Taupe Step Stool

Taupe Step Stool

Speckled gray linoleum leads the line
to the pharmacist who seems to be taking her time.
This place is bustling.
God, why do I wait for the last minute to do everything?
Finally, the line shortens and I make it to the counter.
Then, I see it and start to remember—
she’s standing on the taupe step stool from my childhood home.
In the kitchen, it was used to reach the ice cream cones.
In the closet, to grab our box of hair ties and bands.
In the bathroom, to wash our hands.
One hundred lines carved atop to create traction.
The only problem, it dirtied with acceleration.
It would bring my mother great disgust.
I’d find her scrubbing with a toothbrush
just to bring the taupe step stool back to an acceptable color.
This memory, it reminds me—I’ve ended up just like my mother.
Maladjusted, obsessive, ardent.
Trying futilely to take control of our lives.


Writer: Marissa Davisson is an English tutor and student at Fullerton College. She enjoys her time with her four year old son, Charlie, reading books, and traveling with her family. When it comes to writing, Marissa likes to write about supernatural happenings and the misadventures of everyday life.

Artist: Melissa Steele is a self-taught artist dabbling in acrylic & oil paintings as well as spontaneous shenanigans.


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Whalebone

Whalebone

protector. I am searching for one. do not go extinct.
I once shielded a heart the length of a beluga, width
of a stingray. wrap me in newspaper. make me a bed
of broken timber. smuggle me under lightweight suns
and shallow stars. ship me across the arctic so I feel
the collar tug of shipwreck carcasses skewered like fish,
bleeding gold escudos and waterlogged guest books.
warm my skin with melted glaciers as we cut through
the Pacific. I can point to you 50 miles off the coast
of Nikumaroro where a head full of auburn curls thrashed
like a spider web quakes when it catches its prey.
here once rested your aviator until the sharks mistook
her silver goggles for barracuda and swallowed her vertebrae.
now, let your eyes devour me. fill the shelves with ivory
carvings: Chinese relics, African busts, mammoths,
rhinoceros, rearing horses, corsets. you are next in line.
suck in your belly. we will both suffocate. I will be your ribs,
I will meticulously skin you and waterboard your organs
until my initials are carved into your skeleton.


Writer: Cassandra Hsiao is in the Creative Writing conservatory at the Orange County School of the Arts and an editor of her school’s award-winning art and literary magazine, Inkblot. Her work has been nationally recognized by the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards and the National Student Poets Program. She also conducts print and on-camera interviews as a Star Reporter and Movie Editor for multiple online outlets.

Artist: “Beauty in noise, narrated line.” –Bryce Gier.


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Ensconsed

Ensconsed

It envelops you the second you step from the plane, just past the little fracture in the floor, the gap between the loading dock and solid concrete where crystalline cages or drywall barricades aren’t there to keep the raw feel of Vietnam at bay. There’s no need to spot the endless sea of mopeds that clutter the streets just past the airport’s windows, no need to catalogue the tall, lanky buildings–houses atop houses atop stores. Being able to see it seems trivial when mental images can fade like photographs and you remember this place better with every sense but sight.

The feel of it hits you first, like plunging into water so perfectly lukewarm that you can’t feel the change in temperature so much as the change in texture. The air changes when you step out of the stale, sterile airport. Suddenly, you wonder why you thought the static-charged carpets were so bad; that is, until you try to run your fingertips along the metal handrails and flinch from the static shock. You walk away faster after that, your body acclimating to the new weight of the air.

Warmth is quick to seep past the thin cotton of your shirt, siphoning away what little airplane-cold still remains stubbornly under your skin. Your face and hands feel the brunt of the humidity first, sweat beading on your hairline and palms growing clammy against the smooth plastic handle of the suitcase that clacks rhythmically behind you. You bring a hand up from its listless position, hanging by your side as you walk, and with stiff, sweaty fingers, you start to fan yourself, relishing in the short reprieve from the humidity. It never stops feeling heavy, sticky, sweaty; the feeling latches onto you like a desperate, unshakable lover. Ensconced in it, it’s so omnipresent that you wonder when it will stop existing around you and finally just permeate your skin, never to leave.

The smell of it hits you next, somewhere past the throng of recent arrivals. Sweaty and polluted, the scent of Vietnam fills your head and your lungs, so all-encompassing that you feel like you’re swimming in it, blissfully surrounded. Even in the confines of the airport, the smell of gasoline trickles in through open doors and windows, mingling with the sterile airport air, only growing stronger as you near the exit. When you finally pass through the automatic glass doors, the afterthought of that bitter scent quickly turns into a sharp tang at the very forefront of your senses, somewhat reminiscent of the smell of downtown during rush hour, half a planet away. It’s a little noxious, a little dizzying, but it’s constant, unchanged in the years you left before returning. You breathe it in deeply, just to confirm that it’s the very same air. It’s heavy, heady, and rich in a way temperate California air isn’t, and when you draw in a lungful through chapped lips, you can almost imagine the miniscule molecules of water that dance through it, instilling themselves into your sun-dried skin and warding away dryness with the sly promise of sweat. The longer you find yourself ensconced in it, the easier it is to find the smoky tang of gasoline on your tongue as a part of you, so commonplace that you need to consciously remind yourself that air didn’t always taste like this, didn’t always swirl so tangibly in your lungs or so heavily in your head.

The last thing you notice is the sound. You have to close your eyes to hear it, so you do, just for a moment, just to revel in this antipodal realm around you. There’s that signature humidity in the soft squelch of your sister’s sandals under her little feet. It’s rhythmic, perfectly aligned with the clunk-clunk-clunk of her tiny luggage case, and when she tugs on your dad’s shirt, whining about the humidity, you laugh and remember when you carried the same case and tugged on your dad’s shirt the very same way. Opening your eyes, you pick up your pace and fall in step beside her, wiping beading sweat off your forehead.

Nóng quá,” you tell her with a wink: “Nói trong tiếng việt.

It’s so hot. Say it in Vietnamese.

The words tickle your own ears coming out, feel warm and airy against your tongue, almost like a blanket of simple, mono-syllabic utterances come to smooth away the tiring intricacies of English. It’s a little rough and a lot out of practice, but the language ensconces you anyway–from your mouth and every other around you–and you inhale the bitter air with a small smile.


Writer: Mia Vu is a current senior at Orange County School of the Arts in Santa Ana, where Stage Management and Audio Engineering are her main foci within the Production and Design conservatory.

Artist: Eesha Azam Khalil moved to California from Pakistan. She studied Graphic Designing from Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture in Karachi, Pakistan. Passionate about Animation, the move to California was a perfect fit. In her free time, Eesha loves to go hiking and taking pictures.


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