The unconscious mind conflicting with the conscious. When the dreams that were once your brain’s creations becomes your reality. That feeling of longing for someone you haven’t yet met. The stranger on the train who simultaneously feels known and unknown. The memories of the past that still feel like the present. The eerie sensation of knowing this experience you’ve never had. Déjà vu is a French loanword expressing the feeling that one has lived through the present situation before.
Welcome to this year’s first Spotlight where you will find pieces about letters to old friends, to reminiscing the past, to déjà vu! So grab a warm drink and remember - don’t let your unconsciousness trick you.
Three in the Morning
vanilla and currants
are long dead in the dip
of my collarbone, I
ask myself a question
leather coats drape
over sweet nights
ice cracks and below - it
is cold and bitter, the way
she liked her living,
her, who i was not too long ago
fluorescents burning through
my eyelids, the same old
a dime held
my evenings, neon
lights in the snow, haunting someone
i am not, someone
i can't answer
It’s one of those days again
The wind smells like you
and I’ve locked myself inside of the closet
I can feel the hem of my favourite dress
ghosting across my forehead
as I rock back and forth
and metal hangers rattle against each other above me
It’s amazing how you can reduce me to this
after all of this time
I’m still cowering like a child
still shaking like a puppy in a thunderstorm
Months later and you’re still rushing in my ears
still branded behind my eyelids
still freezer burned into my skin
and I wonder if I will ever be whole again or if you’re hiding some of my pieces in your back jean pocket
I can’t stop remembering
only hide from the memories you placed in my head
The wind dies down and the moment passes
so I stand up
climb out of the closet
brush the dust off my tights
and get on with my day
We sometimes wonder if we all lived the same childhood, we did
I look at you and see myself, you look at me and see you.
They saw us like feral cats roaming the streets, cat calls we would hear.
Little girls, we would question what they were about.
We were raised to be tough, not liking the
Color pink, but that was the color of the rose.
And because of that
Learning to hate ourselves from
People who hated themselves, like we were a
Fluid, fragmented thing, not solid, we were a crack
We were beginning to explore femininity, diving in
And the moment we did, the
Society traumatized us, leaving us frozen in the concrete.
Little boys, plagued with toxic masculinity, proving
They were mentally nothing more than natures
Servants, abiding by the masculine laws
Don’t cry, speak like you have a blade for a tongue, never let yourself admit a wrong.
Little girls growing up thinking this must be it
We had everything ripped away, shards of rib sticking out of our stomachs, we learned
This is what we must do to
Be loved, to walk
In this world, without
Being given anything, just stripped of having
A solid footing, we had bloodied feet.
we have been here before, haven’t we?
the cracked pavement, the red brick, the three benches
something about this moment feels repeated
like coming home
to warm covers and comfort and a cup of tea
we have said these words before, haven’t we?
whispers, laughter, conversations floating through open air
something about this moment feels timeless
like despite the years passed,
we are still scared. still tired. still alive, together.
we will never be here again, will we?
every moment fades to memory eventually
we will all run far
creating a cobweb across the earth
maybe when we sit on concrete courtyards we will think
i have been here before, haven't i?
only it used to be we
Ember snapped back to consciousness.
Bright, searing pain coursed through the smoldering whirlwind of her mind. Every sound was muted by a ringing in her ears that wouldn’t stop. Most of her bones were probably broken. Like she cared. They would heal within a few hours, as they always did. Certain other things in recent memory, however, would take far longer to recover from.
Worse than the rage and agony was the guilt. It was her fault that all those people were dead. It was her fault that an ancient, unspeakable evil now lived in the mind of her friend, who was now the singular most powerful being on the planet. In her pride and arrogance, she had played directly into her enemies’ hands, and innocent people were paying for her mistakes. She, Ember, had singlehandedly brought about the doom of the human race while trying to prevent it.
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I’m not sure how I ended up here.
It’s midnight, and I’m sitting in a diner with a plate of all day breakfast in front of me. Two wet eggs, burned bacon, arranged to look like a smiley face, which seems like a cruel joke to give to someone sitting in a highway-side diner in the early hours of the morning.
I must have been hungry when I ordered them, but now I’m far from it. To be fair, it’s not like it’s my fault they look disgusting.
Tomorrow is my twenty five year high school reunion. Twenty five years, and what do I have to show for it? An unsuccessful business, an ex-wife, and kids who’d rather live in foster care than with me.
The sound of sirens passing on the highway gets louder as the door opens, and a woman steps in. I don’t recognize her until she says my name, and then I wonder how I ever forgot her.
“John? Is that you?”
I’ve been thinking about this woman for twenty five years. Every night, every day. She stands out against the wallpaper with her bright pink hair and those tattoos creeping up her arms, like ivy over a tombstone. She had less of them back when I knew her, just a few stick-and-pokes, but now she looks like she could be the wall of a parking garage. They wrap around her wrists, her ankles, her throat, twisting lines that look almost like tire tracks. I can’t imagine how painful it must have been.
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I don’t know when I first started to notice them. Their presence lingering in the background.
It was a person. I know that for sure. I could be ordering a coffee on the other side of town and I would swear I’ve seen the barista before. I could take the train home and somewhere in the car, a voice would sound out above the others. An anomaly. Both familiar and foreign. I don’t know who they are. I’m sure of it. But they’re a plague to my mind. A face. A voice. Somebody that should be categorized by now, somewhere in my brain, with a name, an identity. But instead, they only tiptoe around recognition.
They’re like a song. A string of notes that tie together and hum a vaguely familiar melody in the recesses of your mind. You can’t quite place your finger on where it came from but you swear you’ve heard it before. From somewhere. You didn’t make it up. You swear. Was it a pop song from the early 2000s? Or no, surely that new indie single that was released a week ago?
Who’s orchestrating that song? I can’t find them. I can’t forget them either. Just when I think it was just a coincidence, their existence, a presence as familiar as my shadow sneaks up behind me.
I need to find this person. This song. This DJ that won’t stop playing tunes that irritate every crease of my brain. I want a name instead of a metaphor.
I want to meet DJ Vu.
Grow Up, Fall Down
You will never grow up.
I mean this not as an insult,
But as a comfort.
Your cheeks still glow red
With the raging fire of your dreams,
Now fuelled by different magic potions
I have already been here.
Your sunset bruises and scrapes scar
And form stars
That freckle your skin
As breakable as ever;
If not more so.
I have already been here
Your snow white teeth
Will fade without innocence to
Keep them honest
After a brush with the deep rooted evil
Of your sins you can’t help
Nor take back.
I have already been here
Now when you trip and fall,
And thousands of tiny teeth rocks
Dig into your sweaty palms,
Remember how they once hurt you
Instead of reminding you you’re alive,
And begging to keep it that way.
I have already been here.
I have lived this moment a thousand times.
I pray this brief yet deep ache
Of déjà vu
Will soon fall back to the past
Where it belongs.
The Me Before You
I go by my days with so much hope for you. For your future. The you that I have not yet met. I can't help but wonder what your heart is set on. Have you decided? What is it that you want to accomplish? What is it that you wish to do? I’m sure you’ll figure everything out in the future. By then you’ll be okay.
It feels like nothing is happening anymore. Every day is repeating and the days have blurred together. I can’t tell one day from another. Even my cat sits on the same steps with the same pose. My furniture is strewn together in an elaborate attempt at an aesthetic style. I'm making circles in this hollow abyss I'm trapped in. Which path do I walk if my heart is undecided? I'm still trying to seek something despite the emptiness in me. I want to chase satisfaction and contentment. But I can't reach it, I’m in an abyss. The dimly lit exit feels farther away the more I run toward it. I must break this barrier in front of me to protect the promise I made with little me.
The little me who wanted to be a figure skater.
The little me who wanted to be a dancer.
The little me that wanted to write three novels.
The little me that wanted to travel to the Maldives with mother and father,
The little me that wanted a life that felt fulfilled.
The little me that wanted to implant her mark on the earth.
Why is my heart so stubborn now? Because of it, nothing holds me. Now I sit by the window in my childhood home and see the park by the sea I used to run around freely. The seasons have changed, little kids still play by the sand, but the place is still the same. Reminiscing memories of running freely around the park and having picnics on the grass by the sand, those days now feel unfamiliar. I remember the feeling of soaring. If only I could feel that sensation once more. The park is just like my heart, unwavering. Will I ever find peace within me?
Who's Really The Crazy One?
For over a year now I've been working as the doc’s assistant. When I say the doc, I mean Doctor Ziegler. She’s a world renowned doctor for the mentally ill, the best of the best and I am her assistant. After I had finished my degree in political science for university I set out to find a job and found the position as her assistant on the internet. I signed up, though I doubted I could get the spot. But to my surprise a week later I had been accepted. I had to fly out from the UK to the US in Washington DC and rented an affordable apartment close by to my future workplace. I felt ready, unconquerable and fired up for this massive step in my life. I met all of the staff and of course the Doc herself and clicked well. So now we flash forward a year up to now and I don’t even know what to feel anymore. All of my ambitions are gone and I’ve stayed here longer than I should. What I thought might be an easy path across a big river was really a mistake, slipping into the riptide of an ocean. An asylum isn’t your average work space and it really messes with your head with what you’ll see. There’s of course the people who you would normally consider crazy, the mentally ill, the depressed, the insane etcetera. But I think what truly scares me is my own colleagues and the asylum itself. The asylum brings out the worst in you and this goes both ways for both sides, staff and patients...
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Westside gunn for president
Traversing dirt roads
I can't help but feel that I've
Seen this path before
we will meet at the coffee shop
you know the onesmooth marble countertops
soaked with coffee stains and familiarity
you will back, visiting your parents
and ill tell you im on business
hoping you dont know the waitress still knows my name
you will talk about how small everything looks
tree branches are now twigs
and we are just ants
youre going ask me how I'm doing
‘i can't complain’
oh, but how i could
i could talk about the pain in my heel
or how my jeans are digging into my stomach
you would bring up your wife
and the child you have on the way
youll talk about how busy your city is
and that its nice to be back
at such a calm place
i nod in agreement
as if Ive been anywhere else
we will sit there
and talk about how naive we were
as if we are any less now
youll look at me with the same eyes
i fell in love with ages ago
and ill purse my lips together
that were once only yours to touch
I wont tell you about how i think of you when it rains
or how my favourite songs smell like you
i wont tell you how much i miss you
I will stay put, and ill keep quiet
because for now,
twigs are still branches
and we arent ants
we are just strangers
strangers who are waiting for someday