I like or what I want. I am whoever you want me to be. I love what you love and I hate what you hate. My soul is a mirror yet I am like a vampiric figure haunting your reflective soul but never seeing myself in your eyes. I want to see. I want to see myself in them to know I'm real. To know that I exist. I look and look and look and there's nothing. Maybe your eyes are the aether. Blue or brown, it doesn't matter. All I see is white light drawing me in like a siren with the most beautiful song. Let me take you along. For parting is such sweet sorrow, oh tomorrow, tomorrow what will you bring? Nothing I know, so let me sing! Sing with vampires. and then we will feast like we need to. The desire is too strong and I can't protect you from this place that I've brought you to.

In every pair of eyes we see an aether. Our minds are aether, our souls are aether. We as humans are motionless, timeless, purposeless. We are the temporal experience. Condemned to being ephemeral, the only constant is change.


When we live online, do we live in the aether? My dreams are made of pixels and I feel immortal. My heart is my digital footprint and it beats for likes on a post and comments about my life. I love to be perceived. I love to live eternally in my home online.

The Internet is my aether. It was where the aether originated because that’s where I googled it. My persona online is that of my ideal identity, a polished, perfect version of a self I barely recognize. Google me and you will see the aether I have constructed for myself. You will see the world, my world, but you will never reach it. For it is the kingdom I have built, and no one else will ever be welcome in it.


Maybe the aether is within me,
Jumping around and doing
Somersaults in my stomach.
It’s unsettling and exciting.
She’s waiting around the corner for me.
Or maybe it’s jumping rope in the alley,
Spinning round and round
With sickening dissonance.
Tying itself around my neck.
Death is so sweet.


Aether, a force from the sky.
An abstract science from a different time.
I wonder if life was easier back then… they seemed to have answers to everything. They seemed a little less in this chaos of the cosmos.
Perhaps, this divinity guided them like a compass guides the lonely sailor lost at sea. Perhaps, they are this divinity.
For isn’t life itself an act of divine intervention?
What miracles possess the mechanical beating of our hearts to love?

Maybe the heavens are not for us.
What is heaven? Will it be there when our time has come?
What would it look like what would it smell like what would it taste like?
It can't be heaven if I can't feel.
I need to see I need to hear I need to touch.
I can't live in the unknown and the uncertain.
I crave concrete answers.
Will it live up to my expectations?

Katlynn FoxNysa Dharan, Anagha Rao, Annie Kim, Safiyya Haider, Sonali Menon, Gracie Warhurst, Sophia Lowe, Candice Chepda, & Ellen Daly

February 2, 2023


bliss is to kiss! to miss! to… it’s to….

it’s when you tan in the sun, and check for tan lines. it’s eating peanut butter from the jar. and it’s the feeling of warmth after running into someone you know on the street.

bliss to me is a kiwi and smoothie and bliss to me is hot pink and orange.

bliss to me is glitter in my eyes and around my eyes and spilling it my throat. and it’s when i beam and burst and butterfly and.
bliss is to hold them and to be held. and bliss is like a wail of pleasure.

bliss is the summertime and bliss is like a warm coat. bliss is bathing suits and bliss is a vodka sour.

Pebbles Moomau

Jingle bells tinkle over me as I enter O-Mart. I let out my last shiver. Around me, my peers chatter excitedly about plans to karoake and play hide-and-seek in the dark. Wine bottles and Smirnoff Pink Lemonades clink and fill the checkout line. It’s a Wednesday night, but school getting cancelled has filled students with a newfound bliss, a release from the pressures of class and exams and God-knows-what else we put ourselves through. For these next few days, time stops, and I smile.

Anagha Rao

we join hands in cruel harmony,
we, the divinities who worship
the midnight sky.
shunning our sister who turned her back
to the moon, the celestial cynthia,
who protected her from the light.

i allow the salt of my tears
to sear my skin,
in quiet defiance to our mother,
our enchantress.
and when they let go of my hand,
i reach into the fireand join the girl.

let our fury unfurl
onto a world
who refused to worship the sun,
instead of her.

Candice Chepda, “finding bliss”

Graphic: Elain Yao

Mock Trial

February 23, 2023 / Ellen Daly

“I, like, questioned if I was a lesbian.”

Maddie was 15. Emily was 16. They were on a trip to a mock trial tournament in San Francisco, unwinding in their hotel room after dressing up in suits to play fake lawyers arguing in front of real lawyers playing fake judges all day. It was exhausting. As teenage girls do, they de-stressed sleepover style, sharing their deepest darkest secrets on the floor of their hotel room. A new girl on the team that Emily barely knew — but could feel herself becoming friends with — went first. Her name was Maddie.

“I, like, questioned if I was a lesbian.”

Emily’s heart stopped. Her ears rang. The room went blurry. She’d never heard a feminine girl like herself admit this before; she’d only seen them on YouTube and in male-gaze porn. She didn’t know they actually roamed the earth — let alone her high school — and that she wasn’t the only one. Holy fuck.

“Really?!?” one of the girls squealed. The room erupted in giggles.

“That’s, like, kinda gross,” another concluded.

Emily said nothing. Her body was in such an extreme state of shock — it was like she suddenly couldn’t breathe. It was amazing she ever made it back to her own hotel room and didn’t just pass out and die right there on the carpeted floor of a Holiday Inn. Everything she thought she knew about the world went to dust: any straight-looking girl could be gay in disguise. Except this one wasn’t. She just questioned it.


A few months later, the team was squished into courtroom pews watching their team’s defense compete (Maddie and Emily were both prosecution). Sitting through those trials was always tedious — obviously, no two are the same, but the case is and there’s only so much variance amongst high school mock trial strategies. Usually, what kept things interesting was when something really embarrassing happened, like when one of their teammates repeatedly and aggressively interrogated a witness about whether prosecutors had been violated (rather than, you know, if violators had been prosecuted). Every now and then, there’d be an adolescent attorney so quick, so confident, so knowledgeable of the rules and adept at argument that you just couldn’t look away. You’d always feel bad for the trembling kid on the receiving end of their scrutiny, stumbling over his words and nervously shuffling through his case file to find the appropriate objection response. You’d pray you weren’t next.

Time was best killed with legal pads and pens. Emily liked to play a game where she’d think of a band she liked, list their albums, and then see how many songs she could name from each album. There was a strict no-phone policy in the courtroom, so, when forcibly unplugged, it was as good a time as any to test your knowledge of things. At least, that’s what she liked to do.

Trying to whisper was a suicide mission, and giggles were punishable by death glares from their team’s coach. So, they spoke silently. Maddie and Emily passed notes back and forth on their legal pads, which naturally brought their already-close bodies even closer. Maddie would rest her legal pad on Emily’s thigh to write and lean over to scribble a response. She’d make a joke, look up at Emily, and hold back a laugh. Their faces were so close. Emily had never had a friendship like this before.

“Do U have any chapstick?” Maddie wrote on Emily’s legal pad.

“Ya,” Emily responded. She dug some out of her bag, looked Maddie dead in the eyes, and applied it slowly and mockingly. Maddie ripped the tube out of her hands and ran it across her lips.

“OMG, it’s like we just kissed!!!” she wrote. Emily smiled and swallowed nervously. She’s not gay, she reminded herself. She just questioned it.

Maddie scooched closer to her. “I’m cold,” she risked it all to lean in and whisper in her ear. She tucked her hands into her sleeves, placed them in Emily’s lap, and laid her head on her shoulder. Do I lean my head against hers? Emily thought to herself. She didn’t know. She never knew. Per usual, her enjoyment of an otherwise-exciting moment was muffled by hyper-self-awareness and forced analysis of something simple and sweet. She rested her head on Maddie’s.

Six months or so passed. They were good friends — nothing more, nothing less. Emily’s crush on Maddie mostly faded in acceptance and defeat. Maddie was straight, and Emily was not, and that was that. Emily couldn’t risk sacrificing their friendship with the truth — she liked being around her too damn much. If Maddie knew how much of a freak she was, there was no way she’d want to hang out with her anymore, and that wasn’t a risk she was willing to take. So, she swallowed her feelings and moved on.

They had the same music taste — that was how they communicated. They liked precisely the same songs at the same time, and if one of them found a song the other didn’t know, they were mere moments away from knowing all the words. They’d let songs say what they couldn’t. On car rides, whoever was driving would play their own monthly playlist, but theirs were always identical. They’d forget whose playlist was playing until a song came on that one of them didn’t know, and that girl would get to watch her best friend sing all the words to her new favorite song and smile because she loved her. And soon enough, she’d be singing along too.

They went to a lot of concerts. Whenever an artist they liked was in town, they’d  go together. They liked lots of music and lived in a big city, so, lucky for them, this happened fairly frequently. These were more than just concerts, though — they were spaces where they could be free. They liked gay pop stars and girl rock bands and those alt bands with a curly-haired frontman that all the Doc-donning bisexual girls always seemed to like. Here you found pride flags, dyed hair, dykes, queers, falling glitter and falling tears. They’d scream, cry, dance, hold hands, let out everything they held back in their day-to-day lives. They weren’t freaks anymore; they were just like everyone else. They were safe.

Often, the venues were in the suburbs, so they’d kill time for a bit after school before driving out together. Maddie lived much further from school than Emily did, so sometimes, if the show ended late enough, her mom would let her sleep over at Emily’s, and they’d go to school together the next day (obviously after stopping for coffee). There was no pillow-talk, no sex — in fact, they stayed on their respective sides of the bed — but Maddie’s scent always lingered for a few days after she left. With that, Emily could dream of a life where they really did share a bed, where they could spend their first and last moments of consciousness together every day. It was, unfortunately, an unfathomable fantasy.

Emily was driving her to a Florence + the Machine concert when she realized Maddie was trying to tell her something.

“I can’t believe you’re gonna graduate this year. I’m, like, really gonna miss you,” she said.

“Yeah. It's weird.” Emily didn’t know what to say.

“Will you come visit me? Please?” Emily could tell Maddie wanted her to look at her. She kept her eyes locked on the road.

“Yeah. You know I will. And so will Emma and Jake and all the other mock trial seniors.” She was sidestepping.

“Yeah, but like, I’m gonna miss you more than I’ll miss them. It’s different.”

“I know,” she sighed. She parked. They got out of the car. They pretended it didn’t happen.

A week later, they were in the booth of a Raising Cane’s with their gay and intruding teammate Jake. Emily never quite wanted to hang out with him — he always made her a bit uneasy, but she also couldn’t quite say no to him. So she went.

He threw them in the back of his dad’s work truck and flew 70 MPH down the residential streets surrounding their high school, windows down, Ariana Grande singing her little heart out. Emily was nervous, and they were going away from where she lived.

They rolled into the Cane’s, ordered, and before they even got their food, Jake decided to make things interesting.

“So, if y’all could hook up with anyone on the mock trial team, who would you pick?” He smiled at them expectantly.

“Um. I don’t know,” Emily uttered emotionlessly.

“Maybe Blair? Or Tommy.” Maddie paused. “No, Tommy’s vibes are too, like, little brother-ish. I’m sticking with Blair.”

Maddie had recently come out as bisexual, and Jake had long ago twisted Emily’s arm into admitting she’s gay. Per usual, she could tell he was plotting.

“Really? Blair? I, like, don’t really see that for you,” Jake determined. “She’s too, I don’t know, too straight.”

“I’m picking Lindsey,” Emily decided. She was nice, blonde, popular. Obviously straight. A safe pick.

“I question y’all’s taste,” Jake sighed. “I don’t think Tommy is too little brother-ish. I think he’s cute. He’s my pick.”

Jake was clearly in a Tommy-induced daze, but Emily couldn’t risk looking at him. Or Maddie. Either one of them would catch the truth in her eyes. So, she kept her eyes on her fries and sipped her lemonade.

They finished their meals and drove back to the high school to head home in their separate cars. Emily said her goodbyes, thanked Jake for the ride, and started walking to her parking spot when she realized Maddie was trailing behind her. She looked back.

“Hey, um, can we talk about something?” Maddie asked.

“Sure,” Emily said. “It’s, like, cold, though.” It really was. “Do you wanna talk in my car?”

“Yeah.” They hopped in and warmed up. She hooked her phone up to the Bluetooth, but before she could throw on a playlist, Maddie interjected.

“Actually, nevermind. I don’t know. It’s getting dark. I need to get home. It’s, like, it was stupid anyways.” She grabbed her backpack and reached for the door handle.

“Are you sure?”

“Yeah. Totally. It’s, like, I don’t know. I don’t think you would get it.”

“Come on, Emily! You need to tell me.” Maddie was going to cry. Emily knew she was. She could see it in her eyes.

They were parked in a random grocery store parking lot after an all-day date of lunch, an art museum, a trolley ride, and shopping. They were tired and worn. They’d drifted apart in the months leading up to this, likely out of an unspoken mutual acceptance of their fallen friendship, but for some reason, Emily’d agreed to hang out with her on this day. She figured if she’d lost their friendship, there was nothing else to lose. So, she told Maddie she had something important to tell her. She didn’t know why she did that. The follow-through was proving to be much more difficult than she’d anticipated.

“It’s not important. It’s nothing.” Emily didn’t look at her. She couldn’t.

“It’s not nothing!” Maddie was angry. “I haven’t run around town with you all day for you to tell me nothing. You told me you had something important to tell me, and now you owe it to me. Please!”

By the time Maddie had come out as bisexual, Emily’d buried her crush on her so deep she didn’t know how to dig it back up. She’d already swallowed her tears and accepted her fate. She was an ineligible bachelorette, attracted to none but the girl she didn’t let herself have. The feelings couldn’t have been more obviously mutual. Still, she couldn’t access the version of herself who fell asleep to their imaginary dates, who journaled about how excited she was to see her after winter break, who made playlists of songs that reminded her of Maddie. She’d killed that version of herself; it wasn’t the third day, and she wasn’t resurrecting from the dead.

“Do you, um, do you have anything to tell me?” Emily knew she was being selfish. She couldn’t give up her power to be vulnerable even for a single moment. She put it all on Maddie.


“You know, like, I don’t know.” Emily looked down, then, finally, up at her.

“Emily, come on,” Maddie sighed. “You know I fucking like you.”

Everything was still. Emily was suddenly aware of how fogged-up her car windows were from running the heat in the cold for what had to have been hours by then. Why did it hurt. Why did everything hurt. It was what she’d wanted for so long, for years by that point, and it fucking hurt. She wanted to cry, but she knew she couldn’t.

“I like you too,” Emily admitted, and grabbed her hand. She couldn’t look at her. She’d cry — or worse, she wouldn’t cry. She couldn’t cry. They breathed. They were alive. No one died. The world kept spinning. Time continued to pass. Customers loaded groceries into their cars. Everything was different and everything was the same.

It should’ve happened sooner. She should’ve looked at her. They should’ve kissed. She shouldn’t have had to choke back tears. She should’ve been happy. They should’ve been free.

Instead, they turned off the car and went into the Albertson’s to pee. ■

By: Ellen Daly
Graphics: Victoria Cheung

Nostalgia for Breakfast

December 9, 2022 / Ellen Daly

Breathless from barely catching the
bus but wishing I’d let it pass,
I gasp for air as I tug the
espresso-stained rag round my neck.
My morning cereal is the
faint aroma clouding my head—
last night’s smokes tangled with old jokes.
I smile but it soon turns to dread.

For coffee, I sip on the sight
of that house—I’m not merry as
I go around. Construction men
build a dam in my head, fighting
the fate of the forecasted floods.
Nostalgia for breakfast for me.
Nauseous at best, debating if
anything’s ever meant to be.

I look around for a pastry
but I only see passengers
so I satiate myself with
some sadism. Narcissistic
tendencies, ritual neuroses,
penning a drama in my mind.
Comrades read papers, mumble, shake.
I feel sorry I’ve been so blind. ■

By: Ellen Daly

Graphics: Ava Jiang

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