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Cover
Table of Contents
Editor's Notes
Donations
Submission Guidelines
Website

Stories & Essays
...gone tomorrow
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By jp Rodriguez
Barbie and the Burn Scars
_ By Dion OReilly
Bright Lights
_ By Nicole Exposito
Cricket Theory
_ By Sophia Alev
Dieciseis
_ By Kate Delany
Fines Double In Work Zone
_ By Brian Stumbaugh
Guy and Doll
_ By John P. Loonam
Lake
_ By Erlynda Jacqui Chan
Lala's Diner
_ By Nicole Exposito
Laundry
_ By Allison P. Boye
Love Story
_ By Cynthia Burke
Magic Bags and Forgotten Princesses
_ By Ken Goldman
Squirrels
_ By Benjamin Buchholz

Poetry
Baking Bread and Other Subtleties
_ By Leland Jamieson
Corpus Christi
_ By Taylor Collier
Early Cold
_ By Yvette A. Schnoeker-Shorb
Ekphrasis at the Mall
_ By James Owens
Games In Your Uncle's Den
_ By Robin Stratton
My Spanish Rose
_ By Jose Rivera
Northern Lights, Southern Soul
_ By E.F. Kramer
Posted on Fifth Avenue
_ By J.R. Salling
Sirens
_ By Naiya Wright
Summer Sojourn
_ By Cheryl Butterweck-Bucher
The Himalayan Sunset
_ By Rohith Sundararaman
Time Decays, Clots
_ By Kristine Ong Muslim
Turn
_ By Terrance Schaefer
Where You Rest
_ By Stephanie N. Barnes

Art & Photography
Bissan Alhussein
_ Paintings
E.W. Hung
_ Photography
Papa Osmubal
_ Drawings
Linda Pakkas
_ Drawings
Anastasiya Tarasenko
_ Paintings
Filip Wierzbicki
_ Paintings and Digital Photography
Nancy Xu
_ Paintings and Drawings

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Bright Lights
By Nicole Exposito


You sit inside the free clinic, on a cheap plastic chair nestled amongst rat droppings and dust, staring at the particular shade of gray paint on the wall, unsuccessfully disguising the spider web cracks and the bugs that crawl out of them. You would not be surprised to feel a rat brush the heel of your gold-sequined stilettos, but still, you would scream. You would scream because you are just that type of girl. You are a tease, a coquette, you play foolish games with men and make them think they’re winning, and they fall for it. You are an Austen heroine who’s survived the nineties. You’re a tart.

It’s dark inside the free clinic. The lights in the waiting room are off, but it’s all right. Through a floor-length window, the city glows. The city could light the far side of the universe if it were launched into space like a rocket ship. Now, the light illuminates the gaunt, scowling face of the white woman in the chair across from you. She’s challenging you, you know. She’s daring you to giggle, or to twirl your hair, or to see a rat and squeal like a black-and-white picture blonde. She’s daring you to show your proclaimed girlishness, so she can laugh and act all high-and-mighty, the trash she is. But don’t you worry, darling. There are no rodents around.

She’s a white woman with bottle-blonde hair and lipstick the exact wrong shade of magenta. Enrique would be offended. But it’s best you don’t think of Enrique. Her bone-thin arms fade into a skinny tube top, which fades into a wrinkled, sunburned belly and bony legs just barely interrupted by a raggedy mini-skirt. She looks like a horse. A horse in pink eye make-up. The boy, he looks a bit smarter. He sits between you and the woman, the third in a semi-circle, all shaggy curls and dark, Cuban eyes. He wears his culture like a gaudy button—fisherman’s slacks, oversized white work shirt, a neon-blue plastic rosary dangling from one hand like a stage prop. You stare out the window and wonder what Enrique would say, what he would think of this riffraff, this driftwood.

Outside is the city. It is Alexandria, New York, Tokyo, a thousand years of human history beat together and doused in lights. It is a guilty pleasure, it is eternal damnation as bought out and sold by the acre, middle America naked in a dream. It is Canterbury.

It is the boy who speaks first.

“So,” he asks, “who are you waiting for?”

White Trash looks at him like he’s a piece of meat. He’s a good little Catholic boy, probably from a small town in Florida, like all the rest. She knows every boy like him in the whole city; the waiters and cash register boys at tackily-lit gift stores and liquor marts come to the city for fame and fortune and end the night drunk in gutters or in the well-worn beds of wrinkled bleach-blondes with the wrong shade of lipstick.

“You go first,” she purrs. She just might catch herself a convert tonight.

“I’m waiting for my friend,” the boy says.

“Poor baby. Whatever for?”

“He ODed.”

“I’m very sorry. I’ve been there, too. Not tonight, though.”

“Oh. What happened tonight?”

She smiles grimly, she thinks she’s coy. “My friend. She got a bit... roughed up.”

Roughed up. You were there when she walked in tonight, you saw the crazy whore she was with. You heard yelling before they walked through the door, heated profanity about a customer, and a failed experiment you know better than to repeat to yourself. She was half-dressed with a black eye, a limp arm, and bruises up her bare, stomach, ribcage, and collarbone, out of control. She would have broken away and ran out into downtown had it not been for three nurses and a syringe of tranquilizer, and you think good riddance—the last thing downtown needs is another lingerie-clad psychopath running around cursing. You recall the scene, the calmness of the nurses as they carried the now-unconscious prostitute to the exam room or whatever they call it around here, leaving this hussy to sulk and glare. Apparently the boss did it.

Now the woman is looking at you. “You have a name?”

You are surprised, you let yourself lose focus again, your mind wander. How long have you been here, in this hospital?

(Turn the page)