‘Athletically Challenged’ by Matthew Martino

I am sitting in the backseat of my uncle’s beat-up station wagon on a foggy Sunday morning. My father gazes out the window of the passenger’s seat, remarking how late autumn has arrived this year as I slurp my kale smoothie through a reusable water bottle. After months of experimenting with different combinations of frozen fruits, leafy greens and protein powders, I have come to tolerate the taste of my early morning concoctions, no longer yearning for the sugary bliss of my beloved artificially-sweetened breakfast cereals.

This morning, my smoothie is thicker and more bitter than usual, yet I gulp it down all the same as a single droplet of dark green sludge cascades onto my bright red, polyester Under Armour t-shirt. It’s my father’s hand- me-down, a loose-fit medium, that would have never found its way into my closet eight months ago when the letters “XXL” adorned the collars of all my clothes. “Do you have any bigger sizes in the back?” used to be my catchphrase every time I went shopping. I shift uncomfortably in my seat, regretting the fact that I did not get the chance to properly break in my brand-new Nike running shorts which are equipped with extra padding to prevent chaffing— a runner’s worst enemy. We pull up to the parking lot of a large church, where volunteers under giant tents and behind booths sponsored by local businesses are handing out race bibs. My father looks at me through the rear-view mirror and smiles, “I never thought this day would come.”

The first time I realized I was fat was in the sixth grade. I had always been a big kid, but I never truly considered myself one until I changed schools at the age of eleven. I knew I was different (or just “Italian” as my grandmother liked to call it), yet I never thought anything of it. Some people have blue eyes, some people have freckles, and some people are fat. However, when I moved for my final year of elementary school into a predominately French-Canadian and English-speaking neighborhood, where fellow big-boned Italian kids were few and far between, the difference became crystal clear.

It is ironic that I took up the sport of running since I used to despise the act more than eating peanuts— one of the many nuts I am deathly allergic to. In fact, I have been rushed to the hospital four times due to an allergic reaction, yet this still has not prevented me from happily perusing the dessert menu at every restaurant; meanwhile I failed a running test in my first year of high school and still I have nightmares about it. The only time my name and “sports” would appear in the same sentence was in my report card comments for gym class. Even then, my marks for physical education seemed to be granted to me out of pity.

Just running to catch a train after school even seemed unthinkable. I remember the one morning in sixth grade when I overslept, and my day was made even more unpleasant by the fact that I had to sprint to my bus stop. It was the thick of winter, and my oversized snow pants made running to the corner of my street an unbearable task. Despite all odds, I made it onto the school bus only to be met with the mischievous grins and muffled laughter of my classmates. I sat down and attempted to catch my breath before we arrived at school.

The next morning, I sat on the bus beside my friend Alex. Despite his love for all things hockey, Alex and I bonded over our mutual love for punk music and the fact that we both played the drums. This particular morning, however, I distinctly recall Alex looking uneasy. I could sense that something was bothering him.

Eventually, after a few moments of awkward silence, he spoke up, “Matthew, there’s something I need to tell you.”

“Sure, what is it?” I replied, afraid of what I was about to hear.

“Yesterday, while you were trying to make the bus,” he began, “Brandon was watching you from the window and started yelling, ‘run fat boy, run!’”

My immediate reaction was to laugh. Not because I found it funny, not because I wanted it to seem as though it did not bother me, but because it was the only thing I knew how to do in that moment. Laughter has always been a coping mechanism for me; I have always resorted to humour to make light of a situation. This was the first time someone had ever referred to me as fat. This was the first time I had ever been bullied. I had no idea what to do except to start laughing. I had no control over it. I heard my voice begin to laugh before I even had time to process what Alex had just told me.

Alex was puzzled by my reaction. “Matthew, he was making fun of you,” he explained, eyes filled with pity.

Brandon always sat at the back of the bus. He played soccer, could burp on command, and told us all where babies came from after he learned it from his older brother. I looked back at Brandon, watching him style his Justin-Bieber-inspired hairdo in the reflection of the window, and wondered what other names he called me when Alex wasn’t around to hear them.

It was only years later that I realized how hard it must have been for Alex to reveal this to me, and as I get older I only appreciate his honesty more and more. For years I could not go for a light jog without Brandon’s comments repeating themselves in the back of my mind. For years I could not help wondering what people were saying about me after I left a conversation. I still think about Alex, and wonder how many twelve-year-olds have the integrity and character to tell their best friend that he is being made fun of behind his back.

However, none of these thoughts cross my mind as I stand at the finish line with my father while a volunteer drapes a medal over my sweat-soaked collar. I could not care less that it is a participation medal, nor do I care that my mom and my brother are cheering louder than any of the other spectators at the race. All I care is that I beat my eleven-year-old self to the finish line.

 


Matthew Martino is currently studying journalism at Marianopolis College. He recently completed an internship at the McGill Campus Radio Station, CKUT 90.3 FM, where he ran a weekly series entitled Free Samples, detailing trends in modern hip-hop along with the history behind some of rap’s biggest tracks. He also wrote concert reviews and curated playlists for the station. He was the editor-in-chief of Loyola High School’s newspaper for two years, and he currently runs his own pop culture blog: ginandguice.wordpress.com.

 

Copyright © 2018 by Matthew Martino. All rights reserved.

‘L’homme qui rêve’ by I.M.

IMG_3836.jpg Photo. Paris, 2015.

This man was sleeping at the exit of the exhibitions of the Pompidou museum in Paris. Maybe he was dragged there by his wife or was overwhelmed by the pretentious abstract expressionist art that filled half of the museum’s walls. Either way, seeing him peacefully doze off against the wall as if he was sitting on his living room floor was the perfect completing piece to this visit, so I couldn’t help but take a picture of him. 
– I.M.

 


Copyright © 2018 by I.M. All rights reserved.

‘I Forgot to Swim’ by Victoria Blanco

Despair knocked on my window
And I let her in
She sat on my window sill
I looked in her eyes
And began to cry

I reached for her
Wanting comfort
She stripped me bare and cold
Scared and all alone

I cried salty tears
I prayed to God
I asked for my ultimate wish
Please let me wake up to the touch of his soft skin

I promise
I won’t let him leave again
I promise I will reprieve
My tears flooded my room

She had closed the window
The water had reached my waist
I couldn’t live with the choice I had made
To wake up in a lonely bed

And never love again
Why did I allow for this to occur
Surface water just above my neck
Before I die, I wish to hear his voice and see his face

Pictures never granted justice
I held my breath
God never came
My tears reached the roof

I floated in a room filled of liquid regret
She continued to look at me
I continued to resist
I could live without air
I don’t need to breathe
I say

Until I desire to inhale
I know how this ends
I shouldn’t have let her in

 


Victoria Blanco resides in Northern California where she writes for her blog, The Panty Junkyard. She has published a book of poetry entitled, Chocolate Mint Nite Drives

 

Copyright © 2018 by Victoria Blanco. All rights reserved.

‘More Human’ by Rory Jay

Ste-Catherine Street is loud and in motion with people shopping and chattering, as per usual. Frigid November winds blow down it, making the people shiver and bury their faces in their coats, as per usual. There is something slightly different, though – the people rush by just a bit busier, the store windows and displays are just a bit brighter. Christmas is coming, and everyone is in a shopping frenzy.

A figure stands still on a street corner, leaning back against a building whose upper-floor windows flash with neon signs advertising “XXX Massages”. To them, this hustle and bustle seems less like a collaborative, celebratory activity, and more like a war between the stores and the people. They’ve heard mothers shouting at employees about how little Ruth’s holiday will be ruined if she doesn’t have the new BarbieTM PetshopTM motor trike, so what do you mean it’s out of stock, go double-check and triple-check the back room! They’ve seen clothing store employees hassling teenagers, battling empty wallets with fake smiles and promises of irresistible deals and the hottest fashions, all so some big man at a corporate headquarters can count a few more bills. Under all the colourful wrappings and glowing lights, there’s an anxious undercurrent to the whole ordeal.

They do, of course, consider that they might be overreacting. Besides, who are they to understand how people work? They don’t have those very human experiences of gender, or excitement, or a job, or anything else that seems to be common sense and mandatory for the crowd around them.

Glancing into a shop window, their reflection is neither masculine nor feminine, doesn’t look happy or really all that sad. Most people would feel something, something aside from disdain. Even if you hate the holidays, you would be expected to feel some sort of righteous anger, right? Have a riot, work to end capitalism, and failing all that, have a nice long cry. But they don’t feel like crying, or being angry.

I’m a simulacrum. I’m not a person, but an imitation of one.

A person would cry. A person would deal with this weariness by trying to make a change, instead of standing on a street corner and watching the world go. What are they doing there, anyways?

A ringing phone answers that question. The imitation fumbles through a satchel bag and brings the phone to their face.

“Hello…?”

“Casey! Jesus, where the hell are you? You haven’t answered your texts. You’re like, an hour late already!” Oh shit. It’s Benny, and old friend – an old friend they had made plans to visit.

“I… shit, I’m sorry, I lost track of time. I’m on my way now, I’m right by the metro.”

“Are you okay? You sound stressed – ”

“Yeah, I’m okay, no need to worry about me. I’ll – ”

“Listen, Case, if you don’t wanna come, you don’t have to.”

Casey hesitates, briefly considering it. It’s not that they don’t want to go over, but being an hour late is embarrassing. But they haven’t seen Benny in so long, and besides, how does that expression go? Better late than never?

“No, it’s fine. I’m fine. Bye.”

Casey remembered now: they’d gone downtown to buy Benny a present. It’s his birthday this weekend, and they were supposed to meet for lunch. It’s already two p.m. – there’s nothing to be done but bolt to the metro, and buy something tomorrow, so long as they don’t get distracted again.

***

Benny’s apartment is warm and smells nice, like fresh spices and kindness. It’s a well-located rental, not too far from the Atwater metro station. Casey stares out the window, down at the street, which looks remarkably like the ant farms the two of them used to play with as kids. Dots hurrying about, somewhere to be, something to do. Casey idly wonders if the process of rushing to a designated task is as automatic for humans as it is for ants.

“Hey Benny, d’you think those people think about what they’re doing?”

Benny steps out of the kitchen, holding two mugs of coffee, and walks over to Casey. “What do you mean?”

“Bugs… we don’t really know if they have emotions, or free will, and maybe they just act ‘cause their leader told them to. Maybe they just act to survive.”

Benny smirks as he places the mugs on the polished, brightly-coloured plastic coffee table, and slips into the adjacent “retro” leather chair. “I’m pretty sure Christmas shopping isn’t on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.”

“Neither is going to business school to start a company you don’t care about.” Casey’s voice is cold, colder than they intend it to be. Hearing their own words, they flinch, and recoil back into their seat.

“Hey, don’t be that way.” Benny says, reaching his hand out across the table. “I’m sure you’ll get back on your feet soon.” He’s still smiling, but it’s a concerned smile, full of pity. The type of face you make when trying to pretend everything’s okay when it’s not. The type of pity you extend to an injured animal.

“I get on my feet and then they slip out from under me. You told me that I’d get back on them at my first delay, when I dropped out, and before my last attempt.”

Silence. The two old friends stay quiet for a while; Benny knows he’s struck a nerve. Casey knows they’ve prodded him. Both of them look at the walls, lined with IKEA art pieces and framed certificates that feel unearned. Beneath the modern decor is thinly painted concrete, cheap cut corners disguised as chic and sophisticated. Though, it’s just concrete – cold and dry.

Casey looks back up at Benny, who seems a bit embarrassed. They don’t know why they resent him, as he’s always been nice. Better than nice – he had helped Casey transition, and stood by their unconventional presentation and pronouns. Even before that, he had befriended them, despite Casey being the kid that others whispered about: The kid who missed class once a week for appointments and who preferred to sit under the desk instead of in front of it, who didn’t play well with others, who led to parents describing them with strange words like savant, troubled, special, and occasionally a particularly nasty one that started with the letter R.

Despite all this, Benny stood by them. He’d offered them a job at his startup when CEGEP fell through, though at the time it was just a side-project. Casey had refused, but Benny would still bring it up every now and then. Casey didn’t want the job, but they were grateful for the opportunity. Some people just won’t let you fall. They glance at him fondly.

Suddenly, they remember. “Oh, Benny.”

He looks up, an apology in his brown watery eyes, but Casey isn’t looking as they search through their bag.

“It’s not much, I kinda just grabbed it on the way here, but, it’s something, I hope.” They hand a Starbucks gift card across the table, alongside a slightly squished teddy bear, the cheap kind they sell in corner stores with the big eyes. “It’s not much but, uh, I know you like coffee.”

Benny takes the present hesitantly. “Case… you didn’t have to do that, you know.”

“But it’s your birthday, and it’s almost Christmas, and besides… I wanted to repay you.”

He laughs, and the tension seems to disappear from the room. “Repay me? For what?”

“For being… around. For inviting me here even though you’re so busy. For treating me like, like a person, I guess.” There are tears in Casey’s eyes, but they aren’t quite crying.

Hands wrap around Casey’s back, and they feel their head pressed against a firm, warm chest. The tears start falling as they reach their arms around Benny, letting themselves be held. A torrent of emotions hits, fast and full as the wind.

“Oh Casey,” he says, his voice soft, that of a familiar old friend, that of home. “I think you’re more human than the rest of us.”

 


Rory Jay is a non-binary CEGEP student who writes poems, science-fiction, and contemporary fiction, often drawing on their experiences with gender, autism spectrum disorder, and mental illness. They love literature and storytelling of all kinds, from books, to television, to video games, to musicals, to anime. They are passionate about exploring new ideas, analyzing the world, and sharing their experiences.

 

Copyright © 2018 by Rory Jay. All rights reserved.

‘Where is my Father?’ by Yemoja-Osun Tomori

Aerial View.
I look upon my memories
like a goddess, I loom over the world I’ve created
And something has changed, as most things do
but I look through this forest of remembered
feelings and episodes and ask:
Where is my father?

Where is the man who I so lovingly admired?
Where is the man who I thought was the greatest?
Where is the man I smiled proudly at
and wept bitterly for when I thought of all he had done for me?
Where is the man who I thought loved me?
Where is the man who I said, ‘love you’ to and meant it?

Perhaps the man who walks in his manner
and talks with his voice, perhaps that man
who now inhabits my father’s fleshy shell
tortured him to death, or maybe
offered him a better daughter, and sons,
he probably threw in a better wife.

Because the man who drives me to the metro
every morning, knows nothing about me
And my father does.
Or maybe I remember it wrong, maybe
this man who I think is my father
only exists in my dreams.

 


Yemoja-Osun Tomori is an aspiring writer who recently moved to Montreal from Lagos. She is very dynamic and outspoken, and is always finding ways express her creativity.

 

Copyright © 2018 by Yemoja-Osun Tomori. All rights reserved.

‘Hands-On Study of Hands’ by Minahil Khan

One

Three

Two.jpg

Graphite
5″ x 6″
2017

“Hands are some of the most overlooked yet fascinating parts of the human body — they have evolved to be all-around multipurpose and, underneath the skin, are actually quite complicated in terms of musculature and nerves. Inspired by how Leonardo DaVinci used to study and sketch various body parts, this collection constitutes the beginning of my graphical study of hands.”

 

 


Minahil Khan, or ‘Mina’ for short, is a CEGEP student at Marianopolis College studying Arts & Sciences. When she isn’t studying, you can find her reading dystopian and mystery novels, or drawing people she knows.

Copyright © 2018 by Minahil Khan. All rights reserved.