Armenians and Bad Questions I Sing

by The Cowl Editor on September 3, 2021

Creative Non-Fiction


A guest may often ask his or her host this question: “Do you have a bathroom?” Some people call this an inane or insane question. I, however, think it’s both perfectly ane and sane. I am suspicious by nature and can sympathize with someone afflicted with reasonable doubt as to whether his host possesses a bathroom. Some people might suggest that the question “Where’s your bathroom?” is more suitable, but those people are naïve, because the question “Where’s your bathroom?” assumes two facts not in evidence: one, that the host actually has a bathroom, and two, that the host is willing to share that information. Like I said, I’m suspicious. I can all too easily imagine a host being gripped by the sadistic impulse to withhold the answer to that question. I’ve certainly had that impulse towards certain people in my house. I can also imagine a scenario where the host has no bathroom. That is a terrible thought but I find comfort in the notion that that depraved person will someday encounter a just God. 

I like the question “Do you have a bathroom?” just fine. But it is precisely this sort of pleasant question on which I can only reflect nostalgically, because at every semester’s beginning I encounter more questions that I don’t like than questions that I do like. One of these is “Where are you from?” I have found that I am unable to answer this question without hesitating, no matter how often I am asked it. So, mental mouth agape in confusion, I hesitate. Probably, since it’s a pretty easy question, I look like a ditz—or like someone with something to hide. The truth is nearer the latter. 

The safe, half-truth answer is that I’m from Massachusetts. Insofar as my family lives in Massachusetts, this is true, but prior to that, I have lived in Ohio, Michigan, Mississippi, Michigan again, Washington, and Connecticut. That’s a can of worms that I seldom open, but if I should do so, the follow-up questions are predictable. No, neither of my parents was in the military. Were we in the Witness Protection Program, ha-ha? 

Well, funny guy, I answer, you’re not so far off. 

Since 1986, my family has been on the run from the Los Angeles Armenians.  

It all began at my sister’s third birthday party in the mid-1980s, in Glendale, California. The birthday party was supposed to take place at a local park, and so early that morning my dad and my two grandfathers ventured there to stake their territory and escape the party preparations. After an hour or two, a large contingent of the local Armenian population came upon them. (How my forefathers determined that they were part of the Armenian population has escaped my memory—maybe they were waving flags.) The Armenians claimed the territory as theirs for a family reunion. My Irish forefathers claimed it as theirs for a family birthday party. The Armenians made a case for theirs being the greater need. The Irish cited the policy of first-come, first-serve. The Armenians said something to the effect of, those who serve last serve best, and muttering darkly (or so I imagine), retreated, but set up camp within spitting distance of the Irish. Every time my parents glanced in that direction, they were met with Armenian glares, and when they left, the Armenian glares followed them. The Armenian glares have followed us from California to Washington to Ohio to Michigan to Mississippi to Michigan to Washington to Connecticut to Massachusetts. My parents are even now plotting their next move. 

Do you really think that a gang of California Armenians are out to get you, after thirty-five years, over a measly park table, you ask? No. I don’t think they’re out to get us over the table. I think they’re out to get us with the table. A sturdy park table is a great battering ram, and he who finds one finds a treasure. I think I’ll know when my time is running out. I think I’ll wake up some morning and find a park table out in the yard. Then the next day I’ll wake up and find a little toy park table on my pillow, and that will be the last thing I ever see. 

L.A. Armenians, if you’re reading this, let my people go. Let the park table stand between us no more.  

And as this semester begins, and I arm myself with the required biographical facts, I still don’t have a satisfactory answer to the question “Where are you from?” Satisfactory for me, anyway. I can tell you where I’m not from, though, and I am definitely not from Massachusetts. On no planet, am I from Massachusetts. At the risk of offending the Massachusetts people as well as the Armenians, maybe that’s a good answer to give. 


A Short Composition About the Sun

by The Cowl Editor on September 3, 2021

Creative Non-Fiction


Like my tiny, overgrown succulents and plants, I naturally lean towards the sun. Sun for me is like water for fish, its harsh rays embracing me in the same way the ocean delicately wraps herself around a fish’s entire being. The sun and her beautiful rays call out to me daily, begging for me to leave the comfort of my bed, to stroll outside and just live. As her loyal servant, I obey her orders, letting the sun’s stubborn heat darken my skin and lighten my hair. I allow her to peek through my curtains curiously, guiding me through my days, reminding me that yes, everything will be okay. 

Naturally, I find myself wanting to be around the sun constantly, as her blinding light is one that never fails to enchant me. Sometimes, I am able to find this light in the best of people, whose aura is somehow able to match the starking clarity of the sun and her light. These people have rays instead of hair, their constantly bright personalities forever bringing me up. Their luscious laughs make even Scrooge-enthusiasts grin, cracking Medusa’s stone-cold statues with their striking smiles. Sun for these people is their oxygen, serving as the sole reason they are able to lazily walk down the same path as I do. These people are ones who give my simple life meaning, their pure, unfiltered beauty one I refuse to shy away from. 

While my body strains towards the sun, the sun turns her back on me, acting as a mother who has decided to abandon her child. Like her child, I fail to receive a hint of warmth from the sun’s rays anymore, despite her whispered promise that she would embrace me forever. Traces of the sun clumsily stick around me, only reminding me that she decided to escape from me, ditching me and my failures behind. For her, harsh colors were the only way to see the true me, the one hidden underneath staged Instagram posts and silly fake “chaotic moments” shared with acquaintances that are as shallow as the delicate waves that crash on the sand by my home. I can’t help but stare at the sun angrily, wondering why? Was my personality so terrible, that not even I deserve a little bit of sun? What did I do for her to turn her stunning rays away from me? 

The more I focus on the sun and her cruel game, the less I notice yet another being fondly looking at me. This creature stares at me, their head perched on their neck, watching me proudly. Their stone gray eyes happily stare, eyeing me with an expression I am not used to. While this being is far from perfect, it is still beautiful—their tiny light creeping into my room at night, when the sun decides to take her daily rest. The first time they keep me awake, I find myself still crying over the sun’s harsh abandonment, my salty tears staining my face and tainting my typically flawless skin. The moonlight’s soft glow pityingly reflected these miniature signs of despair, sighing as I drew in yet another shaky breath.  

One night turned into many, and I found a new comfort: the moon. Instead of wrapping myself up in my blankets and falling to sleep, I would stay wide awake, engaging in strong discourse with a celestial being that successfully distracts me from my worries. Tears no longer weighed down my face, and my once empty skin now had its own personal craters, one that matched my new influencer’s. Happily, the moon introduced me to their family, their inviting glow, one that was not harsh like the sun’s, but comforting like a shower after a long, tiring day. These new friends immediately accepted me, loving me despite my flaws and reassuring me that perfection doesn’t necessarily equal happiness.  

Two prominent bags permanently relax under my eyes, yet these small marks are ones I would not give up. Instead of searching for that superficial sun, I find myself gravitating towards people who remind me of my speckled friend in the sky, as their acceptance of me is far superior to the falseness of my sun-filled acquaintances. The moon and her precious light remind me that as humans, we are all flawed, not a single one of us truly possessing that blinding vision of perfection the sun attempts to force upon us. Their guidance has allowed me to give up this toxic view, and the stars have encouraged me to do what the sun has done to me in the past: turn my back on her. While I can no longer aim for the perfection of the sun, I now find comfort in knowing that the moon and their stars will accept me no matter how damaged I am, and I find that affirmation far more beautiful than anything else.