I BREATHED YOU FIRST by Maya Kanwal

—even though he claimed you. That you were forbidden, not to be had, was something I had assumed—but only until the moment I brushed those raven curls out of your eyes. That drenched winter morning you were still new to our town. You passed by my mist-laden window, all kohl-lined eyes and plum lips. I thought I was the one falling, but then you slipped in the mud at my threshold. I ran out barefoot, more to see the creature you were than to check if you were unhurt.

Your head lay in my lap and you would not blink; those unflinching pools reflected the rainbow of me, gave me vertigo, like the vortex in my dreams that I willingly descend into and never can escape. So I lowered my lips to your ears and whispered, “It’s okay. You’re okay.” I thought to say “I’m here,” but just then my broad-shouldered brother strode out of the house and towered over us, legs splayed, and you fluttered your eyelashes at him.

After that he had no choice but to rescue you. In one swoop he raised you from my lap and said, “I’m here.” Continue reading “I BREATHED YOU FIRST by Maya Kanwal”

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Early Learning | Ambrose Hall

“Don’t play with that. It’s for girls.”

My head whipped round. Across the toy shop, a boy sat behind a pink plastic dressing table, exploring the array of small drawers with delight. The dressing table was lurid, bubblegum baroque, the mirror oval, a real fairy tale dream. His mother hovered behind, her face stiff with tension. For a moment, the boy was oblivious to her disapproval. Continue reading “Early Learning | Ambrose Hall”

Holy Like That | Barbara Harroun

Joanne takes one look at me and saunters to the juice fridge. She hands me a cold V-8. She doesn’t say anything, just gives me her look; part-disappointed, part-pissed, part-what-are-you-doing-with-your life.

“What?” I mumble. It’s a hospital kitchen, so it smells like bacon, sausage, oatmeal, hard-boiled eggs, fried hash browns, corn-fritters and bleach water. Normally comforting and known smells, homey even, but sweet Jesus, not today. I drink the V-8 in one violent toss, and struggle to keep it down.

“Come on,” Joanne says, “I’ve got Tylenol. Try not to breathe on the customers. You smell like vodka walking.” Continue reading “Holy Like That | Barbara Harroun”

Redemptive Readings | Apoorva Yadav

She shuts herself in her bolthole to cry. No, to howl, yet again.

Her blank CV stares back at her. Name, Address, Phone Number. No worthwhile internships, publications, workshops, skillset…nothing. The document that was supposed to be an inventory of achievements was no more than an ID proof. She would have nothing to write in the Statement of Purpose either. She couldn’t prattle on about something she neither had nor was even close to figuring out. Continue reading “Redemptive Readings | Apoorva Yadav”