Write It Poetry
Critic's Picks: FICTION

I'm always nervous about sharing my work, because most of my stories are fictionalized accounts of my life. This story was different for me, because it incorporated an entirely fictional situation that was juxtaposed with personal details and descriptions. Overall, I like to think abstractly and write quickly — this lets things come out easily and allows emotion to be more genuine. I get frustrated by the conventional idea that storytelling has to come from solid character research, plot outlining, and exact (almost mathematical) deliberation rather than having the words simply flower once they hit the page. That way I can be surprised by my own endings.

Editor’s Comments:
For the narrator of this story, life is refracted through the lens of great literature, allowing for countless allusions to a shared literary history with the unseen recipient of an unfolding letter. Notice how Nika employs the second person POV to invite the reader to experience her narrator’s memories. It is as if — by the end of the piece — the reader has become the recipient of this letter, a letter that exists in the narrator’s head.

Searching for The Unbearable Lightness of Being

by Nika Mavrody
age: 18

You know Charlie,

I was riding on the El today. And I was thinking, do you remember that day we went to the used bookstore? The one that has the sign that says “New Town Cleaners?” The one run by the big man of around 60 who likes to comment on the books you buy and call me sweetie? You remember that?

You remember how we climbed around on stepladders and searched through Dylan Thomas and Emile Zola? I was trying to find the Unbearable Lightness of Being, but someone had just bought it. I edged Therese Raquin into your hands and I begged you to buy it. You gave in. I can’t remember if you liked it.

But regardless, remember how we took the El home? How we sat side by side, pretending we were reading while instead we looked carefully at each passenger at each new stop. I remember a man with six lines of scars forming a big V across his forehead. V for vindictiveness. V for viral. V for vanish. Do you remember that? Dear Charlie.

I don’t know what it is that I’m trying to tell you. But I do know I feel so much like Madame Raquin. I feel as if I can’t speak and I can’t write, but there’s a horrible, destructive knowledge of something in my mind. Madame Raquin knew who killed her son, and she lived in the hands of those same murderers.

Do you remember that night you were at my house, and we lay on my bed, looking through my art books. I can’t believe you were a fan of Byzantine. Remember how we decorated my walls, and how we wrote down our inside jokes. We laughed so hard at them. We laughed so hard at everything, really.

Remember our fascination with that Browning poem, “Porphyra’s Lover?” We were so morbidly in love with it. The sick surprise and macabre shock of him choking her with her own long, flaxen hair. Why do I keep coming back to murder?

I met this guy. You’d like him if you knew him. His name’s Mark. And he’s brilliant. Ranked #1 in his class. His fingers smell like oranges and they remind me of you. He doesn’t get morbid poetry, he’s naively shocked by “Porphyra’s Lover.” But he can help me with AP Bio, even though he’s taking Physics.

I keep thinking I should wait for you. I just finished Chronicle of a Death Foretold. You recommended it to me. I thought maybe you’d come back if I retraced my steps, if I went back to that bookstore. If I sat on the El, pretending to read, but watching the passengers. I saw a woman with a glass eye. If I did all of that, if I finished your book, maybe than, you’d show up at my house. Knock on my door. Walk into my kitchen. Maybe you’d pour yourself some water. You’d yawn melodramatically. “It’s been awhile,” you’d say. “What’cha reading?” But as far as I can tell, you’re not doing any of that.

Just because of that one night. I’m sure it must have been hard to spot a boy wearing a black t-shirt and jeans. And you were probably distracted by something. You were probably on your way to the beach. You liked to go to the beach alone at night. You always had sand in your pockets. What could you have possibly been thinking about? Thinking so hard, that you didn’t see a red Ford coming your way.

But I just wanted to tell you that I need to stop thinking equally hard about you. I need to stop, or I might not notice something coming fast at me, too. You know, I still haven’t gotten my hands on The Unbearable Lightness of Being. I’ve been busy. My mom’s pregnant, did I tell you? My grandmother might be moving in with us.

There’s a picture of you on my computer. I took it of you one night after you’d fallen asleep. We watched The Suicide Club that night, laughing at the overabundance of blood and detached limbs. You don’t know that I have this picture. Your eyes are closed and you’ve got your hands folded in a prayer position as a pillow. I wonder what you dream about, when your eyes are closed like that. I wonder what you dream about when you’re asleep.

Poetry    Essay    Memoir
Short Fiction    Humor
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