Writer’s Block: “I swore to myself that this would be the last time…”

by The Cowl Editor


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Scrabble tiles spelling out Writer's

Scrabble tiles spelling out Block

TWO WRITERS, ONE LINE: “I swore to myself that this would be the last time…

The Last One
By Erin Lucey ’20

Dan

I swore to myself that this would be the last time. But as I sift through the pile of potential suspects, I can’t help but torture myself with the thought that I must have missed something again. Okay, I thought, THIS will be the last time, and then I have to go home. Carly is probably one re-run episode away from falling asleep on the couch, trying desperately to wait up for me. I feel so guilty about how often I have been leaving her all alone with the baby. I’ve lost count of how many nights it’s been since I’ve made it home while little Troy is still awake. I had always promised myself that I wouldn’t be that type of dad, but at this point, I can only hope that my son won’t remember these days without me, and that soon I will learn to balance and separate my personal and professional lives. After we crack this case, I thought, I am never getting this involved in my work again. I am missing out on so much of my life, obsessing over the twisted acts of this anonymous criminal. By subjecting myself to this endless cycle of leads followed by deadlock, I am letting this monster steal life from me, too, though not with the same direct brutality as that used on these poor girls.

The dim light of my desk lamp begins to flicker, probably a sign that it’s time to pack up for the night. Hopeless, I am just about ready to give up. Maybe I am just too invested, but I can’t ignore the feeling that I am so close to cracking this. There must be something obvious that I am missing! Has it been right in front of me all along? This barbaric man is getting away with some of the most savage slayings I have ever seen. How could I let these innocent little girls down? As guilty as I feel for spending so much time away from my family, the guilt I feel for these young girls who have suffered, never to see their own families again, is unbearable. I can’t let this guy get away with this. With just enough incentive to look through those arbitrary clues one last time, I finally see it. Of course. It’s been right in front of me all along! I practically jump out of my seat. The killer! I know who he is!

Julie

I swore to myself that this would be the last time, but as the thrill of the enchanting power I held when taking the life of another person engulfs me again, I already know I am going to crave this feeling some more. Okay, that statement made me sound crazy. It’s not what you think. I do know that what I am doing is wrong. It’s not like I am one of those psychopaths that doesn’t feel any guilt. The truth is, I do feel really bad about it. Every day, the thought of just ending it all and turning myself in crosses my mind. But at the same time, what do I have to lose by continuing with my actions at this point? When they do catch me, I will probably already go to jail for life for what I’ve done so far, even despite my status as a minor. So why not chase the electrifying feeling all the way to the end?

I don’t quite understand how no one has even thought to question me yet. Do I really seem that innocent? Anytime I see my famous crimes on TV I completely freak out. How has no one noticed that? I always feel like I am making it so obvious! While part of me wants to just get caught and get it over with already, I can’t escape the intense desire to keep this up. How far can I go? How blind can they be? I must be really good at what I do.

 

Late Night Visits
by Sarah Kirchner ’21

I swore to myself that this would be the last time…
The last time I went into his room and
The last time I let him manipulate me with lies,
The same lies he told too many girls before me.
Those girls who I see too often and have to hide from,
Because they know just like I do.
They memorize the lies only to tell themselves
That he really means it this time.
“It’s only you.” Classic.
I swore to myself that this would be the last time,
That I left his room at 4 a.m.
And walked home alone in the dark.
The feeling of regret washing over me
But not enough to make me not go back,
Because he has a pull that I can’t quite refuse.
The way he smiles at me makes my heart beat faster,
And I never know exactly what to do.
He texts to me “u up?” and somehow
I feel like the luckiest girl in the world.
He barely does a thing,
Yet he’s become my everything.
I swore to myself that this would be the last time,
And one day it will be the last time.
It terrifies me that someday
He’ll really be gone.
I’ll believe in myself instead of his lies
So that one day I will walk out that door
And never go back.

 

Two Writers, One Line

by The Cowl Editor


Christmas


“This Christmas was shaping up to be the one ever…”

Christmas dinner set out in front of a fireplace
Photo Courtesy of dws4.me

by Marisa DelFarno ’18

This Christmas was shaping up to be the best one ever! Actually, no. That’s a lie. This Christmas marks another year where Natalie and her sister, Sara, have to endure dinner table discussion with their Aunt Claudia, who incessantly brags about her daughter, Jane.
Natalie and Sara huddle together at one end of the table while their mom and Aunt Claudia are seated at the opposite end. Porcelain dishes housing ham, mashed potatoes, and glazed carrots lay scattered on the table, obstructing the girls’ view of their aunt’s Raggedy Ann-red dyed hair with matching red lipstick, staining both her lips and teeth. Her powdery makeup is caked on, creasing into her wrinkles. The sisters attempt to avoid conversation by hovering their heads over their plates and stuffing their mouths with food. However, Aunt Claudia always finds a way to bring up Jane and her lengthy list of accomplishments…

Sara: (puts down her fork and rubs her stomach) All this food is giving me agita. I might go upstairs and lay down for a bit.
Natalie: (pushes her plate away from her) Oh my God, me too!

The girls rise from their seats and make a beeline for the stairs.

Mom: Wait, come back! Let’s all sit and talk. (nudges her head) We haven’t seen Aunt Claudia since last Christmas.
Sara: (takes a deep breath) Okay, fine.

Natalie and Sara drag their feet back to the dinner table as if they were made of cinder blocks and sit.

Aunt Claudia: (smiles) So, Natalie, do you have a boyfriend?
Natalie: Uh…no.
Aunt Claudia: (turns to Sara) Sara, what about you?
Sara: (without looking up from her phone) Nope!
Aunt Claudia: Oh, well, Jane and her boyfriend Henry are still going strong. Five years already! They just got themselves an apartment in Palo Alto. It is so beautiful over there in California. (spits as she talks) BIG bucks they are making now!
Natalie: Oh, good for them. I heard tha—
Aunt Claudia: They went to Japan together this summer, too! Do you want to see a picture of them in Kyoto? (whips out her phone from her pocket and scrolls through it before passing it around the table)
Sara & Natalie: (voices infected with indifference) Aww.
Aunt Claudia: Isn’t she gorgeous? So classy and natural-looking! I always tell her she should model! (points to her phone) Doesn’t she look exactly like Prince Harry’s fiancée? Oh what’s her name…Meghan Markle!
Mom: (leans in for a closer look) Why yes, she does. It’s uncanny!
Sara & Natalie: Uh-huh. Yeah.
Aunt Claudia: Anyways, Natalie, do you have any plans for after graduation?
Natalie: Um…hopefully grad school. I’ve been checking out a few creative writing programs and—
Aunt Claudia: Oh, Jane is into creative writing, too! But she only keeps that as a hobby. (laughs) She used to write prose, but now she writes code! (laughs at her own joke until silence fills the room)
Mom: You know, there aren’t a lot of women in STEM fields. I think it’s great—
Aunt Claudia: You all don’t know how proud I am that Jane is a software developer! She’s only 23 and look, she’s working in Silicon Valley!
Sara: Yeah, we know.
Aunt Claudia: Anyways, Natalie, what were you saying again? I forgot.
Natalie: Oh, well, I might take a gap year. Save up, travel, maybe take a GRE review course, and then apply to a couple of programs. (half-smiles and shrugs shoulders)
Aunt Claudia: Oh…(takes a long pause) And, ah, Sara, how are things at school?
Sara: (apathetically) Fine, I guess.
Mom: (turns to Aunt Claudia) Sara has been doing great in school! She got all A’s this quarter! If she keeps this up, she’s going to graduate with honors! (smiles at Sara, whose face is reddened with embarrassment)
Aunt Claudia: Oh that’s good, dear. You know, Jane graduated with honors in high school and later summa cum laude in college!

There’s an awkward silence. Sara’s eyes dart down to her phone and she fumbles with it underneath the table. Natalie’s phone buzzes. A text from Sara reads “kill me now.” The sisters exchange looks and a smirk.

Mom: (notices Aunt Claudia’s empty plate) Hey, we’ve got desserts. Do you want some Christmas cookies?
Aunt Claudia: Oh, yes please!
Mom: I’ll be right back. (disappears into the kitchen)
Aunt Claudia: Hmm, I’ve been talking so much about Jane. Let’s switch up the conversation. (grins like the Cheshire cat) Let’s talk politics!


Warm white lights on a Christmas tree
Photo Courtesy of manrepeller.com

by Erin Lucey ’20

This Christmas was shaping up to be the best one ever—or at least the best one my kids would see so far—when it all abruptly collapsed. Just as we felt that everything was falling into place, we blinked and it had all fallen apart. The tree stood lonely in the corner of the living room, lights unplugged and lively ornaments populating just the top portion of its left side. The children’s gifts lay tucked away in the attic closet, unwrapped and unseen. The house was empty.

The world saw its first broken Christmas 12 years ago, two months before the birth of my first child. For roughly a month and a half before the big day, new rumors kept surfacing that shocked the world and began to abolish the magic of the season. For the very first time in history, journalists had made their way to the very top of the Earth, to report on the subject we all wondered about, but wouldn’t dare question—Santa’s toy factory in the North Pole.

What they discovered astounded everyone who believed. Photos of the horrifying working and living conditions that his helpless elves experienced quickly circulated, and the world’s jolly image of Santa quickly flipped to the vision of a monster.

On the night of Christmas Eve of 2005, on his annual mission to deliver gifts to the nicest children around the world, he was assassinated as he flew over North America. The traditional celebration of Christmas was banned, and everyone promised to never mention the evil man or his Christmas practices ever again. These rules became stricter and stricter over the years, quickly making the celebration of Christmas with a decorated pine tree and “Santa’s presents” a hefty criminal offense.

I’ve always been particularly fond of the loving magic that engulfs the Christmas season, and couldn’t stomach the thought of my children never experiencing it as I did. As they grew up, I’ve slowly and subtly introduced the wonders of the holiday little by little. Starting with Christmas carols when they were babies, I’ve waited until they were old enough to keep the secret from their teachers and friends to decorate a tree, and allow “Santa” to bring them presents as a reward for their good behavior. This was supposed to be the first year of us doing it all.

As I wait here, surrounded by bleak cement walls and anchored with defeat, I wonder how it is that such a harmless and wholesome concept could become so irreparably damaged. Will Christmas ever regain its magic?

Left with nothing but my own inner holiday zeal, I walk up to the metal bars that enclose me and begin to gently tap with the side of my shoe, creating a calm and steady beat. Inhaling slowly, I quietly whisper just loud enough that it can be heard over my music, “You better watch out…”

And immediately a faint voice has joined me. “You better not cry…”

Two more voices have added to the harmony. “You better not pout…”

At least eight mouths are chanting now. “I’m telling you why…”

A door opens and guards come flooding in, but everyone in the prison is singing at this point.

“Santa Claus is coming…”

And at this very moment, I am sure that my family and I will always believe in the magic of Christmas.