Alexandria Preston

Five bodies, and you make six.
The crumpled forms lay atop icy metal tables, suffocating under thin, white sheets. The
cloth is reminiscent of the ones children wear for play on Halloween. I like this costume you
have on; it hides the real ghost of you beneath its interwoven threads. In this place, I can imagine
you as you once were—happy.
I want to remember the polaroid version of you. You photographed so well.
Snapshots of you were visual depictions of every lovely feeling to be had by someone.
You looked like a first kiss, a summer night’s bonfire, red lipstick empowerment and neon-light
art. You were all of the good things, and none of the bad; never too much, never too little.
I still remember the way you laughed. It was your most distinguished trait and although
your laughter may not have filled the room, it filled my diary entries with details of the good
days. You, with your oversized corduroy jacket and disobedient curly hair, were my good day—
every day.
You once gave me a quarter, because you said I was worth more than a dime. I hate
change, but that coin still rolls around the bottom of my purse—your initials etched upon it in
permanent marker.
The polaroid version of you was picture perfect; an Instagram feed of every shade but
Red solo cups, green forest trails. Orange Arizona sunsets, blue coastal waters. A
following of five hundred, a group chat of thirty-two, a schedule of a dozen too many weekend
plans. I flipped through the digitized glimpses of you and saw your popularity, wealth,

athleticism, successes, adventures… When I think of you sitting across from me with a smile too
wide for your face, I am perplexed at how you could possibly be anything other than happy.
But this memory I have of you is a false one.
You were not happy—you were not anything. In reality, you were as you are: a body. A
skeleton of warmer weather, devoid of all breath and sound. A desert of an ocean, a tomb still
playing host to a dead man. You were not happy, nor unhappy. You were nothing at all—and
then this nothingness consumed you, and you became everything to everyone.
But you were my everything first.
My perfect everything.
Reality grabs a fistful of my hair and yanks backwards, forcing me to look at things as
they were before you were swaddled in that white cloth. We are not to speak ill of the dead but
the fact of the matter is that you were not perfect. Sometimes you were unkind, whispering
malicious slanders. Sometimes you were dishonest, trespassing loyalties like a fox into a
henhouse. Sometimes you were pathetic, stumbling to the bathroom and vomiting vodka down
your crumpled frame.
Sometimes you were not polaroid perfect.
I do not like to remember this version of you and with the white sheet still draped over
your flesh, I can continue to use that blank canvas to paint you as I please.
Reality rips the tapestries away, gripping the sides of my face with unapologetic

vehemence and forcing me to see things as they really are, and not as they were in those pocket-
sized pictures.

Subject One has a body riddled with the signs of old-age. He was a husband, brother,
father, and grandfather. Now he is a numbered body bag. It is hard to differentiate the wrinkles in

his skin from the glass-filled gashes covering his flesh. When this skeleton had life, the man
decided to drive his car into the base of a cliff without a seat belt on.
On that same road, a mother of four jumped off a particularly treacherous road-way
railing. Subject Two took three days to find and when her body was recovered from the bottom
of the ravine, there was hardly any of her left to bury in the ground. This mother forced
motherhood upon her fourteen-year-old daughter who became the primary caretaker of her three
younger siblings. Their father became inhibited by drugs and contempt.
Subject Three was twenty-one years old when he overdosed on pills. The boy was
already sick, taunted by voices to hurt himself and his family. He did not want to do either, so he
swallowed a handful of drugs and did both.
Subject Four is an anomaly. She was nineteen years old with loving parents, a devoted
boyfriend, and a volleyball scholarship—yet there was an illness in her mind that wouldn’t
dissipate. She is anomaly because, statistically speaking, most women swallow pills or slit wrists
when taking their lives, but not her. She went to the local wash, shotgun in hand, and stuck the
front to the back of her throat. When she pulled the trigger, she blew her skull apart. It took them
six days to find her, and they had nothing left of her face to reconstruct for her mother.
Queen Creek High School held a candle-light vigil for Subject Five. Yellow was the new
black and the jests of wanting death to escape copious amounts of homework were temporarily
subdued. It is devastating that we had to wait for tragedy to make us kind, but at least we became
kind—even for the briefest of moments. For many, my Subject Five was their Subject One. It
was chilling for them to realize that the subject of so many perfect polaroids was now just
another name to be published in the town’s obituary—a throw away name whose memory would


fade like the ink lettering of the newspaper his lifespan had been printed upon. It was a closed-
casket funeral, so that he would not be memorialized by the bruises around his neck.

Now there is you, my great and terrible Six.
You are naked and unmoving. Your stomach is bloated and your flesh branded with the
earthy tones of rotting tissue. The stench of you makes my nose burn, my eyes water, and the
urge to gag undeniable. You reek of chemicals, as if the toxins had been soaked into your very
pores. If not for the preservatives you had been doused in, your flesh would likely be consumed
by maggots burrowing into your decomposing organs.
There is a red stripe lassoed around your neck. The skin is badly irritated and swollen in
areas to make you seem victim of some terrible ailment—besides the one that had already
devoured you.
“A necklace of hope” is what you called it. Those were your last words, composed into a
tweet and posted to hundreds of timelines.
It received nine favorites, and three retweets.
It is repulsive to think that we found your agony poetic.
We are not to speak ill of the dead, but there was no beauty in your death. I simply wish I
had told you how much beauty there was in your life. I will not write a love poem to your

Five scars, and you make six.
I forgive you. Please, forgive me.
I am so sorry for only seeing you in polaroids.

Body Scan

Emily Maynes

“Now as we begin, just take a moment to get comfortable and then, when you’re ready,
start off with some nice big deep breaths” Andy’s voice intones these familiar words in my ears.
I have never met Andy Puddicombe, but after months of listening to his recorded meditations, I
feel like we’re old friends. I’ve received countless pieces of advice–sometimes conflicting, often
worthless–but meditation is one practice that actually helps me.
Andy’s resonant voice continues: “and with the next inhalation, just close your eyes and
settle back into the space around you. Now just gently bring the attention back to the body and
start noticing how it feels, taking note not only of the areas that feel uncomfortable, but those
areas that feel comfortable, too. Starting up at the top of the head, you can just scan down
towards the toes.”
The top of my head…that’s what struck the side of the car when we were hit. I wasn’t
wearing my seatbelt when it happened. We had only just piled into our seats when the truck
smashed into the side of the car–my side of the car. It happened in an instant, but I was thrown
in slow motion. I’ve never screamed like that before.
The top of my head took the brunt of the blow. No skin was broken to make a scar; not
even a bruise remained, but it was weeks before that sharp pain subsided. It’s long gone now.

Maynes 2
On an inhale through my nose, I scan down the back of my head, which is sensitive to
touch. The sensitivity is caused by nerve pain, but I didn’t know that until six months after I was
injured, when I first saw my neurologist: “I guess I just started sleeping on my stomach to avoid
putting pressure on it. I didn’t even think about it until now…but I never slept like that before
the accident.”
I release the air through my mouth on an exhale and notice that my eyes are clenched
tightly closed. Sensitive to even the softest light and struggling to focus, my eyes were strained
for weeks after I was injured. I thought they relaxed sooner than they did, but I really just forgot
I was squinting.
The neurologist told me that difficulty focusing and light sensitivity are classic lingering
symptoms. “It will go away with time,” he assured me, but my first doctor said the same thing.
She also cleared me of my symptoms two months after the accident and yet there I was, talking
to a neurologist six months later, with all of my symptoms as acute as they were right after I
was injured. They were triggered again when I tried to go on my mission.
The night before they sent me home, I cried harder than I ever had before. Big and puffy
and bruised, I didn’t know if my eyelids would ever recover. On my last day, I insisted on taking
pictures with the missionaries from my district, but my face was so swollen that I can hardly
recognize myself in those photos. My missionaries have been in Sweden now for almost four
months; I still talk to them every week. My puffy eyelids looked bruised for days after we
parted, but they did, eventually, recover.
Lying on my back, I let the last bit of air release from my lungs and, amazingly, so does
the tension in my lids.

Maynes 3
My next breath goes down a little further into my neck and I gently nod my head the
way my physical therapist showed me to, turning on my deep neck flexors. Teaching me how to
activate those muscles, the physical therapist said “it might feel a little uncomfortable at first,
like you’re restricting your breathing a bit.” I spent weeks choking back sobs, so this is a familiar
sensation. As those little muscles activate, I feel the desired release in my sub-occipital region.
I didn’t even know what a sub-occipital was before I saw a neurologist but, as with me
and Andy, I now feel like the sub-occs and I are old pals. “Whiplash will correct itself after a few
weeks.” That’s what my first doctor said. Six months later, my sub-occipitals begged to differ.
The neurologist thought micro tears or inflammation in my neck might be the source of my
debilitating headaches. I doubted his diagnosis because I didn’t feel anything like the tension he
described, but when they did an ultrasound to check, they found the entire muscle group in
spasm. It was like that for so long that I didn’t even know I was in pain until after they injected
the medicine- then I noticed a difference.
I had three rounds of those injections and four months of physical therapy, massage
therapy and yoga classes and now I haven’t had a headache in months, which is an all-time
record for me, including the time before I was injured.
My chest rises and falls with the next breath and I am conscious of the place where I
used to pin my missionary nametag. I was on my mission for less than 18 days, but it was much
longer than that before I stopped reaching for the badge I thought I would wear for 18 months.
Deeper in my chest, I feel my heart beat a steady rhythm. I remember it pounding
frantically against my ribs as I surveyed the scene of the accident: what was once a car
resembled a crumpled soda can, standing perpendicular to the line of traffic in the middle of

Maynes 4
the road. I stood on the sidewalk, comforting my sister and clutching my best friend, both of us
crying and swearing, but all, miraculously, alive.
The next time my heart pounded that hard, I was clutching the long-awaited envelope
telling me where I was to spend the next year and a half of my life in service. My heart leapt
with joy when I read, in disbelief, that I was going exactly where I wanted to go.
The last time my heart pounded that hard was in the missionary training center clinic,
when a doctor told me that missionaries with Post-Concussion Syndrome usually get sent
home. “That’s great,” I replied with a wry smile, “but I’m not going home. I am supposed to be
here and I will fight to be here until I can’t be here any more.”
My heart has yet to pound like that again. It pumps to a new rhythm, instead: a
stronger, steadier beat that may never again be so easily excited, but it won’t be so deeply
distressed either.
Likewise, my breath continues at a constant rate, with the next inhale flowing down
through my shoulders and arms and into my fingertips. I can hardly remember a time when I
wasn’t engaged in battle with my left shoulder. Along with my head, it collided with the side of
the car and absorbed its fair share of the impact.
“Pull your shoulder blades together,” the physical therapists say, “feel the bone rotate
in the joint and keep pinning back that left shoulder.” Becoming aware of the problem is half of
the fight, but increasing my awareness didn’t make the pain go away. I quickly began to hate
that left shoulder…and the other one, too. We came to a reconciliation when I laid my forehead
against my yoga mat and an instructor told me to surrender to my body. “Notice the tension,
but don’t try to correct it. Surrender to the pain and, eventually, it will go away.”

Maynes 5
Down in my left hand, my fingers twitch; being away from the fingerboard of my
instrument for so long has left them fidgeting like disobedient children. They tap out Bach and
Bloch and Telemann–whatever is on my mind–and I have to remind them to be still.
Meanwhile, my right arm, that is, my bowing arm, has finally relaxed. The weight of your
arm is what guides your bow across the strings of the instrument, but if you try to force weight
into the bow with tension, your tone will suffer. So in my first music lesson after the accident–
almost a year later–my tone was terrible. My teacher extended her hands and said “Give me
the weight of your arm”.
When my arm refused to relax into her hands, she said, “I am strong; I can carry your
weight.” My arm shifted a little but the weight wouldn’t give. “I can see that you are physically
carrying a burden and you need to let it go. You have disappointed dreams, but that’s not your
fault. You aren’t the same person now as you were before, but that’s okay; I am not the same
person I was yesterday” she said, “you can let this go.”
I’ve seen innumerable physical therapists, internal medical doctors and emergency
room technicians, a biofeedback specialist, a neurologist, and a pain psychologist, but only the
Doctor of Music could get me to release my arm.
My breath travels farther and more freely now, down the back of my spine to my pelvis,
which is rotated, but that doesn’t bother me anymore because I learned how to correct it. I set
it in alignment and allow my next breath to travel down through my legs.
My legs, which have a good amount of mileage on them, felt soft and limp after weeks
of inactivity when they put me on mental and physical rest. In the months leading up to my
mission they got restless and twitchy, making me eager to run–I wanted to get out and just go.

Maynes 6
Their weakness and agitation have now given way to a greater sense of balance and strength,
no longer shaped by pounding pavement, but by slower, more deliberate movement.
I finally send the next breath from my head all the way down to my feet. I once felt like
my feet were swept out from under me. When that happened, all I could think about was the
day when I could sprint forward on them again, but I consider their role differently now. My
feet are my foundation, planted firmly beneath me, supporting me. I think about rooting down
through my heels, my big toes, the sides of my feet. Once I find balance in them, they have the
power to carry me forward, one step at a time.
My breath now flows freely from the soles of my feet back up to the top of my head,
and I hear Andy’s voice again, saying, “and before you get on with your day, just take a moment
to notice how you feel. Just take note of whether you feel any different from how you felt
before you began this exercise. And then, in your own time, you can just gently blink your eyes

Writing in Pen

Makayla Beitler

“Well, one day, when you’re smart enough to be invited to a summer program at Oxford,
you can travel to England too.” I almost choked as the words came flying out of my mouth.
Where did that come from? My younger sister and I had only been teasing about potential
summer trips, and all of a sudden, I was throwing words as if to hit a mark.
I watched Ally’s face fall for just a second before she said, “Okay”, gathered up her
homework, and walked upstairs. “Okay.” It was her response anytime she was angry with me. I
struggled to hold my sharp tongue even on good days, while Ally had an impressive control of
her emotions that she flaunted with single-word responses. If she fought back vocally, I wouldn’t
feel the guilt slice through me. But Ally was smart. She knew how I hated people dismissing my
remarks, good or bad, as if they had no effect. So she said, “Okay,” and walked away.
I snatched my apple off the table and threw my body down on the kitchen chair. I wasn’t
really mad at her. We had been teasing, and I was the one to take it too far. Yes, I had earned my
trip to England, and the thought of others going without doing any work made me jealous.
Nonetheless, I knew how Ally compared herself to me, instead of realizing all the talents she had
to offer. I had no excuse to throw that in her face; we were already struggling enough with this
last move. The hurtful words rushed through my mind again, and a familiar feeling washed over
me. It wasn’t anger I felt. It was a different feeling, one I knew all too well.

Reading has always been my best friend. It is my escape when I need a break from
friends, sports, or homework. I love how simple words on a page open my mind to new people
and places and times, lives completely different from my own. Fiction—of any kind—has
always been my personal choice; authors develop worlds with such vivid words that I feel like I
am there, whether or not it is real. I believe in only buying books for fear that I will want to
experience a specific desert sun or crowded London street, and I will need a particular novel at
easy access to take me there.
My biggest problem with the printed word is that I want to be the characters I read about
in my books. I never dressed up like Katniss or tried to jump off of trains like Tris. But I
immersed myself in Greek mythology when I read Percy Jackson in 6th grade. I started to talk
like Abilene when The Help drew me into its world. I emulated Elizabeth’s stubborn personality,
believing my Mr. Darcy must be just around the corner. The phases only lasted as long as the
few days I spent in the pages of each novel, longing to be part of that world. Still, somewhere in
the lines of Harry Potter or Chronicles of Narnia, I must have forgotten that my life is not
actually a novel, where the end results are visible in fine black ink on the last page. I must have
forgotten that I am not an author, where I can perfectly plan the outcome of choices.
I must have forgotten that I am not a character on a printed page.

For those of us who have moved eight times in eighteen years, we understand that some
moves are harder than others. My worst move was number six, welcoming me to Chester
Springs, Pennsylvania. The name is deceptively cheerful. Middle school is universally brutal,
but moving in the middle of seventh grade is self-inflicted torture.

Lionville Middle School placed me with a guide named Michaela, who had also moved
from Wisconsin, only a year before. Administration thought they were clever: “The coincidences
are endless!” Except for one. I was a lunch packer. Michaela was a lunch buyer.
After a full month, I was still consistently keeping my head low during lunch, waiting for
Michaela to come sit by me, bringing along her other friends. I just couldn’t keep my head low
I looked up to see Annabelle looming over me. Five feet and a whopping eleven inches,
a year younger than every other student, and more opinionated than your average sports fan on
game day, she was so far not my favorite person. Her direct attitude may have reminded me a bit
of myself, but I was too downright intimidated to notice.
“Hey, I saw you sitting here, and I wondered if you wanted to come sit with my friends
over there. We have plenty of space.” The smile didn’t reach her mouth, let alone her eyes, but
the sympathy did as she pointed to a table of about 12 laughing girls I didn’t know.
Rule number one to moving: don’t give in to pity offers. Rule number two: don’t show
your intimidation. “Oh no, I have friends coming to find me. They’re just getting food.”
She looked skeptical. “Well… if you change your mind, we’re over there.” And she
walked away, indifferent to my pathetic excuse.
Thankfully, Michaela showed up quickly, and I never took Annabelle up on her offer. I
almost forgot the encounter. Almost.
Sophomore year was my high school glory road. I had figured out the rhythm of school, I
had advanced in my dance studio, and I felt more beautiful than ever before. I had several friends
with whom I was very close, yet I still got along well with almost everyone. But, because
personal flaws are common knowledge in high school students, I was more than aware that I did

not have that same friend group everyone else professed. I could always find Friday night plans.
But, I didn’t have a group to call my own.
There were some girls I really liked in class: Natalie, Sarah, and the same Annabelle who
had intimidated me three years earlier. The four of us tended to finish our class work early and
spend the rest of the time laughing. We became friends, but the kind of friends who only hung
out at school or a random birthday party. They already had a large clique of closely-knit girls—
the same 12 girls I recognized from an awkward middle school moment I had almost forgotten. I
reflected often on that encounter in seventh grade, wondering if a different choice then would
have given me a friend group now. But all the wishing in the world couldn’t make me a real part
of the group. I thought, “if only I could have been their friend in middle school.”

In third grade, we started learning how to print in cursive writing. Mrs. Ballard insisted
that we had to perfect this writing because after this year, our papers would only be accepted in
I haven’t written a single paper in cursive since third grade.
Before computers, I imagine most students did submit essays in that looping, lilting
script. But with the growing digital age, cursive writing is dying. It’s not hard to wonder why.
Typing gives writers a new power. Instead of scratching through long lines of prose and
making a basketball game out of crumpled papers and a trash can, it can take five seconds to
delete hours, even days, of work. Whole passages can be copied and pasted with only a button.
There’s no need to deliberate over what to keep and what to trash- a single backspace, and it is

all gone. In a way, typing allows us to become masters of change. At the end, we print out our
novel, and it’s neat and clean and ordered exactly as we want. It looks perfect.
Having written plenty of papers and essays in my short 19 years, I know this: pencil and
pen are slow and ineffective compared to typing. It is no wonder that books are typed, showing
only ease and perfection. However, when I see it in hard copy, I forget that. I forget the revision
and mistakes that happened on the road to perfection. I forget that maybe the author didn’t
always know exactly where the story was going.
I forget that controlling the sequence of events is not as easy as the click of a button, and
the end result isn’t always as clear as flipping to the last page of a neatly written novel.

The one positive thing I had from the moment I moved to Pennsylvania was Jake. Even
in seventh grade, I had my eye on him. By high school, my heart sped up when he entered the
room, and I would lap the entire cafeteria before returning to my small lunch table in the back,
just hoping for a glimpse of him. I didn’t know him well, but I knew he was handsome,
intelligent, and respectful. More importantly, he was a mystery, and I wanted to understand his
quiet nature, especially around me. It started slow: two years of penciled snail mail before we
talked comfortably in public. Our friendship then developed from writing into discussing
books—that more perfectly printed word—running, and eventually dancing together. By junior
year, I still didn’t understand Jake completely. However, he drove the half hour to my house to
help me study physics, and he jump-started my car when I killed the battery. I should have been
thrilled when I noticed the way he looked at me. Except for rule number three to moving: four
years in one place is too long.

I found out in October that we would be moving in March, and I told Jake first. That was
when the schemes started. I could live in his backyard tree house. I could stay with another
friend. There had to be a way to remain in Pennsylvania.
There wasn’t. I don’t know if we spent so much time scheming that we didn’t notice we
were losing time. We now had a scheduled move date: March 17th, and I was losing hope that my
feelings would ever be recognized. I kept wishing that he would just kiss me, but Jake was a
gentleman and wouldn’t touch a girl who wasn’t his. It was February 17 when he came over to
go sledding on a snow day. We were sitting on the top of the hill when he looked at me and said
in one breath, “I know you’re moving, and we don’t have much time left, and with how we date
right now, it wouldn’t change anything except put a title on it, but I would always regret it if I
didn’t do something. Will you be my girlfriend?”
I still think of the 28 days we shared with a smile on my face. Somewhere in them, the
words “I love you” were spoken. With that, there was no hope of returning to friendship when
March 17th came. And March 17th did come, despite my fervent prayers that it would not. As we
drove out of Pennsylvania, tears washed away my makeup. I thought about the letters we’d
written before, and how long distance wouldn’t be that different. But another thought nagged at
me. I had spent so long being shy, being slow to admit my feelings, and because of it, I had only
had one month with Jake. I could have had so much more time as his girlfriend, in person.

I was always the biggest supporter of pencils, even once computers became popular.
Writing in my own handwriting felt more personal, more me. My favorite type was the Paper

Mate mechanical pencils. I constantly had to refill the graphite, but their erasers were long white
sticks of redemption. No matter how much I erased, I never made it through one whole eraser.
I never understood how my peers could write in pen. Pen is permanent. Pen doesn’t have a
redemption stick. Pen glides too easily in your hands. Pen is messy. Pen shouts, “I made a
mistake and can’t fix it.” Pen tells people that you cannot change your mind.
It wasn’t until my sister passed through the kitchen as I was writing in my journal one
night, not long after we had left Pennsylvania for our newest adventure, that my thinking
changed. “Pencil fades with time,” she said, “Unless you get every single page of your five
bazillion journals laminated, it will be too discolored for anyone who might actually care to read
it in 100 years.”
I brushed off her comment, but I realized something that night. Pen is permanent. Pen
says, “I am not perfect, but I am confident, and I don’t care if you see my mistakes.” Pen allows
you to think faster, write faster. Pen doesn’t allow you to delete the mistakes like they never
happened; instead, it leaves a remnant of the changes, evidence of improvement and reminders of
old ideas. Scratching out is messy, but it doesn’t destroy the story. Some would say it says more
about the author and her personality than the perfectly printed pencil or carefully calculating
computer ever could.

I sit at my desk today, the pen I hold dangling precariously over the clean paper. I am not
sure what to say. What does one say to an old friend who has to leave his mission early for
reasons he won’t quite explain to you? I drop my pen for a moment. He is home now. Eighteen
months early, but he is home. Isn’t my work done? I did write him for those first—and only—six
months of his mission, after all.

The feeling from this morning washes over me again, reminding me that he needs a
friend right now, someone who will listen and understand. If I don’t write him, he may feel
lonely, and I may eventually wonder what good I could have done if I had written. So, I take a
deep breath, pick up the pen, and begin writing.
An hour later, I have two full pages. There are at least a dozen crossed out phrases and
smudges, places where I am still not sure I said the right words. I don’t know how he will receive
this letter. But I fold the pages and lick the addressed envelope, sealing its fate. As I set it aside,
the stack of blank paper stares up at me, and new ideas are already flowing quickly and
chaotically through my brain. I lift my tool back up, registering my newly acquired comfort with
plastic and ink.
I no longer write my life like a beautifully typed novel. I write in pen.