Tag: creative non-fiction
Love is All Around Us
by Elizabeth McGinn
by Anna Pomeroy ’23
Valentine’s Day is kind of an odd day. You see, it’s hard to celebrate a day of being in love when you aren’t with anyone. And while the constant reminders of sappy love notes scrawled across cards and rose petals fallen behind the path of lovebirds walking becomes excessive, I can’t help but acknowledge the true meaning behind this holiday. It’s not about admitting that you are in love, but that you have the experience of love within and around your own being. Just because I am not currently with someone does not mean that I do not recognize love. I love my family, my friends—more specifically my friends’ smiles, their ability to belt out songs together in the car without judgement, their warm hugs, and how I can just give them a look across the room and we’ll burst out laughing. In terms of my family, their love shines down on me through their reassuring words. Moreover, I’ll always remember the small gestures. Like how my parents would always show up to every game of mine when I was a child—even my grandparents would somehow make it—and when they’d sit through the two-hour long dance recitals in which I was only present for a single number. These qualities stand as reminders that Valentine’s Day is not about who you are in love with, but how you express your love and experience it throughout life. Even without a significant other on this special day, the stars will still shine at night and the flowers will still bloom. The natural beauties of life will continue. Let’s not allow this day to define how someone can celebrate love entirely.
Dear You, Part Two
by The Cowl Editor
by Kate Ward ’23
I wrote to you last year and told you everything that had happened so far in your freshman year at Providence College; however, I didn’t tell you how it ended because no one saw it coming. In March, we were sent home for spring break. COVID-19 was looming but no one thought it would hit nearly as hard as it did. Our break got extended to April, but then school shut down and classes swiftly switched to online. An abrupt end to such an electric first year; emotions ran high and a lot of the time you searched for answers no one had. You will make it through. Sure, there will be a lot of headaches and tears shed, but in the end, you do make it through the minefield. Grocery stores ran out of food and often you were eating whatever was available, city people flocked to the island and, soon, your normally quiet neighborhood was a small city of its own. In the midst of all this chaos, you and your family grew closer to your next door neighbors and their kids. Each evening at around five, the kids would come out and play in the backyard, you and Mom would sit on the back porch and listen to the pattering of feet and the screams of childhood happening just beyond the hedge. There are a lot of Zoom happy hours and awkward silences when someone asks what you’ve been up to because the answer is always, “class online and staying inside, just like you.” Soon, the happy hours fizzle out as you and everyone else accept the new reality of Governor Cuomo’s daily brief: wearing face masks, social distancing, and living in “unprecedented times.”
Over the summer you work at a horse camp. Spoiler alert: it’s awful. The summer never truly began as you were kept inside since March, so it all feels the same, like you’re stuck in an endless time loop. One good thing is you take up painting and it helps keep you grounded and feeling okay. You also make some new work friends and end up writing a lot of letters to your friend in the United States Marine Corps boot camp. You end up taking astronomy online to finally get your physics credit and, turns out, it’s really fun and your professor is awesome. Summer comes to a close and you pack all your stuff for your sophomore year at PC. You’re living in suites this year and all your roommates seem great.
Masks are mandatory and so is social distancing, but the majority of your classes are in-person, which is definitely a benefit, and it eliminates the learning curve of having to be on Zoom. Of course, as the weeks begin to pass, people begin to be more bold with their actions and throw caution to the wind. Oh, and that study abroad trip you were looking forward to in the spring—that got canceled. In the past week things have gotten really bad: off-campus housing has been placed in quarantine, cases have skyrocketed, and classes have moved online. I have to cut this letter short because I have to go do my Civ reading, good luck with that by the way.
After the Storm
by Connor Zimmerman
by Samantha Pellman ’20
I stood in front of the mess that lay before my eyes. I closed them hoping that when I opened them again, the nightmare would not be before me. But there was no use. This was my reality, and, even though it seems like forever ago, the stinging pain I felt in that moment still comes to me every once in a while.
It was October 29, 2012. I peered out the window watching the winds absolutely rock the trees and wires near the street. My heart was beating at a fast pace for quite some time now, I could not get it to go down. In that moment, it seemed like it never would. The people around me reminded me to keep calm, but their words seemed blurred. Calm would be the last thing I felt these next twelve hours. Although it took everything in me to not fight the feeling, I knew it would only consume me. For now, I had to let nature take its course. The night would be over soon, but I knew it was just the beginning of my nightmare.
Finally, I was able to go “home” and see with my own eyes. I remember being anxious, not knowing what to expect. We pulled up to the house, but the driveway was barely visible. I took a deep breath as I tried to climb over the debris to get to what was the front door. I stood in what was my living room facing the bay and wondering how it could look so peaceful now after how destructive it was the day before. There had been rows of windows along with a glass door that gave a beautiful view of the bay when you sat on the couch. But these windows and doors were completely shattered and broken, allowing the ocean to pour into what used to be our relaxing and cozy living room. The furniture that was in the room was no longer there, it floated out to sea. There were pieces of other people’s homes in ours, everything just flowed into each other, swapping places. My neighbor had our wooden pier in their living room, someone else had a neighbor’s jet ski in theirs. I tried to close my eyes and picture what used to be in the room, but with everything gone, it felt impossible. Even though I spent every passing day inside that room, I could not remember the little details and decorations that used to be there.
I walked to the room next to the living room, the kitchen. The beautiful yellow cabinets were destroyed, but luckily only the bottom ones. The oven and fridge were a wreck and there were pots and pans all over the muddy floor. The fire place was also a muddy mess, the wood inside it had floated away. My eyes were starting to fill with tears. I rushed to the stairs in a panic trying to get to my room leaving mud stains as I ran. My room needed to be okay. I had never been so thankful to have a room on the second floor. Nothing was ruined. That calmed me down a little but I still felt a pit in my stomach. My room was okay, but it wouldn’t be livable. Not with everything ruined downstairs. I started to cry as I thought about how long I’d have to be away from my home before all the damage was fixed. In only twelve hours, my world felt like it had been turned upside down.
There are days when little things trigger me and bring me back to that day. When I see a storm forming and the waves picking up, my body tenses automatically. A part of me will also be scared of the damage that can happen, and I will always be brought back to the day I cried in my room looking at the ocean. But I’m not afraid of what will happen, because I know that my family and I will be able to recover from it. The world is beautiful, and I will not let twelve hours change my perception of it.
Ever Dirty, Ever Clean
by Connor Zimmerman
by Erin Venuti ’20
“You are dust, and to dust you shall return.”
I close my eyes, gently, as the priest slowly marks a cross in the center of my forehead, in the same spot where my index and middle finger touch when I reach for the Father. I feel a few specks of the ashes sprinkle on my nose.
During my journey back to the pew, I become overly aware of the mark on my forehead. Does it look more like a cross or a smudge? Is it deep and dark or dry and light? Then I laugh at the irony, of the vanity in the desire for a perfect cross. Does such a thing exist? A perfect blemish.
Each year, on Ash Wednesday, I wonder what it would feel like to wake up early and go to the first mass of the day. To be marked with the ashes almost as soon as I wake up and go about my daily life with the cross on my forehead. What it would be like to meet someone who isn’t like me and be asked why in the world a grown woman would have literal dirt painted on her face. To be asked why I wanted the dirt so badly. Why I willingly approach the altar to get my dirt each and every year. After all, it’s only dirt…right?
In the end, I never do go to that first mass. I sleep in and go to class and, as the sun is waning, I get my ashes. No one has ever asked me why I have dirt on my face because they almost always have dirt on their face too.
Before bed, I examine the cross in my bathroom mirror. It’s lighter now, but present, nonetheless. By now, it looks more like a bruise, a wound on its way to healing. I wonder if I should wash it off, but, ultimately, I resolve to leave it be. After all, I am who I am, even in sleep.
When the sun rises the next morning and flows plentifully through my window, the mark has faded to the faintest of shadows. Few would know its presence upon first glance. Even still, I can feel it, the finality of the priest’s thumb as the cross is retraced year after year. One day, one week, one month, one year later, I can feel it.
Even now, I have dirt on my face. I paint on a little bit more each time I sit down for a meal or step into a church. Every day, I wake up and go about my daily life with the cross on my forehead. Only this cross is perfect. It will always be perfect.
From Freshman to Freshman
by Connor Zimmerman
by Kate Ward ’23
You’re now almost done with your freshman year of high school. It’s been a long and winding road full of trials and tribulations, but you made it through, even when you thought you wouldn’t. I’m proud of you. Fourteen is a tough age and you’ve made it. I’m writing from Providence College, where you’ll be going to school after you graduate. I know you haven’t even begun to think about college, but I know you want to be an author. I’m currently writing to you from my dorm, and I, too, am in the midst of my freshman year! We are nearly there. PC will open up a world of possibilities that you wouldn’t dream of even in your dizziest daydream. I’m going to tell you something right now that you probably won’t believe. You’re going to be studying in London in your sophomore year of college, imagine that. The Harry Potter fan in you will combust, I can bet on that. But it will be new and scary and so much fun. You’ll open yourself up to an entirely new culture, education, and new friends.
Your sophomore year will be tough, as you’ll take chemistry. It will forever haunt you, but you’ll never use it again. Your friends will also show their true colors, but if I can offer some advice, them doing so is not your fault in the slightest. You’ll experience a lot of personal growth and often question yourself and what you’re doing, but that’s okay; it will all help in the coming years. All I can say about sophomore year is to hang in there, and it will all work itself out.
Junior year is when things get really good. You’ll meet your true friends and work extraordinarily hard on school work as usual. ACT and SAT prep, well…that’s a trip you’re going to have to figure out because I’ve blocked that out. Please, please remember that your AP scores don’t define your efforts or who you are as a person. Don’t be afraid to reach out to your friends for help and share your anxieties about applying to schools. Also, keep on killing it in field hockey; it will get you places you never would have thought possible.
Hey senior! Congratulations on getting into PC! Welcome to the big leagues, and congratulations on becoming an all-county athlete. I told you things would get better after sophomore year. I told you you would make real friends. Enjoy the summer, do what you love, and have so much fun working with Tessa at the stables; it’ll be a blast. Take every moment at home and tuck it away in your heart because you will get homesick. It doesn’t matter how many times you tell yourself you won’t. Just because you’re breaking out of a small town and a small family doesn’t mean you won’t get homesick. And please thank Mom and Dad for helping you and supporting you every step of the way. Tell them you love them. Tell them for me because right now I’m missing them. Give the dog a kiss and clean the fish tank. See you in McVinney.
This is the Year
by Connor Zimmerman
by Erin Venuti ’20
Dear Erin (2010),
I’m reminded of you every day, without fail. I think about how you feel most comfortable wearing leggings and UGGs and a scrunchie—who would have guessed that they’d be back in style again?—and how I’m wearing all three of those things right now. I think about how much you love Harry Potter and the smell of lilacs and sitting in the second row of a classroom.
This is the year you become a teenager, the year you turn thirteen. Thirteen…to me, that sounds like such a small number, but I know that to you it feels so large. Thirteen.
Do you know that this is the year when your best friend will stop being your best friend? The first time you’ll begin to think that you’re not good enough.
The year you’ll experience loss, real loss for the first time? The first time you’ll go to a funeral and think about how you know someone in Heaven now.
Do you know that the thing you want to do with your life, your plan for the future, that it will really happen?
This is the year that will change your life.
I want you to know that you’re always going to be you. Your life will change, but you’ll stay the same.
I still have all those same doubts and insecurities. I still take pictures of the sunrise and love the sound of snowplows as I fall asleep. I still make up stories for the strangers I see and think about how the cars that pass me on the road are all playing different music. I still wonder if I’m as good as everyone else. I still love to wear warm clothes right out of the dryer and make homemade Valentines.
But that’s not a bad thing, you know? If I had the choice, I wouldn’t want to be another person. No matter what, I still want to be me.
My world has grown, and
I’ve grown with it. I don’t just have dreams, but plans. I’ve been to other countries, lived by myself. I know how to drive a car and buy a train ticket. I have money, not just the change leftover from the lunch money you get each morning, but money that I worked for. I have a degree, am on my way to get my next, and have plans for the one after that.
I still write. I wish I could write every day, but I don’t. Even still, I have words that are printed in a newspaper and a journal. I’ve even won a couple of awards. Can you believe it? There are people who think I’m a good writer. There are people who call me a writer.
Erin, the next ten years are going to be so much harder than the last. SO much harder. But you’re going to make it through it. You’re going to grow through it. You have no idea how much you’re going to grow.
Thanks for everything you are, and everything you are going to be.
by The Cowl Editor
by Samantha Pellman ’20
When people tell you that abroad wasn’t real life, they’re not lying. It really wasn’t and there are too many examples I can provide you with to prove it. I’ll choose one, maybe the best one. I had been out of the country for approximately three weeks. Everything was still so new. I was just beginning to pick up how to navigate Paris, but it was time to make my first trip outside of France. I booked a train to Switzerland, where I’d meet my roommate who was in Florence. I was already anxious because there was a transfer I needed to make in a random part of Switzerland to a connecting train. But on top of that, my friend and I had the brilliant idea to book a day for paragliding. The website was almost sketchy; I mean, all we typed in Google was “Paragliding in Interlaken.” All we had to do was put our names and email and then select a time. There was no down payment or even price. I received an email saying that someone would pick us up a half hour before from our hotel to go to the site. Seemed a little weird, but we didn’t question it. The morning came and it was ten minutes past when they were supposed to pick us up. So I called the number in the email. Turns out they forgot about us and were turning around to get us. Things were getting weirder, but we still didn’t question it. Finally, a white van came and we reluctantly got inside. It was a Swiss man, but he was wearing the paragliding company shirt on which made us feel a little better. He drove us ten minutes away to what looked like a little camping site. At this point it was clear we wouldn’t be paying until after we landed, and they knew we survived. They told us to pick out boots and put our bags in a wooden chest. We looked at each other. My friend had her Gucci bag. So we were supposed to just leave our bags with our ID, credit cards, money, and passport information in this random chest. No, that didn’t seem right. But did we do it? Yup. Next we put on helmets and got into a bigger van with other kids who were coming. The instructors were there, all very Swiss and German, rough looking people. People you’d expect to do paragliding as a career. They made us pick out of a hat, the name who we’d be ‘flying’ with. They told us once we get up the mountain, the only way to come back down would be via air. So up we went, up the Swiss mountains. The view was beautiful but we were anxious and experienced motion sickness going up the curvy mountain. Once we got up, there was a path we had to climb up because the van could not get that high up. They handed us a backpack and we trekked up the slippery mountain while it started to snow and hail. At this point, we were having many regrets. But it was too late. To top it off, the weather was not cooperating and the wind was not in the perfect form it had to be in. In fact, we were told it was extremely dangerous and we had to wait it out. Here we are on top of this mountain, setting up our paraglide behind us while slipping and trying not to fall off the mountain. I was too distracted with staying on the ground and preserving my life that all of a sudden I looked up and my friend is in the air. Now I was freaking out. All of a sudden my instructor was telling me to “RUN” and the rest I think I blacked out. Long story short, I survived the paragliding part and made it on to land, a random field in Interlaken actually. And if you thought anything about that story was normal, then that’s a problem. We were not raised to do things like that, but after all it was abroad, and abroad really is a free for all.
by The Cowl Editor
by Sam Pellman ’20
I turned around one more time and swallowed back the tears that were forming. I’d be back in four months, but why did that feel like an eternity in this moment? No, I can’t cry, I won’t. The car ride was silent. No one knew what to say. I was leaving my home, my family, and my friends, and all I could try to think was that this will be good for me. I tried to have the excited airport feeling you have when you are heading off to a vacation, but excitement was the last thing I felt in that moment. I waved one more goodbye to my parents as I walked to the gate, not letting them see the tears in my eyes. I’ll be home soon…
Fast forward to the plane. My stomach was in knots and I could feel myself sweating from the nerves. I had to get off this plane, this was all too much. What is it going to be like? Will I remember how to use my French? Where am I going to live? Who am I going to meet? The thoughts were racing through my head, I felt myself getting sick. It was the middle of January, and the day had come to pack up as much of my life as I could fit in two suitcases and plop myself in a foreign country thousands of miles from home by myself. Wait, was I crazy? Who let me do this? This is so not me. Maybe I should just fly back home.
I got off the plane and thought I would feel instant magic. But guess what? That’s not the reality. The reality is that I was in a foreign country, in a huge airport, by myself, without a working phone or an idea of where to go. There was no magic. In fact, this felt like my worst nightmare. All I could do was breathe. If there is one thing I’ve learned in the past, it’s not to get my hopes up for an unrealistic journey. This was real life, and it was going to take some time. I followed the signs, even though some of the words were unfamiliar.
Paris would give me magic, but I had to be willing to let it.
I raced to the meeting spot and was helped by a professor from the program with getting a cab. The taxi driver didn’t speak a word of English which made me panic. There is no way I can survive here for four months with what seemed to be a language barrier I could never get over. I stared out the window. Paris was different from how I remembered it. Granted, the airport was forty minutes from the city itself, but I certainly didn’t feel magic when I looked at the buildings and roads in front of me. Don’t force it, I thought. It will come.
All I wanted to do was call my parents and tell them I was freaking out. Too bad my phone didn’t work. Why was I staring at it waiting to get a text or a call? And that’s when it happened. I looked up and saw it. The magic filled my lungs to the brim. We were driving right past the Eiffel Tower and as cliché as it was, I was relieved. This was the Paris I remembered. This was my home for the next four months and it was in that moment that the excitement I pushed so far back was finally beginning to break through. All this time I allowed myself to become so anxious and worried that I was forgetting the reason I came here. And that was to feel this magic every single day because it’s what I deserved and it’s what I needed. I needed a change, I needed an adventure. This was going to be good, and I couldn’t wait to see where my adventure was going to take me. Paris gave me magic, and I was ready to use it.
Upwards of Ten Thousand Feet
by The Cowl Editor
by Kiley McMahon ’20
As we continued upwards of ten thousand feet,
the vehicle’s engine roared loudly in my ears.
The GoPro stuck to his head recorded my every motion, reaction, and feeling.
My fingers turned to ice through the tips of my gloves.
Thoughts of loved ones raced through my mind.
What would happen if something went wrong?
Would my soul care for my loved ones if the worst occurred?
My future was in his hands.
Why was he being so nonchalant about the possibility of death?
As we climbed to the edge,
butterflies danced in my stomach.
As we jumped,
my thoughts escaped my mind upwards of ten thousands beats per second.
My heart raced and my palms sweated through my gloves.
I flew through the air,
just as an eagle,
searching for its prey.
As I stared in utter disbelief
at the Swiss Alps,
which I had learned about in class,
but never dreamt about flying over,
my palms sweated through my institute given gloves,
upwards of ten thousand feet.
My life is a fantasy,
and I am just living it.
Upwards of ten thousand feet.
D.A.R.T & Yards
by The Cowl Editor
by Jay Willett ’20
“No legs up-50 euro fine.” The text enraged me as I promptly took my seat on the pea green cushion. Defeated, I took a breath and in the bat of an eye, we arrived at Tara Street. Suddenly, the cabin was crowded and populated by flocks of tourists, bumping against each other without empathy. Five-no, six men, aged around mid-20’s, sat behind us. I could tell their age not by their looks, but by their voices. The men poked fun at each other, exclaiming in Spanish how one person in their group wore a tacky outfit.
“Tu ropa!” they all laughed, pointing at the one man who had his cuffs up in the air. I chuckled in my seat. The fact was, they all wore the same looking clothes: a blue collared button down, jeans, the works. I struggled finding the difference that they were bullying him for. They were all quite tan, wore patchy dark beards, and flashed sizable smiles for the majority of the trip. The Spaniards looked like they were having fun, I thought as I looked down at my offbeat donut, taking a bite. Quickly, we zoomed past tenement-looking places, cranes, pillars of smoke funneling to the heavens, graffiti, “TAKE BACK THE CIT-”
“Harmonstown,” crackled the P.A. I sighed and reclined in my seat. Not long now until we reach the end of our journey, the end of the line. A city of the past, ruined castles and churches, I daydreamed of our destination. Remember the past, live the present, scratch the third.
Our Spanish friends increased in volume, their voices reached new heights when the bullied man chirped back. He cursed them in Spanish, smiling while he did it, and sat back down laughing with the rest of the chorus. I looked back at us, our heads buried in our phones, giving the occasional chuckle when we scrolled through Barstool’s feed. Both groups were from different countries, and both were traveling to the same destination-the past. In that brief moment, just the second before passengers got up to wait for the sliding doors to open, I felt jealous. Though some of our group winced in annoyance at the men, the whole ride I thought to myself, “I want that to be me.”
New relationships, new connections, that’s what study abroad is all about, alumni say. I don’t particularly enjoy restarting though. It’s scary, to know that your friends, your group of Spaniards, are just about an ocean over. Howth, that’s what the LED sign read, as I passed underneath. The land of the ocean, maybe I’ll get a glimpse of home today, I thought.
* * * *
The worst thing about Iceland isn’t its precipitation, it’s the wind. The flakes creep in between the gusts, causing dandruff on the stones. The first snow in a couple of days, and of course, it arrives along with 70 knot gales. Even at the base of the mountain, or volcano, whatever it is, the winds are relentless and trample over the burial grounds. Despite the vast space, it’s all mostly sulphuric lava fields surrounding the church, limiting the graves to a 10-meter-wide section of land. You can’t dig through lava fields, you’ll get too tired and give up or receive a face-full of fresh geyser water, melting faces. The location made sense then, but the church? Ratty, the cloth holding the door to its frame is tattered. The rustic paint only clings to the shingles just to match the faintness of its now dangling door. Locals recount that taxes provided opportunity for farmers to avoid fees and collect a handsome sum from the pool of their peers. How disappointing.
A half hour out from Reykjavik, but there’s nothing to hint that civilization might be close by. The looming mass of land blocks the city, and the road that bends around takes a detour just south to avoid simplicity. They’re just rocks now. There are no names to pay respects to, wiped and scratched Icelandic symbols aren’t legible, even in their native tongue. A tiny fenced-in area among the tundra seems to be hard to upkeep. The wind carves its share into the curves of the gravestones, leaving them disfigured like a used deodorant stick. Maybe standing there awhile in the 2 degrees Celsius air is respect enough, but the elusiveness of names leaves a bitter taste. Without them, the stones are nothing but that, formations holding back against the undying tide of the wind.
The dirt is stiff, the labor for even the five rows of graves would have taken forever. Driving another 10 minutes will reveal another neighboring farm, with an identical church and yard. Maybe there aren’t bodies under the ice, maybe the markers are meant to legitimize the church, drawing in more hungry customers. I, for one, don’t have the appetite for that type of theology.
Back on the bus, our guide resumes the details of her love life. The heavy snow conquers and outranks the wind’s blast and blankets the stones to hide them from any more peering tourists. I regret touching the stones, as my fingers are crusted with frost and a bright vermillion. Next is the waterfalls, but yet, the image of the lonely church at the base hogs my excitement. The once plentiful yellow sulphur is now buried under the neat coat of white, concealing the farmland from view. Questions surface to my mind. How could they use religion for profit? Are there no morals? Maybe I’ll ask the questions when our guide is done listing her first date experience. Then again, the answers could come to me in a moment, such uses are probably more foreign to them than it is to me.