Mr. Preacher Man

When I was born, it was in a hospital. I was not baptized. I was raised by my parents, including on Sundays. I didn’t know who Adam and Eve were, or what it meant to be “devoted to the Lord.” God was another name of a person I had not yet met, like a side character in a book that you only hear about when necessary.

Sixteen years later, I’ve been to a church just once. I went for a funeral of a man I never knew. Christmas was just another celebration in which I get presents, I never questioned why.  Saint Valentine’s day was my mother’s favorite holiday, gifting and spoiling us girls. But to me, it was always just “Valentine’s Day.” I woke on Easter morning, not at midnight for church, but to eggs hidden around the house filled with money and candy. I always gained ten dollars and ten pounds that day.

I’ve never tasted the bitter red wine or of a simple white cracker, which symbolizes much more than I know.

I was lost. I was confused and I didn’t know who to go to or what to do. “Go to God!” they say. “He knows all the answers!” my preacher friends say. I don’t know who that is! And here I am, thinking the President is the most important person in the nation.

Easter Sunday. I was watching the final episode of an intense show in which a teenager kills herself by slitting her wrists in a bathtub. Wasn’t attempt of suicide once against the law? So illegal, that it was punished by death sentence?

I was anxious, but I couldn’t peel my eyes off the bright screen in the late hours of the night. I was still lost, wasting my time doing silly things when I should be in school. I didn’t know who to talk to, but I knew. Easter Sunday. Mr. Preacher Man will be awake, and he will comfort me and tell me what to do. Make my head rest.

But mine and Mr. Preacher Man’s dictionary were the opposite of uncanny. I spoke of nothing of what he knew. Although, he spoke of what I knew. I always felt as if our friendship was unbalanced because of that; he knew my life, but I knew little of his.

“Mr. Preacher Man! Mr. Preacher Man! When are you going to bed?” I said.

“Eh,” he said. I knew this was my cue that he was as restless as I.

“Will you stay awake and talk to me? I’m awake and anxious. Of anything? Everything?” He laughed at this response. He always thought I was overdramatic.

“Okay, Kayla. Of course.” Our conversations always had two routes. 1. They lasted hours until the dark or 2. They didn’t last at all. I was afraid this was going to be a case 2 kind of night, and that frightened me. Not tonight. Not when I needed words most.

“How was your Easter?” I thought this was a very good response. He is Mr. Preacher Man, after all.

“Great. It’s always nice to spend time with the family.” At this point, I got side tracked. Mission accomplished. I got curious, though. I became curious of why. What is Easter and why is it spent with family? Is it like Dia De Los Muertos? What does the Easter Bunny have to do with anything? If anything? Why eggs? Bunnies don’t lay eggs.

“What is Easter?” Then I knew I triggered Mr. Preacher Man. I knew I could never get him to stop talking. I was glad in the end. This is when we talked of his life. Of his beliefs and passions I never knew about. Of the man in the air.

For two hours, he talked. I responded in between texts, to be polite. But nothing to stir the conversation in a different place. Never have I seen Mr. Preacher Man talk so passionately before. There was a flow of his words that warmed my blue heart. Don’t stop now!

It began with the beginning. Of Adam and Eve and the creation of the world. Of God and Jesus and his reincarnation. Things began to fall into place. He explained how his church differed from my other preacher friend’s; he had explained it many time before, but I finally understood. He talked of the different religions – of Rome and what Easter celebrates. Holy Thursday. Good Friday. Holy Saturday, Easter Sunday.

I wouldn’t allow myself to distract, I let Mr. Preacher Man do that himself. He got lost, in a good way, not like me. He got lost in Saints. He talked of so many Saints. Saints that could help me, my problems. People who helped him and surreal stories of real people. I was stunned. I was so stunned, I cried. It was amazing. When he was done with his preaching, he said one thing to me.

“Those are just a few people who will always have your back.” And I knew he believed it, so it made me believe it, too. I wrote a letter that night.

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Panic

Our stir crazy heads were filled with pop hits from the the last decade. My clothes were still a little bit wet from the drunk boy who spilled his “punch” all over me. To fill the silence, we turned up our volume to sixty and blasted our favorite pop hits, to keep the night alive. It’s something about lying and sneaking around that keeps the adrenaline pumping. My dad hadn’t ok’d me driving to Forest Heights in the rain, but what he doesn’t know can’t kill him. I’d just have to tell him the dance ran long.

My head was spinning as fast as my car was driving. Two hands on the wheel and in the middle of my lane. Then it hit me. “It” being the car. I never knew what aluminum on aluminum sounded like. It bent as easily as foil wrapping itself around food, crinkling through every piece of my body.

Now my shirt is stained with red “punch” and my own bodily form of “red punch.” All caused by the same drunk boy.

Strategy to Kill

I’m currently crammed in the back seat of a white van with the words “Great Transportation” printed on the sides. I’m forced to sit on the buckle between two seats because my particularly overweight coach is on one side of me, and my particularly underweight partner is sitting comfortably on my left. We just made it to St. Louis, Missouri, and I have yet to say that name without sounding completely and helplessly southern. My team consists of three players (including me), two parents (none which are mine), and our one coach. The flight this morning was not the peachiest thing to wake up to in the morning — particularly because our seating arrangement then is the same one we have now.

Tomorrow is the first day of the High School Racquetball National Championships, and I could be less excited. My ranking is unfortunately very high, translating to me having to play very good players. I wouldn’t be complaining if my two teammates weren’t racquetball prodiges.

In order to be on my best game tomorrow, I must go to bed at precisely 10:08 P.M. This is because I will wake up at precisely 9:52 A.M. and I need precisely twelve hours of sleep to be fully rested. I will then drink a glass of orange juice as soon as I wake up (I will have to pre-pour it tonight) and eat a slice of toast thirty minutes after (about 10:22 A.M.) to absorb the sugar of the orange juice. In order to get my full nutrients, I will cook up a dozen sausages and eat only one and two thirds, to account for my protein level for that meal. (I have to cook a dozen in order to cook to proportionally in the large pan.)

Afterwards, my team and I will deport in the “Great Transportation” van at 12:22 P.M., since we’re supposed to leave my 12:15 P.M.  and we’re going to need precisely seven extra minutes. This will leave our ETA to 12:49 P.M.

Once arrived, I will place my practice ball on the left of my game ball, to make it more accessible. I will then place those on top of my practice racquet, which is above my game racquet, with my goggles on top of my glove but under my practice and game balls. My water bottle will be filled with twenty three ice cubes with water at 42 degrees fahrenheit, so the temperature reaches twenty five degrees by the time I play in one hour and thirty one minutes.

In order to be cleansed, I will begin with my yoga eighteen minutes before my game, leaving three minutes per pose and three minutes to stand and breathe. Once in the court, I will hit the ball three times from the 8 foot line, 12 foot line, 17 foot line, and five times from the 20 foot line. I will do the same thing but double on the backhand side. And then I am ready.

The Monopoly Effect

PROLOGUE

I no longer sat in the chair we once fought over. Her smile is no longer a glance across my shoulder, her pomegranate chapstick still tucked between the clasp of two tables. She was always like that, marking her territory one way or another. I never knew that I would someday become a part of that territory: forbidden from the outside world, sacred and just out of reach.

It’s been thirty eight days since I last saw her, and only eight days since I last saw Nala, her golden retriever who still escapes to my house every morning. I have recently begun to lock the dog door we so long ago attempted to make. Seeing Nala made the memories come rushing back like the water of the Mackenzie River the morning we woke with twigs in our hair and paint down our spines.

Jasmine, my Jasmine. Gone from my hands and my bed the morning after the big game. “Get some sleep, Mr. Thomas,” her father told me the eleventh time I visited her house. “It doesn’t take a doctor to notice those bags under your eyes.”

Jaz wasn’t the kind of girl that every guy would turn heads for. She wouldn’t wear high heels and ruby red lipstick. She wore her wrinkled “writers outfit” with confidence, her short hair hanging loose from the side of her carved face. Her rosy cheeks rose high and thin, a distinct line formed where her jaw was. Her hazel green eyes were like a deer in headlights, as large as the universe, holding all the stars.

“It had taken me weeks of contemplating and pacing to come to the resolution of the words I would say to you when I saw you again. Not “I regret what happened,” not that “my life sucks without you.” I know too well that you don’t handle pressure and blame positively. “I miss you” is the one thing that summarizes the hatred and anger and love and lust you had put me through. Through all the self discrimination, I learned to live life in the moment like you had taught me. Although, no moment seems as significant as the ones I had spent with you.”   

CHAPTER ONE

I looked through the baby book my mother once made me, forced into my hands as I ate a warm breakfast on a too hot morning. As I open the hard cover with a child’s bear framed, I see a scribed list of what I could’ve been: Ally, Olivia, Allison. Names of no significance other than in passing. My name is unique, I like to think. A word with no inherited meaning; the reason which I believe I’m the needle in a haystack of my family. Jasmine Carolyn Aurosa. Some say there’s more of a ring without “Aurosa.” Although, I don’t think there’s a ring without it.

My mother had always taught me “you have to be odd to be number one,” quoting her favorite and most literate poet, Dr. Seuss. Her motto is what lead to the oddity which is my name. “Jasmine, the worst thing you can do is root your name to your family. It’s like a dog trapped inside a kennel, unable to watch grass grow or the seasons change.”

A woman of a simple lifestyle, my mother works a steady job as a journalist for the Pacific Post, married her childhood sweetheart at twenty nine, and had her first, and last, child at thirty three. She is now in her upper forties and editor of The Post, my dad her right hand man as the co-editor. The only fights my parents get into are brought home from work, gone by the time of the next printing.

As I scooped up my next spoonful of scrambled eggs with cheddar cheese, I noticed the watch hidden under my wrist displayed 8:23 a.m. I had two minutes to catch the bus at the top of the hill. I rushed out the door grabbing my backpack as my mother followed suit. She drove at what felt like a hundred miles per hour, but was more along the lines of twenty or twenty five. We managed to catch the bus just as it was pulling off our street. Stopped because of the flashing red light, I rushed out of the car and in front of the bus before it had the hesitation to pull forward. I nestled into a seat between a businessman and a jock, turned around, and blew my mom a kiss from the fogged up window.

Minutes into the rough ride, I had pulled out my favorite childhood book, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. To my surprise, the jock to the right of me gently grabbed the book from my hands and began to read the summary printed on the back cover. I had worn my contacts today, and I was unconsciously tucking my hair behind my glasses that weren’t there. I wasn’t sure what I was suppose to do, he acted as if he was disappointed that I hadn’t bothered giving him a reaction. “Honor Role student doesn’t defend book on life,” the headline reads. I imagine my parents discussing the cover story as if it won the Pulitzer Prize.

The words Jasmine repeated in my head until I realized the jock that had taken my book was trying to get my attention. I snapped out of my daydream state and looked him back in the eyes. No words were shared within those seconds, but something else was exchanged, and I don’t know what. Coming to a realization, I asked him “how, how do you know my name?” the stutter escaping my lips. He chuckled and shone a smile showing all his teeth, “it’s written on the inside of the cover, along with your phone number, social security number, and credit card number.” I could feel the blood rushing to my face as I began to worry about what he said. He not only knew my name, but how to access all my personal information as well as my bank statement. He clearly saw me struggling and overthinking the situation because his brows came together in concern and he apologetic for making a crude joke. I began to nervously laugh, and he joined until we were loud enough to get complaints from the early-wakers without their coffee.

“Wren. Wren Thomas,” he stated, and stuck out his hand to shake mine. “Jasmine Aurosa.” We approached the lanky, brick building as we sauntered off the crowded bus. It was a hundred plus years old and didn’t look a day younger. Lincoln High School was built in 1819 and hasn’t been updated since. I stepped off the bus before Wren, and was making my way to the double doors in front of me. An old elementary school friend hold open the door for me, as well as the twenty students that followed.

I was walking into the corridor of the best four years of my life. I walked into the drama, the spirit, the Friday night lights, the dances. I didn’t know what would happen in those four years. All I know is that I was here, ready, and already late to first period. I didn’t have time to go to my locker, and I rushed to my Ethnic Studies class, where there were approximately five students present.

At freshman orientation, I had taken the extra time to locate my classes and the best route to each, as well as practiced opening my locker dozens of times. Ten minutes after the final bell rang, my teacher, Mr. Williamson, hadn’t made any attempt to introduce himself or to begin class. Every thirty seconds or so, another lost freshman would wander into the classroom and take a seat, relieved they hadn’t missed anything important. An occasional student would sit down and realize they were in the wrong class, seconds later rushing out the doors in search for a teacher’s help.

Twenty three minutes after the final bell, Mr. Williamson rose from his reclined chair and introduced himself to the lacking class. “Although we have lost twenty three of our precious first minutes together, I decided it’d be more efficient if I began class now, instead of repeating myself for every student that walks in that door. I’m your Ethnic Studies teacher and will be for the remainder of the year. As you walked in, you should have grabbed a class syllabus by the door, but I’ll pass it out to those who didn’t grab one.”

His voice was deep and corresponded with the rest of his appearance. He dressed in a white button up, collared shirt, which was tucked into his black trousers. As he walked around the classroom introducing himself to the staggering students and passing out papers, you could hear the sound of shoes clicking on the tile floor. The heels of his black Oxfords hit the ground with every step he took, without leaving a single scuff. It soon became the sound I couldn’t forget, never escaping my ears during a test or exam.

The remainder of the hour and thirty three minute class were tedious. We had played a name game to introduce ourselves to “the people who will help you succeed throughout high school.” Mr. Williamson was perky and saw the goodness in everyone and everything he saw. When he sees peer motivators and mentors, I see a group of worn out students who are only at school because their parents made them.

My rest of the school day consisted of a ten minute break, Geometry, a half hour lunch break, College and Career Exploration, which is a semester elective required by all freshmen to reduce drop out rate, and Spanish 1. Once the final bell had rung, I didn’t make any attempt to visit with forgotten friends I hadn’t seen all summer. Over the summer, I had chosen to distance myself from old friends, since I hadn’t been in the “good crowd” through middle school. I saw high school as my opportunity to change myself and not worry about people noticing. Since I wasn’t attending parties every weekend or doing beach trips with my group, I was at a loss of what to do with my time, and became so bored, I resorted to books.

I read every day and every night, and read more that twenty books in three months, which was more than I read in the first fifteen years of my life. I hated reading until that summer, I always saw it as a punishment for bad behavior in class or what nerdy students did for fun. I hadn’t realized I was a “nerdy student” until I pulled Charlie and the Chocolate Factory out of my backpack that morning, which had felt like so long ago. I hadn’t talked to Wren since we got off the bus. I half expected him to approach me in the halls until I saw him at lunch with the popular click, my old friends.

Using my sisters recalled memory of bus times and routes, I made my way to a nearby coffee shop to keep warm in until my bus comes, forty minutes later. To my surprise, the bus had come five minutes early, pulled over to the side of the road and parked for ten minutes while the driver smoked a few feet away. Few students sauntered on the bus after a long day of introductions of what the rest of the year will look like. As the driver resituated himself and start the bus, someone ran in front of the bus, like I had done previously. The man began to walk towards the back of the bus where I was settled, sat next to me, soon realizing it was Wren Thomas.

I was nervous to start a conversation because of what might come out of my mouth. I had questions I wanted answered: ones about my old friends and how he happened to fit into that group, his story and why I’d never seen him before today. I was more than relieved when he pulled my copy of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory out of his backpack and handed it to me. He laughed as he spoke. “I guess I lost track of time this morning and forgot to give you your beloved Charlie back.” I would normally take offence to a comment that seemed to make fun of my reading, but he had said it so sincere, I attempted to disregarded it.

We had created small talk until my bus stop came. I had talked about my first day of school as he talked about moving from New York City over the summer because his father had gotten relocated for work. I didn’t bother to ask what his father did for a living, but I found out his mother had died in a car accident when he was twelve years old, and that he dedicates everything to her. He commented that he enjoys the weather in Portland and the West Coast compared to New York, “it’s  a lot more consistent, hot summers leading to warm falls and cold winters and springs.” I told him that he was in for a ride, but he laughed it off and didn’t believe a word I said. When my bus stop arrived, Wren had gotten off with me, but backtracked the route of the bus. I stayed and watched to see which street he lived on. He passed two, then three, of the previous stops before mine. I turned around to go home once I realized he should have gotten off at least four stops before mine.

 

CHAPTER TWO

“The earthquake is supposedly going to be a 8.2 on the Richter scale, it has been nicknamed ‘The Big One,’ and is going to devastate most of the West Coast.” As I ate the sausage and eggs my mother had made me for breakfast, Kacey Hardy, the channel twelve news anchor updated half the city of the earthquake we knew we were doomed for. Scientists have been aware of The Big One for more than twenty years, and have been warning citizens of Portland and the rest of the coast just as long. We are required to have drills in school every month, in preparation for the earthquake. It was suppose to happen twenty years ago, but is now rumored it could happen any minute of any day.

“The fault line will be everything West of I-5, where cities will fall to ruins. Anything East will have a high risk of destruction. We recommend creating a safety box full of nonperishable foods and blankets and spare clothes with any other necessities. This may be fatal.” My mom came into the kitchen and clicked off the miniature television set above the sink. “Jasmine, I know you’re worried about this earthquake and it striking before you leave for college, but we’ve survived the past twenty years, we can survive four more.” I was on the verge of arguing with her. I wasn’t worried about college, I was worried about her being alone after I leave for college. My mom separated from my dad five years ago, and my sister has left for college in Denver. For all I know, she has made no effort to look for any man since.

I had miss the bus that morning. The news broadcast had interrupted my timed routine. My mom, irritated, got in her car and drove me fifteen minutes out of her way to maintain my perfect attendance, with the exception of a single tardy from my first day of school. I had made CDs to keep in my car: happy ones, depressing ones, throwback and alternative and movie soundtracks and lullabies. I had always believed that there is proper music for every moment, and the right music can make a memory unforgettable.

Dialogue

By Sophia Modica, Bridget Leve and Kayla Rae

Sophia: alternativevegan666

Bridget: meatluvr101

Kayla: boiattheladywolfshowXD

 

WWW.Portlandmissedconnections.com

 

Alternativevegan666 is typing…

“I’ve found the love of my life… except I don’t know his name need a portland missed connection plz help thx luver baes”

 

meatluvr101 is typing…

“@Alternativevegan666 I think I can help. Can you describe his physical features? His face? Lemme know?”

 

Alternativevegan666 is typing…

“@meatluvr101 He has long brown hair and red cheeks all the time. He was wearing a hat and black rain jacket. He was talking about dogs and apartments he got to the Lady Wolf show early just like me. We had a good time dancing and I never got his name. Plz help!”

 

Meatluvr101 is typing…

“@Alternativevegan666 I think I know who you’re talking about. Is it @boiattheladywolfshowXD?”

 

boiattheladywolfshowXD is typing…

“@alternativevegan666 That was me.. I have no idea who you are though? Creep.”

 

Alternativevegan666 is typing…

“@boiattheladywolfshowXD I was wearing plaid pants and a Carrhart jacket, I also have bangs. I never worked up the courage to ask you your name before you had to go. So pls let me know”

 

boiattheladywolfshowXD is typing…

“@Alternativevegan666 Were you the one that “accidently” spilt water on me? You really were bad at dancing. Kinda awk. Idk how you guys found me but plz don’t contact me again.”

 

boiattheladywolfshowXD has left the chat.

 

Meatluvr101 is typing…

“@Alternativevegan666 Did I help?”

Train

In the end, her ignorance hit her like a train.

They were inseparable. Alice and Katie, Katie and Alice. Everyone knew it. Their other friends knew better than to believe it when either of the two called anyone but each other a “best friend.” It was the kind of friendship where the two developed characteristics and eventually became the other person. It switched off back and forth. Alice was Katie, Katie was Alice. They were both Alice – both Katie. It was inevitable. Others found it hard to be friends with one and not the other. Because, whichever you were friends with, you would always get a piece of the other. They had inside jokes. No one ever knew why, but every day, one of them would wear a peach hair barrette, and the other would wear a rose. A rose on her shirt, sewed onto her pant. It was like their way of owning a part of each other.

But not everything was peaches and roses. Things turned sour, out of the blue, like a storm on a sunny day, or the sun on a stormy day. No one expected it, especially not Alice. But Katie wasn’t ignorant. There were red flags.

Alice was a hypocrite. I won’t go into details, but she was. When Katie did something, and was excited to do it, Alice was the first she called.

“I can’t believe you did that. That makes me really grossed out.” Shot her down like an airplane in war, not as catastrophic though. Katie was excited and Alice shamed her for it; a feeling she became accustomed to. No, when Alice did it, it was the excitement of their friends (the extent of their friends), the school, the world. She was praised. She called Katie, the first she told, and Katie didn’t know how to respond. She was a fake excited, after all, that’s all she wanted Alice to do. It nagged at Katie, though. Why does she get all the glam and Katie gets the gory? Red flag.

Alice was dangerous. She had a fishing line, with “bare-minimum” written on the hook. She threw the line in, and dangled it for all the fishes, just enough to keep them interested. That was their friendship. Alice had many people, and many people had Alice. Katie wondered what it’d feel like to live in a two-way friendship. Alice wondered why Katie hadn’t brought her Starbucks yet. Red flag.

Alice was demanding. She needed all the fishes to focus on her, and if they lost interest, she would add just a little more bait to please them. She owned Katie. Katie had an old friend, Matthew. Matthew and Alice had a bad past, and disgraced them both when she found out Katie didn’t abandon him for her. Like a child, she demanded attention. Wanted everything her way. Demanded it that way. It was her way or the highway. Red flag.
Katie found a new crowd. No one expected it, especially not Alice. Katie wasn’t ignorant. Her and her new friends began forming into each other. But not to the point of Alice and Katie. No, everyone was still their own person. Katie knew a two-way friendship. Katie went to the beach, with her new crowd of course. They found an abandoned caboose where the threw down a blanket and began a picnic. Alice was not happy. She was hungry and had no fish to feast on. She tracked Katie, like she was an animal. It was like her eyes were red, steam out her ears. She found the abandoned caboose where the friends were feasting. She didn’t notice the red flags. She began to cross the train tracks

In the end, her ignorance hit her like a train. No, not a toy train that you often see children playing with. No, quite literally, a train; with boxcars and gondolas and flatcars. It was not a flash of the moment thing, as most people believed it were to be. Ignorance. It was slow, it allowed her time to think. That is the most painful death of all – when you’re left motionless, thinking. The Devil himself must have been the one keeping her heart beating. Her eyes open and he brain flowing – not God. She prayed to God to make it stop. She could feel the heartbeats escaping her ribcage, he last breaths exiting her body, the blood on a one-way route out. And God finally listened. A hellish way to go.

 

Fights at Lincoln

This week, newscasters decided to do a “Day in the life” of Officer Tommy Stoffel, a School Resource Officer at Lincoln High School. This included film that was going to be later published to local news outlets. The reason being students protesting to Portland Public Schools to get rid of SROs at schools.

Officer Stoffel is a fully trained police officer, and even carries a taser, handgun and handcuffs to work at Lincoln. Although he is trained in serious situation, many of the stuff he handles on a daily basis is smaller things with a single student.

Many students see Officer Stoffel as a friendly face in the halls, since he frequently teaches in a variety of classes, including College and Career Exploration and even Spanish classes. During passing time, Stoffel greets many students by first name, or just to exchange a simple smile.

As Stoffel was greeting students, the camera was focused on the officer. What happened next surprised everyone. In the background of the frame, two students began to fight; punches, kicks, one student ended up on the floor. Stoffel immediately began to intervene.

“Stop! Stop that right now,” Stoffel said. Soon enough, another student got in the middle of the fight and ended it. It was over as soon as it began.

“That is the first fight I’ve seen at Lincoln,” Stoffel said.

Although, teacher Henry Hopper stated that “Three fights have occurred at Lincoln within the last week.”

Stoffel never engaged in any physical contact in the fight because SROs are “trained to begin by using vocal defence,” Stoffel said. If things got worse, he would’ve intervened.

The video of the fight was quickly published on KOIN6 News and was later shown live. The video went viral around the school with many students not surprised about the content shown. Although, Principal Peyton Chapman felt responsible to send an email to parents.

Lincoln is in the middle of campaigning for a multi-million dollar bond to rebuild the school, and negative publicity is only lessening the chances of that bond being passed.