Love is not something you do for yourself – it’s what you do to serve others.
Uncertainty was her only certain emotion at the moment. Delphine stood stoic and still outside the familiar house, just a few steps away from the front door. She had been here plenty of times before, in her youth, and what to her, seemed like an imaginary lifetime ago. Her fingers nervously fidgeted with the hem of her shirt, unsure of what next to do with her hands. She had options: she could knock, or perhaps ring the doorbell, neither of which put her at ease. Instead, Delphine lit a cigarette. She turned her back on the house to face the street and inhaled her first drag of smoke, while closing her eyes. The taste lingered until it left her mouth dry, then travelled down her throat, finally coating her lungs in a warm blanket. Once she exhaled, she felt much noticeably lighter. She could do this, she thought, as she squeezed her eyes closed tighter, she could —
“Delphine, is that you? Hey, Delph!”
Delphine’s eyes fluttered open confused, as she dropped her cig. Shit, she muttered under her breath, while using the tip of her boot to smash out the ashes. When she finally looked up, there leaning against the old wooden mailbox was a familiar face she once called friend. Delphine attempted a sardonic smile, and waved him over excitedly, “It’s been awhile, Oliviero.”
He scoffed playfully, while walking up the driveway and towards Delphine with his arms open, “Oliviero huh? Who am I, my father?”
Delphine laughed and hugged her old neighborhood best friend, “I would have never recognized you, Oli. With your tie and suit! When did you become so serious?”
Oli took a step back away from Delphine, her shoulders still in his hands, to get a better look at her up close. He wanted to answer, “When you left.” But immediately decided against it, and instead responded with, “What are you doing back? Never thought we’d see you again.”
Delphine noticed the masked pain in his voice, and put her hand over Oli’s. She gave the back of his hand a small squeeze before both his arms dropped back to his side. Solemnly, Delphine answered instinctively with the first thought that came to her mind, “I never thought I’d be back either. Not — not, after Finley… well, you know.”
Oli winced at the surprising mention of Delphine’s deceased twin brother’s name. He managed a small forced smile, and rubbed the scruff on his face out of habit. Of course he knew, everyone knew, it was the tragedy of their small town. He could sense Delphine’s growing discomfort and redirected the conversation, suddenly realizing whose house they were lounging in front of, “So have you kept in touch with Catherine then?”
Delphine laughed nervously, and dodged his stare. She could hear the teasing in Oli’s tone of voice. “Not as much as I should have, apparently. What about you?”
“I’m actually working for her father’s firm, now.” Oli paused, and watched Delphine sway side to side, shifting her weight from one foot to the other. He wondered what she was thinking about. He wanted to ask, but he didn’t want her to shut him out so soon… again. However, he wanted answers, and he knew how to coax Delphine into giving them. “She’s getting married, you know.”
At this, Delphine perked up, a pang of pressure in her chest waiting to erupt, and met Oli’s crystal blue eyes. So it was true? Oli hesitated for a moment in the silence, and then asked what he had been itching to ask since the moment he saw Delphine, “She’s why you came back, right?”
Delphine opened her mouth to protest, to reassure herself she was only back in town to salvage her brother’s possessions before her mother sold her childhood home — but nothing came out. Instead, the creaking sound of the front door opening, interrupted the stillness, and Delphine heard Cat’s voice for the first time in three very long years.
“What the hell are you doing with her, Oli?”
People, like continents, have different time zones — learning, failing, succeeding, loving at their own pace.
Time is imperfectly measured, not by infinite numbers, but by myriads of memories.
The sun was setting overhead, and I could feel it, the vibrations. The trickle of momentum started at my feet, rupturing my locked knees, I swayed from side to side smashed between the bodies of my two best friends. The background bass overpowered our voices, and all I could hear was my own heart enthusiastically pounding against my eardrums. Each pulsation reverberated throughout my body, growing energetically with enthusiasm… and also impatience.
We were having fun, no doubt. But we wanted to get inside the festival grounds. We had been standing in line for over an hour and a half already, and the high from anticipation was slowly transforming into annoyance. The security was obviously overwhelmed with the exuberant crowd lined up in zigzags outside the gates. Angelica suddenly grabbed my hand, and in response I took hold of Ramon’s. She forced her way to the front, dragging us along with her. A twinge of guilt abruptly struck my conscience when I looked back to see all the people we had moved in front of… and then I heard Ramon call my name, pulling me out of my own senseless thoughts. Turning my attention back to my two friends, I saw him raise his phone for a selfie, and I genuinely smiled. It surprised even me — how effortless happiness could be.
After being patted down, very intimately I might add, by the entrance guards, we finally got in. Angelica had a few friends from her university meeting us, and she particularly wanted to introduce me to a certain someone. We had talked about it a lot in the weeks leading up to the music festival. I wanted a new experience, and I think Angelica wanted to give me that — as my parting gift, before I moved to Berlin.
Remembering this, I suddenly got nervous. I didn’t know what expectations I was supposed to have — or supposed to fulfill. Thank god, we had all pregamed before coming. The bottles of flavored vodka had been a good call to buy, it reminded me fondly of high school, and drinking with my best friend in our hotel room was something I’ll always hold close to my heart.
Although, it isn’t about the alcohol — it never is. It’s about the memory being made with someone, the time you can’t ever get back, the pure euphoria of new experiences with a soul your soul recognizes; this everlasting infinity we call the present.
I stayed close to Ramon, while Angelica and her friend Andre, led us around the different music stages searching for the meeting spot. Night had settled already, and the only blinding light came from behind DJ sets, and from the small stands selling beer and food. I was lost in my own mental musings when I finally noticed we had come to a halt near one of the water stations. I stood a few feet away from them watching one of the bands play, while they huddled around in a circle.
“Nice, let me record her.” I heard Ramon say.
“Fine, but don’t be obvious, I don’t want her freaking out,” answered Angelica.
Their voices pulled me out of my drunken isolation of thought, and I rolled my eyes impatiently, realizing they were talking about me. I tried moving myself between their shielding bodies to say something cheeky, when Angelica once again, grabbed my wrist and pulled me forward in the middle of the circle they had created — she held my palm upward toward the sky, and then her hand dropped from mine at the same time as someone else’s hand took hold.
I looked from Angelica to this new person that had gone unnoticed until now. She had this look in her eyes, like when someone knows something more than you do. It made me uncomfortable, so I withdrew my hand from hers. It was a peculiar way to meet a stranger for the first time.
“Trinh, this is my friend, Grace,” Angelica said coolly, a twinge of excitement hidden behind her voice.
I mustered up a nervous smile in response and held out my hand again towards the girl in front of me. I was trying to be relaxed, and not let my anxiousness override my laidback drunkenness. Instead she gave me a hug for a greeting, and this I appreciated. I hate shaking hands; it’s too formal for me.
My enthusiasm for the sudden friendliness erased my initial anxiety, and I embraced her back. I heard Angelica laugh sardonically, and suddenly there was a spotlight in my face. Ramon was shining his iPhone directly against my dilated pupils, and also pointing his gopro in my direction, “Okay go!”
And then I felt it, the irreparable impact of her lips against mine — the collision of chemistry commencing.
At first, came the endorphins. Alleviating my uneasiness, setting each follicle hair on my arms ablaze — unleashing a hungry desire for the person pressing her tongue against mine.
Soon followed by oxytocin. It had to be. How else could I be physically intimate with someone so suddenly? My hands gripped her waist, and she pressed her body into mine, like old lovers do, with no time to waste.
And finally — the injection of dopamine. My neuron synapses were forging and firing off new paths to my remapped brain. Or perhaps, it was serotonin. I mix up my neurotransmitting chemicals. But what I felt was elated joy, my heart pounding sporadically against my rib cage, causing a warm and calm feeling between my ears. My body was comfortably on fire.
The quartet of happiness — the chemistry of ecstasy.
I thought to myself, as I stepped back and pulled away from the touch of Grace.
It was unlike any kiss I’ve ever experienced before. Powerful, and intoxicating, and unexpected… I found myself simultaneously craving more, but being extremely overwhelmed by euphoria.
My mental capacity for logic fled my body, and my vision increased in magnitude.
Time no longer felt like a restraint on my dimensional body — its influence disappeared. The speed of light changed for me… perhaps bent is a better word. Light fragments reflected deeper and faster colors. In any direction I looked, everything seemed to be magnified. I felt the world spin beneath me, one axis degree at a time.
I put my hand in front of Ramon’s camera, and gulped a large amount of fresh air to catch my breath. He patted me on my back, congratulatory. Before I could turn back to Grace and ask what the hell just happened, I felt Angelica’s hand slip into mine again, pulling me forward through the swarm of bodies towards the main stage, the others following behind.
The Chainsmokers were set to play in an hour, and people were already gathering in mass around the area. Honestly, I don’t really much care for them. It’s Halsey I was there for, if even just for her voice. Her music had saved me once upon a time, when I promised myself I wouldn’t let anyone complete me.
Yet here I found myself unguarded with every sense of feeling heightened, my Walls of Jericho surrounded by souldiers of light. I realized in this moment I had been wrong, to not want to let people complete my heart — to complete my human experience, and like I’ve said, I’m addicted to experience.
Grace’s kiss had given me clarity I didn’t know I needed — for the tantalizing significance of being alive, in basking in the infinite, of the sacredness of friendship.
The Universe’s little reminder, “You can’t keep Love out of your house, even if you tried.”
Cheers to friendship, I really am surrounded by the most beautiful souls.
Why I Am Who I Am
“Happiness is best when shared.”
Being the only daughter definitely has its advantage, but inside a car it doesn’t. My two older brothers always get the window seats, and yet again, I found myself squeezed in the middle of them in the backseat. They both had their heads leaned against the window, and were fast asleep. I didn’t understand how the excitement wasn’t keeping them wide-awake.
The sun was just rising; dawn steadily breaking the deep purple horizon. My parents animatedly sat in the front seat, holding hands, and singing along together to Total Eclipse of the Heart. My mom was in the passenger seat, thumbing through the map with her free hand, and my dad keeping his eyes on the stretched out highway.
We had about 12 hours to drive to the coast of Texas: South Padre island. Every summer we took a family vacation, and this year was my turn to choose the destination, so I picked the beach, I picked the sun, I picked the clear water.
I watched you grow, while I withered. That is the life of a tree — your tree.
You used to sit on one of the thickest branches that extended out towards the sky, and climb to the top to pick my peaches. I’d watch you toss them down to your brothers, while gathered them for your grandma.
I’ve watched many human generations of your family.
The older you got, less time you spent with me. I think perhaps my roots adapted to this change of pace, as each passing year I developed less and less fruit.
But on the summer your grandmother passed away, you stayed in her house for the following month like you used to during childhood.
Time is linear, my dear child, but growth is not.
“El huevón limpia doble.” (The lazy one cleans twice.)
In May of 2012, I had just arrived home from my second year of university for the summer. I was halfway through my undergrad studies of Biology, and left uninspired and out of place. So I welcomed the idea of going home, of being around friends, and family — of feeling like I belonged.
The drive from my university to my small hometown in Texas is about a 9-hour drive through many different terrains, one I have begrudgingly learned to cherish. Long drives and music really have a way of clearing the mind.
When I finally arrived at home, it was midday. My mom would still be at the hospital working, and my dad just getting off. It didn’t bother me however, our empty house. I preferred it this way, having the alone time to unpack my things for my summer stay without the bombardment of questions from my parents.
While putting away my things, I heard the faint sound of my front door being opened. Getting up enthusiastically, I ran over to the living room to greet my dad and hug him. He smiled lopsidedly at me and kissed the top of my head, “It’s good to see you mija, home feels better with you here.”
My dad took off his boots and put away his things. He turned on the TV and I could hear the news in the background. This struck me as unusually odd; he never listened to this bullshit, normally he’d annoyingly be watching a sports channel. While I let the food simmer on the stove, I walked over to the livingroom and sat with him. Then I soon understood why he had it on the news, his focus was on his phone. I peered over at what he was concentrating on, and saw his scrolling through his sports app. Laughing, I snatched up his phone from him and stuffed it behind a pillow, “You can look at that later.”
His rubbed the scruff of his uneven beard, and looked at me playfully, the corner of his mouth curling upwards in his fatherly smile, “I’m hungry.”
In the background, the news anchor in his haughty voice announced, “North Carolina becomes the 30th state to ban gay marriage.”
It caught my attention, and I frowned turning my head to the screen.
“North Carolina is no longer a shadowy place Trinh, now we can go there,” my dad said smugly, in a terrible reference to a Lion King quote by Mufasa to Simba.
I turned back to him, surprised, speechless and with anger welling up in my eyes.
“Whoa mija, what’s wrong?” My dad cupped my face, and looked at me intently. I didn’t know where this reaction was coming from, or where my delicate courage came from when I managed to accusingly utter out, “Why shouldn’t I be able to get married wherever the hell I want?”
His facial expression registered from confusion to understanding to blind anger, his hands dropping from my face, as he engaged me in a stare down battle.
The doorbell interrupted us, signaling my mom being home. I was frightened; my impulsive revelation to the non blood related man I considered my dad couldn’t be taken back.
I used to loathe the smell of your perfume, and all the ways in which this single scent could make me re-live an overwhelming amount of better off forgotten memories.
Our last encounter, two years ago, ended terribly. On Christmas night, after we had had dinner at your parents, you told me you were seeing someone else. Not only dating someone new, but fucking him too. My brain shutdown, a normal response to trauma, according to psychology. I melted into your evergreen colored couch shocked. I wasn’t sure what you were expecting my reaction to be. In truth, that moment was the closest I have ever come to sincerely hating you.
You sat beside me hesitantly, and hugged me, desperately trying to console me and soothe my anger. I flinched at your touch, and eventually let you — I didn’t have the mental capacity to stop you.
The smell of your skin wrapped around me. Deep and musky, with an underlying waft of lavender and vanilla. I concentrated on this, let it completely blind and intoxicate me. It was all I could do to hold myself together.
My favorite picture is placed in a black frame. It’s my most prized possession, and has been everywhere with me. All the countries I’ve lived in, and all the lands I’ve travelled — this is always the one thing that comes with me.
The picture is of my mom and I. It’s one of the few pictures I have of us together — even more unusual, I’m actually smiling. Not making a dumb face or being silly, but genuinely smiling. I look happy. So does my mom.
I fear missing out on the people I love.
you are my person
i have loved you from the start
and until the end
Whiskey amber surrounds your pupils, while a light evergreen shade makes up the outer layer, infiltrating the golden color. It reminds me of Sunday mornings in the mountains, where I would look up through the ocean of trees to catch a glimpse of the sunrise, while streams of bright golden sunlight pierced through.
My love for your eyes, overpower my jealousy. Out of all of us, you alone inherited grandpa’s light colored trait.
Maybe that’s why I always felt growing up, mom loved you more.
“You have abuelo’s hands.”
I reaction essay I wrote at the beginning of my first semester for my Creative Writing class. It goes as follows:
There are seven different short exercises which will make up a collage of your life. It’s important for each exercise to write spontaneously; let the words flow out; just follow your pen; don’t censor, don’t judge. Don’t ask: did this really happen – assume that it did.
My teacher gave us 10 minutes to write for each prompt:
Describe a smell from your past.
Describe a moment everything changed.
Describe a car journey from your childhood.
Letter from a tree.
Describe your favorite photo.
Quotations from your past.
Describe a part of someone you love.
as though the galaxy of love
approves of only certain stars