The Car Accident

The Bystander sees a line of police officers staring down into the water.

The Ambulance Driver sees the worst kind of death, the kind that could have been prevented. She radios in to the hospital: “You gave me the wrong address.”

The Boy in the Back Seat can’t see. His eyelids are bloated with water and his body is folded over at the waist, floating upwards. Three of his fingers are broken from punching and clawing at the glass. Dark purple clouds are gathering under his skin.

The Police Officer sees a car half in water. He holds a clipboard, telephone, cameras clicking in his face and a rope waiting at home so that he may run away from his shame.

The Person Waiting At Home is Mom. She is tapping her finger against the screen of her phone frantically, as if the tapping will elicit a response. She is reading the message over and over again, until with eyes closed, she can see the words still: “Mom, this might be my last chance to tell you I love you.”

I see red tape and Confucius’ beard on fire.

God isn’t even looking.

writing conditions

I wrote in the summer of the MH17 plane crash. The summer where the world seemed lost, both numb and sickened to the numbers: 298 dead in Ukraine, bodies and only parts of bodies pulled from the wreckage by separatists, bags burning on the sidewalk; 26 members of a family, including young kids and several pregnant women, dead from an Israeli military strike intending to kill one Hamas member. 

I wrote in the humid summer mornings with a fan turning from side to side, just long enough for my neck to get sticky and then cool. I wrote as my father withered, losing both fat and muscle mass after surgery, and as the stress of college applications and senior year loomed over me like a bad thing waiting to happen. I wrote without freedom. I wrote under duress. I wrote while surrounded by books by Kaplan and Barrons - preparation for the SAT. I wrote with a candle lit to keep away mosquitoes and quell the stench of dog shit that seemed to linger on the walls. 

I wrote while walking. I wrote while listening to Sylvan Esso and Wayne Coyne and also silence, but for the fan's whirring and the screech of the cicadas outside that with closed eyes I might mistake for the tropics.

Sometimes I wrote at night, when the fruit seller would come by, shouting his wares through a megaphone, in a last attempt to empty his open truck of bruising peaches and browning cherries. Often I would overhear angry voices and I would lean in towards the single-panel window, peek through the shutters to listen in wait for the quarrel to intensify and then break just before erupting into fists.

I wrote not dutifully nor faithfully and when my brother awoke at lunchtime or dinnertime or somewhere in between, I would look up guiltily from the show or movie playing on my laptop screen, suddenly disturbed by the hours wasted and the day's approaching end and say bitterly, "Good morning."

the summer of 2014 was not what I expected

I wish I could tell you I had a wild summer, that I discovered my inner brave self-loving slut who shook her hair at anyone who lied to her and partied until dawn with other beautiful people brandishing bubbly drinks at a club with a really good DJ.

But in reality, I have maybe four friends under the age of thirty in Seoul, alcohol makes me red and sleepy, and anyways I like lazy brunches of French toast and blueberry cream cheese better than walking home barefoot and alone at 4 am trying to make it up the hill that leads to my house. I do like dancing though. If I didn't look like a 7th grader, I would definitely go dancing.

Not a lot happened this summer. It was busy - almost the busiest I've ever been - but not a lot happened to me, which is disappointing considering I'm about to be eighteen and a senior in high school. I kind of thought I'd magically become Hannah 2.0 this summer. Instead, I did what I always do. Between dutifully doing my homework and thinking of new projects while still waist-deep in other ones, I read books (I'll tell you the ones that I'm not ashamed of reading, says the Closeted Reader of Romance Fiction), ate a lot of breakfast, crashed my computer and hugged my dog during thunderstorms.

I started my Common App which brought up a bunch of questions -- art or politics? creative writing or international relations? -- about my future that I wasn't sure of the answers to, but I tried to be as sincere as possible. I realized that authenticity is the greatest and hardest thing to ask for but a genuine experience is ultimately all I'm looking for.

Some surprises of the summer include that: I never took a bubble bath. Ideal hours to work on my secret projects are between midnight and 3am (sounds inappropriate oops, it's not). Even small mosquito bites are mood killers. The price difference of a Foreign Policy subscription when using a regular email and an .edu email is significant. Deleting Facebook feels GREAT. Cooking is gratifying and organic food is OK. What the #IfTheyGunnedMeDown trending hashtag is saying is crucial and pretty cogent. It's really easy to forget to feed your dog, but you horrible, irresponsible person will realize it and give her [your dog] a ton of her favorite snacks. Picking out glasses is like picking out a new face. Journalists in Gaza on Twitter are heroic for showing that dead children are not just a headline, but a tragedy with a face and a family too. Traveling by plane seems a lot more dangerous than it did before this summer. Years don't faze memories and people from your past don't always have to stay there.

That's summer, I guess. Never what you plan it or expect it or dream it to be. 

Transient
Transient
Transient
Transient
Transient

Stranger

A slam poem performed at the commencement ceremony for THINK Global School's first-ever graduating senior class on May 31, 2014 in Hiroshima, Japan.

Beginnings: Cuenca, Ecuador in December 2011 /Photo courtesy of THINK Global School

Beginnings: Cuenca, Ecuador in December 2011 /Photo courtesy of THINK Global School

Big cities frighten me. 

 

Crowds of people who pass each other by like the satellite and the moon in constant orbit,

like the ship captain who never meets the lighthouse keeper,

like the snowflake that melts before it touches the ground.

 

There are so many strangers in this world.

 

And somehow, in the midst of all the anonymity, 

the silent slumped over figures sitting side by side in the train,

somehow it was us.

 

We were the star-speckled collision, 

the ones to take a chance on a stranger’s vision.

 

Our history started with you.

It started in Stockholm, it started in Cuenca, it started in Buenos Aires.

 

It started with each one of us in an airplane,

caterpillars crawling in the trenches of our stomachs

slowly turning into ticklish butterflies.

 

It started with nerves. It started with Ninja.

It started with a card game of Bullshit and a lot of voice cracks.

It started with Liam’s guitar. Beny’s sneeze. Anat’s eyes. Charis’ songs.

It started with “Hey, do you know which one is Gijs de Jong?”

It started with Elmo and Barney. A Sprat boddle. A handshake. Babushka’s crepes. It started at the end of the Amazing Race.

It started at my mom’s hotel in Quito, an Australian boy at breakfast. “How? Shouldn’t that kid be in school by now?” 

It started with Dengue fever. Harry Styles on loud speaker. A crippling fear of spiders.

It started with a schmuck interrogating a sixteen-year old boy at the Houston Airport.

 

It started with lots of things, but mostly, it started with strangers.

And today, it ends with family.

 

It ends with more stories and memories than I can remember.

It ends with a feeling of fullness. An arsenal of photographs. Lumps in throats.

It ends with worn-out luggage tags and stamped-up passports. 

It ends with a couple more than twelve nations.

It ends with a little bit of sleep deprivation.

 

It ends happily, and with a sense of a beginning.

It ends with this: Think Global School Class of 2014, You are my brothers. You are my sisters. And it was beautiful - no, it was extraordinary - knowing you.

Everyone, together: Kyoto, Japan in February 2014 /Photo courtesy of THINK Global School.

Everyone, together: Kyoto, Japan in February 2014 /Photo courtesy of THINK Global School.