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Artist Feature: Avé Gray

Stock from Vecteezy.com

 

Grandma Makes Everything Better
Inspired by Tom Andrews [“Codeine Diary”]

On July 8th 2013 I watched my youngest brother learn to ride a bike. Well, a bike without training wheels, I should say. He’d been riding a bike for basically as long as he could walk. He wobbled a lot. The look of pure elation that glowed from between his cheeks didn’t match the knot that twisted painfully in my stomach. Even as the front tire hit a small rock and slipped to the side, his eyes sparkled with pride. Even as his elbow and knee smashed into the concrete, his smile radiated pure joy.

I was nine years old.
*
I watched as water droplets collected on the dirty window. Even the clouds outside were in pain, weeping tears of exhaustion down the foggy glass. You’d think they’d do a better job keeping it clean seeing as it was my only glimpse of the outside world.
*
The obnoxious beeping of a heart monitor wakes me up every few hours, just as I’m about to fall asleep. I didn’t realize until much later that the noise was pure relief to my mom sleeping on the cot beside me. Annoyance to me was reassurance to her.
*
The bliss melted quickly from his face as soon as he saw the warm, red liquid pouring from where his skin met the pavement. Skin so young that the mark this would surely leave was one of few now, but many to come. I ran to him quickly and carried him to the house even faster. I grabbed a first aid kit from the drawer and sat him on the counter, still crying. It’s so funny how when you’re young you can go from pure delight to utter despair over a scraped knee. I washed it well; he screamed the whole time. I bandaged him up and distracted him with a matchbox car. His favorite matchbox car.
*
When you first get your period, you read the box. You read the box and you worry for a few days, but then you realize that cannot possibly happen often and if it did it, surely it won’t happen to you. You start to push the rules a little and laugh when you think about how worried you were at first. For God’s sake, every girl you know doesn’t use tampons “according to the directions.”

As it turns out it very well can be you. And infections are certainly no joking matter.
*
“Grandma! How are you?” I asked as she gently pulled the curtain back.

“Sweetie… how am I? How are you?” She replied delicately, setting the homemade bone broth on the table. She sits so gingerly on the very edge of the bed you’d think she was afraid I would shatter if it shifted more than a millimeter.
*
Her navy sweater rippled as she pulled it tighter around her. Because of apprehension or temperature, I’m not sure.
*

In this morning’s dream I was a doctor, finally through the endless school and training. No more gen chem study groups or letters of interest that make their way into an office’s recycling bin just a little too quickly. I was finally doing it. I entered the room like I’d done it 100 times before, introducing myself with a title that felt comfortable on my lips despite sounding foreign to my ears right now. I sit just the right number of feet away from a young girl, whose eyes remind me of my own. I noticed this because I made sure to lower my stool so I’m at eye level, not above her gaze. Something I take note of in every one of my own appointments. One minute passed. She seemed nervous to be in the room alone, so I asked he some questions about her life, nothing appointment related. I watched as the tensions melted away from her shoulders, and she released the small breath she probably didn’t realize she was holding. Four minutes passed. We chatted about her classes, boyfriend, and the NFL. She loved football. Something I wouldn’t have learned had I rushed our introduction. I gently transitioned our discussion into her visit, and I was pleased when her previous apprehension did not return. It’d been seven minutes since I entered the room. I prompted her with questions that gave me the information I needed without her even realizing how personal we were getting. I kept my tone casual and kind. Another minute passed. Eventually we got to the real reason she was there. We discussed this for a while as she told me about her experience. She was tired of how she’s been seen thus far. It’d been 10 minutes since I entered the room. It’d been ten minutes, we’d just barely started our conversation on why she was really there, and the only thing I could think about is the fact that the average appointment would only have me in the room for 30 more seconds. I would have missed so much. She would have missed so much.

*

As she left, I looked back out the hospital window and noticed a glimmer of sunlight slicing through the clouds which seemed to be brighter than the original ominous grey. I smiled to myself. Even the universe can’t cry when grandma comes to visit.

*

From this moment forward, it’ll be hard for me to look at the sky and not think of those weeks when that was my only form of escape.

 

 

 

A Different Kind of Quiet
Inspired by Torrin A. Greathouse [“Hapnophobia or the Fear of Being Touched”]

“Sedatephobia: the fear of silence.”

A confusing definition, really. Because to many, silence is not scary. They relish in the peaceful embrace of it.

Scared? Of something so… so serene?

Their dismissal shows in the not-so-subtle arch of an eyebrow or a headshake barely visible. It’s understandable, though, because we speak of different quiets.

Not the comfortable silence between thoughts shared with a twin flame. Or the quiet that engulfs you while you read alongside a lover. Not the stillness of sitting alone in the sunshine, or the muted sound of snowflakes as they dance their way to the ground.

No, this type of silence is different. This fear comes from the crushing weight of quiet when you’ve been without it for so long.

The type of quiet that creeps over you laying in your bed alone when you haven’t slept by yourself in 18 nights. The type that fills the void once crowded with the soft closing of heavy doors and gentle flipping of chart notes. The quiet that echos where mechanical beeping once did. Uninterrupted by hourly vital checks, quite unlike before. A quiet missing the bustle of next-door neighbors and concerned whispers outside thin walls.

When someone says they fear silence it’s not the lack of noise, but the loneliness that accompanies it. They’re unsettled by the stark contrast between what was and what is.

Who knew these noises could actually be missed? That discomfort would be better than this quiet?

But noise keeps the mind from wandering, while silence fans the flame. It coaxes guilt through the cracks of a mind trying so hard not to remember. A guilt for wanting to go back. No one should want to go back.

The word sedatephobia only brushes the surface of what it means to be afraid of the quiet. But then, how can you put words to the emptiness that swallows you in this way?

It’s hard to define a feeling so profoundly vast. But if someone says they fear silence, just know they don’t mean the peaceful kind.

 

 

 

Biography: I’m a second year BioHealth Science major with a certificate in Medical Humanities. I’m also on the pre-med track, although I’m not entirely sure what type of doctor I’d like to be someday. I’m passionate about merging the world of science and humanities because I strongly believe that one field cannot reach its full potential without the other.

Artist Statement: Although I’ve always loved the idea of it, I’m new to the world of writing! I’m a STEM major who historically found myself leaving no room for my creative side. That changed when I took a class this term that focused on using other writers’ pieces as models for your work. It was just the jumping-off point I needed. I’m also passionate about healthcare and sharing my own unique medical history. Many of the pieces I write now are inspired by authors I admire and styles I’ve never seen before.

Social Media: @whitecoatincoming on Instagram

Read more of Avé’s work in the upcoming Prism edition, Storyteller!

 

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About the Contributor
Selene Lawrence
Selene Lawrence, Student Correspondent
Selene Lawrence (she/they) is PRISM’s student correspondent and online editorial assistant. She is an author, poet, musician, and visual and textile artist. Selene is pursuing a major of her own design: Traditional, Folkloric, and Popular Cultural Studies for Mass Media Communications with a writing minor.

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