Straight or Curly?

I’m an Algerian immigrant who was raised in America. Having to live and adapt to both worlds was not as challenging as I expected. I adapted to the difference in food, clothing, and language easily but there remains one variety I can not acclimate: beauty. Specifically my hair.

I cherish my curly long thick hair, although I was obsessed with silky straight hair.

In Algeria, the ideal hairstyle was straight hair, but my hair, on the other hand, was the complete opposite.

I can vividly remember the struggle getting ready for school every morning.

I remember stretching loose the bones in my body. I lazily threw on some clothes as I dragged myself over to the bathroom sink. Carefully and slowly I took my time brushing my teeth, so I could postpone hair time.

My mom would peek her head into the bathroom, and ask, ”you ready?”

I nodded in response.

She reached for my hair. I tightly gripped the edge of the sink and the towel in my hand, I shut my eyes, scrunched my face, and waited for the explosion of pain. She shoved her fingers inside the big ball of hair. The search of the hair tie has begun.

When she would finally get a hold of it, she’d hold my hair close to my scalp with one hand and with the other, pulled the hair band with all of her might.

Tears gliding down my face was the only type of soothing I felt at the time. I loosened the sweaty grip of the towel and sink.

Years have passed with the same struggles, but I feel more comfortable about it. I’ve accepted that yes this is my hair. This is me.

Until one summer day in Algeria. My cousins and I told stories, talked and laughed.

“Oh yeah Assirem, let me see the pictures from the party last night!” Yasmina my cousin says.

Proudly, I scrolled through my camera roll, quickly searching for the best picture before handing her the phone.

I sat patiently waiting to be bombarded with compliments, my chest raised high, big smile across my face.

“You went to the party with your hair like this?”, She disgustingly murmured out.

She quickly hands me the phone back as if it was a dirty diaper.

I chuckled awkwardly, my heart stood stiff as a rock. I can feel the redness arising under my skin. I looked over to the rest of my cousins for some comfort but they all agreed

“What do you mean? I like the way my hair looked.”

“Well I just thought you would straighten it, the fact that it was a party and all.” she rolled her eyes looking at her fingernails.  

I got up and walked out.

Many experiences such as these happened in Algeria, this caused me to be more aware of how my hair looks.

Until I came to America. I've been to many parties. I would be shocked seeing girls coming in with hair curly, poofy straight hair! These observations made me appreciate the difference in my beauty, that sets me apart from others.

At school one evening , exhaustion ran from my scalp through my body to the tip of my toes.

3:05, finally time to go home. I unlocked my locker as a fast as possible, hoping to not mess up. My three best friends surrounded me impatiently, ready to go home.

Suddenly, a shiver ran down my back. I jerked my head back quickly.

“Of course,” I thought to myself with relief.

Two girls were wrapping and brushing their fingers through my hair. In the least awkward way, I gently began to loosen my hair out through their finger.

“Assirem, so do you like braid it or put twists in it for it to come out this way.” One of them stated reaching back for my hair.

“No, it’s natural,” I chuckled.

They both took a step back.

The other girl followed up by, “so then what products do you put in it for it to curl like this.”

I looked up to the top of my locker.

“water,” I stated jokingly as I inserted my notebook into my book bag.

Now I think to myself alone in the quietly bathroom. Watching the steam rise from the straightener sitting patiently on the marable. I divide my hair into two sections, it is easier that way.. I run the last strand tightly through the iron from root to the tip. I stand back. One side was big volumized curls, the other was flat straighten hair.

I bend down gently to pull the plug out of the outlet. With a smile of satisfaction and accomplishment, I walk out.

Straight or curly?

I am both.  

My Sister and I? Twins?

“Zoe or Chloe?” Tia says.

         That’s the million dollar question. Who am I? Am I my sister? Or am I me? We both sigh. We both laugh. We both sag our shoulders. How was I supposed to know that a few shared gestures will cause a conflict of telling the difference between two people?

          I want to blame my mother for dressing us up alike as kids. I want to accuse my former self of letting it happen. I wish to blame the people who started the conflict. I blame myself for getting conflicted of who I am.

          Zoe’s tall. I’m taller. I have hazel eyes. She has brown eyes. She’s a brown girl. I’m a light skin. I have lighter hair than her. I’m quiet. She’s outgoing. Zoe has her style. I have my own.

     “I’m Chloe,” I reply. She expression shows defeat. I show an understanding. I feel disappointed.

For all my life I have to bear through the persistence of people thinking we are alike. We “look the same.” I should dismiss it off nor shouldn’t let it get to me. But that is being said about all black people. We all look alike. We’re black. Big lips. Everything. How am I supposed to ignore a stereotype? Why should I?

I always try to dress differently from my sister, even if I have to express contrastingly or to move from my comfort zone to be noticed. To not be put in the same category as her. My personality is different from her. Everything I do is to get away from the ignorance of people. I’m afraid  I’ll be so consumed into standing out in the crowd, that I will lose the qualities that make me.

There are those few miracles that came to my life where we were separate people. They did not let the words of ignorance devour their ways of greeting. They were able to notice me. The person who I am.

Thursday evening or Sunday meeting, at the end of the meetings, Brother Carter always told us “It’s the Zoe and Chloe Show!” At a young age, I appreciated it. Loved to be part of my sister. Call me selfish, but I want my space; to be separated. I’ve gained my own electronics, school, and even my own room. It’s bad enough that we must share the suffering of ignorance from people.

When I was 10, I remember on a Sunday morning, there was a special meeting in my congregation. The circuit overseer was there. We were going over the Watchtower. I was going to raise my hand for the next question. He looked around the room until he met my eyes. I smiled. I was ready. At least for the Watchtower.

“Zoe please.” He said. I was confused. Zoe was home, sick. I didn’t register at the moment that he was talking about me. Another brother came with the microphone. I took the microphone and gave a deep breath.

It’s Chloe,” I replied. He gave a look of shock. I felt my mother’s disappointment. I wasn’t sure then why there was such a reaction. I didn’t realize then the hardened gaze I gave nor the venom in my voice. It was little, but enough for it to be known.

Even to this day, I can’t get past the guilt. The fact that I let such emotions escape from the facilities of the mouth and my eyes. The truth many knows, but don’t wish to meet, was the anger I felt of someone who knew me for years to still mistake me for my sister. I took my time into getting to know people, and yet in return, I “influenced” the ongoing struggle to a separate individual. A slap in the face they say.

I sometimes wish I was the only girl, but I know I don’t want it. I love my sister. I just wish we weren’t forced to be tied to the hip bone. I do hope and know there are people that will take the time and see we are two different people. I do wish they find me. The ones of the constant persistence of merging us together. They can stay a distance from me. As long as I know who I am, I should be good.

Video Games

The score was 19 to 19. We were on a 15 game win streak. The tension was thick and I never took my eyes off of the tv. The ball was inbounded to me, so I ran up the court with it. I had an open lane to the hoop because my defender was guarding someone else. I held the square button and held my breath as my player flew into the air and was immediately surrounded by the other players. It was a trap. My player came crashing down, dunking on everyone that was under the basket. I leaped up and screamed in joy as I had ended the game that was so contested.

Video games were always apart of my life even at a young age. My family was always playing the video games and I couldn’t help but to want to play too. They would play games like Final Fantasy 7, Grand Theft Auto, Crash Bandicoot, Kingdom Hearts and more when they wanted to play some one player games. Those games were fun, but I would usually play the multiplayer games with my cousins and dad. We played all sorts of multiplayer games like basketball, Sonic 2 and 3, Fight Night, Madden, Tekken, Soulcalibur, Mortal Kombat and much more.

Playing these games made my childhood pretty competitive when it came to gaming. Now, I wasn’t the best, but the point would be to just have fun even if you win or not. When I received my first game system, which was a VTech V smile, I was overwhelmed with joy since I didn’t have to beg to play the game anymore. After receiving a V Smile, I wanted to get even more games. When I got older, my parents bought me a PS3, and that’s where it all changed right there. My desire to play the game went from being a hobby into a habit. All day, every day, I would be on the game until my mom would yell at me to get off the game.

I play video games because they entertain me when I’m bored or help me calm down if I’m upset. Video games bring a massive amount of fun to me but that fun does not come alone. Every video gamer knows the experience of the gamer rage, whether they have raged only once or if they rage every day. If you play video games a lot, you’re bound to get angry, especially if it’s a competitive video game. The rage is unlike any other type of rage because you’re not mad at the world or anyone around you, you’re mad at how difficult is it to succeed a goal in that game. But that urge to succeed is what keeps you playing the game, and that’s what I like about video games. They gave me the determination that I have today.

I remember one time when I was playing NBA 2K17 with my friends and we were playing against some people online in MyPark. We kept it a contested game until the other team started destroying us off of screens and fast dribbling. My friends and I were mad, especially me because I absolutely hate screens on 2K. When the other team hit the winning shot, anger filled up inside of me. I was trying my hardest to control it, but it was overwhelming me. The people who won were talking their trash talk on the game chat yelling in everyone’s ears. I got up and yelled back at them and kicked the office chair I was sitting on. Right before their mics cut out, I heard “Run it back then, come back around!” from the people who beat me. I was furious when I heard that. My mom yelled at me to get off the game but I refused. I wanted to go around and beat those guys because I lost. So that’s exactly what I did, and by doing that my team and I won and they left the park. Playing video games showed to me that if you try hard enough, you can achieve your goals. Even though sometimes I don’t try my hardest in school, I do try my hardest when I want to do something I’m passionate about, specifically video games. I feel forced to go to school and I don’t mean to say that in an offensive way, I just do. However, when I play video games that feeling is not there. It’s enjoyable while providing a challenge for me. For some games, I have to carefully strategize how to complete a challenge. Others games can be easy and does not require much thinking. Either way, I enjoy playing video games and they have influenced me in an important way.

The Mute Latino

All my life I grew up in a Allentown rice and bean making environment. My family always goes  to my great grandma's house  and the smell of rice and beans just lures you in. I use my Spanish One  knowledge and a little bit of the spanish I  speak at home,  to communicate with my mama because like me,  she only knows one language. I know English and she knows Spanish. I never knew the importance of speaking spanish. I doesn’t understand and not knowing something or ignorance is terrible especially when it’s your own culture and race.  

When my family moved to Philly when I was younger all  my friends were African american . I just adapted to that way of life , so I felt more connected with one side of my race.I didn’t learn about my race until I got a lot older. I believe the friends you are around will shape you into who you are  and vice versa.Then, when I was younger , I moved to Carlisle because my mom went to get her law degree for three years. The majority of my friends were Caucasian, and because of that, I slowly began to lose my roots. I started acting like my friends until I was discriminated for it.  That would be like a wake up call.

“ Hey Zeyah”

“Wsp Aaron”

Outta nowhere Aaron licked my face

“ Yooo why did you do that”

“ You black so I wanted to see if you tasted like chocolate”

( Zeyah Runs off to the office)

When I moved to Philadelphia,I attended M.C.S. located on Spring Garden,with the majority of students were black, and I began to transform. For example when I was in Carlisle, I listen to more Pop and songs on the radio, but Philadelphia was trendy with Hip-hop. I started admiring hip-hop more,  and starting adapting to Philly slang and I had to get tougher. The only problem was my school had a astonishing Social Studies class but it didn’t have a Spanish class where I could  learn. I didn’t mind it as much until , I wanted some more food and my mama who her only language is  spanish couldn’t  understand me

Not speaking Spanish when your Spanish is terrible.You can’t even have a simple conversation with your own family.  Everywhere I go they start speaking the language and I just have to shake my head.

“No se”

It’s frustrating especially when other hispanics come at you for it. One day I was meeting new people and I met some spanish girl at school.



“What are you?”

“ Puerto Rican, Dominican, Black”

“ *starts speaking spanish*”

“ uhhh...I’m currently learning on Rosetta right now.”

I make up little slick excuses so I don’t look as bad. I say things wrong to like the pronunciations of different foods or just regular words because I had little practice in saying these words.I say if you learn as a baby you will know more because babies soak up more than when you grow up learning. Even though I struggle with the language.

Even though I struggle with the language, I still love my culture and  never will forget my roots. Through my eyes this system is very important because this is you your personality and your traits.  I love everything about my cultures I can relate to so many people since I’m half and half. Everything to Malcolm X and Collard Greens to pastelillos de arroz y frijoles. My family embraces their culture too. We love dancing at parties and just being ourselves. My mom introduced me to Mark Anthony which is my favorite spanish artist right now. Currently I'm still learning but the instruments and the beats in which  makes you want to dance. All I do is dance like in the Dominican Republic where they are very proud to be spanish. I learnt some words there but everything was so culturally based the people dancing Salsa and Meringue until sun up until sundown.  I often hang out with both of my families on my dad's side and on my mom’s side. My mom’s side is spanish and my dad’s side is black. I hang out more with my dad’s side now because they live closer, when I’m there I eat more cornbread, fried chicken, and white rice My spanish family eats more fried plantains,  pastelillos, and rice and beans I do see sometime a mix though in cultures which I love seeing. We eat these foods like at get togethers.



All my life, I have been judged based on how I look. People assume that I am white because my skin tone is white. When I tell them that I am not, they can start to see how I do not look as white as they thought. They look deeper than my skin color and see features of me that they do not recognize as white. For example, my nose is very arab looking, It is long and round at the end. My hair is also very thick and dark. Does having green eyes and light skin make me look less Arab? Arab people have an olive toned skin color but it is still light skin. So I ask myself what part of how I look hides the Arab looking features?

It was the first day of freshman year and I walked through the crowded cafe in my school where it was loud and chaotic. There were people all running around trying to find their classes. I started to search for my room too. I finally found it- room 301, it was the art room. The other students and I that were waiting to go into the class walked into the room. We all sat in random seats because almost no one knew each other. There were so many new faces and people to take in and names to remember. The walls were covered with windows and you could see the busy streets below. I liked this room, it was a very free and open space, it left a lot of room for imagination and creativity. When class started, we were told that we would have to work in groups of two and draw a picture of someone else’s clothing item or anything that they had on them. I turned to the boy next to me. He had dark brown hair and olive toned skin.

We simultaneously asked, “Do you want to be my partner?”

We both laughed at the timing of our question, and then we introduced ourselves.

“My name is Amani.”

His name was Naseem. As I was talking to him, I noticed that he had a hat that had an embroidered Palestinian flag on it. It was black which made the green, red, and white colors of the flag stand out.

I immediately asked, “Are you Palestinian?”

My smile reached from ear to ear. I have never met someone that is my age and is my ethnicity.

“Yeah, my mom and dad are both from there,” He said. “Why?”

“I am Palestinian too! My dad grew up in Ramallah (a city in Palestine).”

We were both smiling now, but he found it hard to believe that I was Arab. I started to get annoyed, as if I would purposely lie about my ethnicity . Why did he not believe me? I continued to try to convince him. I spoke a few words in Arabic, like hello how are you, to prove to him that I am indeed Arab.

“You look so white though! I still can not believe that you’re Arab.”

After all this he still would not have been able to tell that I was Arab if i did not tell him. I was relieved that he finally believed me. I automatically felt close to him even tho we just met.

This happens to me very often where I have to prove myself as not white. When someone tells me I look white, I get offended even though I am partly white. It makes me feel closer to the part of myself that is Palestinian and the culture that goes along with it. It gets very annoying when people point out that I do not look like my ethnicity. I can not change what I look like. I wish my ethnicity could be recognized more clearly before people start to judge me. Ethnicity is a complicated thing because your appearance can deceive what people think about where you are from. After going through these experiences it made me realize how easily people can misjudge based on something that person can not change, their appearance.

The mute Latino

All my life I grew up in a Allentown rice and bean making environment. My family always goes  to my great grandma's house  and the smell of rice and beans just lures you in. I use my Spanish One  knowledge and a little bit of the spanish I  speak at home,  to communicate with my mama because like me,  she only knows one language. I know English and she knows Spanish. I never knew the importance of speaking spanish. I doesn’t understand and not knowing something or ignorance is terrible especially when it’s your own culture and race.  

When my family moved to Philly when I was younger all  my friends were African american . I just adapted to that way of life , so I felt more connected with one side of my race.I didn’t learn about my race until I got a lot older. I believe the friends you are around will shape you into who you are  and vice versa.Then, when I was younger , I moved to Carlisle because my mom went to get her law degree for three years. The majority of my friends were Caucasian, and because of that, I slowly began to lose my roots. I started acting like my friends until I was discriminated for it.  That would be like a wake up call.

“ Hey Zeyah”

“Wsp Aaron” lllllll/lll

Outta nowhere I Aaron licked my face

“ Yooo why did you do that”

“ You black so I wanted to see if you tasted like chocolate”

( Zeyah Runs off to the office)

When I moved to Philadelphia,I attended M.C.S. located on Spring Garden,with the majority of students were black, and I began to transform. For example when I was in Carlisle, I listen to more Pop and songs on the radio, but Philadelphia was trendy with Hip-hop. I started admiring hip-hop more,  and starting adapting to Philly slang and I had to get tougher. The only problem was my school had a astonishing Social Studies class but it didn’t have a Spanish class where I could  learn. I didn’t mind it as much until , I wanted some more food and my mama who her only language is  spanish couldn’t  understand me

Not speaking Spanish when your Spanish is terrible.You can’t even have a simple conversation with your own family.  Everywhere I go they start speaking the language and I just have to shake my head.

“No se”

It’s frustrating especially when other hispanics come at you for it. One day I was meeting new people and I met some spanish girl at school.



“What are you?”

“ Puerto Rican, Dominican, Black”

“ *starts speaking spanish*”

“ uhhh...I’m currently learning on Rosetta right now.”

I make up little slick excuses so I don’t look as bad. I say things wrong to like the pronunciations of different foods or just regular words because I had little practice in saying these words.I say if you learn as a baby you will know more because babies soak up more than when you grow up learning. Even though I struggle with the language.

Even though I struggle with the language, I still love my culture and  never will forget my roots. Through my eyes this system is very important because this is you your personality and your traits.  I love everything about my cultures I can relate to so many people since I’m half and half. Everything to Malcolm X and Collard Greens to pastelillos de arroz y frijoles. My family embraces their culture too. We love dancing at parties and just being ourselves. My mom introduced me to Mark Anthony which is my favorite spanish artist right now. Currently I'm still learning but the instruments and the beats in which  makes you want to dance. All I do is dance like in the Dominican Republic where they are very proud to be spanish. I learnt some words there but everything was so culturally based the people dancing Salsa and Meringue until sun up until sundown.  I often hang out with both of my families on my dad's side and on my mom’s side. My mom’s side is spanish and my dad’s side is black. I hang out more with my dad’s side now because they live closer, when I’m there I eat more cornbread, fried chicken, and white rice My spanish family eats more fried plantains,  pastelillos, and rice and beans I do see sometime a mix though in cultures which I love seeing. We eat these foods like at get togethers.

My Adoption and Friends

Before I found out out about my adoption, I never  thought about being adopted and never cared. There was a time that someone asked me if I wanted to be adopted, it was when I was about 7 or 8 years old. Most of the kids living at the orphanage in Beijing, including myself were on a field trip or something like a vacation one day.  On the trip I was invited to a room where the walls were decorated with trees and bamboo. Inside were at 2 people. One of the person were chinese, and the other was a foreigner. I sat on one of the two benches in the room, and then they asked me to draw a person, so I drew. When I was finished, they commented on the way that I drew the person.

“ Look he even drew the neck,” one of them said to the other in amazement. After that they asked me if I wanted to be adopted and I said no to them, so then I went back with the other children. I was happy with my life and didn’t want to leave all of my friends.

I waited about three years, so when I was about 9 or 10 before I considered the idea of adoption when my close friends were being adopted. I waited  a month before I got introduced to my new found parents.

That same day someone at the orphanage took me into a room where I was introduced to two foreigners sitting  and signing a paper. As I walked into the room they looked up and smiled at me,  someone then told me to hug them, I was scared to do so but I still did it anyway. I went up to my mother first and hugged her and said “I love you” in English and I did this because I wanted to show appreciation to them, then I went to what is now my ex-father and did the same thing to him. As we were leaving the orphanage I was holding my tears back. What would happen to my friends still at the orphanage? Would I ever be able to see them again?  

Later at Hong Kong we stayed at the airport and waited a couple of hours for our plane to America. On the plane we watched a movie and played video games for most of the ride. Then I went to sleep for a little bit and woke up to the darkness of the Philadelphia Airport. Then we saw my family waiting by a van to pick us up.

On my first day in Philadelphia I was introduced to my mother’s family. I remember that I was very nervous to meet them. But I got through that part very easily, the difficult part is next. When the family started to ask questions I couldn’t understand anything and all I did was sitting there and staring them.

A couple of day later my mom told me about my friends and how they were also being adopted. I wanted to talk to them, so I asked.

“Can I speak to my friends?” I said.

“I’ll see what I can do,” my mom said.

Then the next day she put one of my friend on Skype and told to talk to them. Whenever I saw her I got very happy, because she was a very good friend and her name is Alexis. We were talking in Chinese when we talked, but I was embarrassed because my mom was listening. Then I asked Alexis about my best friend Andy.

“Do you know Andy’s Skype?” I said.

“No,” she said.

At that moment I was disappointed, but then I turned to my mom and asked her the same question.

“Yes,” she said.

After that I kept talking to Alexis, and we told each other what happened in our adoptions. She told me what happened to my friends at the orphanage,

“Some of them were also adopted and some are still there” she said

Then after I finished talking to Alexis I called Andy. I was overly excited to see him. When he picked up I started to speak.

“Hi, how are you?” I said.

“Good, how about you?” Andy answered.


Then we just went back and forth asking each other question for a couple of hours. I told him everything that happened, EVERYTHING. Then we had to depart from each other, but I was still very happy. For the next couple of months Alexis, Andy, and myself called each other every week.

For me adoption meant a new life and new opportunities. This experience help me understand that life could be great if we choose to help others, as my parents helped me to be happy. I hope I get to help someone to be happy like I was then and now. With my friends I am happy that I get to see some of them again but to I still miss Beijing, which still have some of my close friends within it.

I Am Fifteen Years Old

I Am Fifteen Years Old

My friend lives 13 miles away from my house. I take four different public transportation lines to get there. Over this hour-long trip, I see new people of all ages ranging from about 10 to 50 years old who take Septa daily, like me. Nine out of ten times, men assume that I am a lot older than I am based on my appearance. They say my dark long hair and makeup makes me physically look older. My tight fitting clothes make me look more flattering which can come off as grown. My straight posture and focused but kind facial expressions make me look mature. I’m only fifteen but men are ignorant.

This one day was a terrible day to go to my friend’s house. Because I didn’t want to spend $2.50 on the bus, I decided to walk to the subway. As I walked along Oregon, a small white Honda filled with college boys honked at me. “Hey sexy lady, why don’t you come in the car with us?” yelled a scrub in the passenger side but then drove off in a rush. I paid them no mind like I usually do when this happens. I didn’t think a tank top and ripped jeans was showy compared to my other outfits.

“Mmhhh, you looking real good there sweetheart,” a 40 year old man says as his eyes followed me slowly trying to take me in. I focused myself towards the subway entrance and ignored the very annoying perverted man. At the time, I wondered if he would still have said that if he knew I was only in my first year of highschool.

I skipped down the flight of stairs only to be glared at by strangers. The subway pulls up and I always go for the middle carts. The moment the doors opened up at Snyder, I could sense this man’s attention locked on me. He settled himself across from me. I just stared down at my feet and then looked up to catch glimpses of this man gazing at me. He was obviously lost in his thoughts. I wondered if would he still be imagining things involving me if he knew I was fifteen? I waited for the subway to fully stop before getting up to prevent myself from falling. I could see that he looked surprised when this was my stop and proceeded to look at me until the subway moved on.

Hundreds of people shifted themselves into the tiny staircase of Exit 3. When I get to the top, I take a right and go straight until I get to the other staircase. From there, I go all the way up and then take a left to the end and then another left to go down the staircase. Here, I stood against a pole as I waited for the next L to come. A group of people from the southbound BSL came flowing in. A short man, around in his thirties, stands beside me. We remained in silence for about a minute until he complimented my hair.

“Thank you,” I smiled politely.

He continued to talk about his mother and his tattoos. Basically anything to keep my attention to hit on me. I attempted so many times to end our conversation. That day, the L decided to take it’s precious time getting to me. It’s like everything that day wanted to make me suffer. When the L rolled up, the man asked me where I was going. I told him that I’m on my way to school. He then questioned what college do I go to and I told him I was a freshman.

“A freshman in college?” he asked.

I responded, “No, in high school.”

“Wait so how old are you?” he said surprisingly.


“Oh my gosh! I thought you were 21 or 22. You look so much older like I thought you were an adult.” He awkwardly said his goodbyes and parted ways.  

I can’t blame people for what they think of me. This society is stuck on what a “older” female should look like. But I’m not trying to look older and I don’t do it for attention. I have a passion for fashion and my style is popularly shared among older women. The way I speak can also make people believe that I’m older because I’m not afraid to speak out and I have manners. Kids are usually rude and wild so older men wouldn’t try to approach them. The idea of what’s right and wrong for young and old people is so broad and controversial that we should just do what fulfills our own happiness. But the intentions of naive men shouldn’t have to get in my way of doing me.

Be A Lady

“Mayah!” my mom scream-whispered.

“What?” I replied. I then sat back and sighed.

“You didn’t shave your armpits in the shower,” she hissed at me.

Somehow, I knew this argument was coming.

“Yeah I know. I didn’t want to,” I replied.  

“Mayah, we’ve talked about this. There are just some things you do as a lady. Shaving your arms is one of those things. People see you out without your underarms shaved and they judge you. Just… please do it next time you shower,”

To her, that was end of discussion. But I wasn’t accepting that.

“No mom. If I, me, personally, want to shave my armpits, I will. And mom what even is the definition of ladylike? That seriously comes from a time where society told women how to dress. So you’re doing that. Congratulations,” I said, clearly embarrassing her with my tone and frustration.

I could see her eyes become irritated, like this was not the argument she wanted to be having, because she didn't think it needed to happen. But I wasn’t giving up on what she thought, so I pressed her, just not at that moment. She let it go, rolling her eyes at me in the process.

We finished the manicure, and left to go home. Neither of us continued the argument, so it was dropped.

This conversation is always in the back of my mind when talking about my body hair with her. Since then we have had the same dispute over and over, both of us always saying the same thing as before. I don’t see her side, and she doesn’t see mine.

I remember the first time I had ever shaved my underarms. I wasn’t even the one to do it. My mom said I had to start, and that it was something I had to learn to begin to do as a growing young lady. I was terrified she would take the razor and cut me by accident, which would lead to me excessively bleeding. (As you can see I was a very overdramatic scared 12 year old.) We were in our bathroom, and she had me raise my arm, put some water on it, and stay still. To this day I still hate shaving my armpits. No matter how much shaving cream, soap, or water, it always makes me feel like I am going to accidentally hurt myself. And I can describe it as nails on a chalk board. However, I still do it to this day for one of two reasons. One being I like raising my arms when wearing a sleeveless top and being a smooth goddess. But the more serious reason is that I still have a problem with what other people think of me. I do it so people don’t look at me and say, “Ew what is she doing.” This is what society has said and done to women. Young adults, even in this evolving generation and society. I am shamed more than I want to admit, and it pisses me off that this is the society I live in. That I am judged for what hair is on my body.

I don’t only feel judged by my own mother on this issue, but most of society. So many people say women can dress however they wanted that they’ll support them. But that is only half true. When it comes to body hair, there is still some double standard to that. How society doesn’t question why men don’t save their legs, arms, or facial hair, but women are called gross or unappealing if we don’t shave everything. Lastly, the fact that I am even uncomfortable typing the word ‘armpit’ over and over truly shows how much society has put women into this box of feeling ashamed of our bodies.  

My Four Brothers and I

My parents split when I was younger. I was my fathers only child, now I have four brothers, three younger brothers  on my dad's side, and one older brother on my mom's side. Growing up being the only girl was always fun and helped me become stronger. Technically, all my siblings are my half brothers but I consider them my brothers.

In fifth grade my favorite project that I had to do was make a collage of the things that were important to me. On my project I had pictures of things like my phone, my clothes, my friends and my family. When the project was due we had to present to the class what was on our board and why. Presenting was really easy  because I knew why I put everything on the board, the part that felt funny was when people came up to me and asked questions and pointed. I got asked the same question at least 5 times by different people. Most people asked me are they really your brothers which I found interesting because I thought I made it pretty clear that they were my brothers when I presented. I got specific questions about every single brother. My older brother Samad has green eyes and sandy brown hair, so everyone assumed he had albinism. Samad looks nothing like me and I heard that forever but it wasn't something I really cared about.

After my classmates wrapped their fifth grade minds around the fact that Samad did not have to look anything like me to be related, they questioned my first little brother. It seemed as if they totally forgot the previous twenty minutes before because it was exactly the same discussion except they thought they had a solid reason on why we could not be related. Tristen was my first little brother we shared a dad. People questioned me because they assumed Tristen was white. Back in fifth grade having to explain to my friends that Tristen’s mom was white and our dad is black seemed like too much to do but, as I got older it became something like an uniform when I spoke on all of my brothers. I distinctly remember many of my peers saying “That can't be your brother he’s white.” When people said that to me it made me question what him being white had anything to do with being related to me. How could someone who had not even knew where I was from tell me who I couldn't be related to because of their skin color.

Now that fifth grade had come and gone I can look back on the project and reflect. Ignorance is what was shown but solely because they didn't know any better. For a while I didn't want to share with people my family because I felt as though answering questions about why me and my brothers didn't look alike was not something I wanted to do. As much as I love my brothers I knew people were not going to accept my family. Being older and learning new life lessons I now understand that what people think of my family doesn't matter as long as my family and I love each other that the most important thing I must remember. Even today when I tell people they have this big idea that your family members are supposed to look like you or have to have the same race as you. Family can come in all shapes, sizes, and colors so why try to categorize or make a uniform on what a family is supposed be like or look like. Race is something made up by people to separate everyone, but I know skin color will not separate my family it will bring us closer.

Me and My Mom

A lot of people asked me “How old are you?” and that’s annoying sometimes, even today.

For example, One day a few weeks ago I was in a store with my mom on 52nd street.

As soon as we walked in the cashier stared at us.

“Is that your daughter or a sister?” He asked.

“Why?” The question made me feel shy.

My mom answered, “What you think?”

The cashier didn't say anything.

Mom said, “ It’s my daughter.”

That’s why I don’t want to be in the store with my mom or dad because I'm too tall and they look young.

I just looked at people sometimes, if they asked me random questions we don't even answer their question sometimes. Some people will just be like

"What! That's not your daughter because you look young for having her.” I just stared at them without saying anything. Anytime me and my mom when to the store they keep asking the same exact question.

One day when me and my mom went to a store on 69th street. This man stared at me so hard and I was looking at him like what happened! he asked my mom in

"Is that your daughter?" he asked my mom in Madingo.

My mom [laughs.]

She said, "Why?"

"Because of y'all look alike and have the same reactions.” He answered.

She [laughed]

"No is a sister."

"Are you sure about it." He asked.

"Yes ma'am." She answered.

whenever Malinen people saw me outside they be thinking about getting married to them. They thought like I'm 18-20 years old. Like I’m only 14 years old, I'm just tall. When they try to talk to me I just ignore them. Some of the people even went to see my mom about me.

My mom [laughs.] anytime they want to talk to her about me because they wanted to marry me.

I was going to my aunt's wedding. When I went there in the afternoon one of my aunt asked me to passed the food to the guy waiting outside in the car. I took the food and passed it to him.

"What is your name?" He asked

I looked at him [laughs]

"My name is Koule." I answered.

He responded, "Okay"

When I walked away, knew why he asked me that.

In a few days after the wedding, my aunt told me that someone said they like me for marriage and I was like “What! So I just ignored her because that was going to make me think about something I don't want to be interested in.

My mom feels bad about me for taking her personality because I copied everything from her. She was so confused about how people come to house wanted to marry me. They called my mom from Africa asking for marriage and  I was like, “I’m just 14 years old, leave me alone and I'm not getting married to nobody until I finished school!”

Sometimes I feel like going to the hospital to cut my legs off because of people. I don't want to be with my mom because we look like sister next to each other.

That's not the only thing people were asking me about. Some people judging me about how tall I’ am in general. Whenever I heard people talking about me I said,

"You are just jealous of me because I'm taller than you."


I learned about people think about "When you are tall, you are old." That makes me feel bad about myself. It also makes me feel different with others around me, anytime I looked at them I look at myself.



Ever since  I was young,  I was always afraid of heights. I will never forget an experience I had at an amusement park I don't really  recall anything in particular   that   made me afraid of heights until riding my first roller coaster  When get on a ride I would have a  type of  feeling that would make me feel like  I was falling. Before entering an amusement park, , I would get out  of the car feeling nervous, terrified, and  anxious.  I would  see  all these rides,  and  while everyone  would  have a smile on their face  I  would have a straight face because of my fear.  As I was walking through the amusement park, I  wondered  about and observed  all the rides  as I  tried  to relax my mind. I tried to focus on having fun so I can enjoy all the rollercoasters.  After eating funnel cake and ice cream I think about  maybe  putting my fear aside and getting on one of the highest roller coasters   in the park. all I see are high roller coasters surrounded by me.  

As we walk, through the park I  hear  my cousins say how they want to get on all the rides while I'm shaking in my shoes. I look at the superman roller coaster but decided that  it would be too scary for me  the green lantern.  Im standing in this long line with my cousins waiting to goon. While I was waiting all I hear were people screaming and I  saw  a upside down loop  that made  me want to get out of line. “Come on mayah your getting on the ride you’r not going to get out this line  my cousins said I’m going to get on the ride”.  We got closer to the front and before I knew it,  we were up next.  I stepped on the roller coaster and sat down. I was so scared that I zoned out and couldn't wait for the ride to be over  I heard them secure the lock and then tell me to put my hands while   hey double check the locks.  The roller coaster started going up slowly and when it reached the top it paused and everyone including myself was screaming before it dropped . I was holding on to my cousin’s  hand so hard that I thought for dear life.  While waiting for the ride to drop my eyes was closed through the whole entire ride and screaming like I never going to screamed again I opened my eyes for one second and closed them back up as soon as I knew it the ride was over. When I got off the ride I felt so good because I overcame my fear.

even though I got on one of the most scariest  rides.

I learned to overcome your fear you have to try it. After that rollercoaster ride I felt more comfortable on other roller coasters  Still feeling nervous  but I felt really good overcoming my fear of heights.  Some people may look at you and feel that someone my age shouldn't be afraid of a roller coaster ride  Fear has no age limit. By the end of the day,  I felt so good leaving the park and my family had a great time because I was ok and was enjoying myself. Its really great when you are fearful of things and the people who you're with don't force you or make you feel embarrassed about your fear but instead be patient and care about how you feel.   Even though I overcame my fear of that ride I will take my time to get on it again.   To me fear means being frightened by something you are afraid of by overcoming having fear is not always a good thing to have because you don't want it to hold you back in life.  I would never want my fear to hold me back from my dreams and goals. I can't imagine allowing heights to keep me fearful because after college pursuing my professional career. Just always remember try to overcome your fear and to work through it.

The Solo...

I was 13 years old in 8th grade and it was the day of my trumpet performance at Kipp Philadelphia Charter School right next to the broad street line on Leigh. Earlier that day I woke up realizing that today was the day that I would be playing an original solo to the entire school. I was so nervous, that I was sweating a vicious storm of sweat. I went to the bathroom to wash my face and brushed my teeth. I looked in the mirror and let me tell you I could see the sweat dripping off my face.

I wiped the intense sweat off with the bathroom towel and walked down stairs to get some breakfast. After I ate breakfast I gathered my bookbag, my trumpet, and my rain jacket because the news said it was going to rain. I walked to where my school bus usually stops and it started to rain. When the bus came, I got on and went to sleep half wet. As I awoke from my slumber, getting ready to get off the bus, my back was so stiff I had to stretch until my bones screamed. I got off the bus and saw my friend Jordan, who was also my rival. He played the flute and we competed in almost everything except grades. My rival in running speed, solos, you name it. When he played that flute his style was unique from the style of a flute normal flute player. Instead of the exquisite soft sound you would get, a rock and roll harsh sound came out of it and, people liked that about his solo. I personally liked his solos as well because it was a style of where you wouldn’t expect that coming from a flute and the flow of the rock solo was amazing.

”What’s up Charles?” Jordan said.

“Nothing much.” I said, knowing that I was extremely nervous.

“Cool, you ready to perform today?”

“Yeah.” I said in a calm tone, trying to convince him and myself that I was ready.

“Cool, see you at the performance!”

“See ya.”

Later that stressful day as I was warming up with my powerful trumpet, my best buddy John came over, and he was the best saxophone player at my school, and his solos were the flows of a jazz tune that makes you sway your hands and hips to side to side. His creative improvisation would always get you to smile. He’s unpredictable and I love that about him. Also right next to him was the best Trombone player in the school and his name was Tyreeq. When he played that Trombone it would produce such a rich, deep, and powerful sound. His solos were simple but his technique on the sound of his instrument was why he was the best.

“Hey Charles!” said John and Tyreeq happily.

“Are you ready for the solos, the performance starts in 5 mins” Tyreeq said.  

 “I guess.”

“I’m just so hype!” John said with a huge smile on his face.

“Same!” Tyreeq said.

They both went to their band section and it was finally time to start. It was a massive crowd of the whole school gathering together to watch the performance. We played “Get funky”(We called it Get funky but it’s called Get lucky”) Last but not least we played Superstition. Everyone was screaming and cheering when we played superstition, which by the way is a classic soul song by Stevie Wonder. I was the first to play the solo. I got up there and I started to sweat so much that it was literally seeping down my back and my legs and it was really uncomfortable, but as soon as I blew into my trumpet I lost myself in a jazzy solo that I didn’t know I was capable of. It felt like I was in a whole different world because when I played that solo it was the nicest, cleanest, and most majestic solo I have ever created in my life. After my solo everthing was a blur because I was lost in the majestic flow of music but, I can say that all 3 of my friends, Jordan, Tyreeq and John did just as good as me with their own amazing styles. From this  performance, I learned that if you try your best and have fun then you may discover a hidden talent that you never knew you were capable of. I also learned that I was the best trumpet player at school.

Being Tall

Madelyn Malloy

Being the Tallest

Starting in Kindergarten, I was always the tallest amongst all of my classmates, and I would constantly receive comments and remarks about it. Even all of my teachers joined in on the endless remarks about my height, like I was completely oblivious to the fact that I had an unordinary height for my age.

I get my height from my dad, and not only did inherit that, I inherited his appearance. This was another thing that people would comment about. I also was a twelve pound baby at birth, so there was something special bound to happen to me in the future, which was in fact my height. I also was born with scoliosis which was a downside to how big of a baby I was. My growth spurts also made my scoliosis progressively worse.

All the comments and remarks about my height have started approximately in the fourth grade at a five-foot height. Mind you, I always had been the one to help out my teachers so they could decorate their classroom in ¨hard to reach places¨, and before you know it, my assistance became widespread to all the floors where my classes were. At least once every other day teachers had wanted me to help hang up their decorations corresponding with every season, or any holiday, which was annoying, but I also had the opportunity to be called out of my classes which was not bad at all. After a while, I was kind of used to being asked to help out teachers in ¨hard to reach places¨, until the comments came rolling in.

¨Wow, you are so tall,¨ was one of the comments that started this whole ongoing commentary of my four-year middle school series. At first, I did not mind, but after four years of hearing the same remarks repeatedly, it gets tiring, and also frustrating. My favorite one, though is ¨How tall are you, you are so tall for your age, I thought you were in high school.¨ To be honest, I do not really know the exact height I am, unless I go to the doctors, and also how are you supposed to respond to a comment like that? Usually in these types of situations I laugh it off and give the person an approximate height just so I do not feel rude leaving them with an unanswered question.It does become annoying, but I have to admit, I did enjoy the attention a little.

My classmates were not the only ones who were informing me on my height; my family was too. At almost every family gathering I went to, I received at least one comment from each family member regarding the estimation of my age because I was so tall. The estimation of my age ranged from senior in high school to a sophomore in college, which was insane to me because I would think that my family would at least have a sense of what my age is. Toward the end of the day though, my age was clarified to all of the members of my family that thought that I advanced twenty years or so.

Even though many of the obvious remarks I have received from others were annoying, I enjoyed the fact that I looked more mature for my age. There were many ups and downs regarding comments about my height, and although the majority of them were highly irritating, I enjoyed the assumptions of how mature I looked. I also did enjoy the special attention of towering over others and having the ability to laugh at others for how short they were too me. As I started to adapt to my life as towering over everybody, eventually everyone caught up to my height and my confidence and maturity slowly deteriorated because I no longer held the title of ¨Tallest in the Class¨.


A large part of my identity comes from me being Muslim. When people see me the first thing that they notice is that I am a Muslim. I’m different from average public school students. I wear the hijab and make sure I’m covered up every time I step out of the house.  

The one thing I like to make sure everyone knows is that I am not Middle Eastern, I am Bengali. Just because I’m Muslim it doesn’t mean I’m from the Middle East. Many people assume that I’m Middle Eastern. During freshman year this girl asked me, “Are you from the Middle East?’’

“No, I am from Bangladesh,” I said.

“Well that’s technically in the Middle East, it links up there,” the girl said.

“No, we have a totally different culture and different religion. Bangladesh is in South Asia.” We had an argument. Muslims could be from any country it doesn’t matter. When you see a Muslim nobody should automatically think that he or she is from the Middle East.     

I always feel different when I’m at school. It’s because I wear the hijab and I’m always covered up while the majority of the schoolgirls has their hair out, wears shorts and tanks. I know that I’m not the only Muslim in the school but I still feel different.

Hijab? Most people ask me, “Samera what is a hijab,” or they ask me, “Samera why do you wear that thing on your head?’’

“This is called hijab. I wear it because guys can’t see my hair,” I answered.  

“Why can’t guys see your hair?’’ they asked.

“When girls have their hair out it causes attraction. Guys get attracted. If guys get attracted to my hair then I get sins. I also have to cover up my body because if I wear shorts and show my body off guys gets more attracted. For example, imagine there are two girls walking on the street and one is a Muslim and she’s covered up and the other girl is wearing shorts and a tank up. Who do think which girl is guys are going to come after,” I answered?  

“Obviously the girl that’s wearing shorts and a tank top,” they said.  

“Exactly, that’s why we have to cover up,” I answered.  

“Oh, I get it now.”

I’ve always been mistreated because of my identity. I’ve gotten so much hate because of who I am. Not just me but also my mom. There are some racist stories that happened my mom never talked to me about. The first story happened to us when I used to live in New York. My mom and I were in the elevator on our way to our apartment. In the elevator, there was a group of girls, about 4 girls. They were eating chips. For “fun” they threw chips at my mom and started laughing. They said something under their breath that we didn’t understand. The second story happened after I moved to Philadelphia. I was at the grocery store and a lady put the middle out and said, “Fuck Muslims.”

The third racist thing someone told me in Philadelphia was “Get out of our country.” In my head, I said, “How am I supposed to get if I am born and raised here. I have nowhere to go.”

There is one thing that someone said to me and still hurts till this day. This happened in Philadelphia when I was in 7th grade. During history class, my classmate said to me “Samera you are going to be a terrorist when you grow.”

After I heard that person say that to me my brain just switched off. Everything just turned dark. The tears were rushing to come out of my eyes. I tried to hold it in because I didn’t want to make myself look like a fool in front of the whole class.I was hurt to the point that I couldn’t forget. Being called something bad for who you are, hurts. Now I feel like I have a small hole try my best to look past it but once in awhile that sentence just hits me.

I regret a lot of things. The one thing that I regret the most is not speaking up. I really wish I spoke up when I was called a terrorist. I didn’t because it would just start a huge problem. I never told my parents what happened because I was scared they would put me out of public school. The reason why I didn’t speak up was that Islam means peace. I thought that if I keep silent that’s would be the peaceful way to handle it.

I really wish people would understand that this isn’t funny this is serious. This is serious because talking bad about a someone's religion it disrespectful. For most Muslims, religion is what makes us who we are.   Now I started to realize that I should speak up so this why I decided to write about it. Even after all this hate, I don’t care what people say about who I am. Being Bengali is very important to me it’s because of parents. Bengali is also what makes me who I am. My culture is important to me. Even after all this hatred, I am very proud young Bengali Muslim.

“...And It’s Not Funny Either!”

“...And It’s Not Funny Either!”

“Ughh, I know and I just can’t help it”,

“What, but I wasn’t even… nevermind”

“Aw, thanks.”

I respond to remarks such as those on a daily. I hear them at school, dance, and sometimes even outside of those two main places. The last response is usually what I say to people who enjoy my personality and identity. The responses I make to people leave me feeling as though my smile and upbeat personality is a curse and joy. Throughout my life, I’ve always had questions and incidents where my smile and cheery personality caused chaos and joy.

The day I realized my uppity personality and smile caused trouble was in 7th grade. I got in trouble by the new math teacher in her class one afternoon. It was a day of school were we attended mass, since I went to a private catholic school. The mass service was divided in two separate times, grades k-4 attended first then 5-8. One of the boys in my class, Dan, happened to be apart of this mass as an altar server, someone who assists the priest during church. It just also happened to extremely hot that day, and there was no air conditioning.Math class is finally over and to conclude our day we were about to walk over to church. As we were wrapping everything up, putting books away and talking amongst ourselves and...

“Oh my gosh, Dan passed out in church! ” Said one of the fifth grade girls while passing through the hall.

The whole class immediately started mumbling talking to each other about the new gossip. Then in walks one of my close classmate friends who wasn’t up to date on the recent information we just heard from the fifth grade girl, and of course being the excited person I am,  I wanted to tell her. I explain to her exactly what we just heard then, suddenly  all I hear is:

“Did you just laugh, Kennedy?  This isn’t funny at all. He could really be hurt.”  

I was totally confused in the moment seeking for someone in the room who also felt the same way for self-comfort. I questioned myself in my head asking,  “What in the world is she talking about.” Then just by looking at her facial expression I realized this was serious, enough for me to get in major trouble. The teacher and I then went back and forth:

“I never even laughed,” looking around confused trying to find a witness to agree with me so i didn’t feel uncomfortable.

“Yes, you're over there smiling and happy that he just fainted, this isn’t a joke he could really be hurt,” the teacher claimed.

It took my close friend to explain to me that my face did seem a little happy, but she knew I wasn’t making fun of him because this is how I looked when I talked to her majority of the time. After, I realized this out about myself It seemed as though I  started getting more bad than good comments about my personality from others.

Growing up as a kid, I always received positive notes on my identity and how people enjoyed my enlightening presence. They all told me  how my smile was nice, and my goofiness  wasn’t a problem. As I grew older the more negative comments there became.  I guess this was because I started getting to  know more people. Yes, many people take my personality the wrong way. Sure I can be silly a lot, and keep a smile on  my face, but sometimes I feel as though people suspect that as weakness. I say this because people get the idea that I can’t focus or take things serious because I like to laugh and have fun, and it annoys me. I tend to be perceived this way a lot in school and at dance school (the two places w here I spend most of my time).

The dance studio is my happy place, I love what I do as a hobby the only thing I don’t love are comments.I tend to get yelled at alot for taking my happy energetic personality into class. For example; Say I mess up on the dance routine by an accident, and get called out on it she’ll then proceed to say something along the lines of “...and it’s not funny either!”

Sometimes, I may get a little out of hand when it comes to goofiness, but I can manage to control it. I feel as though my goofiness is what makes me, me. It’s a part of my natural identity. I love my personality, I’m someone who likes to bring in fun energy. I’ve come to the point in my life where negative comments on my “bubbly” personality become something where I respond, “Well, I can’t help it.” I’d rather go through life being the person who you can always count on to make a slow weary day come alive. I want people to know just because you laugh, joke, and act silly it doesn’t make you less of an achiever. My self-identity is very meaningful to me and don’t ever want to have to change my personality.

The Creature

Helayna Hoffman


                             The Creature

The rain started at 12 am. At that moment in time,I was on watch sitting in the center of the sailboat in the cockpit. Our crossing was 14 hours that night and we were 8 hours in. The he bubbling sea was an alluring dark blue. The  rays of the bright moon struck it with force, almost causing it to shake and splash. My eyes widened as the cold drops of pure and utterly beautiful rain fell from the dark sky. My shoulders were bare and I could feel each drop as it hit me with vitality. My body told me to take cover but I stayed, betraying myself. I was content. I was already soaked from the long day's  treacherous sail. The salt from the warm ocean waves that sprung up the side of the boat was now in a thick layer on my skin, the cold rain slowly and steadily brushed the salt from my arms and legs. My surroundings became very clear to me. The bright sail flapping in the unforgiving wind was in front of me. Beside me sat the round wheel that I turned every so often to point us in the correct direction. Above me was a star, it was being launched across the shadow-filled  sky. I stared at this amusement for what had felt like hours but had, in reality, only been seconds. Those seconds were lit up by that bright creature soaring across the sky. This creature had wings, I thought to myself, to be able to exist in flight. My thoughts went wild as I  explored the characteristics of the ball of bright lights. A stream of luminescence gleamed behind it like children following their mother. The object was gone in seconds but the memory of it is almost as vivid as the moment.

My father sat beside after the rain stopped and handed me a warm blanket. He talked with me about the island that we were headed to that morning and the sights we would be exploring. His words brushed my ears but never fully dissolved into my mind. The thought of the bright creature still filled my thoughts with questions begging for answers. His voice was calming and warm. My feet were numb but I stayed by  my father's side until we reached our destination.

The island was small and not one person lived there. Asi  walked along the unbeaten path through bushes and under tree branches I started to think about that creature. I wondered if it was a warm creature or if the presence of it was warm but if you reached out to touch it, it would punish you with pain, that is cold. This thought soon drifted off to be with the forgotten thoughts and my legs carried me elsewhere. The sky was bright and clear with no evidence that a storm had once passed through.

My feet sunk into the light sand and crushed beneath my heels, the water brushed over my right foot and I felt a chill go up my leg. The wind was still a repetitive motion through my hair, it pushed it back behind my shoulders and slowly but gently started to tangle it, a task for when I arrived back on the boat. I loved the fresh smell of the ocean, the sound of the waves crashing continuously on the shore. I did not want to leave this sacred place, but just like the islands before, I was forced to go. I took a deep breath and leaped  into the chilling water to swim to the boat. Climbing up the ladder  i  was greeted with a splash of clean rainwater from my father.  ¨Get that salt off you and dry off before we set sail.¨

I did as I  was told and we were off. The creature. It was all that swept through my mind that cloudy night, and the few nights to follow. The brightness followed by complete darkness amused me and drew me in closer to the object. The thought of seeing it all over again thrilled me and gave me hope for the next one I see, if there is a next one.

The first and only time I've seen a shooting star was on a cold and stormy night in the middle of the ocean on a 33-foot  sailboat.

Death is Job

Throughout my life, mind you that I am fifteen, there had been four deaths that had taken place. Each death proving to be of great significance in my life. And, although, the lives that have been taken from me had given me great sorrow at the time, one particular death of a family member would change what I would proceed to do with my life.

It was the summer of going into eighth grade, and I had spent most of my time at the place of my second cousin, who in general was a replacement for my grandmother. This reason being that she was an elderly woman at age of seventy-four. This aged woman was the certainly the utmost perfect example of a grandmother, in fact she encouraged me to dub her so plenty of times even though I was not her grandchild. But, during that time where the sun was of broiling heat, I was struggling on what to do with my life because I figured that I should begin to be aware of what I would like to do career wise. I seeked the help of my grandmother 2.0, and her answer of course was, “Become an Optometrist like me,” though,  I was not very keen on that advice because it was not what I wanted to become, for I was stuck between two career paths that utterly differ.

The situation itself was distasteful to my soul. There was the option of choosing to take the career path of an Artist, and there was the career path of a pediatric surgeon. Both requiring passion, but one requiring to save the life of another human being who can possibly diminish at your hands without the right care.

Of course, I expressed my problem to my family members, especially the grandmother in which I spent most of my time with that summer, and all but she and my own mother were the only individuals that  gave significant advice. My grandmother stressed on the fact that I should not subject myself into a career path in which I would regret later. She said “Seeing as you have two career paths you are passionate in, await the moment where you know- have the more inspiration in one than the other? No doubt she was right, but I would not come to the realization of what that meant until after her death.

          “I am going to head upstairs call my name if you need me for anything,” I said.

She replied with, “Thanks doll.”

It was whole two hours after I went upstairs, so I came to ensure everything was going fine, but unfortunately it was the opposite. She was laying in bed calling my name, saying that she could not move her left side of her body which included her arm and legs.  Of course, I immediately called 911, speaking with a sort of hoarse voice, then proceeded to call my mother afterwards. Fortunately my mother was at the grocery store, which meant she would be able to get there quickly. Mom was able to get to where I was around three minutes after the ambulance had arrived. While being brought up into the paramedic bed she saw me trying she said a few words to me. She accepted her own fate, while I was at the side trying to deny it, but denying it did no justice.

Every individual takes control of such situations differently while, at times, simultaneously gaining a sense of unusual wisdom from it.  I was struggling to grasp the fact that an individual who I  greatly appreciated was gone. After the incident had occurred I was filled with grief, but I feel as, since I have had to deal with multiple other deaths prior to this event, I was able to not let such an incident get in my way. Although I had a tough time accepting the fact that she was no longer alive, it was also helpful that I was in summer, which meant I was able to process my sadness without other individuals other than family members. That was the time I figured that I feel more happiness when I have an amount of time to think to myself and rationalize.

            Summer of that year proved to be good, while being bad, with multiple mixtures of  emotions in which intensified at different moments. After she got into that paramedic car, I was able to visit her a couple days before her death; she was paralyzed through half her body and her heart failed after those couple visits.  Then, I came to the realization of why I wanted to be a surgeon. Generally I am hoping, that surgeons join the medical field in hopes of saving lives, to be able to spare the grief in which one feels, because, at times, even for artists, the greatest inspiration for insight is that of sorrow and grief.

My Mother's Perfume

Laila Kerbag English 2


My Mother’s Perfume

I have always loved the smell of my mother’s perfume. It filled our home with the smell of a crisp spring morning. However to me, the aroma was a scent of love and happiness. The perfume followed her when we went to boisterous family parties, and I came to associate the smell with our family. Wherever the spring breezes blew I knew my family was nearby. I remember the extensive dining table we would all sit at after months of not seeing each other. Over the smell of the food, over the smell of the home, wherever I was sitting, wherever she was sitting, there was the smell of my mother’s perfume.

It became a marker, an indicator that I was being loved and cared for. It became not only a smell but a place I felt safe. My mother enjoyed having nice dinners at home every month, and she always wore the perfume. I remember helping her set the table: six plates, six forks, six knives, and six spoons. After dinner, It was the perfume I last remembered before going to bed. She would read me bedtime stories and give me gentle forehead kisses that made me feel as though a protection spell was put on me.

It was the perfume she wore when her eyes screamed love and compassion for my father instead of anger and regret. When she fell out of love with my father the perfume also fell out of use. My parents signed the divorce papers on that very same dining table we sat at as a family. She has not worn that perfume since. When my mother stopped smelling like love and happiness, my father started smelling like beer and liquor. He had the stench of late nights and strange women. I never smelled that perfume again.

The rhythm of dinner changed: one plate, one fork, one knife, and one spoon. My mother’s lips continued to feel gentle on my forehead, and her protection never broke despite the change. Even though she was broken. I was young and confused. Divorce was something I would hear about from my friends when they talked about their parents, but never something I was supposed to experience. My mother and I never had a good relationship, and somehow I have always blamed my father for it. I believed that if he had not taken her happiness away, I would not have to feel like she was always trying to take mine. He always understood me more than she did, but she was more involved in my life. The situation felt ironic.

Her past pain made her overprotective. When I first told my mother I wanted to be in a relationship with a boy, she panicked and forbid me from dating. At first, like any teenage girl, I thought she was against me and only did it to make my life miserable. After more time and experience, I realized she intended to protect me, to make sure I was safe.

My parents fought a lot, and my brothers would tell me, “do not worry, this happens when two people love each other,”  to make me feel better. However, I knew that love was long gone between them, they would look at each other with stormy turbulent inflamed eyes. At age eleven, in some way I understood that love does not last, even when two people spend over twenty years together, and raise four kids. Although their marriage ended way before, they divorced when I was twelve. I did not think much of it until I was older, until I was faced with questions such as which one of my parents would be coming in for the parent teacher conference or if they wanted to take pictures with my brother and his bride together, or separately. On the spot I felt very normal about it, but later on when the sun set and everyone was asleep I started  to think.

This was not how life was suppose to be. Or was it? Honestly, you will just never know, and that’s life, all one big mystery. Although I believed love did not last, I have found myself fighting for it. It seems as though one good thing came out of my parent’s divorce, a lesson. My mother wears a different perfume now, it is a smell I had to learn to get used to. I have accepted it and although it will never compare to my favorite perfume, I have grown quite fond of it.

The stare

Ever since I was a young girl I perceived I was different than everyone else around me.. People would give me  quirky stares, and although they tried to hide it, I hear them murmur about me.  It used to pain me that people  would  gossip,    often my mother  would speak out  for me , or stand in front of me. In a way I felt safe behind her, as if no harm could come my way. It became an indicator that my mother was my protector.

Throughout the years I   acknowledged  that my physical appearance was dissimilar to others.  . I  accepted being different  from  everyone else. People continued to stare, and they continued to whisper. However, I did not continue to care. . Constantly I felt others deliver me a look of pity. It did not come off as a shameful look but a sympathetic one.  

Last week on saturday I went to the laundromat with my mom. My responsibility was to watch my little sister. We decided to sit at a tiny little picnic table by the front entrance. Later throughout the day this little walked in with his dad. When I looked up from my phone he was staring at me hard. At first I just brushed it off and didn't care. After 5 minutes I looked back up and he was doing the same thing.

Next, the same situation happened in July. To celebrate my little sister's birthday my family went to chuck e. Cheese. I was minding my own business and playing flappy bird. A younger boy walked up to me and asked a very rude question. The question was “ Do you have a disease?. I was livid when he asked me this. My reaction was to just walk away. Throughout my entire life nobody has ever asked me this. Deep inside I was hurt but I did not show my pain. Honestly, there are certain ways to ask questions if a person is curious about something.

As a baby I was diagnosed with congenital microgastria. Doctors also told my mother that I have scoliosis. Due to my condition of scoliosis it caused me to have shorter different arms than everyone else around me. However, a therapist would come and help me maneuver my arms and learn to walk. These two conditions are the reason my arms look the way they do.

Furthermore, there have been times when people admired how I look. For instance a grown man apprised me that I was a inspiration. My response to him was “ Thank you”. People are often surprised that I do the daily things in life like: go to school, ride the bus, play games, and etc. If nothing else I am not ashamed of how my arms look. Often times I hear people murmur ‘’ she’s handicapped or disabled.

Honestly, I am astonished that people can stare or gossip about you and not care. When I am home alone, I think about what people say about me and how affects me. It is sad to say but even my mom underestimates me from time to time. Everyday I perceive like I am fighting to fit in with everyone else. Worrying about what someone murmurs about me

has become emotionally tiring. Time and time again I have to figure out why people feel the need to talk about me. To me personally I feel like I belong in the world.


Most people assume that I come from Korea by the way that I look. My hairstyle, skin color, and my makeup makes me look like I’m from Korea, but it’s doesn’t mean that I am. Sometimes people will assume that I was born in America because I can speak English. Sometimes, I don't feel like correcting the people that are making assumptions because there are so many people that just come up to me and assume they know everything about me by the way I look or the way I act.

This story all began this past summer. I was hanging out with my friends at the park near my house and a beautiful woman that was fashionably dressed who came up to me, started to talk to me and asked me questions about myself. The first question she asked me was, “Are you from Korea? OMG, I love Korean people, the music of Korea, and the language too, they are so cool!”

I never thought by looking at the way she was dressed that she would be the kind of person to make an assumption about other people until she started talking.  I said to myself  “I have no idea why she thinks that I came from Korea.” So I looked at her and responded “Nah, I’m not from Korea, but yeah, I think the music and everything in Korea is really cool too…!”

     I wanna to tell her that I came from Vietnam, but she was talking so much ,she just stopped me and continued to assume and went on to say, “Wow, so you’re not Korean, should I believe that?" She laughed "So, you’re born in America right?"

I took a few seconds to think and there were tons of questions coming up in my mind: " Really? Why are you laughing, I don’t think is funny? Or do I really look like I was born in America? Is my accent proving that I was born in America? Come on people!" Then I said, " No, I was born in Vietnam." She thought that I was joking, so she starts to laugh at me. Before I knew it, she turned around, walked away, and I never saw her again.

A few days later, where I was with my friends at the same park, a guy came up to me and said the same exact things that the women did. I was so mad that I didn’t even feel like correcting him. I just don’t understand why people like to assume things that much. And it’s always happening in my life.

Assuming about others is not always a good thing to do. I mean why do people always  have to assume? In my experience, people assuming where I am from just makes me mad. People never think about how others feel in the situations if  it can hurt them or affect them in some way.

For example, if you go up to someone that doesn’t have a perfect family, and you just come up to them and start to assume that they have a perfect family. Then you start talking about how happy is your family compare to people who don’t have it. They will feel bad, and that can bring them down in everything. I mean that by the will get upset, and I think when people getting upset they don’t really can do much things, so that’s mean you just rude in their day, maybe some people will remember it for like their entire life. That’s not good, people want to get a happy life, and they want to be happy even single day.

Some people will think that this problem is not important because they never experienced it or because they don’t really care if somebody might hurt their feelings. Also, if you think that the problem is normal to you, it doesn’t mean that is normal to other people. We are different, people have a different opinions on assumption. So, I think that you shouldn’t use it to other people. If you want them to respect you and not assuming anything on you, then I think you should respect them as much as they do for you.

An Open Letter to the People Who Think Suicide is Selfish

In America, death is something to be afraid of; something to avoid. But my father was not afraid.

In fact, my father spent a lot of his life longing for death. He was sick, and people with mental illness often have this mindset. When he finally died, my head felt like a balloon. Everything was moving fast, and I didn’t feel the same way as my other family members. The funeral was dark but still bubbly. My lightheadedness continued.

“Jon was my best friend.”

“Jon was an angel.”

“It was such a tragedy.”

Their voices still make me grind my teeth. They were so wrong. Just because he was dead, people refuse to take him at face value. This becomes aggravating when they wouldn’t acknowledge his cause of death, or even worse, say that it wasn’t his fault he killed himself. That is what he wanted. He was none of those things and his death was not a tragedy. A tragedy for some of us, but it seemed like his last hope. Thus, he was the one at fault. If someone is so sick, and at a point in their life where they can’t bear to be alive, why can’t it be their decision to leave? Why is death seen as a negative consequence instead of an ending of one's story?

The sky was gray that morning. I was eight years old and I hadn’t seen my grandmother in four years, and I woke up to see her sitting on the edge of my bed talking to my mother. I immediately knew that something was wrong. They were both holding mugs, with two hands, as if it was cold outside. It was only early September. A friend came over to play and I ate sweets for breakfast. When my mother called me upstairs to tell me that my father died,  I didn’t know how I was supposed to feel about it. Even now, I can’t tell you that I knew what the rest of my family was feeling, but I still managed to pretend I felt the same. It wasn’t until a few years later that I came to terms with how I actually felt.

Death should be celebrated as a passing; a completion of someone’s story. While people are busy being selfish over losing someone that never belonged to them, they forget to celebrate the life that person lived and their wisdom. My father was never around when I was little and I was raised solely by my mother. When he was there, he abused my mother and himself. Because my dad was never a father to me, I learned to appreciate those that support me, as well as come to terms with why I was better off without his presence. This gave me insight on my childhood and accepting loss. When he died, I learned more about my family, for better or for worse, and I’m grateful for that.

I understand that a lot of people are suicidal, have mental illness, and self harm. I also understand that there are people that use these things for attention, which cause people who need help to suffer. That is where I find the selfishness, not with the people who actually kill themselves. The people who end up killing themselves often didn’t have access to the help they need. It seems that others that aren’t as high risk take up those opportunities. I understand that a lot of people need help, but I’ve noticed, especially among teenage girls, that many exaggerate mental illness for attention. Take all the help you need, but many should be aware of making space as well.

I am grateful that he took his own life. I would have been more grateful if he had found other options earlier on, but I don’t think that would have changed the impact he had on my life. What other people do doesn't matter to me, as long as they aren’t hurting others or themselves. The pure fact that he was alive was causing him to suffer. He couldn’t afford medication and was at wit’s end. By the time he came to the last straw, I had accepted that I was better off without him in my life anyway. Knowing that his hurt could come to an end was worth more than the pain I would go through as a result of his death. I was willing to take that hit if it meant he could finally be free. Now he is.


The Daughter of Jon Weir