She’s breathless by the time she reaches the top of the stairs. The exertion required before her therapist appointment is a part of the process.

Sitting in a comfy gray chair, she once again realizes how uncultured her therapist is, not knowing any of the cities in her homeland—the place her family calls home, where her spirit haunts the beach. Her foreignness blankets her in this new land where she sits now, even when she confesses in the most holy and private of spaces. 

The conversation turns toward the upcoming future, the uncertain. This plan has been bubbling in her mind for days, gnashing through her nerve cells. She wants to prompose to a sweet boy, one who laughs more than she can think to ever dare; this land won’t let her laugh. His eyes crinkle and he makes bad jokes. She thinks of him the way everyone thinks of their crush. She imagines giving a set of munchkins spelling out “Prom?” in a flat, wide doughnut box at the beginning of class. All she yearns for is a hug and a yes.

To partake in this tradition is an important coming-of-age ceremony. The intangible confirmation of belonging in this land, getting to go to prom with another person, may  perhaps lighten her spirit. The thought of being included and living the life she’s seen in movies is a deadly poison to fill her thoughts with lies. 


One night filled with long rehearsals, late pick-ups, and soul-leeching work, she had soba noodles, a comfort food, the food of a land where she could’ve been one of the “us” and not one of the “them” like she is here. She took any excuse to video call the boy; the first time, tonight, a set of biology questions were due the next day. She, brilliant, top of her class, did what society taught her to do; she dumbed herself down to appear to need help from the boy. She ended up explaining the answers to him as she wrote calligraphy, good luck and fortune for the new year, but maybe more so that she would have good luck and fortune in appealing to him. Thousand-year-old traditions for a boy who has no idea of the shores her tears grace. She is bending herself to fit the needs of someone who would never see her in the first place. She calls her grandmother to see if the elder can sense her hope, but there are no words of wisdom to be had as she talks about everything except the boy.


Valentine’s Day, the day of pink, red, and the commercialization of soft yearning is approaching. Trying to find the limit of x as it approaches, a girl squeals. The boy, the friend, and the other girl stand around the other girl’s locker as the other girl holds a vase filled with flowers. The other girl is the one who excuses the taking of the land. The other girl’s elders never thought a moment of the distant oceans and villages her spirit haunts. The boy’s eyes crinkle in a smile towards the other girl. Prom’s in a month. She knows what is happening. 


The other girl always wins. The boy and she will not collide; the land masses will not drift together. People with spirits who pull to another land only observe the traditions, practicing their own traditions in a hallowed home. Fortune and good luck did not grace her this new year. 

By Amelia Dogan

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