A Boy in Serbia by Julie Larick

The solid white fountain splashes both of us, its droplets flying through the air and suspending in the dusty rays of sunlight before hitting our skin. A marble cupid, soaring through the air, is cemented onto the fountain’s curved tower. Its wings appear to flap incessantly; the fountain is a delicate hummingbird that reeks of desperation and begrudgingly spits water into a stone basin where the little boy and I sit. The boy smiles slightly and extends his arm to peer at the droplets, our feet caressing the fountain’s water, toes dipping into the pool that surrounds its marble. I kick my feet, muddling the sereneness of the pool, sending ripples that flutter and look down at our reflection. For the first time since he joined me by the deserted fountain side minutes before, I notice the boy’s dirt-mottled shirt, torn at the sleeves with shorts that do not fit around his spindly legs. His black hair is long and matted, mud clinging to chunks that frown to his shoulders. I open my mouth to ask him his name; the words come out as a breath that catches in my throat.

My mother’s wary eye is on the two of us while we rest our mud-clouded feet in the pool. Her back rests against the side of a building, black hair tied loosely in a knot and drapes of rich purple fabric pooling around her knees. Two large paisley cloth bags lie on each of her sides, overflowing with stuff. I close my eyes, light still glowing orange in the darkness. Buildings surround us on all sides, menial chatter bubbling and frothing in the town as the sun seeps in everywhere, everywhere, everywhere. The yellowing walls of the Serbian square are a fortress; our cupid its center. We are there, and the sounds of the square are nothing; they are drowned by the lapping water only we can hear. I open my eyes. The boy does not speak but lifts his face to the spew of droplets that do not interrupt the words that are not said. He merely sits next to me, and I feel a pang as I see his eyes, his eyes which are not bright or young, but that are wells of longing like he has been here, and he has seen here and is proud of that fact.

Suddenly the wells are open. The boy’s hand is in the pool, and he is splashing me with the fountain water. Cupid spit. I shriek, waving my hands through the pool frantically soaking his clothes. His shirt sticks to his body, which moves like a sprig of jasmine in the gentle wind. 

The boy’s peal of crying laughter tears through the water and I think he appreciates the shower. 

“Draga, vreme je za polazak…”

My mother’s words are the cymbal reverberating through the town. I look over at the boy who turns those knowing proud eyes to me. I think he understands. I watch his face, his shirt that is still mottled and dirty, and see the dust settle from the ray of sun, drifting through the air and scattering across the ground. The boy’s mouth barely opens. 

“Zbogom pazi.”

His voice is too little for him. I half-heartedly wave, my hand limp, and scoot back from the fountain’s edge. My feet are soaked and leave prints on the cement as I step down. I glance back at the cupid, which deliberately looks the other way. I’m sorry, cupid. He doesn’t respond. 

I walk over to my mother, whose hair is starting to fall out of the loose knot in tendrils. My hand in my hers, we hoist our paisley cloth bags and finally, we leave the square that chatters and seeps. As we stoop through a gap in the town square, I glance back to the cupid fountain, now deserted of any sign of little boy with a mottled shirt. No wet footprints traced his path. I turn my gaze back to the present, shoulder beginning to burn from the weight of our luggage. My mother and I walk until we reach a highway, our feet gradually muddying and dirtying with every puny step. The unveiled fury of the sun does not seep anymore; it cuts divots as beads of sweat roll down my arms. My clothes are now dry and stiff, no remnants of the splash from the little boy as we trudge onto a little gravely sidewalk that lines the highway. We walk for hours, the clouds beginning to drift inwards and shield us from the light. My legs aren’t tired like they used to be; they’ve grown used to the steady churning. I don’t know when I began to notice.  

A small forest appears by the side of the road, hours deep into our highway-side hike. It seems to be plopped onto the map by a vindictive tree God; plumes of maple seem to caress the scathing blue sky and stalks of grass brush against one another and owls hoot a lullaby for the day when suddenly, I see the boy. My mother does not. He is perched on a frail branch of a supple green oak, and I think his now-dry shirt is slightly more torn than before. I want to call out to him. What would I say? His tan face is shaded by the tree’s leaves; they sheath and cave, blocking out any trace of his expression. My breath catches in my throat, the words escaping and dying before they reach the air. The little boy stares straight into the now-dusty sun. I still wonder if he saw me, if he could see the dust in my eyes.

 

songs by emilia richter

A song that reminds me of my childhood is… well I’m really not sure. I can only think of little nursery rhymes and kid’s songs and that kind of thing. The kind of songs that come with a sing-along book and a CD and crayons. Or the kind that are supposed to teach you how to read. I don’t know the names of those songs. I barely even remember how they go.

Sometimes I hear a song and it is overwhelming. I am overwhelmed with emotion because memories hit me so suddenly. I feel like I have been transported back to a different time of my life, and I feel just how I did back then. 

Lots of times, I hear a song and for some reason my brain has associated it with a person. Sometimes the songs makes me feel happy, because I am friends with that person and I am excited to see them again. Other times, the song reminds me of someone who I don’t talk to anymore. There are too many of those. It’s unfortunate because all of the songs are good. I love those songs. But they are tainted by association. I introduced that song to someone, or we listened to it together, or we both were obsessed with it. So when I hear a song like that, I feel sad because of the loss, angry because of what happened, and hopeless because there’s nothing I can do. 

Sometimes I hear a song and it makes me want to go to sleep. Or fall in love or get married or just sit there and do nothing at all. Some songs make me get up and dance all on my own. Some make me cry and some make me think. And lots of them make me want to write songs.

I really want to write songs. I have tried writing some. I don’t know if they are any good!! I guess there’s no way to objectively say if something is good or bad, beautiful or tasteless. It all depends, right? And there are tons of artists writing whole albums with one computer and zero instruments.

Unapologetically Me by Kiara Patterson

So let me not give you the impression that I’m being mean or rude, I am a young black woman, I can’t be crude

I have the air of strictness, the attitude of profound sound, as a black woman I must do whatever it takes to be bound

They ask me what are you? Where have you come from? I want to tell them but my response is none

They say I talk white and that I’m full with poise, but excuse me, they say, can you stop making so much noise?

Oh my apologies I respond, for disturbing your peace, it must be the visible sight of my natural hair creased

I begin to wonder what being a black girl means, what it means to be black in these racist streets

I have one answer, and this is a fact, it’s always having the urge to watch your back

I write this poem and I begin to think, when will the attitude toward my race go extinct?

There is a long history that I won’t get into because everytime I do, I come off too pro-black, too rude, too true

There is a stigma like a cloud over my people that I cannot begin to explain, every time I think about it I want to cry in vain

The wound is too deep to discuss, action must be taken, there must me reparations, we must once again trust

I carry what my ancestors felt, what they did to fight, survive and flourish so they wouldn’t melt.

A Treatise on My Favorite Bloodborne Pathogen by Asya Akkus

Hepatitis C. Scared already? I sure am. Itchy skin, dark urine, jaundice, liver fibrosis, and eventual cirrhosis don’t sound fun. At the end of the day, it was not his daring, sensationalist exploits but rather Hepatitis C and its chronic health implications that put the orthopedic masterpiece Evel Knievel six foot under. This tiny, 55 nanometer-wide demon with a genetic code made of simple, single-stranded RNA single-handedly defeated his double-stranded DNA genome before it even realized what was happening. So, what is Hepatitis C anyways, and what can I do to stay the hell away from it?

Ever since I observed the surgery of an individual undergoing a liver transplant due to Hepatitis C progression, I have been concurrently fascinated and disturbed by the impact of this potent bloodborne pathogen on the human body. We didn’t even know that the disease, affectionately short-handed as “Hep C”, even existed until the 1970’s! Even though there is a treatment, it merely slows the progression of the disease rather than ridding the body of it completely. What’s more, there is no vaccine for this version of Hepatitis, so everyone is at risk. It’s a spherical virus no more than 65 nanometers across and comprised of a protein capsule dotted with carbohydrates known as glycoproteins. It holds nothing more than a small, single strand of RNA. This simple appearance is deceiving, however, as Hep C dupes millions of cells in our bodily system to open up and be of use, utilizing our pieces and parts to replicate themselves and wreak havoc on our organs, particularly the liver. Luckily, around one in four people are only acutely affected; when they catch this bug, they experience little to no symptoms and manage to expel it from their system in a matter of weeks. However, the rest of us are stuck with the chronic version and cannot count ourselves to be so lucky. If left untreated for an extended period of time, a chronic infection can lead to fibrosis of the liver as hepatic cells die and are replaced with scar tissue. However, thanks to the resilience this champion of an organ displays, redemption at the fibrotic stage is possible provided that proper intervention takes place. It is only when cirrhosis takes place that too much scar tissue is present within the liver to reverse the damage and help it regenerate. Unless you’re able to get a transplant in time, your days are numbered at this stage. Most unexpectedly, damage to the nervous system is also not uncommon in light of the liver’s reduced ability to filter out bodily toxins (especially if you have an affinity for alcoholic beverages). Even worse than the prospect of cirrhosis and nerve damage is the concept of a world without your favorite Swenson’s fries, as Hepatitis C severely inhibits the liver’s ability to make the bile that is so important when it comes to digesting fatty foods and leads to sick-looking, clay-colored poop. 

All in all, Hep C doesn’t seem like a fun time; I’d suggest avoiding it at all costs, but how? As it turns out, it is pretty easy to prevent both catching and transmitting this virus with a few cautionary measures that should already be common practice. A lot of initial cases were a result of a lack of screening of blood donations in the 1970’s and 1980’s. Any individual was allowed to give blood, and their contribution was oftentimes left unscreened for the likes of hepatitis, HIV, and other terrifying bloodborne pathogens. The lucky donor remains blissfully unaware of his plight, but the recipient is infected by the scourge that had desecrated the former. Fortunately, all blood donations are screened before they are given to individuals in need, and such instances of transmission are a relic of the past for the most part, illustrating the importance of system-wide preventative measures. However, several steps can be taken on an individual level as well to counteract the potential of contracting Hepatitis C. No matter how much we, as a society, enforce the fundamental practice of safe sexual relations, there’s always that one person who doesn’t get it. This is for that one individual: wearing condoms during sex and getting tested regularly is of paramount importance!!! In more recent years, unsafe sex has been the most notorious mode of transmission. What is a bigger problem statistically, however, are needle sticks, whether intentional or unintentional. Addicts often share needles without discretion, and this leads to infection. Moreover, improperly managed needlesticks can often result in a similar effect within the healthcare field. All in all, provided that you engage in safe practices, the probability of getting Hepatitis C is incredibly low. However, it’s definitely worth being aware of its presence and modes of transmission.

The complex relationship between disease and humanity is a never-ending Mobius curve; the minute we get a few steps ahead, the virus isn’t far behind. We can’t defeat it, yet it also cannot completely squash us, as it relies upon living vectors to propagate. No matter what the available treatments or vaccines, true cures for viruses remain elusive despite their primitivity. This push and pull never ceases to surprise me; how can an organism barely capable of reproducing on its own, not to mention have abilities of locomotion or homeostasis, best the greatest minds in science? 

High School in Halloween Costumes by Lindsey Cicero

 

Since I was born I have always dressed up for Halloween. Even when I was too young to go trick-or-treating, my parents would wrap me up in some bear onesie or a puffy pumpkin dress. Although Halloween festivities have been a constant in my life, it wasn’t until about middle school when I really began to love the holiday and plan out my own costumes. This love of Halloween has followed me all throughout high school, and now that it is my senior year, I feel like it is a good time to reflect back on high school through my Halloween costumes.

Freshman year: a vampire. My first year I went pretty tame. Donning an all-black outfit I planned to stalk the school halls as a classic Halloween monster. Of course, it wasn’t that simple. Using my love for special effects makeup and the skills I had been building through all of middle school, I stuck in my specially molded fangs and created some bite marks on my neck to complete the look. Nothing too complicated, but still fun, a great start to high school.

Sophomore year: attacked Little Red Riding Hood. Talk about an upgrade. Determined to step up my game from the previous year, I woke up bright and early. I fashioned a big prosthetic onto my face, finishing with just enough time to put on my red hooded cape, before having to leave for school. This is probably the hardest I have ever worked on a costume, and I was so proud of how it turned out. Although my skin hated me for gluing a thick layer of silicon over it and then proceeding to wear said silicon all day, it all paid off because I made it into the yearbook! A spectacular sequel to freshman year.

Junior year: Heather Chandler. This was the first year of high school Halloween that I didn’t use any special effects makeup. However, I made up for the lack of gore with accuracy to the original character. I also managed to convince my friends to join me so we could be all three Heathers and Veronica. We nailed our costumes and strutted the school with all the sass a Heather would have. A fun mature change in costume fit for a junior.

Senior year: you will have to wait and see.

A Second Call by Julia Schmitt-Palumbo

“Oh my god!! Ohmygod stop! Stop!”

You slam on the breaks at her cry, your head thrown back with the force, laughter bubbling up through the shock, adrenaline flooding your system. Mia’s hand slaps on your forearm and takes hold, it’s owner faking a glare around a slightly crazed grin. 

“Jesus, idiot! We could’ve crashed!”

“We wouldn’t’ve! Shut up,” you insist, shaking off her death grip and turning to face the passenger seat. Mia combs back her hair with her newly free hand, her right clenched around the handle by her head. Your hands fall from the steering wheel and you reach out to push her away from you, giggling as she leans back to dodge. Bathed in red from the stoplight, you grab her hand and squeeze, Mia’s eyes glinting in the rear lights of the car in front of you. Silence falls and in it, something big settles in the minute space between you. You suddenly become acutely aware of the effort it’s taking to close that space.

But you push and push and, just as you get close enough to kiss her, the red flips green and Mia’s shoving you back to your seat and your foot is on the gas without turning to look and apparently you’re a lot stronger than you thought because the car leaps forward so fast and you still haven’t quite recovered or even finished turning around and now you do and was that car always this close? Why hasn’t it pulled away yet? I swear the light turned gre-

Memories. Just memories. No, maybe better to call them dreams. Someone else’s life you lived. Memories you didn’t ask for but were Called to take. Called because They knew you could handle them. No one ever warned you what it was like to know.

You look around. Why are you still in class? The bell normally breaks you out of the memories, why is everyone here? Why are they looking at you?

Then you hear it.

A ring.

Someone’s being Called.

Childlike excitement seeps in and your eyes dart around the room, searching for the lucky student. But still, all eyes are on you. There’s no way. The ring sounds just as it had for every other Call you’ve witnessed. It sounds like your call. Like so many of your peers through the years. Like your mom’s at the dinner table three years ago. Like what you’ve heard about your dad’s when he was twenty-three. Like the hum of L.E.D. lights in an empty hallway. Not many of you could make that connection. You can.

It’s for you.

You’ve been expecting this Call – if one can even call it that – but every passing second the world seems to fold in upon you, echoing with that fearsome ring. The eyes of the students narrow in on you, shrinking in your chair, and from some of them, the ones who have been called before, worry fills their gaze. But from the others, it’s jealousy. Pure, unadulterated envy filtering through their eyelashes and clawing at you over and over again. They want to be you. Or, they think they do. But you can’t blame them, they’ve never been called – not even once. They don’t know what they’re in for.

Do you?

You don’t know why you’re still in this class. It wouldn’t have even been that much of a hassle to just switch to a study hall and being called exempts you from Just Society credits. But then you’d be forced to work and you need the time to remember. To think. Maybe some part of you is nostalgic. You used to take Just Society – or Social Studies, whatever it’s called. Or did you? Was that you? Someone took it, and you got to sit through everything class they did. You got to sit through every memory they had. Even the ones they don’t remember?

Maybe you miss different things. Somethings you just can’t get over, just can’t forget. Ever since you woke back up, you feel like you’ve been missing them. And now you can’t remember a time when you didn’t have them resting in the back of your mind. You lived a lifetime with them, that has to be fair. Right?

Every so often you’ll find yourself back there; that day the most visited of all the others. So many things happened that day, but you only get the end. The very end. Your last day. 

What’s that noise?

Oh.

Was that your last day after all?

I Hate Not Running by Lauren Sheperd

The methodical pounding of my feet against the grass satisfies me to no end. A perfectly split repeat that makes my heart pound is one of the best feelings in the world. 24 seconds for every 100 meters gets me a perfect 3:12 for the 800. Every time. 

How could anyone not find this satisfying? 

I wonder this all the time. And yet, my friends, my acquaintances, even my own teammates and the people next to me at the start line of a cross country race hate running. Even I hate it sometimes. 

Running is hard. It forces you to push not just physical, but mental limits. It hurts. Muscles burn. Once abundant oxygen suddenly becomes hard to find. Every brain cell, every muscle, begs you to stop. After all, it’s completely unnatural. Humans simply aren’t supposed to run far distances, much less with sub-seven minute mile splits. And yet, my teammates and I do it six days a week. For fun. 

So, why do I do it? I guess I could say it’s a habit. I have been running since I was six, after all. But it amounts to so much more than that. It’s a release. When I run, when I hit those perfect splits, when I control my breathing, when I feel a healthy burn in my muscles as I glide across the grass, I feel a sense of relief. Somehow, this feeling lifts every burden, every weight keeping me down off my shoulders. “How was that, Sheperd?” my coach asks. I always reply with “perfect” and begin my recovery, shocked at my newfound excitement to start my next repeat. 

I didn’t always love this sport. In fact, for a very long time, I hated it. It was a process of growth, but I am so thankful for it. Now, I wouldn’t give up my teammates, the early mornings, the pasta dinners, the camp memories, the lip sync battles, the constant karaoke, and yes, the running for anything. Without my daily endorphin rush, I wouldn’t be who I am today.

The New Runner by Erica Smith

Growing up I had never been a particularly athletic kid. I walked the track with my friends during middle school P.E. while we were supposed to run the mile. I hated kickball with a burning, fiery passion. I was never interested in sports because I always thought “that’s just not my thing”. So why did I decide to run track my freshman year of high school? 

Two years ago I sat with my mom and sister in our living room, complaining about how unhappy I was in an extra-curricular I was involved in at the time. Sick of hearing about it, my older sister picked up her phone and started rapid-fire tapping on her phone screen. In a few short minutes, she had given my number to her friend who was now texting me telling me to join the track team. Running? It was something I had never considered but this girl wasn’t exactly someone you could say no to. So sure enough, the next day I was staying after school so she could introduce me to the coach. 

He told me, “Run twice this weekend. I’ll see you Monday.” And just like that, the decision was made. 

Now, running isn’t something you can just hop into and immediately be amazing at. This is something I learned very quickly. I was easily the slowest girl on the team, finishing last in all of the races. 

Although it seems like it would have been a horrible experience, I was the happiest I’d ever been. 

The girls on the team were incredibly kind and welcoming. I’ll never forget one of the girls finishing her race and almost immediately running over to the side of the track to scream and cheer me on while I finished. It didn’t matter that I was the slowest and it didn’t matter that I had never ran before.

Running track was the most random, most amazing decision I’ve ever made.

Free Falling by Jordan Green

“So how exactly do we land?”  I nervously asked.

“Shut-up dude, we haven’t even jumped out the damn plane yet!”

This wasn’t exactly the response I was looking for.

As my feet dangled out of the plane and I looked two and half miles down, I thought, “This is a really bad idea.” But before I had time to second-guess myself, we were hurtling.

I plummeted. It was different from anything I ever felt before. Unlike the roller coasters at Cedar Point, I was naturally accelerated by gravity (as opposed to a motorized track). Plus, I was so high up that it didn’t even seem like I was falling towards the ground- just floating while 130 mph winds blasted my face. Forty-five seconds later, the chute deployed. 

Still three quarters of a mile up, it was uncomfortably silent. My instructor whispered to me, “Do you know what the three inch heart attack is?”

Before I had time to answer, the tranquility of my parachute descent was crudely interrupted by the feeling of falling again. I almost soiled my jumpsuit. Turns out my instructor thought it would be funny to slightly loosen my harness from his, causing me to believe for a brief moment that I would be free falling again, only without a parachute or a trained professional on my back.

As we floated above the disappointing scenery of Ohio corn fields, the instructor finally told me what to do when we landed. He said that all I had to do was point my legs out and slide butt-first to the ground- which I executed perfectly.

Right after I landed, I watched my dad come soaring in. After he touched down, we gave each other a big hug. The instructors asked us if we’d ever go skydiving  again, and we answered almost unison. The only difference was that I said “Hell yeah!”

He said “Hell no!”

I wish I had more exact details to share about the experience, but truth be told, the sheer terror of jumping out of a plane completely blurred my memory.

What I’ll never forget, however, is how great of a dad I have. The fact that the same dad who couldn’t manage the smallest kiddie rides without getting sick jumped out of a plane with me- just because he couldn’t let his son do it alone- is a true testament to what unlimited love looks like. I’m forever thankful to have him as my role model, and it feels good to know that even at 13,000 feet in a plane with no door, he’ll always be by my side. 

10 Tidbits about Senior Year by: Bronwyn Warnock

 

Image result for ten tidbits

Here are ten tidbits about the good, the bad, the ugly, and all the in between of senior year.

1) You finally have some level of justification for the senioritis that has loomed over you ever since freshmen year.

2)  You have reached a turning point in your life. Instead of experiencing first times you are experiencing last times. Last home football games, last homecoming, last year of life as a high schooler.

3) Thinking beyond the walls of the high school makes your hands a little clammy and your heart race a little bit. You are never quite sure if it’s because you’re excited or because you’re terrified. Although, a combination of both is healthy.

4) You want to wear sweatpants everyday, but you know you need to wear some other article of clothing at least once a week. The urge to walk into school in the exact way you woke up is sometimes just too hard to resist.

5) Applications and deadlines rest on your mind like a heavy weight. Enough said.

6) If you never valued it before (alike myself) you learn to LOVE your sleep. Nap times become a necessity because well: sleep is a beautiful thing.

7)  Balancing is key, time management is key, hard work is key. In the end, there are a lot of keys – don’t misplace them.

8) If you take Statistics, you are taught that breakfast is not the most important meal of the day, as the most important meal is dinner. Regardless, please still eat breakfast – just soak in the information throughout your day as well. You never know when it will serve you later in life.

9) It is perfectly okay to take a break, take a walk, take time for yourself. Everyone works at a different pace, but your health should be the most important – and yes – that includes mental health.

10) Value each moment. It was said earlier, but it’s beyond worth it to utter it again. This is your last year at the high school. After this year, you will never walk the halls of Shaker Heights High School as a student. Try out for that team, talk to that person you’ve always wanted to be friends with, or dance to the songs in the hallways – but whatever it is take that risk. You only have one shot left, so go make it count.