THE COLLEGE HILL INDEPENDENT


THESES PIECES

by by many

illustration by by Rachel Wexler

To celebrate the completion of senior theses, the Indy has decided to publish excerpts from this year's Literary Arts and Creative Nonfiction Honor's theses. From ancient Greece to extra-large condoms, the breatdth of subjects covered by these writers is exhaustive. Reading them is akin to watching the Oscars' clips of nominated actors, without all the obnoxious clapping.

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Floating Boats
memoir by Rajiv Jayadevan

Every so often I dream of what it is like to be an Indian child, some hidden stimulus from the day sparking within me a sequence during the night - the hollow thump of a coconut dropping to the ground, the thwack, thwack, thwack of splitting it open with an old and rusted machete. This time it is lightening, and I am four or five or six. Suchi Auntie has just finished serving us warm and buttery poli which I have eaten with my fingers, faithfully spilling golden crumbs all around the stainless steel plate. Ma clears the dishes and cups and wipes the table in front of us down as if we are little kings. "Pijai, beta?" she asks in the manner that all Indian mothers do, no matter how much food they have stuffed their children with. I nod and rub my belly to indicate that I am quite full, and she shows me that she is leaving the leftovers on top of the pink cupboard in the pantry for she knows that I will be back within an hour. Warm rain flows down the windowpanes making them look like ancient glass, the molecules having slowly warped and percolated downward over the centuries.
* * *
There has been a lull in the rain and I have followed my cousins through the laundry room with the out-of-use squatting toilet, past the water pump, the dented copper pots and out to the flooded backyard. Steam is rising from the soft ground and hanging low in the air, floating around the coconut palms as if this is some sort of Indian bayou. We set up shop at the foot of the guava tree and take the opportunity of an unsupervised moment to splash each other with water. It is warm and gray-brown. Usually this activity is promptly followed by scolding calls to "Say ansutay," for priests sprinkle water over the dead and this is a superstitious family. But no one is scolding now and it has already lost its mischievous appeal.
* * *
We are floating boats made from the waif-thin paper of the local news magazine when I see Ma's toes, the only female toes in the family unadorned by silver rings, her sari floating just below her ankles. She is young and concerned and standing by the side of our small house next to a puddle that was cracked earth just a few days before. The boats flood and we prop them against the roots of the tree to keep them floating. I don't understand why she has that look of unease about her eyebrows. Don't worry, Ma, I'm thinking--it's only water--what could happen? A sound like fingers drumming on sheet metal starts again and thick droplets sink our paper boats like missiles. How much water can the sky hold?, I'm wondering to myself.
_____________
KNOTS
by Irene Chen

His hand outstretches to me, across the table where I am sitting with my arms crossed in a defensive X formation across my stomach.
This old man's hand shakes with the force of his question: do you have some spare change?
"You can always tell by their shoes." I remembered my friend had told me, as he continued striding past an outstretched, shaking hand holding a pulpy paper cup.
"You mean, like if they're shined?" I didn't know why we were talking about shoes.
"That's how you can tell if they're actually poor." He emphasized the last word in a stage whisper.
It's the details that matter. Traveling at four hundred and sixty-six knots, the first hit at 8:46:40; at 9:03, the second one hit, traveling at approximately five hundred and ninety knots.
My mind wraps around in knots, taking linear material, doubled back and looped. There it is again. The knot, that is. It's coming close to the bitter end--the end of the rope that has been tied off in a knot. That is why we say to the bitter end.
Someone has to know: What were they thinking then; on the day that people hoped they were able to fly? There was he and there was she, tiny spots on the television screen. And with each one, I heard an Oh escape from my lips, and I felt the knots of certainty unravel against the strain.
Knots only weaken the rope that they are made in. The points of failure occur where the knots on the rope are tied; what creates fiction in a rope to keep a knot in place also stresses the rope. Who would think that a knot is what ultimately unravels a rope?
________________
THE CHILDRENS EMPIRE:
Street Children in Senegal Get a Second Chance
by Chris Duffy

The thin budget means that Empire has to make do with what supplies they can convince other organizations and supporters to contribute. Ibrahima receives these donations and catalogs the items. Today, a large leather suitcase full of medicine has been brought to the center. Ibrahima sits on the floor, sorting the boxes of pills into stacks by disease. He writes down the names and dosages by hand in his notebook. "It's good to be organized," he says, without looking up.
Some of the suitcase's contents are useful--bandages, antibiotics and drugs for fever--some are bizarre--a pair of men's dress shoes and a box of extra-large condoms. Ibrahima is unflustered, "Well, those aren't for kids," he says.
______________

SQUARE MILE
by Nicole Dungca

The clock reads 9:15 a.m. when Oscar* decides to make the trek to school.
At 1.2 square miles, his hometown is so small that walking from any one spot in the city to another should always take fewer than twenty minutes.
But on this chilly September morning, Oscar takes longer. He drags his feet down Slater Street, peering every so often into the windows of businesses that are not yet open for the day: Village Pizza, the generically-named Latin American Discount Clothing, and the rival royally-themed chicken joints, Prince Fried Chicken and Crown Fried Chicken.
It's about 9:45 when he reaches the stoop of the middle school, where most of the other students are already in their classrooms. He's thankful--he hates arriving when the other students boisterously run past each other with shrill yells.
When the district first moved Oscars's class to the middle school because of a lack of classroom space, he didn't quite know what to think. He's a sophomore in the local high school's behavioral disorder program, but he feels like he's been kicked back to seventh grade when he walks through the halls.
Here, his 5'8", chubby frame towers over the tallest boy in sixth grade. He dresses sharply in his white hoodie and new Jordans every day, even though the cutest girl in sight is only 12 years old.
Students tend to giggle nervously whenever they see him. Sometimes they stare at his baggy pants, other times at his tattoos. He is their cool older brother, a mystifying creature with his initials etched down his forearm in Old English Script.
*names changed for privacy
________________
HOW DO YOU HAPPEN HERE
poetry by Rachel DeJong

How do you happen here--Is it bridge?--Nuoc mia in a white styrofoam cup--Sugarcane ground between flat wheels--A strip mall in Southern California--His palm frond hello--Quite satisfying--Saigon--Carrots fed into a food processor--Fila flip flops--Slicing watermelon at poolside--Naturalized relatives
A body, a seahorse imprisoned in a plastic bowl--Desert of red sand--White ruffles--A community of--Vertical people--Raising children--In another foreign language...
Woman in the flatbed flagging down travelers--Once-French, now naturalized baguettes--A tarpit off the Pacific--Resettled--Moon like egg yolk suspended in amniotic black--Of the ocean--Say the word so it cannot touch you
This lack of public transportation--She tolerates the rhythmic beeping, key in ignition--Prosperous--This war is over--Won't invest in American stocks but births American babies--No time for leftover sadness
She swims with her skirt on--Pool black--The inside of a shadowbox
_____________

I don't follow, not because I resist, but because I'm not invited
lyric essay by Noam Dorr

Sometimes the older kids run on the roofs of buildings, but it isn't clear how they get there. There are patches of green grass, but they're too conspicuous to sit on. The little balls of eucalyptus seeds have sharp points and they stab the feet. These trees were planted by my grandfather. Why did he plant such vicious trees? They keep the swamp waters from returning, so perhaps it would be better to wear sandals instead. I am aware of everyone, and they are aware of me. The air is hot and the pitango bush fruits are shiny, blood red, and sour. When the winds cool we're shown how to make burgers from wild greens. After the first rains we search under mud piles for mushrooms. The mud peaks are always empty promises, with nothing underneath. Time is at its longest, heat at its hottest, cold at its coldest, distance at its furthest. I know wrong when I see it, but can't stop it from happening. The neighbor's cat is retarded, and the St. Bernard is always trying to hump the closest thing. My mother holds my hand as we walk, but I'm ashamed of looking women in the eyes. In the absence of money, everything can be collected. It's a constant struggle between ideology and grey economies. Cardboard boxes never prove to be strong enough for what I want to do with them. When we break old cameras with hammers for the fun of it, my dad tells me to pick up the pieces. Regret is something you learn, not born with. I'm not good at most games, so I resort to theft. There are many precautions to take to keep the body safe. But the layers that cover protect more than the body. I agree to everything, but resent it. There are places that could stop being mysteries, but are better left that way. The monkey cages are my favorite to clean. Two sit on my shoulders and pick through my hair for lice as I sweep. And I'm not alone.
___________
Would You Like a Cupcake?
a play by Allison Grubbs

helen
cupcakes
cupcakes for sale
cupcakes for free
is anyone there
i know the palace food
it's terrible
you must be starving
free cupcakes
ajax
cupcakes
i love cupcakes
are they chocolate
helen
of course they're chocolate
men love chocolate
ajax
it sounds like you made them
just for me
helen
i did
ajax
you have chocolate
and double chocolate
helen
and chocolate cherry
and chocolate peanut butter
and chocolate with a raspberry glaze
ajax
you can stop
please stop
helen
i didn't mean to overwhelm you
ajax
i know
it's a good overwhelming
helen
would you like one
ajax
absolutely
helen
go ahead
take whatever you'd like
ajax
this is the most amazing cupcake
the most amazing thing
AJAX grabs HELEN and kisses her.
helen
what are you doing
ajax
i was kissing you
helen
what
ajax
that's what you wanted
right
cupcakes are the universal sign
helen
no they aren't
ajax
you've been sheltered
helen
i have
but they aren't the universal sign
ajax
people who've been with you
say otherwise
helen
what
ajax
that you give cupcakes
away
helen
you act like this is my goal
ajax
yes
helen
it isn't
do you think i'm beautiful
ajax
of course
that's why i'm here
helen
because i'm beautiful
not because i'm a princess
ajax
that too
helen
have another cupcake
what else can you tell me
about me
besides the beautiful part
ajax
i don't know
if this is appropriate
helen
what
ajax
i've just heard that
that well
you've been around the block
several times
that's why i thought the thing
about the cupcakes
helen
oh
well
not really
ajax
but i heard
i keep saying i heard
helen
you do
ajax
that you've been pregnant
twice
helen
that's true
i didn't know
ajax
that you were pregnant
helen
that other people knew