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a peaceful protest

I was 16, and the thought of being forced to mention God as part of the pledge of allegiance was too hypocritical an act for me to play along with. Each day of high school began with this mundane recitation, as most people just stood with their hand jutting from a hip, the other dangling across their chest as they counted out the seconds until they could sit back down. They leaned against desks, and talked through it about what party and where it would be, if there would be a keg or a bonfire in the woods. I recited the words, omitting the "under God" part as a sort of half-baked protest. I was raised to flaunt my family's ramshackle atheism, as a choice of smug pride. We knew better, was the prevailing logic.

But one day, I could not stand and say any of it. It felt so rote, so hollow, so devoid of choice. There was no law that said I was required to say it. I knew this was my right, a form of free speech. My homeroom teacher was a legendary drinker, a trash-talking re…

white nights and no place to go


The nights are bright, and cold. The drapes flip around like the ocean, drifting in and out of the windows and door frames. Trees bend heavily in a strong wind, brushing against the balcony sometimes like an intruder scratching on the glass. The rooms are fresh and clean, but the walls are somehow closing in on us. We are at the threshold of full-on summer, and we will walk these rooms until school starts.

Everyone is away, or about to be away on beaches and boats, waking up in unfamiliar beds. Summer holidays, a guaranteed trip to somewhere, if only to a shed in the woods surrounded by mosquitoes. No, we are here and the wind is blowing harder. E is asleep, her feet wrapped tight with her red blanket, arms crossed underneath, just her face poking out. N and V are in the big bed, the one that I fixed from squeaking last week. I see her tiny hand in the air, moving as she dreams some impossible baby dream. N, her glasses falling from her face but I will leave them there because if I try to take them all the way off she may wake up.

I pour myself the last of some ancient, dusty bottle of bourbon over a few ice cubes. They hiss and click in the glass until they find some sort of order.

There is a stack of pages to edit, pages I have avoided reading for more than two years now. The fountain pen is there, full and ready. I am lost between hope and fear about what lives there, if changing the names will make any difference. I have wrapped this book as tightly around myself as E does with that red blanket. I wonder if there is any breath left in it, any sparks or fireworks, any electric jolts.



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