Endless Dawn

8:01 P.M.
The crisp autumn day begins to fade into a spectacular sunset. The west shines brilliantly bathed
in scarlet and peachy tones, whereas the east shows the beginnings of the indigo night creeping
in. The air temperature cools considerably, and the voices and sounds of the day give out to the
noises of the darkness-crickets, frogs, coyote howls.
I’m never quite sure where my story with my eating disorder begins, kind of like you’re never
really sure where a sunset begins. Maybe it was when a family member mentioned to me that
every time I eat a fry, I might as well be strapping it to my thighs. Maybe it was when most of my gymnastics teammates decided they wouldn’t eat breakfast, or when they would cellophane-wrap their stomachs and thighs like Christmas packages. Or maybe it was when my teammates would pinch their fat and proclaim “I’m so fat!” when in fact they were skinnier than me. The
genesis of my disordered thoughts doesn’t matter-what matters more is that I listened to them
when they came.
When the darkness of mental illness first crept its way into my life, I welcomed it as a friend.
The quiet whispers seemed reasonable and helpful when they told me I could try harder and that
I would just look so good if I only lost five pounds. The cute color-coded app I downloaded that
told me the caloric value of everything I ate was so fun and innocent. Until it wasn’t. I realized
quickly that my emotions became attached to whether or not I stayed under my caloric goal for
the day. After a couple of prayers and some gentle nudgings by the Spirit, I deleted the calorie
counting app that had come to rule me, but that isn’t the end of my eating disorder story. You
see, eating disorders are like a jealous girlfriend, always seeking attention and revenge, and mine
patiently awaited its chance to strike again.

9:24 P.M.
The darkness has seeped into the sky, like ink dripping onto a wet page. The last bits of sunshine
soar their last farewells into the heavens, then come to rest in the Earth until dawn. Stars begin
to appear, and a quiet stillness spreads across the land.
June 24th, 2016. That was the day I moved from Spokane, Washington all the way over to the
other side of the state in Sammamish, a little suburb 20 miles east of Seattle. Friends, boys, my
beloved gymnastics club, my coaches, my team, my house, my school, my existence was ripped
out from under me like a band aid over a still healing wound. My world shook that day, hard
enough to knock that little box full of body negativity and eating disorder habits off the dusty
shelf of my brain and leave it smashed on the floor. I still remember how it looked when it hit the
floor- it created the darkest, blackest, most ensnaring void I had ever seen.
The whisperings of my eating disorder voice, ED (short for eating disorder), were back with a
vengeance. Her voice, with its soft, enticing tone and convincing words, drowned out any
promptings of the Spirit I had been feeling. ED was cunning. She knew if she told me outright
lies that clashed with the gospel truths I had known and believed my whole life, I would reject
her. So instead she told me lies wrapped in pretty pink boxes with big beautiful bows. She told
me God would love me more if I was skinnier. She told me that I was proving my strength to
Heavenly Father by not eating. She warped and clouded my view of my own body so drastically
that I couldn’t see the good or light in myself anymore-all I saw were too big thighs. Muffin tops.
The chub under my chin. Flaws. Imperfections. Darkness.

10:57 P.M.
The darkness intensifies. Hollow blackness fills the air, punctuated only by pinpricks of stars
sputtering their dead light. The moon is a crescent, faintly glowing, providing a faint glimmer of
One half cup of rolled oats microwaved in water- 150 calories. A pinch of cinnamon has barely
any caloric value, but I’d type it in as 5 calories in my head anyways just for good measure. A
Greek yogurt, with the fruit syrup at the bottom taken out because it was so unhealthy-120
calories. 4 medium strawberries- 25 calories. Exactly 300 calories in total. I ate this breakfast day
in and day out for the summer of 2016. It was comforting, not only because a bowl of oatmeal
was inherently so, but because it was so low in caloric value and so filling at the same time.
Every day at lunch when school started, I would pack an apple, a frozen Greek yogurt, a string
cheese, a turkey and swiss wrap on a tortilla, and a protein bar. 735 calories in total. I’d only be
barely over 1000 calories after lunch, with only one meal to make up for the 1400 other calories I
was supposed to be consuming for my active lifestyle. Every afternoon instead of a snack, I’d
count and recount the day’s numbers- I had the caloric values memorized, and my mind was
becoming quite extraordinary at mental addition.
For dinner, I was a nightmare to my mother. She so thoughtfully and lovingly prepared meals,
and I selfishly would eat tiny portions or wouldn’t eat if what she’d made if it was deemed “too
unhealthy” by ED. There was many a night where instead of dessert with my family, I would sit
in my room alone with ED, crying tears and tasting the saltiness as my dessert.
I watched the number go down on the scale with relish. Each time it did, ED would convince me
that I hadn’t actually lost weight, I had just weighed myself with less clothes this time, or with wet hair last time. I hadn’t. The darkness was so thick and heavy that I couldn’t even recognize reality. Numbers, my one true and constant friend, didn’t even seem real to me anymore. The
only pinpricks of light I could discern were the brief moments in church where I was reminded
that I am more than just the sum of a number or the calories I’d consumed that day, I am a
daughter of a King. This small source of light provided much needed relief from the storm
brewing inside me.

12:00 A.M.
Deafening silence. The night creatures seem to have gone to bed themselves. The stars dim under
clouds, refusing to shine their meek light upon the Earth and its inhabitants. The moon and its
light have all but faded behind the midnight rain clouds rolling in. The night is tangible, pushing,
pressing against all who dare to venture into it. Rain droplets start to fall from the heavens, like
tears cascading down a face.
I remember when I hit my all-time low, the midnight of my eating disorder journey. It was
October 6th, 2016. My family has a tradition of “booing” people in October- a fun little game we
would play on our neighbors. We would bake a bunch of treats (some usually fall related, like
pumpkin cookies) and sort them onto plates, then ding dong ditch a few families in our
neighborhood, instructing them to make treats and do the same thing for families of their choice.
We were in the midst of baking all of the treats required, and after sorting them all onto plates,
we had tons of extra goodies for our own family. One trigger for my eating disorder has always
been baked goods, and I remember I had been particularly restrictive that day with my eating.
Once I started eating, I could not stop eating. There was some sort of insatiable hunger inside me, gnawing at my insides, screaming to be fed. I scarfed down an entire loaf of pumpkin bread, 20 pumpkin cookies, and handfuls of Halloween candy. I feasted on despair and darkness.
When I finally was able to stop myself, I retreated into my room and sat in horror of what I had
done. I felt so alone and out of control, and the voices in my head roared in anger and belittled
me for my binge. I remember the pain the most from that night. Excruciating pain in my
stomach. Crippling mental and emotional pain. I remember laying motionlessly in my bed for
hours, clawing at my body, wanting an escape from the hell that was my life. I could no longer
feel the steady pulsing of light, hope and peace from the Spirit, I only felt the chaos, anger and
loathing from Satan. The only sort of emotion I could express was a deep, all-consuming despair
that leaked from my eyes steadily onto my pillowcase. I’m sure my Father cried with me that
night as I laid there wondering if I wanted to live anymore.

2:39 A.M.
The night’s precipitation has passed, along with the clouds that brought it. The moon softly
glimmers, somehow slightly brighter and fuller than it was hours earlier. The North star flickers
in the sky, surrounded by a brilliant display of miniscule holes of light poked in the night’s inky
I asked for help that night. In the depths of the waves of confusion and pain that Satan was
drowning me in, God eventually sent me a lighthouse, a beacon of hope-my therapist. She sat
and listened patiently as I poured the black, ugly contents of my mind out, and in turn she filled
it with sweet, simple gospel truths and coping strategies. One by one, my strangling thoughts of
inadequacy, my hatred of my thighs and my fear of carbohydrates were soothed by the healing balm of self-love. I started counting the days I didn’t hate my body. I started with once a week, then twice, then I’d stumble back to zero again. They say progress isn’t a straight line, it has
some dips and valleys to go along with the peaks. I don’t think that description even comes close
to the recovery process of an eating disorder. I would take one or two steps forward, then I would
fall flat on my face and be left picking the gravel out of my chin for weeks. Each time I fell, my
therapist was there to lift me back up and dispel the doubts I had succumbed to.
In addition, my therapist helped me reconnect with my Savior, the one and only soul that truly
understands the evil that filled my mind and the blindfold that was placed over my eyes in those
months. I was still fighting a silent but real battle, but I could see the stars again. I could feel that
there was something more to my life, a deep and burning purpose- I was the daughter of the
Supreme Creator of the universe. He cannot make mistakes, and thus I am not a mistake and will
never be a mistake. I could feel that I wasn’t alone. I was never alone. That black October night,
I suddenly remembered feeling the hands of angels on my back as I sat and prayed earnestly to
my Father, begging Him to relieve my pain. Those angels were always there, and they are still
with me. My Savior never once left my side, even when I was so blinded by my disorder that I
couldn’t feel His presence. He wept when I wept. He felt and understood the painstaking process
it was to recognize and reject the thoughts that I had clung to as truth only months before.
Recovery was and has been the most challenging journey I’ve ever been on, but I am able to
keep taking steps and making progress because of my faith. The light source of my lighthouse in
the storm wasn’t actually my therapist, for she was merely reflecting a different source of light.
My lighthouse was my Savior.

5:46 A.M.

Somewhere nearby, birds begin their first chirps of the new dawn, bringing hope and
cheerfulness to the deep blue sky. Tendrils of pink and yellow softly penetrate the black and blue
night canvas. The world awaits with bated breath the magnificent rebirth of the life-giver, the
sun. All is still. Nothing reflects the tumult of the stormy night except for the dewdrops
precariously perched on blades of grass.
Recovery is not a one day, one week, one month or even a one year process, it is a lifetime
process. The light I was reintroduced to and so hungrily drank up began to fill my soul, but it
was interrupted often by attacks from my disorder. I still sometimes succumbed to the insistent
voices dragging me downwards, but I could bounce back faster and had trained my eyes to the
ultimate source of light and peace in this world- the Son of God. Just like every living creature
on this Earth knows and awaits dawn and the bringing forth of new light and hope, I would wait
on my Savior and rely on him for the hope, peace and forgiveness His Atonement brought. I
found hope in life again. I found passion in my new sport of diving. I found joy in new friends,
and found fulfillment in my church callings. There is no eraser for black ink, yet somehow the
blackness and the ugly scars that my disorder had stained my soul with began to give way to
bright bursts of color and light through the sacrifice of my elder brother. Somehow, His blood
washes out even the most stubborn of stains.

7:33 A.M.
The dawn paints the sky in dazzling pastels, while a chorus of birds sweetly sing their morning
hymns. The deep blue of the night retreats solemnly into the west, while the sun rising steadfastly
in the east shines hope into the new day.

I still am not how I used to be before my disorder. I still look in the mirror and struggle to see the
beauty of what God created when He made me. I still sometimes struggle to put on a swimsuit
for diving practice, even though I love diving more than most things in this world. I still fight the
constant stream of numbers that bombards my head with every bite I eat. I don’t think those little
fragments of the night will ever leave me. However, I am at a point where I can also sense the
beauty in this life through the gospel. Christ reminds me with each new day of my divine worth
and of the love He and my Father in Heaven have for me, no matter what. I remember a quote I
found on Pinterest by an unknown author and I wrote it down to put on my wall- “I hope one day
Your human body Is not a jail cell, Instead it’s a sunny 2pm garden with daisies Thriving
because of Self love.” Every time I see a garden with flowers in full bloom, I remind myself of
the garden of love that I am cultivating within, and am nourishing with gospel truths and the light
of the Son.
I still am not how I used to be before my disorder. But I have grown to accept and love that. My
recovery is an endless dawn- stuck artfully between two warring worlds, but at peace with the
fact that the direction I am moving towards is that with more light.

The Miracle I Needed

Jennifer Bassett

О Это Чудо Для Меня

You could probably say I have high standards for myself. My mom, at fourteen years old,
wanted to get baptized the minute she heard the message of the restoration. All of my dad’s
ancestors were baptized by the time the early saints reached Salt Lake City. In my own 20 years
of existence, I’ve probably missed sacrament meeting a total of ten times. I begged to give talks
in primary. I completed the personal progress program twice. I finished four years of early
morning seminary with 100% attendance. The day I heard that sisters could serve missions at
nineteen years old, I made a pact with my best friend, written and signed, swearing that I would
go. I’ve always tried my best, but I’ve rarely felt that my best has been enough.
I mess up. There are days when I don’t read my scriptures. I kneel to pray every morning,
wrestling my way through the forest of random thoughts that is my brain, only to realize every
thirty seconds that I’ve started to climb one of the trees that is nowhere close to the one I want. I
loved my mission in Russia and wanted to give all my attention to the work, but I was accused,
not without reason, of being in love with my zone leader. I have my share of faults. But the one
I’ve always been most worried about is how rarely I feel the spirit.
I never had a big spiritual witness that the book of Mormon is true. I’ve never really
doubted that it is, but more often than not, I doubt if there’s something wrong with me because I
can’t seem to hear the spirit whispering to me. Excluding my mission, I can recall two times
when I felt a distinct witness or prompting, and both of them were before I was sixteen. Did my
spiritual ears go deaf because my hormones were screaming too loudly about the cute blond in
my class? Is there a sign on some crucial piece of my spiritual cell tower that reads “OUT OF
ORDER” in bold, red letters?

I tried not to dwell on it. I didn’t want to stress about my ever growing list of questions
that I hadn’t been able to answer. I wrestled with my worry about the line in my patriarchal
blessing where it says that I’m good at recognizing the spirit. I swallowed back the bitter taste of
panic when President Nelson emphatically declared that “in coming days, it will not be possible
to survive spiritually without the guiding, directing, comforting, and constant influence of the
Holy Ghost.” I felt the Spirit more on my mission–when I was testifying every day, when
praying was as natural as breathing, when I discussed the gospel every day with fellow
missionaries, members, and investigators, and when we saw miracles in the lives of the people
with whom we were working. I lived for those miracles–the kind that made every hair on my
arms stand at attention. But soon enough, I went back home, and everything went back to
normal. After my initial joy at seeing my family again, it was like waking up from a perfect
dream. I hated it.
I cried multiple times a day for two weeks. I still prayed and read the scriptures, but it
was never the same. Imagine: In my bedroom, which I share with my four younger sisters, the
mess alone, which could easily have been created by a tornado, would drive away the spirit; add
to that the six year old tornado herself, who won’t stop sniffing my face and shoulders, calling it
“nose kisses,” and effectively making scripture study actually impossible. Someone in the
kitchen is listening to One Direction through cheap desktop speakers, which clashes horribly
with Brahms’ Rhapsody No. 2 in G minor that my sister is pummeling into the piano in the next
room. My recently retired dad is in his office watching YouTube videos on knife making.
Someone in the toy room is raking through buckets of legos, trying to restore Lego Island by
finding the right piece. And I just want peace.

I craved a miracle: something to prove to me that I wasn’t lost. I needed to feel what I’d
felt in Russia, when I could forget about myself and glory in the subtle but clear manifestations
of my Heavenly Father. As it was, I would have considered it a miracle if my siblings would last
ten minutes without shouting.
At last the day I’d been waiting for finally arrived: I flew to Orange county, California, to
visit one of my MTC companions, with whom I had also served twice in the mission field. I only
had two days to be with her, but I was going to make them the best two days of my life. We
walked around Laguna beach and ate gelato. We went to little shops at balboa with her cousin
and the Austrian boy we’d met at the beach. We stayed up late talking and watching High School
Musical 3 because I’d never seen it before. I fried myself on the beach until I was twelve shades
darker and it hurt to move. I let the massive waves tumble my body like a pair of jeans in the
dryer, picking me up and smashing my shoulders into the sand until they almost bled.
On my last night there, we had dinner with the sister missionaries, and we invited the
Austrian boy. As we ate on the porch, the sisters got to know him and asked if he’d like to learn
more about Jesus Christ, to which he replied that he already knew some about Jesus from his
school. I could tell they didn’t really know where to go from that response. Once he left the
room, I expressed my empathy to the sisters, reminiscing on the many similar ambiguous
deflections I’d encountered in my time as a missionary. After dinner, one of the sisters asked if
she could use the piano for their spiritual thought. Of course they said yes. No sooner had my
friend and former companion heard that there would be a musical number than she volunteered
me to sing, and I immediately laughed in agreement, remembering fondly the many instances in
Russia when she had asked me to sing for her to calm her down after a stressful day. I found a

hymnal, stood next to the piano, and listened to the beginning of an unfamiliar arrangement of a
well-known hymn.
“I stand all amazed at the love Jesus offers me, confused at the grace that so fully He
proffers me.” Time slowed down, stopped, changed gears, and then floored it in reverse. I was a
missionary again. I forgot about myself. I wanted them all to hear the conviction in my voice,
that I knew it was true. I wanted the Austrian boy to feel Christ’s love so that he would want to
learn more. Even on their badly out-of-tune piano, with no previous practice with this
arrangement, the atmosphere in the room bent at my will. With my tone, the inflections in my
voice, the volume I chose for a particular line, I controlled the world for a minute. And yet it
wasn’t me; somehow I knew how I should sing without really thinking about it. “I marvel that he
would descend from His throne divine to rescue a soul so rebellious and proud as mine.” I sang
the words of the familiar hymn, and I meant them. I told a story. I conveyed a feeling. I knew
that my Savior loved me. That he loved everyone in that room, and everyone in existence. That
“He [cared] for me enough to die for me.” I looked at the faces of the people around me. My
companion was crying. Her family was smiling, listening. I couldn’t read as well the expression
on the Austrian boy’s face, but I knew he felt something. I felt something. It was then, in front of
friends and strangers, when I bore my simple testimony in borrowed words, that I felt what I had
been longing to feel again. As I sang the English words, “it is wonderful to me,” the Russian
lyrics echoed in my head: «О это чудо для меня.» It is a miracle to me.
I flew back the next morning. I was greeted unceremoniously by my family, as loud as
ever. No one noticed a change in me. If anything, I was extra grumpy because I hadn’t gotten
enough sleep. But that night in California changed me. God knew how I could feel His love

again. He knew that I needed to bear my testimony with that song. I don’t know what happened
to that boy. I know he’s back in Austria by now, but I will probably never know if his life
changed that day. I only know that mine did. And that was the only miracle I needed.

Mark One Only

Miranda Lim

I raised my hand and made eye contact with one of the proctors. She strode over and
nodded, her brow raised quizzically. “Excuse me,” I said, “what do I do if I’m more than one?”
“Just pick the one you identify with more.”
“Oh…okay. Thank you.” She walked away unconcerned. I, on the other hand, gazed at
the bubble sheet for several long moments, my No. 2 pencil hovering over one box, then the
This dilemma of mine was probably inconsequential. They were only having me mark
my race for statistical purposes. They weren’t asking me to search the depths of my soul to
choose between two halves of my identity. Still, I couldn’t help but feel guilty when I chose
“Asian” over “White.” I thought about the implications of that small, dark bubble staring back at
me. Was I inherently stating that at my core I preferred my Asian background? I had consciously
brushed off one part of myself. I was waving it away as if it were a little insect buzzing around
my head, demanding to be noticed.


I didn’t think a lot about my ethnic background as a kid. I was just there existing like all
the other kids. We were aware that we all looked different, but no one cared. When I ate seaweed
or ube snacks at lunch, I got some strange looks, but they were not judgemental; they were more
curious than anything.
“Are you eating plastic?”

Taking no offense, I replied, “No, it’s seaweed. Here, try some.” Soon I was sharing my
snacks with the whole table. The following days, kids would ask me for my “purple cakes” in
exchange for jello or graham crackers, to which I gladly obliged.
Usually, kids have concerns about race when they’re younger. They want to deny their
backgrounds as a result of teasing or wanting to fit in. Somehow, I got this whole trend
backward. I had it figured out as a kid.


When people want to know about my cultural background, I answer “half Filipino and
half White.” Sometimes people don’t like that answer. “No… you’re Mexican. I know it.” I
explain that I am not, but it’s usually the first guess. Still, they insist. “No. You’re lying. You’re
Mexican.” I drop it at that point and just let them believe that I am. I didn’t see the point in
arguing with someone who already made up their mind about me. I learned not only to expect
questions but to expect that people don’t really care about the answer.
“So what are you?” This is the question my seventh grade history teacher asked with
trepidation. A strange question coming from a full-grown, educated man. For some reason, I
thought we had evolved past ambiguous questions to using more sophisticated words such as
“ethnicity.” I had the overwhelming urge to reply with some bratty remark like “a human. How
about you?” But I decided that it wasn’t a good idea.
“I’m half Filipino and half White. But my last name is Chinese.”
“Yeah, what’s with that?”
“Good question.”

My cultural background didn’t always seem complicated to me. However, question after
question caused me to reconsider until it seemed so complex I didn’t bother explaining it. Being
Filipino makes other people uncomfortable when you break it down because they don’t know
where to categorize you. People can’t agree on whether we are Asian, Pacific Islanders, or even
Hispanic. The country’s history of being colonized by other nations only adds to this confusion.
People say that Filipinos are too Hispanic to be Asian, too Asian to be Pacific Islanders, and so
on. Is it possible to be too much of something yet not enough of it? To complicate things further,
let’s throw in that I’m half White, born in the U.S., and don’t speak Tagalog. Now I’m too
American to be Filipino.


“Well, you’re only half Asian.”
Oh. “Right,” I half-heartedly chuckled. Well, he wasn’t wrong. Still, the word ”only”
coming from my full-Asian friend was a little off-putting. It had too many negative connotations.
I was not enough. I was merely unimportant. I was less. It was not the last time he said it and it
was not the last time I spent several days trying to decipher what he meant.
Most of my friends in jr. high and high school were Asian, and our racial background was
a regular topic of conversation among our group. We talked about all the things we had in
common like leaving our shoes by the door, our parents having a stash of ketchup packets from
restaurants because “they’re free,” rambunctious family gatherings, the need to post a picture of
every meal we eat, our parents filling up the hand soap container with water when it gets low,
and that one specific rice cooker with floral designs that everyone owns.

Despite these similarities, they never failed to notice our differences. If I said I didn’t like
anime or that my parents wouldn’t care if I got a B, they said I wasn’t a “real Asian.” Of course,
they were mostly joking. After all, these were usually superficial criteria that didn’t mean
anything. However, after several years of being told that I was “only half Asian” or I wasn’t a
“real Asian,” I started to believe it. I was jealous of them for being full-Asian, for being
bilingual, for being confident. They didn’t intentionally put me down, but I listened to them talk
about other Asians who didn’t fit into their idea of a “real Asian,” saying things like “I know
Sara is Japanese, but she’s basically White.” These comments had me wondering what my
friends thought of me since I am actually White. I knew what their parents thought. My best
friend’s dad said once that I was a twinkie: yellow on the outside, but white on the inside. It
wasn’t quite a slap in the face. It was more like heartburn. Hot acid gradually rose in my chest
and throat, like I was going to throw up, but I couldn’t, nor could I dispel the lingering sensation.


It’s not that I hated being white; it was more that I was exhausted of hearing people
around me point out that I wasn’t like them. I was sick of them diminishing my worth in the
Asian community.
I felt the need to prove to myself and others that I was a real Asian, not some diluted
version. This meant I watched Asian TV shows, listened to Asian music, ate Asian food, and
tried to learn an Asian language. The Asian entertainment I started to watch didn’t prove to me
that I was a real Asian, but rather that I was still falling short because I wasn’t like the typical
East Asian girls that everyone admired. This media started to warp my idea of beauty and my
own self-confidence so quickly that I didn’t even recognize the sudden change. I started to resent

that I didn’t have pale, porcelain skin or straight, black hair. I didn’t have a small face or thin
frame, at least like they did.
Occasionally, I would forget that I was mixed. Even when I was with my White mother
whom I love dearly, it just didn’t cross my mind.
I wondered what would make me Asian enough to be fully considered one of the rest?
If I were, say 10% Filipino, would they consider me Asian at all? Did I have to be 100% in order
for them to stop thinking I was “only half” or “part”?
Out of curiosity, I took a DNA test that broke down my genetic makeup by ethnicity. The
results showed that I was 36% English and 30% East Asian. I’m embarrassed to say that for a
split second I was disappointed to find that I was more White than Asian. I had this guilty feeling
weighing on my entire body. I thought about my mother and her ancestors and how I had ignored
their stories and struggles. I wouldn’t even be here without them, yet I had deemed this other part
of me insignificant.


Little by little, I began tying myself to my mom’s side of the family.
I found myself poring over photo albums and journals, seeking every little tidbit I could
find. I came to have a greater appreciation for my grandpa’s service in the Air Force and my
grandma’s strong will to raise my mom and her brothers in his absence. I began to see more of
who my mother was when she was young, and consequently who she is now. It was apparent that
most of my personality had come from her.
I decided to do family history on my mom’s side. I also decided that being the person
who writes in the census is my calling since the only criterion seems to be having bad

handwriting. It was slow work that was difficult to make sense of. Still, I stuck with it. I
discovered my great-great-grand aunt (a term I didn’t know existed, by the way), Lois. I
wondered about her life in New York, her siblings, and her hobbies. Sadly, I could only find one
public record of her. Although it confirmed her existence, it couldn’t tell me anything about her.
I was able to find one sheet of paper in our family’s file cabinet, which revealed another child:
her twin. Briefly wondering why the census made no mention of the twin, I read on, squinting at
the haphazard scribbles to find that he or she had died at birth. I imagined Lois as a child,
wondering why her twin had passed and what it meant. How would her life have been different if
her twin had survived? Did it make her feel empty, like a part of herself was missing? People
always say that twins have a special bond. They’re like two halves of a whole. Did Lois
understand what it was like to feel like half a person? Did she worry that her parents saw her like
only half of their set of twins rather than like one daughter? Suddenly she didn’t seem like some
distant relative anymore.


Recently, I received an updated ethnicity estimate due to the company improving their
research. As I opened my account in quiet anticipation, I saw a box detailing my new estimate:
36% Northwestern Europe, 34% Philippines, 16% China, 12% Ireland, and 2% Norway. I had a
revelation. It was not that I was literally 50% European and 50% Asian; it was that I was 100% a


I moved on to the next section of the scantron and read the words “Mark one or more.”
Time moved more slowly as I stared at the page, stunned that four words could be so moving.
Smiling brightly, I filled in two bubbles for the first time.

The Ocean’s Magic

Emily Baer

There was a time when I believed in magic. I saw it in the trees, in the shirring of the
waves, in the love of my mother, in the stance of my father; I refused to give up hope that magic
was possible, that it existed inside the earth and all we had to do was reach out and use it. I tried
to do so, many times, using the techniques I picked up from watching Avatar the Last Airbender.
I attempted to bend the earth to my will; when that didn’t succeed I tried to control water, then I
moved on to fire, then air, and when none responded to me my experiments with elemental
magic ended. But I didn’t give up my hope; how could magic not be real? I thought, I just have
to find it. Eventually I gave up on it as all children do, but the disappointment stuck in my
I think even as I grew up a part of me still looked for signs that there was some type of
magic in this world, even if it was just something small and unexplainable. I craved the
knowledge that life could be something greater than my own. I longed for an escape, because if I
could, that meant that anyone could, and if anyone could escape, that meant my brother could be
freed. His addiction was tearing our family apart, I could see the tiny fragments fracturing from
their molded shape, so that our jagged forms appeared monstrous to the hidden eye. I was too
young to understand what was happening, but I wanted to help. As the youngest, my voice was
never heard. Especially in circumstances of great tension.


“Get out of my house!” My father’s furious screams could have been heard from
anywhere in the neighborhood. He cornered my brother, “get out!”
“You can’t @#$%^&* make me! I live here too!” That word, the tone in which it was
used, caused me to flinch. I was hiding behind the couch under a blanket, too scared to see their
faces, too afraid that I would see hatred in my brother’s eyes. I had no concept of time, it could
have been minutes I huddled there – hours – I couldn’t tell. My fear drove me to try and run to
my room, desperately attempting to drown out their words with screams of my own.
“Stop it! Please!” I sobbed, over and over again.
As I moved towards the kitchen, I froze – in my attempts to escape, I had managed to get
within view of the turmoil; just in time to see my brother throw my father against the wall. My
ears were ringing, blue and red lights flitted through the windows, and it was then that I realized
who my mother had been on the phone with when the yelling had begun. So much was
happening at once. Was my dad okay? Where were they taking my brother? Where did my mom
go? Would our family ever be whole again? What would my eldest brothers think when they got
back from their missions to find their home a mess? I moved through the next few days in a
numb stupor, wondering if there would ever be happiness again.
It had been almost a week since the most recent incident of my brother’s wrath, and I was
just awaking from my numbed cloud when my mom called the school, she was picking my sister
and I up early.
“Your brother is gone,” I could tell she was holding back tears, “he’s going to a place that
can help him.”

“When will he be back?” I asked, we couldn’t be a family again if one of us was missing.
“I don’t know,” it came out a broken whisper, the tears she had been holding back were
released, and my mother wept.
Birthdays, recitals, graduations, talent shows, performances – many events passed with
one empty chair. My relationships with my family members grew, with all but one member. He
was invited to every family vacation, and every time he declined. Bitterness bubbled within me,
it was as if a little monster had made a home for itself in my mind, and I began to believe that I
hated my brother; he’d ruined my childhood after all, and it was his fault our family had broken.
I held on to that anger, and refused to forgive him.


We were going to go stay in a beach house on the Oregon Coast, and once more he
wasn’t going to come. It was to be our last vacation together as a family before I left for college,
but I didn’t know that at the time, I failed to appreciate our vacation time; all I knew was the
bitterness of not knowing my brother. The trip was as fun as it could be with all of us ignoring
the fact that something was missing. I was sick of it, despite my anger I wanted to know who my
brother had been before the drugs had distorted him. I sought out my mother and found her
sitting in the backyard, watching the crashing of the waves. I sat in the chair beside her, bundled
in a blanket for warmth against the spraying mist.
“What was Aaron like as a kid?” I leaned my head on her shoulder and breathed in her
unique scent, it was that of home, the ocean creating a symphony before our eyes.
“He was a troublemaker.” She chuckled.

“What else?”
And so began the onslaught of stories. She told me of the time when he was a toddler and
left the house searching for the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Of when my dad had to go
to court because my brother had been caught riding his bike on the train tracks. Of when Aaron
found a golf cart at the junkyard and fixed it up, and how he would come to pick us younger kids
up from school in it. Of how fiercely protective he was of us girls. Of how him and the twins
would go toad hunting. So many things I’d never known about him, and my anger faded into
despair. My tears mingled with those of the ocean, and as each tear fell my mother wove a story
about a boy, a joyful boy who didn’t know how to control the fury that boiled within him.
My mother’s tone turned somber, “he loves you, you know.” Not once had I ever
believed that, she continued, “it’s true. He avoids us out of fear, fear that you and the others will
never forgive him.”
My mother’s words shocked me, and it occurred to me then that magic does exist, it just
wasn’t the kind that my younger self had been searching for. Magic wasn’t controlling the
elements or using spells to conjure anything at will; it was forgiveness, it was love, it was
healing. It was watching the waves with your mother beside you, and choosing to let go of the
past. It was the ability of a family to slowly put itself back together. It was allowing yourself to
love your fool of a brother.
“Aaron’s here!” a voice came from the direction of the beach house. I turned my head to
see him walking up the stone path towards us, and in his eyes there was fear and anxiety. He’d
come. I got up to meet him, and amidst the hugs I felt like there was years of talking to catch up on. I wanted to tell him about my music, about the book I’d been reading, about the drama at school, but mostly I wanted to tell him not to be afraid, because there was magic here.


Kathryn Brewerton

I’m going to tell you a secret, but you must promise not to tell. This is a secret of
forbidden love. Impossible love. A fierce, fleeting, fiery love. The kind of love that burns you
alive and swallows you in a sea so deep you’ll drown long before you reach the bottom. This is
the secret of a love that spans two worlds. Well, spanned. Past tense. Because this is real life, and
love like that grows too big too fast, like a cancer outgrowing its blood supply. It overwhelms
itself, and it dies from the inside out.

I spent a summer with a man who set my skin on fire. He sparked me to life and made
me feel like life was beautiful, worth living. Sitting on a damp park bench overlooking a ravine,
we talk about music, movies, art. Wispy clouds obscure the stars, keeping me from pointing out
constellations. Lightning splits the sky behind his head, the low rumble of the thunder follows.
“You keep missing the lightning!” I complain. It was his idea to come watch the storm to
begin with.
“Well, I would look at it, but that’s hard because I can’t look anywhere but at you.”
Our eyes lock, and I know that I couldn’t be anywhere else but this moment. I couldn’t be
anywhere but on this bench with this man who intrigued me, excited me, terrified me. I breathe
in sharply, the cool midnight air tastes fresh, like rain. His cold eyes are beautiful, but it’s not my
favorite part of him. It’s his strong, angled jaw and chin that comes to an exotic point. And then
there’s his smile. The hard line of his mouth usually matches his broodish expression, but on
occasion, it cracks to reveal a boyish grin, with teeth so white and straight you’d be sure he’d had
braces — he told me he hadn’t (superior genetics, he’d say).
He kissed me that night, burning his imprint on my lips and on my soul.


He was my lifeblood that summer. He worked night shifts, so I would sleep with my
phone right by my face. He’d text me when he’d have a moment to himself, the shrill chime
rousing me from shallow slumber. Heavy lidded and dazed, I’d squint at the illuminated screen
and clumsily type a response (which upon later review were rarely free of egregious typos and
grammatical atrocities). I’d smile giddily, roll back over in a pseudo hope of sleep, when really
all I wanted was to be woken up again.


I spot his silver Audi on the unfamiliar street and join him on the front step. He’s agreed
to house-sit for a week. Along with the house comes the added bonus of two dogs: Joey, a
twenty-odd pound smelly mix with a curly white coat, and Toby, a massive slobbery mess of a
beast with a wrinkled face and a bobbed tail. He holds a thick leather fob with a single silver key
on the ring. But as he turns the key in the padlock, nothing happens. Wrong key. We try every
door we can find, eventually ending up on the back porch. Still, the key is useless. Great, the
dogs are going to starve to death. The cogs of my brain start turning, trying to stitch together a
solution. Sensing my distress, he looks at me, shrugs and says, “Well, I guess all we can do now
is dance.” He wraps an arm around my back and takes my other hand. I let him lead for a few
steps, but soon I’m aware of my exposure. I am vulnerable, weak. My mind fizzles, I panic.
“Stop, you’re being crazy!” I tease, pushing him away. The cold stab of regret pierces through
the both of us like an icicle to the gut. I want to reach for him, to pull him back. But the moment
slips through my fingertips, leaving me grasping at smoke.

Whenever I go home for the summer my parents become convinced I’m fourteen years
old. They want to know where I am, who I’m with, what I’m doing, and when I’ll be back.
Every. Single. Day. They incessantly hover, sure that if they lengthen the leash I’ll strangle
myself. What they don’t understand is they’re already choking me with it.

“What time is it?”
He rolls over to check his phone. I’ve left mine downstairs in his entryway, on top of a
hand carved wooden sculpture of an emaciated man with a cane. The face is grotesque,
disproportionate, twisted. Limbs bend at unnatural angles, unconvincingly supporting his frame.
The top is sanded flat to give it function. His mother had made it, he told me. Relics of his
childhood speckle the space —a framed candid photo on the wall, a red paper origami light
fixture, and that sculpture. It reminds me of the homunculus. I hate the thing.
“It’s 3:00 a.m.” My blood runs cold. I am SO dead.
“No it’s not.”
“Yes, it is.”
I spring to the edge of the couch, pulling myself together. I told my parents I’d be home in
half an hour. That was three hours ago. I scour the dark room for my purse, my jacket, my other
shoe. I pull him down the narrow staircase with me, as if his presence will soften the impending
doom awaiting me. Sure enough, my phone has all but burst with texts, calls, and voicemails.
The most recent reads, “I’ve called the police. Dad is out looking for you.” Perfect.
His mouth curves into a cocky smile, and he stifles a laugh. He’s not sorry. That smile
tells me he’d do it all over again. So would I.

“What’s your middle name?” We’re lying on his bed, the only light in the room an
exposed bulb without a lampshade perched on a bookshelf. My head rests on his chest, our
bodies forming a “T.” I stare at the popcorn ceiling, imagining rabbits and dragons in the chaos.
“David.” He replies, absentmindedly fingering a lock of my hair.
“After your dad?” I’ve only ever heard about his mom and sister.
“No.” His response is cold, too quick. I don’t ask any more questions.


We sit cross legged on the unmade bed, a white porcelain bowl between us. We alternate
taking bites of cheesecake and ice cream, his phone plays a song he saved for me. His eyes are
tired; I know he’s having trouble sleeping again.
“So, I was talking about you to my ex-Mormon coworker today. He asked if you’re going
to try and convert me.” My ears prickle, I lower the spoon. I don’t look up.
“Oh yeah? What did you say?” I start fidgeting with the cheesecake. The crust mixes with
the filling, turning the stark black and white slice into grey speckled mush. We hadn’t talked
much about religion—it’s a topic I usually shy away from. I don’t want to ask him to change for
me. I’m afraid he’ll say no, almost as much as I’m afraid he’ll say yes. He moves the bowl to the
bedside table, slides both arms around me.
“I told him I guess it depends on how much she likes me.” He looks at me expectantly,
awaiting my response. I smile, drape my arms around his neck and kiss him. I hope it is enough.
When someone shows you their soul, chances are it won’t be all at once. It will be in little
pieces: a goofy grin. Playing with a dog. Using silly, outdated words like spoof or pizzazz or
conundrum. Curious observations about seemingly mundane happenings of life. The sparkle in
their eyes when they show you something they love. Sharing their music. They’ll disassemble

the walls they’ve built around themselves, brick by brick. Those moments are precious gifts,
wrapped in layers of their innermost parts and tied tight with their very own heartstrings. If you
aren’t looking, you’ll probably miss it.


Summer grew old and began to wither. The sun seemed to hurtle to its death each day,
stealing daylight, stealing precious time. The sky twists and screams, peppering the roof with fat,
heavy raindrops. My hair is still damp from running with him in the storm. He knows how much
I love summer rain.
We only have a few more days.
“Let’s just leave tomorrow. Where do you want to go?” His thumbs work against his
phone, searching destinations. I sigh, curling up closer to him on the couch. My eyes are heavy. I
can’t remember the last time I slept. My breathing slows as I drift. He stops typing.
“I’ve never felt this way about anyone.” He tells the room.
We sit there quietly, listening to the clouds weep. It is in small moments like this that I
see his soul most clearly. He, an impenetrable fortress of steely grit, shrugs out of his coat of
armor. He, the ever nonchalant and level-headed, tears off his mask to reveal his glorious face
and his gentle, golden heart. We’ve lured each other out of our castles of solitude, only to find
that neither of us knows what to do now that we’re both in the open. Guilt nips at my ankles.
What had we gotten ourselves into?
“I’m sorry. I didn’t know this was going to happen.” I whisper, to keep my voice from
“Don’t be. It gives me hope that it’s really out there. That it exists, you know? People feel
this way. For real. It’s not just made up.” I soak up the silence, letting his words hang in the air.


He clears his throat.
“So, Japan? Great. What’s your middle name? I’m booking us tickets.”


I stand on the corner of the street, arms wrapped around myself. The bass from the
concert rattles in my chest, even though I’m over a block away. I glance around again, eyes
catching the leers of passersby. He told me he was coming, that he’d meet me here. I triple check
the street sign, growing more irritated every moment I spend waiting. My sock slips off my heel
into the deep recesses of my low tops, impossible to retrieve without removing the shoe. I work
my jaw. Last straw. I’m going back to the party and my friends. If he cared he would have come
with me tonight, not met me on a street corner. I spin on my heels, determined to salvage the rest
of the night. He’s leaning against a light post, waiting for me to turn around and see him. He’s
still in a white dress shirt, but the top two buttons are undone. He must have ditched his tie in the
car. His eyes meet mine, and every ounce of my cold fury melts away. His stony expression
crumbles, revealing that gentle soul he keeps carefully tucked away especially for me. He smiles,
offers his hand.
“Let’s go for a walk.”
Of course, I take it.

“I don’t want you to go. I want you to stay.”
“You know I can’t. I have to go.”
“When will you come back?”
“Six weeks.”
He pauses, his face deep in thought. His brows knit together, and his head nods slightly.


“Okay, yeah. Six weeks. We can figure that out.”
I had to be serious, to think of my future. This wasn’t supposed to happen. Not to me. My
heart sinks, splitting at the seams. I know I’m going to leave him behind.


He tells me how much he cares, how he’s waited so long to feel this way about another
person. He tells me he’s fallen for me, and he can’t believe how fast it happened. He tells me
everything I want to hear, everything I want to say. He asks me to stay. My head and my heart
fought fiercely, fearlessly. My head rattled with reminders of plans, deadlines, expectations. My
heart, my champion of adventure, ached for that curiously complex soul that despite all our
differences, sang to mine. I will myself to come clean, to be honest and to tell him even a shred
of how I feel.
My throat tightens. I choke.
“I think it’s best if you find someone new.” The words are bitter on my tongue. I hate
every one of them.
“But I don’t want someone new. I want to be with you.”


“Just come meet me. Please come, and we’ll talk. We’ll get it all figured out. Meet me at
the bench, we can go back to where it all started.” The message stares back at me through the
screen, begging me to be brave, to go to him, to finish what we began. “I can’t. I’m not packed,
and I leave early tomorrow. I’m sorry.” It’s a pathetic lie, and I know it. I’m running, afraid to
face him. The text flies from my phone like a bullet. I know it’s going to hurt him. The gnawing
pain of regret sinks its teeth in me, and silent mascara stained tears stream down my cheeks.


When you fall for someone, you lose bits of yourself on your way down. The nice part is
when they fall too, the pieces you lose are replaced by pieces of them. We are mosaics of those
we have loved and those who have loved us.
Maybe in another life things would have been different. A life where every decision isn’t
caught in a web of what-ifs, where duty and expectation didn’t clip my wings. A life spent
drinking in precious moments instead of being tangled up in tomorrows. If I could rewrite a
single chapter in the book of my life, it would be the one with him in it. There is a special,
especially potent brand of regret reserved for the things left unsaid, unfinished. Perhaps it would
be fairer to say I would revise our chapter. Even if we were fated to meet the same end, I would
do it all again, but I’d let my soul run wild with his. I would have danced a little longer with him
on that porch, and stayed a little later all the nights we planned the adventures we’d have
together. I would have hugged him tighter, kissed him longer. I would have told him how I felt
that August afternoon. I would have met him that last night on our bench. I would have been
honest with him. I would have been honest with myself. A part of me will always live in that
summer and will always love him for igniting my soul and feeding the flame. Those embers still
glow, impossible to snuff out. Even after all this time, when our paths cross, I’m swallowed
whole by memories.