Renee Repella

The Look by Academy Monthly

       As the sun begins to rise over the repeating brick row homes I feel as if I were a child again waiting on the front porch steps for the bright, yellow school bus.  It feels like just yesterday that my family and I were all sitting down at the dinner table.  My father had just arrived home from his fourth business trip that month.  However, his work folder, filled with his most important documents that us kids were “never allowed to touch,” I found hidden under his clothes in his closet when my mom requested for me to bring his dirty laundry downstairs.  Now that I think about it, there was a lot of dirty laundry.  But, it wasn't the folder that led me to believe my suspicions were true. When we sat down to eat, my mom was discussing how Maryanne came over today to help with gardening.  I asked my dad if he had seen the flowers she planted.  Right then, he shot me a look.  But it wasn't just a look, it was a nervous, you know too much, type of look.  It has resonated with me for 10 years.  After that memorable dinner, it only took a week for my mom to figure out that my dad had been having an affair with our neighbor and best family friend, Maryanne.   

       Thinking back on my experiences with men, I never had believed relationships were for me.  I am now 24 years old living in Chicago and have only been in one committed relationship.  However, it didn't end so well.  You know that one person who seems overly friendly, always going the extra mile for people, and talks to just about everyone? Well that's Lucas, my ex-boyfriend. I loved him more than words could say, which to me, is a dangerous thing.  

       Lucas grew up in a small town in Illinois named Carlton. Everyone in the town knew and supported each other.  It’s where his qualities are traced back to, unlike me who grew up in Chicago, and talks to nobody I haven't seen before.  If someone looks suspicious, my mother would say hood up, head down.  Anyways, Lucas had asked me if I would mind that Claire, his best friend while growing up in Carton, stayed with him for a week.  Apparently they hadn't seen each other in 5 years, which didn't come as a surprise to me because I never had heard the name Claire before then.  But now, the name will resonate with me forever. 

        Although I was super reluctant to say yes, I did.  Claire was supposed to stay at Lucas's for a week, although the visit was cut short.  When Claire arrived, Lucas introduced me to her.  I immediately took notice of her girl next-door look: blonde hair, blue eyes, and a smile that stretched across her entire face.  As I helped carried her bags up to Lucas's apartment, I couldn't stop thinking about Lucas and Claire being alone all night in his apartment.  The thought drove me insane.  We were planning to go to dinner the next night, which I felt was going to strange having another women with me at the dinner table with Lucas, even though Claire came across as extremely nice. In fact, in some ways, she reminded me of Lucus.  For most of the time spent at dinner, Lucas and Anna carried on and on about their childhood memories.  When they talked, my insecurities began to grow.  Then, Lucas looked over at me, and it felt as if it was the first time he had all night.  However, it wasn't his normal look he gives me, like he was admiring one of my characteristics. It was a look I couldn't let go of: It was the same look my father had given me ten years ago.  So, I stood up at the table and yelled, “admit it already, admit you two are having an affair.” Silence rippled throughout the restaurant as everyone turned their head towards me.  I felt vulnerable and I saw what love had done to me.  I ran out of the restaurant humiliated by what I just had done.  Shortly after, I discovered that my assumptions had been false, and I saw what my father had done to me.  I felt crazy. I had a decision to make, and I made the wrong one. I chose not to trust Lucas.  

       I still miss Lucas everyday.  Ever since the restaurant incident, I have yet to receive one call or text back from him. I constantly live with regret over my actions in the restaurant that night. Now, the sun is beginning to set under the brick row home I had lived in as a child. The wind roars as leaves swirl and dance in the air.  While staring at the house that I had spent my childhood years and accumulated so many memories in, I decide to do it.  I decide to let go in order to trust others once again.  I reach for my phone and begin to dial my father’s phone number.  Ten years have passed since I last spoke to him. He picks up and says, “Hello this is Tom Montgomery.” Hello is the word that sets me free.  

 

 

The New Identity by Academy Monthly

I think about heading back to Greenpoint, Brooklyn and I feel a pit in my stomach. Not just the kind you get from being on the top of the Empire State Building and looking down to see all the people as tiny as ants. It’s the kind of pit in your stomach you get when you fear making the wrong decision. As I walk down the steps I begin to see the vibrant graffiti on the walls and the smell that reminds me of my younger self. I sit on the dirty bench and can’t help but to guess which commuters will turn out to be successful individuals, or who will fail as they strive towards success. I shuffle through my purse trying to find my Fashion magazine, which features an article I wrote, but instead I come across something unexpected. A photograph of Harper and myself titled “Kat and her favorite sister,” which is pretty ironic, I have to say, because she happens to be my only sibling.

The photo was taken probably when I was around fifteen. Wow! What was I wearing? I can’t believe I let Harper persuade me into thinking that outfit was “In style!” I looked as if I’ve never even heard of the fashion magazine Vogue.Then, just when I am about to crumple the picture and shove it into the compartment in my purse, I see there is another piece of paper. Attached to the picture is a subway ticket dated six years ago from the Greenpoint Avenue G station to Manhattan, New York. I try to avoid thinking about that night because it will make my decision extremely easy, but the thought of it occupies my head.

I was just sixteen, but I had already ventured through every part of Brooklyn. Harper promised she’d take me to Flatbush with her, although I knew it wasn’t somewhere I should had

been at sixteen. The streets were dark, except for a dim streetlamp that was lingering in the distance. Nobody my age was seen in a radius of ten miles. I remember the stares and commentary between people as we walked by. Harper just ignored it per usual, but I slowly tucked away the purse I was carrying inside my jacket and ducked my head to avoid the slightest bit of eye contact. Harper never avoided the dangerous areas. She’d always say, “Adventure awaits in every borough in New York.” Suddenly Harper took a turn, and I was forced to follow behind. We walked up to a run­down building and she opened a rusty door. It turned out to be a bar, which did not surprise me. As we walked in she seemed to know more people than I expected; Was this her usual spot or something? I remember she said, “Come on Kat, it's fine just take a seat at the bar I’ll be over in a second.”

“But what if someone says something!” I asked in a bitter tone.

“Oh, they won't! Sometimes you just have to fend for yourself,” she replied. She was talking to a huddle of people near the pool table, mostly men it seemed.

I asked the bartender for a drink, but he just gave me a blank stare and said, “You seem a little young to be in need of a drink.”

“Nope I’m actually 21,” I said while secretly slipping him a 20 dollar bill. He rolled his eyes, accepted it, and turned around to get the drink.

As I looked back at the pool table I tried to find where Harper went. My eyes searched the whole bar and there was no sign of her or the men she was with. “Damn her!” I shouted as I hit the bar tabletop. Now that I think of it, I guess this is what she meant when she said, “fend for yourself.” To this day I still can’t believe she left me in one of the most dangerous places in Brooklyn. While I sat there the noise grew louder and my eyes wandered, observing all the

people inside the bar. I remember repeating in my head, “Is this who I want to be when I’m older? Leaving my younger sister in a bar and claiming it to be an ‘adventure.’ Who does that!” Harper’s adventures began to fade into problems she couldn’t stay away from. She had no responsibilities, no job, and refused to get help. That wasn’t who I wanted to be. So I got up, wobbled down from the bar stool, and left. I ran as quickly as my old ripped converses could move, although it felt as if I was running in the NYC Marathon. I took the first subway I could find to Manhattan, and never returned to Brooklyn. I knew I had to change my lifestyle, which meant leaving my sister behind. All the things I regret, the bad decisions I made, were because of the bad influence she’d had on me.

“The 8:15 Subway to Greenpoint, Brooklyn has just arrived” repeats over the loudspeaker, and I try to shake any more thoughts of Harper out of my head. I look up and scan the room, sure someone would be looking at me wondering why I was in such deep thought, but nobody was. That's one good thing about Manhattan, everybody just minds their own business and doesn’t bother you. I stand up and walk to the beginning of the yellow line at the side of the subway. I hear the subway arriving and my heart starts beating. As the train roars by a thousand images flash through my head. The drinking, the partying my sister always did, but also the images of her sweet smile. Then, worst of all, the image of my sister lying in her casket, her pale face resting, and her smile faded. I can picture all the friends she had met in bars throughout Brooklyn crowded around her in sorrow, weeping. Or maybe the funeral was empty, and she was all alone.

The door to the subway slams open, but I just stare at it. Commuters rush by and around me, but I don’t move. I think about my new life, the job I have. I am finally where I want to be.

The subway door slams shut, and the train roars away from me. I turn around, and realize my decision was made. I stare one more time at the graffiti on the walls and the trash lying on the ground before I begin to walk up the steps. The subway was almost as dreary as a rainy day in Manhattan. I guess I’ll never know who ended up attending the funeral. As I walk onto Madison Avenue I fear the guilt seizing within me, but I fear my old lifestyle more.