Plain China

April 2018

Seventy

Danny Duffy · University of Florida

When she turned seventy, my grandmother stopped pretending to quit smoking.

Mokita

Polina Solovyeva · New York University

It is the worst at nights when everything is still and silent and when everything that is left is the whisper. In the darkness Harold cannot see my face; I feel the warmth of his body lying next to mine, and I am waiting for his whisper. It goes: Alma, Alma, Alma, Alma, Alma.

The Space We Have Left

Anna Girgenti · Loras College

Everyone I want to love is knuckle-distance away on a map the size of my hand. We are fingertips on opposite sides of glass, telephonic voices in adjacent time zones— it’s all too far for me.

Choices

Josie Sloyan · Grinnell College

When they met they fell in love and decided to get married and all of a sudden they were in California. The successive events were short and definitive as knife wounds. His father was dying and needed someone to stay with him in his home outside Fresno. He flew out first. His father died. She followed in a car out of whose windows stuck lamps and drying racks and antique chairs snitched from her ma’s house.

Tuesday

Katherine Tison · University of Florida

Paint rollers on sale today, thankfully.

Krousher

Russel Jaffe · Oberlin College

I once read that an eye could be removed from its socket, the optic nerve still attached and functioning. Can you imagine such a careful operation?

Hairy Girl

Emma Ditzel · Loyola University

You must have stared at your reflection for an hour before the choice was made. Your eyes followed up the slope of your nose to your eyebrows and the jet black hairs subtly connecting them. It was an easy decision if you didn't think about it, but that was never really your style. So there you sat, contemplative and turning a pink, plastic, disposable razor back and forth in your hand.

Chocolate

Jennelle Barosin · Loyola University

I’m a firm believer that it shouldn’t be cold without snow. There is no reason for the air outside to freeze in my lungs as I open the window and clamber out onto the fire escape in the blue-grey of the predawn morning. The metal railings burn my palms as I make my way to the roof, four floors up. When I reach the top, pulling myself over the last rungs of the ladder, gasping, I see her. She’s wrapped in a down comforter holding a mug of hot chocolate. The steam curls up, ephemeral. I can’t feel the cold at all anymore, not when her face unfolds like a flower blooming in high speed when she sees me, red-faced and out of breath.

Seventy

Danny Duffy · University of Florida

When she turned seventy, my grandmother stopped pretending to quit smoking.

Mokita

Polina Solovyeva · New York University

It is the worst at nights when everything is still and silent and when everything that is left is the whisper. In the darkness Harold cannot see my face; I feel the warmth of his body lying next to mine, and I am waiting for his whisper. It goes: Alma, Alma, Alma, Alma, Alma.

The Space We Have Left

Anna Girgenti · Loras College

Everyone I want to love is knuckle-distance away on a map the size of my hand. We are fingertips on opposite sides of glass, telephonic voices in adjacent time zones— it’s all too far for me.

Choices

Josie Sloyan · Grinnell College

When they met they fell in love and decided to get married and all of a sudden they were in California. The successive events were short and definitive as knife wounds. His father was dying and needed someone to stay with him in his home outside Fresno. He flew out first. His father died. She followed in a car out of whose windows stuck lamps and drying racks and antique chairs snitched from her ma’s house.

Tuesday

Katherine Tison · University of Florida

Paint rollers on sale today, thankfully.

Krousher

Russel Jaffe · Oberlin College

I once read that an eye could be removed from its socket, the optic nerve still attached and functioning. Can you imagine such a careful operation?

Hairy Girl

Emma Ditzel · Loyola University

You must have stared at your reflection for an hour before the choice was made. Your eyes followed up the slope of your nose to your eyebrows and the jet black hairs subtly connecting them. It was an easy decision if you didn't think about it, but that was never really your style. So there you sat, contemplative and turning a pink, plastic, disposable razor back and forth in your hand.

Chocolate

Jennelle Barosin · Loyola University

I’m a firm believer that it shouldn’t be cold without snow. There is no reason for the air outside to freeze in my lungs as I open the window and clamber out onto the fire escape in the blue-grey of the predawn morning. The metal railings burn my palms as I make my way to the roof, four floors up. When I reach the top, pulling myself over the last rungs of the ladder, gasping, I see her. She’s wrapped in a down comforter holding a mug of hot chocolate. The steam curls up, ephemeral. I can’t feel the cold at all anymore, not when her face unfolds like a flower blooming in high speed when she sees me, red-faced and out of breath.